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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Twin Peaks: The Black Widow Twin Peaks
Episode 19: "The Black Widow"
TV episode
Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels
Directed by Caleb Deschanel
Original air date:
January 12, 1991


Ben rearranges his office furniture and gives Bobby a job; Dougie Milford has a heart attack; Nadine tries out for wrestling; Dick fears for his life from little Nicky; Cooper looks into some property; the Air Force takes over the investigation into Major Briggs’ disappearance.


Read the episode transcript at


Didja Know?


For the titles of the Twin Peaks TV episodes, I have taken the unique approach of using both the episode numbers, which were the only titles given the scripts by series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and the translated German titles of the episodes that were assigned when the series aired in that country. Frequent readers of PopApostle know I like the aesthetic of actual episode titles, but I also wanted to honor the simple numbering used by Lynch and Frost, hence the expanded titles presented in these studies.


The actress portraying Judie Swayne from the Happy Helping Hands organization is Molly Shannon, best known for her comic skits as a member of the Saturday Night Live troop from 1995–2001.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Bobby Briggs

Ben Horne

Lana Milford

Dale Cooper

Irene Littlehorse

Dick Tremayne


Lucy Moran

Deputy Andy

Judie Swayne

Sheriff Truman

Dougie Milford

Dr. Hayward

Mayor Milford

Chris Gerrity (author's name seen on book cover)

Deputy Hawk

Coach Wingate

Nadine Hurley (née Butler)

Mike Nelson

Donna Hayward

James Hurley

Malcolm Sloan

Evelyn Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh

Colonel Riley

Major Briggs

Ed Hurley

Audrey Horne

Pete Martell

Catherine Martell

Josie Packard

Diane (mentioned only)

Agent Hardy (mentioned only)

Jean Renault (in photographs)

Preston King (in photographs)

Hank Jennings (in photographs)

Ernie Niles

Agent Bryson

Norma Jennings 




Notes from the Log Lady intros


When cable channel Bravo obtained the rights to air reruns of Twin Peaks in 1993, David Lynch directed all-new introductions to each episode featuring the Log Lady, portrayed by original actress Catherine E. Coulson. These intros also appear as options on the DVD and Blu-ray collections of the series.


"Is a dog man's best friend? I had a dog. The dog was large.
It ate my garden, all the plants, and much earth. The dog ate
so much earth it died. Its body went back to the earth. I have
a memory of this dog. The memory is all that I have left of my
dog. He was black and white."


Didja Notice?


This episode opens on Thursday, March 16, 1989. 


The script reveals the real estate agent Cooper meets with is named Irene Littlehorse.


During his meeting with the real estate agent, the first house photo file Cooper looks at has a label at the top that looks to read either "Chautauqua Lake" or "Chautauqua Lane". Chautauqua Lake is in New York state, so possibly the label reads Chautauqua Lane. The file's notes also indicate the house is a Victorian style built in the 1890s. The second house photo file is more of a log cabin; the label on the top of this one is blank.
Chautauqua house log cabin
Chautauqua house Log cabin


The photo file of Dead Dog Farm indicates it was built in the 1920s and sits on four acres.

Dead Dog Farm


Lucy is wearing a black sweater with a diamond pattern on it.


During the meeting with Judie Swayne from the Happy Helping Hands organization, notice that Lucy keeps looking at Dick affectionately, as if she is impressed with his desire to be a big brother to the orphan little Nicky.


Dougie Milford is found dead in bed the morning after his wedding to Lana. It may be that the lovemaking was too much for the old guy. Found on his bed are the books Love Poems of Lord Byron, The Kama Sutra, and Hookers and Handmaidens. Andy holds another book and reads from it, My Secret Life by Chris Gerrity. Love Poems of Lord Byron is a real book first published in 1970, collecting love poems of the great English poet Lord Byron (1788-1824). The Kama Sutra is a world renown Hindu book on human sexual behavior composed in India between 400 BC and 200 AD. Hookers and Handmaidens appears to be a fictitious tome; possibly it is intended to suggest a pornographic novel. My Secret Life also appears to be fictitious; the author, Chris Gerrity, was an assistant director on several episodes of Twin Peaks. There was a real world sexual memoir made up of 11 volumes by the title My Secret Life by Walter, published over seven years beginning 1888; Walter's identity has never been conclusively solved.


The script reveals the wrestling coach's name to be Buck Wingate.


This episode reveals that Mike Nelson is the district champion in high school wrestling.


During Nadine's wrestling try-out, hand-painted banners hanging on the gym walls indicate that the Twin Peaks High School Steeplejacks are preparing for a basketball game against a rival team called the Warriors. The banners read "Massacre the Warriors", "Dunk the Warriors", "Steeplejacks Will Scalp the Warriors" and "The Warriors Can't Reach the Peak".


