‘That Zebra’s out again.’
‘Have you seen that Penguin, you know the Penguin?’
So here we go again, after a week off and what seemed like forever, I’m sure for most peaks fans out there, we return to Lynch/Frost’s masterpiece with Part 9: This is the chair.
For me, this episode kind of feels like that awkward follow up album. After the smash hit that was Part 8, they needed to pull something out of the bag in my opinion so this episode didn’t feel as much of a let down. After all, how the hell do you follow on from what we saw 2 weeks ago? Gotta light?
Well thankfully, Part 9 does have a light. And that light comes in the form of Betty Briggs and the mysterious metal cylinder. I’ll touch more on that later though.
Firstly, I just want to say that this, although I have been part of the 25YL team since sometime in March, is my first real Twin Peaks article. Although I am a huge fan of the show, I don’t claim to be very well-versed on all the theories and undercurrents of the show that so many people have voiced over the last 12 months. I really do feel that you can have too much of a good thing and I know that if I delve too deeply in to that side of Peaks, that it will spoil my experience of the show going forward, so I try to stay mostly clear. That said, this is only my third viewing of Part 9, and what I write here is based solely on what I know and have experienced from this rewatch. I’m not going to bring any outside influence in to this piece such as other peoples views on the revelations we see in this episode, or any information from Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks dossiers (mainly because I haven’t finished them). For all intents and purposes this is to be an almost innocent look at the episode and what made it special for me.
Now that i have the excuses out of the way, lets crack on shall we?
Part 9 is quite devoid of two things. Firstly, Mr.C, which I suppose could be a little disappointing owing to the fact that what we saw in Part 8 — depending on how you look at it — was all about Mr.C. We don’t seem to get many answers regarding what he experienced lying there in the wilderness; we just get two small scenes where he gets himself patched up by the oddly promiscuous Chantal and gets some new firepower from Tim Roth’s ‘Hutch’, who stands there rather happily while his wife shoves her tongue down Mr.C’s throat.
The relationship between Chantal and Hutch is a mysterious one. I can’t make my mind up if Hutch has been somehow brainwashed into offering up his wife to the ‘Boss Man’, or whether they are both just very kinky individuals, a point which is only reinforced for me when Hutch asks her if she wants to play with Warden Murphy before they kill him. I like to think that Hutch meant this in a sexual manner. Perhaps seduce him and take him to a motel or even just in to the back of their van. It’s almost as if she has this pent up sexual drive that has to be released regularly, but Hutch is unable to keep up with demand. They seem like the kind of couple who would have no qualms about putting their car keys in the fruit bowl, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, their story is cut abruptly short in the not-too-distant future, which is shame, if only because I think Tim Roth is a criminally underrated actor.
The second thing this episode is rather devoid of is Dougie Jones. For me, this is no biggie as I’m not so much a Dougie fan. There is however one scene near the beginning of the episode where the Fuscos interview Bushnell about Dougie. This isn’t so significant in itself other than the information which comes to light about Dougie having a car crash about 12 years ago and the fact that nothing is know about Dougie previous to 1997. We all know that Dougie was ‘manufactured’ by Mr.C to ensure he would be the one that is taken back in to the red room, but I am however intrigued about the car accident.
The other things that caught my eye in the rewatch which I didn’t notice properly before, were the way Dougie stared at the American flag in the waiting room and the very subtle music playing underneath. I actually had to pause the Blu-ray at this point because I wasn’t sure if the music was coming from next door. Following this, Dougie catches a glimpse of a plug socket which hums gently at him. It’s these little things that make me feel like Cooper is only just beneath the surface here. The flag taking him back to memories of the FBI and the plug socket bringing back memories of his birth into this world. The images are there, but they are out of focus. We can almost see our Cooper breaking through as he sits staring at the flag, only to be distracted by the woman walking past in the red shoes (Audrey Horne anyone?) and poof, he’s gone again. This is the frustrating part of it for me. The whole Dougie/Cooper zombie thing just went on too long.
Thankfully, for me at least, this episode features much more Twin Peaks than it does Las Vegas and there are some great little scenes interweaved throughout here. We have a typical little disagreement between Andy and Lucy over the colour of their new armchair. This scene is so reminiscent of old Peaks that it always makes me smile. We also have the return of Johnny and Sylvia Horne in an odd little scene where Johnny has been ‘let out’ and runs rampant around the house before knocking himself out by running headfirst into a wall. It was really nice to see these two again, even if we only see Sylvia’s hand. At first viewing this scene is much nicer, only because we had no idea how it connected to anything. Watching it now, it’s sad to know what follows on from this incident.
