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TWIN PEAKS REVISITED: Episode 2 — “Traces To Nowhere”

Welcome to the second Twin Peaks: Revisited! This week, we’ll re-cap and review the second episode of the series, titled Traces To Nowhere. It should be noted that the episode titles aren’t really official–the original airings have no titles, and neither do the DVD or Blu-ray sets. No one’s really sure where they came from, but Netflix does use the titles, as does Wikipedia, so we’re gonna go with them for now. Plus, any title is more poetic than “Episode Two.”

If you’re a newbie who is watching the show for the very first time, worry not–there’s won’t be any spoilers of any significance for future episodes within. And if you’re new to the show and still wondering which character is which with this huge cast, I refer you to this link and this one, which have the old CD soundtrack scans that contain the entire season one cast and who plays them. It certainly helped me keep it all straight back in the day.

Episode 2: Traces To Nowhere. Aired April 12, 1990

The second episode of Twin Peaks is the one that set the template for the series from here on out. It was the first regular one hour episode, it was the first one filmed on sound stages built specifically for the series in Los Angeles to match the Washington state locales, and it was the first one that really hammered home that this show was indeed a prime time soap opera in the vein of Dallas… just a whole lot stranger. While the pilot episode was focused almost squarely on the murder of Laura Palmer, the second episode gives breathing room to all the other subplots and affairs going on in the town in true soapy fashion.

This episode was written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, but was directed by Duwayne Dunham, who edited the pilot episode as well as Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart (which Lynch was filming at the time of season one). His directive was to match the feel and style of the pilot in as many ways as possible, and he does a more than admirable job here.


The episode opens with a new location not seen in the pilot, but one that will become very familiar for the rest of the series: Room 315 at the Great Northern Hotel, Dale Cooper’s room. The camera pans down to see Coop hanging upside down on a large pipe on the ceiling talking to his secretary Diane via his tape recorder. He goes on about the excellence of his living quarters in an endearingly OCD way, all while having a total non sequitur moment where he ponders what really went on with Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy family. We then cut to Cooper having ordering breakfast in the Great Northern’s dining room, where he savors his first cup of morning coffee like he was a man dying of thirst. “You know….this is, excuse me, a DAMN fine cup of coffee.” And thus, a catchphrase is born. These two scenes set the tone for who Dale Cooper is maybe even more than the pilot.

In walks Audrey Horne. Both Cooper and Audrey have an immediate attraction to each other. Where Audrey only appears as brat looking to spoil her father’s business dealings in the first episode, it’s her introduction in this episode where her character really come to life. She explains to Cooper how she and Laura Palmer weren’t really friends, but she “understood her better than the rest.” Audrey flirts with Cooper in the silly, shameless way only teenagers can, and it’s adorable and smolderingly sexy at the same time. It’s in this scene we begin to understand that Audrey is the antithesis of Laura Palmer. While Laura pretended to be the good girl and the town’s wholesome pride and joy, she really had a much darker side. Meanwhile, Audrey pretends to be sexpot, but she’s just a mischievous schoolgirl with a crush on dashing stranger.


Our next scene takes place at the Sheriff’s station, when (after everyone is done chowing down on their donuts) Doc Hayward  gives the official post-mortem on Laura Palmer. She died from numerous shallow wounds, he says, not any one bad enough to cause death, and had sex with at least three men the night she died. Was one of them Bobby, Laura’s boyfriend, or James, her secret boyfriend? Both are locked up together at the Sheriff’s right now, Bobby for brawling at the Roadhouse, and James for suspicion in Laura’s murder. While Bobby and his oafish best friend Mike are locked up, we find out that both of them, and Laura, were involved in drug dealing with Leo Johnson, husband of Shelly, the same Shelly whom Bobby is having an affair with. Speaking of Leo, in the next scene we’ve got our pony-tailed angry trucker cleaning out his truck and forcing his poor wife Shelly to do his dirty laundry. Shelly finds a bloody shirt, which she hides, probably thinking this could tie her hubbie to Laura’s murder and maybe be put away for good. She’ll come to regret that decision by episode’s end.

