Lost in the Movies: Nadine Hurley (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #27)

Nadine Hurley (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #27)

*A revised entry will be published separately in 2024 or 2025 for an updated character series (which will be collected here). This is the original entry written before The Return.

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.

Nadine emerges from a world of loneliness and desperation into a world of strength and innocence, but too much of her happiness relies on Twin Peaks' most dangerous resource: denial.

Friday, February 17, 1989
A cheerful Nadine Hurley, housewife of auto mechanic Big Ed, enters the RR Diner with her husband. Her mood immediately changes when Norma Jennings, the restaurant's owner, grins from the counter at Ed. Nadine storms out of the diner, and Ed quickly follows.

Friday, February 24, 1989
Nadine repeatedly reminds Ed to hang up the drapes in her living room, shouting to him from the house that sits near Ed's gas station. At night, she frantically runs the drapes back and forth.

Saturday, February 25, 1989
Nadine and Norma run into each other inside a hardware store. Nadine is buying cotton balls - she's had an epiphany about "completely silent drape runners" and plans to patent the idea. Cotton will apparently be the secret ingredient. Nadine tells Norma that she came up with the idea while waiting for her husband to get out of the hospital following a bar fight.

Sunday, February 26, 1989
Furiously working out on her rowing machine, Nadine pauses only to yell at Ed when he steps on the drape runners spread out over the floor, dripping grease on top of the cotton. Nadine is so angry she pulls hard on the rower's handles and actually manages to bend the metal. That evening, she's overjoyed to see Ed, embracing him and telling him that the greased cotton has effectively quieted the drape runners. He saved her project after all!

Monday, February 27, 1989
As they prepare for the funeral of a local girl who was recently murdered, Ed holds Nadine in his arms. She remembers how she loved him in high school but he was way out of her league - Norma was his pretty girlfriend while Nadine was "just a little brown mouse." Ed hears a motorcycle outside and comments that his nephew James has arrived, but Nadine has trouble remembering who James is. The teenager rushes into the house to announce that he's not going to the funeral before storming out. However, James does show up to the funeral. The lawmen standing near Nadine at the gravesite race after him when he gets into a fight.

Thursday, March 2, 1989
A dejected - or rather, "rejected"- Nadine savors a box of bonbons and lives vicariously through the soap opera on television. Ed, getting ready to head out for the night, comforts her. The patent office has turned down her invention, and she's ready to give up despite Ed's encouragement. She made many plans for how they would spend their newfound wealth and didn't anticipate the world's disinterest in silent drape runners. With Ed gone that evening, Nadine dons a pink dress, fills a bowl with pills, and sets up a little blanket on the rug, preparing a poignant picnic suicide. "Goodbye," she whispers, as she places her suicide note in its final resting place. When Ed returns she is sprawled out on the carpet.

Friday, March 3, 1989
Ed sits by a comatose Nadine in the hospital, holding her hand and staring at her forlornly.

Sunday, March 5, 1989
Nadine is chained to her hospital bed, since she broke leather restraints earlier. Ed sings "On Top of Old Smokey" to her when she suddenly awakens, clapping and chanting. Not only is Nadine pumping abnormal amounts of adrenaline, she believes that she is eighteen years old, recovering from tonsilitis and looking forward to cheerleader practice.

Tuesday, March 7, 1989
Nadine returns home with Ed. Again she doesn't recognize James, although she concludes that he's her classmate, and she's horrified that her parents aren't home. Ed reassures her that they're out of town and Nadine accidentally tears the door off the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 8, 1989
Back from a shopping excursion, Nadine begins making out with Ed. She's excited they have the place all to themselves and looks forward spending the night with her "boyfriend."

Thursday, March 9, 1989
The Hurleys - er, Ed Hurley and Nadine Butler - visit the diner. Nadine is surprised to see Norma behind the counter, and laughs when she says she's worked there for twenty years ("What a kidder!"). She asks the waitress Shelly if they go to school together and explains that her parents are away in Europe. When her shake arrives she grips it so tight that it explodes. Nadine stares at her red hand (with blood or cherry?) and kisses Ed aggressively.

