Ten days in the fall: Dale Cooper’s Season Three timeline

Dr. Robin Bunce, University of Cambridge

The Fireman, a character who has been dishing out cryptic advice since 1990, once told Cooper ‘A path is formed by laying one stone at a time.’ What was true in 1990 is true today, specifically, it is true of Twin Peaks: the Return. Each Part offers us pieces of Cooper’s path from the Black Lodge back to Twin Peaks. The problem is that the steps appear, at least from our perspective, out of sequence. I say ‘the problem’, but in reality our problems are legion: for starters we don’t even know what year Cooper has wound up in, or how his story dovetails with the activities of the other characters. Fortunately, Mark Frost and David Lynch have laced the show with clues, so obsessive fans can begin to reconstruct what’s going on.

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First, what year is Season Three set in? Laura Palmer famously promised to that she would see Cooper again in 25 years. Taken literally, that would place the show in 2014. However, other clues indicate that the show is taking place over the space of ten days, perhaps two weeks in late September 2016. Here’s my logic. It is possible to work out the year by triangulating three clues. First, we see a shot of a watch in the Mauve room, and the watch read Saturday 1. Second, Major Briggs leaves a message telling his son to visit Jack Rabbit’s palace on 1 October. Third, in Audrey’s first scene Charlie tells her that he’s not going out that night, as it is too dark due to the fact it’s a new moon. As luck would have it Saturday 1 October 2016 was a new moon. This also means that Cooper left the black lodge and arrived in the Mauve Room, on the same day that Hawk, Andy, Truman and Bobby found Naido in the woods. And that later that same evening Audrey tried to persuade Charlie to go to the Roadhouse for the first time.

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What about Cooper’s timeline? My basic idea is that Cooper was supposed to leave the Waiting Room and arrive in Twin Peaks at 2:53pm on Saturday 1 October 2016. However, he was tricked and he arrived on 22 September, – 9 days too early, in Las Vegas.

Here’s my reasoning: shortly after Mike tells Cooper it is time to leave, he is stopped by the Arm’s doppleganger. Having successfully left the Red Room Cooper falls through space and appears briefly in the glass box in New York, quickly followed by the Mother of Evil.

Cooper next appears in the Mauve Room, and it is here we see the watch which reads 2:52, Saturday. As the time reaches 2:53, a woman in the Mauve room urges Cooper to leave as her ‘mother is coming.’ My guess is that this is a reference to the Mother of Evil, who we saw pursuing Cooper in the glass box in New York. Cooper leaves the Mauve Room through an electrical outlet.

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Cooper’s arrival in ‘the real world’ causes DoppleCoop to crash and vomit. The police arrest DoopleCoop, and their arrest paperwork shows that this took place on 22 September. Assuming that DoopleCoop’s crash happens at the same time to Cooper re-enters the ‘real world’, that would mean that Cooper has travelled back in time 9 days.

Soon after Cooper has arrived in Las Vegas, Mike tells him he’s been tricked and he needs to wake up. Clearly, something went wrong with the plan to get Cooper back to Twin Peaks. Between 22 September and 1 October, attempts are made to kill DougieCoop, but Mike sends him prompts that keep him safe.

On 1 October Truman, Hawk, Andy and Bobbie find Naido near Jack Rabbit’s palace. My hunch is that this is where they were supposed to find Cooper.

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My guess is that DougieCoop sticks his fork into the power socket shortly before 1 October.

Finally, Cooper’s encounter with the Fireman (which we see at the beginning of Part 1), happens after DougieCoop has stuck his fork into the plug socket and become Cooper again. My evidence for this is that Cooper has his FBI pin on in the Waiting Room and in the Mauve Room; it is only after he leaves the Mauve Room and becomes DougieCoop that he loses his pin. Notably, his pin is missing when he meets the Fireman in Episode 1, indicating that the meeting is after he has become Dougie; Cooper’s ability to speak coherently, coupled with the absence of the FBI Pin, indicates that the encounter takes place and after he has left the Mauve Room and after he has ‘awoken’ from his Dougie state.

Twin Peaks: the Return is the path by which Cooper returns to Twin Peaks. It’s a path laid one stone at a time, the problem is that we see the path from Cooper’s perspective, and as Cooper has jumped about in time we too have to follow his non-linear timeline. Whatever the ‘truth’ of Cooper’s path back to Twin Peaks, one thing’s for sure: Season 3 has been an amazing journey, 18 hours of television containing the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare, all at once. 

6 Replies to “Ten days in the fall: Dale Cooper’s Season Three timeline”

  1. Great timeline run down! This blog almost makes sense and is thought provoking/interesting in a way I’ve yet to see in any writing attempting to encompass The Return. And that encompassing is a tough nut to crack…until Sunday September 3, 2017 rolls around. At that time we will all experience enlightenment relative to The Return. How profound is that?

