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Written by Barry Pullman
Directed by James Foley

Airdate: 28 March, 1991

Well, golly damn. I thought we still had a while until the weasel episode. I guess I'm glad to have been wrong; it means I don't have to sit around fretting and dreading that the weasel episode is on its way, and commence to simply enjoying the end run of Twin Peaks. Because the weasel episode... this is it. This is the very worst thing every shown during the entirety of Twin Peaks. There's Andy's little devil Nicky thought bubble in Episode 19, and there's the moment when Cooper imagines his dead girlfriend's face hovering next to him like one of those greeting cards about guardian angels in Episode 21, and there's all that sonofabitching slow-motion in Episode 22, but the very worst thing in the history of the show is the weaselcam.

Picture it: we're at a pretty crappy scene in a pretty crappy subplot, where Ben Horne's (Richard Beymer) plan to harass and humiliate Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) includes staging a farcically down-rent fashion show about ecology in the meeting room of his hotel. Catherine herself finds this beyond ridiculous and dumb, and man, I'm sorry that of all things, Twin Peaks found its way to playing the "you can't accuse me of being stupid - I already know I'm being stupid!" card; it is my my very least-favorite card (Laurie, at least, has some snappy line readings). And at the end of the fashion show, nebbishy wildlife expert Tim Pinkle (David L. Lander) hands an endangered pine weasel to unctuous Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan), who gets bitten and drops the animal. A panic arises in the audience, and people run around screaming, and it's fucking sitcom garbage, but I can handle it. And then the music gets all bumpy and wacky, and I cannot handle that. And then we get a POV shot - we get a POV shot from the weasel's POV, and that makes me want to fire Twin Peaks and everyone involved in making it into th sun. How. Who. Why. What fucking level of creative bankruptcy needs to be at play for a weasel POV shot to seem like the correct decision? I would be embarrassed for the worst, corniest family sitcom to resort to scurrying the camera around on the ground from the perspective of a freaked-out mustelid, and for Twin Peaks to do it? God save us all.

But other than that, it's actually a pretty nifty little episode.

No, for real. Pretty much all of the deadwood has been cleared away, and the show feels like it's had a bit of a fresh coat of paint put on it. When Episode 24 rolled around, the show had been off the air for five-and-a-half weeks, and returned (after a desperate fan campaign) to its former glory on Thursday nights. The idea being that somehow, this was going to reverse the steady slide in the ratings, I suppose, though this was always going to be impossible, of course. Regardless, either because of the hiatus or a stroke of serendipity, the show's return feels more than a little like a soft reboot. For one thing, without telling us, it seems clear that the series has abandoned it's relatively strict chronology of each episode representing one consecutive day. It just doesn't seem remotely possible that everything we see at the start of the episode - Harry's (Michael Ontkean) plunge into raging drunkenness, the arrival in town of Norma's (Peggy Lipton) sister Annie (Heather Graham), the results of the autopsy on Josie's body, final preparations for the fashion show - could conceivably have happened in just eight or so hours. So we pretty clearly missed a day or two, sometime in that month and a half of Peaks-less misery. And I hate to say it, because I'm all about the chronological structure, but it helps a lot. It gives us a little boost forward and clears out the cobwebs.

Probably the best part of all of this is that Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) has spontaneously started to not suck. He still trots out one whackadoo disguise too many - Improbably Mustachioed Biker Guy at the Double R Diner  - but before that, he gets two genuinely good scenes, where he seems like the relentless psychopath (if not the magnificent genius) that Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has been describing all this time. First, we see him lose his temper at realising the strategy that Cooper and chess whiz Pete (Jack Nance, who is in magnificent form this episode) have whipped up, and while Welsh goes pretty deep into the scenery chewing, nothing about this feels like the jolly cartoon lunatic of the previous episodes. He seems rather like a feral animal sputtering foam. And then later, in a much different mode, he sneaks his way into the Hayward house, and has a pleasant, meandering chat with Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle). It's simple, unforced, and therefore thoroughly distressing, a perfect deployment of dramatic irony that benefits immensely from Welsh finally calming down and playing Earle like a human being for one whole scene.

But really, there's a lot of nice little stuff in here. None of it stands out, especially, but it's still solid character work. The plain goofiness of Nadine (Wendy Robie) and Mike (Gary Hershberger) attempting to sneak into a hotel contrasts well with the uncharacteristically sad and fragile scene of Nadine failing to understand that her husband is trying to divorce her; it's these little moments where show owns up to the reality that Nadine is an ultimately tragic figure that make me feel best about her very contrived plotline (and, if I'm being honest, this re-watching has left me feeling much better disposed to the Super Nadine material than I have been in the past; I remembered more gaudy wrestling bullshit, less middle-aged woman with a profoundly broken brain). Ontkean's savage, bitter drunk scenes are effectively distressing to watch, even if the show never really sold the Harry/Josie romance so well as to make this part feel earned (and let us not overlook the outstandingly shitty opening sequence, a montage of happy Josie memories intercut with a blurry whiskey glass, as a porny saxopohone plays). Hell, even though Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and John Justice Wheeler (Billy Zane) have the fiery chemistry of damp soda crackers, at least their boring picnic is impeccably shot, and beautifully staged against a mountain backdrop.

It's certainly not the show firing on all cylinders - no meeting between Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) and the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) should be as blandly functional as the one we get of them providing boring exposition to Cooper. And it's just not possible to deny that ending goes miles off the rails: the dumb fashion show gives way to the insipid weasel riot, and then we leap to a completely random and pointless shocker ending in which that one woman (Brenda Strong) we've seen palling around with the late Thomas Eckhardt - who I had totally forgotten about, despite being literally one day removed from the episode where he dies - crawling into bed with blackout-drunk Harry. It's not good when your cliffhanger is more nonsensical than tense or frightening, and it's not good to put all the worst stuff at the end; a bad ending taints the memory a story worse than a bad beginning does. And that, mostly, is why I just can't get too excited about this episode. It's a nice treat to hear the narrative engine purring smoothly after so much clunking, and I admire how much all of the main actors feel like they can flex their muscles without having too much focus pulled by dipshit side characters, but that ending does kind of ruin it all, much disproportionately to everything the episode gets right.

Grade: B-