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 “The Orchid’s Curse.”
- On this day in history, “Suicide Blonde,” by the group INXS, reaches its peak at #9 on the US Billboard charts. Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS, would actually commit suicide seven years after this. By all accounts, he occasionally brought up the topic of suicide, even joked about it, but no one saw it coming.
- Janet Jackson—Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty—reached #1 with “Black Cat.”
- Over in the UK, the tune “A Little Time,” by The Beautiful South, got exactly one week at #1. It was this week. I was convinced I had never heard this song. Then, I listened to it on YouTube. I have never heard this song.
- The previous day, Friday, October 26, the movie Graveyard Shift had its theatrical release. It was based on a mediocre Stephen King short story, and even Brad Dourif and Stephen Macht, who both gave good performances, couldn’t save this stinker. I mean “stinker” from the standpoint of quality and entertainment value. The movie earned over $11.5 million. I’m not sure what the budget was on this, but it must have been profitable before the studio accountants did their magic to make it look like it wasn’t. Right?
- Here’s the transcript for the Dilbert comic strip that appeared on this date: The caption says, “How to be a boring person.” Dogbert faces the reader and says, “Our first demonstration is called ‘listing things because you can.'” Dilbert says, “I like the numbers that are divisable by two . . . For instance four . . . And ten . . . And sixteen and eight . . . And twelve . . . And, uh . . . Forty . . . And ten, or did I already say ten?” Dogbert says, “Now act confused and start over, using your fingers as if that helps.” Dilbert says, “Okay, four . . . And ten . . .”
- The in-story date is Tuesday, March 7, 1989.
- The Great Northern Hotel, 6:24 a.m. AGENT DALE COOPER dictates a message to DIANE. He had a dream about chewing a large, tasteless gumdrop: It turned out to be one of his ear plugs. He notes that there is still some pain in his ribcage area. You know, from getting shot at point-blank range. He treats it with 15 extra minutes of “yogic discipline” every day. Afterward, the “pain retreats to a cul-de-sac in a distant suburb of my conscious mind.”
- I’ve tried making my own pain retreat to a cul-de-sac, but the Homeowner’s Association wouldn’t allow it.
- Cooper does a handstand, as one does with recent broken ribs and a fresh gunshot wound, and finds the note that AUDREY HORNE slipped under his door the same night Cooper was shot. Somehow, the note got pushed under the bed.
- Audrey’s note says she’s going north and that “Jack may have the answer.”
- Sheriff’s Station. DEPUTY HAWK returns and tells SHERIFF HARRY S. TRUMAN that two retired female school teachers live next to the Palmer house and have no memory of a gray-haired man. Sheriff Harry tells Hawk to keep looking for the ONE-ARMED MAN.
- LUCY MORAN, the sheriff’s dispatcher/receptionist/side-drama-catalyst, approaches Sheriff Harry and says she just wanted to say goodbye. She’s going to Tacoma for two days to visit her sister GWEN and her sister’s husband LARRY. They just had a baby. Lucy wants to stay and train the temp taking her place, but Sheriff Harry sends her on her way.
- Agent Cooper enters the station and tells Sheriff Harry that he knows where Audrey Horne is located.
- Johnson House. MR. PINKLE (David Lander) is explaining how to use the Port-O-Patient harness to move LEO JOHNSON. BOBBY BRIGGS sits in the harness, reading a gun magazine while the device jerks him around.
- They can call him “Mr. Pinkle” all they want, but I would know Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley anywhere.
- SHELLY JOHNSON tells Bobby that she has to go meet with Leo’s lawyer and that the hearing is today. She asks Bobby if they’re okay as Mr. Pinkle begins swinging uncontrollably on the Port-O-Patient.
- Roadhouse. JUDGE STERNWOOD has set up court at Twin Peaks’ favorite honky-tonk watering hole. He says that LELAND PALMER had pleaded “not guilty” to first-degree murder. This pretrial hearing is determine whether bail will be granted.
- The prosecutor, DARYL LODWICK, requests that Leland be held without bail. Sheriff Harry speaks for the defense. DEPUTY ANDY BRENNAN is in the room doing a courtroom sketch of the back of Leland’s head.
