Welcome once again, Twin Peaks fans, to this week’s chapter of Twin Peaks: Revisited! We finally begin our jaunt into the show’s controversial second season, a season with many highs and lows. As I always do, I remind all new followers of these recaps that you can find all the previous Twin Peaks: Revisited columns right here and catch up. And this is, as always, a spoiler-free recap.
In the four months between the first and second season of Twin Peaks, the show exploded all over popular culture; there were t-shirts, coffee mugs, an even an audio book of Agent Cooper’s recordings to his secretary Diane. There was The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer novel which made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list, and there was hardly a magazine that didn’t feature Twin Peaks on the cover. Rolling Stone featured a cover with Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle and Madchen Amick on it (which was recently made into a t-shirt itself, seen on Lana Del Rey of all people), David Lynch made it on to the cover of Time. Even Sesame Street did a parody of the show called “Twin Beaks.” Clearly, Twin Peaks was going to dominate television in its second season, and change the American TV landscape.
You know, or not.
For reasons no one really knows, ABC decided to take their white hot pop culture phenomenon, which had been holding its own on Thursday nights against NBC’s powerful line-up of comedies…and moved it to Saturday nights. Even in the early ’90s, Saturday night was pretty much a wasteland, and putting on a show that was aimed directly at a young hip audience on the one night a week they’re guaranteed to be out was a death sentence, and everyone knew it. Why ABC did this is unclear even still; in Brad Dukes’ excellent book Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, former Lynch/Frost production chief operating officer Ken Scherer thinks the the suits at ABC corporate in New York always hated the show and bet against it. When the show took off anyway, “they hated being wrong” and moved the show to the death slot. ABC didn’t own the show or have creative control over it, and that seemed to chafe against certain network execs. That’s one person’s theory, but it makes sense.
Nevertheless, ABC did give Twin Peaks second opener, which was directed by David Lynch and written by Mark Frost, a two hour premiere on Sunday night. They knew America was on the edge of their seat to finally find out “Who killed Laura Palmer?” Would the nation get its wish? Well…not exactly.
Episode 9: “May The Giant Be With You” – Aired September 30th, 1990
The second season opens exactly where we left off, with Agent Cooper shot three times point blank, lying bleeding on the hotel room floor. Luckily, as per FBI guidelines, Coop was wearing his bulletproof vest while on stakeout the night before, but one bullet made it through, due to Coop’s vest riding up because of a wood tick. As he’s lying there bleeding out, a room service waiter who seems like he’s a hundred years old comes to deliver Coop the warm milk he ordered. The ancient waiter doesn’t seem to notice that Cooper is, you know, dying, and slowly, SLOWLY walks back and forth from the room as if he forgot something. David Lynch loves really slow old people, and if you were already a fan of Lynch’s you probably loved this scene. If you were eagerly waiting for the plot to get moving, you probably tuned out. Twin Peaks probably lost half of its casual audience in this scene, but personally it always makes me laugh.
After that five minute sequence of the ancient room service waiter going back and forth to Cooper’s room, an otherworldly Giant appears to Cooper, giving him three new clues. “I will tell you three things,” he says. “The first thing I will tell you is: There is a man in a smiling bag. The second thing is: The Owls are not what they seem. The Third thing is: Without chemicals, he points.” The Giant continued, “If I tell you these things, and they come true, then will you believe me?” He takes Coop’s ring, promising to return it to him after he’s solved the mystery. “You WILL require medical attention.” He says. Glad somebody said it. Before he leaves, the Giant tells him one more thing: “Leo Locked Inside Hungry Horse.”
We then cut back to the moment we left Audrey Horne at One Eyed Jacks, as she’s in bed and hears her father walk in the door to try out the “new girl.” Thanks to some quick thinking, Audrey quickly pulls a white kitty cat mask off the wall of the bedroom where it was conveniently hanging, and wears it while her father, not recognizing his daughter with the mask on and the terrible Southern accent she’s using, tries to shoo him away. “I’m shy,” she says, but that just entices the pervy Benjamin Horne even more. The whole scene is super icky and awkward, but luckily is over quickly as Jerry knocks on the door and informs his brother of an S-N-A-G (presumably involving the mill fire). Audrey is saved by the bell, as Ben has to rush off to take care of business.
