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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Twin Peaks: Variations on Relations Twin Peaks
Episode 26: "Variations on Relations"
TV episode
Written by Mark Frost & Harley Peyton
Directed by Jonathan Sanger
Original air date: April
11, 1991

Page last updated 11/24/2020


Cooper returns to Owl Cave and goes on a nature study with Annie; Windom Earle takes a pawn; Lana schemes to win the Miss Twin Peaks pageant.


Read the episode script 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 actor playing the young heavy metal band member killed by Windom Earle is Ted Raimi, brother of film director Sam Raimi.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Deputy Andy

Sheriff Truman

Agent Cooper

Deputy Hawk

Windom Earle

Leo Johnson

Rusty Tomaski (Heavy metal band member, not named until the next episode)

Pete Martell

Josie Packard (deceased, mentioned only)

Catherine Martell

Thomas Eckhardt (deceased, mentioned only)

Dale Doolittle (mentioned only)

Dale Doolittle's twin brother (unnamed, mentioned only)

Annie Blackburn

Bobby Briggs

Shelly Johnson

Mayor Milford

Lana Milford

Audrey Horne

Dr. Hayward

Ben Horne

Mrs. Gardner (mentioned only, Shelly's fourth grade teacher)

Dick Tremayne

Lucy Moran

Gordon Cole

John Justice Wheeler (Jack)

Eileen Hayward


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.


"Pie. Whoever invented the pie? Here was a great person. In
Twin Peaks, we specialize in cherry pie and huckleberry pie. We
do have many other types of pie, and at the Double R Diner, Norma
knows how to make them all better than anyone I have ever known.

"I hope Norma likes me. I know I like her and respect her. I have
spit my pitch gum out of my mouth onto her walls and floors and
sometimes onto her booths. Sometimes I get angry and do things
I'm not proud of. I do love Norma's pies. I love pie with coffee."


Didja Notice?


This episode opens on the morning of Thursday, March 23, 1989.


As the camera pans past the young heavy metal band member (named as Rusty Tomaski in Episode 27: "The Path To The Black Lodge") in Earle's cabin at 4:06 on the Blu-ray, notice that a copy of the Twin Peaks Post is sitting under a large tractor drill bit.


At 4:33 on the Blu-ray, a Home Depot painters cap is seen among the tools and supplies Earle is/will be using to build a giant chess piece around Rusty. Is there a Home Depot in Twin Peaks?

Home Depot cap


As Pete contemplates chess moves at the Blue Pine Lodge, he tries to compose his own ode to Josie aloud, mumbling in his grief, "I think I shall never see, a girl as lovely as Josie. When she walked into the room, the flowers were all abloom..." He has altered lines from the 1913 poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, which begins, "I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree." Trees are, of course, a motif in Twin Peaks. Some episodes of the series suggest that Josie's soul may be imprisoned in the wood structure of the Great Northern Hotel where she died. The actual poem "Trees" follows:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Attempting to help Catherine open the puzzle box left to her by Thomas Eckhardt, Pete mentions he saw one once when he was on R and R in Guam. Guam is a territory of the United States and the largest island of Micronesia. That Pete took R and R there suggests he was in the U.S. Armed Forces (or possibly the U.S. merchant marines) at some point in the past.


Bobby tells Shelly he wants her to enter the Miss Twin Peaks contest because "Beautiful people get everything they want," and she retorts sardonically, "Know any senators I can marry?" Ironically, Bobby's current employer, Ben Horne, said in Episode 23: "The Condemned Woman" that he's considering a run for the senate!


Cooper picks up donuts and coffee from the RR Diner for him, the sheriff, and the deputies. But according to Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town, the sheriff's station gets its donuts from Wagon Wheel Bakery. It may be that Cooper talked his cohorts from the sheriff's station into stopping at the RR (after their morning excursion to Owl Cave) because he wanted to take the opportunity to invite Annie on a nature study. Additionally, the RR does not really seem geared towards donut service, though it's possible they contract with Wagon Wheel Bakery to provide them with some on a daily basis for customers who desire donuts with their breakfast.


