The title, “Traces to Nowhere,” was added for broadcast on German TV along with all the other titles of the episodes. While an interesting title, I’m surprised they didn’t use the recurring theme of a ‘missing half’ in there somewhere.
The Log Lady intro lampshades her meeting with Cooper later, and talks about a pretty important thematic element to Twin Peaks. In its entirety, the intro says, “I carry a log…yes. Is it funny to you? It is not to me. Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd. Do we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human being’s varied behavior? I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch…and see what life teaches.”
What caught my attention about her introduction the word ‘detective.’
Detective fiction is considered to have started with Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, but many also trace the lineage back to Sophocles’ Oedipus. I don’t need to point out that one of the key facets of a piece of detective fiction would be the detective himself, do I? Lynch, in an interview regarding Inland Empire, said of detectives “To me, a detective is the most magical type of character, because mysteries are to me the greatest thing. . . Everything is a mystery and we’re all detectives. Even scientists are detectives and they’re all looking for clues to solve the big mystery. There are so many detectives going around, and so many mysteries.” It makes sense the episode opens with a focus on Cooper, in room 315 of the Great Northern Hotel, which is a location we’ll warm up to over the series. The details around the room are pretty spectacular, and I have to admit that I love the literal gun on the wall held in deer hooves, because everyone loves a literal gun on the wall (bonus if it’s the second gun you’ve seen in the episode).
I also like how Agent Cooper’s dictation to Diane helps set the intimacy of the environment – he recounts not only the time (which establishes that this is the day after the pilot), the setting, the sights and smells (Douglas Firs! A bathroom in tip top shape!) to help bring us into the narrative. It’s also interesting to note that he’s hanging upside down, like the Hanged Man tarot card.
As an aside, the look and feel of everything remains the same even though David Lynch didn’t direct this episode (but he and Mark Frost wrote it). Duwayne Dunham directed while also working towards editing Wild at Heart. He also went so far as to use some of Lynch’s trademark shots – static camera work and the use of coral filters for those lovely, popping reds. This leads into an iconic scene and establishing of Cooper’s deep love of coffee, as he goes downstairs for breakfast. His enthusiastic and specific breakfast order also assists in getting to know his character and who he is.
Audrey’s introduction in the pilot showed some of her duality, but not as much as her first moments interacting with Special Agent Dale Cooper do. Quite a bit of this episode is focused in helping to expose some of the duality of these characters, but for Audrey, all we really knew is she liked to smoke, change into red pumps at high school, and play pranks on her father and his staff. Audrey of ‘Day Two’ of our timeline has magically longer hair and quite a bit more depth. We also find out her family is prone to ’emotional problems.’ I love her shirt in this piece, and it ends up it was one of Sherilyn Fenn’s own blouses.
When Cooper walks into the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, it’s interesting to note the workmen present – it’s referencing a change to the set that they had to make between the pilot and the rest of the run. Cooper walks into a donut fest after this. Andy, Lucy, and Sheriff Truman all are chowing down when they talk to him. Cooper gives Truman a super-efficient rundown on the plan for the day before excusing himself (but not without adding how great the coffee at the Great Northern is). The comedy of this scene really offsets the emotional gravity of Doc Hayward talking through the initial autopsy findings. It’s a fascinating scene, the way they tie us back to Laura with the image of her, her theme playing in the background. It’s surreal to hear about the events of the night of Laura’s death, especially after knowing so much about it. At the end of his monologue, Hayward mentions that Ronette might be impacted by the fear of seeing what was happening to Laura.
The scene closes on Hayward asking “Who would do a thing like that,” and then the next shot is of the iconography on Leo’s truck. One of the great things when you go back and watch some series for foreshadowing, etc., it’s in moments like these, and I love the red herrings and various MacGuffins that Twin Peaks develops as much as I love the actual storylines and plots from it. Also I’d like to take a moment and point out how gorgeous the lake is, and how tense the entire scene of Shelley stashing the shirt is. The song setting the mood is called ‘Walking in the Dark’ and its broody tones work really well here. What’s also really interesting, especially in light of Mr. C’s behavior in The Return, is how Leo grabs Shelley’s face.
