Welcome to Twin Peaks:/\/\ First-Watch Recap: Season 1: Ep. 1.3 “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” (Original airdate Thursday, April 19, 1990) — a review


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 “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer.”

  • On this date in history, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Detroit Pistons got into an all-out brawl in the final seconds of their game, drawing a league record fine of $162,500. Charles Barkley, Bill Laimbeer and Scott Hastings were suspended for one game each.
  • You know, I watched the first two seasons of the CW television series Riverdale. I never realized the influence that Twin Peaks had on that series. There are stylistic and story subject similarities, of course, and both series had a penchant for the weird. But, it just occurred to me that Madchen Amick acted in both shows.
  • After our strange, outdoor montage opening credits with its synth-heavy theme music, we join the HORNE family at the dinner table. JOHNNY is wearing his Native American headdress tonight—which is Saturday, February 25, for those of you playing at home. BENJAMIN, SYLVIA and AUDREY HORNE are also there, and everyone is eating in eerie silence. There’s a lot of noise from silverware clinking against plates.
  • The peace is broken by the sudden arrival of Ben’s brother JERRY HORNE (David Patrick Kelly), who has just returned from Paris, France. Jerry gives his brother a sandwich on a baguette, which Ben tears into as if he’s ravenous and hasn’t been eating a meal with his quiet family. Ben tells his brother that the reason they both like the sandwich so much is that it reminds them of Ginny & Jenny’s down by the river.
  • I don’t know what Ginny & Jenny’s is, over even if that’s the correct spelling. It’s what showed up on my closed captioning, I think.
  • Ben and Jerry (yeah, I hear it) are the only two with dialogue in this scene. But, Ben takes Jerry into another room so that they can talk in private. Sylvia puts her head in her hands as they leave the room.
  • In the other Horne room—which I’m guessing is at the Great Northern Hotel, but I could be wrong—Ben tells Jerry about LAURA PALMER‘s murder and the broken Norwegian deal. He doesn’t say that it was Audrey’s fault, however.
  • Ben also tells Jerry that there’s a new girl at One Eyed Jacks, and that Jerry has a 50-50 chance of being first in line with her if they go there tonight.
  • The next scene shows Ben and Jerry being chauffeured in a boat. Presumably to this new setting, One Eyed Jacks. A strip club, maybe? Or a brothel?
  • We cut to the Hayward House. DR. WILL HAYWARD and his wife EILEEN excuse themselves to go to bed, leaving DONNA HAYWARD and JAMES HURLEY alone in the living room. Dr. Hayward reminds Donna about church in the morning. 9 o’clock sharp.
  • Brief aside: The actress playing Eileen Hayward looked familiar for some reason. I guess it was the eyes. Her last name is Deschanel, and she has two daughters named Zooey and Emily. Small world.
  • Cut to: One Eyed Jacks. Yes, it’s a brothel. A casino as well, it seems. The scantily-clad girls are brought out for the Brothers Horne. Then, we get introduced to a new character, the brothel’s madam, BLACKIE O’REILLY (Victoria Catlin). The two brothers flip a coin to see who gets to sleep with the new girl first. Classy. Ben wins.
  • Back at the Hayward House, the clock reads midnight. James tells Donna that he was developing feelings for her even before Laura, and he doesn’t think their love is wrong. The two begin making out in earnest.
  • Technically, it’s now Sunday, February 26, even though no one seems to have gone to bed yet.
  • At the Great Northern Hotel, AGENT DALE COOPER arrives at his hotel room. He toots his wooden whistle, and, as if on cue, the telephone rings.
  • It’s DEPUTY HAWK on the phone. He says that RONETTE PULASKI‘s body and spirit are still far apart. He says things like that. Hawk did find out that Ronette recently quit her job at Horne’s Department Store, where she worked at the perfume counter. Seems like the perfume counter is getting mentioned a lot. I believe the new girl at One Eyed Jacks was supposed to have worked at the perfume counter as well. Hawk also tells Cooper about seeing the ONE-ARMED MAN snooping around intensive care that afternoon.
  • After Cooper hangs up from Deputy Hawk, there is a knock at his door. This hotel doesn’t begin jumping until after midnight, it seems. There’s no one at the door, but someone slipped a note under it. It’s a hand-written note, it what appears to be a feminine hand, on an otherwise blank card or sheet of paper.
