‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ Episode 13: What Story is That, Charlie?

What exactly is happening when exactly?
By  · Published on August 7th, 2017

What exactly is happening when exactly?

The final act has begun. This week’s episode, lucky number 13, marks the official start of the final third of Twin Peaks season three; there are only six episodes and five weeks (the finale is a two-parter like the pilot) until the mystery comes to an end, which, in customary Lynch/Frost fashion, is likely going to be another beginning of sorts. Last week we finally got a glimpse of modern-day Audrey Horne, though in a context that seems completely alien to fans of the character. Would this week shed more light on her situation? Or her relationship with hellraising son Richard? Or Richard’s paternity? Or his impending, inevitable confrontation with Cooper hinted at in the pilot, “Beware Richard and Linda?” The quote from this episode used in the description, “What story is that, Charlie?” would certainly hint at some revelations, at least, as we learned last week that Charlie is name of Audrey’s “husband.”  By hour’s end, there were some answers, but as usual, ones accompanied by larger questions.

This week we begin in Las Vegas at Lucky 7 Insurance where the brothers Mitchum, Rodney and Bradley, and their trio of pink-clad showgirls – Candie, Sandie, and Mandie – dance into the office with Dougie in tow, as well as a series of presents for Battling Bud Mullins, agency president. Among them, a new BMW convertible, which the Mitchums say is a match for Dougie’s. Seems the brothers have started spending their 30-million-dollar settlement with a generous streak. Anthony (Tom Sizemore) oversees this and freaks, because he was supposed to get the Mitchums to kill Dougie, but obviously that’s gone tail-end up. Sniveling like a scared child he calls Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) to report the news. Duncan is understandably pissed and reminds Anthony this means he has to kill Dougie himself, a task he says Anthony has one day to complete. The “or else” is implied, and quite ominously. Off the phone, though, Duncan seems just as nervous as Anthony. He calls for Roger, his assistant…

Meanwhile at the Jones’ residence, delivery men have arrived to set up Sonny Jim’s new gym set, courtesy of the Mitchum Brothers. Janey-E can’t believe her eyes, more so when she sees the gift-wrapped Beamer in the driveway. She sends the men to the backyard with the gym, looking quite pleased, and maybe even a little randy.

As seen later that night, the gym set is spectacular, and uniquely Vegas with its array of blinking, swirling lights. It’s also kind of innocently creepy, which is uniquely Lynchian. Dougie’s home now and Janey is so very, very pleased with what he’s accomplished. Dougie’s just pleased, generally.

