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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Twin Peaks: The One-Armed Man Twin Peaks
Episode 4: "The One-Armed Man"
TV episode
Written by Robert Engels
Directed by Tim Hunter
Original air date: May 3, 1990

Page last updated 1/5/2022


Cooper and Truman confront the One-Armed Man; Mrs. Palmer relates her visions; Audrey and Donna compare notes.


Read the episode transcription 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.


Notes from the Log Lady intros


When cable channel Bravo obtained the rights to air reruns of the 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.


"Even the ones who laugh are sometimes caught without an answer:
these creatures who introduce themselves but we swear we have met
them somewhere before.

"Yes, look in the mirror. What do you see? Is it a dream, or a
nightmare? Are we being introduced against our will? Are they

"I can see the smoke. I can smell the fire. The battle is drawing


is it a dream or a nightmare?.wav


Didja Notice?


This episode opens on the morning of Tuesday, February 28, 1989.


The same several photos of Laura seem to be placed in multiple locations throughout the Palmer household in episodes of the series. Maybe Leland and Sarah keep moving the same ones around in their grief?


In this episode, it is Andy who draws the sketch of BOB from Sarah Palmer's description, not Hawk as in Cooper's dream in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer".


    When Sheriff Truman asks Lucy what's going on, she misunderstands and tells him about the latest plotlines on Invitation to Love. Of course, the twisted plots and character manipulations are not all that different from what is happening in Twin Peaks!

    This scene may also have been informed by a very similar one in the 1986 film Critters, in which the small town sheriff asks his secretary what's happening and she responds by telling him about a story she just read in a tabloid that says John Travolta used to be a waitress in Fort Meyers, Florida, and the sheriff is forced to clarify, "What's happening here, Sal?"


Notice that the blackboard with the giant map of Tibet on it from Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" is now in the conference room of the sheriff's station.


Dr. Jacoby's red-and-blue-lensed glasses are in red frames. He also wears an earring on his left ear.


The sweater worn by Dr. Jacoby during his interview with Agent Cooper has diamonds on it, similar to the diamond shapes in the Owl Cave glyphs.

Jacoby's sweater


When Cooper asks Dr. Jacoby if Laura's problems resulting in her seeing him for psychiatric counseling were of a sexual nature, Jacoby responds, "Agent Cooper, the problems of our entire society are of a sexual nature." It sounds like he subscribes to Dr. Sigmund Freud's (1856-1939) theory of sexuality as the causative element of nearly all psychiatric issues.


Dr. Jacoby remarks that the ancient Hawaiians would use the soothing rhizome of the ginger plant. The ginger rhizome (rootstalk) is often used, even today, as the base for medicines and spices.


In his interview with Agent Cooper, Dr. Jacoby reveals Laura had been seeing him for six months. He also says he suspects his own investigation into her past/death will be ongoing for the rest of his life. Given his eccentric interests, might Jacoby already suspect a mystical force behind Laura's problems and death and that he will be challenged to decode them for years to come?


Jacoby tells Cooper and Truman that the night after Laura's death, he followed a man she had told him about who was driving a red Corvette. He doesn't name the man, presumably due to client/patient confidentiality, but it must have been Leo Johnson, who drives a red Corvette (among other vehicles) and is known to have been an associate of Laura's in her dark times. The Corvette is a sports car manufactured by Chevrolet.


At the sheriff's station, Cooper receives a call from Gordon Cole, his supervisor at the FBI. The voice is that of David Lynch himself. Lynch appears in person as the character in a number of second and third season episodes. Here, Gordon's voice is not particularly loud as it is in the second season episodes; the audio commentary by Tim Hunter on the Season 1 DVD set tells that the decision to make Gordon hard of hearing was not made until season two. Hunter goes on to say that most of Gordon's dialog was written by Robert Engels, based on his own mother who was hard of hearing!


As Dr. Jacoby leaves the conference room, Sheriff Truman asks if he's going to be in town. Jacoby responds he's planning a pilgrimage to Pebble Beach, but not until the end of the month. But "today" is February 28...the end of the month! I suppose he must be referring to March.


The Pebble Beach Jacoby plans to visit is a well-known extreme surfing spot on the California coast, probably his reason for going, as the Twin Peaks trading card set indicates he is an accomplished surfer. This is further supported by his farewell shaka sign to the sheriff and Cooper and the comment, "Hang loose, haoles." The shaka sign is the hand wave he makes with his thumb and little finger extended and middle digits curled, also called the "hang loose" sign; the sign and term are associated with the surfer community (and with Hawaii, another obsession of the good doctor's). "Haole" is a Hawaiian term for "foreigner", especially of European descent.


