Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Einar Thorson (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #69)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Einar Thorson (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #69)


The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys eighty-two characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) as well as The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every weekday morning until the premiere of Showtime's new season of Twin Peaks on May 21, 2017. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

Einar is a garrulous visitor to Twin Peaks, seemingly as interested in having a good time as making business deals.


Friday, February 28, 1989 (into the next morning)
Sometime during this night (possibly after midnight), a drunken, noisy Icelandic investment group arrives at the Great Northern Hotel and they continue to party throughout the night, well into the early hours of the next day.

Wednesday, March 1, 1989
The Icelanders are still at it during breakfast. Einar eventually appears in the dining room, swinging a large bottle, to embrace Jerry Horne, who has been partying with them all night. They continue to sing. That night, Ben Horne – whom they’ve arrived to make a deal with – throws a party in their honor at the hotel. Various townspeople talk Einar’s ear off, though he hardly understand them and seems completely disinterested – a military man rambles about Icelandic folklore, while a baffled logger asks him “You mean to tell me your entire country is above the timberline?!” The chitchat is interrupted when Jerry seizes the microphone to make a welcome speech.

Thursday, March 2, 1989
A day later, and still the Icelanders are singing although by now they are translating popular American ditties: in this case, appropriately enough, “99 Bottle of Beer on the Wall.” All of their favorite tunes share this quality of monotonous repetition and Ben has finally had enough. He asks Jerry to escort them to the dining room. Jerry announces a road trip, and they are all off to One Eyed Jack’s, a Canadian bordello where Ben is finally able to sign the contract with Einar. Massaged by a prostitute amidst the lush red drapes of Jack’s, sipping wine, Einar is very enthusiastic about the Ghostwood deal. Ben seems even happier for the deal to be over with, handing Einar a large stack of chips and sending him off to the casino with a woman on each arm.

Saturday, March 4, 1989
Ben and Einar speak over the telephone, and Einar sounds distressed. He has just learned that a fire has consumed a mill on part of the property he invested in. Ben and Jerry try to reassure him and promise to fax over pertinent details – he can still be heard babbling as the phone hangs up on him.

Characters Einar interacts with onscreen…

Jerry Horne

Major Briggs

Pete Martell

Ben Horne

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Einar
Twin Peaks is one long, endless party to Einar – with everything other than drinking, singing, and massaging drawing a less-than-enthusiastic reaction (although at least he has food to chew on while the villagers bore him). Einar is one of those outsiders too wrapped up in his own trip to offer us much new perspective on the town. Meanwhile, his presence highlights the show’s cheerfully hammy side (the “99 Bottles” singalong is especially over-the-top), its willingness to run a goofy gag into the ground while maintaining its charm. Although he’s wacky himself, his presence also draws out the eccentricities of other characters, with both Briggs and Pete presenting themselves as quirky individuals (and if Einar isn’t much interested in them, we as viewers probably find their guileless curiosity more engaging). Einar also ties a bow – temporarily as it turns out – on the Ghostwood deal that haunts season one of the show, if “haunts” is the right word for a subplot that is far more worldly than the primary narrative.

Einar’s journey
Einar doesn’t really have an arc. He comes, he sees, he sings and signs. And boy oh boy does he sing (or rather, his whole group does – most of the time they’re offscreen, so it’s possible he isn’t always with them). The only scenes that really offer the slightly glimmer of development are the party and the contract signing. Watching his mild-mannered, disengaged response to Briggs and Pete leaves us wondering if this whole trip is a rarity for him – is he trying to live it up on a brief respite from a normally sober corporate lifestyle? We never really know; the character and his co-workers exist to add some aural color to episode 5 and to advance Ben’s story in the season finale.

Actor: Brian Straub
Like many actors tangentially involved with the series, Straub had a notable offscreen legacy – in this case due to his death as well as life. Two years after filming his scenes in Twin Peaks, Straub died of AIDS (he became sick while working as Woody Harrelson’s double in White Men Can’t Jump). In his memory and in accordance with his last wishes, his family founded a hospice which operated for sixteen years in Michigan. It closed its doors in 2012, but the community rallied to bring it back and a few months ago it opened once again.

Episodes
*Episode 5 (German title: “Cooper’s Dreams” - best episode)

Episode 6 (German title: “Realization Time”)

Episode 7 (German title: “The Last Evening”)

Episode 9 (German title: “Coma”) – voice faintly heard over a phone

Writers/Directors
Mark Frost can claim the lion’s share of writing credit for this character, authoring all but one of his scenes. Frost also directed Einar’s scenes at One Eyed Jack’s. Harley Peyton wrote his last scene in the Great Northern (directed by Caleb Deschanel), while Lesli Linka Glatter directed Einar’s first appearances. The phone scene, which they almost certainly didn’t bring Straub back to record (it sounds a bit like someone’s voice run backwards or at a different speed – at any rate, no particular words can be discerned), was written by Peyton and directed by David Lynch.

Statistics
Einar – or rather his voice (between the singing and the phone call) – is “onscreen” for roughly five minutes. He is present for ten scenes (we see him in six) and four episodes, taking place on three days. He’s featured the most in episode 5, when his arrival in town is celebrated. His primary location is the Great Northern and he shares the most screentime with Ben.

Best Scene
Episode 5: Einar politely gathers and munches on his food as townspeople express interest in his home country.

Best Line
“Vestigal…absolutely.”

Additional Observations

• As Einar's group sings away at 4:30 in the morning, we see Cooper in his own room complaining to Diane about the noise, and holding the recorder up to the ceiling so she'll be able to hear them. Later Cooper complains to Trudy the waitress about the racket and she explains who Einar's group is (our introduction to the Icelanders, save for a scene in an earlier episode when Ben speaks to Jerry over the phone about what party animals they are).

• After his last conversation with Ben (their unfortunate chat over the phone), we never see or hear of Einar again, and Ben is soon negotiating with another “foreign” investor. Therefore Einar must have somehow backed out of the contract.

• Einar’s group sings at least three different Icelandic songs – four if we include the translated American drinking song – though admittedly they all tend to blur together.

• Einar is shorter than I remembered; Ben towers over him, and other characters dwarf him too. Because he’s broad-shouldered, he seems bigger than he actually he is.

• Especially after The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Maj. Briggs’ inquiries about Icelandic legends and foklore feel very Frostian (and this is indeed an episode Frost wrote).


SHOWTIME: Straub passed away in 1991. There is no reason to believe his character would be in the new series, so a recast seems unlikely. We can speculate that, after reneging on the deal with Ben, Einar cast his eye about for another remote “investment opportunity” he and his gang could jet off to. Hell, maybe that was the plan all along, and the contract was just an inconvenient formality to get them there!

Tomorrow: Johnny Horne
Yesterday: Carl Rodd

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