Lost in the Movies: Jonathan Kumagai (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #16)

Jonathan Kumagai (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #16)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2023 to reflect the third season (and patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public), but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Jonathan spends several days observing the town as a mysterious stranger before revealing his very focused agenda.

Friday, March 3, 1989
Jonathan, recently arrived at the Great Northern Hotel, calls the Blue Pine Lodge looking for Josie Packard. Sheriff Harry Truman answers the phone and says Josie is out of town. Jonathan hangs up without saying who he is.

Saturday, March 4, 1989
As two FBI agents chat over breakfast at the Great Northern, Jonathan sits across the dining room "reading" a newspaper but actually staring intently at one of the agents.

Sunday, March 5, 1989
The same FBI agent exits an elevator and, again disguising his gaze with an open newspaper, Jonathan watches him talk with the hotel's owner. Then he folds his paper and follows the agent out of the room.

Monday, March 6, 1989
At the Blue Pine Lodge, Josie is making out with the sheriff. Jonathan, illuminated occasionally by lightning, stands outside the window gazing in at the couple. That evening, he finally makes contact with Josie, and she introduces him as her "cousin" to Pete Martell, the recently widowed proprietor of the Lodge. In fact, as it turns out, Josie and Jonathan had something to do with his widowing. When he exits the room, Jonathan mocks him and the provincial town, and tells Josie that their boss Eckhardt wants her back in Hong Kong, now that her mission (including killing Mrs. Martell) is nearly finished. He asks her about the sheriff, and she evades the question. Late that night, he appears in the RR Diner to confront Hank Jennings, a local criminal who tried to blackmail Josie after helping her out. Jonathan beats him up and, mocking Hank's own gesture toward Josie, presses his bloody thumb against Hank's as a "blood brother," calmly stating, "Next time, I'll take your head off" before smashing a flashlight next to Hank's head.

Wednesday, March 8, 1989
Buttoning up after a tryst with Josie - which looks suspiciously like rape - Jonathan demands that she come back to Hong Kong with him that night. She continues to avoid commitment (saying she has to get money from a co-conspirator), but Jonathan threatens her verbally and physically, even vowing to kill her lover if she isn't on the plane out of Seattle that night. Harry shows up a few hours later, as Josie and Jonathan hustle out with suitcases in hand. Josie introduces Harry to "Mr. Lee," her "assistant," and Harry asks Jonathan to leave the room as he pleads with Josie to stay. Jonathan complies, confident that Josie will make the right decision and that the hapless sheriff has no idea who he's dealing with.

Characters Jonathan interacts with onscreen…

Pete Martell

Josie Packard (his killer)

Hank Jennings

Harry Truman

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Jonathan
Jonathan expresses contempt for Twin Peaks and is certainly too focused on his mission to enjoy its charms, even in the grotesque fashion of a Windom Earle (who, incidentally, Lynch leads us to believe Jonathan might be at first - his second appearance follows Cooper's and Albert's first conversation about Earle). Handed a stuffed animal by Pete, he can barely contain his rolling eyes and contemptuous sneer. And he's more than happy to threaten assassination of the town's chief official in order to pry Josie loose. In other words, Jonathan is another quintessential outsider, contrasting with the small town (especially given his appearance and accent in the almost homogeneously white environment) but also complementing its sinister vibe with his own. As for Twin Peaks the show, Jonathan is part of a melodramatic strain especially prominent in Josie's storyline during season two. It's appropriate that his early appearances are associated with Windom Earle. Even though they turn out to have no connection, Jonathan is part of a trend that culminates with the rogue agent's violence: a shift from Twin Peaks as a town full of interior secrets to a town threatened by outside forces (Jonathan's boss Eckhardt will eventually play his part in this progression too).

Jonathan’s journey
The character does not change internally, but his presentation certainly does. Jonathan's mysteriousness is sustained nearly to a breaking point over four different scenes in four episodes. Twin Peaks leaves us guessing as to his motives for over a quarter of his screentime; yes, he asks for Josie right away but he also seems curiously attentive to Coop (in fact, we never really find out why). It's almost a little bit of a letdown when his expository dialogue with Josie reveals his true intent. But his penultimate scene effectively displays his menace, making us believe that he is a very real threat to Josie and, unbeknownst, to Harry. Jonathan's journey culminates offscreen when we learn that he was killed by Josie via a deflatingly undignified headline ("Asian Man Killed!" it screams, as if there wasn't a significant Asian population in Washington state). It's a bit of a letdown from those ominous early appearances, but when he's onscreen, the character delivers.