James does his absolute best in the next scene to be as broody yet weirdly helpful as possible. What a good, broody kid. He does confirm that Laura was using cocaine, and that she managed to stop, but ‘something happened a couple of days ago.’ The music queues in when Cooper asks James for the last time he saw Laura, and we are treated to another point of view on the night of Laura’s murder, all of which is covered in FWWM and The Return. We get to see a moment with Laura and James, and WOW is it over the top sweet (right as the music swells, of course) as Laura says her heart belongs to James, and then snaps the heart necklace in half.
We couldn’t just have that be a sweet moment, so we cut to Leo looking for his shirt and just being short tempered and crazy, beating on his outside washing machine. We cut to Bobby and Mike in prison, also concerned with the ‘other half’ of something — the money for Leo. Bobby once again manages to show his unsettling side to Mike, and especially when James walks in the door. This is broken by dreamy music and the video of Laura and Donna on the picnic, a weird ‘Help Me,’ over all of this as we join Donna and Eileen Hayward at home.
This scene between Donna and her mother is very interesting in light of The Return. As Donna begins to describe to her mother how she feels, the theme music begins to play in the background. Her description is “It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream, and the most terrible nightmare all at once.” If I were looking for evidence that perhaps the entire thing was a dream, this would be one of the scenes I’d use.
The next couple of scenes serve as exposition, but Lucy’s description to Cooper of what long distance sounds like: “It has that open air sound, you know, where it sounds like wind blowing, like wind blowing through trees.” So long distance sounds like mystery? I’ll buy it. I love the encounter between Norma (I keep wanting to type that as Normal) and Nadine for the sound of the little train in the background. It’s a great touch. So is the fact that a place like Twin Peaks still has a General Store where people would meet and talk. In the next scene with Hawk, Ed, and James, we get a hint about the Bookhouse Boys before returning to see what Agent Cooper is up to.
Agent Cooper is up to sanding his whistle. And letting Bobby and Mike go, while reminding them that if something happens to James, he’d be coming for them. Harry’s remark to Cooper, that he was beginning to feel like Doctor Watson, refers to another piece of the detective story archetype – that of companion.
I enjoy scenes between Pete and Josie, I like his genuine caring and affection for her and this next scene really demonstrates it. Plus, who doesn’t love Pete’s fish cleaning sounds. I love how she’s getting these phrases wrong, saying things like “top of the morning” and “standing up with me” incorrectly (Pete corrects the former but not the latter). I tink we are able to establish from the setup for Harry and Coopers entrance that it’s later morning (Pete has already been fishing and says its barely morning). It’s very easy to see from Ontkean’s acting that Harry is head over heels for Josie. Also, did I mention she changes from a light green dressing gown to a red dress?
Josie talks about her last night with Laura, and overall I find the entire interrogation interesting mainly because of how it interacts with the text of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (as written by Jennifer Lynch). It’s definitely worth a read, but the parts that get me the most are regarding this relationship that Laura and Josie end up building (that just seems to crush Laura’s spirit even more). On June 4 1989, around the beginning of her relationship / tutelage with Josie, Laura writes, “I know that Josie was a dancer and a prostitute in Hong Kong when Andrew fell in love with her and saved her life by bringing her here six years ago, and I think she still has more of that lifestyle in her than most realize” And then later, on 10/10/1989 (great numbers!), Laura says, “I phoned Josie and told her I wouldn’t be able to make the lesson that night until at least ten o’clock. She said that was fine and that she would be waiting for me. That night I took advantage of the fact that someone wanted me so badly. And yet I found myself, as always, instructing my partner on how to please me. This experience, in particular, left me feeling empty and angry, and without respect for yet another person in town.”
