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TWIN PEAKS Revisited: Episode 27 – ‘Variations on Relations’

The mysteries of Owl Cave continue to unfold on today’s episode of Twin Peaks, and Agent Cooper’s former partner Windom Earle finally does something more than make threats. This episode was written by series creator Mark Frost, back after some time away from the series, and Harley Peyton, and directed by Jonathan Sanger, in his only series directing credit. Co-creator David Lynch appears for the last time on the show as FBI Agent Gordon Cole in this episode as well. As always, all the previous Twin Peaks: Revisited columns can be found right here , so it’s not too late to catch up. And this is, also as always, a spoiler-free recap for anything that takes place after the particular episode we’re recapping.

Episode 27: “Variations on Relations” – Aired April 11th, 1991

Cooper, Truman and the others return to Owl Cave, although I’m not entirely sure why they left as soon as they discovered the leaver with the symbol on it. It seems that was maybe the moment not to leave and take a break. They come back to find that someone has been in the cave in their absence: Windom Earle. He inverted the leaver and a large scale petroglyph appeared on the cave wall. Coop asks Andy to replicate the petroglyph as a drawing, although I’m not sure why they can’t just take a photograph. The Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department is only making bad decisions when it comes to Owl Cave.

At Widom Earle’s cabin, he weaves the tale of the mythical realms known as the White Lodge and the Black Lodge to his faithful servant Leo, and to some metalhead dude he lured there with the promise of beer and a party, played by none other than Ted Raimi. He gets bored talking about the saccharine and wonderful White Lodge, but lights up as he tells of the Black Lodge as a place of unimaginable power and darkness, and his desires to find the lodge and harness that power. Poor Ted Raimi just wants a beer.

Over at the Packard home, Pete Martell is going on about the dead Josie (who he secretly loved) when Catherine breaks up his mope fest by trying to get Pete to help her open the puzzle box that Thomas Eckhardt’s assistant left to her when he died. There is no discernible way to open it, and Pete thinks it’s all about positioning the box in just the right way. Catherine just gets frustrated, but he lets her know that such things take time, and it could even be years before they can figure out the trick to opening this box. Catherine does not have the patience for years, she wants it open now.

At the Double R, Bobby is lecturing Shelly about how beautiful people get everything they want, and to use her looks to her advantage. “When was the last time you saw a beautiful blonde go to the electric chair?” he says (he has a point actually.) Since the supposed money machine that was Leo dried up and then tried to kill them, Bobby needs to find a new way to make money off of his married girlfriend who’s a waitress, so he does his best to convince her to join the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant. Also at the diner is the returning Lana the “sex goddess” with her ancient lover, Mayor Milford, to whom she is now engaged, and who she is trying to convince to rig the beauty pageant so she can win. I have no idea why this character is back, but at least this scene is mercifully short.

Coop walks into the Diner and orders up some donuts and coffee from Annie, and then asks her out on a date for a “nature study.” When she says yes, Coop turns into a little boy and says “when I talk to you I get a tingling sensation in my toes and in my stomach.” It’s kind of adorable. At the counter ringing Coop up, Shelly quotes part of the poem that Windom Earle sent her, Donna, and Audrey. Cooper instantly recognizes it as a poem he once sent Caroline Earle, Windom’s wife with whom he had an affair. Back at the station, Hawk brings in Donna Hayward’s poem, and makes a connection. He asks Sheriff Truman to bring in Leo Johnson’s arrest report.

In the conference room, Major Briggs is helping Andy with the recreating the Owl Cave petroglyph on the chalk board, when Agent Cooper comes in and asks the Major for help. “The Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department is undergoing several separate investigations-the disappearance of known felon Leo Johnson, the appearance of my former partner and suspected murderer Windom Earle, and the discovery of petroglyphs of unknown origin in Owl Cave. Now it would seem logic dictates that these mysteries are separate entities and not connected, but I believe otherwise, but I believe they are all complimentary verses of the same song. But I can’t hear it…yet. But I can feel it.”

