Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Phillip Gerard (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #40)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Phillip Gerard (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #40)


The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys eighty-two characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) as well as The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every weekday morning until the premiere of Showtime's new season of Twin Peaks on May 21, 2017. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

Gerard is a mild-mannered, dutiful salesman who requires medicine to maintain his health but manages reasonably well within humble means.

And.


Monday, February 20, 1989
In a dark motel room, dawn light barely filtering in through the drawn curtains, a shirtless one-armed man is seated on the floor. He is Phillip Michael Gerard, a shoe salesman, but shoes don't seem to be on his mind at the moment. Eerily he warbles, "Fire... walk... with... me..." while lifting the flame from twelve candles in a circle, almost as if moving and speaking backwards. Some deep presence stirs through this ritual. Later that morning Gerard emerges like a Fury from the underworld in his camper van, beeping his horn at the convertible in front of him and swerving around a crosswalk so that he pulls up right next to the other vehicle, staring directly at the driver (who avoids eye contact). During the proceeding tirade, Gerard waves his hand at the people he's shouting at, revealing a green ring on his finger with a peculiar insignia. "YOU STOLE THE CORN," Gerard yells over the cacophony of a revving engine, a beeping horn, and two other screaming people (the man driving, and his blonde daughter in the passenger seat), "UNDER THE CAN, OVER THE STORE! AND MISS, THE LOOK ON HER FACE, WHEN IT WAS OPENED. IT WAS...A STILLNESS. LIKE THE FORMICA TABLE TOP! THE THREAD WILL BE TORN, MR. PALMER! THE THREAD WILL BE TORN! IT'S HIM, IT'S YOUR FATHER!!!" He then peels away and roars off into the distance from whence he came.

Thursday, February 23, 1989
Gerard runs through the woods, shouting "BOB!" He enters and exits a cabin, following the sound of screams. Eventually he reaches an abandoned train car and bangs on the door, demanding, "Let me in! Let me in!" A girl inside, bloody and dirty in a white slip, helps him to shove the door open but just as the gap widens sufficiently to let her out (or Gerard in) a figure bashes her over the head and knocks her to the ground. Gerard rushes toward the opening and his ring rolls inside the train car before the door closes. Gerard stands outside the train car listening and walks away, deeper into the woods...

...in Another Place
In a Red Room with a chevron floor and billowing red curtains, Gerard is seated next to the Man From Another Place, a little person in a red suit who is positioned where Gerard's left arm would be. Leland Palmer, the driver in that traffic confrontation, enters the room with blood on his shirt. Gerard and the Little Man stare as Leland tilts toward the ground at a sharp angle and then hovers in the air. BOB, a long-haired ghoul in a jean jacket, scowls at his onlookers. The Little Man touches Gerard's left stub and stares at him as they say, in unison, "BOB, I want all my garmonbozia." The Little Man returns to his seat and Gerard continues to stare as BOB reaches toward Leland's shirt, sucks the bloodstain out and spatters blood all over the floor. The blood disappears and the Little Man devours a spoonful of creamed corn.

Friday, February 24, 1989
Gerard takes an elevator ride at Calhoun Memorial Hospital with an FBI agent and the town sheriff. They don't speak and his back is turned to them. He exits first.

Saturday, February 25, 1989
Gerard exits the hospital elevator again, walking toward a staff-restricted area flooded with blue light.

...in Cooper's Dream (Sunday, February 26, 1989)
The FBI agent, Dale Cooper, in town to investigate the murder of the girl in that train car, dreams that Gerard appears to him in the hospital. However, the one-armed man introduces himself as "MIKE" before reciting a poem: "Through the darkness of future past the magician longs to see, one chants out between two world: Fire, walk with me!" He explains that he and BOB lived above a convenience store, and that his left shoulder had contained a tattoo "touched by the devilish one." When he "saw the face of God," he was changed and "took the entire arm off."