After interrogating James about his relationship with Laura, Cooper feels confident that James is innocent (which means both of Laura’s boyfriends have been cleared of suspicion pretty quickly in the narrative). James does lie to the police about having the other half of the broken heart pendant. The first half was found at the murder scene, and James thinks it’ll tie him to the murder, so he and Donna buried it in the woods, only to have an unknown person unearth it and steal it. This is our first real indication that James is, shall we say, not particularly bright. Donna Hayward then reveals the details of James and Laura’s secret relationship to her mother, and her own guilt over having a relationship with her best friend’s lover. It’s a nice scene, and one of Lara Flynn Boyle’s best and most genuine acting moments on the show.


Coop and Truman go to visit Josie Packard to question her. Laura was her English tutor, so they wanted to know if there was anything unusual about Laura the day she died. Mostly, this scene serves as a way of revealing that Truman and Josie are seeing each other romantically, which Cooper intuits via “body language” (this is also the scene were Pete Martell serves everyone fish flavored coffee, one of the show’s more famous moments. Trust me, it’s funny in context). Josie was recently widowed from Andrew Packard, the owner of the Packard Saw Mill, who left everything to her. This infuriates Andrew’s sister Catherine, who wanted the mill to herself to sell to her lover, Great Northern owner Benjamin Horne. When the two realize that Josie will never sell, they plan a little arson in regards to the saw mill, all while having a tryst in a seedy motel room. The weirdest thing about this whole scene? Richard Beymer kissing Piper Laurie’s toes. I don’t even wanna know what that’s about.

Donna then goes to visit Laura’s distraught mother Sarah. Grace Zabriskie’s performance is so believable as a grieving mother it’s almost uncomfortable to watch. Her grief is starting to unhinge her and drive her mad, and for one moment she hallucinates that Donna actually is Laura. (The optical effect they use for this is really cheesy, and I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just use actress Sheryl Lee herself.) This is also the moment where Sarah Palmer has a vision of a menacing looking man with long hair sitting at the foot of Laura’s bed. Sarah screams (she does this a lot). Who is this man? And why is he so damn creepy??


We cut to Deputy Hawk, questioning the parents of coma victim Ronette Pulaski, who reveal that Ronette was a sales girl at Benjamin Horne’s department store. Hawk begins a long running series trope of being the officer at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department who seems to do the most actual work, and yet for some reason is only a deputy. He also sees a one-armed man skulking around the morgue (who was glimpsed in the pilot, briefly) only to follow him and have him disappear.

Next we see Audrey, swaying and dancing dreamily alone in her father’s office,when he barges in and asks her to” turn down this racket” (I love how in Twin Peaks, Angelo Badalamenti’s score is just the music that everyone in town happens to listen to). Ben scolds Audrey for her actions that drove his clients away in the pilot, and reminds her that while Laura died two days ago, he’d already lost Audrey years ago. We get a close up tight shot of Audrey’s face, as she silently simmers in anger.

Bobby, recently released from jail and cleared of killing his girlfriend , is seen next having dinner with his folks, Major Garland Briggs and his wife Betty. The Major is droning on about the events of the past few days (rather eloquently, but still droning on) and Bobby is being the shitty teenager that he is and essentially ignoring him. Had Twin Peaks continued longer, I’m sure we would have found out that Bobby wasn’t really the Major’s son. I just can’t believe such a POS like Bobby could have come from the enlightened and thoughtful loins of Major Briggs. I’m convinced the Briggs found him on their doorstep. When Bobby tries to light a cigarette at the dinner table and the Major slaps it out of his mouth (landing on Betty’s meatloaf!), it’s hard to blame him.

Coop and Truman then go to the Double R Diner, where Coop get his first intro to their cherry pie thanks to Shelly the waitress, and then proceeds to have two more slices. “Man oh man, you must have the metabolism of a bumblebee,” Harry says, and it’s hard for me not to come to that same conclusion. Let’s be honest, Coop should be way fatter, the way he eats. They question the Double R’s owner Norma Jennings, since Laura worked with the Double R’s Meals on Wheels program delivery meals to the elderly. That’s in addition to tutoring Josie Packard and Johnny Horne, going to high school, and being involved in the local drug trade. I’d ask when did she sleep?, but then again, she did do a lot of coke. Maybe she never did.