Coop asks the Major to find out anything he can about Windom Earle’s time in the Air Force’s Project Blue Book. The Major knows he’d be breaking several oaths by leaking this information. He tells Cooper he recognizes the petroglyph, from a dream (or memory?) having to do with his recent disappearance. As Briggs stares at the petroglyph, he has visions in his head – a hooded figure, fire, and an owl. When Coop assures him that his help will prevent further loss of life, the Major agrees to assist. Hawk comes in with Leo’s arrest report, and Cooper goes over his handwriting. It’s confirmed for him now-the poem sent by Windom Earle to the girls was transcribed by Leo Johnson.

At the Great Northern, Dick Tremayne, sporting a serious bandage over his nose from the weasel incident, is now hosting a wine tasting benefit for Benjamin Horne’s “Stop Ghostwood” campaign. He runs into Ben and not subtly asks for some form of worker’s compensation for his recent weasel related injuries. Ben agrees, but then tells himself “sometimes the urge to do bad is nearly overpowering.”

At Earle’s cabin, metalhead dude played by Ted Raimi is inside some kind of huge paper mache…something, that Earle and Leo are putting together. “Is this like, for the Lilac Parade?” he says. No, not a parade. “So how do I get out of here man?” he asks, to which Earle simply responds, “You don’t.” He orders Leo to fetch an arrow for his crossbow, and when Leo realizes what that means, he refuses (Leo post-coma cares a lot more about the lives of the innocent people it seems.) This angers Daddy Windom, who actives his electric collar, sending Leo into painful convulsions. “Fetch.Me.The.Arrow.” Says Windom. He doesn’t need to ask a third time.

Earle begins to speechify to Ted Raimi about how fortunate he is: “Think of all the hapless sinners thinking of where their soul’s destination lies. And for what? To gain the answer to a simple question: Where will my spirit awake? What life am I given after this life? This grave question has plagued Man’s sorry conscience for eons, and now you, you lucky boy, you have the answer!” He shoots him right then, and leaves his body in the giant paper mache object.

Ben is at the Roadhouse where the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant auditions are being held, and tries to persuade the judges, which are Doc Hayward, Pete Martell and the Mayor, to give the pageant an environmental theme, in association with his whole “Stop Ghostwood” thing. Bobby is there with Shelly, as is Donna, who’s also entering. Nadine walks in with Mike, and Bobby pulls his old buddy aside, and asks what is up with him and Nadine. “This is very scary Mike.” Mike assures him it’s not exactly what he thinks. Bobby asks Mike “where did you get this sudden interest in the life of fossils?” (Damn Bobby, Nadine is only supposed to be 35. That’s not even a cougar yet!) Mike tells Bobby “Do you have any idea what a combination of sexual maturity and superhuman strength can result in?” Whatever the answer is, he whispers it in Bobby’s ear, to which Bobby screams WHOA! to a startled Roadhouse. Nadine just looks over at Mike and gives him a sexy li’l wink. I don’t think Bobby will be questioning Mike’s dating choices anymore.

At the Martell home, Truman is asking Catherine for help in trying to understand Josie, and and all her duplicitous behaviors. Catherine tells Harry, that early in her life, Josie must have learned to survive by being what other people wanted to see, and by showing them that. She shifted to suit the moment. Whatever was left of her private self she might have never shown to anyone. “Despite what she tried to do to me and my family…I find it curiously hard to hate her for it.” Catherine then asks Harry’s help with the puzzle box Eckhardt left her when he died, thinking it might have something to do with Josie. Pete walks in and tries his hand with the box, and drops it…which opens it, and inside there is yet another box, with a curious looking lunar cycle pattern on the front.

Cooper and Annie are on a boat on the lake, and Annie tells him she feels closer to nature than people. She tells Coop that she had a boyfriend in high school, and that he was the reason she went into the convent. She realizes that she had to come home, where her life went so wrong, to try and fix things. The two share their first kiss on the lake, and it’s all very romantical. Of course, Windom Earle is watching them though a pair of binoculars, disguised as a fisherman. Considering that Coop knows that Earle is threatening the lives of women he’s just acquainted with, it’s kind of selfish of him to get involved with a new relationship right at this moment in time, since it paints a giant target on Annie’s head. But love makes you crazy I guess.