Wednesday, March 15, 1989
At a wake, Nadine wonders if the others can see her panties reflected in her shiny shoes. That afternoon she goes to Twin Peaks High School, eager to try out for the cheerleading squad. Ed arranges things with the vice principal. At tryouts, Nadine executes an admirable routine and then grabs one of the jocks and tosses him fifty feet in the air, sending him crashing into a volleyball net far away. The gathered students and coaches are stunned.

Thursday, March 16, 1989
Nadine chats with Donna Hayward at her locker, wondering if she's still dating Mike Nelson (she isn't). Nadine has a crush on the blonde athlete and hits on him in the gym. The wrestling coach discovers her there and, amazed by her strength, invites her to join the wrestling team.

Friday, March 17, 1989
Coach Wingate tells the story of a racist coach who allowed a superb black player onto his football team, and says that Nadine has the same right to compete. She challenges Mike, the state champion, and asks him on a date while kicking his ass.

Saturday, March 18, 1989
In her cheerleader uniform, Nadine stops in at the diner. Mike is reading the newspaper at the counter and makes it perfectly clear he wants absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Nadine, period, end of story. She doesn't take the hint and smooches him before making her exit. Returning to her home, Nadine finds Ed being throttled by Norma's husband Hank Jennings and she slams her bookbag into his head, punching, spinning, and throwing him around the room.

Monday, March 20, 1989
Returning from a weekend event ("the district finals"), Nadine casually climbs into bed with Ed and Norma. She explains that she won the contest but was disqualified because she used an illegal maneuver. However, she shares her second-place trophy with her husband and his lover. On her way out the door, she tells them, "I know about you guys," but says she doesn't mind because she and Mike are "serious" too.

Tuesday, March 21, 1989
Sadly but firmly, Nadine explains to Ed that she and Mike are in love, and that they spent the whole night together during the recent away trip. It's time for Nadine and Ed to "break up."

Wednesday, March 22, 1989
Dr. Jacoby meets with Ed and Nadine to discuss their "breakup." Jacoby and Ed talk amongst themselves as Nadine wonders what the big deal is. When she winks she realizes something is wrong and holds her hand to her face. "I think I've gone blind in my right eye," she marvels, oblivious to the eye patch that's been there all along. That night, she checks in to the Great Northern with Mike, disguised as "Mr. and Mrs. Hinkman." A couple teenage girls recognize Mike from school and they giggle as an angry Nadine crushes the desk clerk's bell.

Thursday, March 23, 1989
Nadine and Mike are elated when they check out, obviously sated from a night of passionate lovemaking. Nadine wears Mike's fedora and twirls a lollipop in her mouth as they stroll through the lobby.

Friday, March 24, 1989
Nadine sits down with Shelly and Donna at the Road House to register for the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. She looks up, startled, as her boyfriend's buddy lets out a large whoop. Mike winks at her and she winks back.

Sunday, March 26, 1989
A chorus line rehearses under the (very) watchful eye of Tim Pinkle. "What kind of a dance is this anyway?" a skeptical Nadine asks as Pinkle leers. That afternoon, Nadine runs a slide show for Mike, Ed, Norma, and Jacoby, displaying all of her recent wrestling triumphs. Jacoby steers the conversation back to the two couples, encouraging Ed to reveal something to Nadine: he's going to marry Norma. Nadine begins to tweak out, forcing a smile as she proclaims that she and Mike are getting married too! She may break Mike's hand, if his scream of pain is any indication. Her manic energy needs another channel, so that evening Nadine performs in the Miss Twin Peaks show. She eagerly awaits the announcement that she has been crowned...and then a moment later she stands stunned in defeat as all the other contestants celebrate another local girl (only one other contestant, coincidentally also a redhead, seems as upset by her loss as Nadine). Nadine can barely muster sullen applause before the lights go out and a strobe starts flickering. Something explodes inside the Road House and Nadine rushes offstage, inadvertently releasing a sandbag that lands on her head and knocks her unconscious. Back at her house, she recovers from her wound while Mike confesses his love for her. Nadine is horrified - she doesn't know who he is and demands that Ed make him leave. Then she notices Norma smiling by Ed's side in the living room, and her distress only grows. And where are her drape runners? Nadine races around the room, confused and upset, and Ed asks her how old she is. "Thirty-five, you moron!" she shouts before breaking into sobs as he holds her close.

