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"Twin Peaks," Episode 9 Recap: Whatever This Is

A number of scenes in Part 9 revolve around characters so familiar with each other's quirks that they seem to be communicating in shorthand.
Twin Peaks Recap is a weekly column by Keith Uhlich covering David Lynch and Mark Frost's limited, 18-episode continuation of the Twin Peaks television series.
There's a brief, very beautiful moment in Part 7 of the new Twin Peaks, during the scene in which hotelier Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) and his secretary Beverly Paige (Ashley Judd) are investigating a strange sound emanating from the walls of the Great Northern. Ben points in the direction that he thinks the soft, soothing tone is coming from, and for a second he seems to be pointing right at the camera—past it, really…toward our world, at those of us on the other side of the fiction/fact divide. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it breach, but it lays some subtle groundwork for what follows: The aesthetically and thematically provocative Part 8 fitted the Twin Peaks mythos into our very real history of atomic destruction. And this week's Part 9—a return to the uncanny banal in which cowriter-director David Lynch specializes—reverses that by bringing an important element of Peaks' make-believe universe squarely into our own. (More on that below.)
Back to Ben and Beverly, who, toward the end of Part 9, are still investigating that "mesmerizing tone," which Ben likens to a monastery bell. This time there's another breach, but it's between the two characters as they accidentally (though not so much) bump into each other, then pause as if readying to move in for a mutual, long-delayed kiss. Ben can't do it. "I don't know why that is," he says, spellbound. "You're a good man, Ben," Beverly replies—which anyone familiar with the series, and even Ben himself, knows is far from the case. Yet in this context there's something achingly true about Beverly's insight, as well as redemptive in the way the two tenderly hold hands, then bow their heads as if in prayer. We're different things with (and to) different people.
A number of scenes in Part 9 revolve around quiet interactions of this sort, between characters so familiar with each other's quirks that they seem to be communicating in shorthand. These exchanges can be comical, as in the way FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole (Lynch) longingly—and longly—eyes a cigarette held by Diane Evans (Laura Dern), much to the chagrin of Agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell). Or they can be squirmy and horrific: Witness the episode-ending conversation at the Roadhouse between a pair of new characters, the strung-out Ella (Sky Ferreira) and her friend Chloe (Karolina Wydra), who speak cryptically yet knowingly of a "zebra" and a "penguin," all while Ella scratches furiously at a rash that's forming on her body.
The sense of unease that Lynch so effortlessly conjures is infecting people's flesh, but still everyone communicates in their own private language. (Maybe that's preferable to dealing with the troubling bigger picture.) Bad Cooper a.k.a. Mr. C. (Kyle MacLachlan)—freshly risen from the grave thanks to the unearthly Black Lodge Woodsmen—has some arcane exchanges with his two henchmen, Chantal Hutchens (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Gary "Hutch" Hutchens (Peaks newbie Tim Roth, humorously going full redneck). Guns and other weaponry are referred to as "puppies and biscuits," and a bag of Cheetos changes hands as if it were some kind of holy object. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Good Cooper (also MacLachlan)—still trapped in the outwardly half-witted mind and body of insurance agent Dougie Jones—stares blankly at the U.S. flag (as an instrumental rendition of "America the Beautiful" slowly crescendoes), then loses himself in the beauty of a woman's red high heels and, finally, the terror of an electrical outlet (a reminder of that surreal otherworld to which he is inextricably connected).
Dern's Diane gets an enigmatic text ("Around the dinner table the conversation is lively") from Mr. C. Is she in cahoots with him or merely being taunted? And in Twin Peaks, Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy Brennan (Kimmy Robertson) have a hilariously perplexing argument over which color chair and ottoman ("red" or "beige") to buy online. Here as elsewhere, it's unclear which of them really has the upper hand, and—in macro terms—over whom or what. Life is being lived on the ground, though the heavens are (maybe) threatening to fall. 
My personal favorite of these moments out of time: Coroner Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) and FBI forensics specialist Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) teasingly conferring over the headless body of the late Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis), after Team Cole make an unplanned stop at the Buckhorn, South Dakota morgue. There are plenty of goo-goo eyed looks between the two, but what resonates most is the sense that Constance and Albert recognize, one in the other, a kindred spirit. "When did he lose his marbles?" asks Albert in response to one of Constance's observations. "When the dog got his cat's-eyes," she says. Yet another coded exchange in a series rife with them. But though those of us watching from a distance may not understand every in and out of the pair's interaction (may not explicitly "get it"), we implicitly do. Even Cole, standing just to the side of his ever-loyal subordinate, recognizes and appreciates the intellectual flirtiness on display. It's life-giving.
