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TWIN PEAKS REVISITED: Episode 10 – ‘Coma’

In this week’s Twin Peaks: Revisited, we recap the first regular-sized episode of the show’s second season, once again directed by series co-creator David Lynch. I remind all new followers of these recaps that you can find all the previous Twin Peaks: Revisited columns right here and catch up. And this is, as always, a spoiler-free recap.

Episode 10: “Coma” – Aired October 6th, 1990

During breakfast at the Great Northern, accompanied by a lovely barbershop quartet humming a tune in the background, Agent Cooper is explaining Buddhist Tibetan traditions and the history of “King Hathatha Rignamputsan and the Happy Generations” (thank God for DVD subtitles) to an extremely bored and uninterested Albert Rosenfield. Albert tells him the results of Jacques Renault’s autopsy, and explains that Jacques was snuffed with a pillow, and not strangled as they previously thought. The killer wore gloves and the tape used to bind his wrists was stolen from a hospital supply cabinet, and that’s pretty much all they know. Albert says the mill fire was definitely arson, and nominates Leo Johnson as the obvious suspect. They also know Ronette Pulaski has woken from her coma the night before, but isn’t speaking — yet. Albert then drops a big bomb on Coop, and tells him that Windom Earle, Cooper’s former partner, who retired to the “local laughing academy, complete with wrist restraints,” has vanished into thin air. “That’s not good,” Cooper says, visibly shaken by the news.

We then cut to Donna Hayward, who has taken over Laura’s role doing the Meals of Wheels, as she carries a tray of food to bed-ridden old woman named Mrs. Tremond. In Mrs. Tremond’s home there is an intense-looking little boy wearing a jacket and bow tie, watching as Donna explains to Mrs. Tremond that she’s taken over Laura’s place on the route. “Sometimes things can happen just like this,” the boy says, as he snaps his fingers, and suddenly creamed corn disappears from the food tray and appears in the boy’s hands. Mrs. Tremond tells Donna “My grandson is studying magic.” (This whole thing should freak out Donna way more than it does if you ask me.) Mrs. Tremond denies knowing Laura well when Donna asks her, but then she suggests that Donna ask “Mr. Smith, next door. He was Laura’s friend. Mr. Smith never leaves the house.” As Donna heads to the door, the little boy says in French, “I am a lonely soul.” Donna goes next door and knocks, but no one answers, so she leaves a note.

In Ronette Pulaski’s hospital room, Sheriff Truman and Cooper are having themselves an awkward moment trying to get some stools on wheels raise up and lock into position, so they spend like a minute of screentime reading the instructions before adjusting the stools, then sit next to Ronette’s bed. Although Ronette isn’t speaking, she is awake, and when Coop shows Ronette a sketch of Leo Johnson, she shakes her head in the negative when Coop asks if he was the man that hurt her. But when Coop shows her the sketch of BOB, Ronette reacts violently, convulsing, and knocking over her I.V.

At Ben Horne’s office in the Great Northern, Jerry and Ben debate the merits of burning the real or the faked Packard Saw Mill ledger, all while Jerry eats a “smoked cheese pig.” Not being able to come to a decision, Ben and Jerry decide to toast marshmallows instead. I don’t know what a smoked cheese pig is, but it looks really delicious and I want one.

Over at the Double RR, Deputy Andy is having a hell of a time taping the sketch of BOB captioned “Have you seen this man?” to the front door, right as the Log Lady enters and sits at the counter next to Major Briggs. Norma asks the Log Lady to spit her gum in an ashtray rather than on the counter, like she did the last time. Margaret looks pissed, but instead of getting into an argument with Norma, she takes the high road and simply orders a bear claw. She then tells the Major that her log has something to tell him. “Do you know the Log?” she asks him. The Major humors her and says that they haven’t been introduced yet. “I do not introduce the Log” says Margaret, annoyed. Apparently, the Log has a message for the Major, which Margaret will now “translate”. “Deliver the message,” she tells the him. He takes a moment and indicates to her that he understands exactly what this means.

