*Karate CHOP!* Why hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers and Twin Peaks fanatics! Oh, what am I doing? Well, I was just practicing my Special Agent Cooper/Dougie ninja moves, especially his swift chop to the neck he delivered to that squealing hit man. But, we’ll get there soon because we’re Lost In The Bang Bang Bar again. This week, we have everything: sweeping, whistling, humming, and dog legs. So let’s chop our way forward:
“What does this all mean?” asks singer Chrysta Bell, playing the vampy FBI agent Tammy who is just about the only woman in Twin Peaks: The Return who isn’t a loudmouth screeching banshee. It would be sexist if it didn’t feel so positively heroic and absolutely admirable like the campy hysteria of old Hollywood divas like Joan Crawford. But, more on Diane and her cheap ass blonde wig later. Tammy voices what I think all us viewers are thinking: What is the meaning of this seemingly random collection of scenes?
Well, this week, in Part 7, things start feeling like they’re coming together on this long, bumpy 18-hour joyride Lynch is taking us on. That, or he’s just fucking with us, which is the conclusion I eventually reached by the end of the episode.
The episode opens with Jerry Horne, the Great Northern proprietor Ben Horne’s idiot brother, lost in the woods. He stares into the distance. Is he seeing the Black Lodge? Or is he just hallucinating? He calls Ben and shouts, “I THINK I’M HIGH!” Alright, well, that answers that.
From there, things get a tad more linear as we return to Deputy Chief Hawk and Sheriff Truman staring at the pages of Laura Palmer’s diary pulled out of a bathroom stall. The pages, torn from the diary, eerily warn that Agent Cooper is stuck in the Black Lodge. Did she ever meet Dale? Nope. She was dead long before he arrived in Twin Peaks. Wheeee-oooooo! Welcome to the bizarre temporality of Lynch’s universe.
One page reads, “This came to me in a dream last night. ‘My name is Annie. I’ve been with Dale and Laura. The good Dale is in the Lodge and he can’t leave. Write it in your diary.’” “What do you think it means?” asks Sheriff Truman. “I don’t know,” responds Hawk. We don’t know either, but it sure is freaky. They then, in a total non-Twin Peaks fashion, run down old plot points in a rare nod to catching up the audience. Usually Lynch and Frost could not give a shit if you understood it or not.
With this rundown, there’s a moment in which viewers might be led to believe that we’re finally going to get a more traditional plot out of Twin Peaks: The Return, even seven episodes in. Nope. But, we do learn that Doc Hayward (played by Mark Frost’s father) saw the bad Cooper at the hospital more than 25 years ago after he left the Lodge (“He turned and looked at me and I saw that strange face again”). Bad Coop apparently also snuck into Audrey Horne’s hospital room as she was in a coma. Yikes, we can only imagine what he did there and we fear the result is that shithead Richard Horne. Talking to Sheriff Truman over Skype on the most swanky computer I’ve ever seen, Doc signs off with a typically folksy Twin Peaks-ism about catching fish in his pajamas (“How they got in my pajamas, I’ll never know”).
But, hey! Wonder what’s going on with our favorite criminal with a dog leg in his trunk, ole Mr. C? Well, we return to FBI headquarters where Lynch’s Gordon Cole whistles in his office. What’s he whistling? Oh, Rammstein’s “Engel” like everyone does. Yep. Rammstein. Is that Lynch’s own whistling transcendental meditation mantra? I shudder to think, but it certainly seemed that way.
Albert bursts through the door to tell him his horror story attempting to get Cooper’s former secretary Diane to take a gander at Mr. C in South Dakota. She apparently said, “This is about Cooper isn’t it? No fucking way!” What a charmer and a role model. Wanting Diane to confirm their suspicions that something’s wrong with this (doppelgänger) Cooper, Gordon and Albert arrive at Diane’s apartment to try again. After enduring more salty abuse (“Fuck you, Gordon! You want personal? Fuck you too, Albert” “Diane, this might require a slight change of attitude on your part.” “My attitude is none of your fucking business”), she finally agrees to wing her way to sunny South Dakota to see the always pleasant Mr. C.
On the plane, Diane swigs from airplane-sized bottles of booze while the FBI agents chat about Mr. C. Tammy saunters over to show Gordon and Albert that Cooper (Mr. C’s) fingerprint is backwards and Gordon responds, “Yrev,” repeating the backwards greeting Mr. C. gave them when they first visited, saying “Yrev very happy to see you again old friend.” Gordon then counts out the phrase, “I’m very very happy to see you again old friend” on Tammy’s fingers, later emphasizing on her ring finger, “This is the spiritual mound, the spiritual finger. You think about that, Tammy!” Ok…what?