Courtesy Showtime

Cut to a new location, Western Montana. Bad Coop pulls into a mostly-empty warehouse in the truck procured for him by Hutch (Tim Roth). There’s another vehicle inside but no one to greet him, or so it seems. Watching from elsewhere in the building on a big screen are Ray and some of his co-horts. Ray, obviously, is a little chagrined to see bad Coop, being as he supposedly killed him back in episode eight. Yet here he is. Ray vows to remedy this. Renzo (Derek Mears, “Jason” in the Friday the 13th remake), a giant muscle of a man, appears to be in charge but will let Ray have the kill, only after he has some fun first. They direct bad Coop to an elevator which brings him to them, “them” being a motley crue of a dozen or so armed ne’er-do-wells. Renzo wants to know why Coop’s come. To see his friend Ray, of course. Renzo calls Coop “a new contestant,” and has a scraggly fellow named Muddy explain “the rules:” Renzo is their boss because no one can beat him at arm-wrestling, in 14 years no one’s even come close. Contestants get one chance to beat him; if they lose, Renzo’s their boss, too. If they lose and refuse to submit, they die, just that simple. Play or leave, the decision is up to Coop. He mocks the juvenile quality of this, then asks what he gets if he wins? To be boss. Coop doesn’t want to be boss, he wants Ray. Renzo agrees to this amendment. This is a perfectly Lynchian contest, one that shares a vibe, though tinted wicked, with old Coop’s Tibetan Rock Toss from the original series: seemingly silly yet deadly serious. They sit down and get to it and as you’d expect, Coop is no easy win. Calmly, he keeps returning their arms to starting position, saying it’s more comfortable for him. He’s just a cat toying with a mouse who thinks it’s a dog. Eventually, Coop breaks Renzo’s arm and punches his nose clean through his face, for good measure. Then Coop asks for some cell phones, plural. A handful are offered by his new acolytes. Coop then asks for some privacy for he and Ray. Everyone leaves but Renzo cuz, you know, he’s dead. Ray tries to talk his way out of the situation but Coop immediately shoots him in the leg. Now they can talk. Just then, Coop notices a man watching them, an unassuming man, sweater-tie-spectacles kind of unassuming, presumably meek-mannered unassuming. He asks if Coop needs any money. Coop does not. So this fella leaves. Odd moment, but a nice guy, seems like, though most assuredly, given the other company in the warehouse, he is not. Coop gets back to business with Ray: he wants to know who hired Ray to kill him. The order came through a man named Phillip Jeffries, or at least that’s what Ray says the man calls himself; he’s never actually met him in person, only spoken to him over the phone. Jeffries told Ray that Coop was going to kill him but that Jeffries could get him out of jail – through the arrangement with Warden Murphy – and Ray could save himself by killing Coop first. A side-note here: cinematographically this reminded me of the warehouse in Reservoir Dogs, especially with the staging dynamic of Ray sprawled on the floor, shot, looking up at bad Coop standing over him, like Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) in Tarantino’s film. Back to this scene, though: Coop wants to know why Jeffries wants him dead. Because he has something inside him they want, Ray tells him. Does he, though? Still? Or is this “something” the bubble of BOB that escaped back in time after Ray shot Coop? For now, Coop wants to know if this Jeffries ever mentioned Major Briggs. He did not, Ray says, but has something to show him. It’s a ring that Jeffries said Ray was to put on Coop’s finger after he was dead. Which means it’s not just a ring, it’s the Owl Cave Ring, the one worn by Teresa Banks and Laura Palmer, both victims of BOB in the original series, and the original Dougie Jones. This ring is a binding totem, it claims a soul for The Black Lodge. That Jeffries wants it on bad Coop’s finger means someone wants him to come home. In seeing the ring, Coop displays something tantamount to fear. He wants to know where Ray got it. Ray says he never saw it until right before he stepped out of his prison cell, it was given to him by a guard, or someone dressed as a guard, Ray had never seen him before.

Another side-note here. Phillip Jeffries was always intended to be a major part of whatever Twin Peaks’ conclusion will be. Lynch added the character himself in Fire Walk With Me, and as we know from that film and talk of the Blue Rose Task Force earlier this season, Jeffries was basically the Coop before Coop, so to tie his downfall with Dale’s makes for a kind of off-kilter narrative symmetry. However, Ray’s assertion that Phillip Jeffries might just be a name this mystery figure calls himself is interesting. See, Jeffries was played, if somehow you hadn’t heard, by David Bowie, who of course died last year. Actor Harry Goaz (Deputy Andy) reported that Bowie had been contacted about reprising his role in season three and had agreed but was unable to film anything before his untimely demise. Likely this would have just been a one or two-episode appearance, I’m thinking the finale, but now with Bowie gone, is the character gone, too? Certainly we’ve seen other characters this season whose actors have left the mortal coil – most notably Don S. Davis, “Major Briggs” – but Bowie isn’t the kind of guy you bring back in stock footage, and besides, unless Lynch is holding out on us (which honestly wouldn’t be surprising) there isn’t a lot of pre-existing footage of Bowie as Jeffries. I speculated about the role of Jeffries before the third season began, but even I didn’t think he’d be this influential. The only thing that’s for sure: someone is playing Phillip Jeffries, either in form or in name. Only so many people know about Jeffries – Cole, Coop, Albert, Diane, fellow-missing-agent Chet Desmond – so the number of people who could be posing as the agent are limited. But if there’s one thing we’ve all learned about Twin Peaks, it’s never assume anything. My bet? Even though she’s notably not on the cast list, Joan Chen, who played Josie in the original series, is posing as Jeffries, though she’s not Josie, she’s Judy, Josie’s twin sister. Confused? Hit that link higher up in the paragraph, it’ll explain everything.

