Like a lot of other people, I found Part 12 to be pretty challenging. There were a few great moments, but overall I found it to be kind of boring and strange—and not the good kind of strange. We are twelve hours in to the eighteen-hour story and I expected a bit more forward movement than we got in Part 12. It almost seemed like Lynch and Frost were engaged in some good natured trolling of the audience, especially since the episode title was the iconic “Let’s Rock.” There have been plenty of drawn out moments in the series where the audience is expected to have a great deal of patience, but Part 12 took it to a level that tested even the most loyal Twin Peaks fans.
I believe Part 12 was intentionally frustrating and obtuse. There were a lot of scenes that seem to serve no discernible purpose, and although I know there is a distinct possibility that it will all mesh better once we’ve seen the entire series, the episode left me wanting. That said, we do learn a few interesting pieces of information, we get some excellent Sarah Palmer content, and we finally see Audrey Horne, although her return raises a lot more questions than it answers.
At the hotel in Buckhorn, the FBI squad (sans Diane) is gathered, drinking some good wine from Gordon’s personal collection. Gordon is using his red device and it seems like he’s scanning the room for bugs. They have decided that it’s time to fill Agent Preston in on the Blue Rose detail and we get a lot of exposition from Albert about how it all came to be.
Albert tells Tammy the backstory of the Blue Rose task force. It began as Project Blue Book, a 20-year investigation into UFOs that was shut down by the US Air Force in 1970. The official story was that there was no credible evidence but it was all a cover up. [Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks is a goldmine of extra information on Project Blue Book and worth reading.] A few years after Project Blue Book was shut down, the Blue Rose task force was created in secret as a joint venture between the FBI and the military. Its purpose was “to explore the troubling abstractions” raised by the Project Blue Book cases. The name “Blue Rose” came from a woman involved in one of the cases who said those words just before her death. In their investigation of the Blue Rose cases, they discovered that “answers could not be reached except by an alternate path we’ve been traveling ever since.”
When the task force was created, Gordon put Agent Phillip Jeffries in charge. Jeffries then recruited Albert, Chet Desmond, and Dale Cooper. Of all of the Blue Rose agents, Albert is the only one who hasn’t inexplicably disappeared, so Gordon has hesitated to bring in anyone else—until Tammy Preston. They have been keeping tabs on Tammy since she was in high school. We learn that Tammy made the dean’s list at M.I.T. and was top of her class at Quantico (so maybe all the Tammy haters who think Gordon just keeps her around for eye candy can shut up now). They invite Tammy to join the Blue Rose task force and she’s all in.
Gordon gets a message that Diane is on her way up and she enters the room through some red curtains (quite similar to the Red Room curtains) that seem strangely out of place in the room. Albert offers her a bottle of vodka and tells her that they want to temporarily deputize her because she’s familiar with both Agent Cooper and (to a lesser extent) the Blue Rose cases. Diane asks what’s in it for her and Albert tells her they can offer a little bit of cash but, more importantly, by helping them she might finally get some answers about what happened to her friend Cooper. She takes a moment and then agrees to join them with the iconic line for which the episode is named.
Of all people, Diane is the last person I expected to say “Let’s Rock,” but here we are.
Back in Twin Peaks, poor Jerry Horne has finally made his way out of the woods. There’s just a very brief scene of him running away from the woods and falling down, with absolutely no explanation of what happened or why he’d been lost in there.
Elsewhere in town, we find Sarah Palmer in the grocery store, restocking her vodka, Bloody Mary mix, and cigarette supplies (there’s also a Lean Cuisine in there because even alcoholics need to eat). The years have not been kind to Sarah, and she was never particularly stable to begin with. She seems mostly okay until she notices a display of beef and turkey jerky at the checkout counter. She’s disturbed by the fact that they are a new addition and she asks what type it is (even though she is close enough to easily see the packages). She asks if the turkey jerky is smoked (it is, and it’s clearly marked on the package). As the scene goes on, some disturbing music (originally featured in Fire Walk With Me) plays in the background and Sarah starts to lose control.
She speaks to the checkout girl (who looks a little bit like Laura): “Were you here when they first came? Your room seems different. And men are coming. I am trying to tell you that you have to watch out! Things can happen! Something happened to me. Something happened to me!” Then she yells “I don’t feel good!” a few times and starts talking to herself on her way out of the store. She leaves her items and the checkout guy says he knows where she lives and wonders if he should deliver the stuff to her. Since the kids working at the store were born after everything that happened with Laura and the Palmer family, I wonder how much they know about Sarah’s situation. The fact that the boy knows where she lives leads me to believe that she’s got some notoriety in Twin Peaks, even with the younger generation.
