Lost in the Movies: Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse

Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse

-Episode 12 of the series-
("Twin Peaks" reviews start here)

directed by Graeme Clifford
written by Barry Pullman

"Are you looking for secrets? Is that what this is all about?"

This episode is simple, economical, and ultimately quite satisfying. It begins with an establishing shot of the Great Northern but not the same old same old we usually get (the waterfall, pan up to the hotel, yawn). This time it's dawn and our wide-lensed eagle eye overlooks the parking lot. Then we're inside Cooper's room for the oldest trick in the book: start the film/TV episode with an alarm clock ring. Yet it's strangely satisfying and as Cooper stands up, tape recorder in hand, and begins to recite his reflections to Diane we feel as if we're watching one of the early episodes. I forgot to mention that Cooper (who, as I've established, is bipolar - perky with certain directors, glum with others) seemed constipated in the last episode; this time, he's chipper as can be - we even get to see him whistle through his little wooden flute at one point.

During his opening monologue, Cooper discovers Audrey's long-lost note on the floor ("My special agent..."). At this point, he's already decided to raid One Eyed Jack's to rescue her, even though her father has been given a briefcase full of money to exchange (a set-up since Jean Renault wants to kill Coop, and Ben knows it). This is very focused episode and almost all the activity centers on two storylines: Donna's attempt (eventually with Maddy) to snatch Laura's secret diary from Harold Smith's hermetically-sealed mausoleum, and Cooper's attempt to snatch Audrey from a certain elaborately decorated backwoods bordello. Other than a trial (held at the road house of all places), in which Leland and Leo are shown mercy by the court, we get four peeks at other subplots. And that's all they are: peeks.

One amusing scene with Bobby and Shelly as they try out an electronic swing meant for the comatose Leo (Bobby is at his William Shatneresque best/worst here); a brief homecoming for Nadine in which she rips the door off the fridge (and lifts it in the air with some terribly executed fast motion); Ben's meeting with the mysterious Japanese financier Mr. Tojamura (I am ashamed to admit I didn't figure out what was going here until a couple episodes in); and two scene segments spent on the unfortunate Lucy's pregnant subplot, though thankfully Dick Tremayne does not make an appearance. "I'm a whole damn town!" declares Andy after discovering he doesn't have low sperm count after all. Cooper overhears this and shoots Sheriff Truman a curious look, and Truman shakes his head: "Don't ask." Well, to tell you the truth, we rather wouldn't.

But quickly we move on to more important matters. Cooper and Sheriff Truman unfurl a detailed map of One Eyed Jack's and study their possible escape routes. I never cared much for this story, but now as it approaches its climax it does become slightly more interesting. Besides, once they get to the bordello their raid unfolds with almost comical ease. They enter through a back room under repair (a hallway sign in front of the room reads, "Future Tiberian Baths - Pardon Our Mess"). Agent Cooper, in his least smooth moment ever, runs into Blackie's sister Nancy, offers his hand in greeting and says, "Hi, would you...", grabs her arm and twists it behind her back, and growls, "...take me to Audrey Horne, please?" Oddly enough, she doesn't scream but does indeed take him to Audrey Horne.

Meanwhile, across town, Maddy and Donna have unfurled their own hand-drawn map of Harold Smith's rather simple house. Maddy then fills up on coffee and waits in the bushes as Donna keeps Harold distracted inside, sharing 13-year-old skinny-dipping exploits, a story which recalls the long erotic monologue in Persona, certainly in execution and vaguely in content (though this time it's the teller, Donna, who was the young one in the story). Harold is besotted and later he shows her his orchids and kisses her hand, and then they both kiss; there's genuine chemistry in their horticultural flirtation. Donna seems conflicted as Harold reaches out to her, but she still signals to Maddy, who breaks in and discovers the diary.

The ending is a little more flamboyant than the rest of the episode (save for that scene where Harold collapses outside his home, which also feels weird). There's a very strange shot in which Donna and Harold burst out of his greenhouse room from separate doors and a long-held Dutch angle as Harold threatens the female duo and then (very unconvincingly) scratches his own face with a gardening tool. But aside from the borderline campy finale, this is a "Twin Peaks" episode that, in its straightforward and unpretentious way, reminds us of why we loved the show in the first place, points the way forward (elements revolving around Bob and the one-armed man are planted for later use), and digs around for those secrets that, yes, it really is all about.

Next: Twin Peaks: Demons (season 2, episode 5)
Previous: Laura's Secret Diary (season 2, episode 4)

For more on Twin Peaks:
Jim Emerson
Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club

On this site:
That gum you like is going to come back in style...
Twin Peaks in context
Twin Peaks (the pilot)
Twin Peaks: Traces to Nowhere
Twin Peaks: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer
Twin Peaks: Rest in Pain
Twin Peaks: The One-Armed Man
Twin Peaks: Cooper's Dreams
Twin Peaks: Realization Time
Twin Peaks: The Last Evening
Twin Peaks: May the Giant Be With You
Twin Peaks: Coma
Twin Peaks: The Man Behind Glass
Twin Peaks: Laura's Secret Diary
*Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse
Twin Peaks: Demons
Twin Peaks: Lonely Souls
Twin Peaks: Drive With a Dead Girl
Twin Peaks: Arbitrary Law
Twin Peaks: Beyond Life and Death

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (the movie)
Critical idiocy vis a vis Fire Walk With Me


Tony Dayoub said...

Michael Ontkean makes for a wonderful comedic straight man. In addition to serving as a perfect foil to Maclachlan, here he has one of the best reactions in the series, the smile and nod to Andy's non-sequitur, "I'm a whole damn town!"

Worth checking out, in light of this episode especially, is The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, by Jennifer Lynch (director of Boxing Helena and David Lynch's daughter). The book was released during the hiatus between season 1 and season 2, and contained many hints regarding the upcoming second season, and clues to the identity of Laura's murderer. Harold was featured prominently in the book, and the skinny dipping story was told there as well, from Laura's perspective.

Joel Bocko said...

I've heard of that book and been extremely curious about it since discovering the series - at one point I may order it (since it seems unlikely I'll find it in a library). How is that Cooper book by the way?

Search This Blog