Twin Peaks Recap is a weekly column by Keith Uhlich covering David Lynch and Mark Frost's limited, 18-episode continuation of the Twin Peaks television series.
It's James Hurley's (James Marshall) birthday and he wants a present. Not that he's demanding it—no, no. James is cool. He's always been cool. So in that affable way of his that can be equal parts endearing and insufferable, he asks his going-on-23-year-old coworker, Freddie Sykes (Jake Wardle)—a U.K. to U.S. transplant who, like James, is a security guard at the Great Northern Hotel—to explain why he's always wearing a green gardener's glove on his right hand. "Tell me the story," he says to Freddie.
The young man obliges the birthday boy with a captivating tale ("you ain't gonna believe me anyway," he prefaces) of a man in the sky called The Fireman, who told him to buy the glove, which would give his fist the power "of an enormous pile driver," and then to fly to the town of Twin Peaks where "you will find your destiny." Summarizing his story, which he relates about midway through the 14th part of Mark Frost and David Lynch's revived Twin Peaks, hardly does it justice—not to the way Wardle (who appeared briefly in Part 2 of the new series and is best known for a 2015 YouTube video entitled "The English Language in 67 Accents & Random Voices") performs it nor to the patient yet enthralling way in which Frost and Lynch present it. ("Recapper, heal thyself!" sayeth the Creators?)
Words have the power to transfix (and lead us to transcendence), but they can also be inadequate to the task at hand, diluting—per FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) way back in Part 3—"the absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence." (That's the subtitle, incidentally, of Lynch's never-realized film about a teenage dwarf rock-star, Ronnie Rocket.) Not all stories require words, though in this installment, Albert goes all in with them when explaining the first ever "Blue Rose" Task Force case to the newly initiated Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell). Seems there was a woman named Lois Duffy who was found in a hotel room in 1975 with her doppelganger. ("She smiles, then dies, then disappears before their eyes," says Albert, giving the tale a poetic flourish.) The field officers assigned to the case were Gordon Cole (Lynch) and Phillip Jeffries (the late David Bowie) who both reported Duffy's last words as "I'm like the blue rose."
"Blue rose does not occur in nature. It's not a natural thing," says Tammy, picking up Albert's thread. Her kicker: "The dying woman was not natural" (the Twin Peaks ethos, you might say, in a nutshell). Tammy then goes on to give the faux Lois Duffy a name—"tulpa," a Tibetan Buddhist reference to a being or object created through spiritual or mental powers. (Like an artist conjuring a character? Time to pull out that copy of Lynch's Catching the Big Fish.) It's telling that Tammy's chosen term doesn't diminish the story of Lois Duffy, but, as the best words do, deepens it, makes it feel more resonant, more expansive, more mysterious. And the metaphysical allusions don't stop there, as Gordon—fresh off the phone with Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster), who relays Deputy Tommy "Hawk" Hill's (Michael Horse) discovery of the lost Laura Palmer diary pages to the FBI Deputy Director—soon arrives to tell a story of his own that revolves around a passage from the Sanskrit philosophical texts known as the Upanishads.
An "ancient phrase," as Gordon describes it, was said to him in a dream by the Italian actress and model Monica Bellucci, who very recently failed to fend off James Bond's advances in Spectre (2015) and here plays a fantastical version of herself. "We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream," she says to Gordon as they have a coffee at a small French café. Lynch himself used this "dreamer who dreams" maxim during several of his in-person introductions of Inland Empire (2006), though it is purportedly a loose, if not incorrect translation of a larger passage in the Mundaka Upanishad, one that reads, more accurately (apparently): "As the spider creates the cobweb out of its saliva, it lives and plays in it and at the end the same spider swallows up the cobweb, similarly the God, the Lord creates the whole universe as the act of His thought. He manifests in it and again He withdraws the whole universe in Himself." An error? A variation? A bit of both?
Just before this scene, Lynch and Frost put in a seemingly unrelated though hilarious aural aside in which a window washer, seen only in quick-flitting shadow, drags his squeegee across a pane of glass, wreaking screechy havoc with Gordon's hearing aid. Then they drop a narrative bombshell as the apparently treacherous Diane Evans (Laura Dern)—told about the wedding ring, inscribed to "Dougie" from "Janey-E," that was taken out of the stomach of the deceased Major Garland Briggs (the late Don S. Davis)—casually reveals that "Jane," nickname "Janey-E" (Naomi Watts), is her estranged half-sister. So in quick succession, we're attuned to the individual power of both sound and speech, the better to discern what arises from, or is hidden by, their interplay.
