Seriable’s Mark Jones reviews Twin Peaks Episode 26 — “Variations On Relations”
After the excitement of the last episode, with Cooper‘s discovery of Owl Cave and its strange symbols, the pace doesn’t let up and once again Twin Peaks is a thrilling and mysterious place to be.
Previously, Windom Earle had been hot on the trail of the sheriff’s department as they explored the cave, swooping in after they left to uncover more of its secrets. What he revealed wasn’t just a significant piece of the show’s mythology but one of the more enduring images from the latter part of season two, (what will turn out to be) a map of Twin Peaks covered with mysterious symbols.
While Earle has his multi-purpose computer in a suitcase to capture the image, Cooper and co have to rely on the memory and artistic skills of Andy. In addition to being necessary for the story, Earle’s computer is another reminder that there’s a real world outside of Twin Peaks that isn’t stuck in the 50s, adding to the feeling throughout the show that time has stood still there.
Earle may be a technical wizard but that doesn’t mean he’s above telling a few fairy stories, and early on he narrates to Leo a slightly twisted tale about the White and Black lodges. His speech is a bit too fanciful to be taken as a serious part of the mythology, but it’s interesting nonetheless and amusing to hear his disdain for anything that’s good or righteous describing the White Lodge as a “wretched place of saccharine excess”.
The lead up to the Miss Twin Peaks Contest is also a key element in this episode. It’s been clear from the start with this subplot that Earle has something twisted planned for the event, but for the moment it serves as a platform for more comedy involving the Mayor and his fiancée Lana, as well as those participating in the pageant. Unlike previous episodes their scenes are fairly brief and kept to a minimum serving as welcome lighter moments rather than comedic crutches. Those also attending the contest meeting at the roadhouse spread a little laughter as Mike explains to Bobby his fascination with Nadine. Whatever the result of “super human strength” and “sexual maturity” is when whispered in Bobby’s ear, it’s enough to produce a startling reaction and is another Twin Peaks mystery that will go unanswered.
Another local event which raises a few laughs without going as bonkers as the Pine Weasel benefit is Richard Tremayne‘s “oenophiliac soiree” session. Not only does his bandaged up nose serve as source of comedy, but his poorly concealed frustration with Andy’s attempts to join in are particularly funny, especially when he yells “don’t taste it yet Andy!” Of course, anything that Lana suggests is met with agreement and a goofy grin, leading Lucy to spit wine in Richard’s face.
Richard also gets brownie points for luring the old Ben out of his good shell a tiny bit. After asking him for worker’s compensation on top of medical expenses for his damaged nose and informing him he’ll contact his attorney, Ben is clearly rattled, muttering to himself, “sometimes the urge to do bad is nearly overpowering”.
Sadly, this episode marks the final appearance of Gordon Cole in the series, but before he leaves town manages to deliver arguably one of the best, at least funniest lines, of the series. Still infatuated with Shelly in the diner he decides to make his move and leans in for a kiss as Bobby walks in. “Hey what the hell’s going on,” exclaims Bobby to which Cole replies “you are witnessing a front three-quarter view of two adults sharing a tender moment”. Classic. Not realising Bobby is Shelly’s boyfriend he yells “take another look Sonny it’s going to happen again” putting the cherry on top of a great scene, leaving Bobby gob-smacked and the audience giving a firm thumbs up to his performance.
While the Major is called for help, finding out about Windom Earle’s involvement with project Blue Book, revealing during his visit that he’s seen the petroglyph before, there are other mysterious goings on and Catherine shows her mysterious puzzle box to Harry. Pete accidentally solves the first part of the puzzle simply by dropping it, but the box inside remains firmly sealed. It’s a small thing compared to the White Lodge but its just mysterious enough to make you care about finding out what’s inside, plus it’s always fun to see Pete do anything other than mourn over Catherine/Josie’s death.
There may be several memorable moments in this instalment but it’s the ending of the episode really leaves an indelible image in the mind, as Cooper discovers the fruits of Windom’s Earle papier-mache session in his cabin. Although it’s not a shocker in the sense that we didn’t know it was coming, the discovery of the dead “Heavy Metal Teen” encased in a giant pawn has a genuinely cinematic quality, and the dramatic way in which it’s revealed at the familiar gazebo in Easter Park is one of the series’ best endings.
Earle wasn’t just getting busy with his arts and crafts before revealing his next move and found time to spy on Cooper and Annie as well. With the romance advancing at a considerable rate of knots (less than a week of Twin Peaks time will have past before disaster strikes in the finale), the couple share their first kiss while out in a boat on the lake after having a heart to heart talk about their pasts. Later on Cooper will meet Audrey’s suitor by the fireside of the Great Northern where, if it wasn’t clear enough before, they vocalise how much they’re in love with their respective girlfriends.
Like the episode before it, Episode 26 has all the successful ingredients needed to make a classic slice of Twin Peaks pie, there are laughs, there are thrills and even better, with just three episodes left, the promise of more to come.
8.5/10 Seriable Stars