At the sheriff’s office Andy tells Lucy that when he had applied as a donor to the Tacoma Sperm Bank, they told him he was sterile. “Sure, at first I thought that meant I didn’t have to take a bath, but then the doctors told me the truth, that I can’t have babies,” he confesses. So now he wants to know why Lucy is having one, and how. Lucy doesn’t answer, and just rips off a large piece of scotch tape stuck to Andy’s head. In Truman’s office, Harry has Hank sign as part of his weekly parole; both men are giving each other major attitude, and Cooper can tell these two have a history together. After Hank leaves, Harry tells Cooper he and Hank grew up together and that Hank used to be a Book House boy — one of the very best. At this point Ben Horne phones in and reports that Audrey has been missing for as much as two days. Ben being the concerned father that he is has only now just noticed.

Jerry brings the unsigned insurance policy to Ben and explains that Catherine wouldn’t sign it because of concerns about the beneficiary being Josie. They decide to call the Icelandic investment group, just as Leland Palmer enters. The Icelander tell Ben that Leland had already called to tell him about the fire. After Ben and Jerry calm the Icelanders down about the potential disaster, Ben suggests that Leland keep things simple for now, like just doing his taxes. Leland ignores Ben as soon as he sees a copy of the sketch of BOB on the table, and becomes fixated on it. He says that he knows the man in the sketch as someone who lived next door to his grandfather’s house at Pearl Lakes, back when he was a little boy. Leland leaves to tell the sheriff. Ben simply says to Jerry “please kill Leland.”

Back At the hospital Doc Hayward shows Leo to Shelly and tells her there’s a very good chance that Leo has permanent brain damage. Shelly asks if he’s a vegetable, but the Doc says only time will tell. Even though she wanted Leo dead, she can’t help but feel sorry for him, trapped in his own body like this.

At One-Eyed Jack’s, Audrey intercepts one of the “hospitality girls” who is carrying a bucket of ice to Emory Battis, the man who recruits girls from the perfume counter at Horne’s Department Store to work at the brothel. Emory is blindfolded and tied to sofa, while a girl in a cowboy hat pushes around a vacuum cleaner. (we all got kinks…some are just real specific is all.)  Audrey then tells the girl to leave, and then unplugs the vacuum and wraps the cord around the Emory Battis’ neck. “Heya Emory, remember me?” Audrey’s got him right where she wants him, and asks him to tell her everything he knows. Battis admits to working for the owner of One-Eyed Jacks, and confirms for Audrey that the owner is her father Benjamin, and that he did indeed recruit both Laura and Ronette Pulaski to work at the brothel. He says that one weekend Laura was caught using drugs and they threw her out, but he also says that her father knew that Laura was there,and “that Mr. Horne makes it his business to entertain all the girls” (eww.) He says that Laura always got her way, just like Audrey. So now we know how Laura and Ronette knew each other (both worked at One Eyed Jacks, where they meat Jacques Renault who dealt cards there, who recruited them to pose for Fleshworld, which had their pics taken at his cabin.) But none of these answers get us any closer to finding out who the long haired man who took the girls from Jacques’ cabin and killed Laura really is.

Bobby and Shelly are parked in his dad’s car, chilling out and listening to music. Bobby explains to Shelly that Leo can get his disability as long as he is out of prison, which is over five thousand a month, but only if Leo is home. Bobby convinces Shelly not to testify against her husband so she can go home and just start collecting checks. Shelly doesn’t seem too enthused about this, but goes along with whatever Bobby says. Get a backbone girl!

Coop is in his hotel room getting ready for bed, and starts to tell Diane about being very worried because of his former partner Windom Earle’s disappearance, and also explains his worry about the missing Audrey “I find myself thinking not of clues, but just the content of her smile.”  Major Briggs then visits Coop and tells him that he’s there to deliver a message for him. He explains that while his work in the Air Force is classified, he will divulge that part of his job includes maintenance of deep space monitors aimed at “galaxies beyond our own.” They routinely receive communications that are gibberish and noise, translated out as random numbers and letters. But the night before, in all that jumble of letters there was one among them was that was a clear message, one that came in late Thursday night, or early Friday– about the time Cooper was shot, he notes. The message was: “THE OWLS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM” -exactly what the Giant told him in the previous episode. When Cooper asks how he knew that this message was intended for him, the Major shows him another message that came in later that morning: COOPER, COOPER, COOPER, repeated many times over – time stamped right at the moment when he was shot.