Characters Nadine interacts with onscreen…

Ed Hurley

Norma Jennings

James Hurley

Shelly Johnson

Donna Hayward

Mike Nelson

Hank Jennings

Dr. Jacoby

Randy St. Croix

Tim Pinkle

Annie Blackburn (dancing with her in chorus line)

watches/listens to INVITATION TO LOVE

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Nadine
Nadine is one of Twin Peaks' wackiest characters, hell, maybe the wackiest of all. Yet she is also one of its saddest figures. When she's handled right, Nadine captures the cross-section between absurdist comedy and poignant desperation as few others can. Throughout season one, and during certain moments in season two (especially in her surprisingly heartrending final scene), this quality comes across. For much of her run, however, Nadine - or Super Nadine, as fans commonly refer to this iteration - is a harbinger of the show's goofy, over-the-top inclinations. There are moments in the Nadine narrative that could come straight from a Nickelodeon show of the same era (the terrible slow-motion, reverse action, egregious overdub, and bizarre sound effect that accompany the already ridiculous conceit of her tossing a jock in the air mark this as a jump-the-shark moment for many). As such, Nadine tends to be polarizing. My first time through, I was entirely put off by the tenor of Nadine's material, and came to dread her appearances. As with Dick Tremayne, it was The Twin Peaks Podcast that urged me to see her in a different light. The hosts, especially one of the first-time viewers, absolutely adored Nadine's antics, savoring the fervor with which the writers - and especially the actress - committed to this conceit.

I began to really appreciate Wendy Robie's dedicated performance; however ambivalent I am about the decision to take the character in this direction, Robie plays the hell out of every scene and clearly loves and cherishes the character she's playing. Besides, there's something uncannily appropriate about Nadine's condition, isn't there? On a show whose central theme may be denial, Nadine embodies the desire to stuff her shadow away. She also subverts some of the show's tropes - in a narrative about women terrorized by men, she is one of the few women to terrorize men (she even gets to dispatch one of the main bad guys). Nadine wistfully dreams of pleasing Ed, but her fantasies have a way of consistently shifting away from stereotypes of feminine appeal. Her obsession with drape runners, initially a trademark of the domestic homemaker, transforms into an entrepreneurial quest to become the family's primary breadwinner. He back-to-school adventure begins by framing her as a chirpy cheerleader but within days she's pinning down the state's top wrestlers and carving a space for herself as Twin Peaks' strongest citizen.

In short, Nadine has always wanted to be Norma (or what she perceives as Norma) but she's an entirely different person. If Ed is unhappy and deserves something else, so does Nadine. Her tragedy is not her "abnormality" but her desire to be "normal" in the first place, convincing herself that her talents are useful only insofar as they can conform to the cultural role she wants to play. From a certain perspective, Nadine is not really abandoning reality for fantasy. She's embracing who she really is (albeit along with a set of lies - her youth, the status of her relationship to Ed - to remove her internalized stigma). This reminds me of a conversation I had with David Lynch scholar Martha Nochimson, whose take on Mulholland Drive didn't quite gibe with my own. I noted that the final section of the film feels much more "real" than the first two-thirds, regardless of whether one frames this as a dream, alternative universe, or other scenario. However, she observed that while Diane Selwyn's world is different from Betty's, and certainly darker, that doesn't make it more real. "Betty has a lot more possibility at the beginning than she does at the end. Having possibility is real, but the power structure of the industry takes her possibilities away from her. That's real too, but not more real than having options." So too with Nadine.