- Leland Palmer is released on his own recognizance. BENJAMIN HORNE leaves the courtroom immediately following this announcement. The judge tells his assistant to set up a trial date ASAP.
- Smith House. DONNA HAYWARD shows up at the home of HAROLD SMITH. Harold is drinking something from a wine glass. Donna offers to share her life with him to become a part of his “living novel,” if he lets her read LAURA PALMER‘s diary. Harold says he will agree to read Laura’s secret diary to her, but it musn’t physically leave this room.
- Harold pulls another notebook from the secret bookcase compartment where dozens of similar notebooks are located.
- When Donna begins her story to Harold, she asks where he’s from. Harold says he grew up in Boston, then corrects himself and says he grew up in books. Donna, from the depths of her 18-year-old wisdom, says there are things that can’t be found in books. They begin talking about dreams or somesuch hog rot, and then Donna grabs the diary and threatens to read it on the front lawn. Harold tries to come after her, but his agoraphobia kicks into overdrive once he steps outside, and he collapses.
- Roadhouse. Still serving as a courtroom. For Leo Johnson’s competency hearing, this time. Although Leo’s EEG shows that he is brain-dead, Prosecutor Lodwick asserts that he should be tried anyway. Both lawyers are wearing string-ties for some strange reason, maybe because the judge favors bolo ties.
- Judge Sternwood completes a sidebar with Sheriff Harry and Agent Cooper, buying a round of drinks. The judge says he’s decided to declare Leo Johnson not competent to stand trial, but thinks he should be shipped home as soon as medically possible.
- Sheriff Harry tells Shelly Johnson the news.
- Meanwhile, Judge Sternwood tells Agent Cooper to keep an eye on the woods. “The woods are wondrous here,” the judge says, “but strange.”
- Hurley House. BIG ED HURLEY, NADINE HURLEY and their nephew JAMES HURLEY arrive home, which is next to Big Ed’s Gas Farm. Nadine still thinks she’s in high school. James asks his uncle if he’s considered taking Nadine to see DR. LAWRENCE JACOBY, but Big Ed says Dr. J is in Hawaii, recovering from that heart attack that James helped cause. The scene ends with Nadine, not knowing her own strength, ripping the refrigerator door off its hinges.
- Did Nadine Hurley emerge from her coma with super-strength in addition to forgetting twenty or so years of her life? Anything can happen on this series.
- Great Northern Hotel. Ben Horne enters his office. The enigmatic MR. TOJAMURA, a Japanese businessman, enters Ben’s office with his assistant. He says he has a better offer than the Icelanders for the Ghostwood project, and gives Ben a check for five million dollars.
- There is something strange looking about Tojamura. I’ll confess that I ruined a surprise for myself by researching the actor playing this role. I strongly suggest that you refrain from doing the same. It’s a doozy.
- Elsewhere in the hotel, HANK JENNINGS, wearing his badboy leather jacket, walks down a hallway. Bobby Briggs seems to be secretly following Hank, but Agent Cooper is also close behind the ex-con, testing out a duck call that you know he whittled himself between yoga, headstands, and hanging from the ceiling using gravity boots.
- Hank hides in another office just as Cooper enters Ben Horne’s office, which is seeing a lot of traffic today. Just then, Ben receives a phone call. The caller—JEAN RENAULT—gives directions to an abandoned amusement park. He tells Ben Horne to leave the money at the Merry-Go-Round beside the horse with no head. At midnight. Alone.
- Horne shows the money in the briefcase to Agent Cooper. The FBI agent tells Horne to stay by a phone as he leaves.
- Benjamin Horne, after Agent Cooper exits, tells Hank Jennings to follow Cooper and make sure he and the money are delivered. Hank will also be bringing Audrey Horne back to her father.
- What about Agent Cooper? Oh, he won’t be coming back. Jean Renault plans to kill him, remember.
- Hayward House. Donna Hayward and MADDY FERGUSON study a floorplan of Harold Smith’s house. They are planning a heist to steal Laura Palmer’s secret diary. Donna explains the bookcase hiding place to Maddy. Her plan is to distract Harold and get him out of the front room, then signal Maddy with a flashlight. What could go wrong?