Now we arrive at one of the cheesiest and worst scenes in all of Twin Peaks history, and one that knocks down a whole ratings point for what is otherwise a great episode: James, along with his “back up vocalists” Donna and Maddy, plays the guitar and sings a little Elvis/Buddy Holly 1950’s inspired tune he wrote called “Just You” in Donna’s parent’s living room, which they decide to record (well, I guess the trio need to divert themselves from the fact that their Nancy Drew antics sent Dr. Jacoby to the hospital like two days before and they don’t seem to care.) It’s a cute idea, but the problem is that James’ falsetto voice sounds terribly silly. While James “sings”, he makes eye contact with Maddy, who is looking all sexy, and Donna picks up on their “get a room” vibe, storming off in a teenage tantrum. James runs after her, right as Harold Smith calls, letting Donna know he got her note and would like her to visit tomorrow afternoon.

So we now go from the cheesiest scene in Twin Peaks ever to maybe the creepiest. David Lynch can change tones on a dime and this is the best example of that. Maddy sits alone in the Hayward living room, when she suddently sees BOB, slowly walk though the kitchen, climbing over the couch and right for her, looking to the viewer as if he’s going to jump out of the TV screen right at you. It’s pretty damn unsettling, and still freaks me out to this day. Maddy screams, and Donna and Maddy rush to her side, but BOB is gone…it was just a vision. Or was BOB really in the house?

Cooper is now in bed having another unsettling dream, although this dream is brief and isn’t anywhere near as creepy as the one he had in episode three. In this dream, we see several flashes, first The Giant telling him, “the owls are not what they seem,” then Ronette screaming after having seen the image of BOB, then another image of an owl superimposed over Sarah s vision of BOB from early on in season one, and finally Sarah going downstairs in slow motion, calling out her daughter Laura’s name on the morning her body was found. Coop is suddenly woken from his dream by a phone call from Audrey at One Eyed Jack’s, crying to Cooper on the phone – asking why he hadn’t come to her rescue. “Audrey, this is no time for school girl games, I want you home now.” Cooper says, but just as she promises to come home, the call is cut off, and Blackie tells Audrey that her troubles have only just begun.

Episode Trivia

This is the fourth episode of the show directed by David Lynch. He would direct two more after this-the one where the Laura Palmer mystery is solved, and the final episode. This is the only episode he directed that is “just” another episode-he directed the pilot, episode three (the Red Room/Dream episode, and the two hour second season premiere.) His episodes almost always involved major parts of the show’s supernatural mythology, and this was no exception.

The old woman, Mrs. Tremond, is played by actress Frances Bay, who appeared in many other David Lynch films, like Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart. Her grandson Pierre Tremond is played by David Lynch’s then ten year old son Austin Jack Lynch who looks just like a shrunken version of his old man. The pair don’t appear together in the series again, but return in the theatrical movie prequel Fire Walk With Me. By then, Austin Jack Lynch had outgrown the part, and he was replaced with David Lynch’s nephew, Jonathan J. Leppell, who looked somewhat similar.

The scene right before Cooper and Truman show Ronette Pulaski the sketches of BOB in the hospital room where they can’t seem to get the stools to work right wasn’t scripted apparently-they really couldn’t figure out the chairs, and Lynch just decided to film the two actors struggling till they got it. David Lynch loves that kind of thing-the scene in the pilot where the florescent lights don’t work in the morgue was similarly unscripted.

This was the first episode shown on Twin Peaks‘ new Saturday schedule. As expected, the ratings dropped sharply, and the show went from about 18 million viewers on Thursdays to about 14 million. Of course, by today’s standards of network viewership 14 million would get you an automatic two season renewal.

Final Verdict

This is maybe the least memorable of the six Lynch directed episodes of the series, but still, any Lynch episode towers over most of the others, so that’s not really a complaint. There are many memorable scenes that add to the overall mythology of the show in this episode, like the old woman and her creepy grandson, the random barbershop quartet, and Major Briggs revealing to Coop the “message” from space. And then there’s the BOB climbing over the couch scene, which haunts me to this day. Unfortunately, that James singing scene is so bad it puts a black mark over an otherwise great episode, so I had to take an additional half a burrito away. Sorry James.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos 





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