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  2. Nice timeline reconstruction that makes good sense! You mention that “Cooper’s arrival in ‘the real world’ causes DoppleCoop to crash and vomit”. I just re-watched Cooper’s arrival into Dougie, and it is clear that DoppleCoop is resisting his appointed return to the Lodge until his plan goes through. He finally releases the vomit only after he sees a vision of Dougie in the Lodge chair, and the lighter stops crackling. Brilliant! A less reckless Coop would have stopped the car during this process, but where’s the fun in that?

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    1. I figured that there was a chance he’d go back to the red room and Dale would take HIS place (not Dougie’s), so he drove around maniacally in case that happened, to decrease Dale’s chance of survival.

      I somehow think that whoever vomited first –Mr. C or original Dougie– THAT’S who Dale would replace. That’s why he struggled to hold it in!

      In the end his plan worked: original Dougie went back to the red room, not him. Incidentally, Dale replaced Dougie (where Dougie disappeared).

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  3. I think this is good, and fits details I’ve been noticing. What Cooper is going through initially also allows him to be on top of things ten days later, we can now presume.

    But while Fire Walk With Me was in 1989, Twin Peaks was in 1990. It originally seemed to me that it’d be 25 years from then, in 2015. I like that it appears to just be “last year,” instead.

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  4. I’ve decided to dive into the “I don’t want to comment, but I’ll do”, just because my interpretations of the facts hasn’t changed too much since watching the season finale (with the exception of the last minutes). Even by reading lots of comments around the web.
    I don’t have a personal blog, so I’ll do this here with your permission 🙂
    I really liked your reconstruction of the events in this blog post since it tries to make sense in a simple way of a difficult timeline and a lot of before-and-after (which I personally like).
    The problem is find our significance of the last hour (to be fair).
    I think that a Bad Cooper, or Mr.C. or the Black Corn, has escaped again from the Black Lodge, which apparently doesn’t allow people to escape from it without a doppleganger of them. Good Coop in some ways knows it, and allow this to happen.
    When GC tries to rescue Laura from the murder’s night, by telling he’s walking her home throught the forest, he is actually taking her to the White Lodge. Nevertheless she’s torn away from him, (presumably by the mother of all the abominations, aka Judy) and Cooper is pushed back again in the Black Lodge.
    This was his first part of the plan, first attempt of rescuing her, which has tecnically failed.
    At this point a Bad Cooper, walks out of the lodge again (by manouvering himself the courtains, and without the help of anybody, nor MIKE nor “the Arm”), where he meets Diane. He tricks her again by pretending he’s REALLY him (really??), and steps in the car directed to “the place”. Now let’s step back a little bit.
    We learnt to know the bad Cooper as well as the good one. We know what he *wants*: he’s looking for a place or “the place” just by its coordinates (without exactly knowing how it looks like). At first he asks insanely to Richard (Horne) if he understands “the place”. Then he let him fry. Then it’s catapulted into the White Lodge, were he wasn’t directed either (maybe by following the one coordinate that didn’t match, or Jeffries’ coordinates to Judy).
    He wasn’t directed to the Sheriff’s station either, where he’s actually pushed by the Giant (“what is this place?” he asks to himself once there). He was actually looking for “the place” he reaches with Diane by the car, at the high tension towers. “This is the place” he yearningly asserts after stepping out of the car.
    Now, we knew by Gordon that the Good Coop had a plan to lead him to Judy (without knowing if it’s unfolding properly, of course). We also know that the Bad Coop is also looking for Judy, because this is what he told Daryia before killing her (this is what he WANTS) and to Philip Jeffries, in some ways.
    So, after we realize that the man escaped from the Black Lodge is actually the Bad Cooper, basically during the sex scene with Diane (and also by seeing that he has no clue of Richard and Linda), we see him stopping to a “Judy’s” diner the next day, more probably looking for clues than for Laura herself.
    Surprisingly he finds her in Odessa, under the name of Carrie Paige (and after an appreciated Sergio Leone/Eastwood “tribute” in the diner, with Francesca Eastwood..), then he manages her to follow him to the city of Twin Peaks, in a silent yet embarassing car journey, where the attention is drawn only by a car that seems following them. An accidental follower? the Good Cooper running after them?
    We can speculate a lot on this but, the second part of the plan can be already taking place here.
    If it’s future or is it past, is not yet to know (has Norma restored the old RR? or were they the original lights?). If it’s just an alternate reality in a Back to the Future II style, same.
    But if Mrs.Tremond in the last scenes is it really the real filming’s house owner, we can expect everything, including the possibility that Lynch & Frost have crushed us into the story, or stepped the story into our own reality.. which is, as of now, the most exciting possible ending.

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