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Dressed in a theater usher jacket and a bow tie, doffed with a faux general’s cap, and donned with the 3-D glasses of Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, because he was Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, the conspiracy theorist firebrand-huckster known as Dr. Amp launched the latest edition of his internet show by turning the crank on an old Victrola and spewing cranky vitriol. “It’s 7 o’clock? Do you know where your freedom is?” he asked, reading from a handwritten script spread before him like sheet music. “Coming to you live and electrified from Studio A, high atop the escarpments of White Tail Peak, the ruh-ruh-roof of the American Hindu Kush, this is Doctor Amp doing the vamp for American liberty!” He turned to a kitschy Statue of Liberty lamp and pulled the string. Let there be enlightenment! And the yanking of your chain.
Like Wally Brando the week before, the sincerity of Jacoby’s “Dr. Amp” act was tough to measure. Activating his “cosmic flashlight” to expose a “vast global conspiracy” of vague incorporated entities subverting our daily lives with their products, marketing and waste, Dr. Amp rattled off the consequences with the intense sputter of a hyper-caffeinated Bernie Bro. “Cancer! Leukemia! Autoimmune disorder! Pulmonary embolism! WARTS! Psoriasis and eczema! Cardiac arrest! WHERE ARE THE COPS WHEN WE NEED THEM? Anorexia. Body image bulls—! Microbial toxins — bacterial toxins! Environmental toxins! Our air, our water, our EARTH! The very soil itself! Our food! Our bodies, poisoned! POISONED!!!” In a week that saw President Trump withdraw the United States from The Paris Agreement on climate change, Dr. Amp offered a stinging rebuke… although I’m not sure the movement would want him for a spokesman. Don’t be looking for him to appear as a talking head in Al Gore’s next doc, Yet Another Inconvenient Sequel: Orange Alert on Planet Garmonbozia.
Dr. Amp’s shticky rage against the machine recalled the “kingdom of bulls—” invective of Mr. Robot, no more so than when he revealed the secret purpose of the shovels that Jacoby has been collecting and painting. Telling his audience that they must “see, hear, and act, act now!,” Dr. Amp pressed play on a commercial. Yep, his righteous program is a vehicle for advertising. Just like TV shows! We saw Dr. Amp knee deep in mud, and then, after a single scoop of his shiny gold shovel, we saw that he had liberated himself. He pushed a clicker and he gained a buttery glow from an unseen lamp hanging in the trees. For $29.99, he said, you, too, can “shovel your way out of the s—” of the modern world with one of these tools. “Accept no substitutes! Get yours now!” (No substitutes? Who else is selling this stuff?)
It was a loony bit of satire that mocked both degrading capitalism and those who would make a buck by protesting such a culture, especially entertainment like TV shows that participate in said culture’s marketing mechanisms. Yet for all the crazy clown time joking around, I think Twin Peaks: The Return shares Dr. Amp’s dim view of society. Part 5 continued to cast shade on the myth of the American West and the promises of the American dream, as if to question their worth or simply say we’re not living up to their best ideals. There’s critique in the show’s Eastern-colored view of materialism, symbolized by the body-soul dualism of Dougie-fresh Cooper, a pure soul sealed up in a reincarnated body and muffled by it, or Dirty Cooper, a sentient animal of rapacious appetites that’s host to a sinister spirit. (Among his powers: Dirty Cooper has a sixth sense for mealtime.) Part 5 was organized around the theme of labor; almost every scene was about people at work or on the make, bustling or hustling, the underlying idea here being that human value is measured in dollars and cents, productivity and utility. I used to think the town of Twin Peaks was being set up as the spiritual antithesis — the antidote — for the world around it. But as we saw in “Case Files,” this seemingly idyllic community is as troubled as ever. New rot is spreading, new despair is blooming, and a new Horne’d devil is on the loose. Oh, and will someone please fix Doris Truman’s busted leaking pipes?! White Tail Peas may be the roof of the “American Hindu Kush” (the Hindu Kush being a geographical seat of Buddhism), but everything at the base is roofied with Garmonbozia. Help us, Yoda Buddha Cooper! You’re our only hope!
