By 1996, Twin Peaks had long since packed up and headed off toward staking its claim as perhaps the greatest TV drama/mystery ever aired. That same year, Seinfeld was airing its now-iconic 7th season. The Soup Nazi had de-souped basically everybody; “sponge-worthy” had already entered the American lexicon. And “The Rye” episode was about to A) be flat-out awesome and B) have nothing whatsoever to do with J. D. Salinger.
Oddly enough, it seems now to have had everything to do with Twin Peaks. Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David or maybe casting director Brian Myers had some serious Peaks on the Brain when they put this particular installment together. Prominent former Twin Peaks cast members pop up at basically every turn. Let’s join Elaine as she stares in horror at a big chunk of The Evidence:
On top of that credit list is Grace Zabriskie, who portrayed Mrs. Ross, the mother of George Costanza “love interest” Susan Ross. Grace Zabriskie was also Laura Palmer’s mom (Sarah) on Twin Peaks.
Next up is Warren Frost, who played Mr. Ross, Susan’s dad, on Seinfeld…
…and was Dr. Will Hayward, the father of Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) on Twin Peaks. Not at all incidentally, Warren’s also the real-life father of Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost.
You can skip Jeff Yagher, though he was pretty “hot and heavy” as Seinfeld saxophonist John Germaine.
Last but in no way least is Frances Bay, who nobody who’s ever turned on a TV in America doesn’t remember as Mabel Choate, the stubborn old lady who turned down outrageous bucks for a marble rye before Jerry mugged the damn thing right out of her hands and called her an “old bag.”
Frances, bless her heart at age 101 this January, was also Mrs. Tremond—that creepy old lady with the creepy little kid who makes the creepy creamed corn disappear—in that one episode of Twin Peaks, as well as the same Mrs. Tremond in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. You remember her:
And then plus there’s Don Amendolia, credited a bit later in the credits, who kind of is the linchpin of this whole thing, really, just because he’s so easy to miss in “The Rye.” Three actors would’ve been very interesting; four is just blatant. Kramer collides with Don (as Dennis) in the hallway, and then he’s gone forever.
Amendolia was Emory Battis on Twin Peaks, the guy who hired Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) at the perfume counter and then…did…some other things:
Which brings us to some Conclusions:
I mean sure, you could just chalk all this up to coincidence or to incestuous Hollywood casting practices or whatever. But I don’t. No way. It’s a bit more interesting than that.
After all, Twin Peaks was a series motivated almost entirely by the mysterious death of Laura Palmer in the pilot episode. Laura’s mom (Zabriskie) and her doctor (Frost as Dr. Hayward) were huge characters throughout the show. And Seinfeld didn’t cast Zabriskie and Frost as just anybody. This genius show put them in the roles of mother and father to Susan Ross:
Now see it says “Ex-Fiancee” there. But Susan wasn’t any ordinary “ex-fiancee.” She was a TV executive, the one George Costanza kept yearning for long after his own “Show About Nothing” got killed by the fictional NBC of SeinfeldWorld. Also, she’s a dead ex-fiancee. Susan Ross never did get married to George Costanza. Susan Ross died mysteriously. Very mysteriously. Like Laura Palmer before her, Susan Ross was murdered.
You can—and should—watch a season and a half of Twin Peaks to find out who killed Laura Palmer. As for Seinfeld and Susan Ross, I’m not going to make you wait that long: