Welcome to my First-Watch of the original 30 episodes of the 1990-91 television series Twin Peaks. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching the episode “Traces to Nowhere.”
- On this date in history, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was raking it in at the box office. It had knocked Pretty Woman out of the #1 spot (it would come back a few weeks later).
- “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Prince song recorded by Sinéad O’Connor was getting a lot of airplay around this time. I still love the song. O’Connor, not so much.
- Two days later, on Saturday, April 14, junk bond financier Michael Milken pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges. He was sentenced to 10 years and a $500 million fine. Later, his sentence was reduced to 2 years, and he served 22 months. Just recently, President Donald Trump issued Milken a pardon. At last count, Milken was worth about $3.7 billion.
- But, remember, kids: Crime doesn’t pay.
- Season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation was happening while this series was on. I wasn’t watching it yet, I’m ashamed to admit. In fact, I was actively boycotting it. At the urging of a co-worker, I’d begin playing catchup later this year or early 1991.
- Although this was the second episode of Twin Peaks, its original title was “Episode 1.” The original title of the first episode was “Pilot.” Titles weren’t assigned to the episodes until the series was released in Germany. Then they were translated back into English.
- The conceit of this post is that these are bulletpointed notes I actively took while watching this episode. And they are, in essence. I’d take a photo of my legal pad to prove it to you, but I don’t feel like it. The main difference is that everything in my notes doesn’t always make it into the post, especially all of the expletives, or most of the speculation early in the episode that turns out to be false. Plus, my notes are sometimes illegible and rarely in complete sentences. Sometimes my words make little sense to me, even when I can read them. Perhaps you can relate. But, I really take detailed notes. There were eleven handwritten pages of notes for this episode, for instance.
- This show features complicated relationships between the characters. In a way, it’s very much like a soap opera. I alluded to Peyton Place while watching the pilot episode. In truth, I’m familiar with Peyton Place by reputation only (and as a reference in the song “Harper Valley P.T.A.”), since I never watched it. However, in researching this post, I discovered that David Lynch and Mark Frost actually watched Peyton Place for ideas on how to develop the town’s inhabitants, supposedly borrowing several ideas in the process.
- The beginning of the pilot episode, with the outdoor shots featuring the closeup of a bird, lots of trees, a lumber mill, and literally tons of flowing water including an impressive waterfall, has become the opening title sequence of the show itself.
- The musical theme is synth-heavy and already incredibly dated.
- This is ironic, because in the late-’80s, early-’90s, we all thought synthesizer music sounded futuristic.
- I wondered what the building above the waterfall was supposed to be. Apparently, it’s the Great Northern Hotel. The camera pushes in and we’re suddenly in Room 315. It’s a rustic room, with a lot of wood like everything in this lumber town. There’s a rifle on the wall, and a mounted fish that I’m fairly certain isn’t a Billy Bass.
- AGENT DALE COOPER is dictating his report to the unseen-so-far DIANE while hanging upside-down from the ceiling like a bat. I believe he’s using something called gravity boots for inversion therapy, a form of spinal traction which has several therapeutic applications. I think it’s used in this scene just to add more weirdness to Cooper’s character. It’s impressive the way Kyle MacLachlan was able to do an inverted sit-up to unhook himself from the overhead bar, though. He was in excellent physical shape thirty years ago.
- MacLachlan may be in excellent shape now, too. I have no evidence to support that, though.
- About that overhead bar. Other than something to hook gravity boots to, what purpose could it possibly serve? It doesn’t seem to be a structural necessity.
- It is 6:18 AM on Saturday, February 25. It is the morning after LAURA PALMER‘s body was discovered, wrapped in plastic.
- During his film noir voiceover disguised as a dictated message, Cooper mentions that the true test of any hotel is that first morning cup of coffee. He also rambles on about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, and wonders aloud who really pulled the trigger on JFK.
- This is the sort of show that conspiracy theories were made for.
