TV Recap: Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 9
“Around the dinner table, the conversation is lively.”
I had a lot of questions going into Part 9 of Twin Peaks, marked in Showtime’s schedule with the unassuming sentence “This is the chair.” How could we possibly know what we’d be returning to after Part 8? Where did the woodsmen take Bob? Would the show jump back to the present as if nothing had happened? Could we perhaps flash all the way back to Lewis and his friend Clark? And just what was the chair?
I knew exactly one thing for certain, and that was that these questions would be answered with more questions. That’s been true every week, but the mysteries keep evolving as they come into focus, and that’s the true thrill of the way this story is unfolding. My gut-felt wonderings early in the revival were existential, unfathomable. We all asked how these pieces fit together, what the murder in South Dakota had to do with Dale Cooper, what Margaret’s fateful call to Hawk could be in reference to. There’s been a lot of Twitter chatter, podcasts, and recap columns, but we all kept throwing our arms in the air and contentedly sighing that there was no use in trying to parse out the visions. Nine hours later, Lynch and Frost are showing us that connections can be even more mystifying than a lack of them.
We pick up this week with Mr. C strolling down a dirt road, the show practically daring us to wonder if the video art installation that followed his previous scene was even real. Visibly worse for wear post-Bobectomy, he arrives at a safe-house farm, where Tim Roth finally makes his entrance as Hutch, who has been waiting for the doppelganger’s arrival. Roth was one of the most significant and mysterious additions to the cast list, and his performance as an Englishman doing a bonkers American southern accent echoes David Bowie as Phillip Jeffries. Jennifer Jason Leigh reappears for the first time since Part 2 as Chantal, who greets Not-Cooper with a kiss, a bag of Cheetos, and a phone from which he sends a coded text message. Leaving them with an assignment to murder the warden who freed him and “a double-header in Vegas”, our villain hits the road again.
Meanwhile, the Detectives Fuscoe are investigating the attempts on Dougie’s life by interviewing his boss, who reveals that Dougie has suffered spells of unusual behavior since a car accident a few years prior. Even more intriguingly, they find that there is absolutely no record of Dougie Jones’s existence before 1997. They send his coffee mug out for DNA testing, leaving us to wonder what will happen when the results point to Dale Cooper. They abandon “Dougie” and Janey-E, however, to arrest Ike the Spike. The catatonic Cooper, meanwhile, is fixating on an American flag, a pair of red heels, and a humming electrical socket.
At the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, Andy and Lucy are having an adorable argument over which color chair to buy. Is this The Chair? No, it is not. For the first time, the show is using its own episode descriptions to toy with our expectations. Elsewhere in Twin Peaks, Johnny Horne is seriously injured by running headlong into a wall, knocking down a portrait of Dwight Eisenhower (take a shot every time you see a president) and alarming his mother, Sylvia. We’ve now seen every member of the Horne family, with one glaring, question-raising exception.
This week’s emotional centerpiece comes courtesy of Charlotte Stewart, re-entering the picture as Betty Briggs. Her son, Deputy Bobby, pays her a visit with Hawk and Truman to discuss Cooper and his mysterious final visit to Garland, but Betty interrupts with the revelation that she’s been waiting for this day. Before Major Briggs died (or “died” as it’s beginning to seem), he told his wife that this exact trio would come asking about the special agent one day, and he left her something to give them. She produces a metal tube from a compartment in a chair, but not before reassuring Bobby that his father never lost faith in him, even in his most rebellious days. The scene from the original series in which Major Briggs told a tearful Bobby of his hopeful vision has always been important to me. To have Stewart, a Lynch favorite since Eraserhead, revisit the Briggs family bonds like this makes for a perfect encapsulation of the real heart of Twin Peaks.
Bobby’s bond with his late father also proves the key to unlocking the mysterious tube, as he recognizes it from his childhood. He throws it against the ground and listens to the sound it makes, which reveals the moment it can be opened. Inside are two scraps of paper. One bears a reference to “Jack Rabbit’s Palace” (is it about the bunny?), the symbol we saw on Mr. C’s playing card, a date, and a time (the third instance of “2:53”, for those tracking all these numbers). Bobby recognizes “Jack Rabbit’s Palace” as a place he shared with his father, and the date is only two days away. The other paper is a piece of the message from space that Garland received in the original series, with the words “COOPER/COOPER”. Hawk keenly observes, “Two Coopers.”
To really dig into answers that lead to more questions, we turn to this episode’s F.B.I. thread. Gordon, Albert, Tammy, and Diane are flying away from South Dakota (sorry, Reddit, no weird flashing in the plane windows this time) when Colonel Davis’s call about the headless body arrives. The plane reroutes to Buckhorn, where our agents learn that Bill Hastings (relevant again at last after six hours) was keeping a blog about the supernatural. Tammy interrogates Bill about his encounter in “The Zone” with a hibernating Major Briggs, whose head he saw disappear. Matthew Lillard takes Hastings to an unmistakably Lynchain place: an anguish so deep and loud it borders on humorous, and in so doing becomes painfully real.
This thread is as full of intriguing character moments as it is baffling mysteries. Albert connects with coroner Constance Talbot over their shared sardonic wit, Gordon and Diane bond over the memory of tobacco, and Tammy struggles to remember how to stand like a normal human. And then there’s this week’s most shocking revelation: Diane was the recipient of the text sent by the doppelganger from Chantal’s phone. However, sharp-eyed detectives will note that the punctuation and capitalization of what we see sent and what we see received are not identical. It’s possible this was an editorial oversight, but my Lynch sense is detecting a clue to a more tangled web of communication than we are yet privy to.
While Lynch and Frost distract us with the momentous merging of their plot threads, they manage to sneak in some fresh vignettes. A rashy young woman with a drug problem meets with a friend at the Roadhouse. Ben and Beverley continue to seek the mysterious tone at the Great Northern, and Ben resists the chance for a kiss with a chivalry that’s suspicious to those of us who remember his past deeds, while a still-stoned Jerry battles his own foot in the woods. All these things feel like strange or funny diversions, but then, who would have dreamed that the late Major Briggs would connect the events in South Dakota, Las Vegas, Twin Peaks, and the Black Lodge? Threads have been hiding in plain sight all along, and we’re sure to discover more next week.