‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ Episode Nine: Highway to the Danger Zone

The Black Lodge mythology goes BOOM.
By  · Published on July 10th, 2017

The Black Lodge mythology goes BOOM.

After the longest two weeks of my entire life, Twin Peaks returned last night for the ninth episode of the new season and honestly, I think I was more excited for this episode than I was the season three premiere. The internet collectively agrees that what Lynch and Frost accomplished in episode eight was without a doubt one of the most artistic feats the medium of television has ever known, and when you team this with the fact that episode nine is the limited series’ halfway point, the narrative momentum’s revving up like a chainsaw. And narrative was the name of the game this episode, as a torrent of information was unleashed that advanced the plot on several fronts and set in motion the series’ endgame.

We begin back in the present day with the recently-resurrected bad Coop, walking alone along a dirt road. A red handkerchief tied to a fence post catches his eye.

Then just as soon as we arrived we’re gone again and on a plane, the one carrying Gordon Cole, Agent Tammy Preston, Diane, and Albert back to Philly. Tammy receives a call for Cole from Colonel Davis (Ernie Hudson, unseen), and it’s urgent. Davis tells Cole about the headless body that seems to be Major Briggs in South Dakota. Understandably confounded, Cole reroutes the flight to Buckhorn.

Back with bad Coop again as he wanders onto the property marked by the red handkerchief. There he comes across a man, Hutch (Tim Roth), who was expecting him the night before. Hutch is a scrounger and Coop needs some phones and a fresh weapon. Then out of nowhere a familiar face, or newly familiar, at least, reappears: Chantal, (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who was last seen in the premiere.

On the plane, Cole asks Diane if it’s cool they detour. “Fuck you” is her reply, but he says it’s a blue rose case, and one “important” to her. She agrees, then tries to check something on her phone but it comes up “blocked.” Elsewhere in the plane Tammy gets another call for Cole. She takes it to him as he’s grabbing a couple of vodkas from the plane’s stash. On the phone is Warden Murphy from South Dakota with the news that bad Coop has flown the coop. I swear I was typing that line right as Cole said it.

Speaking of bad Coop, he sends a text to an unknown recipient: “around the dinner table the conversation is lively.” He then makes a call to Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) in Las Vegas. “Did you do it?” Coop asks him. “Not yet,” Duncan replies. “Better be done the next time I call.” This is the whole conversation, then Duncan calls for “Roger” to come into the office.

Hutch delivers the goods bad Coop asked for, but there’s one more request: kill the Warden within two days, then bad Coop will have two more for them in Vegas, details to be texted later after the Warden is dead. Two more in Vegas have to be Janey-E and Dougie, right? Or worse, Janey-E and Sonny Jim? Whoever they are, for the moment Hutch tells Chantal to give the boss a “wet one,” establishing his relationship as her cuckold. Lynch loves him some nontraditional sexual behavior. Meanwhile bad Coop hits the road, telling the other two to clear out of this place.

At a police station in Vegas, “Dougie” and Janey-E are in the lobby while Dougie’s boss Bushnell talks to the cops, who are wondering if he knows any reason someone would want to kill Dougie. This is about the failed assassination attempt carried out by Ike the Spike at the end of episode seven. Bushnell laughs off the notion. The cops ask Dougie’s background: Bushnell says he’s been with the company 12 years. The cops note how “slow” Dougie is, and Bushnell says he was in a car accident shortly before coming to work for the company, so he has moments of mental confusion. This is new information, and somewhat odd as everyone else who knows him has commented on Dougie’s strange behavior since good Coop took him over. But it seems this loaf’s always been only half-baked; copy-of-a-copy problems, no doubt. Bushnell then acknowledges that the assassination attempt in tandem with the explosion of Dougie’s car in Rancho Rosa is strange business. The cops concur and let him go. On his way out, Bushnell stops by Dougie and gives him the rest of the day off, but says starting tomorrow they need to work together to get some answers. Whether this is in reference to the assassination attempt, or the drawings Dougie made on the case files by which Bushnell was so captivated in previous episodes, remains unsaid, but I’m thinking the latter.

