GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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AN ENIGMA WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY OIL CAN: TRACING THE PHILLIP JEFFRIES NARRATIVE THROUGHOUT THE RETURN
If Laura Palmer is Twin Peaks' leading "woman in trouble," and Dale Cooper is its occidental-Tibetan-monk-investigator in shining armor, Special Agent Phillip Jefferies has emerged as the series' Ur-villain--the enigmatic mastermind-gone-mad at the origin of the Blue Rose task force and at the center of one of its most opaque mysteries: "Who is Judy and why can't we talk about her?". After Part Fifteen, there is little doubt that the Jeffries narrative will figure centrally in the remaining three parts of The Return. But on a close inspection, the search for Phillip Jeffries and the mystery at the heart of his disappearance has been one of the most persistent, important, and thoroughly explored narrative arcs of the new series. Jeffries himself or his guiding importance to the central mystery of The Return receives coverage in parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.
Some of the most insightful people currently writing about Twin Peaks, including John Thorne (Wrapped in Plastic and Blue Rose Magazine) and Eden Roquelaire (Garmonblogzia and Twin Peaks Freaks), have offered fascinating treatments of Jeffries and his connection to the Judy mystery in Fire Walk With Me. I won't revisit the important ground they've covered in this post. My modest aim here is to try to pull together some of the most prominent threads of the Jeffries narrative woven through the arc of The Return through Part Fifteen in hopes of setting the stage for seeing as deeply as possible into the significance of the Jeffries narrative in the final three episodes. Some of the references to Jeffries I'll cover here are obvious and direct and others a bit more oblique, but my goal is to spotlight only those instances for which there is evidence that is approaching compelling based on what the series itself shows to us about Jeffries or, in the more oblique cases, what the promising interpretations put forward by Thorne, Roquelaire, and others have already revealed about him and the mystery he has come to represent. In addition to consulting the work linked above, readers may wish to refresh their memories on Jeffries' exploits in FWWM by revisiting the famed Philadelphia Bureau incident scene and the extended cut of this scene from The Missing Pieces that includes footage of Jeffries in Buenos Aires.
My approach is direct and unambitious. I simply move through the episodes in order, offering photos and brief commentaries on occurrences in the show that relate directly to Jeffries or can be plausibly interpreted as being important to the Jeffries narrative. I'd be most grateful to have any such occurrences that I have overlooked reported in the comments so I get get them integrated into the narrative.
Part Two-Retrieving a communications briefcase from the motel bathroom, Mr. C attempts to contact Phillip Jeffries. A threatening voice mentions a meeting with Major Briggs and declares that Mr. C. is "going back in tomorrow". Mr. C. suspects it isn't Jeffries after all, and when the voice goes silent, he logs into the FBI network to download information about Yankton prison where Ray is allegedly being held on weapons charges. After securing the plans for Yankton on a handheld device, he leaves. (Part Two, 36:16-39:48)
Part Three--Naido's interactions with Cooper in the violet world and the non-exist-ent may not initially seem directly relevant to the Phillip Jeffries narrative. But several clues--both in Part Three and in more recent episodes--suggest an important connection. For one thing, her plunge into the non-exist-ent after leading Cooper away from portal 15 is immediately followed by the appearance of Major Briggs' head exclaiming "Blue Rose," which we learn in Part Twelve in an elite task force originally headed by Jeffries. Also, her timely reemergence in Twin Peaks in Part Fourteen in a context that explicitly presages the Mr. C./Jeffries meeting in Part Fifteen coupled with the revelation that she produces verbalizations similar to monkey chatter (see below) are important clues that suggest a connection to the "Judy" and "monkey" threads of the Jeffries narrative, expertly discussed by Twin Peaks scholar and Wrapped in Plastic creator John Thorne in "Judy, Judy, Judy". I won't rehash those connections here, but will take them for granted as support for conjecture that Naido's steering Cooper away from portal 15 and toward portal 3 in the violet world (which takes him to Rancho Rosa in Las Vegas where he assumes the life of Dougie Jones) is important in some way to the dealings that have Jeffries and Mr. C. at cross purposes. Whether Naido is seeking to thwart or serve Jeffries' agenda isn't clear to me at this point, but that she is an person who is connected to him in some significant way seems highly probable.
