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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Twin Peaks: Masked Ball Twin Peaks
Episode 18: "Masked Ball"
TV episode
Written by Barry Pullman
Directed by Duwayne Dunham
Original air date: December 15, 1990


While Cooper reports Major Briggs’ disappearance, a DEA agent arrives, and Windom Earle makes his next move; Nadine develops a crush on Mike; Dick becomes a Big Brother; Ben loses One-Eyed Jacks.


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 role of Andrew Packard, who appears for the first time in this episode, is played by Dan O'Herlihy. His son Gavan plays Canadian Mountie Preston King in this series.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


James Hurley

Betty Briggs
Major Briggs (mentioned only)

Dale Cooper

Sheriff Truman

Deputy Andy

Deputy Hawk

Dougie Milford

Lucy Moran (mentioned only)

Gordon Cole

Agent Hardy

Nadine Butler (Hurley)

Donna Hayward

Mike Nelson

Evelyn Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh (mentioned only)

Dick Tremayne

Little Nicky

DEA Agent Denise Bryson (formerly Dennis)

Mountie Preston King (mentioned only)

Buck Wingate (TP High School wrestling coach; unnamed here but name revealed in the script of Episode 19: "The Black Widow")

Josie Packard

Thomas Eckhardt (mentioned only)

Andrew Packard (mentioned only)

Norma Jennings

Hank Jennings

Ernie Niles

Ben Horne

Jerry Horne (as child in home movie)

Ben and Jerry's father (in home movie)

Ben and Jerry's mother (in home movie) 

Jean Renault (mentioned only)

Windom Earle (voice only)

Lana Milford (née Budding)

Mayor Milford

Reverend Clarence Brocklehurst

Pete Martell

The Log Lady

Catherine Martell




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.


The Log Lady is back to wearing the same sweater she wore in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic", but a different shirt. The china is now missing except for her tea cup.


"Is life like a game of chess? Are our present moves important
for future success? I think so. We paint our future with every
present brush stroke.

"Painting. Colors. Shapes. Textures. Composition. Repetition
of shapes. Contrast. Let nature guide us. Nature is the great
teacher. Who is the principal?

"Sometimes jokes are welcome. Like the one about the kid who
said: 'I enjoyed school. It was just the principal of the thing.'"


Didja Notice?


This episode opens on Wednesday, March 15, 1989.


As James cycles down the highway at the beginning of the episode, notice at 2:16 on the Blu-ray that he passes a road sign reading "Entering Snoqualmie" in the opposite direction. Snoqualmie is one of the Washington towns where exterior establishing shots for Twin Peaks were filmed.


Mrs. Briggs' shirt has a diamond shape on the breast pocket.

Mrs. Briggs' shirt


As Cooper explains Major Briggs' disappearance to Mrs. Briggs, it's clear she knows more about his classified work than anyone else we've met so far, but she's largely tight-lipped about it.


Mrs. Briggs tells Truman and Cooper that the major left some notes on his bedside table and she could call back with them. Truman agrees they might be very helpful. But we never hear anything more about it. What did the notes say? (In the original script, the notes turn out to be nothing more than a grocery list!)


    Hawk tells Cooper about Native American legends of the White and Black Lodges and the Dweller on the Threshold, a being whom you meet in the Black Lodge, your own shadow self.

    According to the Occult Glossary, a 1933 compendium of Oriental and Theosophical terms by Gottfried de Purucker, the term "Dweller on the Threshold" was a literary invention of the British mystic and novelist Sir Bulwer Lytton in his 1842 novel Zanoni. But some occultists, have claimed that the Dweller is an actual entity existing in the astral realms and that Lytton only fictionalized it. Theosophists Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey claimed that the Dweller was something along the lines of the astral double of any given individual's previous life, drawn to that person's current life, and imbued with the unconquered negative attitudes of that prior life.

    According to the later 1953 Dictionary of Mysticism, the Dweller on the Threshold was "a demon or evil elemental or nature-spirit capable of obsession." And the defintion of "obsession" in this book is "the control of a living person by a discarnate spirit which suppresses the normal personality of the person obsessed". This sounds quite a bit like what happened to Leland Palmer.