Nadine’s journey
When the show begins, Nadine is a one-note character, hilarious but quite limited in her shtick (her screentime in the pilot amounts to less than a minute, mostly spent yelling at Ed). Amused by her performance, the creators seize upon one element - those damned drape runners - and concoct an entire season's storyline from this detail. Nadine continues to be built in this manner. Small moments from season one (breaking the exercise equipment, recollecting high school, not remembering James) are enlarged into major character traits in season two. That is how the writers consciously construct her, but at times it feels like there's an unconscious hand at work too. The character keeps disappearing further and further inside a manic escapism that, at certain key points, echoes the show's own (mis)steps. Initially she has one foot in her painfully awkward and lonely social reality, the other in a heightened cartoon vision. That balance between naturalism and surrealism can't be maintained. Nadine retreats into her own private narrative just as the show itself becomes torn between different impulses. In particular, the cheerleading scene - easily her worst moment, and the moment her arc completely confirms its cartoonish direction - arrives in the very episode where Twin Peaks veers wildly off-course. Indeed, every character at Leland's wake is about as self-absorbed and out of touch as Nadine is, just without her excuse. When Nadine finally crashes back to reality, her awakening occurs in the same finale that jolts the entire show from its reverie, restoring the dark, poignant power of the pilot. Nadine may stir ambivalence in many viewers, but it's an ambivalence deeply rooted in the show itself.

Actress: Wendy Robie
Robie was a Seattle theater actress in the late eighties, when Lynch and Frost cast her in a small part on their TV pilot. She threw herself into the role and impressed not only them but other filmmakers. She worked steadily through the nineties and zeroes, in several Wes Craven films and other horror movies and thrillers. Most notably she and Big Ed himself, Everett McGill, play a homicidal couple in Craven's The People Under the Stars, shot soon after Twin Peaks was cancelled. As Wikipedia notes, "she is known for playing eccentric, mentally disturbed characters," so obviously her first role defined her subsequent work. Robie hasn't appeared onscreen much in the past ten years, but continues to cherish her years on Twin Peaks. She recently participated in an Entertainment Weekly retrospective discussing both the original and the upcoming series. In one of three alternate magazine covers, she poses with McGill and James Marshall (who played James). And in an accompanying video, she declares, "I don't think I've ever played a character who hurt as much as Nadine." (film pictured: The People Under the Stairs, 1991)

The Pilot

Episode 1 (German title: "Traces to Nowhere")

Episode 2 (German title: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer")

Episode 3 (German title: "Rest in Pain")

Episode 6 (German title: "Realization Time")

Episode 7 (German title: "The Last Evening")

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

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

Episode 12 (German title: "The Orchid's Curse")

Episode 13 (German title: "Demons")

Episode 14 (German title: "Lonely Souls")

Episode 17 (German title: "Dispute Between Brothers")

Episode 18 (German title: "Masked Ball")

Episode 19 (German title: "The Black Widow")

*Episode 20 (German title: "Checkmate" - best episode)

Episode 22 (German title: "Masters and Slaves")

Episode 23 (German title: "The Condemned Woman")

Episode 24 (German title: "Wounds and Scars")

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

Episode 26 (German title: "Variations on Relations")

Episode 28 (German title: "Miss Twin Peaks")

Episode 29 (German title: "Beyond Life and Death")

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (collection of deleted scenes from the film)

Given her high number of episodes, it makes sense to start with who didn't write Nadine (Jerry Stahl and Scott Frost) and who didn't direct her (Uli Edel and Stephen Gyllenhaal). Every other writer and director had a shot at her character. Season one Nadine ("drape runners!") was written by David Lynch, Mark Frost, and Harley Peyton, while season two, a.k.a. Super Nadine was written by Frost and Peyton, as well as Robert Engels, Barry Pullman, and Tricia Brock. The drape runner phase was directed by Lynch, Duwayne Dunham, Tina Rathborne, Caleb Deschanel, and Frost, while those same directors (except for Frost) were joined by Lesli Linka Glatter, Graeme Clifford, Todd Holland, Diane Keaton, James Foley, Jonathan Sanger, and Tim Hunter for Super Nadine.

Peyton has claimed credit for the Super Nadine/high school wrestler subplot, drawing from several throwaway moments in season one (the Lynch-directed scene where she bends the exercise equipment, written by Lynch and Frost, and perhaps also the scene when she remembers her high school days and doesn't recognize James' name - the very first Peyton-penned Nadine scene). Peyton also writes/co-writes more Nadine episodes than any other writer, nine in all (Frost writes eight). Lynch directs her in five episodes plus the film (she's not in episode nine, the only time she's dropped from a Peyton episode too). Dunham and Glatter direct her three times, Rathborne and Deschanel twice.