Truman tells Cooper that an A.P.B. is out for Jacques Renault. An A.P.B. (All-Points Bulletin) is a broadcast to all law enforcement agencies in the area to be on the lookout for a suspect, person of interest, or missing person.


Cole tells Cooper that Albert's analysis revealed that the twine found on Laura's arms was a common household variety, Finley's Fine Twine. This appears to be a fictitious brand. 


The speaker phone used for Cooper's call with Gordon is a Duofone, an in-house brand of electronics retailer Radio Shack. The phone as seen here may be intended as an homage to the voice of Charlie on the 1978-1981 TV series Charlie's Angels; the character appeared almost exclusively as a voice on a speaker phone.
Gordon Cole Charlie Townsend
Gordon Cole Charlie Townsend


Gordon tells Cooper he has an O.O.J. and an A.F.O. from Albert concerning Sheriff Truman. O.O.J. stands for Obstruction of Justice. I'm not sure what A.F.O. stands for, possibly "Additional Forms".


Notice that just before Cooper hangs up on him, Gordon says, "Don't get excited and hang up on me now." I guess Gordon knows Coop pretty well!


Cooper says he is a "strong sender". This refers to unintentional telepathic communication from himself to others.


Cooper receives notice from Hawk that he's spotted the One-Armed Man at the Timber Falls Motel on Highway 12. The Timber Falls Motel is a fictitious establishment (actually shot at the Malibu Lake Mountain Club in Agoura Hills, CA). The known Twin Peaks maps do not show a Highway 12; perhaps it was a misreading of Highway 21, the main route into Twin Peaks? There is a Highway 12 in Washington that runs through Snoqualmie, where many exteriors were shot.


As Josie takes photos of Ben and Catherine's rendezvous at the Timber Falls Motel, she uses a Nikon camera.


What seems to be the sound of an Invitation to Love episode can be heard from the television inside Ben and Catherine's motel room. One of the show's characters (Montana?) remarks on having spent time in the Amazon dodging blow darts! The Amazon is a large rainforest in the northern part of South America.


At their room at the Timber Falls Motel, Ben asks Catherine if she would prefer the Lumber Baron Suite at the Great Northern. This is the first mention of the Lumber Baron Suite.


At 10:52 on the Blu-ray, Hawk walks past a totem pole outside the Timber Falls Motel. One of the faces on the pole appears to be that of an owl.

Owl totem


Andy's holster is finally attached correctly in this episode. And yet, this is when he drops his gun while trying to draw it!


At 11:35 on the Blu-ray, actor Kyle MacLachlan (as Cooper) makes a nice backwards jump in the air when Deputy Andy accidentally drops his gun and it misfires!

Cooper's jump


In the motel room, Ben holds up a small figurine of Elvis Presley and says, "I'm going to give little Elvis a bath," and heads off to the bathroom. The audio commentary by Tim Hunter on the DVD states that the term "little Elvis" was a reference to Ben's penis and was a way to get around the censors of the television network's standards and practices division. But then, why the actual figure of Elvis in his hand? It makes the moment seem even more sexually if the figurine had been, uh, "inserted" in dirty places! Little Elvis


Philip Michael Gerard, the one-armed man, does not seem to be aware of his secondary identity as "Mike". He does not know the sketch of BOB, though he does think it looks like "someone". When Cooper asks him if he knows a man named Bob, he says that Bob Lydecker is just about his best friend in the world. Lydecker turns out to be a veterinarian in town, but he's currently in a coma at the hospital, which is why Gerard has been there recently.


Gerard remarks that his middle name is Michael, after his uncle.


The name "Philip Gerard" is borrowed by Frost and Lynch from the character of the same name in the 1963-1967 TV series The Fugitive. In the series, the fugitive character, Dr. Kimble, is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and escapes to pursue the real killer, a one-armed man. Kimble himself is pursued by a police detective named Philip Gerard.


When Gerard mentions his friend Bob Lydecker, Cooper asks if his friend is a doctor and Gerard responds that he's a veterinarian. How did Cooper know that Lydecker was some kind of doctor? There doesn't seem to be an indication of that in Cooper's dream, though much of the dream took place within the town's Calhoun Memorial Hospital.