  • The note reads: JACK WITH ONE EYE.
  • As cryptic notes go, it’s no FIRE. WALK WITH ME, but the viewer is privvy to things Cooper is not, yet.
  • Cut to: The Woods. BOBBY BRIGGS and MIKE NELSON drive to the woods. They get out with a flashlight to find a football that LEO JOHNSON was supposed to fill with cocaine. All of the product isn’t there. But, guess what? Leo is. He shines a flashlight on his own face in that creepy ghost-story way.
  • Cash on delivery, Bobby,” Leo says. It turns out there’s another man standing in the shadows. I don’t know who that is yet.
  • Bobby explains that Laura had the other $10,000.
  • Apropos of nothing, Leo tells Bobby that his wife, SHELLY JOHNSON, is fooling around on him. At least I think it’s apropos of nothing. We know that Bobby is the one seeing Shelly Johnson, but Leo doesn’t seem to know that. “Asshole” seems to be his default setting. Leo threatens Bobby and Mike with a shotgun and tells them to go out for a pass. Bobby and Mike run for the car and the football lands on the hood. They don’t bother to get the football before they take off.
  • This bothered me a little. Maybe they already had the cocaine and didn’t care about the football. I’m not sure.
  • At the Hurley House, BIG ED HURLEY has seriously greasy hands as he enters his house. NADINE HURLEY, that eyepatch-wearing vixen, is exercising on a rowing machine. Ed trips over the drapery hardware scattered over the floor (drapes, again), dripping grease all over, and Nadine yells at him, saying he makes her sick. She’s so angry that she bends the metal arms on her rowing machine.
  • What kind of garage doesn’t have a sink with a GoJo dispenser or some Lava soap next to it? Does Big Ed always drip grease all over his house?
  • We arrive at the Sheriff’s Station, where you can always count on a table loaded with donuts. We’re outside today, and SHERIFF HARRY and Deputy Hawk are measuring 60 feet 6 inches from LUCY MORAN and setting up a bottle on a tree stump. Agent Cooper has made a list of names with a “J” in them on a chalkboard.
  • We cut to: the Johnson House, which seems to be in the middle of a longterm renovation project. Bobby shows up at the door. Shelly Johnson tells Bobby that they shouldn’t see each other for a while. Bobby can tell she’s been beaten up (soap-in-a-sock, remember?). Bobby says, “If he ever does this again, I’ll kill him.”
  • I’m willing to bet that Leo will do it again.
  • Over at the Double R Diner, Big Ed drops by and asks NORMA JENNINGS for a cup of coffee. He confesses that he’s in the doghouse with Nadine again.
  • Whiplash cut back to the Sheriff’s Station. Cooper takes a sip of the coffee Lucy brought to him, spits it out, and exclaims, “Damn good coffee! And hot!”
  • Cooper begins his presentation to Sheriff Harry, DEPUTY ANDY, Deputy Hawk and Lucy by flipping the chalkboard over and displaying a map of Tibet.
  • Agent Cooper tells them about a dream he had that led him to devote himself to the plight of the Tibetan people. He says he awoke from the same dream realizing he had subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique involving mind/body coordination operating hand-in-hand with the deepest level of intuition.
  • At this point, in any normal police procedural, someone would openly scoff at this mystical claptrap. The fact that none of the police personnel assembled here do so is a testament to how fundamentally weird this town must be.
  • Cooper asks Harry to call out each of the J names as he tells him to. The ever-genial Sheriff Harry says, “Okey-doke.”
  • Deputy Hawk puts on a kitchen mitten and holds a bucket of rocks. Deputy Andy goes to stand next to where the bottle rests, 60 feet, 6 inches away. Cooper hands the chalk to Lucy and tells her that, if he strikes a bottle after Harry reads off a certain name, to put a check mark by that name.
  • Cooper asks Harry to briefly state the person’s relationship to Laura as he reads the name. The results of this experiment follow.
  • James Hurley — secret boyfriend.” Rock misses.
  • Josie Packard — instructed in English.” Miss.
  • Dr. Lawrence Jacoby — Laura’s psychiatrist.” Knocks bottle over, but it doesn’t break. Cooper tells Lucy to write that.
  • Johnny Horne — special-ed tutor.” Miss.
  • Norma Jennings — meals on wheels.” Miss
  • Shelly Johnson — friend.” Miss. Rock ricochets and hits Andy in the head.
