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Conversation Conundrum: Who was Mr. C talking to in Part 2?

“Black Lodge/White Lodge” is the occasional 25 Years Later version of the popular point/counterpoint style of debating, wherein two sides take opposing views and hash it out on stage. Here, we’ll be debating the finer points of Twin Peaks lore, in writing, for your reading pleasure.

Today’s debaters are: Lindsay Stamhuis and Caemeron Crain

The topic is: Who was Mr. C talking to in Part 2?


Black Lodge: Lindsay Stamhuis

MIKE

Part 2 of Twin Peaks: The Return featured one of the more enigmatic moments of the entire series — and that’s saying something. Late in this hour, Mr. C speaks through a device to a man he believes is Phillip Jeffries. But was it really? Something in the tone of his voice and the nature of the conversation leaves Mr. C wondering. For my money, I believe that Mr. C was speaking with a man named Phillip…but not Phillip Jeffries. Rather, it is Phillip Gerard, also known as MIKE, who picks up the call on the other end of the line.

The voice on the other end of the line does not fully sound like either Jeffries’ voice (as he was portrayed by David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me) or the voice of Jeffries from The Return (portrayed by Nathan Frizzell, whom we heard clearly in Part 14 and in the two-part finale). The voice doesn’t really sound like Al Strobel either, and frankly I’m not sure it sounds like anyone else either, but this is less important than what the voice says. So let’s look at that, shall we:

1) The voice knows that Mr. C was in New York, and is still in Buckhorn.

2) It knows that Mr. C met with Garland Briggs.

3) It is saying goodbye to Mr. C, as Mr. C is “going back in” tomorrow.

4) It will be with BOB again.

Now let’s make a tally of all the people who knew these facts and could, potentially, be the owner of the voice. Point 1 was known by the mystery man seen with Mr. C in New York in front of the Glass Box in a photograph, but other than that there was no one else who knew that Mr. C was the billionaire behind the box (yet — the Blue Rose Task Force figures it out eventually), and no one except for Beulla’s crew (Darya, who had just been killed, and Ray, who was later revealed to be an FBI informant) knew that Mr. C was in Buckhorn. (Ray had been in contact with someone who said he was Phillip Jeffries, but it’s important to note that he didn’t believe that this truly was Jeffries, either; we’ll come back to that.)

Point 2 references a meeting with Garland Briggs. If this is the meeting that we learn about in Part 3 from Bobby (or that was revealed in The Secret History of Twin Peaks), then there are only four people who knew that meeting took place: Major Briggs, Betty, Bobby, and Mr. C himself. We can scratch Betty and Bobby from the list, and Mr. C certainly wouldn’t be screwing with himself at this point, so that leaves only Major Briggs, whose mysterious backstage machinations are still not well enough understood to be discussed. But was it him on the other end? I doubt it, and I’ll explain why.

Point 3 suggests that the person on the other end knew that there was an “in” that Mr. C was heading back to, so clearly has knowledge of the Black Lodge. Certainly it’s possible that Major Briggs knew about the Lodge. But would he have told Mr. C that he would be with BOB again?

Point 4 is where everything seems to coalesce in favour of MIKE/Philip Gerard. He is, significantly, the only person/entity to have ever been “with” BOB before, so his statement about reunification makes sense. And he is the only person we ever see with the Owl Cave Ring within the Red Room — this is significant, as the person Ray talked to instructed him to put the jade ring on Mr. C’s finger after he killed him. This person had to have intimate knowledge of the ring and how it worked, and MIKE/Philip is the only one we know of who has that.

Since no one else but Philip/MIKE could possibly know what he knows about the Lodge, it stands to reason that no one else could be the person behind the voice saying Point 4. But he could have easily known the information in Points 1-3: Mr. C’s precise whereabouts — we know that Philip/MIKE knows Jeffries and has the ability to visit him, as we saw in Part 17 — and what he was doing in the last 25 years — such as his visit with Major Briggs back in 1989. Since MIKE/Philip is shown to be actively helping DougieCooper regain his place in the world, it also stands to reason that he has an interest in getting Mr. C and BOB back to the Black Lodge and the ability to do so. His partnership with Phillip Jeffries, seen in Part 17, is proof that the two of them were working together to achieve the goal of returning Mr. C and BOB to the Black Lodge. Why, I have no idea. But I strongly believe it was Philip Gerard/MIKE’s voice on the device in Part 2.