Coop is still lying bleeding on the floor of his hotel room, talking to Diane into his tape recorder (which conveniently has a voice activation button). Thinking he’s probably going to die at any moment, Dale goes on about the things he wishes he’d done in his life, like visiting Tibet, and making love to a beautiful woman for whom he has genuine affection. Finally, Truman and the others arrive, and when next we see Coop he’s waking up in his hospital bed. Lucy fills him in on the previous evening’s happenings: The mill burned, Pete and Shelly are in the hospital for smoke inhalation, Dr. Jacoby was attacked and had a heart attack, Leo Johnson was shot, Catherine Martell and Joise Packard are both missing, Nadine is in a coma, and Jacques Renault was strangled. “How long have I been out??” Cooper asks. Despite being shot, Cooper evokes “Tibetan disciplines” and works through the pain and leaves the hospital. Yeah, it’s far fetched as all hell, but the other option was to have Coop sidelined in the hospital for the rest of the season, and who wants that?
It’s now morning at the Palmer home. Sarah and Maddy and having their morning coffee, when Maddy tells her aunt that she had the strangest dream the night before, one of the rug in the Palmer living room, from the exact angle she’s looking at it from the couch. Suddenly, Leland Palmer walks in, chipper and cheery, with his hair having turned completely white overnight, singing 1940’s novelty song “Mairzy Doats.” Leland’s fits of crying and dancing have been replaced by constant singing and smiling, and it’s impossible to know which one makes Leland seem crazier. Killing Jacques the night before did wonders for him it seems. Ray Wise proves he can carry a tune though.
As he leaves the hospital, Coop sees the body bag that Jacques Renault was in, positioned in such a way as to seem “smiling”–the Giant’s first revelation come to pass. So simple, yet so creepy. So very, very Lynch.
Ben and Jerry Horne are in Ben’s office going over the previous night’s events, and are trying to determine if Catherine really died in the Mill fire, and want a satisfactory explanation from Hank Jennings why Leo Johnson isn’t dead. Leland then walks into the office, still singing, and Ben and Jerry start dancing thinking that this will be the only way to appease Leland, but quickly realize Leland has turned a corner, although “back to normal” would be a stretch.
At Leo’s house, Coop and Truman are investigating the crime scene. They realize Leo was shot from the outside, and that he was trying to kill someone with an ax when the bullet came from outside the window, but who? Truman thinks it was Shelly, but Coop isn’t so sure. Just then, Deputy Andy starts making a lot of ruckus outside… as a car pulls up and Agent Albert Rosenfield returns. “Harry do you know who it is?? It’s Agent Rosenflower!” and in a moment of pure Three Stooges, Andy steps on a loose deck board which hits him square in the face, leaving him dazed like one of those old Looney Tunes cartoons–all that’s missing is some birds and stars circling his head. Albert, ever the asshole, says, “And it’s another great moment in law enforcement history.”
Donna then meets Maddy at the Double R Diner. Donna now looks totally different, with longer hair (must be something in the water in Twin Peaks that changes people’s hair overnight) sunglasses and is smoking a cigarette. She and Maddy know James is in jail, but they don’t know if it’s for the whole bait n switch they pulled with Jacoby the night before, or for something else. They make a vow to keep quite about the night in question. Maddy brings Donna a pair of Laura’s old sunglasses for her, which Donna awkwardly puts on. Between the smoking, the glasses and the attitude, it’s clear Donna is trying to be Laura, but why exactly? At that moment, Maddy destroys her own glasses, saying she hates them, and is never, ever wearing them again. Norma comes by the girls’ table and leaves a note for Donna that someone sent to the Double R, that simply says “Look Into The Meals On Wheals.”
Albert might be a total jerk, but he is a forensics genius, and after a few minutes with Coop figures out the weight, height and stance the gunman was using when they shot him. Andy then walks in, telling Coop he has the answer to the puzzle that Cooper gave him as told by the Giant, “Leo locked inside Hungry Horse”– Leo Johnson was in jail in Hungry Horse, Montana, on February 8th of the previous year…the night Teresa Banks was murdered, giving Leo an alibi. They are now back at square one in the Laura Palmer case, as Leo was their #1 suspect.
James is in the interrogation room at the Sheriff’s station talking to Truman. He plays him the tape that Laura made for Jacoby that he stole from his office, where Laura talks about Leo Johnson, but then James confesses to Truman he remembers another man Laura once told him about, when they were first dating and Laura was still using drugs. She was reciting a “scary poem” to him, where she said to James, “Do you wanna play with fire little boy? Do you want to play with BOB?” Cooper then walks in and asks for the necklace, which he realizes James must have had, but James says he had to steal it back from Dr. Jacoby. Cooper seems shocked by this, thinking Jacoby didn’t have anything to do with this case at all.