I love the link that the line, “But after what happened to her, I can’t help hearing it in my head, like some haunting melody,” has into ‘there’s always music in the air.’ Cooper’s astute observation to Harry (and Harry’s reaction) regarding his involvement with Josie further cements the detective – companion relationship that the episode has been building. The declaration of “there was a fish…IN The percolator!” is still one of my favorite lines. But in life, when can you really get to quote that?
Catherine’s taunting of Josie – of her English, of the money she lost by making the empathetic decision, and then the fade as she clinks glasses with offscreen Ben is just great. I also love the little shot of Pete trying to problem solve that damn percolator. In one shot, so much is said. It’s simple, and fast, and funny. That Josie later asks for a definition of shenanigans from Harry and Cooper is not only a smart move by Josie, but it gives Cooper a chance to give a positively charming response. “Nonsense, mischief, often a deceitful or treacherous trick.” Once again, the hard cut is timed in such a way the quotation is a lead in to the post coital (and toe kissing moment) between Ben and Catherine. I love both of these actors together, Piper Laurie sinks her teeth into the maturity of Catherine’s seduction game. She’s presumedly naked under a light blue sheet as Ben dresses. It seems so in character for both of them to get yrev very interested in talking about fire. AAAAND then Ben gets undressed again, commenting on how before ‘their hours would turn into days,’ which does a great job at establishing this is a pretty long term relationship (and while I’d love for that to be a fan nod to Star Trek and the trick pulled in Wrath of Khan, I know damn well it’s not).
The next scene is both tense and contains a huge, huge first for the series. While Donna tries to talk to Sarah, Sarah starts repeating the same phrase “I miss her so much,” with increasing emotional intensity backed by vulnerability. Her hallucination of Donna having Laura’s face is pretty strange, and I hear some people dislike the effect but I think it actually helps to foster the uneasy surreality inside the Palmer hours (obviously there’s some nightmare-y things going on there) as well as Sarah starts screaming. That is in no way shocking. Her face as she turns from her state of denial to sheer terror is amazing.
It’s right here that we first get our glimpse of Bob. I’m sure anyone reading this knows that stumbling upon this particular actor / set dresser was a happy accident for the entire town / idea of Twin Peaks, and it’s hard not to love / be terrified by Frank Silva in this role. Truth be told, he reminds me of a fusion of a nightmare man I had in my dreams as a kid and the walking dude from The Stand and that in itself is fucking terrifying. He’s unspeakably scary in this next moment — and it’s just a moment. Barely a second long, and Sarah’s screams (becoming more and more common) sell that terror. The effect of him popping into the frame and the sound of her is such a great moment, and not because it’s a jump scare — it’s actually not. If anything, it’s because we were treated to watching Sarah react to something, watching something flicker over her face — and then we see it ourselves. Normally this might work against such a moment, but I think in this case, it serves it well.
After seeing The Return, seeing Leland cradle Sarah is weird. It’s complicated. It gives it even more weight, even more surreality, and I love it all the more for the new complexities The Return gives. There’s also something strangely … funny? about Sarah’s intermittent stopping … and then restarting … of the screaming.
The next moments help establish that it’s night time when Hawk is interviewing the Pulaskis. Remember how I talked earlier about this episode being about the other half of things? Ronette is the missing other half of the victim. While Laura’s death is rocking the town, only Ronette’s parents are at her bedside with Hawk. I could see an argument for her being the / a dreamer (yes I did just imply there could be more than one dreamer of something, as the series will demonstrate repeatedly, even in the early episodes). I think the fact that while Ronette’s actress returned as “American Girl” in Episode 3 of The Return, Ronette herself did not. When Hawk glimpses the one armed man, Ronette will be temporarily forgotten again, as he follows with interest.
Hawk follows him until he gets to a sign that indicates oxygen storage or the morgue. The hallway simply dead ends with two directions in which Hawk can go. All he hears is electricity before turning around to leave. There IS music underpinning the scene (the bass cords under Laura Palmer’s theme).