At the Fat Trout a resident named Kriscol walks by Carl’s office and Carl waves him over. He’s worried about Kriscol, who has been selling his blood to make ends meet. Carl notes that Kriscol has done a lot of labor around the trailer park without compensation. He gives Kriscol $50 for work already done and tells him that the next month’s rent is taken care of. Carl is deeply disturbed that Kriscol needs to sell his blood to make ends meet and tells him to come talk to him before considering it again.
Carl Rodd was an enigmatic figure when he first appeared in Fire Walk With Me and I didn’t really know what to make of him. But the more we see and learn of him in The Return, the more obvious it becomes that he is a force of good and kindness—and in the town of Twin Peaks, true goodness seems to be in short supply these days.
In Vegas, we get a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-length scene between DougieCoop and Sonny Jim. Sonny Jim is trying to have a father-son catch in the yard but when he tosses the ball at DougieCoop, he doesn’t respond at all and it hits him in the shoulder. I’ll admit, I laughed, but then the scene just ends and we don’t see Coop again for the rest of the episode.
We return to Twin Peaks as “Laura’s Theme” plays. Hawk pulls up to the Palmer house to go check on Sarah. There’s a shot of the iconic ceiling fan of the Palmer house, though it’s not the classic perspective from the bottom of the staircase. Instead, we see it from the outside, through the window of Laura’s room. There’s also a close up shot of the fan spinning. The Palmers’ ceiling fan has always signified the presence (or impending presence) of BOB, and this combined with “Laura’s Theme” makes the scene that much more ominous.
When Sarah finally answers the door, she’s not at all pleased to see Hawk. He lies and says he’s been meaning to stop by because some old cases popped up that reminded him of her but she knows he’s there because of the scene she made at the store. She tells him, “I just don’t know what came over me,” and she does seem to have pulled it together a bit since her grocery store meltdown, but there’s something very harsh and dark about the way she looks at and speaks to Hawk in the scene.
The sound of bottles rattling comes from inside the house and when Hawk asks if there’s somebody there she says no, that it’s “just something in the kitchen.” She seems evasive about it and when Hawk asks again if she’s okay, she snaps a bit and says through gritted teeth, “It’s a goddamn bad story, isn’t it Hawk?” Hawk sees that Sarah is most definitely not okay and offers her “help of any kind.”
Sarah’s demeanor during this scene combined with the noises from within the house and the active ceiling fan lead me to believe that something dark is happening in the Palmer house. She almost looks like BOB towards the end. We know from the original series that Sarah Palmer is “gifted” and somehow able to psychically tap into the Black Lodge. She’s just told the checkout girl “something happened to me” and “men are coming.” Could these men be the Woodsmen on the stairs that appeared in Gordon’s vision? The staircase in Gordon’s vision looked almost like a dark mirror of the Palmer house staircase, and there was a small glimpse of the wallpaper from the painting that Laura entered in FWWM.
I’m starting to believe that perhaps the Palmer house itself may be a portal to the Lodge; at the very least it’s Lodge-adjacent. Could Sarah have fallen victim to the influence of a Black Lodge spirit? I’m not entirely convinced that she is possessed, but I do believe that the Black Lodge energy has infected her in some way and that she’s having her dark visions again. Independent of any knowledge of the police investigation into Cooper or Major Briggs’ message, Sarah knows that something bad is about to happen, and I believe that her psychic gifts have given her some knowledge that might be of use to Hawk and the rest if she chose to share it with them (though I doubt she will).
We get a brief shot of Miriam Sullivan unconscious in her hospital bed. On my second viewing I noticed something strange: a small gold ball seems to be floating above the flowers next to her. I’m not sure what to make of it but since we’ve seen a lot of strange and otherworldly gold balls popping up, it seems worth noting.
At the hotel bar in Buckhorn, Diane receives another text from an unknown number that says, “Las Vegas?” She replies, “THEY HAVEN’T ASKED YET.” I’m still not exactly sure what’s up with Diane and if she’s texting with DoppelCoop or someone else. DoppelCoop would certainly know the significance of Las Vegas and has been one step (or several steps) ahead of the feds the entire time. A more interesting question this raises is whether Diane knows about the existence of Dougie and DougieCoop’s existence in Vegas. Diane remains a mystery but this text exchange strongly suggests that the Blue Rose squad will soon receive information—the fingerprints from the coffee cup? The news report footage from the Ike the Spike attack?—leading them to DougieCoop in Vegas. But is DoppelCoop pulling the strings? If so, is Hutch and Chantal’s Vegas “double header” meant for Gordon and Albert? As always with Diane, there are more questions than answers.