“Case Files” kept broadening the scope and adding characters to the series while scooting everything and everyone else that’s come before by inches. But they were meaningful inches — sometimes explosive, sometime certifiably bizarre. You got the sense of a show settling into a groove. And honestly, I could watch a whole hour of David Lynch staging visually driven, long-take observational comedy of green-jacketed Eraserhead Cooper standing, staring, shuffling, peeing, chugging coffee, peeing some more, scrutinizing statues, or weeping at the sight of Sonny Jim Jones. “Case Files” was the revival’s most tonally balanced outing yet, a mix of silly and sinister with the right splash of supernatural intrigue. My golden shovel is ready. Let’s get to digging.
Buckhorn, South Dakota: I thought we were done with this locale, but we keep going back, and the more we do, the more I hope we never leave. CSI Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) is a constant delight; her corny quips and wisecrack demeanor make me want to see her weekend stand-up act. She had some news for us regarding the decapitated John Doe that was found with the severed head of librarian Ruth Davenport in Part 1: The dead dude’s stomach contained a ring inscribed with the words: “To Dougie, with love, Janey-E.”
The symbol system of this crime keeps growing, gilding the idea of love gone bad, of betrayed, busted marriage. Anyway: How the heck did Dougie’s (wedding?) band wind up in this guy’s stomach? You wonder if whoever was responsible for putting it there — the man’s killer? the victim himself? — wanted it to be found, a clue to point the authorities toward Dougie. Or Janey-E. We’ll see. All the show’s current investigations are leading them to Vegas. The finale is going to be like the last Hobbit movie; call it: The Battle of the Five Detective Armies.
Before we bail on Buckhorn, a correction. I’ve been incorrect in my understanding of Ruth Davenport’s murder. I thought the bloated body in her apartment belonged to her. I didn’t understand we’re dealing with two different victims here. Duly noted. Are we also supposed to be wondering if the male in question here is Major Garland Briggs? That’s hard to believe. Regardless, the Pentagon is en route to Buckhorn to investigate the Briggs of it all. Perhaps they’ll have some answers for us soon.
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Las Vegas: Picking up a few minutes after we left him last week, rediscovering the taste sensations of breakfast foods and hot coffee, Agent Cooper spent a day shuffling around in the man’s shoes, or at least, trying to. Born-again green in every way, the reincarnated Eraserhead was clueless when it came to navigating dirty Vegas, and maybe, instinctively, resented it, too. As Janey-E tied his tie and gave him marching orders he couldn’t understand and wouldn’t execute (she needed her “Dougie” to pay off a $50,000 debt they owed to some phantom menace), Cooper saw “Sonny” Jim Jones sitting in the back seat and started crying, as if the idea of a daily routine that would disconnect him from such a life broke his heart (even a kid named after a psycho cult leader). But no: A man’s gotta work! And so Cooper grieves for us the “Bittersweet Symphony” of Western existence, per The Verve. Try to make ends meets/You’re a slave the money/Then you die. Change, Agent Cooper, change!
Turns out Dougie’s day job was working at Lucky 7 Insurance. He would have been lost without the kindness of strangers pushing him along, including coffee fetcher Gene and the quite fetching Rhonda, who helped him to the bathroom after a long day of filling his bladder with coffee and offered a smooch if he was interested. (Apparently, lecherous Dougie had been interested in such a thing for quite some time.) He made an enemy out of star insurance agent Tony, played by Tom Sizemore in slimeball mode. As Tony reported that the firm would have to pay out two claims, Cooper saw a green light flash on his the man’s face and declared: “He’s lying.” We remember that Cooper was practically a human lie detector in the original series. Perhaps the green light was evidence of his personality coming to back online; perhaps the green light was the flickering of Tony’s greedy soul and Cooper has magic eyes — cosmic glasses! — to see it. Regardless, the accusation earned a rebuke from Lucky 7 chief Bushnell Mullins, who back in the day was a boxer who fought under the name Battling Bud Mullins. He gave “Dougie” homework for causing trouble — a stack of case files to review and process.