The cops talk amongst themselves about how there’s nothing on Dougie before 1997, nothing. It’s like he didn’t exist, which we know he didn’t. 1997, though, makes Dougie’s first appearance six years after the end of Twin Peaks season two and the emergence of bad Coop. The cops wonder if Dougie’s in witness protection, and decide to check out that angle. Then one of them (David Koechner) has an idea. He strolls over to Dougie and Janey with a fresh mug of coffee for Dougie, who eagerly accept it. This is a ploy, though, to get the mug Dougie had been drinking from and lift prints and DNA from it. Speaking of prints, that slab of flesh found at the crime scene turned out to be a palm, from which they were able to identify Dougie’s assailant, and it’s someone the cops know, their “old friend” Ike the Spike. Furthermore, they got a 20 on him, so head out. In the lobby, Coop becomes transfixed by an American flag in the corner, remembering his oath to country as an FBI agent, perhaps, but as he’s staring, a woman walks by in red heels, which distracts his attention and leads it to an electrical socket, like the kind he entered this world through. Thinking of jumping to another dimension, Coop? Or is this a subtle nod to the impending arrival of Audrey Horne in an episode or two? The heels remind him of her, I’m thinking, and the socket is a way to travel to her, possibly, assuming she’s the billionaire who owns the glass box. I could be just throwing darts in the dark, but even then a bullseye isn’t impossible.

Cut to a cheap motel elsewhere in Vegas where Ike the Spike is leaving a message for “JT,” who it sounds like he’s been trying to get in touch with awhile now. The message is: “no cigar, taking medical leave.” Outside, though, the fuzz is gathering. Ike polishes off a bottle of Evan Williams while taking a long hard look in the mirror, then grabs his bags to head out. The cops confront him in the hallway. He tries to evade but they have him surrounded, and arrest him for attempted murder.


Then we’re in Twin Peaks, at the Sheriff’s Department where Lucy’s doing some online shopping for a comfortable chair. She shares her preference for beige upholstery with Andy, but he likes it in red. They go back and forth but eventually Andy yields. The encounters between these two make for some tedious scenes, to be sure, but as someone who writes about Twin Peaks live, honestly, it’s nice to get a little break in the big action. Lucy orders the chair in red anyway. That’s sweet, I guess.

Suddenly we’re in a house where a grown man in pajamas is running around playing a rambunctious game of hide-and-seek from a woman calling after him. And she’s calling him “Johnny.” My heart skipped a beat thinking this is Johnny Horne, Audrey’s developmentally-disabled brother who used to be tutored by Laura Palmer. The credits confirm as much, as they confirm that the unseen woman calling after him is Sylvia Horne, Ben’s wife and Johnny and Audrey’s mother. In his zeal Johnny smashes into a wall and cracks open his skull. It looks like a pretty serious injury, possibly fatal. If so, I bet five bucks right now this is how Audrey comes into season three, returning to Twin Peaks to attend her brother’s funeral.

Then, just as suddenly we’re in the Briggs’s house, as in Bobby’s mom’s Betty’s house (Charlotte Stewart, in her first season three appearance). Bobby’s there on official business with Hawk and Sheriff Frank Truman. They need to ask her some questions about the Major’s visit with Agent Cooper the day before the Major died, back in the 90s. Betty has been expecting this. After that meeting, she says, Garland pulled her aside and described this very moment to her, these exact men coming to her in the future – though admittedly she thought it was going to be the other Sheriff Truman, Harry – and asking about Cooper. He squeezed her shoulders when he told her this, but said no more, except, “when they come to ask you about Agent Cooper, you give them this.” She takes them to her living room, to a chair there with a secret compartment with a slender metal tube inside. Betty provides a nice moment here telling Bobby how the Major never lost faith in his son, despite Bobby’s turbulent adolescence. This scene is a mirror to the moment in the original series when the Major described a dream to Bobby in which he saw him ultimately happy. In the present timeline, Betty gives the metal tube to Frank.

Buckhorn, South Dakota: Diane, Cole, Tammy, and Albert arrive at the morgue where they’re met by Lt. Knox and Detective Macklay. Laura Dern continues her defiant and crude push for all the awards as Diane; she’s the highlight of every episode she’s in, whether in the forefront or the background. As the others go to meet with the coroner, she remains in the waiting room checking her texts. She has one from an unknown sender but it’s a message we recognize, the one bad Coop sent before leaving Hutch and Chantal. Diane contemplates a response.