Back in Twin Peaks, Sheriff Truman goes to see Ben Horne at the Great Northern to tell him that his grandson, Richard, is responsible for the hit-and-run death of the little boy as well as the attempted murder of Miriam Sullivan. Miriam has no insurance and Frank successfully gets Ben to agree to pay her medical costs so she can get a much-needed operation. Ben is upset (but not entirely surprised) that Richard has done these things and he tells Frank, “That boy has never been right.”
Ben tells Frank that Harry had many run-ins with Richard over the years, each worse than the last. Frank likely already knows this because he’s already spoken with Harry about Richard’s latest crimes. The talk of Harry reminds Ben that he had intended to send Harry the Room 315 key he received in the mail as a sort of memento of Agent Cooper. This seems an odd thing for Ben to think about doing but then again he’s trying to be good these days so maybe it seemed like a nice gesture to him. Frank is very interested in the key and he says he’ll give it to Harry but I suspect he’s going to keep it as evidence in their investigation.
Ben calls Beverly in after Frank leaves and tells her that Richard is the one who killed the boy. He also tells her, “Richard never had a father,” and just when I think we might actually learn something concrete about Richard’s parents, Ben starts telling Beverly a story about a bike that his father got for him when he was a kid. He then tells Beverly to contact the hospital so that he can pay Miriam’s medical expenses, and when she leaves the room he says to himself, “I love that bike that my father got for me.” The whole bike thing seems like Ben’s way of lamenting the fact that Richard never had a father in his life. Perhaps, as his grandfather, he feels like he failed Richard by not stepping up and taking on the role of father figure to him. Or maybe he tried and failed because Richard was always a bad seed. We still don’t know, although I continue to believe that Richard is Audrey’s son and will until the show tells me otherwise.
The next scene is when I really started to feel like I was being trolled by Lynch. He’s got himself as Gordon Cole (the ultimate self-insert character) in a room with a beautiful French woman, and she’s hanging all over him as he tells her some FBI story meant to impress her. They are interrupted by Albert’s knock on the door and Albert wishes to speak to Gordon in private. When Gordon asks the woman if she’ll go down to the bar and wait for him, there’s a more than 2-minute long scene of the French woman preparing to leave. I’m a patient person, especially when it comes to The Return, but this was too much even for me. Albert stands there watching the woman, growing increasingly frustrated at how long it’s taking, and let’s just say I could relate.
There are some theories floating around that the woman’s exaggerated actions are Blue Rose code (as with Lil from Fire Walk With Me) and this would be interesting if true. However, I really just think this is “Lynch being Lynch” in a way that I couldn’t muster the patience for. Lynch’s work has been criticized for its portrayal of women, and even in-universe Gordon Cole has gotten shit from Denise about being a womanizer, so I can’t help but read this scene as a bit of a “F You I Do What I Want” moment. I wasn’t offended by it, but I was bored by it, and it was even worse the second time around.
When she’s finally gone, Gordon tells a bad joke involving word play and turnips to a stone-faced Albert. Gordon makes a comment to Albert that there are more than 6,000 languages spoken on Earth and Albert just stands there silently. They stare at each other for a while and then we finally get to the reason for Albert’s visit: he’s intercepted Diane’s Vegas texts. Gordon seems baffled about what they know that they haven’t asked Diane about. It seems that Vegas isn’t ringing any bells for him yet. Then Gordon and Albert stare at each other for a long time, and Gordon finally says:
Albert’s face has been inscrutable during this entire scene and I can’t seem to figure out if there’s something going on with him. Is Gordon concerned because the rest of the original Blue Rose agents have all disappeared and he’s worried Albert will be next? Or does he suspect that Albert is up to something? I reject outright the idea that Albert has gone to the dark side and refuse to even discuss it, but maybe Gordon—who has seen things that the rest have not—has reached the point where he doesn’t know who to trust. Whatever is going on, I have to say I was glad when the scene was over.
We move on to one of the bright spots for me in this episode: Hutch and Chantal are getting ready to take out Warden Murphy. Hutch is readying his sniper rifle and, being the amazing husband that he is, trying to figure out a way that Chantal can torture the Warden before they kill him. But there’s no time, because Chantal is hungry and she wants to get it done so she can go get some Wendy’s. She’s got some Cheetos to snack on but they aren’t enough, and I get it because when you want Wendy’s, nothing else will satisfy.
The Warden returns home and Hutch takes him out with two shots. The second one takes part of his head off as his young son runs out of the house screaming for his Daddy. Hutch and Chantal couldn’t care less because it’s time for some well deserved Wendy’s as a treat for a job done right. This scene gave me the kind of thing I like from The Return: a moment of comedy played alongside something horrific. I enjoy a scene that can give me a chuckle even though a small child is screaming at the sight of his father’s blown-off skull in the background. Also it made me crave Wendy’s, so A+ product placement there.