Actor: Mak Takano
Takano appeared in a few other films and TV shows in the nineties, including as a stuntman, but his primary career has been training actors, boxers, MMA fighters, and other athletes, as shown on his website. (He was largely responsible for the choreography of his fight scene in Twin Peaks.) Takano discusses this aspect of his work, as well as interesting anecdotes about his time on Twin Peaks, in this interview with Brad Dukes. In the oral history book Reflections he goes further, remembering how he was suspicious of Piper Laurie's in cognito appearance on set as "Fumio Yamuguchi," supposedly a famous Japanese actor cast as the character of Mr. Tojamura. (The cast and crew were kept in the dark about her true identity.) "I'm Japanese, but I was playing a Chinese character," Takano explains. "I looked at the cast list and there's this Japanese character with a Japanese actor's name next to it. They made a big fuss about it and I had never heard of them. ... We were shooting something and Piper Laurie comes in with all the makeup and stuff and it was like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's! ... [laughs] I wasn't insulted, but it was definitely weird." (pictured with Oscar de la Hoya)

Episode 8 (German title: "May the Giant Be With You")

*Episode 9 (German title: "Coma" - best episode)

Episode 10 (German title: "The Man Behind Glass")

Episode 11 (German title: "Laura's Secret Diary")

Episode 13 (German title: "Demons")

Jonathan was written by Mark Frost, Harley Peyton, Robert Engels, and Jerry Stahl. According to Takano, David Lynch wasn't present for the casting and was initially dismayed (he didn't like the headshot) but grew to appreciate Takano's work. Lynch directs Takano's first two appearances, while Todd Holland directs nearly half of his screentime. His best work, however, maybe solicited by Lesli Linka Glatter, who directs one of his early appearances and then returns to film his belligerant encounter with Josie. This episode was nominated for a Director's Guild Award, and Takano cites the experience as one of his favorites from the series.

Jonathan is onscreen for roughly seven minutes. He is in eight scenes in five episodes, taking place over about a week. He's featured the most in episode 11, when he finally presents himself to Josie. The majority of his scenes take place in the Blue Pine Lodge (the Packard residence). He shares the most screentime with Josie.

Best Scene
Episode 9: David Lynch slowly slides away from Cooper's breakfast and eventually settles on Jonathan at his corner table; this is a masterful establishment of mood that not much else in this storyline can match.

Best Line
"Don't know how you lasted six years. Nothing but hayseeds and manual laborers."

Additional Observations

• Josie returns to Twin Peaks about five days after she left with "Cousin Jonathan," stumbling into Harry's cabin and explaining that she fled Jonathan in Seattle. In fact, she shot him in the back of the head. The sheriff's office later receives a fax of the above newspaper article (by the way, click on the picture and check out the actual text of the piece - it's a fascinatingly dedicated word salad). Agent Albert Rosenfield confirms that Josie was the shooter, and Jonathan ends up as one more piece of evidence in the docket against Josie's character. Although given what we've seen, we can hardly blame her for icing her tormentor.

Update 2018: This entry was written in 2017, before the third season, and did not need to be revised as Jonathan did not re-appear. Only the description/intro at the top and the ranking were updated. Since the criteria for inclusion was changed (originally three scenes with dialogue, now ten minutes of screentime), he retroactively became a "bonus entry" rather than part of the full rankings. In the original character series, Jonathan was ranked #61, between Vivian and Cable.

SHOWTIME: No, Takano is not on the cast list for 2017. There's not much to speculate about the character either, since Jonathan's arc concludes on the show. Many of the characters directly implicated in this particular intrigue - Josie, Jonathan, Eckhardt, Andrew - die within a few weeks. Even the co-conspirators who may still be alive - Jones, Ben - aren't in great condition the last time we glimpse them (only Catherine, who didn't widow Pete after all, seems to end up on solid ground...but we'll get to that eventually).

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