As Macklay and Knox lead the others to the morgue, they bring them up to speed about how the victim, Ruth Davenport, was having an affair with William Hastings (Matthew Lillard), a local principal. They describe the crime scene with Briggs’ headless body. Macklay also reveals that Hastings’ wife was found dead right after Hastings was taken into custody, shot through the head, apparently by the couples’ lawyer. But we know she was murdered by bad Coop, who framed the lawyer. Furthermore, Hastings’ secretary has since died in a car explosion. Lot of death around this guy, like he was born under a bad sign. Briggs’ body is revealed. As they look it over, Macklay reveals one more significant nugget of new info: Ruth and Hastings were publishing a blog about “an alternate dimension.” Oh shit, they’re talking about The Black Lodge, now it’s coming together. A week ago Hastings concluded his final entry with the line: “today we finally entered what we call ‘the zone,’ and we met the Major.” The neighbors are calling the cops at this point because it sounds like I’m having a heart attack over here. Hastings and Ruth, they’ve been in The Lodge. A Lodge, at least. And did anyone else immediately think Tarkovsky’s Stalker when it was referred to as “the zone?” Cuz I did. Albert notes the headless body is that of a man in his 40s, and not the age Briggs should be. Cole and Albert take an aside to discuss this, how the body is the age Briggs would have been back in the 90s when he supposedly died in a fire. Cole tells Albert to consider the coincidence that Coop knew Briggs, and now after a quarter-century they both just happen show up for the first time in the same neck of the woods. The coroner Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) has one more thing to show them, a ring found in the Major’s stomach, engraved “to Dougie from Janey-E.” This is all curious enough that Cole decides they need to speak with Hastings. I’m still formulating what all this means, but as anyone who knows Twin Peaks knows, a ring is never just a ring.

In the woods surrounding Twin Peaks Jerry Horne is still freaking out on the sticky-icky. He and his foot are arguing about who’s what; the foot seems to be winning. This seems like nonsense, but it has to be going somewhere, this is the second such scene of Jerry we’ve seen, they can’t just be pointless character development, he’s going to find something, or somewhere.

Back at the Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Chad’s on his lunch break. Truman, Hawk, and Bobby interrupt, tell him to scoot. He scoots in his typically petulant manner that this time reminded me of a muted version of Paul Rudd cleaning up his tray in Wet Hot American Summer. Once Chad’s gone (and they open a window) the real cops get down to business, namely the metal tube Betty gave them. There are no openings on it, though, they can’t figure it out. But Bobby can, he knows exactly what it is, the Major brought one home one time. To open it they have to go outside. They do, and Bobby throws the tube on the concrete. It reverberates like a tuning fork. Bobby listens until it stops then throws it again. No ringing this time. Instead it opens, and inside is a scroll of paper. On the paper? “253 yards east of Jack Rabbits palace,” then the time “2:53” below a sketch of twin triangles, twin peaks, one with a red circle above it, one with the plump black “horned” symbol we saw on the playing card bad Coop had in the premiere, and above that a red, downturned crescent. Then on the right side of the scroll, “Before leaving Jack Rabbits palace put some soil from that area in your pocket.” These are directions to Glastonbury Grove, I’ll bet you, the opening to The Black Lodge in Ghostwoods Forest around Twin Peaks. As for the soil at the palace, this is likely some kind of protection from the pull of The Black Lodge, or possibly an entry requirement to The White Lodge. Then there are written two dates, 10/1 and 10/2; today’s September 29th. The “palace” doesn’t ring with any of them, except Bobby: Jack Rabbits palace is a make-believe world the Major and Bobby would talk about in a special place in the woods. This doesn’t come across on the show nearly as creepy as it does when I write it. Anyway, the plan is for them to go up to the appointed place in two days at the appointed time and see what happens. Then they notice a second sheet of paper in the scroll. They don’t recognize it but we do: it’s a scrap from the satellite printouts Briggs showed Coop back in the old series, specifically a scrap which repeats Cooper’s name. But only twice, which Hawk notes. The inference is, they’re looking for two Coopers, one good, one bad.

Diane’s catching a smoke break outside the morgue in Buckhorn when Cole and Tammy come out to join her. Albert’s “indisposed.” Verrry awkward interaction here, with no one talking, just exchanging meaningful glances that would seem to indicate Diane sees through Cole’s “professional interest” in Tammy, an assumption seemingly confirmed when Cole bums a drag of Diane’s smoke and Tammy chides him for it, not like an underling but like someone who cares for him personally. Cole, you old dog, you.

