In this week’s installment of Twin Peaks Revisited, we reach the absolute rock bottom of what is considered the “dark times” of the show, in an episode written by Harley Peyton and Robert Engels, and directed by Hollywood acting legend Diane Keaton. Sadly, this episode was not Keaton’s finest professional hour, but hey, she tried. All the previous Twin Peaks: Revisited columns can be found right here , so it’s not too late to catch up. And this is, as always, a spoiler-free recap for anything that takes place after the particular episode we’re recapping.
Episode 23: “Slaves and Masters” – Aired February 8, 1991
As the opening credits roll, the camera ventures through some chess pieces in hyper close-up, and they seem almost gigantic in size. We then cut to Evelyn Marsh, in full widow get up, and the camera pans up to her somber face as her lover/butler gives his statement to the police about James, who they’ve set up to take the fall for Evelyn’s husband’s murder. I’m not sure why the police would believe he deliberately messed up Jeffrey’s car to kill him, since it’s a matter of record that he barely knows these people, but whatever, this whole plotline is so dumb it doesn’t really matter. At Wallie’s, the local bar where Evelyn picked up James in the first place, he and Donna are trying to figure out what to do, even though the place is crawling with state police looking for him. Are there no other bars in town to make plans at? Anyway, James tries to tell Donna that he can convince Evelyn to tell the truth because they have a connection.
At the Sheriff’s station, Bobby and Shelly are giving Truman and Coop their statement about “Leostein” waking up and attacking them. When Truman asks what he was doing at Shelly’s house, Bobby comes clean and admits that the two of them are an item, and have been since before Laura died. When Cooper asks Bobby if he was the one who shot Leo the night the mill burned, he admits that he saw Hank Jennings shoot Leo through the window, and that he’ll testify to that. Bobby, being the belligerent brat that he is, assures Truman that he can take care of Shelly, he doesn’t need to assign any deputies to watch the house, to which Truman says “Bobby Briggs….button it.” As he gets up to leave, Agent Albert Rosenfield makes his welcome return, and yells “get a life punk” as Bobby walks out. Oh Albert, how we missed you.
After giving his old nemesis Truman a bear hug, Albert brings with him a map of the U.S. with various cities highlighted, and tells him that law enforcement agencies from those cities have been receiving mysterious packages for weeks, each looking like a mail bomb. But when they open them, inside are various remnants of a woman’s wedding dress – Earle’s wife Caroline’s wedding dress. Albert tells Coop that Windom Earle is making his move soon, and he needs to be extra careful. He also comments that Coop would look much better in his black suit and tie, but that the Earth tones and local colors of his new look seem to work on him. That’s as close to nice as Albert gets.
We are now back at Earle’s Cabin, where Leo is waking up after Windom has fixed his wounds. He (somehow) was able to procure Leo’s police record and finds out that he’s got a wanted felon on his hands. Leo is still not exactly 100% functional after his coma, and can’t really speak yet. He tries to escape, but Windom starts beating him with his large wooden flute. He then puts a an electric collar on him that shocks him anytime he disobeys. Well, it’s not like Leo doesn’t deserve it.
At Big Ed’s House, we cut to he and Norma, post coital in bed, talking about wasting the last twenty years of their lives with people they didn’t love, when they should have been together. She talks about buying him a Christmas gift the previous year, but being too afraid to walk up to his house and give it to him. Just then, Nadine barges into the room (literally, she removes the door with her super strength.) She doesn’t seem to care at all, and is more upset that she came in second place in a high school wrestling competition. She literally gets in bed with the couple and apologizes to Norma for kicking Hank’s ass earlier, but she thought he was going to hurt Eddie. As she walks away she says she knows the two of them are together, and it’s all ok…because she had the most romantic weekend with teenager Mike Nelson. “It was magical.”
At the Martell home, Truman and Coop question Josie, who is evading every question they throw at her about the death of her cousin/”assistant” Jonathan. Coop leaves Harry alone with her hoping maybe he can get some answers. As he gets some coffee, Pete walks in with Josie’s clothes he decided to pick up for her from the dry cleaners as a favor, since Catherine is running her into the ground as her maid. Cooper takes some fibers from one of Josie’s coats when Pete isn’t looking. Thomas Eckhardt calls Josie, who lets her know he’s coming for her.