Another banner on the gym wall, seen at 11:21 on the Blu-ray, reads "Mike Nelson is the Best".


The school lockers seen in this episode are different than the ones seen in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic".


At 12:38 on the Blu-ray, Donna quickly pulls a copy of Seventeen magazine from her locker.


The "For Sale" sign in front of Dead Dog Farm has "Native Way Realty" printed in small letters at the top. This appears to be a fictitious realty office.


At 15:05 on the Blu-ray, notice there is a child's rocking horse sitting in front of the house at Dead Dog Farm. This was shot on location in Sylmar, CA, but the actual house has since been torn down.


Irene drives a 1990 Buick Century as she shows Cooper Dead Dog Farm.


Irene wears a sweater that has a number of patterns on it that look similar to the petroglyphs of Owl Cave.

Irene's sweater


The curtains inside the house at Dead Dog Farm look as if they've been partially burned, yet the structure itself does not look to be scorched.


Cooper finds evidence that a drug deal took place very recently at Dead Dog Farm, finding traces of cocaine and baby laxative used to cut it. Baby laxative is, in fact, often used to cut cocaine.


Dick's car that gets a flat tire during his camping excursion with little Nicky is a 1977 BMW 320i.


At 18:54 on the Blu-ray, notice that Dick and Nick are wearing identical outfits. Dick must have bought them with his employee discount at Horne's Department Store! Nicky's outfit may be part of the wardrobe Dick had fitted for him in Episode 18: "Masked Ball".


It's possible that the painting hanging next to the door in Truman's office is of the twin peaks, Whitetail Mountain and Blue Pine Mountain.


The map on which Colonel Riley points out the location in Ghostwood Forest where the transmissions pertaining to Cooper were coming from is actually a map of the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California.


Colonel Riley tells Truman and Cooper that Major Briggs is the best pilot he's ever known, born with hardware "most of us only dream about." Considering they are talking about the major's disappearance and the White Lodge, what does he really mean by "pilot"? Does he simply mean the pilot of an aircraft? Or might he be using a term the Air Force has applied to individuals who are able to navigate the spiritual/supernatural realm of the woods around Twin Peaks? When Major Briggs finally turns up again at the end of the episode, he is wearing what may be an early-to-mid-20th-Century aviator's outfit, but the significance of it is never explained.


At 21:48 on the Blu-ray, there appear to be a couple of cans of WD-40 on the shelf in the Marsh garage.


At 23:17 on the Blu-ray, notice that James is holding both his own beer and Evelyn's as she rushes away to greet her unexpectedly returned husband.


At 24:53 on the Blu-ray, it appears as if Bobby is stepping up from a stairway as he enters the hallway approaching Ben's office. This implies that the office is located on the 2nd or higher floor of the Great Northern.


Bringing Ben photos of Hank meeting Jean Renault and others at Dead Dog Farm, Bobby says, "I mean I’ve never seen these guys before, but they're not exactly from the rotary. You know what I mean?" By "rotary", he is probably referring to Rotary International, an international service organization meant to provide humanitarian services in the local community.


After Bobby is excused from Ben's office, Ben begins to whistle a tune as Audrey observes from her secret observation post.


At the dining room table, Pete makes a champagne toast to Catherine, "Wine comes in at the mouth, love comes in at the eye; I hold my glass to my lips, I look at you and sigh..." He is quoting an abbreviated version of William Butler Yates' (1865-1939) poem, "A Drinking Song". The full poem is:

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.


Pete begins to recite the only other toast he knows, a limerick, but Catherine interrupts him after the first line, "There once was a lady from Galway..." The full limerick is an Irish one:

There once was a lady from Galway
Who loved rack of lamb with red Gamay
But one time a year
She only drank beer
To celebrate merry St. Pat's Day.


At 28:39 on the Blu-ray, Cooper looks at his chess response to Windom Earle in a nationally-distributed newspaper. One of the other classified ads asks for witnesses to an assault at Hector's Burrito Heaven. This appears to be a fictitious business.

newspaper classifieds


As Cooper dictates into his recorder to Diane, he remarks upon having looked into some real estate in Twin Peaks and that he still hopes to raise a family someday.


At 30:02 on the Blu-ray, notice that Cooper doesn't appear to have much of a view out his hotel room window!

