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Twin Peaks Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 20 — “The Path to the Black Lodge”

By  · Published on January 24th, 2017

The end begins…

(If you need to catch up, you can check out all my posts til now right here.)


Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal

Airdate April 18th 1991

We’re back with the dead metalhead in a giant papier mache pawn that was left by Earle in the park’s gazebo at the end of the last episode. The authorities are moving the body with noted difficulty. According to a fellow metalhead (actor Willie Garver, for fans of Sex & the City and White Collar), the dead dude’s name was Rusty Tomaski and he was part of a band on their way to a gig in Knife River when a tire on the van blew. Coop can piece it together from there: they met someone. Dude says yeah, a guy in a suit came right out of the woods and asked if they wanted some brews. Rusty left with him and that was the last time he was seen alive. As Rusty’s friend is led away, Coop remarks to Truman that Earle took another pawn but without telling them his move, meaning he’s playing off the board now, where there are no rules.

Coop, Truman and Andy get back to the station and are told by Lucy that Hawk is waiting in Truman’s office with a “sad man.” They go, but Lucy calls Andy back and asks what he knows about saving the planet, because (deep breath here) in 24 hours she will decide who the father of her baby is, and furthermore she’s decided to run for Miss Twin Peaks because her new family will need the money, and therefore she needs to know what Andy knows about saving the planet because that’s what the theme of the pageant is, and she’ll need to write a good speech if she’s going to win. All Andy knows for sure is that one, people need to stop sinking their beer cans in Pearl Lake, and two, Styrofoam lives forever. That’s a start.

John Justice Wheeler is on his way out of town, trying to wait for Audrey to return from her business trip to Seattle, but she’s not back yet and he can’t hold off any longer. He sends a man to collect his bags.

In Ben’s office, he’s getting a physical from Doc Hayward for insurance purposes, but Doc has an axe to grind about Ben stirring up trouble with Eileen and Donna. Ben says he understands Doc is angry, but he’s trying to do what’s right. He mentions a lie that survives between the two of them, and he and Eileen. Doc declares goodness in Ben to be a time bomb, he knows that lie revealed will only ruin lives. Ben will not be thwarted, though, and JJW’s arrival interrupts any further conversation. Doc simply asks that Ben please be careful. Instead of angry, the good doctor is imploring, the last ploy of a desperate man. JJW, in the meantime, has come to say goodbye, and reveals why – his partner has been murdered. This is really all we ever get about this. Must have been a season 3 hook.

Donna is in the attic of her house checking out her birth certificate. While her mother’s name is there, the father’s name has been left blank. Furthermore, in old photos a mustachioed Ben Horne is seen paling around with Eileen and Doc. They appear to be the best of friends. The phone rings and her mom yells up: it’s Agent Cooper for her, he says it’s important.

Audrey at last returns to The Great Northern and is greeted by several messages left by JJW, as well as Deputy Hawk who’s there because Coop wants to see her toot suite. She leaves, missing JJW who is still in with her father. Ben is worrying about how JJW’s departure will affect the Ghostwood protest but JJW can’t care, his partner and friend is dead and he must take his place. He gives Ben a letter for Audrey and begrudgingly leaves.

Major Briggs meets with Truman and Coop to tell them what he’s gleaned from reading up on Earle’s time with Project Blue Book. Earle was the team’s brightest member until the focus shifted from outer space to the woods around Twin Peaks, at which point Earle became obsessed and possessive of assignments, and violent to the degree he was dismissed from the project altogether. So Earle knew of this place decades before Coop arrived. Briggs shows them a video of Earle from that time discussing “dugpas,” dark sorcerers who “cultivate evil for the sake of evil, nothing else,” and who have access to a secret place that increases and strengthens this evil they do exponentially. This place is tangible and thus it can be found and utilized. It is called The Black Lodge. Coop self-corrects an earlier assumption: when Earle came to Twin Peaks, Coop had assumed it was to wreak vengeance on him alone, but now he sees it’s all been camouflage for what Earle was really after: the power of The Black Lodge. So then the new objective, as Coop sees it, is to figure out what The Black Lodge has to do with the petroglyph in Owl Cave. They’ll work while Briggs catches some shut eye, which he’ll do right after he takes a quick stroll through the woods to clear his head. No one’s figured out yet that the bonsai tree on the table is a device planted by Earle that allows him to listen in on everything they’re planning. He’s pleased with their progress or lack thereof, because he knows something they don’t, but before he reveals just what that is, he first wants to speak with Briggs, have a little reunion and try to learn a thing or two. He suggests to Leo they take a stroll through the woods as well, and doesn’t notice when Leo pockets the remote for the shock collar.

At the diner, an unknown woman suffers a brief tremor in her right hand that seems to catch her by surprise (remember when this happened to Harold Smith?). Elsewhere in a booth, as a part of his plan to secure riches from Shelly’s beauty, Bobby is having her read the speech he’s written for the pageant. A couple tweaks are all it needs. Bobby then apologizes for the way his attitude shifted after he started working for Ben, and how he hasn’t been paying attention to her the way he should. When he saw her kissing Cole last episode, it just all snapped back into place for him. His apology works, and they reconcile with a kiss of their own. Then Shelly gets a call from Cooper, who needs to see her immediately.

