Welcome to Twin Peaks:/\/\ First-Watch Recap: Season 2: Ep. 2.13 “Checkmate” (Original airdate Saturday, January 19, 1991) — 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 “Checkmate.”

  • On this day in history, actor John Russell dies. A US Marine in WWII, Russell was a supporting actor in many westerns, including three with Clint Eastwood. He also played Commander Stone on Jason of Star Command, which also starred the late Sid Haig as Drago.
  • On the previous day, Friday, January 18, Eastern Airlines shuts down after 62 years of operation.
  • The #1 song in the US is “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” by Janet Jackson.
  • “High Enough,” by Damn Yankees is at #3.
  • In the UK, “Sadeness (Part 1),” by Enigma is #1. It’s a dance track featuring Gregorian chants and French lyrics.
  • Home Alone still rules in the US movie theaters, but Flight of the Intruder and White Fang are also in the theaters this weekend.
  • Our in-story date is Saturday, March 8. Hardly seems to matter anymore, though.
  • As we open, a strange object approaches the camera, rotating out of a starfield. Flames appear and MAJ. GARLAND BRIGGS is sitting on a stone throne of some sort. He says he remembers stepping from the flames, a vague shape in the dark, then nothing until he found himself standing next to the cold remains of his and AGENT DALE COOPER‘s campfire two days later. Briggs says that his memories are immune to regression but he can feel them. He does remember the image of a giant owl that is pervasive.
  • Sheriff’s Station |||—Maj. Briggs sits at the head of the table in the conference room. DR. WILL HAYWARD takes a Polaroid photo of three triangular scars behind the major’s right ear. Agent Cooper stands, leaning over with his hands on the table to Briggs’ left. SHERIFF HARRY TRUMAN sits on the table.
  • The sheriff asks Maj. Briggs what exactly his work involves.
  • Briggs says that’s classified. He becomes upset and wonders aloud if this experience was meant for his soul.
  • Cooper suggests that Briggs start at the beginning. Maj. Briggs asks Cooper if he’s familiar with Project Blue Book, officially disbanded in 1969. Cooper knows that it was meant to study the phenomenon of UFOs. The major says that some of them have continued in an unofficial capacity, examining the heavens above, or, as is the case in Twin Peaks, the earth below. Briggs says that they are searching for a place known as The White Lodge.
  • I know that there has been a series called Project Blue Book recently, but I never watched it and, honestly, am not interested in it. Like all of you, I know that Project Blue Book was a very real military project, US Air Force to be exact, and most of my knowledge of it is derived from a television show in 1978-’79 called Project U.F.O., created by Jack Webb of Dragnet fame.
  • I’m convinced, more than ever, that Project U.F.O. and Twin Peaks were gargantuan influences upon The X-Files. Series creator Chris Carter always mentioned Kolchak: The Night Stalker as an influence, but I don’t recall him mentioning these other shows.
  • Two MPs, sent by COL. RILEY, show up and take Maj. Briggs into custody.
  • As Agent Cooper studies the photo of Maj. Briggs’ behind-the-ear scars, water drips on the photo from a sprinkler head.
  • Over in the sheriff’s office, DENISE BRYSON (speaking of The X-Files), is standing by the window while ERNIE NILES sits in a chair by the desk. There are donuts on a plate on the desk.
  • Denise encourages Ernie to make the phone call to set up the drug buy. When Agent Cooper enters the room, Denise calls Ernie “gun shy.” Ernie calls JEAN RENAULT and tells the Canadian gangster that he has a big out-of-town buyer here.
  • In the lobby of the sheriff’s station, DEPUTY ANDY BRENNAN enters. LUCY MORAN is behind the counter. DICK TREMAYNE is skulking about in a trenchcoat and fedora, looking furtive.
  • Dick tells Andy he went to the Helping Hands Adoption Agency. LITTLE NICKY‘s records have been sealed and returned to the orphanage. Dick says their next step is to go to the orphanage.
  • This subplot is not only going nowhere. It’s getting there in record time.
  • Agent Cooper talks to Lucy by the water cooler. He asks if she’s had any luck. Lucy says she’s checked the personals columns in every national newspaper on the list. She’s found nothing that appears to be chess moves or any mention of WINDOM EARLE.
  • Double R Diner |||—NORMA JENNINGS pours more coffee for BIG ED HURLEY. Big Ed writes “we need to talk” on the back of his bill.
  • Me? I was just happy to get out of the sheriff’s station.
  • The Johnson Home |||—SHELLY JOHNSON is feeding LEO JOHNSON. BOBBY BRIGGS sits at the table. Shelly says, petulantly, that it was Bobby’s turn to feed Leo. Bobby said he has practice. Football season is over, Shelly says. Baseball, says Bobby.
  • When Shelly says Bobby can clean Leo up when he gets back, Bobby says he’s not coming back. He’s BENJAMIN HORNE‘s new #1 man. He says things like “golden opportunity” and “big break.” He has better things to do than give Leo Johnson a bubble bath. Shelly says, what about her? Doesn’t she have better things to do? Bobby says, not that he can think of. Shelly slaps Bobby, and he leaves.
  • The Marsh House |||—JAMES HURLEY calls his uncle, Big Ed, and asks him to send all the money from his savings account to Wallies, a bar on 96. EVELYN MARSH enters the garage while James is on the phone. She asks him if he is homesick, and James says he isn’t. He tells Evelyn about LAURA PALMER (remember Laura? This used to be a show about Laura). James says that after Laura died, he no longer felt like his life belonged to him. Then, another girl was murdered, and he just wanted to get on his bike and ride away.
  • Evelyn says she knows the feeling. Then the two of them kiss. James asks Evelyn why she lets her husband hurt her. A car pulls up outside the garage and Evelyn looks startled. She tells James that her husband, JEFFREY MARSH, is leaving again but she needs James’s help.