We’re back at the Great Northern, where Dr. Jacoby is still trying to fix Ben Horne’s delusion that’s he’s General Lee. He’s sitting atop a phony horse (where did that come from?) with his son Johnny at his feet, in his usual Indian headress rocking back and forth. Audrey and Jerry Horne pretty much are at a loss for what to do next, and Jerry suggests to Audrey there are some advantages to leaving him this way, leaving Jerry a chance to run Horne Industries. “One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity.” Audrey then reminds him that she’s 18 now, meaning if her father is deemed insane, then everything would go to her, and Jerry would be out on the street, in no uncertain terms. So either he helps her bring her father back, or else.
We cut to that bar Wallie’s again, where the actress playing Evelyn is doing some really bad drunk acting. Donna comes in and begs her to help clear James. Evelyn says “Life will be rosy is you can get out of this one tiny little jam. Get back to me when your whole life turns to crap.” Donna responds with “You really like to make everything sound pointless and stupid don’t you?” Pointless and stupid pretty much sums up this whole plotline. Moving on.
At the station, Albert tells Cooper that the fibers from Josie’s coat are a perfect match for those found outside his room. Unless she’s lending her coat out to the wrong people, the mystery of who shot Agent Cooper at the end of the season one finale has been solved…it was Josie. Albert reminds Coop that although he and Truman have had their problems in the past, the “big lug has his heart in the right place”, but he also adds that the Sheriff has a serious problem with his girlfriend. Coop tells Albert not to say anything till they’re 100% sure.
Coop then walks into Truman’s office, probably to tell him about Josie, but Truman hits him with the news that the dead vagrant they found in their office has a name: Eric Powell. Cooper is taken aback, as Powell was Caroline Earle’s maiden name. Everything Windom does has a double meaning, and this was a signal to let Coop know that Earle remembers everything that went on between them. Knowing that Windom will kill every time he moves a piece on the chess board, Coop is at a loss, because when they were partners, he was never able to beat him at a game. Harry then tells him if he needs a chess expert, they’ve got one right in Twin Peaks: Pete Martell.
At the Double R, Pete shows off his chess skills. Coop asks Pete to help him play a very important game of chess, and he needs him to help him stalemate the game while losing as few pieces as possible. Shelly then comes to the diner, and asks for her old job back now that Leo is awake, saying she’d feel safer at the Diner than at home. Truman pulls Norma aside, and tells her they’ve charged Hank, who’s still in the hospital, with the attempted murder of Leo Johnson, and that this time, he’s going away for a long time. “Good.” says Norma.
Thomas Eckhardt shows up at Catherine’s home for dinner, with Josie serving them as a maid. Josie opens the door for him and looks like a deer in the headlights at the sight of Eckhardt. Catherine says she thought it would be fitting to dine with her late brother’s business rival. Thomas reminds her that he and Andrew Packard were once friends, whose friendship then soured. “Men of business frequently find their lives disrupted by the larger portraits they paint.” Catherine asks if he considers himself an artist, and when he had her brother killed, was it for money or art? Eckhardt says one doesn’t kill for art or money, but one might kill for love. Catherine then says, with Josie in total earshot, “If I give her to you, what will you give me in return?”
At Evelyn’s home, she is still doing bad drunk acting, blowing smoke rings, when James comes back and asks her why she did it. “Did you kill him for the money?” Evelyn confesses everything, how she found James and lured him there, and Malcolm set up a neat little frame up. “I did it all for the money. You’re good, and you’re honest. I’m not. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the good and honest way that you taste.” James responds by kissing the woman who framed him for murder by saying “I like the way you taste too.” This might go down as the worst dialogue in the history of the show. As they kiss, Malcolm comes up behind James and cold cocks him with the back of the gun. He kind of deserves it for being so damn stupid. Suddenly everything goes into weird slo-mo for some reason, and Malcolm cooks up a plan to make it look like James broke into the house to kill Evelyn, and then they killed him in self defense.