Tuesday, February 28, 1989
Agent Cooper, Sheriff Harry Truman, Deputy Hawk Hill, and Deputy Andy Brennan barge in on Gerard's room at the Timber Falls Motel, startling him (he has just come from the shower with only a towel wrapped around his waist). Their guns are drawn and Truman demands, "Put your hands where I can see them!" Gerard, of course, only has one to raise. A few minutes later, allowed to sit on the bed and don a shirt (the guns have been put away), Gerard is unable to identify a police sketch of a long-haired man despite the sheriff's insistence ("he kinda looks like somebody, doesn't he?"). On the other hand, he readily acknowledges his best friend Bob Lydecker when asked. Lydecker is a veterinarian who was assaulted outside a bar in the Lowtown section of Twin Peaks "three days ago" according to Truman (though that would place it after Gerard's first sighting at the hospital). Gerard has been visiting his comatose friend ever since. Hawk confirms that Gerard has no arrests or warrants. Gerard tells Cooper his middle name is Michael ("named after my uncle") and explains how he lost his arm: years ago, he was selling pharmaceuticals "on the road from Memphis to some place" when he got into a car accident. Andy clumsily opens Gerard's suitcase, spilling his sample shoes; the salesman explains his new vocation and offers to pitch his product to the sheriff's department if they are interested. Cooper brusquely inquires if Gerard's missing arm had a tattoo. Gerard starts sobbing and affirms: "It said...Mom!"

Friday, March 3, 1989
Gerard arrives at the sheriff's station with a sample case. The receptionist asks his business and Gerard explains that, while he has no specific appointment, the sheriff invited him to come by at his earliest convenience to sell some shoes.

Sunday, March 5, 1989
Truman takes a look at Gerard's selection, debating utility, quality, and economics. Gerard is in his element until he spies a poster with that same sketch of the long-haired man. Although he was unflustered by it in the motel, this time it really bothers him and he nearly passes out. Gerard tells Truman he feels ill and requests the restroom so he can take his medication. Inside he tries to inject himself but is prevented by violent spasms. A seizure eventually subsides and he emerges from the stall, grinning and calling out, "BOB, I know you're near. I'm after you now."

Wednesday, March 8, 1989
Hawk escorts a distressed Gerard into the station. "Since when is it against the law to sell shoes?" he (rather reasonably) pleads, to no avail. Truman says he's wanted for questioning and he is taken into the conference room. That night, Cooper, Truman, Hawk, and an FBI agent named Gordon Cole (who pointed at Gerard earlier and shouted, "THERE'S THE ONE-ARMER NOW!") surround a seated Gerard. Gordon notes the chemical composition of Gerard's drug, and Cooper asks if he suffers from schizophrenia but Gerard moans, "It's too late..." Cooper accuses him of lying about knowing the man on the poster and Gerard whimpers, "It wasn't me, don't you understand, it wasn't me!" before shuddering, gurgling loudly, and leaning backwards in his chair. Then he loudly exhales and slowly sits upright. His bearing is altogether different now: calm, haughty even, and assertive. "There is no need for medicine," he insists. "I am not in pain." He informs the lawmen that he is an inhabiting spirit named MIKE and that Gerard is "host to me." He identifies the man in the poster as BOB and vows that his one goal is "to stop him!" He cannot reveal where BOB comes from, but does reveals that BOB is a "parasite" who "attaches itself to a life form and feeds ... on fear and the pleasures." BOB was once MIKE's familiar and partner until MIKE's conversion experience (reiterated from the dream, except now he says he was "purified" rather than "changed"). BOB has had the same host for forty years, and at present he is in "a large house made of wood, surrounded by trees. The house is filled with many rooms each alike but occupied by different souls night after night." Cooper immediately recognizes this as the Great Northern Hotel.