- The scene moves to the hotel restaurant, where Cooper announces his morning beverage as “a damn fine cup of coffee,” and then orders a breakfast of two eggs, over hard, with super-crispy bacon and grapefruit juice.
- AUDREY HORNE, who was watching Cooper as he ordered breakfast slinks across the room and asks to join him. Audrey’s father, BENJAMIN HORNE, owns the Great Northern Hotel (and a large portion of Twin Peaks), as you may recall.
- Audrey is here to give Cooper some additional information for his investigation. She admits that she wasn’t actually friends with Laura. However, Laura tutored her brother JOHNNY three times a week. Johnny is 27-years-old but still in third grade, according to Audrey.
- Audrey adds that Johnny has emotional problems, which run in the family. Who else is she talking about?
- Then Audrey spirals off into a series of non sequiturs. “Do you like my ring?” “Sometimes I get so flushed it’s interesting.” “Do your palms ever itch?”
- She’s definitely flirting with Cooper. Oddly.
- Cut to: Sheriff’s Station, where everybody’s eating donuts. Cooper shares the details of his plan for the day with SHERIFF HARRY S. TRUMAN. Sheriff Harry says nothing during this entire monologue, his mouth full of donut.
- Cooper plans to talk to JAMES HURLEY first, then BOBBY BRIGGS and MIKE NELSON. While this is going on, he instructs the sheriff to “run a top-to-bottom” on Bobby’s vehicle to see what comes up. Then, he wants to check on Laura’s autopsy results.
- In the scene immediately following this one, we completely tear up Cooper’s plan and get the autopsy results from DR. WILL HAYWARD first. Dr. Hayward tells Agent Cooper and Sheriff Harry that he was unable to complete the autopsy alone since he also delivered Laura, so he called in JOE FIELDING from Fairvale to do it, while he assisted.
- The fictional town of Fairvale, California, is where the film, and novel, Psycho is set. There’s no Fairvale in Washington state that I’m aware of.
- The time-of-death was established between midnight and 4 AM on February 24. The cause-of-death was blood loss from numerous shallow wounds, none severe enough alone to have caused Laura’s death. She had bite marks on both shoulders. Also on her tongue, which may have been self-inflicted. She also had lesions on her wrists, ankles and upper arms.
- They are still waiting on the toxicological reports to determine drug use.
- Within the last 12 hours of her life, she’d had sexual relations with at least 3 men.
- Dr. Hayward had examined RONETTE PULASKI as well. There was little doubt that both young women were attacked by the same perpetrator or perpetrators.
- Ronette still isn’t talking, by the way, due to her head injury and psychological trauma.
- Cut to: the Johnson Home. SHELLY JOHNSON walks out to LEO JOHNSON‘s truck, saying that NORMA JENNINGS should be there any second and she needs to go to work.
- Leo is vacuuming the interior of his truck. He asks his wife if she finished cleaning his boots. Shelly says she has and she did the laundry, too.
- “All of it?” Leo asks, then throws more laundry at his wife, telling her she needs to do it before going to work. Leo, we’re being shown, is a douche bag.
- As Shelly is putting Leo’s clothes in the washer, she sees blood on one of his shirts. She hides the bloody shirt in a drawer instead of putting it in the machine.
- Leo yells and says Norma is here.
- Before Shelly leaves, Leo tells her that he’s going to drop by the diner sometime today. He asks her to save him a piece of pie.
- Back to the Sheriff’s Station. Cooper and Harry are questioning James. They show him the camcorder picnic video. James admits that he, Donna, and Laura went up to the picnic spot two Sundays ago.
- Cooper tells James he knows he was secretly in love with Laura and was seeing her on the sly. But, Laura was homecoming queen and was dating the captain of the high school football team.
- James says that their relationship was a secret because that’s the way Laura wanted it. He thinks she was afraid of Bobby.
- Cooper asks James if he knew Laura was using cocaine. He says he did. He didn’t use it himself, and he tried to get her to stop. He says she stopped for a while, but then something happened a couple of days ago. He doesn’t know what happened, but he thinks something scared her because she wouldn’t see him or talk to him.