from Fire Walk With Me

Back in the warehouse, Coop tells Ray to put on the ring. Ray does, on his left ring finger. Same as Teresa. Same as Laura. Same as original Dougie. Coop wants the coordinates Ray got from Hastings (Matthew Lillard), or rather Betty, Hastings’ lover. Ray still has them, but wonders spitefully how Coop can trust he’ll give up the right ones. “I know who you are,” Ray says, then asks to reach in his pocket, where he supposedly has the numbers written down. As he’s pulling them out, we’re with the band of thugs watching on their remote screen. From among them emerges a familiar face: Richard fucking Horne. He’s transfixed by bad Coop. Is this son seeing father? If so, does Richard know it? Ray gives up the coordinates. Coop asks one more question: where’s Jeffries? Ray doesn’t know. Coop asks again. Last Ray heard he was at a place called The Dutchman’s, “but that’s not a real place.” Coop interrupts to shoot Ray dead. He says he knows what The Ductchman’s is – the realm of the ?????, or the Giant as we once knew him – and then watches as the Owl Cave ring disappears from Ray’s hand.

With this ring we fall into The Black Lodge, but only for a moment to see it land on the floor.

Back in the warehouse Richard watches Coop exit.

Then we’re with Ray’s body in The Black Lodge. He’s lying bleeding on the floor like Annie Blackburne, Catherine Earle, and even Coop before him. The hand of an unseen man, presumably MIKE, returns the ring to its golden pedestal. Another soul claimed for The Lodge.

In Vegas, we’re with the Fusco brothers, the three detectives assigned to Dougie’s blown-up car and assassination attempt. They just got Dougie’s prints and according to the report Dougie not only escaped from a South Dakotan prison two days ago, he’s also a missing FBI agent. They laugh this off as a huge mistake. That’s when Anthony shows up looking for Detective Clark (John Savage). Any relation to the Clark mentioned as messing around with Mary in The Road House at the end of last episode? Unknown for now. Clark is unhappy to see Anthony, apparently Anthony’s never supposed to come here. But Anthony has a question, just one, and it seems important: he needs to know a good, undetectable poison. Clonidine, Clark answers immediately, and furthermore he can procure it for a hefty price. Anthony mentions “keeping this whole operation from falling apart” and says someone’s “on to them.” They arrange an exchange for later that night, money for poison. Clark’s partner comes over after Anthony leaves and asks what the problem is. Clark says it sounds like Anthony’s cracking. Partner says he’ll call Mr. Todd. This conspiracy to kill Dougie is a real Moebius strip.

Hutch and Chantal are driving the highway at night, outside Provo, Utah. Chantal gives us a primer on Mormons.

Back in Vegas, Janey drives Dougie to work in his new car. She’s pawing at him like a cat in heat. Success-by-danger is her turn-on, it seems. As Dougie’s walking into the building – after some trouble with the door – Anthony intercepts him and offers to buy him a cup of coffee from the café in the lobby, Szymon’s, the same place Dougie bought that cherry pie for the Mitchum brothers. While they sip, Dougie suddenly goes into the café and straight to a piece of cherry pie. While he’s gone, Anthony slips the poison into Dougie’s coffee. Dougie returns to the table after making a pit-stop to massage Anthony’s shoulders. This touches Anthony, emotionally, and he starts to cry. He takes the poisoned coffee and flees, saying he never meant to hurt anyone. Dougie doesn’t mind, he just takes Anthony’s coffee and has it with that slice of cherry pie he was eyeing. If you’re keeping score, that’s twice now the café has indirectly saved Dougie’s life. In the nearest restroom, Anthony pours the poison down the toilet. He returns crying and apologetic, a complete wreck, but Dougie has pie, so all’s good on his end.