At The Road House, construction is under way for the pageant and Mayor Milford is meeting with Lana to tell her the other two judges besides himself will be Norma and Dick Tremayne, so her victory is all but assured. She wants it totally assured, though. All they need is Dick, the Mayor says, and so if they orchestrate a little alone time between the two of them, Lana’s charms are certain to do the rest. Those charms distract the Mayor and he pleads with her to elope with him, but she won’t agree to marry him until after she’s won the pageant.

Meanwhile, Coop is meeting with Audrey, Donna and Shelly about the poem they received, as well as the invitations to The Road House. Audrey says they went but no one met them. Coop asks if they’ve had any contact recently with strangers that struck them as odd or puzzling. Donna tells about Earle posing as a friend of her father’s, Shelly got a $10 tip on a cup of coffee from a male customer the same day she got the poem, and Audrey serendipitously ran into a poetry professor in the library. Coop asks Shelly if the handwriting looks familiar. It does, it’s Leo’s. He wants each of them to check in with the Sheriff twice a day at 9 and 9, he wants their parents to know their whereabouts at all time, and he doesn’t want them going anywhere alone because they’re in danger, all of Twin Peaks is.

Earle is telling Leo about the dugpas. He likens them to Kali worshippers and other such bloodthirsty zealots. The queen cards are tacked to the wall and Leo notices Shelly’s face on one of them, says her name. Earle asks if Leo would mourn her death, seeing as how she was cheating on him; the reason he wants to know is because if Shelly wins Miss Twin Peaks, she dies. So that’s his big plan. Leo though, despite everything, still cares for Shelly and doesn’t want her killed. So he comes at Earle with the remote, not realizing it’s the collar that does the shocking, and he’s still wearing that. Earle plays frightened until Leo presses the button, shocking himself, and then the joke’s all on Leo.

Audrey returns to The Great Northern and just misses JJW yet again, now for the last time. She goes to see her father to ask if he’s seen her would-be lover, but he’s got another item on his agenda: he wants her to be the spokesperson for the Stop Ghostwood movement by winning Miss Twin Peaks. She just wants to know where JJW is. Ben breaks it to her that he had to leave. For good. He gives her the letter JJW left. She runs out, racing for the airport to try and catch him before he takes off, pausing in the lobby just long enough to recruit Pete into driving her.

Coop, Truman and Andy are studying and hypothesizing about the Owl Cave petroglyph. Coop says the symbols suggest a time, but for what he doesn’t know, it could be an invitation. They pause to wonder where Major Briggs is, as he should have been there by now. Andy calls his house. In the interim, Coop lets his mind wander to Annie, which Truman happily notes is not at all like the Special Agent. Coop admits he’s smitten, in love, which Truman is happy to hear, if also disheartened. The wound of Josie is far from healed. Coop’s right hand, prying apart the blinds to look outside, trembles just like the woman’s in the diner did.

Briggs is still strolling through the woods when the mark behind his ear tingles and he turns to find two men in a horse costume approaching him. The head has a tranq gun and shoots the Major with it. It is, of course, Earle and Leo in the costume.

JJW is boarding his private jet at the airport, still searching the landscape in vain for a sign of Audrey.

Coop visits with Annie while she’s working. She notices he’s troubled, and he tells her he can’t stop thinking about her. She has the same problem in regards to him. It’s a cute conversation, one they both enjoy, but all isn’t well. There’s no tangible threat present, but the way the camera pulls away from them oh so slowly while that haunting Twin Peaks music builds beneath their conversation gives the distinct impression that while life is happy between the two of them, the world in which they exist is dark and conspiring. They kiss. Annie knocks plates to the ground. They break. Syrup drips malevolently.

Pete gets Audrey to the airport as JJW’s plane is taxiing away. She gets ahead of it and she and JJW have the most romantic runway goodbye this side of Casablanca. They each profess their love for the other, and Audrey offers him her virginity, right there, right then. Thank god it’s his jet. Pete gets misty watching the lovers embrace, and as he wipes away the tears, his right hand trembles uncontrollably.

Earle has Briggs tied against a giant target on bales of hay and is loading his crossbow. He wants to know when Briggs first saw the symbol in Owl Cave? Briggs is not at liberty to divulge any information. Earle sinks an arrow right by his ear and asks what the petroglyph means? Briggs repeats his refusal like a good soldier. Earle grazes his leg with another arrow, then asks a test question: what’s the capital of North Carolina? Briggs can answer that, Raleigh, so then he’s capable of telling the truth, he’s just not willing, therefore Earle gives him truth serum. He asks his questions again: Briggs first saw the symbol in dreams, and the petroglyph means that if Jupiter and Saturn meet in alignment then “they will receive you.”