Cooper’s workday among greasy insurance agents playing games with truth, justice and the American way for profit kept poking at his buried self, Agent Cooper, stalwart FBI agent, sincere defender of things like truth, justice and the American way. He was obsessed with a statue on the plaza outside the office building housing Lucky 7 offices — a cowboy pointing a revolver toward the horizon, at least theory; in reality, as framed, the paladin’s gun was pointed toward that office building, a visual that suggested to me that whatever the cowboy represented was in conflict with whatever the office building represented. The shot that ended the episode found Cooper, files cradled in his arm, studying the boots of this heroic figure — the soles/soul, if you will — and looking up to him; you can see that figure as a symbol of his own agency, his own values (which are a blend-balance of West and East) that Cooper needs to recover. But all of these symbols work together to remind us of American manifest destiny, of western expansion and colonization, a narrative that also reminds us of the pain and sorrow that such striving caused. How the West was won? With Garmonbozia, that’s how. As Deputy Andy said in this episode: “Have you found any Indians anywhere?”
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Elsewhere in Vegas, we met the sinister siblings who own the Silver Mustang Casino, Bradley Mitchum (Jim Belushi) and Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), the Ben and Jerry of this underworld analog to Twin Peaks, the association embellished by the three young women who attended to them, dressed in sexy pink Candy Perfume Girl outfits, evoking the ladies at One Eyed Jack’s. They suspected the casino’s manager of colluding with Cooper to win those 30 slot machine jackpots and make off with over $400,000, and they beat him severely for that mistake. Their demeanor and violence reminded me of Robert Loggia’s tough guy underworld baddie in Lynch’s Lost Highway and the pair of mean Hollywood studio moneymen who bedeviled Justin Theroux’s movie director in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
Back at Rancho Rosa, a busted housing development whose foreclosed homes evoke the mortgage market bubble burst, the thug assassins who tried to take out Dougie last week continued to search for him, while a trap they rigged for him — a bomb under his car — exploded on some GTA hoodlums. (Better them than Curious Lookout Boy, the crackers-eating, PJ-clad kid of Druggie Lookout Mom; we revisited both of them in this ep. Still despairing, still squatting!) A curious scene saw these killers report last week’s failure to their manager, an office lady with a bruise on her face. She freaked. Which is apparently her usual state of being. “She’s a worrier,” one goon quipped. The Worrier sent a text. ARGENT. She probably meant URGENT, but “argent” does have meanings worth your investigation. We were led to believe that her message activated a black box device that looked like a pager, located in a wooden bowl on a table in a basement somewhere in Buenos Aires. More on this in a minute, but the emerging clues would seem to confirm my theory of last week that the assassins — and The Worrier — work for Dirty Cooper.
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Twin Peaks: Meet Becky (Amanda Seyfried) and Steven (Caleb Landry Jones), young druggies in love. He tried to get a job with all-grown-up Mike, once a powder-snorting loser himself, now a paragon of workaday responsibility, but still a big jerk. He agreed to give Steven an interview, just to blast him for his poor resume-making skills. Becky, while gainfully employed at a bread-making joint called the Sweet Loaf, had to bum some money from her mom, Shelly, who was reluctant to offer the loan; she knew, in her gut, that the cash was for drugs. A poignant image: Norma holding Shelly, giving Becky and Steven a sad stink-eye as the troubled kids drove off. Is Becky’s dad none other than Bobby Briggs? Is she repeating the teenage narratives of her messed-up parents? We shall see.