Courtesy Showtime

We land next in Twin Peaks at the beloved Double R diner, where Shelly’s serving ‘em with a smile. She gets a call from daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried), who’s upset because her husband Stephen hasn’t come home in two nights (like Dougie…hmmm…). Becky’s worried, but Shelly thinks he’s probably just cooling off. She invites Becky down for a decadent dessert-lunch, which cheers Becky right up.

Back in Vegas, Anthony is spilling everything to Dougie and Bud, which he’s doing because he thinks Dougie figured him out: he’s been working for Duncan Todd for months, manipulating claims against Bud and stealing a ton of money in the process. Bud already knows this, Dougie already “told” him. Anthony is ashamed. Bud was prepared to send him away for a long time, but he’ll change his mind if Anthony will testify against Duncan Todd. Anthony will, even if it kills him. Insurance has been a surprisingly large undercurrent this season; for an absolutely brilliant examination of the possible significance of this, you HAVE to read this article by EW’s Darren Franich.

Back in the Double R, it’s evening now. Bobby Briggs has come in for “the usual,” but it isn’t Shelly at the counter anymore. Bobby asks Norma – who’s sitting with Big Ed! First sighting! – if Shelly went home. She did. They invite him to have dinner at their table. At Ed’s insistence, he agrees. In making small talk, Bobby mentions they found some stuff of his dad’s – the Major’s – that day. He’s not sure what it is yet, but he knows it’s something. No doubt he’s more right than he knows. Bobby’s usual – spaghetti – comes and Norma steps away to get Ed’s dinner. When she’s gone, Bobby asks Ed if he should step away, too, leave them alone. This, teamed with the wedding ring Ed’s wearing, has us wondering if he and Norma are still together. But there’s no ring on Norma’s finger, and then another man, a new man, a dapper man comes in. He and Norma kiss. Walter’s his name. Ed and Bobby leave the two of them to discuss business. Walt has the new “reports,” and they’re spectacular: seems three of the five Norma’s Double R franchises are turning a profit, which is phenomenal for a new brand. I knew she was up to something big, all that paperwork she’s been doing. And could one of these locations be Szymon’s? Or could they at least be selling Norma’s pies? The waitress who helped Dougie in the earlier scene, Virginia, was certainly dressed like a Double R employee, albeit in orange instead of baby blue. Ed watches them from afar with a familiar longing. Walt continues: of the two locations that aren’t turning a profit, Twin Peaks is one of them. He ran another of his reports and found that financially this locale isn’t worth it. Norma doesn’t understand, all the restaurants have the same pie recipes but the ones made here always taste better. It comes down to ingredients, Walt says, Norma’s are local, the franchise’s are not. Walt wants her to explore “alternatives” in her business style, starting with turning the official name of this location into Norma’s Double R, not just The Double R, as it’s been for 50 years. She’s hesitant, loyal as she is to the place that came before her brand, so gives no answer except when ole Walt asks if they’re still on for dinner later. They are. I don’t like this guy, seems like a cleaned up Hank to me, just a shinier criminal. Ten bucks says he’s skimming money from her.

Across town at Run Silent Run Drapes, Nadine’s shop, things have closed down. Nadine’s in the back on her computer when someone buzzes at the door. She starts to turn whoever it is away until she sees it’s Doc Jacoby, a.k.a. Doctor Amp, who stopped because he saw his gold shovel in her storefront. It’s her tribute to him, she explains, for helping her shovel herself out of the shit. Doc is very touched, and recollects the last time they saw each other, in the supermarket seven years prior, she on her hands and knees looking for a potato. This has the vibe of a very quirky meet-cute. I approve.

At the Palmer house, Sarah’s watching an old boxing match and killing a bottle of vodka. Electricity crackles. She pays it no mind. It crackles again, an interruption in the television signal, sounds like. Sure enough, the boxing match appears to be stuck on a loop. Sarah ignores this and goes to the kitchen for more booze. She’s a wrecked woman, for sure. The crackling loop continues. Sarah takes another drink and leaves the room again, stuck on her own little loop. What strange purgatory of the spirit is this?