At the Great Northern, Ben’s office has been turned into some kind of Civil War set, with a field and painted backdrop and everyone in period costume (with Audrey looking quite stunning as a Scarlet O’Hara stand in, I must say.) I know the Hornes are rich, but where did they come up with all this theatrical stuff at the last minute? Anyway, they all fumble around sitcom-style in Southern Confederate era personas, and it’s all stupid and embarrassing. Jacoby comes in as General Grant, and surrenders to the South, giving Ben the the closure he supposedly needs to snap him back to reality. As soon as he signs the treaty, he passes out, and in a cheesy riff on the end of the Wizard of Oz, Ben then says he had the “strangest dream” where he was Genral Lee. It’s a super cheesy sitcom ending to a horrible plotline, but at least it’s finally over.
At Windom Earle’s cabin, he has Leo tied to a chair, writing something for Windom to send to Audrey, Shelly, and Donna, but Leo is still too damaged mentally to write properly. When he disobeys, or doesn’t write fast enough, Earle shocks him using his collar. We shouldn’t enjoy this as much as we do, but then again, Leo is awful. It was the 1991 version of Cersei’s “Walk of Shame” on Game of Thrones.
As Malcolm starts to instruct Evelyn on how to shoot the passed out James, who is lying on the floor, Donna runs in screaming for them to please not hurt James anymore (don’t these people lock the door to their mansion ever?) Evelyn says she can’t kill James, and then kills Malcolm instead, who collapses on her. Everything goes into this weird slow motion, kind of like the scene when Leland killed Maddy earlier in the season, but in a scene with no consequences to the overall show, or dealing with characters we care about at all. But at least it’s the end of that terrible storyline that simply went on way too long. Farewell Evelyn Marsh and Malcolm the butler. We shan’t miss you.
Coop goes back to the Great Northern, where he passes by Windom Earle in disguise as a German (Swiss?) tourist. He approaches his bedroom, only to find a mask of Caroline Earle’s face, and a recording from Windom, saying that despite everything that happened between them years ago, he still loves her, and he knows that Cooper does too. But he reminds him that it’s now his move to make.
In Brad Duke’s excellent book Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, according to most of the actors on the show, they all got along with their movie star director Diane Keaton, but Richard Beymer (Ben Horne) did butt heads with her, thinking the Civil War set in Ben’s office looked way too stagey and fake and made by the studio, and not by real people trying to create a makeshift set under duress. Not fitting in at all with the aesthetic of the show. Beymer wondered if she’d ever seen an episode of the show before, but said that overall, he enjoyed working with her.
Many fans consider this the very worst episode of the show, but I’m not sure about that. I mean, it IS bad, with the Ben Horne Civil War scenario and the conclusion of the Evelyn Marsh “Black Widow” storyline particularly cheesy, and feeling like they belong in another, far inferior show, but there are some nice moments sprinkled throughout the episode.
The scene with Norma and Ed and Nadine is poignant and actually kind of funny, with Nadine hopping into bed with them like nothing had happened. The scenes with Albert Rosenfield are great (Miguel Ferrer as Albert is always a breath of fresh air on this show.) But the scenes with Catherine and Thomas Eckhardt negotiating over Josie are stilted and weird, and Windom Earle, in his first full appearance, comes off more like a 1960s TV Batman villain than he does as a modern day version of Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes. The thing that kills this episode the most, though, is that Diane Keaton tries too hard in places to be weird and “Lynchy” and it comes off as a poor man’s imitation of Lynch rather than anything genuine. Lynch just is weird, all those things come from a very real place for him. You can’t try to be weird, it comes across from a mile away as phony, and it does come across that way here.
Whether or not this is the worst episode of the show is debatable, but the good news is the worst part is over. We’ve weathered the storm that is the lamest part of the show, and there are interesting stories ahead as the show tries to get back to it’s season one/early season two glory days. It’s not over yet kids.
Episode Rating: 2 burritos out of 5