  • Harry does stop Cooper long enough to ask if the idea for this really came from a dream. Yes, Cooper says, it did. This is as close as Harry comes to questioning Cooper’s sanity, and even this is done pleasantly.
  • Jack With One Eye.” This “name” on the list leads to a discussion. Hawk says it makes him think of Nadine Hurley, with her eyepatch. Harry says there’s a casino across the border called One Eyed Jacks. Cooper says they’re going to have to check that place out.
  • Leo Johnson — unknown relationship.” The rock breaks the bottle.
  • I guess this means the universe thinks Leo is the murderer. We don’t find out because the scene immediately cuts to the Double R Diner.
  • Audrey Horne walks into the diner in her cloud of dreamy dissociation. The Haywards are sitting in a booth, eating a meal. I think lunch. Dr. Hayward mentions that he saw Audrey in church that morning. He wonders what she’s doing “down here.”
  • I’m not exactly sure what the “down here” meant. It may be literal, since the Great Northern Hotel is on a bluff. Perhaps the Double R Diner is in the valley. I don’t think it’s really a social status thing, since Dr. Hayward is apparently one of the only doctors in town.
  • Audrey plays some sultry jazz on the juke box (you know, the type of music found on any juke box) and then takes a seat at the counter. She asks NORMA JENNINGS for a cup of coffee.
  • Donna leaves her parents at the booth to go talk to Audrey. Audrey tells Donna that she went to church for Laura. She and Laura didn’t like each other, but Laura did take care of her brother Johnny.
  • Audrey reveals her inappropriate crush on Agent Cooper when she talks about how he loves his coffee black.
  • Audrey asks if Laura ever talked to Donna about her father. It seems that Benjamin Horne used to sing to Laura. We’re not going to find out what that means yet, because Audrey calls the juke box music—which she selected—”dreamy” and then begins doing a slow stoner dance in the middle of the diner.
  • This tells me two things. “Dreams” will be a recurring motif on this show. And, two, Audrey needs to be drug tested. There’s more than cocaine making the rounds in this strange, little town.
  • Back at the Sheriff’s Station, Cooper and Harry examine a bloody rag that Deputy Hawk found on the railroad tracks a half-mile from the crime scene. Yet another clue, and no discussion about the Tibetan rock-throwing exercise earlier.
  • AGENT ALBERT ROSENFIELD (Miguel Ferrer) and his team (two other agents) arrive at the station. Lucy greets them.
  • Quick aside about Ferrer. This guy was a veteran character actor who died too young of throat cancer at 61. His parents were Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, which made George Clooney his cousin. He was a musician and a comic book aficionado, and he was Lloyd Henreid in the TV mini-series The Stand. I’ve seen him in a lot of things, frequently as a villain, and he never gave a bad performance that I saw.
  • Agent Rosenfield comes across as rather pushy and rude, a stark contrast to Agent Cooper, who is pushy and polite.
  • Before they meet, Cooper warns Harry that Agent Rosenfield is lacking in some of the social niceties.
  • As Cooper and Harry enter the scene, I noticed that Lucy is reading a book about Tibet in the background. Sweet callback.
  • Agent Rosenfield immediately begins insulting the town and the police force. Sheriff Harry takes him aside and tells him that Agent Cooper says that he’s real good at what he does. Agent Rosenfield agrees that this is true. Harry says that’s good, because normally if a stranger walked into his station talking this kind of crap, he’d be looking for his teeth two blocks up on Queer Street.
  • This tells me a couple of things. First, Harry must genuinely like Cooper, because he took an immediate dislike to Agent Rosenfield. Second, I’m taking this to mean that there is literally a road named Queer Street in Twin Peaks because this would be an odd place to include a homophobic slur.
  • When Agent Rosenfield and his team leave, Cooper gives Harry a weird, smiling thumbs-up gesture.
  • Over at Big Ed’s Gas Farm, it turns out that Nadine is now happy with Ed. His accident with the grease helped her with her invention, the silent drape runners. Greasing the cotton balls did the trick. Nadine is convinced that her invention will make them rich.
  • This story line is riveting. Time to move on.
  • Cut to: the Blue Pine Lodge, where PETE and CATHERINE MARTELL are talking about Agent Cooper. Catherine wants to know what that FBI agent wanted up here today.
