When Mark Frost’s Secret History of Twin Peaks was released almost exactly 2 years ago, I hoped it would bridge a gap between the epic finale of Season 2 of Twin Peaks and the new season that would be airing on Showtime.
And although I loved so many aspects of the book when I first read it, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with how little we learned about what our favorite Twin Peaks characters had been up to over the past 25 years.
However, it’s fun to go back and reread the Secret History, after having watched The Return, and noting all of the clues that set up moments we see in The Return. A whole slew of those clues comes in the Secret History‘s coverage of one of the zaniest characters in the world of Twin Peaks: Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, which will be the focus of this article.
I have often thought Dr. Jacoby was a favorite character of Mark Frost, so I first thought the details of Jacoby’s life found in the Secret History were included as a tip of the hat to a friendly face.
Some of those details fill in Jacoby’s back story. The first appearance of Lawrence Jacoby in the Secret History shows up in a note from Agent Tamara Preston that accompanies a Twin Peaks Gazette article written by Lawrence’s brother Robert (p. 135). Agent Preston writes that Robert is the older brother and that the Jacoby family moved from Twin Peaks in 1939 to Hawaii.
Richard Jacoby, Lawrence and Robert’s father, was stationed for the Navy at Pear Harbor. After Richard and his wife Esther divorce in 1940, Robert and his father return to Twin Peaks the next year, while Lawrence stays in Hawaii with his mother (who changes her name to Leilani). So these details give us a bit of background on why Jacoby wears Hawaiian shirts, collects mini drink umbrellas, and hides Laura Palmer’s heart necklace in a coconut, as we see in Season 1 of Twin Peaks.
Sacred Psychology in the Aboriginal Mind
Before introducing a book written by Jacoby and found in the Bookhouse, the Archivist sprinkles in another detail of Jacoby’s life on p. 204, writing that he left Hawaii and returned to Twin Peaks in 1981 after his mother died.
The book, The Eye of God: Sacred Psychology in the Aboriginal Mind, is based on a decade worth of anthropological fieldwork conducted with aboriginal tribes in the South Pacific and South America. The Archivist also writes that Jacoby participated in aboriginal rituals and even married a chief’s daughter for a brief period. Jacoby’s life sounds like quite the trip, and these tidbits truly give us insight into the mind of the quirky psychiatrist we meet in the early episodes of Twin Peaks.
The back cover of the book features an endorsement from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, which gives a clue into some of the book’s subject matter. I recently noticed the photo of Jacoby on the back cover of Eye of God is credited to a Harvey Trufant. (This might be a complete reach, but I wonder if this is an intentional splicing of the mysterious names Tremond and Chalfont we encounter in the Twin Peaks universe.)
The Archivist shares an excerpt from the Eye of God (Agent Preston is not impressed with it) in which Jacoby participates in a type of spiritual journey while ingesting a hallucinogen:
“They might have been angelic or demonic, or perhaps hybrid creatures, and there were many of them moving toward me, tall and humanoid. I realized that their interest in me felt cold, reptilian, neutral but shading toward malevolence, lacking all compassion.
“A shining figure, much taller than the others, suddenly appeared in their midst and it gave off a violet light so bright and powerful it washed away everything else in my field of vision, nearly blinding me.”
Although Jacoby was under the influence of some strong drugs when relating this experience, the details really strike me as noteworthy. Reading his description of the creatures as “humanoid,” “cold,” and “reptilian” brings forth imagery of alien life forms — a very common thread throughout the Secret History.
But the “shining figure, much taller than the others” who gives off a blinding light — could it be, as John Bernardy suggests in a recent article, the Giant/Fireman? Earlier in the passage, Jacoby writes:
“What I was ‘seeing’ was not what was physically in front of me. I also knew that the veil of ‘reality’ had been rent, split or torn away and that I was looking into a different dimension, one that either underlies ours or that coexists with it side by side…”
Could Jacoby be describing something similar to the Lodges? Or is he describing the Lodges themselves? His use of the word “violet” to describe the light emanating from the tall, shining figure also could potentially be related to the Purple Room in The Return.
Dr. Amp and Treating Nadine
After the inclusion of Eye of God, the Archivist writes that Jacoby returned to Twin Peaks to continue studies with Native American tribes in the region (earlier we were told this was in 1981 after his mother’s death) and care for his brother Robert, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Jacoby accepts a “conventional” job at Calhoun Memorial Hospital, but his treatments show traces of his “visionary” sociologist background.
The Archivist says that Jacoby’s work enjoys a cult status — possibly one of the first details found in the Secret History that could hint at Jacoby’s transformation into his alter ego Dr. Amp in The Return, where he draws a cult-like audience.
The next section in the Secret History — Jacoby’s notes while treating Nadine after her left eye was shot out by Big Ed (p. 211) — provides a number of clues that set up moments in The Return.
Right off the bat, Jacoby writes this about Nadine: “Wow. Patient is really whacked out, poor thing. I mean she is hip deep in the shit.”
I stopped and laughed at this line when rereading this section post-Return. Of course, Jacoby via Dr. Amp tells his audience to “shovel your way out of the shit.” A small clue like this makes rereading the Secret History so fun.
