EPISODE 11: “LAURA’S SECRET DIARY”
Written by Jerry Stahl and Mark Frost & Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, Directed by Todd Holland
Airdate October 20th, 1990
This episode was troubled from the get-go. That first writing credit belongs to former drug addict and subject of Ben Stiller’s PERMANENT MIDNIGHT Jerry Stahl, and as you can tell just from all the other names up there, his episode needed some help. That’s because Stahl, who was by his own admission on heroin while writing the script – going as far as to shoot up in the bathroom during meetings – barely wrote anything, and what he did has been called “an absolute car wreck,” and “completely incomprehensible, unusable, incomplete…with blood stains on it” by Mark Frost. This episode has more writers credited than any other, and in fact twice as many as it took to create the entire freaking series. No fault to Frost, Peyton or Engels and every ounce of it on the back of Stahl, who even had the gall to rag on his TWIN PEAKS experience in his own memoir despite being paid by the show for doing nothing. As a result this episode is a little disjointed and definitely feels cobbled together and rushed. There’s a lot of information contained, and the execution isn’t flawless, but the off-episodes make the on-episodes that much more enjoyable, and either way episode 11 still sets a lot of things in motion.
We open on a zooming and spinning frame that pulls out of a pinprick hole in the perforated ceiling of the interrogation room in which Leland Palmer is being read his rights for the murder of Jacques Renault. It’s like the maddening gyre that starts the scene is a visual representation of Leland’s internal mental chaos. He waives his rights and confesses to killing Jacques, “the man who killed my daughter.” Truman asks why Leland thinks Jacques killed Laura? Because they arrested the man, he says. Leland is upset at having killed a man with his bare hands, but doesn’t have any regrets.
Coop and Doc Hayward arrange to have a psychologist look at Leland in regards to a temporary insanity plea. Doc tries sympathizing with Leland’s situation, but Coop won’t have it: murder is murder no matter the motivation. Doc then runs into Andy, who has a question about his “sperms.” He wants to know if he could take the fertility test again. Doc gives him a cup. Andy tries to be sneaky about all this, but Lucy busts him on the way to the restroom with a copy of Flesh World in-hand. This does not help her opinion of him.
Truman meanwhile says the Judge, Clinton Sternwood, will arrive in town that afternoon. He’s a travelling judge making a circuit of towns throughout the county. On his docket today is Leland’s bail hearing and Leo Johnson’s competency examination. Truman wonders aloud if Leland will even get bail. That’s for the DA to decide, Coop says. That DA is Daryl Lodwick, who is also on his way to town. Not forgetting their primary investigation, the murder of Laura Palmer, they discuss new information from Hawk, who called in from Pearl Lakes. Despite what Leland remembers, no one named Robertson ever lived next to the Palmer property there. The most recent owner lives in Montana now. Andy interrupts all this by bungling his semen sample, causing the cup to roll under a chair. As he retrieves it, Coop notices his boots, which are exactly like the ones they found under the porch of Jacques Renault’s cabin. He asks where Andy got them. From Phillip Gerard, the one-armed man, of course.
As he strolls through his hotel, Ben Horne gets a tip from one of his employees that M. T. Wentz, a famed and esteemed travel writer, is coming to town. He or she always conceals their identity, pays only in cash, and is notoriously unknown, even by his or her coworkers, but a good review of The Great Northern could translate into a boom of new business. Ben agrees and wants an hourly update on any cash-paying new customers. He proceeds to his office, where he finds Jean Renault waiting for him. Jean shows Ben the video of Audrey bound and gagged, then says her captors require a large sum of money for her return, but he will require something as well. He tells Ben that One Eyed Jacks is being run by thieves and that Ben needs a partner always on premises to make sure everything’s clean. Ben has no choice but to relent. Oh, and there’s one last thing: Jean wants Special Agent Cooper to deliver the ransom. This is a dealbreaker. Ben, again, relents.