- James admits that he saw her the night she died. She sneaked out of her house around 9:30 PM. Around 12:30 AM, he stopped at the light at Sparkwood & 21. She jumped off his bike and ran away. He never saw her again.
- Cooper says, “Did you and Laura have a fight?”
- James says, “Not exactly. But she said she couldn’t see me anymore. She didn’t say why.”
- Cooper shows James the half-heart necklace and the boy admits he recognizes it.
- Referring to Laura’s diary, Cooper asks James what happened on April 5, and who has the other half of this heart?
- We get a brief flashback of Laura giving the necklace to James.
- But, James lies and says he doesn’t know.
- Back at the Johnson Home, Leo is looking for his bloody shirt and gets mad when he can’t find it.
- Then, we check in with Bobby and Mike in the holding cells at the Sheriff’s Station. Bobby does call Mike “Snake.” I wasn’t sure if I heard that correctly in the pilot epsisode. Mike calls Bobby “Bopper,” at least once. Mike talks about Leo Johnson calling him at home, at his parent’s place, looking for Bobby and wanting to know where the other half of the money was. Bobby says he gave Leo half the money on the night Laura died. The other $10,000 was in Laura’s safe deposit box. Bobby and Mike both are concerned about getting the rest of the money for Leo.
- The scene ends as James is brought back to the holding cells.
- A brief clip from the picnic video, showing Laura, plays. At the end there’s a creepy voiceover, saying, “Help me.” Can’t be sure whose perspective this is supposed to be.
- Cut to: Hayward Home. DONNA HAYWARD wakes up at 10:30 AM. She goes downstairs and asks her mother, EILEEN, why she didn’t wake her. She was supposed to go to the Sheriff’s Station. Eileen tells her daughter that the sheriff’s office said they could wait to talk to her. The Haywards thought their daughter needed her rest. She was crying in her sleep last night.
- Donna says, “It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare all at once.”
- Donna shares some info with her mom. Laura was seeing James for the last two months. Donna was the only one who knew about it. When she went to see James last night, they realized that the two of them had been falling in love. Donna feels like she betrayed her best friend, but she also feels very happy.
- Back at the Sheriff’s Station, Sheriff Harry introduces BIG ED HURLEY to Agent Cooper. Ed still has the bandage on his head from the Roadhouse fight. Big Ed tells Cooper that his nephew James works in his garage and he looks after him when his mother is out of town.
- Cooper says they can release James into Big Ed’s custody. James didn’t kill anybody. He asks Big Ed to tell James to watch out because he’s releasing Bobby and Mike today as well.
- LUCY MORAN, the sheriff’s receptionist, tells Cooper he has a call from ALBERT ROSENFIELD. Rosenfield doesn’t appear in this episode, just gets namedropped.
- While Cooper is on the phone, Big Ed tells Harry he was at the Roadhouse last night and something wasn’t right.
- Harry knows that Ed is seeing Norma Jennings and makes a weak joke about the bandage. Ed says if Nadine knew, he’d be dead.
- Big Ed says that, yes, he was seeing Norma at the Roadhouse, but he was also there on “his stakeout” (whatever that means). He remembers Bobby and Mike grabbing Donna. He says he was getting light-headed before he even made it over to them. He thinks his beer was drugged by JACQUES RENAULT (Walter Olkewicz), who was tending bar.
- On the phone, Cooper tells Albert Rosenfield to bring the boys, and that they can have the body all day tomorrow. Laura is being buried on Monday. Tomorrow is Sunday, February 26.
- True to form, Cooper recommends the cherry pie at the Lamplighter Inn if Albert and his men pass by there on their way to Twin Peaks.
- New setting: Twin Peaks General Store. NADINE HURLEY and Norma Jennings run into each other. Nadine brags about the new drapes Big Ed bought for her the previous day at somewhere called Gentleman Jim’s. She also says she’s been trying to invent a silent drape runner. She believes she stumbled onto the secret—cotton balls—at 4 AM this morning while she was waiting for her husband to be released from the ICU.