Upon hearing of Dougie Milford's nearly seasonal weddings, Cooper jokes, "Marry in haste, repent in leisure." This is a popular paraphrasing of a line that originally appeared in William Congreve's 1693 comedic play The Old Batchelour.


When Gordon calls Cooper at the sheriff's station, he says he's in Bend, Oregon. Recall that he was on his way there when we last saw him in Episode 14: "Lonely Souls".


Agent Hardy's FBI assistant is seen to be using a 1989 Apple Macintosh Portable. The date on the computer's screen shows October 22, 1990, even though the episode is supposed to take place in March 1989!

Apple Macintosh Portable


James flees from Twin Peaks and Donna in Episode 16: "Arbitrary Law", which was four days ago. Where has he been all this time before we see him pull into Wallies Hide-out?


James stops at a bar called Wallies Hide-out. There he meets Evelyn Marsh and agrees to fix her husband's car which she says she ran into a ditch. The car in question turns out to be a 1948 Jaguar Drophead Coupe. The car Evelyn drove to the bar is a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette C1. Wallies Hide-Out exteriors were shot at what was the Santa Susana Cantina in Simi Valley, CA...notice there is a big "S" on the front door!


As Evelyn is seen sitting alone at the bar at 12:22 on the Blu-ray, the post next to her can be seen to have the etchings of past patrons carved into it. There appears to be a Superman "S" symbol carved at the top of the screen! At Evelyn's shoulder level, an etching appears to read "Sean was here." Superman symbol


James is depicted throughout the series as still being in high school, yet he is somehow able to order a beer at Wallies...the drinking age in Washington at the time, as now, was 21.


The jukebox in Wallies Hide-Out is a Wurlitzer. The tune James plays on it is the same one Bobby played on the RR jukebox in Episode 0A: "Wrapped in Plastic", "I’m Hurt Bad" by Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch from Lynch's 1989 avant-garde play, Industrial Symphony No. 1.


When Dick brings Little Nicky into the sheriff's station, he tells Andy that they just came from Horne's department store where Nicky was fitted for a new wardrobe. Probably one of the outfits Nicky was fitted for was the one we later see him wearing in Episode 19: "The Black Widow" that is identical to Dick's own.


In Truman's office at 16:14 on the Blu-ray, there appears to be a carved wooden owl statue behind Hawk.


Besides Hawk, Truman also seems to recognize the name "White Lodge".


Cooper remarks that he worked with DEA Agent Dennis Bryson in Oakland. This was depicted in The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper (he also worked with Bryson in San Diego and Tijuana in that book).


At 20:43 on the Blu-ray, we see that Truman has a picture of a motorcycle hanging on the wall of his cabin. Another motorcycle image is hanging above his bed. Is he a motorcycle nut? We don't get any other indication of it in the series.


At 20:45 on the Blu-ray, notice that Truman has Native American totem images on the drapes in his bedroom.


Josie tells Truman that she came from a poor household and was sold to Thomas Echardt. But according to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Josie's father was a member of the Siu-wong triad, an organized crime unit in China, and reasonably well-off.


At 24:50 on the Blu-ray, Agent Hardy sits in a booth at the RR, reading the Twin Peaks Post, which has the front page headline "Leland Palmer Laid to Rest" (this happened the previous day in Episode 17: "Dispute Between Brothers"). Below the main headline is another article about the Milford marriage, but the rest of the article title is not legible.


At 25:28 on the Blu-ray, Carnation Barber Shop can be seen outside the window of Ernie's booth at the RR. This sign was photographed during some on location shooting in the town of Carnation, WA.


When Norma serves Nicky his Super Snow-Frosted Chocolate Malted, Andy remarks that it looks like Whitetail Mountain. Whitetail Mountain is one of the twin peaks of Twin Peaks (the other being Blue Pine Mountain).


At 27:46 on the Blu-ray, a number of car photos and trophies are seen on a long display shelf in the Marsh house garage. Jeffrey Marsh must have entered his prized vehicles in some kind of collector cars competition over the years.


