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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Twin Peaks: Episode 1 - Traces to Nowhere Twin Peaks
Episode 1: "Traces to Nowhere"
TV episode
Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch
Directed by Duwayne Dunham
Originally aired April 12, 1990

Page last updated 1/5/2022


The results of Laura’s autopsy come in; Leo is missing a shirt; Norma bumps into Nadine; James meets Donna’s parents.


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 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 Blu-ray and Blu-ray collections of the series.


The Log Lady comments on the fact that she carries a log. Do we find that funny? She does not. She goes on to say that there are reasons for all things, even to explain the absurd. Some may think her carrying the log, and speaking to it absurd. But I believe the log actually holds the spirit of her dead husband, or, at least, that his spirit communicates to her through the log, which was a gift to her on their wedding night (as revealed in the Twin Peaks card set, 1991; however, The Secret History of Twin Peaks states that the log is from a Douglas fir and that she took the log from a fallen tree after the forest fire that killed her husband.).


The Log Lady asks if we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human beings' varied behavior. It's interesting that she speaks of "the human beings" instead of just "human beings". Does she see herself as something more than human at this point? Is she speaking the words of the "log", obviously not human in and of itself?


I carry a log ... yes. Is it funny to you? It is not to me.

Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd.

Do we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human beings' varied behavior? I think not.

Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch...and see what life teaches.


I carry a log.wav

the human beings' varied behavior.wav


Didja Notice?


This episode takes place on Saturday, February 25, 1989.


    As the episode opens, at 3:06 on the Blu-ray, notice there are two clocks on the nightstand next to the bed in Agent Cooper's hotel room at the Great Northern. One is built into the desk lamp. The other appears to be a travel alarm clock, probably belonging to Cooper himself. The time is about 6:18 a.m. Could the two clocks symbolize multiple timelines?

    A book is also resting on the nightstand. Presumably, Cooper was reading it before retiring the night before; the title is not legible on screen, but in Episode 5: "Cooper's Dreams", we see that it is Great Expectations, an 1861 novel by Charles Dickens.


Cooper's sidearm is also resting on the nightstand, a spare clip next to it (the gun itself appears to still be loaded).


As the camera pans in the opening scene, notice that the bed appears to be made up already. It's not likely that the maid has already been by at this early hour...Cooper must have made it himself after his night's rest!


Notice that a rifle is exhibited above Cooper's hotel room bed, mounted on two deer feet. An odd, though rustic, feature of the Great Northern! I wonder if it's an actual working rifle?


On the opposite side of Cooper's hotel bed is another nightstand, upon which rests a duck decoy and a stuffed pheasant.


A painting with carved, three-dimensional turkeys on it hangs on the wall next to Cooper's bed in the hotel room. Some species of fish is also mounted on this wall.


Cooper's hotel room as seen here is slightly different from that seen in the international version of the pilot (the room is not seen at all in the aired U.S. pilot).


Agent Cooper's dictation into his recorder indicates his hotel room is #315, a non-smoking room.


The lapel pin worn by Agent Cooper in this episode is probably modeled on the FBI emblem (we never get a close look at it).


Cooper reminds Diane of a nightmare hotel experience he once had in El Paso. Presumably, he is referring to El Paso, Texas.


Notice that the waitress (name revealed as Trudy in later episodes) at the Great Northern dining room pours Agent Cooper a cup of coffee from an orange-handled pot. Usually the orange handle indicates decaffeinated coffee! Is this what Cooper drinks? It seems unlikely given that we see him drink the same coffee as his cohorts in other episodes.


At 5:27 on the Blu-ray, a man sitting in the Great Northern dining room in the background is wearing a red-and-white ski cap that has "Canada" embroidered on it. Canada, of course, is the country directly north of the continental United States, and just a few miles from Twin Peaks at the northern border of Washington.