Becky and Steve parked. They smooched, they made plans for a romantic dinner, they snorted coke. A stunning image: a close-up on trippin’ Becky from overhead, green eyes sparkling in the sun, red lips smiling. Situated within the crimson interior of Steven’s Firebird, Becky with the golden hair reminded me of another coke-snorting blonde messed up with bad men — Laura Palmer. Is Becky miserable and out of control, too? Might she become a target for Red Room predators?
And did we meet such a demon at the end of the episode? A scene at The Bang! Bang! Bar introduced a new villain who went unidentified in the story, but the credits give him a name that should ring alarm bells: Richard Horne (played by Eamon Farren). Reptilian and alien, this evil Dick was a wretched misogynist with no regard for “No Smoking” signs who passed some cash to Deputy Chad, who’s clearly a bad cop. (My guess is they’re involved in dealing those designer Chinese drugs we heard about last week.) With a name like Horne, we might wonder if he sprang from the well-traveled loins of Benjamin Horne. Or Jerry? Or (gulp) Audrey? Richard actually struck me as a clean-shaven, new-model BOB, never more so than when he glad-handed a young woman trying to flirt with him and declared his intention to rape her and inflict further humiliations upon her while doing so. As this hideous harassment played out, we cut to the band on stage, and we saw a lighting effect that reminded me of the strobes in the Red Room. Something very dark is lodged in this prick’s heart. Might he be supernaturally possessed, as well?
Finally, speak of the devil: In prison, Dirty Cooper reconnected with the sinister familiar riding shotgun in his head. The black-eyed doppelgänger took a good long look in the mirror, and we saw BOB’s abysmal mug push through and distort his face, a subtle, chilling effect. I think Mr. C wanted to touch base with BOB and make sure he was okay after the Black Lodge tried to bring him back in last week. But the interaction captured my imagination for the state of their relationship. To what degree are doppelgänger and demon partners inside the vehicle of this body? Has BOB become more of a silent partner over the years? I also wonder if they could be turned against each other. I also wonder if dark-side Cooper could exist without BOB.
Last week, we were nudged to think that Cooper won’t get his mind back unless Dirty Cooper dies. My own far-out familiar — Darren Franich, with whom I share the vehicle known as “A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks” — suspects what this really means is that Cooper Prime and Dark Cooper must integrate for Cooper to become whole again. I buy this. Perhaps if someone puts a bullet in Dirty Cooper’s brain, Dark Cooper and BOB will bust up and the reunification of Cooper will occur. But here’s another scenario. Given the themes of marriage gone bad and adultery, I wonder if BOB might take a shine to a new, younger body and leave Dark Cooper for him or her. And I wonder if, in order to survive, Dark Cooper will have no choice but to combine with Cooper Prime, which will in turn lead the two sides of Cooper to battle for control of his being.
The strangest thing to go down in “Case Files” was the prison break that wasn’t. At least, not yet. Dirty Cooper was allowed to make his one phone call. He suggested dialing “Mr. Strawberry” — a name that made the warden really, really nervous. Dirty Cooper then made a small show out of changing his mind, saying that no, he would not be calling Mr. Strawberry — a line reading that evoked Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, when Agent Jeffries, played by David Bowie, teleported into FBI HQ and said he would not be talking about Judy. The sound-alike lines may not have been coincidence. The number that Cooper dialed lit up that same black box pager in Buenos Aires we saw earlier in the episode; Buenos Aires was Agent Jeffries’ former haunt. (I really do wonder if we’re going to see Agent Jeffries in some form this season. The show keeps waving wildly at the character, stoking the expectation. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were to learn that Lynch and Frost filmed some scenes with Bowie before his death? We can dream…)
The pager melted… or maybe teleported? Don’t know. Dirty Cooper recited a line from a nursery rhyme (“The cow jumped over the moon”), the alarm sounded and all the monitors in the security room went haywire. Everything soon went back to normal, but Dirty Cooper clearly set something in motion. I’d like to think that maybe he threw up a bat signal to all the evil doppelgängers and all the Black Lodge spirits at-large in the world: Come bust me out, my peeps!