Then there are the interactions we don't see, but are told about secondhand—all of them having to do with Major Garland Briggs. The Major's now law-abiding/law-enforcing son Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), alongside Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) and Deputy Sheriff Tommy "Hawk" Hill (Michael Horse), approaches his mother Betty (Charlotte Stewart) with questions about his deceased father's last contact, twenty-five years prior, with Agent Cooper. Betty quickly interrupts them, pensively noting that Garland told her long ago that this day would come. "'When they come to ask you about Agent Cooper, you give them this,'" she says, repeating her husband's prophetic words. She then leads the three men over to the living room. "This is the chair," she says, pointing to a weathered piece of furniture, before flipping a switch and opening a hidden compartment.
Inside is a small cylinder that Betty holds contemplatively for a moment. She turns to Bobby and, in one of new Peaks' loveliest exchanges, marvels at the gulf her son has traversed from his delinquent teen years until now, a journey in which Major Briggs was integral. "Somehow, he knew that it would all turn out well. … Your father never lost faith in you," she says as Bobby starts to tear up. For loyal viewers this harks back to one of the original series' best scenes in which Major Briggs tells Bobby of a dream he had about his son's eventual success in life. It was beautiful then and it's even more powerful now in light of this sequence borne out of a natural passage of time. That the bulk of the dialogue here is delivered by Stewart—a Lynch stock company member since her role as Jack Nance's manic girlfriend in Eraserhead—only deepens the emotional heft.
Later, when Truman and Hawk are at a loss as to how to open the cylinder, Bobby steps forward. He knows exactly how to do so (it requires two hard-throws against the ground, the second timed around the cylinder's tuning-fork-like sound—another "mesmerizing tone"). And once the contents are revealed, Bobby knows exactly what the mystifying message, with two dates (10/1 and 10/2), a time (the Black Lodge-specific 2:53) and mentions of a "Jack Rabbit's Palace" refer to, since his father basically planted all of the answers, piecemeal, in his son throughout childhood and adolescence, knowing they'd bloom when the time was right. Truman is in awe of Major Briggs's prescience: "He saw all this," he says, "Whatever this is."
It's another story, for one. And stories (which can be spread across multiple pages or contained in a mere glance) help us make sense of the most inscrutable things. That's surely one of the reasons, as we find out in this episode, that former school principal William Hastings (Matthew Lillard) wrote a personal blog, with the aid of his deceased librarian lover Ruth Davenport, that details the existence of an alternate dimension known as The Zone. The cinephilically inclined might flash on Andrei Tarkovsky's great Stalker (1979), in which a mythic land (also called The Zone) purportedly bends to the will of the people traversing it. And this brings us to that fourth-wall-shattering plot point I mentioned above: Head on over to "The Search For The Zone" to see Hastings' website (and preorder some new-Peaks merch!), which exists in our own space and time, even if its very '90s look and feel seems laughably antiquated in the modern period in which the 2017 series is supposed to take place.
The dissonance is surely intentional. Lynch and his co-collaborator Mark Frost love mixing and melding era-specific signposts, as well as futzing with our expectations about what makes sense in a given context. Time, as we traditionally know it, has no meaning here. Even this serial TV narrative, it seems, cannot be held within the box containing it (where have we seen that before?). And the very lengthy scene in which Agent Preston questions a more-frazzled-than-ever Hastings about his final site entry, in which he claims to have "met The Major," upends things further. Through some raw, raggedly emotional fits and starts, Hastings tells Agent Preston about his journey into The Zone: How he and Ruth Davenport brought Major Briggs a series of "coordinates" that allowed for interdimensional travel. How Briggs' last words to them were "Cooper…Cooper," which mimics the deep-space transmission (a salient portion of which is typed on a second piece of paper in Bobby Briggs' cylinder) that the Major uncovered in the original series. And how the whole experience was "like something no one had ever seen before. I've never seen anything like it. I've never read anything like it. … It was beautiful." 
Hastings' awe quickly gives way to fear as he recalls how, almost immediately after this transcendental experience, he found Ruth dead and his life in shambles. Then Lynch, Frost and Lillard dare to go for laughs as Hastings blathers, quite exaggeratedly, about how he and Ruth "were gonna go to the Bahamas…soak up the sun…go scuba diving!" Initially, it seems like a pathetic pipe dream, especially compared to the duo's journey into The Zone, the substance of which Hastings' words, even in their fervor, can't help but convey inadequately. Yet the longer he talks, the more deeply the tragedy of his and Ruth's aborted vacation hits. Both the capital-P "Paradise" they found and the little heaven they conjured on Earth proved fleeting. How quickly bliss can be consumed by agony and the abyss.