Cooper invites Annie on a nature study. "Nature study" is a philosophy that espouses a reconciliation of science and spirituality through the study of nature, not books. As presented by Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954), one of the founders of the nature study movement, in his "Leaflet I: What Is Nature-Study?", "Nature-study, as a process, is seeing the things that one looks at, and the drawing of proper conclusions from what one sees...[it] is not the study of a takes the things at hand and endeavors to understand is informal, as are the objects which one sees. It is entirely divorced from mere definitions, or from formal explanations in trains the eye and the mind to see and to comprehend the common things of life; and the result is not directly the acquiring of science but the establishing of a living sympathy with everything that is." This sounds like the kind of thing with which Cooper would be sympathetic.


Notice that the donut box Annie brings to Cooper has a label on it with a logo that reads "Donuts Donuts", similar to the logo of the U.S. donut chain Dunkin' Donuts!
RR Donuts Dunkin' Donuts
RR Donuts Dunkin' Donuts


At 11:37 on the Blu-ray, notice that the RR's "stock pot soup" of the day is "hearty beaver broth"!!


As the clueless Rusty is being entombed within a giant pawn chess piece, he asks Earle, "Hey, is this for, like, the Lilac Parade or what?" He is presumably referring to the famous Lilac Parade that accompanies the 10-day Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island, Michigan, known for its large and beautiful lilac flowers.


Interestingly, Leo seems to have gained some morality from his ordeal of injuries and time with the twisted Windom Earle. He at first does not want to give any sort of aid to Earle in the murder of Rusty and, in Episode 27: "The Path to the Black Lodge" and Episode 28: "Miss Twin Peaks", seeks to prevent the potential murder of Shelly (even though he tried to kill her himself way back in Episode 7: "The Last Evening").


At 21:03 on the Blu-ray, as Earle's arrow strikes the giant papier-mâché chess piece, part of the Twin Peaks Gazette banner can be seen on one of the newspaper strips.


During the Miss Twin Peaks auditions, Donna sits at a table with Sheely and Bobby. Recall that she and Shelly shared a cigarette in Episode 23: "The Condemned Woman". Possibly they were friends in school before Shelly dropped out.


The symbols on the inner box of Eckhardt's gift to Catherine are partially zodiacal and partially I-don't-know-what. There are only eight stylized symbols, representing here the eight phases of the Moon (clockwise, as depicted below): full moon (w/ Libra symbol), waning gibbous (w/ Pisces symbol), last quarter (w/ Cancer symbol), waning crescent (w/ unknown symbol; possibly Juno, a large asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter), new moon (w/ Aries symbol), waxing crescent (w/ Sagittarius symbol), first quarter (w/ Taurus symbol), and waxing gibbous (w/ Gemini symbol).

puzzle box


During their nature study, Annie implies to Cooper that her wrist scars (presumably an attempt to commit suicide) were related to a relationship she had with a boy in high school. Who was the boy? Is he still in town?


As the wine-tasting gathering at the Great Northern begins, Dick says, "Good evening. Evening all. And welcome to our oenophiliac soiree, another in a continuing series of public events, sponsored by Horne Industries, to benefit the Stop Ghostwood Development movement." "Oenophiliac" is a Greek word for "one who loves wine".


Gordon remarks that "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world." This is a line from the 1964 song "People" by Barbra Streisand, originally performed in that year's Broadway musical Funny Girl.


As Gordon is about to kiss Shelly at the RR, Bobby walks in and the country music playing on the jukebox suddenly wipes out like a phonograph needle dragged across a record!


Lana remarks that one of the wines has a banana flavor to it and Dick responds that it is the result of the metachloric acid. The term "metachloric acid" is fictitious, though types of hydrochloric acid do add a banana flavor to various foodstuffs and beverages.