Gerard tells Cooper he lost his arm in a car accident on the road from Memphis selling pharmaceuticals. Apparently Gerard has made a career of being a travelling salesman of various products; he is currently depicted as a travelling shoe salesman. "Memphis" presumably refers to the city in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As far as how he lost the arm in the a car accident, this is how actor Al Strobel lost his arm. In Cooper's dream in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer", Mike says he took the arm off himself after being changed, having seen "the face of God".


Gerard says the tattoo he had on his lost arm read "Mom". In Cooper's dream, it is implied to have read, "Fire walk with me."


The branding on the cigarette pack Audrey smokes from in the girls bathroom at the high school is not legible in this scene, but the same pack design is later seen as Metropolitan brand when Donna smokes at the RR in Episode 8A: "May the Giant Be With You". This is a fictitious brand.


When Audrey tells Donna about all the things she's deduced about Laura, Donna asks, "What else have you figured out, Sherlock?" This is, of course, a reference to Sherlock Holmes, the legendary fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).


When Audrey mentions One-Eyed Jacks to Donna, Donna thinks of a western with Marlon Brando. One-Eyed Jacks was a 1961 western film directed by and starring Marlon Brando.


Audrey and Donna make a pact to separately investigate Laura's death and compare notes as needed, but it's never mentioned again in later episodes!


Hank Jennings has his parole hearing in this episode. According to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Hank is serving his time at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington; the prison exterior seen here is actually that of Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, WA. At the parole hearing, Norma tells the board she can give Hank a job at the restaurant she owns, the RR in Twin Peaks.


The gas pumps at the convenience store at 20:11 on the Blu-ray are for Indian Head gasoline. Indian Head appears to be a fictitious brand of gas. The convenience store is called One Stop. There are a number of independent stores by this name throughout the country, but this one is likely intended to be fictitious.


At 20:13 on the Blu-ray, the reflection of a production crewmember is seen in the glass covering the gas pump gauges. When Sheriff Truman's truck pulls in front of the pump, the crewmember can still be seen reflected in the shiny metal of the passenger door!


Why are the sheriff vehicles parked in front of the gas pumps? They are not there to get gas, they are there to visit the Lydecker Veterinary Clinic next door. Why block the pumps for actual customers?


As Hawk exits his patrol vehicle at the One Stop, notice that he is greeted by a biker who recognizes him and they high five each other.


The slogan on the sign of Dr. Lydecker's veterinary clinic is "Aid to the beast incarnate." Kind of has a sinister, devil-like impression to it!

Lydecker veterinary cline


At 20:42 on the Blu-ray, notice that Sheriff Truman stops to pet a young woman's cat in front of the Lydecker clinic.


Inside the Lydecker clinic, notice there is a giant fire hydrant in the lobby! Doesn't that just encourage dogs to relieve themselves within the premises?


The Lydecker clinic must have at least one other vet besides Bob Lydecker himself considering the office is still open and seeing animal patients even though Dr. Lydecker is said to be in a coma at Calhoun Memorial Hospital.


In the audio commentary by Tom Holland on the DVD, he points out that the silent, staring moment between Cooper and the llama in the vet's office is an indication that even animals realize there is something special about Cooper.


Shelly refers to Jacques Renault as a canuck. "Canuck" is a slang term for a Canadian, especially a French-Canadian. It is not generally considered derogatory, sort of like the term "Yankee" for an American.


During his rendezvous with Shelly, Bobby is wearing what may be a bowling shirt, with the name patch "Dick" above the left breast pocket. The back of the shirt is embroidered with "Family 4 Plus 1".


At 23:05 on the Blu-ray, notice that there is some mushroom wallpaper on the wall of the Johnson kitchen. Kind of ironic considering that Leo is a drug dealer!


At 23:21 on the Blu-ray, the dish soap bottle on the kitchen sink behind Shelly appears to be Palmolive, a real world brand of dish soap, with Comet cleanser sitting next to it.


Shelly states that Leo makes her sew his initials onto all his clothes.


In the scene from 23:44-24:15 on the Blu-ray, a small shadow continually passes across an object on top of the refrigerator behind Shelly. It may the shadow of the boom mic recording the dialog between the actors.