  • Double R Diner |||—NADINE HURLEY approaches MIKE NELSON at the counter. She wants to share a soda or a slice of pie. Mike tells Nadine that he wants her to leave him alone. She says he’s the handsomest boy she’s ever known and she wants to go out on a date. Then, she kisses him.
  • Elsewhere in the diner, Norma Jennings tells HANK JENNINGS that she has to run some errands. Hank points out that they are in the middle of their breakfast rush. She tells him to think of it as a test.
  • Blue Pine Lodge |||—Sheriff Harry knocks on the door, and JOSIE PACKARD answers. Josie says she has to stay at the Blue Pine Lodge because she has no choice. The two begin to kiss. Sheriff Harry tells Josie to let him take care of her. Josie says that she’s CATHERINE MARTELL‘s maid; she’s no good for him. Yet, they continue to kiss.
  • Great Northern Hotel |||—AUDREY HORNE sees her father’s secretary run from his office. Ben Horne is still reenacting the Battle of Gettysburg. Audrey tells her father that she thinks he needs some help. She calls JERRY HORNE.
  • The Hurley House |||—Norma Jennings visits Big Ed Hurley. They declare their love for each other and begin making out.
  • Sheriff’s Station |||—DEPUTY HAWK tapes a transmitter to ERNIE NILES‘ body. Agent Cooper goes over the plan. Ernie is to take DEA agent Denise Bryson to Dead Dog Farm. They are to take JEAN RENAULT through the buy, complete the transaction and get the hell out of there. Cooper tells Sheriff Harry that’s when he comes in. Cooper says he wishes he could join them, but he’s temporarily lost his enforcement franchise. Sheriff Harry deputizes Cooper.
  • Ernie Niles still doesn’t want to do this. He’s nervous.
  • Denise Bryson enters the room, but now she’s back to DENNIS BRYSON.
  • Orphanage |||—Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne enter the office and go through the files. They find Little Nicky’s. He’s been adopted several times, it seems. A couple—THE BRUNSTONS—arrives to see DONNIE. Dick tells the couple that Donnie isn’t feeling well. He says “dead,” but amends that to “dead tired.”
  • The Hurley House |||—DONNA HAYWARD visits Big Ed Hurley. She’s worried about James. Ed tells Donna about James’ phone call about needing money. Donna offers to take the money to him. Norma Jennings leaves Big Ed’s house after Donna is gone. Hank Jennings is there in his badboy leather jacket and attacks Big Ed. Nadine Hurley shows up, suddenly, and then thrashes Hank. She has super-strength, you may recall. She cradles Big Ed in her arms afterward and tells him not to worry about a thing; she’ll take care of everything.
  • Great Northern Hotel |||—Ben Horne tells Bobby Briggs about the Battle of Gettysburg while Audrey Horne eavesdrops. Bobby asks to be excused so he can go talk to President Lincoln. In the hallway, he tells Audrey that her father just bought a condo in flip city. Audrey says her Uncle Jerry is coming home on the next plane. DR. LAWRENCE JACOBY will be there “tomorrow.”
  • Catherine Martell visits Ben Horne. Ben admits that Catherine defeated him. Catherine admits that she came to gloat. Ben double-crossed her and tried to kill her. Catherine begins stroking his hair, rubbing his shoulders. She says, in spite of everything, she cares about him. She still wants him. She says Ben makes her body hum. They begin to kiss. There’s a lot of kissing in this episode.
  • The Marsh House |||—James Hurley leads a blindfolded Evelyn Marsh to the Jaguar. She’s carrying two champagne flutes. James has the champagne. Evelyn says her husband will be home by midnight, so they don’t have a lot of time. James opens the champagne and says he’ll take what he can get. They drink a toast. Evelyn says she never thought she’d see the car drive again. She calls James a “miracle worker.” James looks weird when he smiles, showing his teeth. I guess I’ve gotten used to seeing him brooding all the time. Evelyn asks James not to leave, even though the job he was hired to do is completed. They begin tearing each other’s clothes off in the driveway. They kiss passionately while leaning against the car. The creepy driver who never seems to drive, MALCOLM SLOAN, is spying on them.
  • Dead Dog Farm |||—Hank Jennings doesn’t show for the drug buy. We know he was beaten-up by Nadine Hurley. MOUNTIE KING and Jean Renault are there, as are Ernie Niles and Dennis Bryson. Ernie’s sweating causes his transmitter to begin smoking, so Jean Renault takes him and Bryson hostage. Agent Cooper offers to trade himself for the hostages. Sheriff Harry tells Deputy Hawk to call the state police.
  • The Marsh House |||—Evelyn Marsh leaves James Hurley’s room. I think they just had sex. Malcolm Sloan, the driver, meets her in the hall. Then, they kiss. They are manipulating James, of course, as predicted.
  • Dead Dog Farm |||—Backup arrives. It’s now nighttime. Agent Cooper suggests they surrender. Jean Renault says he holds Cooper responsible for his brothers’ deaths. His arrival in Twin Peaks changed everything.
  • Bryson comes up, once again as Denise, in a waitress uniform, delivering supper to the criminals and hostage. There’s a gun strapped to his thigh. Agent Cooper shoots Jean Renault while Denise takes out Mountie King. Denise says this was the sheriff’s idea. Deputy Hawk pronounces Jean Renault dead at the scene.
  • The Johnson House |||—A record plays on the stereo. The lights flicker as the power goes out and Shelly Johnson wakes up, saying “Bobby?” She finds a clown doll in Leo’s bed, on the pillow. He’s not in his chair. The lights flicker again, and Leo Johnson is standing there in a party hat. He says, “Shelly,” and she screams as the lights go out.
  • Sheriff’s Station |||—Lucy Moran tells Sheriff Harry that she received a phone report of a bomb in the woods. Suddenly, there’s a huge explosion and all the lights went out. She called the fire department. There were two fires, one at the power station. Deputy Hawk says he’s going to check on the generator. Something’s not right.
  • In Sheriff Harry’s office, there’s a body of a long-haired man tied to the office chair, pointing at a chess gameboard.
  • Agent Cooper says it’s Windom Earle’s next move.
  • End of episode.