At the Double R, Gordon Cole, played by David Lynch, is talking to Shelly at a booth, telling her stories about his adventures in the FBI, and in normal voice. For whatever reason, Shelly is the only person who can hear him. As Soon as Coop and Annie walk in, he starts shouting again. When he sees Annie, he yells “THIS WORLD OF TWIN PEAKS SEEMS FILLED WITH BEAUTIFUL WOMEN” (And you would know, you cast them all.) Before he leaves, he kisses Shelly on the lips, just as Bobby walks into the diner and we hear a literal record scratch, and he asks what the hell is going on. Gordon answers, in usual loud voice, “YOU ARE WITNESSING A FRONT/THREE QUARTER VIEW OF TWO ADULTS SHARING A TENDER MOMENT. TAKE ANOTHER LOOK, SONNY, IT”S GONNA HAPPEN AGAIN.” Bobby looks pissed, but Shelly seems to be enjoying making him jealous.

At The wine tasting at the Great Northern, Dick is being his pretentious self, and the whole wine tasting is played for laughs, but unlike the weasel riot, it is actually kind of funny. It’s all in Dick’s delivery of his lines as he describes the ingredients of each wine. As a scene it’s kind of a waste of story time, but I’ll admit I chuckled when Lucy spit the wine in Dick’s face because she’s pregnant and can’t drink.

In another room at the Great Northern, both John Justice Wheeler and Coop are sitting in front of the fire, waxing about how love is hell. (Little does John know that Coop was very recently the object of his beloved Audrey’s affection.) John Wheeler then receives an urgent telegram informing him that he’s being written out of the show that his business partner in Brazil has been murdered. He has to check out of the hotel right away and fly to South America.

Donna is having dinner with her parents (where are her two younger sisters?? Do they fall into the same black hole that Richie Cunningham’s older brother Chuck did on Happy Days?) She is throwing plenty of shade at her mom for the roses she received from Ben Horne, and Eileen isn’t doing her best job of not looking like she’s hiding something (she also looks like she’s dressed like a Pilgrim for some reason.) Donna informs them she’s joining the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant, because if she wins the scholarship money she can use it to go overseas to study, and, I assume, get the hell away from her clearly lying parents.

It’s now night, and at the gazebo at Easter Park, a large six foot wooden box appears with a handle in the front that says “pull me.” Cooper is now totally perplexed by Windom Earle’s actions, saying he is now playing “off the game board.” Truman has determined that there is no metal in the box, so it can’t be a bomb. “Windom Earle merely condescends to logic, leaving us to unravel an insane man’s terrifying caprice.” Coop finds a way to open the box, and inside is a giant paper mache chess piece (so that’s what that thing was)  with the head of  poor dead Ted Raimi sticking out of it, with a note attached: “Next time, it will be someone you know.”

Episode Trivia

As mentioned previously, the poor metalhead guy that Windom Earle kills and stick in a giant paper mache chess piece is played by beloved genre character actor Ted Raimi, brother of Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogy director Sam Raimi. Ted makes cameos in almost all of his brother’s movies, and had a recurring role on Xena: Warrior Princess, which his brother produced, as Joxer.

This episode was directed by Jonathan Sanger, who is mostly known as a producer. In the seventies, he acquired the rights to the story of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, and brought the property to Mel Brooks. The 1980 film The Elephant Man was his first producing credit. The man he brought in to direct the movie was none other than David Lynch, who ended up with his first Oscar Nomination for that film.

Realizing that the clock was ticking on the lifespan of the series, David Lynch clearly wrote a scene to have his character somehow get to kiss the beautiful Madchen Amick (Shelly.) It’s shameless, but you can’t really blame him either.

Final Verdict

Another perfectly decent and charming episode of the show, filled with enough of the things you like about the series to make you forget that not a whole hell of a lot happens in this chapter. The mysteries surrounding Owl Cave continue to be intriguing, and Windom Earle, maybe for the first time, comes off as genuinely menacing, and Ted Raimi in anything helps make it better. The comic relief stuff with the wine tasting event is silly, but mostly funny, as is the stuff between Shelly and Gordon Cole (although, once again, it’s shameless.) This episode can’t begin to match anything in the first seventeen episodes of the series, but it’s all just pleasant enough and interesting enough to be a good Twin Peaks episode.

Episode Rating:  3  burritos out of 5

3 burritos


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