Twin Peaks Episode 15: She’s Dead, Wrapped in Plastic… Again
Of all the titles given to the episodes when they were aired in Germany, Twin Peaks Episode 15, “Drive with a Dead Girl”, is my least favourite. Maddy Ferguson is not just a “dead girl”, and after her brutal murder in the last episode, it feels almost disrespectful to call her that.
Yet, the theme of lost identity in death is strong in Twin Peaks. Teresa Banks is well-remembered by us avid watchers invested in her life, but her character in Fire Walk With Me had no family or friends come to identify or collect her body. She was a girl in trouble, likely a runaway or missing from home. Did her parents care where she was? Did they even know she was dead? We may never know. The same goes for Darya in Season 3. She’s a young woman who undoubtedly wants something more out of life and caught in a predicament that she desperately wants to get out of—badly enough to risk trying to trick Mr C. Darya ends up being the fourth known female murder victim of BOB…or at least the host of BOB; in Season 3, BOB doesn’t seem to be behind the wheel at all. Yes, of course, the fact that Frank Silva is no longer with us made it harder for Lynch to give him a big role, but there are always ways and means; just look at Phillip Jeffries. In my opinion, it felt like Cooper’s doppelgänger, Mr C, has repressed BOB; he isn’t even sure if BOB is still using him as a host (“You’re still with me, that’s good”).
The breeziness of Mr C’s demeanour when he shoots Darya in the head is what stands them apart. It’s a job to Bad Cooper, not a crime of passion or the need to control and consume a woman he desires, as BOB would do. He has a mission to find Judy, no different to the good side of his soul also on the hunt, but their approach to the task couldn’t be further apart on the spectrum. As with all human beings, some work their asses off their whole lives to fulfil their dreams. Others will use corrupt means to do so, and maybe they’ll get what they want sooner, but they’ll lose everything, too. It’s all about balance, and the Log Lady has some sage words about balance in her intro to Twin Peaks Episode 15:
Food is interesting. For instance, why do we need to eat? Why are we never satisfied with just the right amount of food to maintain good health and proper energy? We always seem to want more and more. When eating too much, the proper balance is disturbed, and ill health follows. Of course, eating too little food throws the balance off in the opposite direction, and there is the ill health coming at us again. Balance is the key. Balance is the key to many things. Do we understand balance? The word balance has seven letters. Seven is difficult to balance, but not impossible if we are able to divide. There are, of course, the pros and cons of division.
It’s hard not to think about Cooper and his doppelgänger when reading that. Two halves of the same soul—one who wants and takes, the other who needs and goes without. BOB is a parasite that desperately needs to feed on human pain and suffering, as well as the pleasures of the flesh. But this Log Lady intro is intended for Episode 15, so it would seem that the intention behind this talk of gluttony, greed, and division is to focus on the relationship between Leland Palmer and BOB.
The previous night, without provocation or even expectation on our part, Leland is revealed to be the one who sees BOB in his reflection. So he was never going to allow his niece, Maddy, to return home to Missoula. Instead, he drugs his wife and then stalks and viciously attacks Maddy, sexually assaulting her and then ending her life in such a violent way that I still find it hard to watch. Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise both deserve all the awards for their harrowing performances together.
The morning after, Donna and James arrive at Laura’s house to say their goodbyes to Maddy. Leland, who’s been manically putting golf balls in his living room, tells them that she’s already left, that he dropped her off at the bus station just 20 minutes earlier; he even goes so far as to make them feel guilty for standing Maddy up the night before. If they hadn’t, would Maddy be alive this morning? Or would all three, Maddy, James, and Donna, have been victims? That feels unlikely; while BOB is animalistic and opportunist, Leland is crafty—he’s a lawyer after all, and he wouldn’t risk getting caught killing all three of them. Besides, only Maddy has the gift of seeing the true face of BOB, which proves to be her damnation.
There is no reason to kill Maddy. There is no reason to kill any of his victims, of course, but Teresa was blackmailing him, and Laura had just figured out that it was her father who had been raping her since she was 12, so they needed to be silenced. BOB takes Maddy just for fun, to feed on her pain and suffering. And now he’s strong. Leland has given in to BOB’s powers, allowing BOB to use him and play the part of Leland Palmer. And what does Leland enjoy the most? Singing, dancing, and playing golf.
