After a string of episodes with nightmares at the end, we open with someone waking from a nightmare. Or was it? It's not clear what's upset the semi-comatose Ronette so much but something's up. Someone's tampered with her IV and placed another letter under her fingernail, even if it's not clear exactly who. At the scene of the crime, Cooper tells Albert, "I believe I was visited by a giant." It sheds no light on the matter but still feels like progress toward a solution. Somehow. We're not, after all, in an ordinary kind of place.
Did Frost and Lynch know they were only episodes away from revealing the killer? At this point they must have known they were entering the endgame of the Laura Palmer story. Later we'll hear Leland remember hearing the line, "Do you wanna play with fire, little boy?" as a child, words his daughter would repeat to Bobby. The players are getting drawn more tightly together.
But first we have to meet a few more of them. Poor Harold Smith: As played by Lenny Von Dohlen he's the ultimate pin-up for agoraphobia fetishists, a caring, romantic, handsome, wounded man who always has time to listen and knows his way around a garden. Put a layer of fur on him and he's Ron Perlman in Beauty And The Beast. He could be the cover boy for Sexy Shut-In magazine, if such a thing existed. (Hey, it's only slightly less probable than the apparently text-heavy Flesh World.)
Harold has saltines and apple butter and a weirdly seductive air about him. Laura may have fallen for it, and Donna seems to vulnerable to Harold's charms as well. It's easy to see Harold's appeal to Laura. He's kind like James but, unlike James, there's no danger of him following her around should she resume her destructive ways again. And, hey, apple butter. It's pretty easy to see why Donna likes him, too, especially after last episode's disastrous musical number and even more after the James and Maddy scenes to come. He's as uncreepy as a creepy character can be and it's a credit to Von Dohlen's performance that he sells his appeal even after suggesting that the sensitive recluse lifestyle had sexual benefits involving teenage girls.
The episode mostly gives all the plotlines a creeping advance, including the dull ones. I'm back to being bored with Josie and the burning of the sawmill and I dread what's coming with Super Nadine. Also, Donna's visit to Laura's grave stinks of filler and gives Lara Flynn Boyle and scene that's virtually impossible to play. We also meet Richard Tremayne, played by Ian Buchanan more or less as a gay dandy from the 1950s, who may or may not have impregnated Lucy. Also Audrey gets bound and drugged as the One Eyed Jacks plot takes an especially grim turn that wouldn't be out of place in a Reefer Madness-era drug hysteria movie.
But there are a couple of really memorable scenes. One involves Dr. Jacoby's Hawaiian hospital room (complete with Hawaiian wife) and subsequent hypnosis. The other involves the brittle Albert's declaration of pacifist principles, surely Miguel Ferrer's finest moment on this show if not, well, ever. Prodded by Truman after insulting Twin Peaks' provincialism again, Albert lets loose a monologue sure to melt the heart of anyone out there who puts up a tough exterior but mists up at kittens or scenes from Tiananmen Square. I'm just going to reprint it in full. Read it. Memorize it. Tattoo it across your back. It's perfect:
You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I'll gladly take another, because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.
"Albert's path is a strange and difficult one," Coop observes. Indeed it is.
We've got an all-star team behind the camera this time out. This episode is written in part by Jerry Stahl, the TV-writer-turned-memoirist-turned-novelist-turned-TV-writer. He's best known for writing the drug addiction memoir Permanent Midnight, a book that expects readers to understand that his addiction was made worse by being paid huge sums of money to write episodes of Alf. (I guess that kind of makes sense.) It's directed by Todd Holland, a veteran television director (he helmed a bunch of Larry Sanders episodes) beloved by bad movie enthusiasts for the competitive video game road movie The Wizard, starring Fred Savage. Perhaps sensing he had a little more freedom to show off than usual, Holland kicks off the episodes with a neat, if not especially essential, directorial flourish, a slow pan out from a ceiling tile to Leland, who seems to be in something of a fugue state after confessing to Jacques' murder last episode.
It's one of the more memorable moments in the series' least interesting episode to date. This almost feels like stalling, or maybe we really did have to spend all that time on Andy's attempts to produce and transport a sperm sample. Horne gets roped into Jean Renault's attempt to trap Cooper. But at least he's trying to save his daughter. There's some human concern in there somewhere. He also keeps his eye on his business after a desk clerk informs him that an anonymous travel writer may be rolling into town. (By the way, who is this terrible actress playing the desk clerk? She makes Harry Goaz look like a seasoned pro.) Later, the folks at the Double R will be thrown into a tizzy by the same news. (Is rabbit chili something they cooked up special for the occasion?) Meanwhile, over at Harold Smith's place, Donna gets a taste of wine and a sample of Laura's diary. It seems never to occur to her that, as sweet as he seems, his deep involvement in the emotional lives of teenage girls is pretty creepy.
Also: Josie's back. Her hair has never been slicker and her motives never less sure. We learn a bit more about one of two mysterious Asian men we've seen skulking around the town. (We'll soon learn more about the other courtesy of Ben Horne.) The episode ends with him threatening Hank as part of the whole Josie/mill-burning sub-plot. It's a weak end to a weak episode, but not a bad episode. Part of the second season's less-than-glowing reputation comes from the proliferation of new characters, but I like Royal Dano's Judge Sternwood, another Lynchian philosopher who takes his job seriously and hates that he's duty-bound to investigate Leland, a man he respects. "We'll meet and raise a glass together, in Valhalla," he promises. Would he feel the same if he knew what was to come?
Next week: We're taking a one week vacation from Twin Peaks to tour the American South with Sailor and Lula via a look at Lynch's 1990 film Wild At Heart.