Catherine is sharing the contents of the puzzle box Eckhardt left her to her brother Andrew (reminder: it’s another box with a face like a clock of moon phases and astrological symbols). They’re trying to open it and as they fiddle they distract their frustration with talks of foreign investors ready to throw money at the Ghostwood Estates development, despite Ben’s interference, which Andrew notes is ultimately ineffectual because of work Ben himself did when the project was his; all the hurdles and studies have been cleared and filed, there’s no stopping them now. Andrew presses the moon phases like calculator buttons, entering various dates. When he enters the date the gift arrived, the box pops open. Inside is yet another box, which Andrew smashes open. Inside that is a seemingly-solid, metallic rectangular cube.

Annie’s at The Road House waiting on Coop. He arrives and they dance. Coop gets a little forward in talking about the feel of her body against his and she rewards his boldness with an impassioned kiss. She wants him. She tells him so. Then she segues somewhat unexpectedly into announcing that she’s going to enter the Miss Twin Peaks pageant like Coop and several others have suggested. The Twin Peaks doomsday clock just ticked another minute towards midnight. Coop calls her a queen and that’s enough to trigger the powers that be in the White Lodge. The room goes black but for a hot white spot on Coop, and another on stage where the Giant has appeared and is frantically waving both his arms, mouthing a silent “No” over and over again. For a being we’ve only seen as calm and stoic, this display of emotionality and even fear is quite unnerving.

It’s after dark when Pete wakes in his truck to the sound of JJW’s jet taking off. Audrey’s still there, a full-fledged woman now. She’s sad her lover is gone but Pete says if the man promised he’d come back, he will. Audrey says he also promised he’d take her fishing but that never happened. This is an area in which Pete can help, he’s got tackle in the truck right now, and suggests fishing is the best cure for a broken heart.

In the cabin in the woods, everyone is freaking out. Leo is screaming, shaking and holding his head. Briggs, still restrained, is having some kind of spiritual seizure. And Earle is singing and laughing and looking at the petroglyph with the information Briggs gave him in mind. It’s a clock he realizes now, a clock and an invitation. He teams this with the thing he mentioned earlier he knows that Coop doesn’t: that the petroglyph is also a map. On his computer he transposes the cave painting onto a scale map of Twin Peaks. Now he knows not only when the entrance to The Black Lodge will open, but where it will as well.

Back at The Road House Coop’s vision fades, but everything has changed. All over town, something is wrong. In the forest, in a circle of trees there is a smaller circle of white power with what looks like a pool of oil at its center. A spotlight shines over this pool and reaching out mid-air from the folds of time and space is the denim-clad right arm of BOB, clawing for a grip on our reality, and finally manifesting. The pool reflects a red curtain, and the music of the Man From Another Place is heard, that salty saxophone. The way the curtain folds in the circular pool makes it look like the eye of some great, ravenous beast peeking into our world for something to devour.

Another first-time director helmed this episode, the last of the series: Stephen Gyllenhaal. And yes, before you ask, it’s not a coincidence, he is the father of Jake and Maggie, and also an accomplished director (side note: with a 200+ person cast, how come none of the acting Gyllenhaals or Deschanels are in Twin Peaks season 3? And what about Rashida Jones ((Peggy Lipton’s real life daughter))? Missed opportunity, you ask me.). At the time, Gyllenhaal was coming off the feature Paris Trout starring fellow Lynch-collaborator Dennis Hopper. There’s an elegance and refinement to the episode that can be attributed to Gyllenhaal’s direction, and the result is a smooth and polished, subtly-stylistic hour. Peyton and Engels scripted the episode, which finally starts to pay out some of the IOU’s they’ve given us in terms of the connection between Earle, the petroglyph, and the Black Lodge.

At the same time, the way they’ve looped the Lodges storyline back to the Laura Palmer storyline via the re-emergence of BOB harkens to the series’ early days when the mysteries were more attractive than the answers, and hints that the resolution this time around will not be so cut and dry as that other plot’s. There’s also a lot of sadness that starts to creep in, for me at least, for the things we’ll never get to see, not even in the upcoming third season: JJW and Audrey’s love (she’s back for season 3, Billy Zane is not on the cast list), Audrey and Pete’s friendship (Jack Nance is dead now), and the increasing bond between Coop and Truman now that Coop’s sticking around town, maybe for good (Ontkean isn’t returning, though the character might be in the form of Robert Forster). And I’d wager it must have felt that way to viewers at the time too, knowing as they did for certain now that the series had been cancelled.

After this episode, it would be seven weeks until viewers saw Twin Peaks again, and that would be the final two episodes aired back-to-back some throwaway night in June in an era when the TV season definitively ended in May. The show and its participants deserved better, as did the audience, but it was the hand both were dealt.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: Perspectives on Twin Peaks

We’re so close to the end now I can smell it, and it smells like burnt engine oil, or is that bitter coffee? Two episodes and Fire Walk With Me and we’re all caught up and ready for season three, which is a mere three months away. For more Twin Peaks trivia, tidbits, and assorted ephemera, follow me on Twitter between posts.

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