Part Four-Outside the Yankton Federal Prison after the meeting with Mr. C., Albert confesses to Cole that Philip Jeffries had requested information on the identity of “their man in Columbia”—information which Jeffries alleged that Cooper desperately needed—and Albert complied and gave Jeffries the information. A week later, their agent in Columbia was killed. Cole, in disbelief, looking deep into Albert’s eyes and plaintively repeating his name, seems to come to a resolution: “This business that we witnessed today with Cooper—I don’t like it; something is wrong. Could be the accident but I don’t think so.” Their conversation is interrupted by feedback as Albert’s foot scrapes a pebble which causes Cole’s hearing aids to go haywire, causing a sensation like “a knife in my brain.” “I don’t think he greeted me properly, if you take my meaning,” Cole continues, “something is very wrong. Albert, I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all. Do you understand this situation, Albert?” “Blue Rose,” Albert replies. “It doesn’t get any bluer—Albert, before we do anything else, we need one certain person to take a look at Cooper—do you know where she lives?” Says Albert in reply, “I know where she drinks.” (Part Four, 50:52-55:22)
Part Five-Obviously in fear for her life and unsure of what to do next, Lorraine--a woman hired by Duncan Todd on behalf of Mr. C. to murder Douglas Jones--hesitantly takes out a blackberry and nervously types something, looking as though she’d much rather be sliding down a razor and landing in a manure lagoon than engaging whatever horrors lie at the other end of her electronic communication. We see a single decrepit lightbulb jutting outward from a makeshift electrical box that dangles from exposed conduit. A windowsill is visible just beneath the filth-ridden fixture, which hangs thick with the remnants of a spider web full of hollow exoskeletons and other detritus. Presumably inside the building (which we later learn is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina--the place Philip Jeffries is known to have been stationed before his disappearance), a small black box with two red pinprick lights sits centered on an earthen plate atop what appears to be an ancient copper trunk; we hear the phone ring followed by an electronic beep. Lorraine types the number “2” into the Blackberry, above which we see the abbreviation “ARGENT” (Argentina) followed by the number “159” at the far-right margin. Both pinprick lights on the black box flash twice, accompanied by beeping. Is she communicating with Jeffries somehow, or does Mr. C. also have a base in Buenos Aires? If she's communicating with Jeffries, but Duncan Todd hired her to kill Dougie Jones at Mr. C.'s behest, does that mean she is double-crossing Mr. C. and providing information to his rival? (Part Five, 3:01-4:02)
Part Five, continued--We see an aeriel shot of Buenos Aires, Argentina followed by an abrupt cut back to the decrepit lightbulb and a pan down to a long look the enigmatic black box on the earthen plate. The two red lights on the box blink twice, and the box suddenly folds in on itself, rapidly collapsing into what appears to be a small pebble of pyrite. This sort of odd technology is just what one might expect to see from a man who uses contraptions (in Part Fifteen, for instance) shaped like old-timey oil cans in order to take meetings with vengeful Doppelgängers. (Part Five, 56:01-56:33)
Part Eight-Speeding through the dark after just having witnessed Cooper's exorcism by woodsmen, a deeply shaken Ray Monroe leaves a telephone message for “Phillip” (who we must assume to be Phillip Jeffries, especially after the revelation in Part Thirteen that Ray was working for Jeffries): “It’s Ray. I think he’s dead but he’s found some kind of help so I’m not 100% and…um…I saw something in Cooper that may be the key to what this is all about. I told him where I’m going ["The Farm"--the site of the epic arm-wrestling match in Part Thirteen], so if he comes after me, I’ll get him there." Ray's claim that the "something in Cooper" is the "key to what this is all about" makes a lot more sense now that we've learned from Ray's testimony to Mr. C. in Part Thirteen that Jeffries wants "something that is inside" Mr. C. (see below). (Part Eight, 11:25-11:54)
Part Eleven-Just before Bill Hastings is savagely murdered by a woodsman, Gordon Cole enters the vortex and catches a split-second glimpse of the woodsmen atop the stairs at a mystery location that we soon learn is "The Dutchman's"--the place where Phillip Jeffries is rumored to be staying according to Ray Monroe's testimony to Cooper in Part Thirteen (see below).