  • I think this is a continuity issue. This episode is supposed to take place on Sunday. Cooper and Harry came to the Blue Pine Lodge on Saturday, April 25. The whole “fish in the percolator” bit.
  • Pete tells his wife that Cooper talked to JOSIE PACKARD mostly. Later, while Catherine is out of the room, Pete slips Josie a key to the safe that contains the sawmill’s ledgers.
  • Catherine gets mad at her husband for something afterward and sends him to “his room.” Pete and Josie are obviously in collusion about something, but there’s no evidence that they are romantically involved.  There is some evidence that the Martells are not, however.
  • Josie opens the secret safe and pulls two ledgers out of the safe. Two books? Hmmm . . . I know next to nothing about accounting, but fiction informs me that two sets of books is suspicious.
  • Lest we forget they exist, we travel briefly to the Palmer House to check in on Laura’s parents, LELAND and SARAH PALMER. Leland plays big band music on the record player while holding up a photo of Laura. He begins screaming as he twirls around. Somewhere, a phone is ringing, unanswered. Sarah comes into the room and tries to stop her husband. They end up breaking the picture frame and Leland is cut. He gets blood on Laura’s photograph.  Sarah stops the record and screams, “What is going on in this house?”
  • At the Great Northern Hotel, Agent Cooper closes out another day by going to bed. Of course, he has a dream. We see a flashing series of images that includes Sarah Palmer running down stairs, dead Laura’s face, and the long-haired creepy man . . . then we get the following cryptic voiceover.
  • Through the darkness of future pasts the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds. Fire . . . walk with me.”
  • This is being recited by the ONE-ARMED MAN, who introduces himself to Cooper as MIKE. He says that he, too, was touched by the devilish one, with a tattoo on his left shoulder. So, he took the entire arm off. He says the name of the other one is BOB.
  • Then we see the man with long gray hair. Bob. He tells Mike he’ll catch him with his death bag. He says he will kill again.
  • Then, in the way of dreams, we’re in a red-draped room with an older Agent Cooper. There’s a little person in a red suit in the room also, with a young woman who looks like Laura Palmer. This dream-Laura touches the side of her nose oddly. The little person rubs his palms together as a weird shadow flits across the draped wall.
  • This dream sequence uses reversed speech and backward acting, which gives it a disturbing, nightmarish quality. The little person says that the young woman is his cousin, not the real Laura.
  • The little person begins dancing to jazz music.
  • Pseudo-Laura walks over to Cooper, kisses him and then whispers into his ear.
  • Cooper starts awake. He calls Sheriff Harry and tells him to meet in the hotel lobby at 7 AM. He knows who killed Laura Palmer.
  • Of course, Harry wants to know who. Cooper says it’ll wait until morning.
  • Cooper begins snapping his fingers to the beat of the jazz tune that was playing in his dream. It begins to play again.

And so, this episode ends. We gained three new characters to our already huge cast. Jerry Horne, casino madam Blackie O’Reilly, and Agent Albert Rosenfield (although the agent was mentioned in the last episode). Five new characters if you count one-armed Mike and long-haired Bob as new characters. I’m not sure I count characters who reveal themselves in dreams.

We also gained an additional setting in the casino/brothel One Eyed Jacks.

While the murder investigation advanced only incrementally, we did learn a bit more about Agent Cooper’s metaphysical process and some insight into his Zen-like attitude towards the universe, black coffee and pie. Any pretense that this would be like an episode of Dragnet or Efrem Zimbalist’s The FBI went directly out the window. We are in strange, uncharted waters here. This show is more Twilight Zone or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. And that’s okay. Kind of in my wheelhouse, in fact.

For me, this series is becoming less about solving Laura Palmer’s murder than it is to see what kind of crazy stuff it’s going to throw at me next. I remain intrigued.


This episode is another 4-out-of-5 star outing for me. It may become difficult to stick to my only-one-episode-per-week commitment to this series.

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