White Lodge: Caemeron Crain

Judy/Experiment Model

There is something frustrating about wondering who Mr. C is talking to on the phone in Part 2, because at one level there is a definite answer that is being withheld from us. That is, someone spoke those lines. The same goes for the scene at the end of Season Two, when Dr. Jacoby brings Sarah Palmer to the RR to deliver a message to Major Briggs: “I am in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper… I’m waiting for you.”

What actor spoke these words? The truth is that it doesn’t matter. Even if we were to find out, the space of interpretation would still be open. There is purposeful ambiguity at play in both scenes, enabled by voice distortion. In this regard, knowingly who spoke the lines would only make things all the more frustrating, as some among us would be certain to take this knowledge as “proof” (and I must admit I would find that temptation hard to avoid myself).

For the purposes of this debate, I am taking the position that the answer to both questions is one and the same. It was the Experiment that spoke to Mr. C on the phone, and who communicated through Sarah back in Season Two.

With regard to the phone call, my primary piece of evidence is the line, “I missed you in New York.” We saw the Experiment come through the glass box right after Cooper did, before breaking through the glass to kill Sam and Tracey.

Now, many might object that this was the Good Coop, whereas Mr. C is the Bad Coop, but it seems to me that there is ample evidence that the Lodge marks no metaphysical distinction between the two. Mr. C is but the dark side of Cooper, not a truly distinct being.

The most straightforward evidence for this hypothesis comes from the scenes each have with Jeffries. When Mr. C pays a visit, Jeffries says, “So you are Cooper” and when the other Cooper comes later, Jeffries seems a bit confused as to whether he was there asking about Judy before.

It is true that Phillip Gerard seems to mark a difference between the two when he says that one of them must die, but this is less straightforward than it might seem at first. What happens when Mr. C dies? We see him burning in the Lodge, but what does this mean with regard to Cooper?

My reading is that Mr. C’s death led to the reincorporation of this doppelganger into Cooper; thus the oddness of Cooper in Part 18. We are seeing the “full Coop” for the first time then. The Coop that woke up in the hospital was still just half of him; the light half. Didn’t he seem just a bit too chipper? If this is right, then a similar result could be expected if it had been DougieCooper who had died. It is true that Gerard urges him not to, but I think this has more to do with which side of Cooper will win a battle for control than it does with any metaphysical distinction.

Cooper and Mr. C are one and the same. The Experiment missed him in New York, and wants to be with BOB again. Perhaps if she’d snagged Cooper in the glass box, Mr. C would have been forced back into the Lodge to reincorporate with him.

This raises a couple of questions with regard to the nature of the Experiment. Is this Judy? Is this what is inhabiting Sarah Palmer? Does it matter that the being in Part 1 is credited as “Experiment Model” whereas the one in Part 8 is credited as simply “Experiment”?

To all of these I say, ‘Yes and No.’ Allow me to explain.

In Part 8 we see the Experiment vomit a stream of eggs, along with the BOB orb. Later, we see one of these eggs hatch into a frogmoth that ultimately climbs into the mouth of a young girl who has been put to sleep by the Woodsman’s radio chant. Many have taken Mark Frost’s Final Dossier to have confirmed that this girl is Sarah Palmer, but the more important thing about that account is that it happened to various other people. There were many eggs, after all. Where did the rest go? In whom did the creatures they hatched end up? I have a weird desire to contend that the girl we saw was not Sarah Palmer, but that’s a debate for another time. It does seem to be fairly well-grounded to suggest that she got one of these frogmoths in her. But what does that mean? Does it mean she is Joudy?

One of the things that really struck me about The Return is that it never really hit us with twists; though it constantly hit us with ambiguity. For example, I resisted the idea that Mr. C raped Audrey as Richard Horne’s origin story because we just didn’t have enough information for a long time, but that was such a prevailing view that when the reveal came it was almost anti-climactic. Some may have taken joy in having been right, but it seemed to me like time and again the show was saying that it wasn’t trying to fool us. This isn’t Westworld. It’s not a puzzle; it’s a mystery. Things are as they appear; you’re just not getting the whole story. It’s like life that way.

So, what do we see in Part 8? The Experiment expels a number of eggs. I presume they all hatched, though I still wonder about it taking 11 years. Regardless of whether the girl we saw was Sarah Palmer, it seems safe to say that a frogmoth got in her. When she opens her face in the bar, after all, we see an image that strongly resembles the Experiment.

And why wouldn’t it? These are her eggs. Of course they would grow into the same type of being. But how do they grow? What feeds them? And what about all of those other eggs?

