Twin Peaks: The Return – Episode 4 Breakdown, Thoughts, and Analysis

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Episode 4
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

dale cooper coffee

The fourth episode, which ends up being one of the most comedic things I’ve seen Lynch direct (yet still terrifying in its final moments), begins at the Silver Mustang Casino where Cooper is racking up the winnings. A slot junkie who has befriended Cooper, so he’ll he point out the machines about to pay out nicknames our hero “Mr. Jackpots”. The management of the casino is less than pleased about Cooper’s streak, but there is no evidence he is cheating or rigging the machines. In between playing the slots, Cooper runs into Bill and Candy Shaker (Ethan Suplee and Sara Paxton), friends of Dougie Jones. Bill remarks that “Dougie” is “taking a walk on the wild side” while Candy seems to pick up on the fact that something is very wrong with Cooper. In passing they mention that “Dougie” lives on Lancelot Avenue at the house with the red door, just around the corner from Merlin’s Market. These Arthurian name drops to go along with the location of the gate to the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks, Glastonbury Grove. As Cooper stumbles out to the bay of cabs, he’s stopped by a casino employee who takes him to the manager so that he can collect his winnings. The manager gives an air of annoyance about the winning streak and grudgingly asks Cooper to come back and visit soon

We cut to the limo ride to Dougie’s house which is a fun bit of Lynch’s dry sense of humor. Cooper just repeats “red door” as the limo driver desperately tries to elicit more detailed directions. By chance, they happen to come across the house with the red door. The driver unloads Cooper as Dougie’s wife, Janey (Naomi Watts) charges out of the house visibly pissed off. We learn Dougie has been missing for three days and wasn’t present for his son, Sonny Jim’s birthday party. Cooper shows Janey the bag of cash from the casino, and she is floored, remarking “enough to pay them back.” Pair this with the hitmen trying to take out Dougie last episode, and I think the man Cooper has replaced owed massive debts to dangerous people. Somehow I think this may tie into Mr. Todd from episode 2, a man briefly glimpsed in an office in Las Vegas. Possibly Mr. Todd was being paid by Bob to keep eyes on Dougie, keep him alive so the decoy would be in place. Before Cooper goes into his house, he hears and then sees an owl coasting through the night sky. Likely just a harmless animal but, as The Giant once said, “The owls are not what they seem.”

We stop by FBI headquarters where Gordon Cole is meeting with Denise Preston (David Duchovny), who is now the Chief of Staff. Denise expresses her concern about Cole bringing Tamara Preston along on the Cooper case. Her reasoning has to do with Cole’s apparent reputation for chasing after younger women. Cole reminds Denise of her own wild reputation before her transition and that he was incredibly supportive of her when she chose to become Denise. She is flattered by this and seems to let Cole go without any repercussions. It should be noted that her secretary was played by the great actor Richard Chamberlain.

tp-truman-2

The next large chunk of the show takes place at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department and is probably our longest time spent in the titular city so far in The Return. We start out with a sequence that reiterates how outside of our modern time receptionist Lucy Brennan is. She’s in the middle of a phone conversation with Sheriff Truman about the thermostat in the office when he steps in on his cell phone. This shocks Lucy to such an extent she tumbles backward. The big reveal of this scene is that the Truman we now have as sheriff is Frank. In the Secret History of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost first introduces Frank Truman (Robert Forster) the elder brother of Harry. He was the sheriff of Twin Peaks before Harry but moved to Western Washington where he continued to work in law enforcement. It can be inferred that Harry’s undisclosed illness brought Frank back.

Frank Truman heads back to an un-glimpsed room from the original series, a dispatch room and office where we meet some new employees of the Sheriff’s Department. The main one is Chad, a very douchey deputy who informs Truman about a drug overdose at the high school. Frank runs into Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), now a deputy sheriff for Twin Peaks. Bobby’s particular focus seems to be monitoring drug smugglers crossing the US/Canada border. The irony of this is that Bobby was dealing the very drugs being smuggled across in the original series. Truman informs Bobby about the overdose and asks if he’s caught anything on camera, but he tells the sheriff it’s been nothing but wildlife. I’m not sure if we can trust Bobby on this; in the original run, he was quite the liar and scoundrel. However, the pep talk his father, Garland Briggs gave him in Season 2 did seem to have a powerful effect on the direction of his life.

We switch to Andy explaining how a cell phone works to Lucy and learn this is a recurring problem for her. This has a couple levels going on: the purely comedic level of a person in this day and age being so terrorized by the idea of a cell phone, David Lynch’s personal feelings towards a lot of modern technology, and the concept that Twin Peaks is somehow separated from the modern world. This caught in the past nature was seen in the aesthetics and sometimes corny dialogue of the original series. It seems like the town is still in a limbo around the 1950s/60s.

The next beat carries us to the Sheriff’s Department conference room where Truman is getting a debrief from Hawk about his reopening of the Laura Palmer files and the message he received from the Log Lady. Andy, Lucy, and Chad join them, and we learn that The Log Lady has been banned from the department. Chad claims she’s 10-96 (US police code for someone with a mental illness), but Lucy denies this and says it’s related to gum she chews. Back in season 2, there was an incredibly dry and funny scene where the Log Lady is at the counter of the RR Diner when Norma Jennings reprimands her for sticking her chewed up pitch gum underneath the countertop. The Log Lady is very obviously offended by being called in front of the other patrons like this. Well, apparently she didn’t give it up and is still sticking her gum where it doesn’t belong.