Thursday, March 9, 1989
Gerard, still presenting as MIKE, gathers with the lawmen for coffee in the lobby of the station the following morning. A bit less regal, looking more disheveled now, Gerard repeats his riddle about the Great Northern word for word. The others listen and then politely carry on; Truman says the Great Northern is ready for them, and Gordon heads off to Bend, Oregon after telling the others to "take care of MIKE!" At the Great Northern, surrounded by the sounds of bouncing balls, Gerard watches a long line of guests pass by (including the Japanese businessman Mr. Tojamura) as he shakes his head "no" for each. He grows agitated and falls to the floor raising his arm up in agony. Ben Horne emerges into the lobby, demanding to know what's going on as Cooper and Doc Will Hayward tend to the suffering man.

Friday, March 10, 1989
Gerard's left stub twitches and he wakes up with a start, still under MIKE's sway: "He's close!" He sends the nurse out and whacks the guarding cop over the head before leaping out a window. Hawk catches Gerard and brings him to the station where he is instructed to check Ben Horne for BOB. He walks around Ben, sniffing loudly and declaring that BOB is not there, irritating Ben's brother/attorney Jerry. Truman charges Ben with the murder of Laura Palmer and demands Gerard be locked up at the Great Northern, with his windows nailed shut.

Saturday, March 11, 1989
Gerard appears to be dying of dehydration, but Cooper asks Doc not to administer his drug just yet. The desperate FBI agent pleads for help from "MIKE," and receives some further clarification about his relationship to BOB, confirmation of the Giant's existence ("He is known to us"), and told "You have all the clues you need." A sweaty, shuddering Gerard places his hand on Cooper's head - "the answer is not here" - before lowering the hand to Cooper's heart - " it is here" - and then collapses in bed as Cooper exits and Doc hopefully prepares the dosage that will bring him back.

Characters Gerard interacts with onscreen…

Laura Palmer

Leland Palmer

Ronette Pulaski (helps her open door from the other side)

Agent Cooper

Sheriff Truman

Deputy Hawk

Lucy Moran

Gordon Cole

Deputy Andy & Catherine Martell as Mr. Tojamura (studying & present for study)

Ben and Jerry Horne

Doc Hayward

Spirits who appear with/to him

BOB

The Man From Another Place

Spirits who co-exist with him/appear in his form

MIKE

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Gerard
With Gerard, or rather with MIKE (whom this entry isn't officially about, but whom it can't help covering almost entirely), we plunge fully into the spirit world of Twin Peaks. We already glimpsed the Red Room and the Man From Another Place through the Waiter, but Gerard not only takes us inside this other realm, he articulates it. Cooper's dream, Gerard's sickbed scene, and especially Gerard's transformation and monologue spell out the dynamics of the Twin Peaks cosmology in an explicit fashion we simply haven't encountered yet. Only the Log Lady touched on this much mythology, but her scene had more to do with vague, unidentifiable icons of this world - the owls, the fire, the wood - rather than the mechanics of inhabiting spirits. Of course, as we reach the halfway point of this character series, this entry also introduces us to garmonbozia.

We are now grappling with some of the most difficult questions in Twin Peaks and indeed, there are few more difficult characters than Gerard/MIKE. As our characters' screentime grows more extensive, the often ad hoc nature of their development becomes a necessary topic. In Gerard's case this make-it-up-as-we-go-along quality merges deftly with the character's own ambiguities. To what extent is Gerard's unreliability inevitable evolution vs. intentional obfuscation? So much of Twin Peaks' frustration and power lies at the nexus of these two modi operandi, and for that reason among many others, "the one-armed man" is a signature presence for the town and the show. Even in his more mundane form, though, the shoe salesman is an intriguing figure, a character existing on the outskirts of the community's center of gravity (I hope we get to visit Lowtown someday), just like Ronette and a few others before him. (Incidentally, that camper drives under Ronette's bridge when racing up behind Leland's car in Fire Walk With Me.)