Donna’s at the diner picking up meals to deliver in her wheels. As she leaves, Norma shares with Hank the news that M. T. Wentz is coming to town. She too recognizes the financial opportunities a good review could present, and wants to make sure they’re in tip-top shape. Hank gets excited and runs out to buy some flowers, tablecloths and whatnot to spruce up the place. As he’s leaving, he slyly suggests Norma should give Big Ed a call, maybe if this Wentz fella stops for gas Ed can steer him their way. She keeps her adulterous cool, says that’s a good idea, she’ll call him.
At Harold’s abode, he and Donna toast to the memory of Laura. Harold brings out the diary Donna saw the night before and reads an excerpt from it about Laura’s fantasies and nightmares and how she felt unable to share them with Donna because she was afraid Donna wouldn’t hang out with her anymore if she knew what Laura was like on the inside: black and dark and soaked with dreams of big, big men and the different ways they might hold her and take her into their control. Whoa. Donna wonders if they should give this secret diary to the Sheriff. Harold says no, he’s read it and there are no solutions in its pages, and besides, Laura gave it to him for safekeeping. He collects this kind of thing, people’s secrets, and wonders if someday Donna might share hers. All in all, even for TWIN PEAKS this is a pretty creepy way to try and pick up a high school girl.
Ben shows Coop the video of Audrey and relates to him everything Jean said, leaving out all the parts that incriminate himself, of course. Coop wants to know why Ben is telling him instead of Truman. These people will kill Audrey, he counters, so he came to Cooper, knowing the Special Agent understands “her value.” As the captors understand it, her value is a cool 125k in cash, which Ben has amassed. He asks if Cooper will deliver it, but the scene ends before an answer arrives.
Josie has returned from Seattle laden with boxes and bags of designer fashions and other big city frills. Pete’s there and has to break the news to her that Catherine died in the mill fire. Josie already knows this, of course, as it was a part of her plan, and furthermore the reason she left town so suddenly and unexpectedly: to distance herself from suspicion involving the arson-murder. Pete says they’re trying to plan a funeral service, but Catherine’s body still hasn’t been found.
Emory Battis – Horne’s Department Store manager and One Eyed Jacks’ recruiter – drags a drugged Audrey in front of Jean Renault because she’s refusing to take her heroin like a good little hostage. It looks like Battis has gotten a little rough with the girl. Jean tells her arrangements for her release have been made and are in motion, then he kills Battis with a pistol, and swallows Audrey in an embrace perhaps meant to be comforting, but which comes across as threatening as the gunshot.
Back at the station, Andy approaches Lucy. She’s still sore about the whole catching-him-on-the-verge-of-masturbation thing, though, so Coop separates them and demands to know what’s happening with her. She says she and Andy dated for a year-and-a-half until she started getting a little fed up with his idiosyncrasies, such as not owning a sports coat, so she took time off from the relationship, during which she dated Dick Tremayne of Horne’s Department Store, a man who by virtue of his profession owns a good deal of sports coats. But Dick was a dick, and that fizzled out, too. Coop asks if she wants to get back with Andy. She tearfully doesn’t know, and rushes off. Truman catches the tail-end of this and assures Coop “she’ll right out.” Coop changes the subject by telling Truman he needs a Bookhouse Boy, Truman’s best, but the less Truman knows, the better. Truman agrees and says he’ll set a meeting at The Road House for later that night.
At the Double R a corpulent cowboy traveler comes in, and Norma and Hank assume it’s M.T. Wentz. While “Wentz” is in the bathroom and Norma’s in the kitchen making sure everything is perfectly made, Hank does his part by stealing the man’s wallet. Meanwhile, over in the corner, Maddy’s trying to make peace with Donna after smooching James. Donna’s laying down Laura’s whole “who said we were exclusive, I never did,” too-cool-to-care bullshit then further demeans herself by intimating she’s seeing someone else, too. She then tells Maddy about Laura’s secret diary and asks for her help; she wants to nab it. Rifling through the wallet, Hank learns that the cowboy isn’t Wentz, it’s Lodwick, the District Attorney.