Two other little interludes feature the Horne brothers themselves. The scene where Ben and Beverly chase the odd ringing sound around Ben’s office still mystifies me, although I did notice this time that Ben refers to it as ‘otherworldly’. Could this noise have some kind of connection to ‘The Zone’? Or has Ben just been able to finally arrange his furniture just right?
Perhaps my favourite little snippet was of Jerry Horne talking to his foot. The first time I watched The Return, I was struck by just how many random oddities there seemed to be in the show that seemingly had no connection to the plot. I think what I was doing was thinking about them too deeply. When you sit back and enjoy them, it all comes together to create what we know and love of Twin Peaks. It just would not be the same without the odd stuff that doesn’t make any sense. These interludes for me are what made this episode so much more enjoyable. I forgot the mind fuck that was Part 8 and was just taken back to that happy place we call Twin Peaks.
The biggest part of the episode however was the story of Major Briggs. From the very start of the series we knew the major was going to play some sort of part in it all after his exchange with cooper where he simply says the phrase ‘Blue Rose’. In this episode however this all gets stepped up to another level. Sure we already had the Major’s body being found without his head but it was in this episode we started to get some answers.
The first of this comes in the form of a very touching scene where Bobby, Hawk and Sheriff Truman arrive at the Briggs’ residence to ask about the day that Cooper met with the Major just before his death, only Betty Briggs knew what they were going to ask as soon as they walked in the door. After telling them that Major Briggs already knew the three of them would one day come, she tells them that ‘This is the chair’, from which she produces a small metal cylinder. I have no idea of the significance of the chair however.
After getting in to the cylinder later in the episode, the three of them find two small slips of paper. One telling them to go to a place called ‘Jack Rabbit’s Palace’, in two days’ time.
Meanwhile, all the way down in South Dakota, Gordon, Albert and Tammy discover the Major’s body just as it would have been 25 years earlier. The body of a man in his forties, as Albert puts it. A moment that made me smile and also ache inside a little was the exchange between Albert and Constance Talbot where Albert asks where Hastings lost his marbles, only to be answered back an equally quirky answer from Constance, forcing the hint of a smile and undoubtedly a little respect from the normally immovable Rosenfield.
Following this scene, Tammy interrogates William Hastings on his blog and search for ‘The Zone’, where we get all sorts of answers about the Major. According to Hastings, he was able to enter The Zone and meet Major Briggs, where the Major told him he had been ‘hibernating’. I guess when I say ‘answers’, I mean more questions too. This is David Lynch after all.
Up to this point I had always thought of Garland Briggs as some sort of time traveller, which I guess could still be partly true, and I found his work extremely intriguing throughout the original run of the series.
What I love the most is that they kept the mystery behind his work and his experiences still partly secretive. Just how did the the Major know Bobby, Hawk and the Sheriff would come asking about Cooper and how did he know what date it was going to be? What the hell is The Zone and how was he able to keep himself from raging for 25 years? It’s still all questions even though we got some answers, though I don’t think I really want to know the answers.
For me, the Briggs story line is perhaps the best part of The Return. I was a big fan of the late Don. S. Davis and he was one of my favourite characters from the original run. His passing in 2008 was very sad and it’s even sadder that he couldn’t play more of a solid role in this series. What is warming is that David and Mark chose to keep the memory of Major Briggs alive and use someone who has been gone almost 10 years as such a pivotal part of the plot.
Not only does it do great justice to the memory of the great Don. S. Davis, but it adds real emotion to characters such as Bobby, who was such an ass in the original series. Here though we see he has turned himself around and is now one of the most likeable characters of the The Return. We can see how much The Major meant to Bobby and perhaps how much of an influence his father had on him as a grown man, not to mention on other folks in the town.
It’s a rare thing to see creators bring someone back to life in such a powerful way, even if they cant do the act physically. The show we see today is full of actors who are no longer with us, not just Don. Miguel Ferrer sadly passed away in January last year before the show aired and so too did we lose Warren Frost and the ever-mysterious Catherine Coulson. I found incredibly touching how David and Mark wove these characters in to the new story, knowing at the time that Catherine and Miguel sadly had little time left. I know for me at least, this is where the magic and the light of The Return really shone. Seeing the familiar faces of those who are no longer with us never ceases to make me smile, and I also feel a tiny part of myself break away.
I hope I didn’t break away too much there or get too soppy, but these are the things that really speak to me about the series, none more so than the revelations about the Major in this great Part 9. We have moved well over the half way mark now and it is very much a downhill run towards the end. Not that there aren’t many more twists and turns to be had. I hope you have enjoyed this piece as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and enjoy the rest of the rewatch!