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• I suspect Lynch and Frost were just delighted after they came up with Cole's line about Mr. C's prison escape: "Cooper flew the coop!"
• Mr. C. calls in to his perpetually on-edge Las Vegas contact Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) for an update, likely (since they speak in the usual evasive tones) about the many abortive assassination attempts on Good Coop/Dougie. "Better be done next time I call," says Mr. C., which makes Todd's eyes widen anxiously.
• Mr. C. tasks Chantal and Hutch with killing Warden Murphy (James Morrison)—"He'll sing for me," says Chantal with lusty, psychopathic glee—then hints at a double job for them in Las Vegas, details to be revealed. It'll be a perverse pleasure watching Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh wreak havoc together.
• The Detectives Fusco (Larry Clarke, Eric Edelstein and David Koechner) return for some more silly, Three Stooges-like sublimity. They stoically brush off the concerns of Dougie's boss Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray). They trick Dougie and Janey-E (Naomi Watts) into giving them evidence via a fingerprinted coffee cup. And they have a goofy aside about a broken tail light that seems to exist just so it can spotlight Edelstein's infectious laugh. That inimitable guffaw also comes to the fore when the trio later take poor, palmless dwarf assassin Ike "The Spike" Stadtler (Christophe Zajac-Denek) into custody. "We have your palm print…As a matter of fact we have your whole palm." Tee-hee.
• Dern power! Detective Macklay (Brent Briscoe), clearly not knowing who he's up against, informs Diane she can't smoke in the Buckhorn cold storage waiting room. "It's a fucking morgue!" she retorts. Bless that woman.
• Macklay's then-this-happened briefing of Cole and company about the William Hastings-Ruth Davenport case leads to one of Albert's pithiest and pointed quips: "What happens in Season 2?" 
• Poor Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly)—still stoned out of his gourd, lost in the woods, and shouting, in sheer horror, at his own appendage. "I am not your foot!" says his foot. Doesn't even feel weird to type that. This show's working wonders with my sense of reality.
• More Hornes back in the house: Feeble-minded Johnny Horne (Erik Rondell, the third actor to play the role after Robert Davenport in the Pilot episode and Robert Bauer in the rest of the series until now) and his mother/Ben Horne's skittish spouse Sylvia Horne (Jan D'Arcy), who attends to her son after he runs headfirst into a wall. The way Lynch and Peter Deming film the pair, so that only the sides or back of their heads are visible, is further evidence of how the new series continually tinkers with and frustrates the idea of fan service.
• More fun with Deputy Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello) as he's scolded and kicked out of the conference room by Sheriff Truman for eating his lunch where he shouldn't. That bullet-to-the-head (there is one coming, right Dave and Mark?) can't happen soon enough—a more than appropriate fate for a regular reader, as revealed here, of "Lock & Load" magazine.
• Two Roadhouse musical guests this week: Scottish DJ, composer and Kanye West collaborator Hudson Mohawke, playing his wonky "Human," and returning dream-poppers Au Revoir Simone with "A Violent Yet Flammable World," off their 2007 album The Bird of Music.
• One other music note: Thus far, series composer Angelo Badalamenti's score has tended toward near-subliminal drone, or recycled familiar Peaks cues at potent moments. (The jaunty riff from the early Chris Isaak-Kiefer Sutherland sections of Fire Walk with Me reappears here over the Detectives Fusco sequence, as they learn about the location of Ike "The Spike.") The scene with Betty Briggs, on the other hand, is one of the first times (maybe the first) where, though the melody is familiar (harking back to the accompaniment over Major Briggs's revelatory diner conversation with Bobby in the original series), the music is noticeably new. I wouldn't be surprised if this is an intentional gambit on Lynch, Frost and Badalamenti's part to ease us back into the melodramatically florid stylings of old Peaks, though I'm more inclined to think it's another way of upending our expectations about what's to come.
• I'll end this recap with a question: Is Hawk moving backwards in one shot of the Betty Briggs scene? This has happened a few times throughout new Peaks (see also the end of the Gordon Cole-Denise Bryson conversation from Part 4) where the Black Lodge tendency to walk and talk as if you were in reverse has briefly bled into the show's real world (such as it is).

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