- At the Sheriff’s Station, James is released to Big Ed. James tells his uncle he’s going to need help from THE BOOKHOUSE BOYS, whoever they might be. Ed says he’s already got it covered.
- Cooper and Harry release Bobby and Mike without even questioning them. Cooper tells them to pray for the health and safety of James Hurley, because if anything happens to James, they’re coming for them.
- It’s seems that Cooper whittled a whistle out of wood at some point.
- Harry tells Cooper that he’s beginning to feel like his Dr. Watson.
- At the Blue Pine Lodge, JOSIE PACKARD thanks her brother-in-law PETE MARTELL for standing up for her yesterday with his wife CATHERINE MARTELL when she wanted to shut down the mill. Pete, of course, is cleaning a fish during this interchange, because that’s his defining character trait, just as draperies and drapery hardware seem to be Nadine Hurley’s.
- Cooper and Harry meet with Josie and Pete. When Josie offers them coffee, Cooper says he takes his “black as midnight on a moonless night.”
- Cooper likes his coffee black and his phrases purple.
- Cooper questions Josie because the owner of the lumber mill hired Laura Palmer to visit her twice a week to help her with her English. Josie says she last saw Laura on Thursday afternoon around the time the “mill blew five.” She was there about an hour.
- Josie says it seemed like something was bothering Laura. She told Josie, “I think I now understand how you feel about your husband’s death.”
- When Josie leaves the room, Cooper asks Harry how long he’s been seeing Josie. Cooper is a sharp cookie. Harry admits that he’s been seeing Josie for six weeks, but that her husband, ANDREW PACKARD, has been dead for a year-and-a-half.
- Pete rushes in and tells them not to drink that coffee. Somehow one of his fish found its way into the percolator.
- Josie is talking to her sister-in-law Catherine on the phone. Catherine seems to delight in telling Josie that closing down the mill yesterday cost them $87,000.
- Does that seem like a lot? If the mill earns $87,000 per day, and runs five days a week, it means they’re making $22.6 million a year. Seems like a lot to me. But what do I know about lumber mills? The Waltons never made that much money.
- The scene cuts to Catherine Martell, who is having wine with Benjamin Horne. The two just had sex, it seems. I’m not sure where they’re supposed to be in the scene. Probably not the Great Northern Hotel, since Ben lives there, too.
- The two are in cahoots and are trying to drive Packard Sawmill out of business. That’s probably the land Benjamin wanted to turn into a country club with the Norwegians in the pilot episode.
- Of course, if Catherine wants to drive the mill out of business, why did she oppose shutting the mill down for a day? And why did she call her sister-in-law to rub it in? That doesn’t track.
- Before the end of the scene, Catherine and Ben are talking about burning down the mill. There’s a lot of wood and sawdust around. Makes sense.
- Over at the Palmer House, things are still weird. SARAH PALMER (played by the same actor who was the doomed Susan Ross’s mother on Seinfeld) is told by her husband LELAND PALMER (played by the same actor who played Satan on the short-lived Reaper, and also a retired dentist on Fresh Off the Boat) that Donna Hayward is there to talk to her. They cry together and talk about Laura. Sarah suddenly sees Laura’s face superimposed over Donna’s. Which is probably weird enough, but then she sees a man with long gray hair crouched at the foot of the bed. She screams us into the next scene.
- Cut to: Calhoun Memorial Hospital. JANEK (Alan Ogle) and SUBURBIS PULASKI (Michele Milantoni) are questioned by DEPUTY HAWK (Michael Horse), the sheriff’s deputy who doesn’t cry at every crime scene. On the day she was kidnapped, the Pulaskis did not see Ronette after school. She went to her job at Horne’s Department Store downtown, where she was a perfume counter salesgirl.
- Deputy Hawk catches a glimpse of the ONE-ARMED MAN in a convex security mirror. He follows him to a stairwell, where there are signs showing the directions to either oxygen storage or the morgue.