At 5:30 on the Blu-ray, notice that Audrey's blouse has trees printed on it. In my interpretation of the whole of Twin Peaks, trees and wood are "good". However, it is interesting to note that the 1953 Dictionary of Mysticism describes a Japanese type of evil spirit called a tengu that is an evil tree spirit, "human in form but hatched from eggs", which may inform our interpretation of events in the Season Three episode Part 8:_"Gotta Light?", in which a strange frog/insect creature hatches from an egg and enters a teenage girl through her mouth while she sleeps in New Mexico, 1956.


Audrey's hairstyle is different in the regular 1-hour episodes of the first season than it was in the pilot.


Audrey tells Cooper that Laura Palmer used to tutor her brother, Johnny, who was 27 and in the third grade, going on to say he has emotional problems, which run in the family. Ben Horne, father of Johnny and Audrey, later has a nervous breakdown and imagines he is General Robert E. Lee in a story arc during the second season of the series. Audrey herself later seems to have some mental issues in the Season Three episodes.


Audrey asks Cooper if he likes her ring, showing him her hand. We never get a good look at the ring. Is there any relationship...or intentional the Owl Cave symbol ring that appears in Fire Walk With Me? Or with Cooper's own ring which becomes prominent in a couple episodes during the second season?


After showing Cooper her ring, Audrey states that sometimes she gets so flushed and asks him if his palms ever itch. These both seem to be an indication of her interest and attraction to Cooper. In addition, the symptom of itchy palms are said in some myths to occur when someone else is thinking about you, here possibly indicating that Audrey has been thinking about Cooper and hoping that he has been thinking about her.


At 7:15 on the Blu-ray, notice that the metal frame and glass foyer of the Sheriff's office entryway is being dismantled. In the 2-hour-pilot episode (Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic" and Episode 0B: "Northwest Passage") the sheriff's office was shot on location at the regional office of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation in Snoqualmie, which had the glass foyer. The production rebuilt the interiors on a soundstage for the ongoing series, omitting the glass foyer, so they wisely chose to show the foyer being dismantled in this first episode of the regular series!


The view outside through the doors of the sheriff's office does not match what is seen from exterior shots; a short stone wall is seen with trees growing up behind it. This outside view through the doors changes again in the second season, with the trees behind the stone wall suddenly gone!


Some other, unexplained, differences in the Sheriff's office are that the walls have a different design; the entryway now opens to a wall that has a coffee nook built into it instead of just a small table set against the wall with a coffee pot on it; the waiting room has different furniture and a different tree picture is hanging on the wall.


At 6:25 on the Blu-ray, we see that there are boxes and boxes of pink donut boxes stacked in the coffee nook of the Sheriff's office!


At 6:28 on the Blu-ray, notice that a deputy in the background is having a bit of a struggle pulling on the door handle in front of him, what with already holding a folder and cup of coffee in his hands while shifting a donut from his hand to his mouth.


When Cooper enters the sheriff's office, he says good morning to deputy Andy and Lucy, and they respond with muffled greetings...because they have just stuffed their mouths with morning donuts! In fact, when Cooper walks in on Sheriff Truman in the conference room, he sees him also stuffing his face with donut, and remarks, "Three for three."


Lucy is wearing another sweater that has a design that resembles Owl Cave glyphs, specifically the one Cooper will later draw on a napkin in Episode 25: "On the Wings of Love".

Lucy's sweater


In the pilot, Bobby drives a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda. But in the regular episodes, he drives a 1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (though Fire Walk With Me also has him driving the Barracuda instead). In this episode, Cooper, while going over the available evidence with Truman, tells Truman they should check out Bobby's vehicle top to bottom, so it may be that the Barracuda was impounded for a while and Bobby had or borrowed the Firebird as a backup vehicle.


Dr. Hayward tells Truman and Cooper that he couldn't bare performing the autopsy on Laura, so he called in Joe Fielding from Fairdale. Fairdale appears to be a fictional town in Washington.