At 29:41 on the Blu-ray, as Ben watches his old home movie of the ground-breaking ceremony for the Great Northern Hotel from when he was a kid, the "Future Home of the Great Northern Hotel" sign has a line at the bottom that reads, "JJ Horne Developing Inc." JJ Horne must be Ben's father, though Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town tells us that Ben's father was actually Ben, Sr. (and the grandfather was Orville Horne). Recall that in Episode 5: "Cooper's Dreams", Ben's Ghostwood project was "A project of Horne Development Corp."


At 30:27 on the Blu-ray, notice that there is a Slinky toy on Ben's desk! I guess he had been digging into all his old stuff from his childhood.


As Ben watches the home movie, he begins to mumble, "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York," and "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths." These are lines from Richard's soliloquy at the beginning of Shakespeare's Richard III. The soliloquy explains that the speaker was once high-and-mighty but has now been brought down and humbled.


At 35:59 on the Blu-ray, a couple of the envelopes Cooper tosses onto his hotel room table appear to be from National Bank. This appears to be a fictitious institution. 


The envelope Cooper receives from Windom Earle in the mail is addressed simply, "To Dale Cooper, c/o Great Northern Hotel, Twin Peaks." Cooper's envelope


Earle's chess move of P to Q4 (Pawn to Queen's 4) is not the most strategic move he could make, but is an opening move of a Center Game strategy. By making this move, Earle agressively places Cooper's pawn in jeopardy. (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.)
Pawn to Queen's 4 (Earle) Knight to King's Bishop 3 (suggested move)
Earle's (white) Pawn to Queen's 4 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)


In his tape to Cooper, Earle chastises Cooper's consistency and predictability, chiding, "Hobgoblins, Dale." He is referring to a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1841 essay "Self-Reliance", "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".


The Reverend Clarence Brocklehurst returns to marry Dougie and Lana. He was last seen presiding over Laura Palmer's funeral in Episode 3: "Rest in Pain".


Lucy is nowhere to be seen at the Milford wedding even though, earlier in the episode, she was supposedly away from her duties at the sheriff's station in order to help with the preparations for the wedding!


The robe Cooper wears in his room at the Great Northern has a design that is a bit reminiscent of the Owl Cave symbols!

Cooper's robe


The bouquet in Denise's hand when Cooper meets her at the bar in the Timber Room indicates that she caught it when it was thrown by the bride at the end of the Milford wedding ceremony. In Western weddings, the newly-wedded bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder and the person who catches it is believed to be the next person present who will get married.


Behind the bar in the Timber Room, there are bottles of Cutty Sark, Beefeater, Jose Cuervo, Jack Daniel's, and Kahlua. These are all real world liquor brands.


Truman orders a draft beer at the wedding reception and he seems to receive a mug that is already half empty!


Mayor Milford remarks that he was married to the same woman for half a century.


When Pete remarks that the music at the wedding reception turned out pretty good, Mayor Milford retorts, "Oughta' be a death march." Ironically, his brother Dougie, the groom, will die after a night of sex with his new wife this same evening (as seen in the following episode Episode 19: "The Black Widow")!


At 45:33 on the Blu-ray, the side of Catherine's desk is seen to have a diamond pattern on it.


The bookcase behind Catherine appears to have a Robert Ludlum novel on it. The bookcase to Andrew's left hand appears to have a row of Encyclopedia Britannica books on it; to his right is a copy of Writer's Market, an annually published book for freelance writers looking for places to sell their work.


During the close-up of Andrew at the end of the episode, there is a click sound and he glances to his left as if someone has just entered or passed by the room. But nothing is said about it in the next episode and it's clear that neither Josie nor Pete are aware of his presence in the house until then. Who or what was it?


The closing credits of this episode show more of Ben's old home movie.


Memorable Dialog


very significant.wav

that's classified.wav

a powerful force that exists in those woods.wav

marry in haste, repent in leisure.wav

calling from Bend, Oregon.wav

is any of this true?.wav

it's Gordon.wav

beyond the edge of the board.wav

the sound the wind makes through the pines.wav

he has the cutest buns.wav

let's be realistic.wav

there are other worlds.wav

the White Lodge.wav

the Black Lodge.wav

a real surprise.wav

a pleasure to meet you, sheriff.wav

I've been looking forward to this pie.wav

catch anything?.wav

Uncle Dick isn't mad.wav

Uncle Andy went funny boom-boom.wav

you're out, Ben.wav 


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