- I may not be the most hospital-experienced person around, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sign in an hospital saying, “This way to The Morgue.” They don’t seem to like to remind people that sometimes patients die.
- Back at the Great Northern Hotel, Audrey Horne is doing a slow jazz dance in her father’s office. Audrey not only marches to the beat of a different drum, but also the drummer is playing a kazoo instead of a drum.
- Benjamin Horne comes in and demands to know if Audrey had anything to do with the Norwegian Incident. She admits it. He suggests, in a threatening manner, that she should never do anything like that again. Audrey seems more than a little defiant.
- Bejamin says, “Laura died two days ago. I lost you years ago.” A bit cold, maybe, but Audrey does seem like an odd child. Even if she doesn’t wear a Native American headdress like her brother.
- Over at a new setting, the Briggs Home, GARLAND (Don Davis) and BETTY BRIGGS (Charlotte Stewart) sit at the dining room table with Bobby. Davis played Dana Scully’s dad on The X-Files, where he also wore a military uniform. Probably a different branch of the service, though.
- Garland Briggs has an extensive vocabulary, which he puts to good use as he discusses his respect for Bobby’s “rebellious nature” as he upbraids his son.
- Bobby puts a cigarette in his mouth. Garland slaps it out of his mouth and it lands in Betty’s dinner.
- At the Double R Diner, Agent Cooper and Sheriff Harry talk to Shelly Johnson. Cooper, of course, orders the cherry pie. Cooper then asks to speak with the diner’s owner, Norma Jennings.
- Cooper writes down Shelly’s name in his notebook. “Johnson? With a ‘J’?” he asks.
- If I were writing this, I might have Sheriff Harry say something like, “Isn’t that how it’s usually spelled?” But, in hindsight, that seems a little impertinent for Harry, who actually seems to like Cooper for some reason.
- Harry tells Cooper that Shelly’s husband Leo is a trucker with a minor rap sheet.
- Cooper sees THE LOG LADY seated further down the counter. To Harry, Cooper says, “Can I ask her about her log?” Harry answers, “Many have.”
- Cooper speaks to Norma, who says that Laura helped organize the local Meals-on-Wheels program, which delivers meals to the elderly and to shut-ins. Harry asks for the names of people on Laura’s route.
- Cooper asks for two more pieces of “this incredible pie.” The agent’s exuberance is infectious.
- The Log Lady stops by Cooper and Harry on her way out. She says she overheard them asking about Laura Palmer. She says that one day “my log will have something to say about this. My log saw something that night.”
- Well, all righty then.
- Back at the Johnson Home, which looks like a perpetually unfinished renovation project, Leo Johnson, the trucker with a minor rap sheet, is cutting open a football with a switchblade. As one does. He puts his little art project aside when Shelly arrives home. Then he puts a bar of soap inside of a dress sock. You would think a trucker would have more white athletic socks lying around, but I guess this is a formal occasion.
- “Where’s my shirt?” Leo asks his wife. Apparently it’s the second of his shirts she’s lost this year. This time he has to teach her a lesson. He begins twirling the soap-in-a-sock above his head while what sounds like “Eye of the Tiger” begins playing in the background.
- I don’t think the actor playing Leo is convincing as the violent, tough guy everyone’s supposed to be afraid of. Maybe he gets better.
- We wisely avert our gaze and cut to the Hayward Home. James Hurley drops by. In conversation with Dr. Will Hayward, we find out that James’s father died when he was 10 years old, and that his mom travels a lot. She writes for the paper sometimes, he says. Sounds like a character we’re destined to meet someday. An intrepid, fast-talking newspaper columnist, maybe.
- James and Donna are making goo-goo eyes at each other in this scene. James is already over Laura, it seems.
- Bobby and Mike pull up outside of the Hayward house. “That bastard,” one of them says. Mike says, “First your girlfriend, then mine.” To which Bobby responds, “Too bad we can only kill him once.”