As a storm rages, Josie’s showing off a new dress to Truman. He likes it but he’s distracted. He has to know if she was really in Seattle. She swears she was and reminds him that she was afraid of Ben and Catherine. Yes, he knows, and now Catherine’s dead, the mill’s gone, and there’s a lot of insurance money coming her way. He’s got her dead to rights but she cries in mock offense until he apologizes, then she distracts him with sex. Sneaky one, that Mrs. Packard. Neither realize the Asian man who’s been snooping around The Great Northern is outside the window watching them.
Judge Sternwood arrives at the Sheriff’s station. He’s a kindly, amiable soul, and almost as perceptible as Cooper, who Truman introduces. They all go off to confer. Dick Tremayne arrives to tell Lucy he’s been miserable since they last spoke (last episode at the diner when she told him about her pregnancy) and he wants to do “the right thing,” so gives her $650 for an abortion. Lucy tells him, in her own way, to cordially fuck off.
The Judge decides he won’t grant Leland bail, despite knowing Leland as both a lawyer and a decent man. Leland is taken back to his cell. Then Syd comes in, a beautiful woman who is also Sternwood’s travelling law clerk. They leave together and Coop asks Truman if the Bookhouse Boy is set for their meet later. Truman assures him the man will be there.
At The Great Northern, Ben sees a strange, round, mustachioed Asian man staring him down. This same man, “Mr. Tojamura,” pays the desk clerk in cash. The supposition is, this is M.T. Wentz. The clerk passes him the Double R’s card then calls Norma once he leaves to let her know the eagle has landed.
Josie introduces the other Asian man – the one last seen watching her and Truman get it on through the window – to Pete as her cousin Jonathan. When Pete leaves, Jonathan breaks this ruse and tells Josie her job of six years will be over once the mill insurance money comes in and the land gets sold. She says all she needs is Pete’s signature, and in two days everything should be done. Good, Jonathan says, because they are both expected back in Hong Kong, where someone named Mr. Eckhardt is anxious to reunite with Josie. She claims to be ready to go and that Harry means nothing to her, but her eyes betray another truth.
At The Road House, Coop’s Bookhouse Boy arrives: Truman himself.
The episode ends late at night in the diner. Everyone’s gone home but Hank, who is currently sleeping in the back room. He’s awakened by the sound of someone banging on the front door. He goes to answer it but no one’s there, because they’re somehow already inside. It’s Jonathan, and he proceeds to handily beat the crap out of Hank. When he’s done, he calls Hank a Blood Brother, and tells him next time they meet, he’ll take his head off. There is something very believable about his tone, especially as punctuated with one last bash from a flashlight.
We’ve already talked about the clusterfuck behind the script for this episode. At the helm holding it all together is Todd Holland, here making his first of two appearances as director. Holland was discovered when his student film was seen by some dude named Steven Spielberg, who then hired him to write for AMAZING STORIES. Holland also directed 52 episodes of one of the greatest sitcoms ever, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, and won an Emmy for the series finale. Following this he moved onto MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE where he won another pair of Emmys for directing – one for the pilot – and settled into a role as executive producer. Bottom line, Holland knows television, and can be considered one of the best director’s the medium’s seen in the last 30 years, so he was the perfect guy to be at the head of this derailing train of an episode. Holland keeps the various threads of narrative from getting tangled in each other, and deals out new developments alongside established stories in a way that verges on overwhelming but thankfully never gets there.
Subplots take the spotlight here, most notably the Leland arrest and the Josie deception. While the former is open ended, the latter seems to come with a definite and fast-approaching deadline. The only mention of the Laura Palmer case is a throwaway – no Robertson owned property at Pearl Lakes – but given the episodes to come, this was likely an intentional break meant to set up storylines that would survive beyond the mystery of Laura’s murder.
Next week – EPISODE TWELVE: “THE ORCHID’S CURSE”
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