He Wears a Smile, Everybody Run
It’s strange perhaps that BOB is still in full control of Leland’s body in the cold light of day (and note that this is the only time we ever see BOB in daylight, proving that your demons are always there with you, not just in the dark.) But there is a good reason for that. Maddy’s body remains in the Palmer house, wrapped in plastic and stuffed crudely into a large golf bag. Leland puts his golf iron in the bag, and we see Maddy’s bloodied hand squashed inside. It hurts me to see her body treated so poorly after her death. Why doesn’t Leland dispose of her body at night while Sarah is passed out? Likely because if any witnesses saw him with a massive golfing bag in tow at night, it would look pretty suspicious. So he waits until the morning to set the scene; golf balls are strewn across the floor conveniently for Donna and James to witness his mood and intention (and also to give a reason as to why there are dents in the wall where he smashed poor Maddy’s head into it). Then off to work at the Great Northern he goes, humming the jolly tune, “Surrey with a Fringe on Top” from Oklahoma!
For anyone who doesn’t know this already, a surrey with a fringe on top was a type of cart drawn by horses. The fringe sat on top of the wagon’s canopy roof and was considered high-class. So as the song goes:
When I take you out tonight with me
Honey, here’s the way it’s gonna be
You will set behind a team of snow-white horses
In the slickest gig you’ll ever see
Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry
When I take you out in the surrey
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top
Watch that fringe an’ see how it flutters
When I drive them high-steppin’ strutters
Nosy pokes’ll peek through their shutters and their eyes will pop!
Snow-white horses, you say? Sarah sees a white horse appear in her living room both when Laura is raped by Leland/BOB the night before her murder, and when Maddy is killed, so it feels as if the horse is a symbol of death arriving to take the soul away. It makes Leland’s happy whistling all the more grotesque.
Cooper and Truman arrive in the Great Northern lobby to witness Leland dancing like Fred Astaire, using his golf club as a cane. Hotel guests watch and applaud his talents, while Coop and Truman clearly know something’s not quite right. I guess they could put it down to a hysterical stage of grief, a breakdown of sorts. Coop senses it’s more than that, but he can’t act on a hunch. Truman has to break the news to Leland that Ben Horne has been arrested for Laura’s murder, and Leland plays the feigned shock perfectly. Firstly, he has to behave as if he’s just realised that Jacques was not her killer, so he has taken the life of an ‘innocent’ man. This allows him to act like he’s learned his lesson not to take the law into his own hands and will not get angry about Ben, his boss, being the prime suspect. It’s all worked out just as Leland/BOB had planned.
Ray Wise’s performance here is nothing short of spectacular; it’s horrifyingly brilliant, making you want to scream at the screen to tell Coop and Truman, “It’s him, it’s the father!” They can’t hear you. BOB cackles away with his face in his hands, pretending to cry, barely able to contain his hilarity. He pulls a straight face together in Coop’s presence, but only just. And when they’ve gone, he begins dancing again.
His name is BOB, eager for fun; he wears a smile, everybody run.
Game, Set, Match: Catherine
Meanwhile, Benjamin Horne has been arrested for the murder of Laura Palmer and only has his hapless brother Jerry as his lawyer, as his actual lawyer was Leland, so yeah. Awkward. Even worse for Ben is that he has no alibi for his whereabouts on the night Laura was killed because he was with Catherine, and Catherine is missing—presumed dead—after the Mill fire, which Ben arranged. So, he’s really got his spotted socks in a tangle, hasn’t he? I have to say, I never disliked Ben when I was a youngster—he was like a comedy villain to me—but now that I’ve met so many people in the world just like him, I really cannot stand his character. Richard Beymer plays the role to perfection, of course. Ben literally cannot believe this is happening to him; don’t they know who he is? He is powerful, wealthy, and white!
As Ben and Jerry often do when times are tough, they reminisce about being kids in bunk beds, watching a girl, Louise Dombrowski, dance with a torchlight on the hook rug in front of them in her skirt and bare feet. In these moments, you feel some warmth for the brothers grim, for they were children once, innocent and in awe of the simple beauty to be found in life. Even they wonder where it all went wrong for them. When did their greed take over, and the magic stop? Now and then, they both found something that would give them a fleeting moment of real, honest pleasure, like the smoked cheese pig or a brie baguette, but it would never be enough. Still, we mustn’t feel too sorry for them. At least they have warm memories to look back on. Many of the girls who work for them at One-Eyed Jacks won’t have that privilege, and some, like Laura, won’t even get the chance to grow up.
Of course, Catherine isn’t dead; she’s been playing dress-up. Learning of Ben’s predicament, she makes her final, winning move in the game of chance that she, Josie, and Ben have been playing. Pete takes a recording of Catherine to the jail cell and plays it to Ben, who at first is overjoyed that Catherine—his ‘get out of jail free’ card—is alive! Then it becomes clear that if she’s going to tell the police the truth, she’s going to want something in return: Ghostwood.