We also get a glimpse of Mr. C’s tacky af mansion in Rio. Let’s see that photo again.
Is this not the campiest thing you’ve ever seen? I had to stop the episode to laugh and laugh at it. It’s like seeing a goth at the beach. Cheer up, Mr. C. Who owns that house now? “some girl from Ipanema.” Get it?
Finally, Diane arrives to confront Mr. C. Aside: I can’t look at Mr. C in jail without thinking he’s going to burst into “The Mercy Seat.” Why is Cooper’s doppelgänger in Nick Cave drag? Is there a Bad Seeds fanatic in the costume department or something? Who did this!
Anyway, slow and slurring, Mr. C says, “I knew it was going to be you. It’s good to see you again, Diane.” She demands he admit when the last time they saw each other was, hinting at some traumatic incident, which is never explained. “Are you upset with me, Diane? I think you’re upset with me,” he monotones through dead eyes. It clearly shakes Diane to the core as she leaves and tells Gordon, “That is not the Dale Cooper that I knew. It isn’t time passing or how he’s changed. Or the way he looks. It’s something here [she gestures to her chest]. There’s something that differently isn’t here.”
Later in the episode, Mr. C. manipulates the Warden into letting him go mostly by talking about dog legs and we see him leaving in the last part of the episode. This won’t end well.
Of course, we know the good Cooper is scrawling his way through insurance forms in Vegas. Everyone seems generally sick of Dougie, but YOU try living in the Black Lodge for 25 years. And the exhausted expectations over Dougie scenes seem to all lead to the sudden shock of the return of the Evolution of the Arm.
First, though, three cops visit Dougie about his blown-up car. Luckily, his wife Janey-E was there to hiss and sneer, “Reason? Yeah I’ll tell you a reason. There’s more to life than cars. Too many cars, too much going on and Dougie’s been under a lot of stress lately and if you want to know the truth, so have I!” Jesus, ok lady.
Leaving the office park, The Spike, a hit man who butchered a bunch of people last episode, comes after Dougie with a gun. Well, Cooper’s FBI instincts take over and he karate chops The Spike. Dougie tackles him, grabbing his hand and…SURPRISE! Out pops the Evolution of the Arm, that deeply unsettling tree/head/tumor hybrid. It shrieks, “SQUEEZE HIS HAND OFF! SQUEEZE HIS HAND OFF!” as the camera turns toward The Spike’s garish screams. As requested, we later see Cooper ripped off a good chunk of his hand. Good Lord, who was expecting that.
And this was the moment I realized Lynch knows exactly what he’s doing. He lured us into some sort of calm stasis with the mimicking, slow-going Dougie scenes, only to disrupt. It’s all about bucking the audience’s expectations. This is no stranger to Lynch’s practice, which consistently toys with the audience’s perception and presumptions. In a video essay on Mulholland Drive, The Nerdwriter observes, “The definition of expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, but Lynch goes a step further…In one way he sets up an expectation then lures you into believing the opposite, so when the rug is pulled out, the audience is left suspended, caught out, and captured, engaging fully with the terrifying nothingness that they were warned against.”
This rug pulling is further emphasized later in a long, exhausting shot of a bartender sweeping after hours at the Bang Bang Bar to Booker T. & The M.G.’s groovy, bluesy song “Green Onions.” With almost every other episode finishing at the Bang Bang Bar, you imagine this will be the end of the episode too. You would also think sweeping would be a dull as dirt scene, but I enjoyed every second of it. And just when you assume the credits will run. Nope, the phone rings, answered by yet another Renault brother who starts talking about some 15-year old grade A blonde prostitutes. Lovely–looks like they’re up to the same old same old.
So how does the episode end? Well, with a disturbing fade to black and then, suddenly we’ve arrived in the Double R diner as someone runs in screaming, “Has anyone seen Bing?” According to the credits, Bing is played by Riley Lynch, David Lynch’s son who was also in the band Trouble featured in Part 5. Nobody says anything as Santo & Johnny’s retro “Sleep Walk” plays–a sleepy, 1950s tune that fits right into Lynch’s midcentury romanticism. Its nostalgia is perverted by the nearly imperceptible strains of Angelo Badalamenti’s ambient soundtrack. Despite the diner’s bright kitschy atmosphere, something else is definitely brewing.