Sarah Palmer’s story in The Return is one of the mysterious of any of the show’s characters. She displays a variety of erratic and unusual behavior, culminating in opening her face, and biting out the neck of a crass barfly wearing a “Truck You” T-Shirt.
The Experiment is an equally mysterious, and far more otherworldy creature. Featuring prominently in the notorious Ep. 8, its role and narrative in the larger show is the subject of countless theories.
The Experiment, at some point in the show, possesses Sarah Palmer.
- Sarah is shown watching numerous violent and repetitive tv show clips, including Lions eating a Buffalo, and a boxer getting knocked down and standing back up
- Sarah get upset at a grocery store while buying alcohol, after seeing an Experiment-shaped icon on some turkey jerky
- Sarah then claims “something happened to her” and that “men are coming” Before hurrying out of the store. In these scenes she uses a breathy, uncertain voice, whereas in other scenes, she uses a deeper, almost resigned face with a resigned, sardonic face.
- In the Elk Point #9 Bar, she eats a Trucker’s neck after taking her face off. Here is what transpired under her face:
- She opens her face, revealing a vague, gray scene. Out of a darker circle in the gray comes a knife-shaped proboscis
- This proboscis is similar to the one we see coming out of the Experiment when it kills the couple outside the Glass Box(This is not the best picture of it)
- On the bottom left hand side of the face, you can see a sharp line from gray to black that resembles the jawline of the experiment
- Later in the scene, you can sharply see the outline of what looks like a head as well as an antenna sticking out of the top left side of the head
- Here is a GIF that shows the entire face animation: https://giphy.com/gifs/xUNd9QlxAandVloZk4/fullscreen
- The Experiment is credited in this episode. The only other two episodes that credit the Experiment are 1 and 8
What Does It All Mean?
The first premise we need to establish is that something otherworldly is possessing Sarah. That’s not a particularly difficult task– Sarah seems pretty out of it at the convenient store, and I’m pretty sure normal people can open their faces up to reveal hands and teeth inside, even in the Twin Peaks Universe.
So now we’re on the same page– Sarah’s got some major Lodge vibes going on. But what exactly? Well, the most direct evidence comes from inside of Sarah’s own head. It looks pretty clearly like the outline of the experiment in Sarah’s face. First we see the same proboscis that is seen when examining the scene with the lovers in the Glass Box (admittedly this image is a little blurry, I couldn’t find the really good one where you can clearly see the proboscis). That proboscis could be coming out the mouth of the experiment– there clearly is a darker circle inside Sarah’s face that looks like the Experiment’s mouth. However, this is hardly conclusive.
Later, you can see the jawline of the experiment as it moves around the frame (check out the gif above) and the consistent structural integrity of that oval provides pretty compelling evidence that its meant to be one object. This is in contrast to say, smoke, which would whisp and whorl, and not maintain constant distances between sharp outlines and darker areas.
Most convincingly, however, is the shot above. You can clearly see the outline of one of the Experiment’s antennae in the top left portion of Sarah’s face-hole, and you can also see its open mouth between the fingers of the hand.
One extra note: check out the edges of Sarah’s removed face– notice how they’re jagged and bloody, instead of clean and smooth like Laura’s were?
- The Experiment is Judy, and Judy is possessing Sarah Palmer
- The movements of the hand and teeth in animation resemble the Experiment removing its face similar to how Sarah just did
- The Experiment is feeding off Laura’s trauma, somehow
- The teeth coming out of the Experiment belong to someone in Twin Peaks