When Jack sits down next to Cooper at the fireplace in the Great Northern lobby, he says, "Love is hell," and Cooper responds with, "The Hindus say love is a ladder to heaven." As far as I can find, there is no such aphorism in Hindu philosophy.


The glass Cooper is drinking from at the fireplace is a Western Stores promotional half-pint measuring glass. (Thanks to Vinnie Guidera's article "Northwest Cupboard: The Drinkware of Twin Peaks" in Blue Rose magazine #14.) Western Stores was a chain of Australian department stores from roughly 1947-1983. It's hard to say why the Great Northern would serve a drink in such a glass, though it maybe it's a glass that belongs to Cooper himself.


The bellman who delivers the message to Jack has a name badge identifying him as Jeff Moore. This is the same name seen on a piece of mail at the Hayward house in Episode 25: "On the Wings of Love", Moore being the prop master on the series! The Bellman himself is actually played by John Charles Sheehan.


Where are Donna's sisters Harriet and Gersten at the Hayward family dinner?


As Donna presses her mother at the dinner table for information about her relationship with Ben Horne, her mother twice asks her to pass the peas! And helps herself to two helpings within the span of a minute! This seems like an editing error...but the scene is actually written that way in the original script as well! It could be argued that Eileen was flustered by her daughter's questions about Ben and asked for the peas again, having forgot she already had some...but then why scoop out a second helping? She would notice she already had peas on her plate!


Donna tells her mother she entered the Miss Twin Peaks contest because she figured she could use the scholarship money to study overseas. But the fliers for the contest say the scholarship is for WSC (Washington State College), in her own state! Though it is possible that WSC has an overseas studies program.


When Cooper's car pulls up to Easter Park at 44:01 on the Blu-ray, the reflections of several members of the production crew are visible on the car door! Notice the car is not the same rental he drove to Twin Peaks in in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic".


 Earle's chess move in this episode is BxP (Bishop takes Pawn), resulting in the death of another innocent. As pointed out in the study of Episode 25: "On the Wings of Love", this is a bad move as far as the game goes, as Earle takes only Cooper's pawn and would lose a bishop in Cooper's response. Of course, the game never proceeds beyond this point. Chess expert John Jacobs says this move would lose Earle the game in a genuine match of experts. (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.)

   In the next episode, Episode 27: "The Path to the Black Lodge", Earle sweeps the chess pieces off his board, apparently having abandoned the game. We also never see Cooper respond with the next move, but how does he know Earle has abandoned the game? It seems as if the producers of the show decided to abandon the plotline, therefore the characters do as well.

Bishop takes Pawn (Earle) Bishop to Queen's Bishop 4 (suggested move)
Earle's (white) BxP move
(diagram from Wrapped in Plastic #4)
A more strategic move, B-QB4, suggested by John Jacobs
(diagram from Wrapped in Plastic #4)


Unanswered Questions


How did Windom Earle get the giant pawn piece with Rusty's body inside from his remote cabin in the woods to the gazebo at Easter Park? Does Earle have a truck hidden somewhere? If so, why is he later forced to steal Pete's truck in Episode 29: "Beyond Life and Death"? Did he steal another truck for this scheme?


Memorable Dialog


a ghastly place.wav

a power so vast.wav

you promised me beer.wav

what's the big deal.wav

I think that I shall never see.wav

sorry, Poodle.wav

know any senators I can marry?.wav

we need donuts.wav

a tingling sensation.wav

Windom Earle's work with Project Blue Book.wav

sometimes the urge to do bad is nearly overpowering.wav

I do not appreciate practical jokes.wav

don't zap the geek.wav

sexual maturity and superhuman strength.wav

some pretty strange neighbors.wav


a brief but touching funeral.wav

this world of Twin Peaks.wav

a goddess sent from heaven.wav

meeting you has been more than a privilege.wav 


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