Part Twelve--After sweeping the room for bugs, Cole and Rosenfield fill in Agent Preston on the history of the ultra-top-secret Blue Rose task force. Rosenfield explains that the Blue Rose was convened by Gordon Cole to explore unresolved aspects of Project Bluebook, the government's two-decade investigation into UFOs which was shuttered in 1970 in what Albert suggests was a "massive cover-up." Rosenfield informs Preston that Cole appointed Special Agent Phillip Jeffries to lead the Blue Rose and then recruited Agents Rosenfield, Chet Desmond (who went missing in the Fat Trout Trailer Park in FWWM while investigated Theresa Banks' murder), and Dale Cooper into the fold. After noting Cole's reluctance to bring new blood into the group in the wake of the mysterious disappearances of Jeffries, Desmond, and Cooper, Rosenfield invites Preston to become a member of the elite task force, she accepts, and he pledges to brief her in detail in the morning. (Part Twelve, 2:40-4:50)
Part Thirteen--After permanently retiring Ray's "Boss" Renzo in an epic arm-wrestling battle for the ages, Mr. C. shakes down Ray Monroe for information on who put the hit out on Mr. C. and Ray spills the dirt: "It came through a man named Phillip Jeffries--at least that's the name he gives. I never met him. I don't talk to him on the phone. He set the whole prison thing up with Warden Murphy. Jeffries says you were going to kill me. He said I could get out and stay out if I killed you first." Mr. C. asks him "Why?", and Ray replies that Jeffries said that Mr. C. "has something inside that they want." Mr. C. asks whether Jeffries ever mentioned Major Briggs and Ray says "No." Then Ray reaches into his pocket and produces the Owl Cave ring: "Jeffries said I was supposed to put this on you after I killed you." "Where did you get that?", Mr. C. demands to know. Ray claims that an unfamiliar guard gave it to him just before their prison break. Mr. C. orders Ray to put it on his left hand and then demands the coordinates that Ray got from Bill Hastings' secretary. After Ray hands them over, Mr. C. inquires as to Phillip Jeffries whereabouts. "Last I heard," Ray replies, "he was at a place called "The Dutchman's", but it's not a real place--". His final sentence is interrupted by a bullet to the brain followed by an unscheduled trip to the Lodge. We see that Richard Horne has witnessed this entire episode via closed circuit television (all but the Lodge part, anyway), and wonder whether he might tail Mr. C. to "The Dutchman's". (Part Thirteen, 18:52-22:44)
Part Fourteen-Rosenfield is giving Preston the promised briefing on the origins of the Blue Rose, explaining that the whole thing started with a case concerning a murder investigation in Olympia, Washington in 1975 worked by two young field agents, Gordon Cole and Phillip Jeffries. Albert explains: "They arrived at a motel to arrest the suspect named Lois Duffy. They hear a gunshot outside her room and kick the door in. They find two women inside. One on the floor dying from a bullet wound to the abdomen. The other holds a gun which she drops as she backs away when they enter. They recognize the wounded woman as Lois Duffy. She speaks her last words to them: "I'm like the blue rose." She smiles, then dies, then disappears before their eyes. The other woman screaming in the corner, they now notice, is also Lois Duffy. By the way, Lois Duffy did not have a twin sister. Then while awaiting trial for a murder she swore she didn't commit, this Lois hangs herself." Tammy goes on to infer that the significance of Lois' last words ("I am like the blue rose.") is that the dying lois "does not occur in nature--is not a natural being," but is rather "conjured...what's the word...a tulpa." Albert affirms her inference: "Good." (Part Fourteen, 4:52-6:45)
Part Fourteen, continued--Just then, Cole busts into the briefing announcing "coffee time!" and Diane joins the group too ("Deputy Diane reporting for duty."). Echoing Mr. C.'s final interrogation of Ray in Part Thirteen in which Mr. C. wants to know if Jeffries mentioned Major Briggs to Ray, Cole asks Diane whether Cooper mentioned Major Briggs on that fateful night of their last visit. She confirms that he did. [If Ray was being truthful that Jeffries did *not* mention Briggs to him, and Diane was being truthful that Cooper (who was presumably already Mr. C. at the time) *did* mention Briggs to her, perhaps this means that Jeffries' lack of knowledge and Mr. C.'s knowledge of how Briggs fits into the equation will turn out to be an important plot point that gives Mr. C. an edge over Jeffries in some way.] Albert then briefs Diane on Briggs' recent death and the ring found inside his stomach, which triggers Diane's testimony that Janey-E is her half-sister. After this revelation she leaves, allowing Cole, Rosenfield, and Preston to continue with more sensitive matters. (Part Fourteen, 6:46-11:00)
