Traces to Nowhere is an episode defined by two accidents.
The first is Pete Martell serving Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) fish-tainted coffee while Cooper and Truman are asking Josie (Joan Chen) about Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) tutoring her in English. Pete runs into the room, saying, “Fellas, don’t drink that coffee! A fish fell into the percolator!” Hours later, sitting at the Double R Diner, Cooper says that he still has “the taste of that fish-flavored coffee in my mouth.”
The other accident was Killer Bob, who makes his first appearance when Mrs. Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) has a vision of him in the corner of a room. Bob and his sudden appearances would become one of the best known things about Twin Peaks but, ironically, he wasn’t even a part of the show’s original conception. Bob was played by Frank Silva, a prop master and set decorator who was working on the pilot episode of Twin Peaks when David Lynch accidentally caught his reflection on camera. Lynch was so taken by the accidental image that he created the role of Killer Bob specifically for Silva. Silva made a strong and undeniable impression as the growling Bob but, unfortunately, it would be his only role as an actor. Silva died of AIDS in 1996, four years after appearing in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Traces to Nowhere was the first regular episode of the series, following the pilot. Probably in order to reassure nervous television executive and viewers who were on the fence about whether or not Twin Peaks was for them, this episode is more quirky than actively strange. A lot of time is devoted to the show’s more soapy plot threads, like the affairs between Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) and Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) and James Hurley (James Marshall) and the abusive marriage of Leo (Eric Da Re) and Shelley (Madchen Amick).
There are a lot of first in Traces to Nowhere. This is the episode where Audrey first talks to Cooper, Cooper first says that the Great Northern serves a “damn fine cup of coffee,” where Cooper first has a slice of cheery pie, and where Cooper first talks about Albert Rosenfield. This episodes also features the first mention of the Bookhouse Boys and, most importantly for fans of the series, the first appearance of Catherine Coulson as everyone’s favorite Log Lady. When the Log Lady first shows up and tells Cooper to ask her log who killed Laura Palmer, the character seems like just a throw away joke. But fans of the show know how important the Log Lady will become.
Catherine Coulson, was passed away in 2015, was the ex-wife of Jack Nance, who played Pete Martell. Coulson and Nance both worked with David Lynch on his first film, Eraserhead. It is said that during the shooting of Eraserhead, Lynch looked over at Coulson and said that he had just suddenly had a vision of her holding a log. (Nance and Coulson were not the only Eraserhead alumni to later appear on Twin Peaks. Charlotte Stewart, who played the weak mother of Bobby Briggs on Twin Peaks, earlier played Mary X, Nance’s strange girlfriend in Erasherhead.)
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