The plot of this series is floundering.

I was going to make the comment that James Hurley seems to be off somewhere shooting his own solo series, a film noir about killing Jeffrey Marsh. But, he’s no more disconnected from the central plot than any of the characters on this series. What story are we trying to tell now?

The subplot about Agent Dale Cooper’s suspension from the FBI—to keep him in Twin Peaks after his reason for being there was apparently gone—seems like it’s about to wrap up. Surely, he’ll be exonerated after Jean Renault and the crooked Mountie King are removed from the stage.

The Big Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings romance story seems to have reached a crossroads. I don’t know why the one-eyed Nadine Hurley has superhuman strength, but she does. It seems like it’s about time for her to get her memory back as well. You know she will.

Bobby Briggs has left the Leo and Shelly Johnson plot behind, it seems, to become a part of whatever is happening with the suddenly cuckoo Benjamin Horne. But, Leo has risen from his vegetative state. To do what, exactly?

Sheriff Harry still has Josie Packard as a romantic interest. She’s still alive and working as a maid for Catherine Martell. Catherine still has the hots for crazy Ben Horne, it seems, even though he tried to kill her. Something’s got to happen here, but I can’t imagine what.

The important part of the plot seems to be all of that nonsense about Project Blue Book and The White Lodge. Cooper’s old partner, Windom Earle, the chess aficionado, seems to factor into that somehow. Since Earle is committing his crimes in Twin Peaks, that should be reason enough to keep Cooper there, even after his badge and gun are returned to him.

This is another two-star outing for me.

I want to like this more than I do now. But, this entire series has become like a magic trick performed with creamed corn to me. Weird and different, but ultimately pointless. I’m going to power through these final episodes. Maybe my opinion will change, but I doubt it.

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