Part Fourteen, continued--Gordon informs them of his conversation with Frank Truman, in which he learned that the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department is investigating the found pages of Laura Palmer's diary "indicating two Coopers." He then moves on to discussing the details of "another Monica Belucci dream," in which Cooper and Jeffries figure heavily. Cole explains that Belucci invited him to Creperie Plougastel, that Cooper was there (but his face was obscured), and that after exchanging pleasantries and enjoying coffee, Belucci said to him "the ancient phrase:" "We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside a dream." She follows up, forebodingly: "But who is the dreamer?" She gestures to Cole to look behind him, and he turns to see his younger self in the old Philadelphia office (in footage from FWWM), talking to an alarmed Cooper who oddly informs him with a now uncannily familiar expressionless visage that "It's 10:10 am on February 16th; I was worried about today because of the dream I told you about." Cole continues: "And that was the day Phillip Jeffries appeared and didn't appear...and while Jeffries was apparently there, he raised his arm and pointed at Cooper and asked me "Who do you think that is there?". Damn! I hadn't remembered that! Now this is really something interesting to think about." Looking confused, Albert chimes in, "Yes...I'm beginning to remember that too." The interesting to think about, terrifyingly, is that of whether the Cooper in the Philadelphia office with the specter of Phillip Jeffries in 1989--before "the Good Cooper" went to Twin Peaks to investigate Laura Palmer's murder--was somehow actually, if we may borrow a line from Hawk, "not the Good Cooper." Was it Mr. C. at whom Phillip Jeffries was pointing? Or is Jeffries simply confused, having seen Mr. C. in non-linear time in his dimensional travels? (Part Fourteen, 11:00-15:10)
Part Fourteen, continued--While Andy's happening in the White Lodge and his interactions with Naido before and after do not make explicit reference to Phillip Jeffries, there are several important clues that these events belong squarely within the Phillip Jeffries narrative. As discussed above in reference to Part Three, Naido appears to be connected to the Jeffries narrative via her association with Briggs' "Blue Rose" declaration following her fall into the non-exist-ent, as well as her veiled connections to the "Judy" and "monkey" threads. As for Andy himself, among the visions shown to him by the Fireman during his time in the White Lodge is a hazy photo of the electrical wires that we see later on in Part Fifteen as Mr. C. drives toward his meeting with Phillip Jeffries (or at least his surrogate smoking oil can transmitter). Given that this image is the first in the series passing before him to depict a future event (something that has yet to happen, rather than a recap of happenings past), the Jeffries meeting and its aftermath will likely figure importantly into Andy's mission to keep Naido safe. That Naido is now on the same cell-block as the formidable "Garden Glove Sykes" (who occupies cell 8--we'll consider the possible significance of this below) seems to presage a coming attraction at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department in which Jeffries, Mr. C., and agents aligned with the Fireman (Frank, Bobby, Hawk, Andy, Sykes) will come into conflict over Naido and what she knows or represents.
That brings us to Part Fifteen, the final installment so far, where the Jeffries narrative drops into sixth gear as Mr. C. journeys to "The Dutchman's" to confront Phillip Jeffries himself (or at least the steaming old-timey oil-can avatar who speaks for him these days, perhaps in order to avoid being physically (or spiritually) close enough to Mr. C. to be susceptible to his mind-reading powers). I'll devote a bit more photographic attention to the step-by-step of this event captioning the pictures as we go (with sincere advance apologies for the fact that I'm on vacation and lack access to my 4K television, so my signature hand-taken-in-a-dark-room-with-an-ancient-iPhone stills are even grainier than usual).
Mr. C.'s earthly journey to the "The Dutchman's" terminates, satisfyingly, at the fabled convenience store from Part Eight, where a woodsman is waiting to escort Mr. C. through the convenient portal to his otherworldly destination even deeper in the dimensional stew than the convenience store itself. Intriguingly, this is the first time we see the convenience store in color, though the tones are decidedly muted (especially in my shitty iPhone photos taken from a grainy stream).
We know that this place is even stranger than the average portal to other places because the store itself--which isn't really there--is just stage one, as Mr. C. and the woodsman disappear while traversing the stairs of the already non-existent store, indicating their passage into a dimension even beyond the plane occupied by the store.
Mr. C. and his woodsy guide traverse a hall (adorned with the wallpaper from the framed print in Laura Palmer's bedroom) where they come upon a seated gatekeeper sitting next to a large electrical switch that comprises, among other things, a host of tubes and wires and an old turn-table platter. Mr. C. announces his intentions: "I'm looking for Phillip Jeffries."
Upon Mr. C.'s request to speak to Jeffries, the woodsman throws the switch and a burst of electricity illuminates the room, revealing the guts of his bizarre switching station. One imagines oneself to have caught a glimpse of a radio-station broadcasting microphone in the foreground in front of the turn-table.