- One Eyed Jacks. Jean Renault practices using his wrist knife (ala Assassin’s Creed) with brothel madam BLACKIE O’REILLY standing nearby. Blackie’s sister NANCY O’REILLY (the recently-deceased Galyn Görg) enters the office.
- I assume that Blackie has left the room, although I didn’t write that in my notes, because the following conversation between Jean and Nancy doesn’t really make sense if Blackie is within earshot.
- Nancy says, “What about Blackie? I’ve waited long enough.”
- Jean pulls a small knife from one of Nancy’s boots, and says, “We’ll have our fun tonight.” Then, Jean and Nancy kiss. Ah. This smells like some sort of double-cross.
- Sheriff’s Station. Deputy Andy sits at Lucy Moran’s desk. He calls the lab, which said he was suffering from oligospermia, too few sperm, but apparently he’s over it now. His sperm count is back to normal. Switching to boxers from briefs must have done the trick. It’s possible that he is the father of Lucy’s baby.
- Elsewhere in the station, Sheriff Harry and Agent Cooper go over the floorplans to One Eyed Jacks. This is the sort of episode where different characters study different floorplans. It’s all part of tactical readiness.
- Deputy Hawk comes in and says that PHILLIP GERARD, the one-armed man, is staying at the Robin’s Nest Motel on Highway 9. The shoe salesman hasn’t been seen in a day or so. But, Hawk discovered syringes of drugs in the room. Same drug as last time, Hawk says. With the same weird deep smell.
- I don’t want to embark on a long-winded digression here, but this brief exchange causes my mind to wander a bit. Deputy Hawk, in this series, is imbued with all the stereotypical mystic “powers” often assigned to Native American characters. He’s a master tracker, with keen eyesight and apparently, now, a preternatural sense of smell. While this characterization may be not-so-subtly racist, Hawk is far from the weirdest character in the show. Nor the only one with obvious super-powers.
- The second thing that occurred to me is that Hawk obviously entered Gerard’s motel room, uninvited. One might assume that he had a warrant to search the room. I can whistle past this, but ignoring reality grows increasingly difficult when you realize that Twin Peaks apparently doesn’t even have a sitting judge. Who is signing off on these warrants?
- I stand by my original assessment that Twin Peaks is just a slightly more modern Mayberry, and Sheriff Harry is also Justice of the Peace, with some limited judicial powers that include the ability to issue arrest and search warrants.
- And, I’m back.
- Agent Cooper and Sheriff Harry leave the station to begin their secret mission to rescue Audrey Horne.
- Meanwhile, still at Lucy’s desk, Deputy Andy is covered in Post-It notes. He looks over notes on the desk for a phone number for “Gwen and Larry,” Lucy’s sister and brother-in-law. When Andy dials the number, it turns out to be an abortion clinic.
- Double R Diner. Maddy Ferguson enters the diner. James Hurley is already sitting at the counter. Maddy orders coffee. She is giving James the cold shoulder. She tells him that she’s going home and the coffee is for Leland Palmer. After Maddy leaves the diner, James leaves the counter and follow her out the door.
- Harold Smith House. Donna Hayward is inside with Harold Smith, the orchid-growing agoraphobic. Donna tells Harold a Laura story from five years ago. That would have made the girls both—what?—twelve or thirteen? There’s a creepy undercurrent of underage sex in this series that I find off-putting.
- Donna talks about wearing tight skirts, and she and Laura going to the Roadhouse to meet some twenty-year-old guys. Laura agrees to go to a party with them. Full moon. Stream in the woods. Laura dances. Donna is the one who suggests skinny-dipping. So, the girls take off their clothes. Laura begins making out with two guys while Donna swims. A guy named TIM swims out to her and kisses her. Donna never saw him again, but it was the first time she fell in love.
- Harold tells Donna that the story is beautiful. Not the adjective I would have used.
- One Eyed Jacks. Agent Cooper and Sheriff Harry are sneaking up to the brothel. The sheriff takes out the guard. Cooper hears an owl hooting and looks startled.