My hypothesis is that it is pain and sorrow (garmonbozia) that feeds the frogmoth/baby Experiment. Those who are inhabited are the gifted and the damned. This is why Sarah can see the face of BOB in the original series, but at that point she is nowhere near the Sarah who kills the trucker at the bar. She just has the potentiality.

It is Laura’s murder, and her husband Leland’s culpability in the same, that allows the being within her to grow. Sarah is a victim. It’s a sad story, isn’t it?

Is this Joudy? Again, I think she is and she isn’t. Cole describes Joudy as “an extreme negative force,” and though it is true that he also refers to her as an “entity” I think that this entity is a multiplicity. Joudy is neither one nor many, but somehow all of these beings and none in particular.

Sarah is not unique. Those eggs hatched and their frogmoths entered the mouths of who knows how many people. But they didn’t all experience the trauma that she did, and so those larvae didn’t all gestate in the same way.

Is this a metaphor, or a symbol? I’m sure, but this isn’t the place to try and cash that out. The point here is simply to emphasize my view that it is wrong to think of Joudy as some particular person. After all, right before Jeffries sends Cooper back to 1989, he says he will find Joudy there, but the one he finds is Laura Palmer. What’s that about?

Sarah was already a few steps down the path by the end of season two—this is why Joudy could take control to deliver that message to Major Briggs—but she was not yet taken over by the thing inside of her. It took the downward spiral of years of grief to feed it.

And so, I do think that it was “Sarah Palmer” who talked to Mr. C on the phone, because she had become the most fully manifest vessel for Joudy/Experiment by that point. Her pain and sorrow overtook her.

Whomever Mr. C talks to on the phone says that they “will be with BOB again” and this is a key piece of evidence anyone thinking about this question is going to have to grapple with: who has been with BOB and would want to be with him again? Leland could be an interesting possibility, but he is dead, and even if he lingers in the Lodge he doesn’t seem like the kind of Lodge-being who could make a phone call (plus, it wouldn’t make much sense for him to want to be with BOB again). Philip Gerard certainly seems like he could communicate to Mr. C from the Lodge, but the idea that he would want to be with BOB again seems questionable. I suppose I am reading desire into the line in question, which may not be the case, but it is the question of what Gerard’s motives would be for engaging in this phone call that hangs me up.

Sarah Palmer has “been with” BOB in a different sense from these other characters, however; or, rather, I want to say, the Experiment within her has. Sarah, who has had this within her since childhood, was married to Leland, who served as host to BOB until he died. My contention is that it makes far more sense for “I will be with BOB again” to be uttered by his widow than any of these other options.

All of this makes me a bit uncomfortable when it comes to interpreting Sarah Palmer’s arc, and in terms of the direction in which it might lead when it comes to thinking about Laura. So, I want to be clear that I resist any interpretation that would construe either as “evil.”

I don’t think anything of the kind if necessarily implied by the reading I have put forward. However, keying in on “I missed you in New York” and “I will be with BOB again” as the lines that (currently) strike me to be the two biggest pieces of evidence, I am led to conclude that Mr. C is talking to none other than the Experiment that has grown within Sarah Palmer.


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4 Comments

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  1. It’s Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer). Her voice is pitched down to sound male, then modulated a little to disguise it further. But pitch it up a little and it’s very recognisable as her voice.

  2. ‘My reading is that Mr. C’s death led to the reincorporation of this doppelganger into Cooper; thus the oddness of Cooper in Part 18. We are seeing the “full Coop” for the first time then.’

    I’m having trouble with the logic of this. The “full Coop” would be the one in seasons 1 and 2 before Mr. C was removed (if indeed Mr. C was actually a part of Coop, that is). After Mr. C was removed we would have “light Coop.” Reincorporating Mr. C back into light Coop would just leave us with full Coop again. “Odd Coop” isn’t full Coop because full Coop never acted like odd Coop does. And, if Mr. C was part of Coop in seasons 1 and 2, that Coop would’ve acted like odd Coop does.

    • I understand what you’re saying but (and I talk about the distinction in my Electricity Nexus column #5) that RichardCooper is the “full Coop” insomuch as the Good and Bad Coops are in the same body, but as floor sweeping took over two minutes and a nuclear explosion took 7 minutes of screen time, I’m loathe to think that the aligning/calibration of the halves of Cooper was anywhere near complete until possibly the last moment when Cooper showed doubt. Before then he’s integratING full Coop. Which means he’s not quite himself yet as he balances.

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