Ben has no choice but to hand it over to her, as he values his freedom and probably knows he wouldn’t last a day in prison. What’s so great about this is that if it had happened 24 hours later, he wouldn’t have even needed Catherine to bail him out, as it would have been evident that Ben was not the real killer. As it goes, the stars are looking down on Catherine this time, and she wins the long game with her shrewd mind and patience. Ben undoubtedly hurt her; she was sleeping with him after all, and he did try to have her killed. So vengeance is very sweet and deserved.
Pete and Catherine’s relationship is the one I respect the most in Twin Peaks. They both know that the spark between them has been gone for years, but they don’t give up on each other or stop caring. Their relationship is not one of romantic love but of deep friendship and companionship. They can rely on each other and forgive their misdemeanours when it comes to the crunch. Pete doesn’t flinch when he hears Catherine’s admission about sleeping with Ben; instead, he is impressed with her cunning at beating bigwig Ben at his own game. Pete doesn’t want Catherine in a sexual way, either. He’s in love with Josie, but Catherine is still his wife, and running into the burning Mill to save her life is the most valiant act in the whole of Twin Peaks. Now that is a man who would face the Dweller on the Threshold with perfect courage.
You Can’t Choose Your Family
Three new characters are introduced in Episode 15, and two of them are my least favourite of the entire series, even more so than Evelyn and Malcolm or Little Nicky: Vivian and Ernie Niles. Vivian is Norma’s mother, and she is horrid. The only good thing I can say for Vivian is that her belittling and bullying of Norma, while it likely shook her to her core, also made her an independent and headstrong woman determined to make something of her business and treat people with kindness and respect. Norma is everything a mother should be without actually being a mother—though she practically is to Shelly.
Even worse than Vivian is her husband, Ernie, a con artist and gambler who has recently married Vivian to strip her of her fortune. Before long, it becomes clear that Hank and Ernie had been mates in prison, and the pair are up to no good. This subplot is very much the beginning of where things go downhill in the show for me. It’s too typical soap opera, without the wit and humour of other side stories going on. Take the Andy and Lucy pregnancy storyline, for example. The third new face in this episode is Gwen, Lucy’s sister, who is just like her but with bleached blond hair and a negative outlook on everything. Nosey and talkative as she is, Hawk is bemused by her when they meet.
Gwen and Lucy arrive at the Sheriff’s station with Gwen’s baby in tow, and Lucy happens to be carrying the child when Andy walks in. Andy clearly doesn’t understand that pregnancy takes nine months, not just a few days, and faints when he sees the child, as he has now learned that his sperm are healthy and strong and swimming upstream just fine. So, he could be the father, and he’s over the moon until Lucy has to drop a bombshell that he might not be. All of this is played with light humour and absurdity and is a welcome contrast to the darkness in the woods.
Bobby and Shelly also have a baby to deal with in the shape of Leo Johnson. Bobby doesn’t want this life anymore and takes a leaf from the book of cunning plans that Catherine must have read from. Bobby has found a tape in Leo’s boot, proving Ben hired him to set fire to the Mill. Bobby packages up the tape to use it as blackmail against Ben in exchange for giving him a job.
Yet all the while, throughout all this stuff happening in Episode 15, I find myself getting annoyed. I don’t really care about these subplots—What about Maddy?
Maddy is a character that I have always been deeply interested in. She shared so much with Laura; friendship, secrets, intuition, perhaps even a psychic link. She saw the face of BOB before her time came, but like Laura, she doesn’t see that it’s Leland behind the mask until it is too late. We learn so much about what it must have been like for Laura when we witness Maddy’s brutal murder, and it is genuinely gutwrenching. Unlike Laura, though, Maddy doesn’t get the same level of mourning or shock bestowed upon her. There are plenty of reasons why, of course. Maddy was just visiting Twin Peaks; she’d only gone to the town to attend Laura’s funeral, so other than Leland and Sarah, there was no one else who knew her well. She’d played a brief role in Donna and James’ lives, and even though Maddy’s death would be upsetting for them, they weren’t really close to her.
I would be fascinated to find out more about Maddy’s backstory. Did her mother Beth disown her sister Sarah after her only child’s death at the hands of her brother-in-law? What happened to Beth? How did Maddy’s friends feel when they learned she’d been murdered? I guess the sad truth is that Laura’s story, Maddy’s story, Teresa, Darya—all the other stories of young women murdered by men who want a piece of them or to punish them—leave the same legacy. Their loved ones mourn, time heals the pain a little, the world keeps spinning. That is the evil that men do.