On another note, Gerard reveals a dark side to our heroes and, simultaneously, the show's ability to suspend disbelief or skepticism (not just about supernatural phenomena but proper law enforcement procedure). By any reasonable assessment, Gerard is a victim of serious and persistent police harassment/abuse: he is ambushed by armed cops in his residence without any warning knock and then sharply rebuked and threatened (by Cooper especially, who is incredibly and consistently rude) despite having not even the slightest connection to an ongoing investigation...aside from a detective's dream and his own disability. Gerard is later scooped up and taken into custody (perhaps his drugs are illegal, though he doesn't seem to actually be under arrest), held prisoner for days without charge, and denied essential medicine as his body deteriorates and he hovers near death. If and when Gerard re-emerges from his fugue state, he's entitled to one hell of a lawsuit against the Twin Peaks sheriff's department and the federal government.

Gerard’s journey
Very few character's "journeys" are as hard to parse as Gerard's. When we talk about his arc, are we measuring from Fire Walk With Me to episode 16, or from the pilot to Fire Walk With Me? And are we focusing on Gerard the human host, MIKE the spirit, or some combination of both? Chronologically, "the one-armed man" is a very baffling presence. We meet him as a strange esoteric figure, yelling at strangers, chasing a killer through the woods, and appearing in an ethereal netherworld to demand something called "garmonbozia," defined in a subtitle as pain and sorrow but looking for all the world like creamed corn. When we next see this nameless oddball, he's walking in and out of hospital corridors in the human world, a calm but silent presence. Finally the cops catch up with him...and he's a mild-mannered shoe salesman who doesn't recognize the same BOB he gathered corn from. Is this a twin? Is he lying? The following scenes "explain" what's going on - apparently he is sometimes possessed by a spirit named MIKE - but opens up further, more confounding questions. Why, even as the spirit, does he seem unable to identify BOB's host (whom he had no problem identifying earlier)? Why does he claim to want to stop him while never mentioning this garmonbozia stuff? As his power fades, the character who began as an angry wandering eccentric and turned into a quiet salesman winds up a spirit-channeling shaman of sorts. The material doesn't quite flow.

Observed in production order, however, Gerard's narrative yields to a certain logical progression. First the one-armed man is presented as a mystery figure. Then he's revealed as a seemingly ordinary man. Than he branches off into a split personality with clues to a larger mystery. Finally he is placed as an active presence in the central drama of the story: the murder of Laura Palmer, and the defeat of BOB through her refusal to submit to him. Indeed, if Gerard tosses her the Owl Cave ring, as the editing strongly suggests, he's even partially responsible for that defeat. While the contradictions linger, the development of this character has a certain forward momentum and expansive quality in this telling. There is also a "coming-together" of the disparate figures. It's reasonable to assume that Gerard is MIKE the entire time we see him in Fire Walk With Me given his behavior (starting with the fire ritual and chant in the deleted scene). Yet, especially noticeable when he's shouting at Leland, he doesn't speak in the booming MIKE baritone of the show (along with his initially upright bearing, one of the primary distinctions between Gerard and MIKE). In that sense, at least, Lynch subtly blurs the boundaries between this spirit and host as he does with Leland/BOB. The film also muddies MIKE's moral purpose, but I'll save that for an upcoming omnibus entry on "The Spirits of Twin Peaks."

Actor: Al Strobel
Strobel is a thespian with just a handful of screen credits, mostly following Twin Peaks, before he retired in 2005. The films all appear to be spooky horror movies or thrillers ("Man in Dream" in the 1990 video Sitting Target, for example) with one exception: the Kate Hudson vehicle Ricochet River, whose atmosphere certainly sounds Twin Peaks-y. IMDb mentions "a backwoods logging town," "high school sweethearts," and "a sensitive Native American"; Strobel is credited simply as "The One-Armed Man." Strobel's most memorable appearances may be in Twin Peaks-related material. He makes for a captivating interview, most notably in the "Postcard From the Cast" featured on The Entire Mystery blu-ray set (it was originally recorded for a 2001 DVD release). In this ten-minute video he recalls the teenage near-death experience that unfolded when he lost his arm in a car accident; it's worth seeking out and watching in full, as riveting in its delivery as anything on the series. In 2015, when Lynch temporarily walked away from the Showtime project, Strobel contributed to the cast's homemade video "Twin Peaks without David Lynch is Like..." He finished that sentence with, "...a fire without the heat." And then a long pause and a sigh... (pictured with Frank Silva at an early Twin Peaks Festival, mid-1990s)