We get another Dr. Amp broadcast scene (with Nadine as an enthralled listener) but it seems to be quite similar to the first time we saw Dr. Jacoby’s adventures in vlogging. We see the golden shovel commercial again and Nadine is really digging it (no pun intended).
There’s some new content about politicians being bought by corporations and betraying those who they are bound to serve, which is painfully relevant these days. I have to say, there is a lot more social commentary involved in The Return than I would have expected but it’s a welcome surprise.
Then we cut to one of the most anticipated moments in the series: the reintroduction of Audrey Horne. I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. There’s so much bizarre shit to unpack in this scene that I hardly know where to begin, but the broad strokes are that Audrey is unhappily married to a man named Charlie, Audrey is openly cheating on him with someone named Billy, and Billy has been missing for two days. We’ve heard the name “Billy” before—many episodes ago, when a random man named Bing busted into the Double R and asked if anyone had seen Billy.
There’s no establishing shot to make it explicit that we are in Twin Peaks, but Audrey does reference The Roadhouse and wants to go there to look for Billy. She wants Charlie’s help but he’s got a lot of paperwork and a deadline and it’s late and he thinks they should start fresh in the morning. Audrey proceeds to berate and emasculate Charlie, calling him all manner of names and making it clear to him that she’s cheating on him with Billy.
Audrey mentions that she had a dream about Billy where he was bleeding from his nose and mouth. She says that “dreams sometimes hearken a truth,” which felt to me a lot like something our old friend Agent Cooper might say. Audrey wants Charlie to sign some sort of papers—possibly divorce papers but this whole scene is so weird who even knows. There’s also some random person named Paul who she threatens to show the papers to. Audrey and Charlie’s marriage involves some sort of contract between them that Audrey is determined to break.
She says she has to find someone named Tina, who was the last person to see Billy. She found this out from someone named Chuck, but Chuck’s info can’t be trusted because he’s “certifiable.” We find out from Charlie that Chuck stole Billy’s truck the week prior and Billy called the sheriff who found the truck that afternoon. Billy got his truck back and dropped any charges against Chuck.
Charlie offers to call Tina to see what she knows, and it seems to me like Charlie and Tina may have their own affair going on. Charlie calls her and we only hear his side of the conversation, which gives zero new information, as Audrey grows more and more impatient. When he hangs up, he just stares at her and doesn’t say anything and Audrey is all of us when she finally loses it.
This bizarre, convoluted scene (which clocks in at around 11 minutes) finally, mercifully ends. While it was good to see Audrey again, the whole thing was just a bizarre info dump with no actual info. It seems strange that this is the way we are reintroduced to Audrey, who was one of the most prominent and beloved characters in the original series. The whole thing left me feeling much like Charlie looks during most of this scene. At the very least, I have this to use as a reaction gif now.
We return to Diane at the bar, wearing a different outfit than she was when she received the Vegas text. In fact, she’s wearing what she wore when she memorized the coordinates on Ruth Davenport’s arm, which leads me to believe that the Diane bar scenes are taking place out of sequence. It’s late and the bar is closed but the bartender gives her a drink anyway (probably to avoid a “Fuck You, Bartender”) and Diane focuses on recalling the coordinates. She’s used some sort of mnemonic device to memorize the coordinates and when she types them into Google Maps it reveals that the location as none other than Twin Peaks, Washington.
We go to the Roadhouse where The Chromatics are performing again. Here I am thinking that the episode is over (and I’m not unhappy about it, even though it’s only 50 minutes in) but then we have to sit through a scene with a bunch of random Roadhouse patrons we don’t know or care about, talking about a bunch of other people we don’t know or care about. My initial reaction is usually to over-analyze but as far as this scene goes, it feels like a complete throwaway that won’t be revisited. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I can’t bring myself to care about Abbie and Natalie and Angela and Clark and Mary and all their relationship drama. The only thing that even remotely interested me is when a guy named Trick rushes in and sits down at the table, saying he almost just got run off the road. Maybe I’m just dumpster diving for something interesting in this scene but my first thought was that it could be DoppelCoop speeding into town (or Richard Horne speeding out of it).
In all likelihood, though, it’s just a whole lot of nothing, which is my overall feeling about this episode. There were a few scenes, especially the Sarah Palmer stuff, that I enjoyed and felt really added to the story, but overall Part 12 felt like a chore—something that I had to suffer through in order to (hopefully) reap the rewards of what’s to come as we head into the final few hours. Maybe once I’ve seen all eighteen hours of The Return, I’ll feel differently about Part 12—and I really do hope that’s the case—but right now it is by far and away my least favorite episode and the first one I had to force myself to watch again.