Nadine is onscreen for roughly forty-six minutes. She is in thirty-four scenes in twenty-two episodes plus the deleted scenes collection from the feature film, taking place in a little over five weeks. This is the first character in these studies to appear in a majority of episodes (in fact, more than two-thirds of the series) - we won't reach another character with this many episodes until we're inside the top twenty. She's featured the most in episode 28, when she participates in Miss Twin Peaks. Her primary location is the Hurley home. She shares the most screentime with Ed. With her screentime stretched out over so many episodes, she is one of the top ten characters only once, in episode 17 (just barely beating out Ernie Niles for the tenth spot). From now on, every character will make the top ten at least three times.

Best Scene
Episode 14: Nadine's comic potential plays out alongside her pathos as she tries to reconcile the world around her with her fantasy, finally crushing an ice cream shake in an explosion of glass, cream, chocolate, cherry, and blood.

Best Line
“Cotton BALLS! By God, those things'll be quiet now!”

Nadine Offscreen

The Pilot: Ed explains Nadine's drape obsession to Norma at the Road House. They plan to leave their spouses. She tells him, "don't do it for me, do it for yourself. It's Tammy Wynette time, darlin'."

Episode 1: Truman notes Ed's bandage and asks if Nadine "got wind of" him and Norma. "Harry," Ed observes, "if Nadine'd gotten wind of me and Norma I'd be playing harp for the Heavenly All-Stars." Donna's parents meet James for the first time, and Doc Will Hayward asks if his aunt is "the woman with the patch." James responds that "she's a real character."

Episode 2: Cooper mentions a note about "Jack with One Eye" that he received under his hotel door; Hawk comments, "Sounds like Nadine, Big Ed Hurley's wife," before Truman mentions a casino called One Eyed Jack's.

Episode 5: While Nadine "is over at that patent attorney in Fairville," Ed and Norma decide not to see each other for a while. Ed explains that Nadine's not well and now isn't the right time to break up their marriages.

Episode 8: Ed tells Cooper the story of how he married Nadine - and how she lost her left eye. When they were still teenagers, Norma ran away with Hank, and a jealous Ed fell into Nadine's arms; "There was something so sweet and helpless about her." They got drunk and impulsively married - before Ed could broach the subject of a divorce or annulment they went on their honeymoon. During a hunting trip Ed accidentally shot out Nadine's eye. Later, Norma sees Ed holding Nadine's hand and turns away slowly.

Episode 19: Mike begs Donna to help him get rid of Nadine. She finds the whole situation highly amusing and refuses, suggesting maybe it would be a good idea for him to date an older woman.

Episode 21: With Nadine away at her wrestling match at Knife River, Ed discusses her condition with Doc. He's worried that she wants to start dating high school boys, and given her strength "she's liable to kill a young kid" (he compares sex with Nadine to being run over by a lumber truck). As pointed out on a Twin Peaks podcast (I can't remember which one), the exchange is probably one of the more uncomfortable in the Nadine subplot, highlighting its most troublesome aspects despite its cheerful delivery. The characters switch casually between referring to Ed as Nadine's lover and parent, and Nadine as a predatory adult and vulnerable child. Norma tells Ed that Hank was hit by a tree, but Ed tells her "that tree was a redwood named Nadine."

Episode 26: Mike asks Bobby if he has "any idea what the combination of sexual maturity and superhuman strength can result in?" His whispered answer is what causes Bobby to shout, drawing everyone's attention at the Road House (where Nadine is signing up for Miss Twin Peaks).


• Nadine is mentioned once, in passing, in Jennifer Lynch's The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer: "I wasn't going nuts, like Nadine Hurley or anything, but I was still feeling like I was in a dream."