The next scene opens with Audrey sway dancing to what ends up to be one of many examples of diegetic sound, and I’m going to try and at least recognize when these happen around Audrey because of her mysterious occupation in the latest installments of the series. When Ben turns the music off, all that is left under their conversation regarding the Norwegians is the sound of a crackling fire. Once again in the episode, someone is reminded of the money their actions have cost. When ben says “Laura died two days ago, I lost you years ago,” the music returns, and you can see the hurt in Audrey, but only after Ben slams the door shut.
To continue our tour of domestic unbliss in the town, we drop in on the Briggs having dinner. Given that we don’t really see a lot of redeeming factors in Bobby by this point (I’d say it’s arguable that he gets any in the original run, but I’ll explore that), seeing that he’s the son of the poetic and sincere Garland Briggs can have its frustrating moments. I love that Garland smacks the cigarette straight out of Bobby’s mouth, and says “Now I am a tolerant man, but my patience has its limits. To have his path made clear is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence. Robert, you and I are going to work to make yours real clear.” I just LOVE Betty picking the cigarette out of her meatloaf and adding, “We’re here for you, Bobby!” It was really wonderful to see where Frost, Lynch, and Ashbrook took Bobby as a character, and I think it makes some of these early scenes with his defiance and rebellion much more interesting because of who he becomes. Right now, it’s really hard to see the appeal he could possibly have, except for the fact that Shelley obviously has a thing for bad boys.
Here’s another great scene with Cooper and Truman, this time set in the Double R Diner, where some denizens are enjoying coffee, pie, food — including the log lady. It looks like Coop plans pulls double duty asking some light questions of Norma, but also indulges in his love of pie. To the tune of three slices. Once again, it’s a brilliant move by the writers to show Cooper’s curiosity about the Log Lady (“Can I ask her about her log?”) but also demonstrates that he considers carefully Harry’s answer. The log lady swooping in, and informing Cooper that one day, her log would have something to say about Laura Palmer, and then Cooper’s stunned silence at being told to ask the log about it still made me laugh. Which is good because the next scene is a doozy.
If it’s hard to find redeeming qualities in Bobby right now, Leo is by far more irredeemable, and him beating Shelley to more diegetic music is disturbing. While before the music of Audrey’s dance blending into a scene gave it a softer, dreamier feel, this definitely descends into the stuff of nightmares. Everything about this scene is set up to foster discomfort — it’s in a partially finished area, Shelley is directly on top of plastic wrap (what Laura happened to be wrapped in), and the music is driving and in this scene, unsettling. Everything about this scene works, and I think part of it is its placement directly after something far more comfortable.
The next scene is another contrasting one, of James going to dinner with the Haywards. I have to wonder if James likes green, because Laura and Donna both seem to wear a lot green around him (Donna was literally wearing a black and white sweater in the scene with Sarah but is in a big ol’ 90’s green outfit). Given the timing of these two lovebirds discovering love, I’m not surprised that Mike Nelson, Donna’s boyfriend, is a bit pissed to find James’ motorcycle outside the Hayward home.
The final scene starts focused on a cassette that Dr. Jacoby has that Laura Palmer made for him (we know that it at least says “With Love, Laura” on the label). Jacoby puts the audio of Laura describing her weird mood, her thoughts about sweet, dumb James. She talks about how she is going to get lost in the woods again that night. In yet another, great moment with the sound, Laura is cut off as Dr. Jacoby puts on the headphones. He opens a coconut to reveal … the other half of the golden heart, which he holds up as he cries / reacts.
Action wise, that episode packed a lot into it. I think that Dunham did a great job of blending styles with David Lynch without going overboard. There was a lot in here to lend itself to dream theories, the use of music being a huge one, but it makes me certain that the next thing I’m going to write about all of this in the next few days is about melodrama and then a piece on detective fiction. I think it’s important to understand the format and rules of these stories so it’s a bit easier to point out where Twin Peaks uses those tricks, and where it completely ignores the rules (and possibly why).