Let's start with a shameful confession: early on in Twin Peaks: The Return's run, I did much bitching once I realized we weren't gonna be spending much time with Kyle MacLachlan's Dale Cooper. The character we were given instead - Dougie Jones, a Cooper doppleganger invested with the slowly-awakening spirit of that former FBI agent - mostly just grated on my nerves, and a Twin Peaks without Cooper felt all wrong. I was immediately impatient to return to the status quo. 

Well, soon enough it became apparent what kind of game Lynch and Frost were playing ("Oh, that Return"), and once I keyed into their frequency I found it very easy to fall for Dougie. MacLachlan's performance of that character - as well as his pants-shittingly terrifying portrayal of Mr. C (Bad Coop, if ya nasty) - has been an absolute pleasure to watch over these past few months, and before tonight I figured he'd probably a shoo-in for a bit of recognition come awards season.

After tonight's episode, I'm absolutely certain of it.

Episode 16 marked the long-awaited return of Agent Dale Cooper, and seeing MacLachlan hop right back into that character's signature set of mannerisms and vocal cadences felt like someone pulling off a deeply impressive magic trick. When that original piece of Twin Peaks music swelled on the soundtrack and Cooper charged out into a world two-and-a-half decades older than the one he'd last known, I got goosebumps. Hell, I had tears in my eyes. Part of it was the profound relief that came with seeing Cooper acting like himself again, but it was also seeing MacLachlan's miraculous talent in action. It was as though he'd never stopped playing the character.

I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself - a number of other important things happened on tonight's episode, some before Cooper's triumphant return - but I can't help but lead with it. Seeing this character again impacted me in ways I did not expect, and it's something I'm going to be thinking about for...well, for the foreseeable future. I am apparently even more affectionate for these characters than I realized. Huh.

Anyway, let's move on, because there's plenty more to get to.

Tonight's episode began with Richard Horne and Mr. C driving out into the middle of nowhere. Eventually they arrive at the base of a hill crowned by an enormous boulder. Mr. C gets Richard out of the car, tells him he's looking for "a place", and that - if the coordinates he's been given are correct - it's located right up there at the top of the hill. Unbeknownst to either of them, Jerry Horne (who's spent the majority of the season capering around the woods on hallucinogenics) has taken up position on a hill across the way, and watches through his binoculars as Richard climbs on top of the boulder and get electrocuted into nothingness. 

Mr. C looks at the smoking pile of ash that used to be Richard Horne and says: "Goodbye, my son."

Guess that solves that particular mystery.

Elsewhere, Lynch and Frost began tying up loose ends. The B-plot revolving around Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh's assassins (one of my favorites from this season; I love how Leigh's always cramming her face with junk food) came to an end, with both of them gunned down while lurking in a van outside Dougie Jones' house.

Diane, meanwhile, receives an ominous text from Mr. C (" : - ) ALL", it reads, which I interpreted as "KILL THEM ALL") and heads into the hotel suite where Gordon, Albert and Tammy have set up their makeshift FBI headquarters. Before she enters the room, Lynch shows us that Diane's got a gun in her bag, and the first half of the scene plays out with a delicious mixture of dread and tension: every time Laura Dern's hand moved towards that bag, my stomach clenched - were we really about to see Gordon and company gunned down in cold blood? I didn't think I could handle it.

The tension dies down just a little to make way for a powerhouse monologue from Dern, one in which Diane finally breaks her silence about what happened the last time she saw Cooper. She explains that Cooper (clearly a now-possessed-by-BOB Cooper) showed up at her house unannounced, chatted with her in the living room for a while ("He wanted to know about what'd been going on at the Bureau"), and then sexually assaulted her. Afterwards, he took her to "an old gas station" (clearly the Woodsman's convenience store, where we crossed paths with the long-lost Phillip Jeffries just last week) and...

Well, before Diane can go on, she sees that text from Mr. C on her phone again, and that's when she decides to make her move: Diane pulls her gun and goes for Gordon, but Albert and Tammy take her out before she can fire a single round. At her moment of death, Diane disappears into thin air. We are then taken to the Black Lodge, where Diane is confronted by Mike, who tells her she was "manufactured." Diane tells Mike to fuck himself, and then her face cracks open, expelling a plume of black smoke and a hovering, golden ball. Diane disappears again, there's a flash of light, and all that's left is what appears to be a single pearl, or maybe a ball bearing. 

As you might expect, this entire sequence left me with a number of questions - not the least of which pertain to Diane's seeming loyalty to Mr. C, or what has become of Diane now that she's entered the Black Lodge - so I'm curious to hear where all of you landed on it (don't be shy about pitching your takes in the comments below; that's what they're there for). But before we get to that, there's even more to discuss.

Dougie's goodbye to his family, for instance. Now that Coop's got his wits about him, he exploits his friendship with the Mitchum brothers to score a last-minute private jet to Washington, and says a heartfelt farewell to both Sonny Jim and Janey-E before he goes (he assures them he'll be back, I'm not so sure). Watching MacLachlan in this scene, I found myself getting emotional all over again. There's something so calming and pure about Cooper! Here's a guy telling a mother and son that he's not actually their husband/father, and you totally believe that Cooper could deliver that news without sending anyone into hysterics; he's just that soothing a presence.  

Tonight's musical performance - a one-man joint from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder - was delightful, though when it arrived around the 48-minute mark I sat back in my seat, bummed: was this episode already over? Another short one, this close to the end? Turned out, it was not over: right around the time Vedder wraps his song, the door opens and in walks Audrey Horne and her husband, Charlie. Holy shit, I thought to myself, guess that means Audrey isn't still in a coma/trapped inside her own mind/any of the other similar theories that've been floating around over the last few weeks!

And then a funny thing happened: the MC stepped to the mic and announced "Audrey's Dance", the crowd parted, a familiar song began, and Audrey Horne moved out into the middle of the Bang Bang's main floor to perform her iconic, slinky dance routine. It was at this point I began second-guessing things, and then - when the entire moment was interrupted and we are suddenly transported to another location entirely, one where Audrey appears to be in some kind of hospital - I realized I'd been momentarily duped: Audrey really is trapped in her own mind/in a coma/in a mental facility somewhere, and these scenes between her and Charlie over the last few weeks are almost certainly figments of her imagination. 

And the beat this episode ended on. 

Look, tonight's episode was an emotional roller coaster, just totally thrilling from top to bottom. I don't think we're going to get another episode that rings my bells as much as Episode 8 did, but Episode 16 was among the very best this season has had to offer. Not only did it tie up a few dangling threads, solve a mystery or two and give us the long-awaited return of Agent Dale Cooper, but it was so well-executed that it filled me with a strong certainty that Lynch and Frost are probably going to stick the landing on this thing. Do you realize how insanely unlikely that is? How dangerous it was to return to the Twin Peaks well after all this time? The odds were always stacked against Twin Peaks: The Return, and - quite astonishingly - it appears that Lynch and Frost may have beaten those odds. 

If they have, we are in the presence of something truly legendary. It's been a privilege to have this come into our lives this year, and it's been a helluva ride watching/recapping it with the rest of the BMD staff. Never gonna forget this experience. I can only hope it's meant as much to you as it's meant to us.