Donna, in her new sultry appearance, appears at the police station to talk to James. Trying way too hard to be sexy, even James is uncomfortable with the whole bad girl act Donna is going for. “When did you start smoking?” He asks. “I smoke every once in a while. Helps release tension,” Donna says, to which James replies, “When did you get so tense?” “Donna answers, “When I started smokin.” Elsewhere at the station, Agent Cooper asks Andy and Lucy to go through old issues of Fleshworld magazine, in an effort to see if they can find a picture of Teresa Banks, the girl who was murdered the year prior by the same killer who killed Laura.
Back at the hospital, Cooper and Truman question a hospitalized Dr. Jacoby, and Coop cuts right to the chase, saying, “I don’t want any magic tricks, hocus pocus or psychological mumbo jumbo.” He asks how Jacoby came into possession of the half heart necklace, and if he doesn’t get a straight answer, he’ll place him under arrest for obstruction of justice. Backed into a corner, Jacoby explains how the night after Laura died, he followed a man in a red corvette, who Laura has spoken to him about, this being Leo Johnson. But he lost him, but then followed a bike with James and Donna, whom he followed into the woods. He watched them bury Laura’s necklace, and when they were gone he took it, as a keepsake to remember Laura by. “The divided heart is who she really was-two people.” Jacoby also tells Cooper that he believe Laura wanted to die, and even allowed herself to be killed. Before they go, Cooper asks Jacoby if he could remember anything unusual about the night before, since he was in a bed next to Jacques Renault when he was strangled. Jacoby says he was heavily sedated, but remembers a strange smell, a smell like scorched engine oil.
Bobby Briggs is now lurking around the hospital, and he then sneaks into Shelly’s room. Shelly is thrilled that he’s alive, and for the first time, Bobby tells Shelly he loves her, and he seems to genuinely mean it. Meanwhile down the hall, Big Ed stands vigil by Nadine’s bedside, who is still in a coma from taking sleeping pills. Ed tells Coop the story of how he and Nadine got married in the first place, and he describes a long, painful situation going back twenty years. It seems he and Norma were high school sweethearts, but after a fight one time, Norma ran off and married local bad boy Hank, and Ed was so broken up inside that he married the first girl who paid attention to him, who was Nadine. And while “half drunk and half crazy,” he married her. Although he planned on getting a quickie divorce, while on their honeymoon he accidentally shot her eye out during a hunting trip, and he felt so guilty about it he never could bring himself to leave her. (The best part of this whole scene is Albert looking at his watch while Ed shares his sob story. Albert is such a lovable asshole.)
Back at the Double R, Bobby walks in and finds his father Major Briggs eating some pie at a booth. His father asks if he’d like to join him, and Bobby reluctantly agrees. Although their relationship thus far on the show has been that of frustrated parent/bratty child, this time it’s different. The Major conveys a vision he had of Bobby (as opposed to a dream, “which is just the brain cataloging and sorting the day’s events”) about Bobby’s future, which is bright and wonderful, and Bobby is living a life “of deep harmony and joy.” Bobby is clearly moved by this, and father and son share their first genuine moment since the show began. It’s a great little scene, and one of my favorites in the whole series. It’s right after this scene that Bobby sees Hank Jennings behind the counter, and recognizes him as the man who shot Leo the night before.
Back at the station, among the biggest collection of donuts ever assembled, Cooper lays out the scene of the crime as they now see it. On the night of her death, Laura receives a phone call from James, and sneaks with him on his bike. At a certain point she jumps off the bike and meets Leo, Jaques and Ronette in the woods, where they proceed to go to Jacques’ cabin for a night of sex and drugs. Waldo is allowed out of his cage and attacks Laura, and at some point Leo leaves and Jacques passes out, and that’s when a third man enters the cabin and kidnaps the girls. The third man takes them to the train car, and ties the girls up for the second time. Ronette escapes, mostly because the killer is far to intent on killing Laura to care. The blood on the note that reads “Fire, Walk With Me” doesn’t match Leo, Jacques, or either of the girls. Andy starts crying, and Albert, in his usual sarcastic tone, says “I know, I know Andy. It’s what we call a real three hanky crime.” Andy has had enough of Albert, and says “Albert Roserfelt, I don’t like the way you talk smart to the Sheriff or anybody, so you just shut your mouth!” and storms off. You tell ‘im Deputy.