The autopsy of Laura Palmer estimates her death to have been between midnight and 4:00 a.m. The autopsy also reveals that she had sexual intercourse with at least three men the night of her murder; these three men are revealed in later episodes to have been Leo Johnson, Jacques Renault, and her father (possessed by BOB), Leland Palmer.


At 10:06 on the Blu-ray, the side of Leo Johnson's big rig truck says "Big Pussycat" and has the Twin Peaks telephone number 555-6315. The 555 prefix of the phone number is a long-time convention in Hollywood TV and film.


At 10:09 on the Blu-ray, it appears the Johnson residence has a gas pump on the property! It seems unlikely that the residential location would be permitted to have a live gas pump; it may be just an antique decoration in their yard.


At 10:19 on the Blu-ray, the door of Leo's truck says Freightliner on the inside. Freightliner is an American manufacturer of diesel trucks.


At 12:08 on the Blu-ray, the TV set on which Agent Cooper shows the video footage of Laura and Donna to James at the Sheriff's office is not the same one we saw in the previous episode, Episode 0B: "Northwest Passage", even though they seem to be sitting in the same room. This is probably because this episode was shot months after the pilot and some of the more generic props were not saved.


In the flashback sequence at 15:28 on the Blu-ray, we see that the two halves of Laura's heart locket actually form the phrase "Best Friends".


In the jail cell they're held in, Mike once calls Bobby "Bopper". Bobby again calls Mike "Snake", as he did in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic" and Episode 0B: "Northwest Passage".


At 18:23 on the Blu-ray, we get a sudden, out-of-scene clip of the video of Laura and Donna on their picnic. At the end of the clip, the video zooms into Laura's face and a woman's voice (presumably Laura, but it's hard to tell) half-speaks, half-whispers, "Help me." Is this just a symbolic representation of Laura's troubles in the past? Is it her spirit calling out?


At 18:30 on the Blu-ray, Donna is seen to be wearing a hockey-jersey-style shirt made by CCM.


Lucy refers to Agent Rosenfield as "Rosenfeld".


When Lucy hands the phone to Cooper to take Agent Rosenfield's call, she says "it has that open-air sound where it sounds like wind blowing, you know like wind through the trees..." Images and sounds of wind blowing through trees are a frequent motif throughout the series. Is there any significance to Rosenfield's call sounding like wind in the trees?


Over the phone, Cooper tells Albert to come up through Lewis Fork and stop at the Lamplighter Inn for lunch. He commented on the Lamplighter in his dictation to Diane in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic".


As Norma and Nadine bump into each other at the Twin Peaks General Store, a Duracell battery stand is seen in the background.


Nadine tells Norma that Ed bought her new drapes at Gentleman Jim's. This appears to be a fictitious establishment.


At 24:47 on the Blu-ray, we see that Agent Cooper is putting the finishes touches on the whistle he was whittling in Episode 0B: "Northwest Passage".


Sheriff Truman remarks to Cooper that he feels like he better start studying medicine because he's beginning to feel a bit like Dr. Watson. He is referring to the assistant of the legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).


I love the look on Cooper's face after he takes a sip of the fish-contaminated coffee at the Packard Lodge!

A fish in the percolator


At 29:24 on the Blu-ray, notice there is an owl statuette in Catherine and Ben's motel room. Are the bedposts in the room also topped with the shape of owls? It's hard to tell (see screenshot below).

motel bedpost


As Catherine and Ben discuss torching the Packard Mill, she recommends "some night when Pete's off on a toot with Smokey the Bear." I'm not sure exactly what this means. At first, it sounded to me like Pete going off to get high by smoking marijuana! But we see no evidence throughout the series that he was into that. "Smokey the Bear" is also a slang term for "police", so maybe it's a reference to Pete and Sheriff Truman having gone fishing together? Pete is an obvious angler, and Truman is later depicted as knowing how to tie a fly in the second season, so maybe he and Pete did go fishing together when Truman's duties allowed the time. 


At 32:19 on the Blu-ray, Donna's sweater has a pattern oddly similar to the Owl Cave/ring symbol, not seen until the latter half of the second season. Donna's sweater Owl Cave ring


As Donna visits Mrs. Palmer, notice that, at 32:35 on the Blu-ray, Donna's face is reflected over the face of Laura in the glass of the framed photo of Laura. A minute later, Mrs. Palmer sees Laura's face superimposed over Donna's!


When Mrs. Palmer sees Laura's face over Donna's, is it Laura's spirit trying to appear through Donna? Mrs. Palmer then has a vision of BOB at the foot of Laura's bed, peering up at her. Is Laura trying to communicate the identity of her killer?


At 34:36 on the Blu-ray, Hawk sees the One-Armed Man at Calhoun Memorial Hospital. He was glimpsed briefly in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic" and is next seen in Cooper's dream in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer".


After Hawk loses the One-Armed Man in the hospital near the morgue, notice that a faint sound of electrical crackle is heard just before Hawk walks away. Was the electric crackle BOB or MIKE entering the building for a meeting with the One-Armed Man? The spirits from the Black Lodge seem to travel via electricity and cause similar disruptions in the 1992 follow-up film to the series, Fire Walk With Me.


It's amusing that the Twin Peaks-ish music playing as Audrey slow dances in her father's office at 35:27 on the Blu-ray turns out to be music she is listening to on a stereo! The same musical piece is played by Audrey on the jukebox at the RR Diner in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer".


As the Briggs family sits down to dinner, opera music is heard playing in the background.


At 41:18 on the Blu-ray, Leo is cutting open the football he will later use in Episode 2: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" to hide drug money.


At 42:49 on the Blu-ray, a funny wiener-dog tray is seen hanging on the wall of the Johnson kitchen.


The refrigerator in the Johnson kitchen, seen at 43:05 on the Blu-ray, is a General Electric.


At the dinner table at the Hayward home, James tells Dr. Hayward that his father died when he was ten and his mother travels a lot, sometimes writing for the local paper. James' father was Big Ed's little brother, Billy, according to The Secret History of Twin Peaks.


The tape recording from Laura that Dr. Jacoby listens to is dated February 23. This is the day Laura was killed. She mentions mailing it to him in one of the envelopes he provided. Most likely he has just received it in the mail and is listening to it for the first time.


Dr. Jacoby's tie is printed as a large fish! He wears the same tie in Episode 22: "Slaves and Masters".


The closing credits reveal that Ronette Pulaski's parents are Janek and Suburbis Pulaski. The Actor's Directory special feature on the season one Blu-ray box set gives Mrs. Pulaski's full name as Maria Suburbis Pulaski.


Notes from the Audio Commentary by director Duwayne Dunham on the Season 1 Blu-ray box set


Dunham remarks that the wardrobe choices of Donna and Audrey change as the series progresses. Both actresses wanted to dress a bit more in a modern fashion than the small town clothing given to them in early episodes.


Cooper flirts a bit with both Shelly and Norma at the RR Diner (not to mention Audrey at the Great Northern). There are hints that he is often enchanted by beautiful women (possibly a foreshadowing of the revelation of his affair with Windom Earle's wife, Caroline).


Memorable Dialog


no lumps.wav

you've heard me tell that story.wav

the true test of any hotel.wav

two things that continue to trouble me.wav

a damn fine cup of coffee.wav

freshly squeezed.wav

it would be my pleasure.wav

guess why I'm so happy today.wav

cotton balls.wav

the health and safety of James Hurley.wav

I better start studying medicine.wav

black as midnight on a moonless night.wav

a fish in the percolator.wav

scrubbing bidets in a Bulgarian convent.wav

I lost you years ago.wav

the metabolism of a bumble-bee.wav

one day my log will have something to say about this.wav

my log saw something that night.wav

my Aunt Nadine.wav

what's up, Doc?.wav


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