Though Gordon describes his dream as specifically as possible, there are plenty of evocative puzzlements, especially when Bellucci silently directs him to turn around and he sees a younger version of himself. This is actually footage from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), from a scene in which Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, mostly absent, in all his forms, in this episode) confronts Gordon about a disturbing dream he had and then Bowie's Jeffries materializes out of nowhere. Complicating the moment is that this is actually a different take than in the finished film, one that was included in the feature-length "Missing Pieces" section of the Peaks DVD and Blu-ray box sets. (Jeffries says "Who do you think this is there?" in the film version and "Who do you think that is there?" in the "Missing Pieces" variation.) Further, Bowie's voice in this version is actually dubbed by an actor named Nathan Frizzell—perhaps a necessary technical choice should some physical version of Jeffries appear down the line (he already made an apparent audio cameo in Part 2), though one that still lends a strange sort of resonance to Gordon saying "Damn! I hadn't remembered that." Memory is, after all, the ficklest of beasts.
"I don't remember a thing," says Hawk at the end of the episode's centerpiece sequence in which he, Frank Truman, and Deputies Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) head to "Jackrabbit's Palace," the site (actually a regal old tree stump) referenced by Major Briggs in his long-hidden secret message. "We'd sit here and make up great tall tales," says a wistful Bobby, before the quartet walk 253 yards due east where, at 2:53 pm, Black Lodge time (and time again), they come across the naked body of Naido (Nae Yuuki), the eyeless woman who acted as Agent Cooper's guide in Part 3. She stirs, still very much alive. And then a vortex opens in the sky, capturing the four men's attention. Hawk, Frank and Bobby seem rather predictably transfixed (awe by numbers), while Andy (the closest Twin Peaks, series and locale, has to a holy fool) exhibits a more singular curiosity, perhaps stoked by the tender, touching way he attends to Naido. (How far he's come since weeping ceaselessly over Laura Palmer's corpse.)
It's Andy who's sucked up into the vortex, where he's deposited in the Art-Deco-Industrial home of the Giant, a.k.a. ??????? (Carel Struycken) who reveals his name, finally, as "The Fireman," which implies, along with his previously exhibited behavior, that he's a kind of Black Lodge watchdog. In the subsequent scene between James and Freddie, the latter describes his own encounter with The Fireman in verbose terms, as if they were in constant conversation. The scene between Andy and The Fireman makes clear that whatever discussions are had between this omnipotent being and the mortals he calls upon happen, at least in this space, via cryptic extended silences. (Words come later, as the dreamers attempt to give meaning to their divine encounters.)
The Fireman magically conjures a sculpture in Andy's hands; it looks like a pine cone with a chimney, and smoke emanates out of and withdraws into it in ways that recall the backwards-burning house in Lynch's own Lost Highway (1997), which was itself referencing a similar structure on fire from Robert Aldrich's great paranoiac noir Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The smoke directs Andy's attention to a skylight in the ceiling, where images and characters from the current series appear—the ravenous Experiment (Erica Eynon), the skull-crushing Woodsman (Robert Broski), Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) surrounded by angels, the two Coopers split in mirror-image, the telephone pole, marked #6, near where Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) committed his hit-and-run. It's not all recap, however: Andy also sees a shaky vision of himself leading his wife Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) down a hallway, turning her to face something offscreen. Is she looking at it in horror? In reverence? Another interpretive space to fill. When the scene returns to Earth, there's a moment where multiple Hawks, Franks and Bobbys walk around the Jackrabbit's Palace tree stump, slowly resolving themselves into one. (Infinite people wandering infinite spaces.) Then a much more confident Andy appears carrying Naido. "She's very important," he notes.