Elsewhere in Twin Peaks, Audrey is demanding to know from her husband Charlie what Tina said on the phone at the end of last episode. Charlie won’t tell. He’s calm, she is not. She feels like she’s somewhere else, like she’s someone else, which is a very telling thing to say in Twin Peaks. “I’m not sure who I am but I’m not me.” This conjures so many tangential thoughts of alternate timelines, purgatories, coma dreams, everything. It also counter-balances what Ray told bad Coop earlier in the episode: “I know who you are.” There’s definitely a link between bad Coop and Audrey, more than just Richard, possibly, but some sort of psychic link that might explain some upcoming curiosities. Charlie is no comfort, but steers her back on course: to go to The Road House and see if Billy’s around. Curious: it doesn’t seem as if any time has passed in this storyline – both are dressed the same as last we saw them, and the conversation seems to be picking right up where we left off – though we’ve seen day shift to night elsewhere in town. It’s been much discussed that the editing of the season to-date has seemed intentionally vague in regards to time, but the closer we get to the end, the more this is true. I’m not sure what’s happening when, but I’m almost positive it’s not all happening at the same time. Curiouser: Audrey doesn’t know where The Road House is, which is extremely odd considering she’s lived in town her whole life and we’ve seen her in The Road House a time or two in the old series. Charlie will take her, but says she needs to calm down or he’ll “end her story too.” That’s a threat, sure as shit. Audrey folds, there’s something wrong with her, emotionally, psychologically. She’s torn between staying or going. She asks Charlie his advice, she begs for his help. “It’s a ghost wood here,” she says, another veiled Lodge reference, as Ghostwood is the name of the forest surrounding Twin Peaks in which the portal to The Black Lodge exists. Audrey cries as Charlie says nothing. I’ve got theories about what’s going on here, but I’ll save them for my summation, just around the corner.

Then the best moment possible: James Hurley performing “Just You and I” live on stage at The Road House, complete with a duo of dark-haired backup singers, a la Maddy and Donna. I squealed like a fanboy loud enough to wake the neighbors when I saw this. In the audience, Renee (Jessica Szohr) watches with tears in her eyes, happy tears, tears of a young girl in love with a real heartbreaker. This is the first we’ve seen of either of these characters since the pilot, when Renee was asking Shelly about James. Seems her interest, and possibly their relationship, has blossomed.

Courtesy Showtime

At Big Ed’s Gas Barn, the proprietor sits alone with a cup of noodles. It’s a somber end to the episode with a mysterious bent: as the credits role, Ed burns a piece of paper. An old note from Norma, perhaps? Maybe another episode will tell…


Okay, so obviously the biggest question mark of this episode is, what the hell is going on with Audrey? She’s a far cry from the strong, self-assured young woman we last saw. She still has that fire in her belly, but it’s being smothered by an uncertainty of self, an uncertainty of sanity, it seems. And Charlie. He claims to be her husband but there’s obviously something weird about their relationship. My foremost theory: Audrey’s dead, or she’s still in a coma, and either way she’s under control of The Black Lodge thanks to bad Coop impregnating her. Charlie is her BOB, her parasitic demon, and this room is her dwelling in that dark dimension. This raises more questions, naturally, the biggest among them being: how much of what we’ve seen of the Twin Peaks’ storyline is her delusion? Sure, we know Billy, Audrey’s lover, but he’s the only one of the litany of named characters in her exchanges with Charlie we’ve actually seen, and even he is gone from the landscape. In Audrey’s world, “Chuck” stole Billy’s truck, but we saw Richard driving it, specifically driving it over a little boy and then fleeing the scene. Bottom line? Dead, comatose, a Black Lodge prisoner, or just plain-old, real-world nuts, there’s more to the Audrey story than we know, and wherever it’s headed is going to be somewhere dark and shocking.

It’s been a dense second-half of the season, but the pieces are in motion, all headed for a certain Washington town and a date with destiny. Each new episode tempts us with revelations and pulls back at the last moment, giving us just a tantalizing taste. But with only five hours to go in the series – presumably – prepare for a confounding feast in the weeks to come.

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