• We learn quite a bit more about Nadine in Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Her mother experienced mental illness and was hospitalized when Nadine was a sophomore. Like mother, like daughter; Nadine froze up in the hallway a few days later and spent the following six-months at "a privately-owned facility" (her father invented a flame retardant and had a bit of money so he sent his daughter to one of the better institutions). When she returned to school, she claimed that she had been to France and began dressing in a more bohemian fashion. We also read plenty of information that contradicts the series. Nadine's maiden name is Gertz, not Butler, and she meets Ed years after high school. He nearly runs her over while she's riding a John Deere lawnmower into his station (shades of The Straight Story). Norma has been married to Hank for years at this point, and the hunting accident occurs not on a honeymoon but on Ed's trip into the woods with Truman (Nadine isn't even supposed to be there - she's spying on them). Most of this information is conveyed in a file written by Hawk, who is rather brusquely dismissive of Nadine's condition, considering it an automatic disqualification to be Ed's wife (Andy informs him of Nadine's mental history at the wedding reception; Hawk describes his "heart sinking"). Jacoby also files a report following the loss of her eye. He speculates that the "accident" was willed by her and that she targeted her own left eye specifically because it connects to the right, intuitive side of her brain - she was sensing something (Ed's love for Norma) that she didn't want to.

Additional Observations (including Deleted Scenes)

 Nadine's return to high school probably echoes and/or draws upon a number of sources, but the most obvious antecedent is Peggy Sue Got Married. In that film, Kathleen Turner plays a woman attending her twenty-fifth high school anniversary. She faints and wakes up in the body of her eighteen-year-old self in 1960, a high school senior able to relive her teenage days and find out if she wants to repeat - or undo - her youthful mistakes. Notably, given Nadine's own marital status at the time of her regression, the title is a tad ironic - Peggy Sue is actually about to get divorced from her high school sweetheart (played by Lynch's Wild at Heart star Nicolas Cage, who is also the nephew of Peggy Sue's director, Francis Ford Coppola). Some critics sniped that Turner (who was barely thirty) looked too old to play the teenage part, so perhaps the writers were having fun by taking that notion to a further extreme (Wendy Robie was in her late thirties). There's also an element of self-mockery here as another Twin Peaks fan recently noted: many of the actors playing Twin Peaks' "actual" teenagers are long past their own high school years (as is often the case on film/TV high school dramas).

 I could only find one Nadine scene that was scripted but didn't make the final cut - in episode 4 she was going to bring Ed a big tray of breakfast food and explain her upcoming visit to a patent attorney: "Those drape runners are going to make us a fortune."

 Nadine pops up in deleted dialogue a few times as well. According to the episode 4 teleplay, Ed's assistant Sparky ("a wizened eager beaver") keeps lookout for Nadine while Ed calls Norma. Sparky is amazed by the condition of Nadine's exercise equipment. In the episode 11 script, Doc Hayward calls Ed to tell him that he "just talked with the Saeger-Swenson Clinic in Seattle. Nadine's problems might be related to something called pheochromo crytoma; effects the adrenal gland, it could account for her strength and, uh, erratic behavior." During James' visit to the diner in episode 12, Norma was supposed to talk to James about Nadine. When he tells Norma that Nadine ripped the door off a fridge, Norma asks, "Was she mad about something?" James answers, "No, she was happy." In the episode 17 script, Jacoby speaks up in the vice principal's office, insisting it's "a classic case of clinical regression. Mr. Greege, what's important here is that Nadine be allowed to maintain her own reality. Being eighteen is all she can manage. And it could be a lot worse. Be glad she's not napping in a crib." The vice principal insists she'll be treated like any other student and tells Ed to "forget hot dinners. Nadine'll be busy doing her homework."

SHOWTIME: Yes, Robie is on the cast list for 2017. I don't think her and Ed will be married - there's been plenty of time for them both to move on. Then again, circumstances may have forced them together once again. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, the actress casually dropped a bombshell that may or may not play out in the new series. (I don't think it will - I'm also not entirely clear if the anecdote refers to an emotional trigger for the actress or an actual plot point, although the way she describes it suggests the latter). "David's little secret whisper to me," Robie reveals about the original series, "I think we can tell after all these years, his little secret whisper that you [Everett McGill] weren't allowed to hear was, 'It's a baby.'"

Tomorrow: Windom Earle
Yesterday: Hank Jennings

No comments:

Search This Blog