So, it turns out, is Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), whose own tragic story is contained in every line of her face. No surprise that she likes to drink and smoke herself into stupors, even publicly, as on this evening when she heads to the Elk's Point #9 Bar. The pool table is hopping, the neon Pabst Blue Ribbon sign is humming, and Sarah is craving, in her pathetically skittish way, a Bloody Mary. A man (John Paulsen) at the end of the bar notices her. He turns his pudgy body into view, revealing a sweaty T-shirt with "Truck You" emblazoned on it. (We might recall the ancient phrase uttered by the redneck Buella [Kathleen Deming] in Part 1: "It's a world of truck drivers.") Sarah attempts a quick rebuff, but the guy is soon getting in her face about her "bulldyke" tendencies and other such niceities. "It's a free cunt-ry," he hisses after he tells her he'll sit wherever he pleases.
But little does this elephant in the room know he's in the presence of a bloodthirsty predator. Sarah turns toward him, grabs her face like her deceased daughter did in the Red Room with Cooper early in the series, and rips it off to reveal a horrific being with a distorted ring finger and a toothy grin. (Perhaps the mature version of that winged amphibian-bug creature that crawled into the little girl's mouth at the end of the epochal Part 8.) "Do you really want to fuck with this?" she asks the man, before replacing her face and, with snake-like precision, biting his throat out. Sarah screams and then plays innocent with the bartender as to the man's fate. "Sure is a mystery, huh?" she sighs.
What more needs to be said.
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• A denser episode than usual in Lynch and Frost's boldly confident mix of narrative and non-narrative elements. I don't think either tendency can be laid entirely at one or the other's door, and that's part of what makes their work so alive to me. They strike a great balance with each other, trusting in what their conscious minds know as well as in where their subconscious instincts take them.
• Jay R. Ferguson, a.k.a. Stan Rizzo from Mad Men, appears as Gordon's Las Vegas FBI contact Randall Headley, who chews out his subordinate, Wilson (Owain Rhys Davies), in one of those alternately hilarious and horrifying Lynchian outbursts of anger. ("This is what we do in the FBI!!!")
• So Deputy Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello) doesn't get a bullet to the brain, as I've been hoping for. But he does get arrested by Frank and company, who say they've been surveilling his criminal activities for months. (Love the sense that there are stories, in Twin Peaks, that go on well outside our purview.) His punishment, for the moment, is quite delicious, trapped in a cell between the cooing-and-chirping Naido and a beaten-up, drooling drunk (Jay Aaseng) who repeats everything he says. Lynch keeps the scene going to just the point where the shrillness and irritation stick perfectly in your craw.
• I got a lump in the throat after James says "I remember being 23" to Freddie. The way Lynch and Frost exploit the passage of time in the new series, coming at it in often indirect or offhanded ways, is quite moving, and in no small part because they give their performers (however long or short their screen time) the perfect notes to play. Also sweet that James's pined-for lady at the Roadhouse, Renee (Jessica Szohr), who Freddie and he talk about here, shares a name with Marshall's own wife, Renee Griffin, who he married in 1998.
• James investigates the Great Northern's boilers where he hears the same unearthly, if soothing hum that Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and his secretary Beverly (Ashley Judd) investigated in several past episodes. It seems loudest here, especially from behind a locked door that I wouldn't be surprised leads to Naido's metallic home in space.
• There's one shot in the Sarah Palmer bar scene where her cigarette smoke is moving backwards. Yp-e-e-e-e-e-e-rc.
• Our Roadhouse act this week is country-folk-rock singer Lissie, performing "Wild West" from her 2016 album My Wild West. I love how excited the establishment's M.C. (J.R. Starr) is when he announces her, a rather stark contrast to his more muted intros for "The" Nine Inch Nails and Twin Peaks's own James Hurley.
• Two more random girls appear at the Roadhouse, though they're more clearly connected to the ongoing Peaks narrative than most: Sophie (Emily Stofle) and Megan (Shane Lynch) discuss Megan's getting high at the local "nuthouse." It seems like another moody digression until Megan mentions a guy named Billy who turned up bloody and battered at her house, and with who, it's soon revealed, Megan's mother Tina had an affair. This sounds very close to the tale that poor Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) is obsessed with in her two purgatorial scenes thus far. And the way Megan describes Billy rather eerily calls to mind that beat-up, words-repeating drunk who's currently in lockup with Deputy Chad. Sophie's chilling glances (she clearly knows more than she's letting on) only add to the sense of unease. As does the rather meta fact that we're watching David Lynch's current wife (Stofle, who he married in 2009) chatting with an actress who shares her director's surname but is not a blood relation. Intentional? Coincidence? Sure is a mystery, huh?