- We cut to DR. JACOBY, that weird psychiatrist (or is it psychologist?) we were introduced to in the pilot, the one who was secretly seeing Laura Palmer as a patient. Dr. Jacoby has a weird tropical fetish, it seems. He likes loud Hawaiian shirts and his apartment (or office) definitely has an island theme.
- He’s listening to a tape from Laura that she says (on the tape) was recorded on Thursday, February 23, which—as we know—was her last day on Earth. On the recording, she rambles on, saying that James is sweet but dumb. Then she says she knows she’s just going to get lost in the woods again tonight. Then, she’s asking Jacoby is he remembers her telling him about that Mystery Man—
- Hmm. Dr. Jacoby takes a moment to remove a coconut from a tree in the room. Did I mention he’s also wearing a fish tie? Anyway, Dr. J opens up the coconut, which holds the half-heart necklace. I’m assuming this is the one James and Donna buried at the Picnic Spot during the last episode. I suppose it could be a third necklace, but this plot is already complicated enough.
- Dr. Jacoby looks at the necklace and then begins to cry.
- Which is how this episode ends.
What did we learn today?
First, everyone seems to be having an affair with everyone else.
Second, I think I understand why Laura Palmer was using cocaine. She was an extremely active girl. She tutored Johnny Horne three days a week, tutored Josie Packard twice a week in English, ran a Meals-on-Wheels program with Norma Jennings, dated at least two different guys, saw a kooky shrink, became homecoming queen, and liked to take long midnight hikes in the woods. And, I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface.
The central story question, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” feels more than ever like a MacGuffin to me. I may be completely off-base here. As the murder investigation moves incrementally forward, we seem to be uncovering a whole passel of other questions.
Here are a few:
What does Benjamin Horne and Catherine Martell’s affair and secret campaign against Packard Sawmill have to do with Laura’s murder?
For that matter, what does Audrey Horne have to do with it? She wasn’t a friend to Laura. Her only connection seems to be the fact that Laura tutored her headdress-wearing brother.
We’re making Leo Johnson look extremely guilty of something. Is it Laura’s murder? Or just his drug-dealing with Bobby and Mike (and possibly Laura)? And domestic abuse against his wife, of course.
Is Ronette Pulaski a red herring? Does the fact that she was in a swingers magazine or worked at the perfume counter in Hornes Department Store relevant to the case? She disappeared before Laura Palmer did, I think. Why is she alive, while Laura is dead?
Why should we even care about Big Ed Hurley, the eyepatch-wearing drapery-obsessed Nadine Hurley, or Norma Jennings? They feel like secondary characters who’ve been built-up to be more important than they are.
Why would Jacques Renault drug Big Ed’s beer?
What are the odds that the Bookhouse Boys are some sort of outlaw motorcycle gang that James is a legacy member of? And, if so, how lame is the name Bookhouse Boys for a motorcycle club?
Why is Sarah Palmer seeing visions of a man with long gray hair? Why is he so creepy?
A character called the One-Armed Man? Really? Has no one else ever seen The Fugitive?
Why didn’t Agent Cooper question the Log Lady’s log? Would that even be the strangest thing that’s happened so far?
Are we going to learn anything more about Teresa Banks, the girl Cooper said was murdered a year ago?
Why aren’t Agent Cooper and Sheriff Harry questioning Joey Paulson, that friend of James (whose name also begins with a “J”) who brought Donna to meet James the previous night?
What’s the deal with Dr. Jacoby? And, if that’s the necklace that James and Donna buried, how did he know it was there to dig it up? Even if he knew about the Picnic Spot from Laura, his knowing where to find the necklace is too large a coincidence.
You know, questions like that. I probably have even more, if I think about it. The fact that I have so many questions means the show hasn’t lost my interest yet. I can’t imagine this being as enjoyable on a rewatch, however. Once you know how an illusion is created, it loses some of its appeal.
I’m giving “Traces to Nowhere” another 4-out-of-5 stars rating. No, it’s not a perfect series. But, there’s something about it. The mystery boxes, maybe. I wanna see what happens.