As the sparks fly from the switch box, we briefly glimpse the masked jumping man from the convenience store scene in FWWM. As he jumps, the mask intermingles with visions of faces that are hard to discern, but that include, according to some with better means for photographing this brief scene, Sarah Palmer and Major Briggs.
Mr. C. follows his lumbering escort into a long passage leading to another staircase--presumably the one that Gordon Cole glimpsed in his split-second vision of the woodsmen in Part Eleven. As they walk, the woods that occupy the space on the earthly plane intermingle with the hall, suggesting that we are also moving through earthly space as we traverse the hall at The Dutchman's.
The wall rolls back like a curtain to reveal Jeffries' proxy: a smoking contraption that appears to be a modified diving-bell (like the ones from the non-exist-ent and the White Lodge) strongly and aptly suggestive of an old-timey oil can. Mr. C. and Jeffries engage in a stilted, confusing conversation the upshot of which is that Mr. C. (or perhaps Cooper or perhaps both?) has already met Jeffries in the Philadelphia FBI office in 1989, as depicted in the famed scene in FWWM that was reprised in Cole's dream in Part Fourteen. But whereas Cole's dream focused on Jeffries' accusatory identification of Cooper (exclaiming "Do you know who that is there?") and omits mention of Jeffries' infamous, incoherent, and much-discussed ramblings about "Judy", the conversation here in Part Fifteen is focused squarely on Judy.
Since the conversation between Mr. C. and Phillip Jeffries' oily avatar is likely to be extremely important to the events that unfold in the remaining three parts of The Return, let's take a minute to reprise it here:
Phillip Jeffries: “Oh, it’s you.”
Mr. C.: “Jeffries!”
Jeffries: “By God.” (or maybe “My God!”)
Mr. C.: “Why did you send Ray to kill me?”
Jeffries: “What? I called Ray!”
Mr. C.: “So you did send him! Did you call me five days ago?”
Jeffries: “I don’t have your number.”
Mr. C.: “So it was someone else who called me?”
Jeffries: “We used to talk.”
Mr. C.: “Yes, we did.”
[Flashback to FBI Headquarters in Philadelphia in 1989. Jeffries: "Well now: I’m not going to talk about Judy. We’re not going to talk about Judy at all."]
Mr. C.: “1989. You showed up at FBI headquarters in Philadelphia and said you’d met Judy.”
Jeffries: “So. You are Cooper.”
Mr. C.: “Phillip, why didn’t you want to talk about Judy? Who is Judy? Does Judy want something from me?”
Jeffries: “Why don’t you ask Judy yourself. Let me write it down for you.”
[Mr. C. dutifully takes out a pen and pad and writes down the numbers, which appear to emerge out of the steaming oil can spout in the following order: 4-8-0-5-5-1-1-4.]
Mr. C.: “Who is Judy?”
Jeffries: “You’ve already met Judy.”
Mr. C.: “What do you mean I’ve met Judy?” [Ed: Might Jeffries be referring to Cooper's interactions with Naido in the violet world and non-exist-ent in Part Three?]
[Jeffries falls silent and a phone starts ringing. It rings six times total. After the fourth ring, Mr. C. interrupts, yelling at increasingly elevated volume at Jeffries.]
Mr. C.: “Who is Judy? WHO IS JUDY?!”
[After the sixth ring we hear a loud switching sound and a burst of electricity and Mr. C. answers the phone just before the seventh ring. The feed flickers as Mr. C. is transported out of Jeffries’ oil-canny presence to the phone booth in front of the convenience store. As he listens into the receiver, the sound of electricity accompanies the staticky feed and his head is briefly drawn toward the receiver in a flickering stutter identical to the way that Cooper’s head was drawn toward the electrical portal in the violet world.]
Outside the convenience store, Mr. C. is accosted by Richard Horne, who witnessed Mr. C. murdering Ray at the Farm and presumably trailed him to the portal to "The Dutchman's" from that location. Horne announces that recognizes Mr. C. as an FBI agent from a photo in his mother Audrey Horne's possession. Mr. C. gives Horne a knowing look, spits at the ground to distract him, and incapacities him, commanding him never to threaten Mr. C. again and to get in the truck: "We'll talk on the way."
Where will Phillip Jeffries, the mystery at his dark heart, and Mr. C.'s insatiable search for Judy take us in the final three episodes of The Return? Goodness knows.