- Using the floorplan, Agent Cooper leads the sheriff to where the girls are located.
- Sheriff Harry sees Jean Renault and Blackie O’Reilly alone together in a room.
- We cut back to the Smith House. As both of these story threads play out, we jump back and forth between settings and characters until the end of the episode.
- Harold Smith shows off his orchids to Donna Hayward, who says she thinks talk of pollinating insects is romantic. The two begin to kiss.
- Harold asks Donna to excuse him for a moment. I have to assume that Harold believes that barely-legal sex is in the offing and needed to go to the bathroom to freshen up his wedding tackle.
- Donna seizes the opportunity to signal Maddy Ferguson with her flashlight.
- At One Eyed Jacks, Agent Cooper grabs Nancy O’Reilly and tells her to take him to Audrey Horne. He discovers Audrey in a drugged state. Nancy produces the knife from her boot (showing the knife earlier was Chekhovian foreshadowing), but Agent Cooper easily fends off her attack. He cuts the ropes binding Audrey and gets her out of there.
- In another room in the brothel, Jean Renault and Blackie O’Reilly share a kiss. Then, Jean Renault stabs the madam, and the brothel madam is cleanly written out of the story.
- Renault sees Sheriff Harry through a window and fires. Then, Jean Renault disappears as Agent Cooper comes by carrying Audrey Horne, and our heroes attempt to leave. A guard with a gun stops them. But, the guard is, in turn, stopped by Deputy Hawk, with a large hunting knife hurled into his back.
- “Good thing you guys can’t keep a secret,” Hawk says. Add knife-throwing to his list of Native American super-powers.
- Outside, Hank Jennings watches, and reports that the sheriff and FBI agent are leaving with Ben Horne’s daughter. Jean Renault sneaks up behind Hank, puts a gun to his neck and removes Hank’s wallet to look at his identification. But, it’s Daryl Lodwick’s driver’s license, which Hank lifted eons ago at the diner.
- Back to the Smith House for a final scene. Donna continues to distract Harold Smith while Maddy Ferguson tries to find the secret compartment in the bookcase. Naturally, Maddy makes too much noise and Harold catches her. He looks at Donna, accusingly, then grabs a hand trowel like a weapon.
- Donna runs to Maddy and the two embrace.
- “Are you looking for secrets?” Harold Smith says. “Is that what this is about?”
- Then, he tells them that the ultimate secret is knowing who killed you.
- The episode ends.
So, this one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Is Harold Smith going to attack Donna Hayward and Maddy Ferguson and trowel them to death? Is Hank Jennings a leather-jacket-wearing goner?
Who killed Laura Palmer? Is that even a story goal at this point? It must be because that’s the crime that Donna and Maddy are still investigating, junior sleuths that they are.
The sheriff and FBI are preoccupied with Audrey Horne’s kidnapping. Does Audrey’s rescue mean that we’re going to return to the business of solving Laura’s murder?
I suspect that all of the Jean Renault revenge and Lucy Moran pregnancy drama are attempts to distract the viewer. Like Nadine Hurley’s post-coma age regression. Or even all of the Ghostwood Estates stuff. With new information constantly being highlighted as if it’s important—such as Donna’s skinny-dipping reminiscence of the mysterious “Tim,” or Leland’s childhood memories of a neighbor flicking lit matches at him—I sometimes feel like I’m losing the central story line here.
It’s a primetime soap opera, with each chunk of backstory representing plot potentialities. That, I find interesting. It’s like using quantuum mechanics to explain how to construct a story. Nothing happens until we see it on the screen. We know that Bobby Briggs and Shelly Johnson are trying to find a way to scam money from Leo Johnson’s vegetative state (just as we suspect that Leo himself will wake up from his coma, the way all soap opera characters do). We realize that the Norma Jennings/Big Ed Hurley romance has been only temporarily backburnered. And, what about Ronette Pulaski? Isn’t it about time for her to talk?
There was a bit more action than normal in this episode, including Hawk throwing a knife into someone’s back. That alone elevates my rating on this one. 4-out-of-5 stars.
Otherwise, this series is still a mess. I doubt I’ll be any closer to having all of my questions answered by the end of this season.