All the while, The One-Armed Man is being cared for at the Great Northern by a nurse while a police officer keeps guard. MIKE is still in control of this vessel, and he can sense that BOB is close—Leland is dancing downstairs in the lobby. After distracting the nurse, MIKE hits the officer with an ornament (which he feels badly about) and then flees through the window. It seems like a weird thing for him to do, but it might just actually be what saves Cooper’s life.
As Cooper and Truman travel in their police cruiser, Leland drives towards them, zigzagging across the road, driving erratically and singing, “Surrey with a Fringe on Top”. Cooper whistles the exact same tune at that same time, which, c’mon, has to mean something! It’s not like that song was particularly popular at the time and played on the radio often. It’s as if he has a psychic intuition that BOB is near, or perhaps Cooper is already linked to BOB in some sense. As is often the case with murderers and serial killers, they believe that ‘The Devil’ made them do it when really they have schizophrenia or a personality disorder that makes them delusional and disassociative. Having met with a few real-life killers locked in secure mental facilities over the years, I can tell you that it’s easy to distinguish the mad from the bad. There is true evil in some people, and you’ll know it when you’re near it.
When Leland nearly runs them off the road, Truman turns the cruiser around and pulls Leland over. While Truman takes an urgent message from Hawk over the radio, Cooper, at Leland’s request to check out his golf clubs, goes with him to the trunk of his car. Leland takes out a club, but Cooper is distracted and does not see Maddy’s body, nor does he notice that Leland is about to club him across the head with a nine iron.
What is BOB’s thinking here? For all his craziness, to kill an FBI officer in broad daylight with another officer present can never have worked out well. What’s his intention? Does he want to get caught? If that’s the case, why even hide Maddy’s body at all? It could all have been a game, of course, as BOB does like to play with fire, and amusing himself at the expense of law enforcement is one of his favourite pastimes. Most of all, he is playing with Leland’s life here. It seems that BOB is ready for a new host.
Hawk’s radio call gives word that The One-Armed Man has been found down by The Falls, and so before BOB/Leland can fulfil his actions, Cooper and Truman leave the scene, sirens blaring.
With MIKE back in custody at the Sheriff’s station, Cooper takes him to meet Ben Horne. MIKE recognises that BOB has been close but that he’s not there now. Jerry’s animated behaviour gets Ben Horne charged with the murder of Laura Palmer by Truman. Cooper takes Truman to the side to tell him that he doesn’t think Ben is the killer. Truman is not convinced:
Cooper, I’ve backed you every step of the way, but I’ve had enough of the mumbo-jumbo. I’ve had enough of the dreams, the visions, the dwarfs, the giants, Tibet and the rest of the hocus-pocus.
Cooper respects Truman’s opinion and apologises to him, stating that this is his backyard and he has overstepped the mark. Coop doesn’t put up any fight, nor is he upset to hear what Truman says about him. Is this is a planned tactic to keep Ben there overnight to be used as a pawn to lure Leland to the Roadhouse? Does Cooper just enjoy the fact that Ben is going through torture? Perhaps a little of both.
At the end of the episode, Audrey visits Cooper in his hotel room and discusses her father’s arrest. She’s upset, of course, and perhaps feels a little guilty for being partly responsible for it, as her own investigations revealed he was the owner of One-Eyed Jacks. But ultimately, Audrey knows she did the right thing. She tells Coop that all she wanted was for her father to love her, but instead, he was ashamed of her. She then clarifies that she did not partake in any sexual activities while she was at One-Eyed Jacks. At this point, it’s not that she wants to seduce Cooper (she knows that’s never going to happen now), but she does want his respect, and to do that, she has to stop behaving mischievously. Her time learning from Cooper has allowed her to blossom into a very bright and beautiful woman with a kind heart.
It Is Happening Again: She’s Dead, Wrapped in Plastic
Coop and Audrey’s moment is cut short when he receives a call to say that a body has been found in the water at the Falls. It’s Maddy, exactly how Laura was found washed up on the shore. Her face is peaceful, too, just like her cousin’s. But Maddy’s face doesn’t glisten in the morning sunshine; no sand twinkles like diamonds for her. Dirt from the water and bruises cover her face, lit up by torches and police car lights. Her discovery is far less enchanting than Laura’s. But because we know who Maddy was, how she died, who killed her, and why, Maddy is no mystery. To some, she might be just another victim, but we know better. She is a single blue rose wrapped in plastic.
This is the last we’ll see of Maddy (with the exception of her doppelgänger), and barely a word is spoken of her again.
Sheryl Lee’s time in Twin Peaks ends again in the same way it did in her very first scene. She has come full circle.
Twin Peaks Episode 15 is a terrifying hour of television, whether you see BOB as an evil demon possessing Leland like a parasite or as the visual representation of his broken psyche. Is there any difference? He has no control over either, and they both present the same tragedy.