But Jacoby’s write-up on Nadine also foreshadows to another scene in The Return. The last time we see Jacoby and Nadine, he visits her shop Run Silent, Run Drapes and they share a moment in which they clearly have a connection.
Jacoby sympathized a great deal with Nadine when he treated her in 1987, thinking that she is concealing shame, that she sensed something was going on in her life that she didn’t want to see and shut down the part of the brain that would process this shame. Years later, Jacoby evidently still thinks very highly of her during their encounter in Part 13 of The Return.
Nadine’s write-up in the Secret History also provides some insight into Jacoby’s trademark red- and blue-lens glasses. He refers to them as his “optical integration system” and says Nadine would have been a perfect candidate to test it out (if it weren’t for her accident).
Jacoby explains his working theory of the glasses:
“The red spectrum slightly suppresses activity in the left or logical hemisphere, while the blue spectrum does the same in the spatial/intuitive side of the brain and that when worn together — although it does tend to give ‘reality’ a slightly purple tint — the patient tends to experience increased integration between the two spheres by … encouraging the two sides to work together.”
Interesting that Jacoby brings up the color purple again, and I can only wonder if this is connected in any way to the Purple Room in The Return.
Treating Ben Horne
On p. 232, the Archivist includes a report from Dr. Jacoby regarding Ben Horne’s brief delusion of re-enacting the Civil War as a “southern general.”
This seems like a very odd detail to include in the Secret History, especially because it was one of the more far-fetched storylines found in Season 2 of Twin Peaks. But of note, Jacoby writes in his report that he will “gently direct [Ben Horne] to the ‘truth’ of the war’s actual conclusion. If we are able to enact the actual ‘surrender at Appomattox,’ I believe we can bring him out of the delusion and onto a healing path.”
Agent Preston comments that Jacoby’s patient files confirm this is what happened. However, this isn’t exactly how things went down in Season 2 of Twin Peaks. In a slight difference, the Civil War storyline with Ben Horne is wrapped up with the South winning the war — not the war’s “actual conclusion,” as Jacoby writes about in the Secret History.
I previously wrote about some of the many inconsistencies found in the Secret History and wondered if the differences between book and TV show could be chalked up to different universes/timelines or possibly someone doctoring the contents of the dossier to misdirect the FBI. Perhaps there’s a timeline out there in which Ben Horne concludes his Civil War delusion with the North winning the war instead of the South?
Laura Palmer is the One
For me, the most important section of the Secret History related to Dr. Jacoby is his reflection on how Laura Palmer’s death affected him. Jacoby’s final case notes for Laura, dated March 19, 1989, were written while he was back in Hawaii, reflecting on everything that happened (this would have been shortly after Leland Palmer died).
He wonders if Sarah Palmer suffered trauma that created a vulnerability — a huge foreshadowing into what we later learn about Sarah in The Return: that she has potentially been “possessed” by some evil force since she was a young girl growing up in New Mexico.
Jacoby’s file on Laura makes it painstakingly clear that Laura’s death was life-changing. He would become a new man — the man we see in the Return.
He writes, while wondering about his future as a psychiatrist:
“Actions have consequences. Whatever happens from here, whatever the ‘squares’ decide about my professional fate, if I can survive this ordeal, find the strength to dig my way out of it, I make this vow: No more lies. Only truth. Straight up. To everyone.”
His reference to digging his way out of it is yet another shout-out to Dr. Amp. We are seeing his transformation first-hand. And we also learn that Jacoby has his license to practice psychiatry revoked, which would naturally lead him in a new direction in life.
In The Return, we see that Twin Peaks is a different place than it was 25 years prior. The “presence” that Sheriff Harry Truman tells Agent Cooper about in Season 1 is all around — and the Bookhouse Boys are nowhere to be found.
Many of the town’s residents are worse off than when we last saw them. Harry himself is sick with cancer. Bobby Briggs, although seemingly straightening himself out and becoming a reliable member of the Twin Peaks police force, is not with Shelly and the couple has a daughter who is involved with a drug-addict abuser. It’s safe to say that Audrey Horne, while we don’t know for sure *where* she is exactly (I still think psychiatric hospital), is not in a very good place. Sarah Palmer is drinking heavily, watching strange television programs, yelling at liquor store clerks, and murdering people in bars. I could go on.
The turning point for these events and outcomes, in my opinion, is the death of Laura Palmer. Laura was the one, keeping the darkness surrounding the town of Twin Peaks at bay. But her death sent a shock wave through everyone’s life she touched.
It is apparent that Dr. Jacoby is one of those people. Laura’s death causes Jacoby to go from a somewhat scatter-brained, disinterested psychiatrist to an honest, compassionate motivator who sells golden shovels for digging yourself out of the shit — rising above the problems of the world.
While Jacoby/Dr. Amp may not have a lot to do with the plot of The Return, he will be one of the more memorable aspects of the new season (I feel like I find myself saying “The fucks are at it again!” at least once a week these days), and is part of a large theme or redemption and resilience.
And the Secret History really laid the groundwork for it all.