This scene is also our first real  intro to the Log Lady, merely glimpsed in the pilot. She informs Cooper that her log “saw something that night” but when it came time to ask the log, Coop balked at talking to a piece of wood. (Which is odd, since Coop seems pretty open minded. Besides, he’ll talk to Deputy Andy, there’s not much difference.) It’s not too big a spoiler to say that they should have talked to the log. That log knows shit.


Shelly then comes home, and even brings a slice of pie for her awful trucker husband. But Leo’s not having it, having discovered that his bloody shirt is missing. This is where we find out that Leo isn’t just an asshole with terrible hair, but also an abusive husband. As if just being a wife beater isn’t bad enough, he beats Shelly by stuffing a bar of soap into a sock and hitting her with it. It’s not only despicable, but super white trash. Poor Shelly. We now understand how a jerk like Bobby Briggs seems like the better option.

Our last scene finds us in Doctor Lawrence Jacoby’s Hawaiian themed office, where he pops in an audio tape that Laura made for him the night she died (when did Laura find the time to do all this stuff?? Oh right, she didn’t sleep, she was on drugs). Laura mentions getting lost in the woods again tonight, and mentions a “mystery man.” She also mentions that her secret boyfriend James was sweet but “so dumb” (on this we agree, Laura). We then see that it was Jacoby who stole the half heart necklace that James and Donna buried in the woods, which he’s keeping in an empty coconut. He holds it and cries, but crying because he misses Laura, or crying from guilt? And thus ends episode two.


Episode Trivia

-Duwayne Dunham, who directed this episode, was also the assistant editor on The Empire Strikes Back, as well as editor on Return of the Jedi. (Which David Lynch was asked to direct… imagine what that would have been like.) Dunham was actually the first person ever to wear the Boba Fett costume, and even gave the costume a test run before it ever had any color applied. He went on to direct an episode of Clone Wars for Lucas years later.

-This episode is the first to establish that each episode of the show represents one day in the timeline. Which means the events of the entire series AND the movie take place in just a little bit over a month. It’s the busiest month anyone has ever had, ever.

-The Marilyn Monroe reference by Cooper isn’t random — Mark Frost and David Lynch’s first collaboration together was a movie about Marilyn Monroe called Goddess, which never got off the ground. But it’s no surprise that Twin Peaks is also centered around a doomed blonde who dies under mysterious circumstances.

-When Cooper enters the Sheriff’s station early in the episode, we see a crew of welders with blow torches taking something apart near the entrance. It’s just their way of explaining why the Sheriff’s station doesn’t have a double set of doors like they do in the pilot, since the series was shot an a set made to match the actual location in Washington state. Most viewers wouldn’t have ever noticed (it took me years to notice) but it’s nice someone was paying attention to continuity on set.

-What did I just say about continuity? In Twin Peaks, continuity applies to everything — except the women’s hairstyles. Our first perpetrator is Audrey Horne, whose hair has miraculously grown overnight. And ya know what? Thanks God they ignored continuity here, because Sherilyn Fenn’s new do is quite fetching. Just chalk it up to something in the water in Twin Peaks that makes people’s hair grow overnight. It’ll happen to Donna and Norma later.

Final Verdict

While the second episode of the series isn’t quite as brilliant as the pilot, it does do an excellent job of setting up the tone for what the rest of the series will be like, and manages to juggle some thirty characters all in one episode — no small feat. It’s not ’til Game of Thrones that another series comes swinging out of the gate with a cast this huge with so many complicated relationships already in place. I’d go as far as saying this is the second best regular episode of season one. As for which is the best episode of season one…. come back next week.

Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos

4 burritos

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  1. Joel Bocko says:

    I think the pilot is the episode that sets up the universe and overarching narrative of Twin Peaks, but this is the episode that sets it up as an actual TV series that can carry on from week to week. It’s fascinating to watch that transition take place.