William Hastings shows up for the first time since the premiere in an interrogation room. Cole sends in Tammy while he, Macklay, Albert, and Diane watch. Tammy asks Hastings about “The Search for the Zone,” his blog, and what he writes about, specifically the entry about entering a different dimension. He says it’s all real. She asks how long he’s been interested in the subject. “Many years,” but recently he found the zone, entered it, and encountered the Major. He says Ruth uncovered some info that said if they went to a certain place at a certain time they would enter the zone. This is another entry point to The Lodge like Glastonbury Grove he’s talking about, but in South Dakota, not Twin Peaks, and my wife is super-pissed at this point because I’m pausing the show every 17 seconds to type. The Major was hiding in the zone, “hibernating” as he said, but thought others were soon to find him so wanted to go somewhere else, somewhere safer. He asked Hastings and Ruth to get him numbers, coordinates – presumably the same ones bad Coop had Ray looking for – and they found them in a secured military database to which Briggs directed them. This little tidbit would seem to indicate the military is still investigating The Lodges, either through Project Blue Book or a new committee. Tammy asks for these coordinates but Ruth had them, not Hastings. She gave them to the Major last Thursday. Hastings says “others” came in and held him down, demanded to know his wife’s name. Ray and the other bad Coop co-horts, no doubt. Hastings then insists he didn’t kill Ruth, he loved her. Tammy shows him pictures and asks him to identify the Major. He points right to Garland. Tammy asks him what happened next: Hastings and Ruth gave up the numbers, then Garland started to float upwards as he said some words, “Cooper Cooper,” then his head disappeared. Sounds a lot like what happened to the Giant/???? last episode as he birthed the Laura bubble. Hastings says it was beautiful, but when it was over Ruth was dead, then a beat later Hastings wakes up at home, in bed. Tammy asks Hastings if the Major killed Ruth. Hastings says no, the Major didn’t kill Ruth, “there were so many people,” and just like that I think I get it. Hastings, like Phillip Jeffries before him in Fire Walk With Me, stumbled upon a meeting of the denizens of one Lodge or another. Hastings maintains his innocence in regards to Ruth’s death and says he doesn’t know what’s happening to him. But I think I do: The White Lodge tried to use Hastings to help Briggs counter bad Coop, possibly by either bringing the Major back into the real world, or intercepting good Coop on his way back into it, but either way The Black Lodge sent reinforcements to thwart this. Like I said, I think. One thing I know for sure, though: Matthew Lillard is killing it as Hastings, best work he’s ever done, award-worthy.

The next scene goes down in The Great Northern, where Ben Horne and his secretary Beverly (Ashley Judd) are still trying to suss out the source of the mysterious hum heard only in her office. Security checked everywhere but found nothing. Ben and Beverly focus on the corner with a standing lamp where the hum seems to be loudest. She notes how mesmerizing the tone is and he agrees, comparing it to a monastery bell. Or, I think, to the sound the metal tube made when Bobby first threw it against the concrete. This moment turns sensual, but Ben pulls back, he can’t do this, he rebukes Beverly’s non-advance, which she respects, calling him a good man. Has she met Ben Horne?

Then the music starts at The Bang Bang Bar. A young woman, Ella (Sky Ferreira), sits alone in a booth sipping an ice-cold Rainier. Another girl, Chloe, joins her. Both are grungy, meth-y, Chinese-designer-drug skeezy. Chloe asks if Ella knows “that the zebra’s out again?” This is somehow funny. Chloe notes they haven’t seen each other in a while, which Ella says is because she got fired for coming in high too many times. My immediate impulse was to think they were co-workers at One Eyed Jacks, but nope, it was somewhere serving burgers. Damn my overactive mind. Ella has some kind of gross rash in her armpits. Side effect of the drugs? Then she asks if Chloe has “seen the penguin?” as she scratches her rash, which looks really, really bad. And that’s the weird note on which we close.


In a lot of ways, this felt like the second episode we might have gotten if Twin Peaks was a linear narrative. Most of the plotlines here were begun in the premiere and largely left alone until now – the numbers, Briggs – and the most important characters – Hastings, Chantal – hadn’t been seen since that episode, either. Those left worrying after last week if Lynch was veering into more esoteric territory were rewarded with a plot-driven episode and furthermore, one that would seem to say the series’ narrative boulder has reached its first peak and is now rolling down the other side, picking up speed, churning up debris, and coming closer and closer to its inevitable destination, though that, of course, is still shrouded in total darkness.

One of the big regrets I had going into season three was the fact that Don S. Davis, the actor who played Major Briggs, was no longer alive, because Lynch and Frost made it quite apparent in the last few episodes of season two that whatever the future of Twin Peaks was, Briggs was going to be a big part of it. But I should have known better than to think Lynch and Frost would let something like death interrupt their story, and I am so very, very impressed with how they have not only worked Briggs into the new season, but how they have managed to keep him as integral as he needed to be. It is the most fitting tribute I can conceive of, to the man and the character, and it proves another important distinction the creators of Twin Peaks have over others in their field: a long-term emotional connection. This isn’t entertainment to Lynch and Frost, I’m not even sure they think of it as art. I think this is family to them, and as such they bring to the material an affinity and respect others just can’t emulate.

What a beautiful tragedy we have unfurling here. Nine episodes down. Nine to go. See you back here next week.

Related Topics: ,

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist