Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Jones (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #67)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jones (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #67)


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.

Jones’ presence is regal and unsettling; her diplomatic air cloaks a perverse sense of duty.


Sunday, March 19, 1989
An elegant, very formal, somewhat severe guest signs into the Great Northern Hotel. Her name is Jones, but she registers under the name Eckhardt and turns to look at her companion, standing by the fireplace in a black trenchcoat and dark shades.

Monday, March 20, 1989
Thomas Eckhardt, the man in the trenchcoat, hangs up the phone and tells Jones, “she has run back to Catherine Martell”; they speak in Afrikaans as she hands him a cup of tea.

Wednesday, March 22, 1989
Two days later, much has changed – including Jones’ demeanor. Initially scowling and rigid, when she calmly materializes inside Catherine Martell’s office (“The door was open”), the corners of her mouth are subtly bent in slightly unnerving smile. Her whole bearing is relaxed yet oddly intense. Most importantly, as she acknowledges in her conversation with Catherine, both Eckhardt and Josie – the woman her boss came to Twin Peaks to retrieve – have died. Introducing herself as Eckhardt’s assistant, Jones offers Catherine a parting gift. The skeptical businesswoman pulls a gun on Jones (which seems to vaguely excite her) but cautiously accepts the mysterious black box Jones leaves on the desk. That night, Jones appears in the Bookhouse, where she knocks out a young man guarding a sleeping Sheriff Truman. She climbs into bed with Truman and begins caressing him, whispering in his ear and applying a strange perfume to his lips. As the drunken, half-sleeping man is lulled into an erotic reverie, Jones yanks out a wire and lunges for his throat. Truman’s thumbs are barely able to stop her from slicing his neck open; after a struggle he knocks her into the wall and delivers a knockout blow. Nearly ready to bash her head in with a trophy, he pauses, baffled that his near-assassin was this svelte young woman.

Characters Jones interacts with onscreen…

Randy St. Croix

Thomas Eckhardt

Catherine Martell

Sheriff Truman

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Jones
Jones casts a sinister air over her surroundings. The fire in the Great Northern burns with a dangerous intensity; the suite she shares with Eckhardt is dominated by an odd painting and an ominous trunk in the middle of the room; even Catherine’s sunny office feels unsettling once the black-clad Jones swoops in. And the frequently cozy Bookhouse temporarily becomes a noirish death trap as she lifts her shawl and swoops into Truman’s bed. Jones, a stranger to the town like so many of her predecessors in these character studies, is one of those folks who brings out Twin Peaks’ innate sense of menace. This is less because she imports a foreign dread than because she activates the foreboding mood already swimming beneath the surface.

Jones’ journey
After barely registering alongside Eckhardt – she’s onscreen for a grand total of forty seconds in the run-up to Josie’s climax – Jones comes into her own once her boss has died. The Catherine scene is a marvelous piece of acting, a welcome shift from the rather stereotypically Teutonic impression Jones casts as Eckhardt’s right-hand woman. She's being built up for her final, important appearance, nearly killing the show’s second lead. By then we acept her as both a hyper-devoted acolyte of Eckhardt and a masterful operator of her own accord.

Actress: Brenda Strong
A prolific actress with over a hundred credits, Strong is probably most famous as Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives, a character who dies in the pilot and then narrates the rest of the series. Interestingly, Sheryl Lee – Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer – was originally cast in the role but the footage was re-shot (and the narration re-recorded) with Strong once the show was picked up. Strong also had several memorable guest spots on Seinfeld as Elaine’s version of Newman, Sue Ellen Mischke the Oh Henry! candy bar heiress, “the bra-less wonder” whose courtroom scenes spoof the then-recently completed O.J. Simpson trial (Sue Ellen returns as the thwarted bride in the Indian wedding episode). Today, Strong has a spot on Supergirl as Lex Luthor’s mother – in the photo I saw she is clad in black, hair clenched in a tight bun, handing a black object to the titular superheroine while locking her in an icy gaze. So it seems not much has changed. (series pictured: Desperate Housewives, 2004)

Episodes
Episode 21 (German title: “Double Play”)

Episode 22 (German title: “Slaves and Masters”)

*Episode 24 (German title: “Wounds and Scars” - best episode)

Episode 25 (German title: “On the Wings of Love”)

Writers/Directors
Director James Foley and writer Barry Pullman offer Jones her greatest chance to shine, when she emerges from Eckhardt’s shadow after his death. Her debut is scripted by Scott Frost, while her other two episodes are written by Harley Peyton and Robert Engels. In addition to Foley, she is directed by Uli Edel, Diane Keaton, and Duwayne Dunham.

Statistics
Jones is onscreen for roughly six minutes. She is in five scenes and four episodes, taking place in three days. She’s featured the most in episode 24, when she settles Eckhardt’s business following his death. Her primary location is the Bookhouse and she shares the most screentime with Truman.

Best Scene
Episode 24: Jones demonstrates how much scarier a “happy” face can be as she stares down Catherine and entices her with a dangerous gift.

Best Line
“He really did love her, you know.” (with the slightest touch of contempt)

Additional Observations

• I’ve harped a lot on that one scene, but in addition to its excellent execution, it’s really the only opportunity Jones has to develop any kind of personality and escape simply being a plot device. I’m not sure she ever does but this is the closest she comes.

• Jones is the second woman to be punched out of the show – both times by one of the good guys (last was Nancy, by Cooper).

• According to the teleplay, Jones’ Afrikaans line to Eckhardt is “I warned you not to trust her.” Which definitely contributes to that nice, subtle edge in Jones’ line about Josie to Catherine, and gives double meaning to her response to Catherine: “I guess you have your reasons to be bitter.”

• Another thing about that line – it’s unlikely Eckhardt had a chance to tell her Andrew is alive, so she probably still thinks her boss succeeded in having him killed.

• The script for episode 21 says that Jones unpacks “a hand gun, high tech photography equipment, a high power rifle waiting to be assembled and a parabolic microphone.” Perhaps the writers originally had different plans for her.

• The last time Jones is mentioned on the show is when a hungover Truman tells Cooper that she won’t confess to anything and wants to speak to the South African consulate. “In Twin Peaks?” asks Cooper (the town has definitely become an international hotspot over the past few weeks). Coop then explains to Truman that Eckhardt tried to kill him because of “sexual jealousy.” This answer satisfies the lawmen, and Jones is never discussed or heard from again.


SHOWTIME: No, Strong is not on the cast list for 2017. Jones was presumably deported back to South Africa in 1989 though I’d be curious to know more details; the subject is dropped so abruptly. Was she charged with attempted murder in U.S. courts? How would her extradition or deportation be handled given the current state of U.S.-South African relations in 1989? (Sanctions had been passed against the apartheid regime in 1986, although they were laxly enforced by the Reagan administration and only fully implemented by Bush a few months after Jones’ scenes take place.) Do diplomatic and economic relations affect the treatment of criminals? Any expert on the subject is welcome to comment below. Maybe Jones was able to escape punishment, heading back to Hong Kong to take over Eckhardt’s business operations, which she still runs. She seems ruthless enough to manage that comeback; on the other hand, a small-town sheriff’s thumb nearly derailed her entire criminal career. Perhaps Jones refused to accept that ignominious defeat. If Truman is dead today, maybe Jones finally finished the job.

Tomorrow: Invitation to Love
Yesterday: Johnny Horne

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