As Bobby formulates a plan in his head for framing Leo, he tells Shelly, "You don't need to know." In the previous episode (Episode 3: "Rest in Pain"), Leo says the same thing to her.


At 24:46 on the Blu-ray, Bobby suddenly has something in his mouth that he spits out (gum?) in anticipation of kissing Shelly again. But what was it? Where did it come from? He did not have anything in his mouth just seconds before!


Hawk reveals that he is dating a woman named Diane Shapiro, Ph.D. Brandeis. "Ph.D." is short for "Doctor of Philosophy". Brandeis is a university in Massachusetts.


Going through Dr. Lydecker's files, Lucy remarks on an otter named Annette owned by a family near Elk River. Elk River is at the other end of the state from Twin Peaks, closer to the Snoqualmie/Seattle area.


At 29:32 on the Blu-ray, there appear to be two men at the RR Diner dressed in Air Force uniforms, neither of them Major Briggs. Perhaps they are associated with the former (?) Unguin Air Force Base near Twin Peaks, as I speculate about Major Briggs' posting in the study of Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town. The Secret History of Twin Peaks reveals that a number of Air Force personnel, led by Major Briggs, run a black ops project on Blue Pine Mountain for monitoring radio transmissions from deep space.


At 33:39 on the Blu-ray, while Ben is riding on his stationary bike and talking on the phone, we hear him say, "No, I...I don't know what you get when you cross a Norwegian and a Swede," and then, "Oh, very good sir, very good." In the next episode we finally hear the punch line when Ben repeats the joke to his Icelandic investors, "A socialist who wants to be king." I suppose the joke is that both countries are similar in the first place, constitutional monarchies with socialist leanings.


During the scene in Ben's office, photos of Laura Palmer can be seen on his desk, possibly a red herring intended to lead viewers into thinking he is the killer. Until the revelation of the actual killer, Ben seems to be the most obvious suspect from the clues laid out in the series.


Going through Dr. Lydecker's files, Andy finds one for a parakeet named Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) was a jazz trumpeter and singer, often known by his nickname Satchmo.


If the Lydecker files were arranged alphabetically by the names of the pets as stated by Lucy earlier in the episode, why does Andy seem to have Louis Armstrong followed by Waldo?


The name of Waldo the myna bird and his doctor, Lydecker, are probably borrowed from the 1944 film Laura. Besides the obvious "Laura" connection to Twin Peaks, a character named Waldo Lydecker is featured in the film.


Cooper tells the sheriff and deputies, "Gentlemen, when two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention." He makes almost this same remark in his recording to Diane in the extended dream sequence of Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" (taken from the European movie version of the pilot episode).


At their riverside meeting, Leo reveals to Ben that he apparently killed Bernard Renault to keep him quiet. This meeting by the river suggests that Ben may have been the shadowy figure seen behind a tree in the woods during Leo's meeting with Mike and Bobby in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" (Mark Frost later stated that a scene was written but not used that revealed that figure to be Ben Horne, who was Leo's boss in drug-running).


Notice that an owl observes James and Donna in the forest near the end of the episode. This is the first significant appearance of an owl in the series; they become important in the second season.


Pete reveals that he's the defending champion of the Fishing Association's annual derby, which is coming up again. He invites Josie to be his partner in the event and she agrees, though she warns him she doesn't know the first thing about fishing. It seems like this may have been intended as a setup for a story in a future episode, but it never occurs.


Notes from the audio commentary on the Season 1 DVD set by director Tim Hunter


The golf ball magic tricks performed by Dr. Jacoby were suggested by actor Russ Tamblyn; he already knew how to perform the trick.


The dwarf in Cooper's dream/Black Lodge was inspired by the character of Dr. Loveless on the 1965-1969 TV series The Wild Wild West.


Laura's name was borrowed from the classic 1944 film noir Laura.


A symbol of the twin peaks of Twin Peaks is painted on the walls and stall doors of the girls restroom.


Hunter points out that the sign for the sheriff's office should read "Twin Peaks Sheriff's Office" not "Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department".


Memorable Dialog


what's going on?.wav

Laura had secrets.wav

I'm a strong sender.wav

afraid to go to sleep at night.wav

women were drawn from a different set of blueprints.wav

only one in the cycle of life.wav

we're gonna need some more coffee.wav

one man too many.wav

two men apiece.wav

strict attention.wav

her mother was kind of spooky.wav

give me some mayo.wav

Josie, you're my kind of gal.wav 


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