5:8 – Vacancy

While Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan) navigates the complexities of the workplace, Mark Frost and David Lynch now takes us back to the Silver Mustang Casino, and our first glimpse of the bosses who will become so quixotically prevalent later on in the evolution of The Return.

We’re in a control room, where employees oversee around two dozen monitors surveying the games of chance unfolding across the casino. Standing nervously in this predominantly grey space are middle-level staff members Burns (Brett Gelman) and his underling Warrick (David Dastmalchian). Warrick receives word that ‘they’ – the fearsome Mitchum Brothers – are on their way up. The look in Burns’ face tells us much about the standing of these characters who we have yet to meet. He clearly anticipates a harsh reprimand for letting Douglas Jones slip through his fingers.

On one of the monitors, footage of one of Dougie’s wins rewinds and replays, like the memory of the event that has surely been on loop in Burns’ own mind.

Fan favourite Candie (Am Shiels) makes her first appearance; she is one of a troop of pink-clad chorus girls who follow the Mitchums wherever they go; a perfect ditz, always away with the fairies, as it were. Her character walks a curiously fine line between completely charming and borderline offensive (however anyone who has seen reality shows like The Girls Next Door might acknowledge that this airheaded ‘type’ genuinely exists… not that I ever watched that show, of course, oh no). Candie and her colleagues are a welcome drop of bright colour in an otherwise conspicuously drab locale, and they also fit perfectly into that ‘Pretty 50s’ aesthetic that Lynch is so fond of conjuring both in Twin Peaks and across his larger body of work, which has the subtle effect of dislocating his stories from a single time period, in spite of earthbound calendar and dates and so on. What year is this, indeed.

Candie closing the door to the room makes it clear that a small time jump has occurred The Mitchums are now in the control room. James Belushi plays Bradley Mitchum and will be instantly recognisable to many views for his string of star appearances, particularly in ’80s comedy movies. Robert Knepper plays Rodney Mitchum. Knepper is perhaps best known for a recurring role on the show Prison Break, but for those keeping score, he is also strongly recognisable as a recurring guest star on HBO’s ill-fated horror fantasy Carnivale, a show I’ve already mentioned owes a debt and several case members to Twin Peaks.

“Thirty jackpots in a row,” Rodney reiterates, without any hint of mirth, “We haven’t paid out that many in a year.” With their pristine suits, severe attitudes and already-established sense of menace, the brothers have the aura of gangsters from the off.

Two security men – also newly in the room – swivel Burns on his heels so that he is facing the Mitchums. Candie, Mandie (Andrea Leal) and Sandie (Giselle DaMier) recline aloofly against the wall, variously staring into space, detached from the threat in the scene. Their vacancy is as disquieting as the upcoming violence, and it is as though they physically embody the ‘blind eyes’ of employees or us in the audience to corporate misdeeds. The Mitchums are the establishment. Burns, here, is their victim, about to receive a punishment far greater than any wrong-doing of his. I can’t help but think of Candie and the girls as symbolising our own apathy toward how businesses mistreat their work forces, particular in light of outspoken horror stories from employees of Lush or Amazon as just examples.

Warrick confirms for Rodney that Dougie won $425,000 on the slot machines and Rodney’s anger is immediately transferred to Burns, whom he punches in the nose. Rodney accuses Warrick of being in on the win somehow (evidence of his recurrent paranoia) and when Warrick repeats the amount Dougie won on his asking, he socks Burns in the stomach, bending the guy in two. Burns falls to the ground and Rodney kicks him in the stomach eight times as the girls yawn.

“You’re fucking fired,” Rodney spits at him. Burns is escorted/dragged toward the door. Before he is allowed to exit, Bradley leans down into his face and utters somber, threatening words; “Leave town. Don’t ever come back”. He is somehow more malevolent than his brother.

There’s a new vacancy at Silver Mustang Casino, immediately filled by Warrick, whom Bradley now promotes (a mixed blessing, to say the least).

“You let us know,” Bradley says with an arm around him, walking him over to the monitors and pointing to Dougie, “if this man ever comes in here again.”

Next time:  Kaboom

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