Truman takes Pete home from the hospital, where he admits that having smoke inhalation is like “having your lips taped to the tailpipe of a bus.” Truman asks where Josie is, but Pete says she left a note for him saying she went on a business trip to Seattle. Truman tells Pete they still haven’t found Catherine’s body, and although she was “pure hell to live with,” Pete says he still loved her, fighting back tears.
Hank Jennings is waiting in Ben Horne’s office, and explains to the Horne brothers that his call to Catherine placed her in the drying shed when the fire started, meaning it’s only a matter of time before they find her body. He also explains he shot their arsonist-for-hire Leo Johnson, and that he’s a vegetable now, so he’s as good as dead. Hopefully the investigation will read “Catherine Martell and Leo Johnson burn down mill in insurance fraud” and with both parties dead, Josie can sell them the land and Ben can finally have his big development.
At One Eyed Jacks, Madame Blackie is not happy with Audrey’s performance on her first night out, where she failed to please the owner. Audrey stresses that the owner “wasn’t her type” and Blackie lets Audrey know that from now on, everyone is her type. Kept in her room locked up, Audrey prays to Agent Cooper, wondering why she never received his note telling him where she was going. Little did she know he got shot and then became preoccupied. She’s gotten in way over her head, and she knows it.
The Hayward family is hosting dinner for the Palmers, which they dubbed “The Hawayd Supper Club.” Donna’s younger sister Harriet Hayward (not seen since the pilot episode) reads the Palmers a poem about Laura, and the Hayward’s third daughter Gersten, who we have never seen or heard from before, plays the piano for them while wearing a fairy costume from her school play. Where did the Haywards keep their other daughters all this time? Their house doesn’t look that big. Leland decided he’s going to start singing again, and gives a rather impassioned rendition of “Get Happy.” But before the song is over, Leland collapses on the floor. Yeah, Leland is anything but moved on from his grief.
As Cooper gets ready for bed at room 315 at the Great Northern, the Giant visits him one more time. Now Cooper knows this isn’t a dream, and he tells the Giant that the whole “man in the smiling bag” came true. “The things I tell you will not be wrong,” she says. He tells Coop that only one other person saw the third man at the cabin that night… and that person is ready now to talk. And also reminds Coop that he forgot something, and shines a light under Coop’s bed, where the not from Audrey ended up. Coop still doesn’t put two and two together, at least not yet.
Finally, the episode ends with one of the most disturbing moments in the entire show: Ronette Pulaski, the other victim of Laura’s murderer who survived, suddenly wakes up from her season long coma, and has a terrorizing flashback to the night of the murder itself, where we see Laura screaming like a banshee in the abandoned train car, while BOB seemingly plunges a knife into her. Once he’s killed her, we hear his demonic laughter, and the episode ends there. We now know that the man BOB from Cooper’s dream and Mrs. Palmer’s vision is the killer…but WHO is he, and why did he murder Laura? Still so, so many questions.
According to Brad Dukes’ book Reflections, the person who directed the first episode of the season was almost not David Lynch, but Steven Spielberg! Mark Frost and Harley Peyton were having dinner with Spielberg when the prospect of directing the season two opener came up. Ultimately, David Lynch got possessive of his baby and directed it himself, but one thing is for sure-if Spielberg had directed it, that ending wouldn’t have been nearly as disturbing.
The actor who played the Giant, Carel Struycken, has quite the resume in geek properties, having played Mr. Homme in five seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Lurch in two Addams Family movies.
Donna’s youngest sister Gersten, who makes her one and only appearance on the show this episode, is played by actress Alicia Witt, who’s been in several projects since then, like Urban Legends and the the series Friday Night Lights.
The rating dropped massively after the premiere episode, after much of America got furious after the episode didn’t reveal who Laura’s killer was (despite actually flashing back to her murder.) Add to that the super long opening sequence with the old room service waiter, and Twin Peaks lost whatever casual audience it still had. Although a disappointment ratings wise, at 19 million viewers, the season two premiere would be a massive hit by today’s network standards.
Although seen as a disappointment by many viewers back in the day, merely for not giving them instant answers and prolonging the mystery even further, in hindsight David Lynch’s second season opener is one of the best episodes of the whole show, and proves the show always is taken up a notch in quality when David Lynch is behind the camera. While the supernatural/horror elements are there, bubbling beneath in the first season, from this episode on, those aspects of the series break through to the surface and there’s no going back. While this was off-putting to many viewers no doubt, for me it heightened what I always found intriguing about the show in the first place. I’m not show people would still be talking about Twin Peaks today if it had conformed to what people were used to on TV for season two. This episode for sure is one of the highlights of the soon-to-be troubled second season.
Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos