Monday, October 27, 2008

Jill Duffy on Twin Peaks, Season 1, Episode 2

[Jill Duffy, girl reporter, continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks. For more in this series click the label below or Jill's name on the sidebar.]

Ah, the famous dancing midget scene…

Who but David Lynch would dare to put on national television this most unusual thing? It was not only broadcast on national television, but also appeared after just only a pilot and one full episode of a brand new show.

Everyone has at least heard of this scene or saw The Simpsons’ parody of it on (season 7 “Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two”).

Simpsons Does Twin Peaks - For more funny movies, click here

Briefly put, the dancing midget scene is a dream sequence of Agent Cooper’s that occurs nearly at the end of episode 2, season 1, of Twin Peaks. There are three people in this scene (though the dream sequence has an earlier part with two men named Mike and Bob): Agent Cooper, who looks wrinkled, an adult midget who (referred to outside of the show as the Man from Another Place), and a woman who looks just like Laura Palmer, whom the midget refers to as his cousin. The three of them are in a “room” though instead of walls there are red drapes. There is a statue of a woman, three arm chairs, two halogen lamps, and a dizzying zig-zag patterned floor. The midget, dressed in a red suit, and the woman don’t move smoothly or speak properly in a way that is disturbing and Uncanny Valley-like (the actors learned their lines backward phonetically and performed their actions backward, and then the film is played backward, so that the dialogue plays forward).

When the red room shot opens, the midget has his back to the camera and is gyrating violently. Eventually, he joins Cooper in the seating area. They speak to each other first. Everything the Man says is enigmatic. Then the woman and Cooper speak. She whispers directly in his ear, so we don’t hear much of their conversation.

Everything that’s said seems to be a riddle, a clue, or a symbol, for example: “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song” and “That chewing gum you like is going to come back in style.” The scene ends with the midget dancing some jive. And when the credits roll, there he is, tearing up the zig-zag carpet some more.

When Cooper awakens from the dream (which he does before the end of the episode), he immediately phones Truman to tell him he knows who killed Laura Palmer but that telling him who can wait until morning.

Earlier in the same episode, Cooper tells the sheriff, Lucy, and Deputy Andy that he has a new “deductive technique” (which works with the “deepest level of intuition”) that he wants to use to help them solve the case of who killed Laura Palmer, and which he says he learned from a dream. He then proceeds to pitch rocks at a glass jug while reciting the names of persons of interest, waiting for the name that causes the rock to strike the jug and break it. This crackpot investigation tactic, oddly enough, seems to work.

So when Truman and Cooper finally do get together the next morning (in episode 3) to discuss the dream, and Cooper says he can’t remember the name of the killer, but that the dream is a code and “break the code, solve the crime,” well, we just have to take his word for it.

I liked the scene in which Cooper throws the rocks at the milk jug three reasons. First, it’s funny. Second, it gives Cooper’s dreams and intuition a little credibility before Lynch and Frost throw the Man from Another Place at us. And third, it serves a function that many people may remember learning about in high school English while reading Shakespeare – review. When live theater was at its most popular, it was outdoors, and a rabble would gather in the pit to watch the show standing. People would often talk through the performances, or rather, at the performers. What would happen, from time to time, is the audience would miss some crucial plot point or line. So playwrights would pen in little moments of review, and a character (or two or three) would summarize or repeat something that just occurred. It helped the audience stay on top of what was happening. That’s exactly what happens in Twin Peaks when Agent Cooper, Lucy, Deputy Andy, and Sheriff Truman read through the list of names that have a ‘J’ in them and state each person’s relationship to Laura Palmer. There are so many characters to keep track of, so many little plot lines forming, that this review helped me stay abreast of them all.

List of J names:
• James Hurley, Laura’s secret boyfriend
• Josie Packard, was instructed in English by Laura
• Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, Laura’s psychiatrist (bottle was struck, but did not break)
• Johnny Horne, tutored by Laura
• Norma Jennings, helped Laura organize the Meals on Wheels program
• Shelly Johnson, waitress and friend
• “Jack with One Eye,” which turns out to be One-Eyed Jack’s, a bar (this gets erased)
• Leo Johnson, drives a truck, connection with Laura unknown (breaks bottle)


Voice Of The Eagle said...


I hate being the PC Police but "midget" is considered a derogatory term for those it is directed towards.

"Dwarf" is okay.

Still Here,


Jill Duffy said...

My apologies. I understood there to be a difference between the words midget and dwarf, but I did not know the latter was considered offense. I've heard "LP" used before as well but feel sometimes that comes off as being so politically correct that it is almost sarcastic.

Christian said...

I find Little Person to be the most offensive of them all, despite being PC. It's kinda like that joke: "Hey, it's like a HUMAN BEING! Only smaller."