1.2: Traces to Nowhere
Lynch passes the baton to Duwayne Dunham for the first regular episode (I should point out, I’m using the unofficial episode titles as a means of identification, although I don’t necessarily think they’re up to much) a director with little else of note on his CV, aside from a remake of The Incredible Journey. The transition is seamless, however, perhaps because Jimmy Stewart from Mars and Frost co-scripted both this and the next instalment. In terms of the elusive murder mystery, they take time to set up a selection of suspects, just as they knock several off the list. They also establish the irresistible bond between Coop and Audrey and, most importantly, riff on coffee and donuts.
This is right up to the standard of the pilot, and at is centre is the magnificent Coop, calling the shots and exuding quirkiness from every pore. We first see him hanging upside down wearing a curious metal shoe support contraption, talking to Diane. From there on in he’s running rings round everyone, and poor Harry can’t keep up (“I’m beginning to feel like Dr Watson”). He eliminates James from his enquiries, having previously also concluded Bobby isn’t the perpetrator. He instantly clocks that Harry is seeing Josie (“Body language”), and only comes unstuck when faced with someone more idiosyncratic than he is. Asked to ask the Log Lady’s log what it saw on the night of Laura’s murder, he comes up short (“I thought so” she concludes dismissively of the agent’s reluctance).
Agent Cooper: This is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.
Coop’s enthusiasm for foodstuffs and his favourite beverage is also in strong supply. His partiality to coffee presents itself (preference, “Black as midnight on a moonless night”), and he is poured both one of his best and one of his worst cups ever (“There was a fish – in the percolator!” apologises Pete). He also waxes lyrical to Albert (as yet unseen, on the phone); “They got a cherry pie here that’ll kill you” and orders three (at least) pieces from Norma.
Cooper: And I’ll have the grapefruit juice. Just as long as those grapefruits are… (sees Audrey) freshly squeezed.
Coop’s encounter with Audrey, the attraction of a thirty-something man to a schoolgirl, is presented as something of a reversal, initially at least. It’s Audrey who sees Coop at breakfast, so it’s her rapture that informs the scene. Cooper’s first sighting, and the accompanying dialogue, is worthy of a Carry On film. And throughout the scene she is abundantly pulchritudinous (“You know, sometimes I get so flushed, it’s interesting”) and breathlessly odd (“Do your palms ever itch?”)
Agent Cooper: Diane, it struck me again earlier this morning. There are two things that continue to trouble me, and I’m speaking not only as an agent of the Bureau, but also as a human being. What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys? And who really pulled the trigger on JFK?
Best of all, Cooper endears himself to the conspiracist in us all, getting the jump on Oliver Stone and Spooky Mulder as a truth seeker. Like Mulder, he is an anomaly within the establishment, one looking for answers.
Lynch and Frost continue to cascade red herrings atop their willing audience. There’s lunatic Leo, fond of the old soap in a sock as a method wife beating, and his bloody shirt. He’s mixed up in drugs, selling to Bobby (the drugs connect him to coke-fiend Laura). We learn that Ronette Pulaski worked in Horne’s Department Store, which points fingers in Benjamin’s direction, although the latter appears preoccupied with servicing Catherine and plotting Josie’s downfall. Jacques Renault’s name also crops up (Ed thinks Jacques drugged him).
Then there’s the final scene, at Dr Jacobi’s hilarious Hawaiian home. He’s wearing an explosive shirt, collapses in a lounger in front of beach sunset wallpaper, and keeps a coconut containing potentially incriminating evidence. Jacobi has in his possession the other half of the heart pendant that Coop’s been looking for, which puts him in the frame. He also listens to a tape from Laura, in which her less angelic side comes through. She notes what we already realise of James (“sweet, but so dumb”). She can take just so much of sweet, and intimates at the sinister forces preying on her (“I just know I’m going to get lost in the woods again tonight. I just know it”).
The is typical of the serio-farcical melodrama of the series, with Badalamenti’s love theme treading the line between pathos and parody. Indeed, it’s a very soapy ending to the episode, emphasising, if emphasis were needed, that this isn’t a typical detective drama. This overwrought emoting is sustained elsewhere too, with Donna’s confession of her love for James to her mother (“It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream and most terrible nightmare all at once”).
The flipside of parental concern is found with Major Briggs’ (Don S Davis, who went on to play Scully’s dad in The X-Files) making a detached attempt to empathise with his son’s rebellious behaviour. Bobby responds like the brat he is, and, in a masterful undercutting of the scene, the Major knocks a cigarette from his mouth that lands in his mother’s cake. Underscoring such tempestuous parental relations, Benjamin chews Audrey out for scaring off the Norwegians, in the harshest of rebukes (“Laura died two days ago. I lost you years ago”).
Laura manages to hold down a ludicrous number of jobs (meals on wheels, helping Josie with her English, taking care of Audrey’s brother) as well as going to school, being a cokehead, seeing various men friends, and getting lost in the woods (one of the pieces of information imparted is that she had sex with three men on the night of her murder). It adds to the near-absurd scenario conjured by Lynch and Frost (there’s yet still more jobs to be revealed).
Ed: Hey, if Nadine got wind of me and Norma, I’d be playing the harp for the Heavenly All-Stars.
On the nutty side, Nadine relates to Norma how she came up with her idea for silent drapes (while she was waiting for her husband to be released from intensive care).
There’s also the superlative donut scene, in which Coop arrives that the police station to find both Andy and Lucy with their mouths crammed with dough-based confectionary. He then walks in on Harry, also with his mouth stuffed full of donut, and proceeds to tell him his plan of action for the day. Harry can only look on speechless. At which point, Coop needs to leave the room (“Harry, I really have to urinate”).
The one-armed man, Mike resurfaces in the hospital. Bob gets his first appearance proper too, crouched in the mind’s eye of Sarah Palmer (by a bed in the living room, it seems) when Donna (who Sarah sees as Laura, complete with ropey superimposition) comes to visit. It’s not all good there’s a dull scene where James visits Donna’s for dinner, and the Bookhouse Boys are first mentioned, complete with ham-fisted secret sign. They’re an element I never liked too much, and they become a fairly tiresome device. But all in all, this is a first-rate Lynch oddity.
There was a fish – in the percolator!