Cooper's view


At some point in this episode, Cooper responds to Earle's chess move (in Episode 18: "Masked Ball") with N to QB3 (Knight to Queen's Bishop 3). A defensive move that is meant to protect his threatened pawn and also threatens Earle's pawn on Q4. However, Cooper seemingly should have been more aggressive and taken Earle's Pawn on Q4 with his own Pawn on K4; since he does not, this allows Earle to take Cooper's Pawn on K4 with his own Pawn on Q4 in the next episode (Episode 20: "Checkmate"), in which he kills a vagrant, showing he will kill someone for each piece he takes. (See "Patterns and Conflicts: An Analysis of the Windom Earle/Dale Cooper Chess Game", Wrapped in Plastic #4, April 1993, which includes input from chess expert John Jacobs, former chess columnist of the Dallas Times Herald.)
Knight to Queen's Bishop 3 (Cooper) Pawn to Queen 5 (suggested move)
Cooper's (black) N to QB3 move
(diagram from Wrapped in Plastic #4)
A more strageic move, Knight to King's Bishop 3, suggested by John Jacobs
(diagram from Wrapped in Plastic #4)


When Audrey hands Cooper the surveillance photos of the drug meeting at Dead Dog Farm she stole from her father, Cooper is able to immediately identify Ernie as Norma's stepfather. How does he know this? I guess it is a small town!


At 33:56 on the Blu-ray, notice that the windshield wipers on Truman's sheriff truck are on as the rain pours down outside the station, but no one is in the truck! Why are the wipers on?


As Dick enters the sheriff's station at 34:02 on the Blu-ray, notice that Lucy primps up her hair when she sees him, assuming he is there for her. But he doesn't even look towards her desk as he seeks Andy's help in learning more about little Nicky's past.


    Dick and Andy begin to fear that little Nicky is the Devil. "Old Nick" is an English colloquialism for the Devil, so "Little Nicky" could be interpreted as a "young" form of the Devil or, perhaps the son of the Devil. Nicky's last name is revealed in this episode as "Needleman", possibly an allusion to the points of a pitchfork and the man (Devil) holding the pitchfork.

    It is also interesting to note that, while the main protagonists of the show, Cooper and Truman, are dogging the footsteps of the evil spirit BOB, the witless heroes Dick and Andy, in a comic parallel, are coming up with theories that their young charge Nicky is the Devil. 


At 34:46 on the Blu-ray, we see that the folding doors in Truman's office are opened up to connect to the room next to it. But when we see the exterior angle (from the lobby) as Mayor Milford leaves Truman's office a minute later, the folding doors are almost completely closed as he exits Truman's office!


Upon spying a glimpse of Lana, Dick remarks, "Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night. Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear, beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear." These are lines of Romeo's from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Towards the end, Dr. Hayward starts quoting along with Dick.


When Agent Bryson shows her DEA ID to Ernie, the photo on it does appear to show her as a woman (long-haired), rather than the male photo he must have had before deciding he preferred living a woman's identity.


At 42:08 on the Blu-ray, notice that the Briggs family has a U.S. flag flying on a pole outside the house. But the scene here is at night, and the proper protocol for flying the U.S. flag is that it should be taken down before nightfall or, if left up at night, should have a light shining upon it. The flag here does not have a light on it and one would think that a major in the U.S. Air Force (and his family) would follow the protocol.


At 42:09 on the Blu-ray, notice there is a telescope pointed out the window and up towards the stars in the Briggs home. Does the major have a habit of looking at the stars? Or at UFOs?


Notice that the lamp Mrs. Briggs turns on at 42:17 on the Blu-ray has an owl sculpture as the base!

Owl lamp


Just before Major Briggs reappears in his home two days after his disappearance, the power goes out briefly and there is no sound of the front door opening or closing. He's just suddenly there in between flashes of lightning. It seems as if he did not just walk in, but was returned by a "higher power".


When Major Briggs reappears at his home, he is wearing what I at first took to be an early-to-mid-20th-Century aviator's outfit, wondering why he is dressed so? Did he travel back in time? When he disappeared from his and Cooper's campsite in Episode 17: "Dispute Between Brothers", he was wearing typical camping clothes. In the study of The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I present another possible explanation of the outfit.

Briggs' outfit


Unanswered Questions


What exactly happened to Major Briggs between the time of his disappearance in Episode 17: "Dispute Between Brothers" and his reappearance here? Why is he dressed as an old-time aviator (or something) upon his return? What does he mean when he says, after his wife's question of, "Is everything all right?", "No, dear. Not exactly."


Memorable Dialog


I am surprised that Leo could master the technology.wav

Dead Dog Farm.wav

persistent random misfortune.wav

look at that Indian go.wav

pretend you're still my girlfriend.wav

the best and the worst are drawn to Dead Dog.wav

just moments before the major disappeared, I heard an owl.wav

our monitors are pointed at deep space.wav

a place called the White Lodge.wav

far beyond national security.wav

I still put my panties on one leg at a time.wav

waiting around for our lives to begin.wav

life starts before you know it.wav

incredible as it may seem.wav

did you check him for witchcraft?.wav

an extraordinary human being.wav

is everything all right?.wav


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