A very classic Twin Peaks moment occurs when Bobby enters the conference room and glimpses the iconic homecoming queen image of Laura Palmer among the pile of evidence. He has a deep emotional response bursting into tears. My opinion of this scene is that it is played for laughs, poking a little fun at actor Dana Ashbrook’s infamy for being quite melodramatic in the original run. There is a story Ashbrook tells on the original DVD release of Season 1 where he explains a moment where Kyle MacLachlan and Miguel Ferrer messed with his head by saying they understood he was referencing William Shatner in his performance choices. Ashbrook, while laughing, explains how this threw him for a loop until the men admitted they were joking. I was also reminded of a story Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer) related to audience responses to the original showing of the Twin Peaks pilot at the Television Academy in Los Angeles. Her performance of Sarah Palmer breaking down at the news of her daughter’s murder elicited chuckles from some audience members, and others were deeply offended by this. Zabriskie’s conclusion is that Lynch was directing the scene so that both emotional responses (laughter/sympathy) were intended. So the scene is both comedic and tragic. Not sure if I can see the tragedy in the Bobby scene. I feel like the cut to the reaction shots of the others in the room is meant to be played for laughs.

The big plot beat revealed here is that Dale Cooper (Bob) was the last man to see Major Garland Briggs alive. The day after Cooper left town, Briggs’ military listening post was burnt to the ground. Bobby says his dad died, but we don’t get details on if a body was found or not. This matches up exactly with the Secret History of Twin Peaks where Major Briggs records his feelings after an encounter with Cooper/Bob and that he is aware this is not really Cooper.

Then we meet Lucy and Andy’s son, Wally. There is literally nothing I can say to add to this scene other than I have never seen David Lynch do anything so overtly comedic.

Back in Las Vegas, Cooper is easing into the suburban life of Dougie Jones. He is however visited by The One-Armed Man who warns him that he or Bob must die because they both cannot exist in this plane for too long. Cooper proceeds to urinate for the first time in 25 years which looks to be both a terrifying and satisfying experience. Janey comes in and dresses him, remarking, “You’re worse than Sonny Jim.” In the bathroom, Cooper sees his own face for the first time in 25 years and it Kyle MacLachlan’s performance here is remarkable. The scene is definitely referential of the final shot of Cooper in the original series, Bob reflected in the mirror. However, this time Cooper is astonished to see the age and I feel like Lynch is contemplating his own thoughts on aging. MacLachlan as well was famous for the baby-ish-ness of his face which has aged well but is not the young man that he used to be.

Cooper meets Sonny Jim for the first time, an 11/12-year-old boy that knowingly smiles at him and raises a thumbs up. Cooper shows recognition of this gesture and provides his own awkward thumbs up in response. The family gathers in the kitchen for breakfast, and it seems Sonny Jim knows something is different about his dad, teaching him how to spread syrup on the pancakes and use a fork. The big turn comes when Janey serves Cooper a piping hot mug of coffee which he proceeds to dangerously gulp down. Reminiscent of the scene in episode 2 of the original series, Coopers spits the coffee out in an exaggerated spray. And it is because of coffee that Cooper utters his first non-mimicked words; smiling goofily he spouts out a “Hi!”.

Back in Buckhorn, South Dakota, the local PD have run the prints on the headless body found in Ruth Davenport’s bed. They come up as a classified by the military which baffles the lead forensics investigator. I suspect this may be the body of Garland Briggs. Back in Episode 3, we see his disembodied head floating through the pink dimension. Now how Briggs’ body ended up in that place and what became of his head are a big mystery.

Gordon, Albert, and Tamara Preston arrive in South Dakota, and Gordon is immediately disappointed that he doesn’t see Mount Rushmore upon exiting the airport. Albert seems to have anticipated this and produces a photograph of the monument which appears to please Gordon. Arriving at Yankton Federal, they are informed by the warden that Bob (whom they believe is Cooper) is imprisoned there after state police discovered cocaine, a machine gun, and a dog leg in his trunk. They also remark that Bob is continuing to vomit up a noxious substance that has sent staff to the infirmary (this is likely Bob’s form of dying now that Cooper is back in the picture).

bob in prison

It’s time for the FBI to speak with Bob and this is the first scene where I found this corruption of Cooper to be truly terrifying. And it convinced me that Cooper’s doppelganger is the driver, with Bob as a corruption of his morals and subconscious. Bob knows Cooper’s history with Gordon as well. He gives a story that involves him working undercover for the past 25 years with Phillip Jeffries on some sort of secret project and that he needs to be released so Gordon can debrief him. It becomes apparent that the three agents in the room aren’t buying the story and they tell Bob they will look into releasing him.

Albert finally reveals that he had indirect contact with Cooper and believes he may be responsible for some horrible things as a result. Phillip Jeffries approached Albert and said he needed information to help the on the lam Cooper/Bob. This involved telling Jeffries who the FBI’s contact in Columbia was. Albert explains that after he divulged this info the man in Columbia turned up dead. Gordon and Albert seem genuinely terrified and unsure of what their next move should be. They do agree that a third party who knows Cooper well should be brought in to talk with Bob. Albert says he knows where she drinks and we cut to an exterior shot of The Roadhouse. I have two guesses as to who “she” might be, either Audrey Horne or the never seen Diane (as played by Laura Dern).

The episode ends with a performance by Au Revoir Simone.

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