Episodes
The Pilot

Episode 1 (German title: "Traces to Nowhere")

Episode 2 (German title: "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer")

Episode 4 (German title: "The One-Armed Man")

Episode 8 (German title: "May the Giant Be With You")

Episode 10 (German title: "The Man Behind Glass")

*Episode 13 (German title: "Demons" - best episode)

Episode 14 (German title: "Lonely Souls")

Episode 15 (German title: "Drive With a Dead Girl")

Episode 16 (German title: "Arbitrary Law")

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (feature film)

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (collection of deleted scenes from the film)

Writers/Directors
Mark Frost co-writes Gerard's first few silent cameos, and, solo, pens his return in the season two premiere and his assistance to the police investigation in the killer's reveal episode. Frost also collaborates with Harley Peyton and Robert Engels on the teleplay for Gerard's last appearance. The scene has very Frostian overtones, with MIKE providing essential clues and a spiritual ethos to follow. Did he write it? Engels also has a penchant for this character. His two solo scripts contain some of Gerard's most memorable bits (the motel room and the first transformation into MIKE), and he collaborates with Peyton on Gerard/MIKE's big scene in the episode before the reveal. Furthermore, he co-writes Fire Walk With Me, which resurrects Gerard after a long absence from the series. For all that, the genesis of "The One-Armed Man" as a recurring character is definitely down to David Lynch. The character wis introduced in the pilot purely as a one-off gag, a one-armed extra as an affectionate nod to that other classic TV murder mystery, The Fugitive (one of the few shows Lynch would explicitly reference in interviews; in fact, Philip Gerard is the name of the detective on that series). At lunch one day Lynch spontaneously asked his editor, Duwayne Dunham, "What would you think of a guy who cut his arm off to remove a tattoo?" Needing material for an "alternate ending" (see the new section below), Lynch sketched out a quick page of dialogue and cast the actor. In addition to co-writing the first two appearances and the film, Lynch directs Gerard in four episodes (including the dream sequence originally shot for the alternate ending). Dunham, initially perplexed by Lynch's lunchtime outburst, directs Gerard's second appearance, and Caleb Deschanel directs Gerard's penultimate episode (written by Scott Frost, the only writer outside that core four to touch Gerard). The two non-Lynch directors who contribute the most to this character are Tim Hunter and Lesli Linka Glatter. Hunter directs the first episode in which we really meet Gerard as a character (his most normal, if still offbeat, scene), and returns to direct his last scene in the series, when he's fully MIKE on his sickbed. Glatter directs Gerard's two transformation episodes, deftly guiding the transition from meek Gerard to majestic MIKE.

Statistics
Gerard is onscreen for roughly twenty-two minutes. He is in nineteen scenes in ten episodes plus the feature film and deleted scenes collection, taking place over three weeks (as well as in a dream and another realm of reality). He's featured the most in episode 13, when the authorities draw MIKE out by refusing to administer Gerard's drug. His primary location is the sheriff's station. He shares the most screentime with Cooper. Despite his importance to the series, like the Log Lady he never cracks the top ten of any episode.

Best Scene
Episode 14: Gerard inspects a long line of hotel guests, grunting and shaking his head before collapsing, all while dozens of sailors loudly bounce rubber balls.

Best Line
“This is his true face, but few can see it. The gifted...and the DAMNED.”

Gerard Offscreen

Episode 2: Hawk calls Cooper to tell him he saw a one-armed man at the hospital. Cooper does not mention that he already saw this man in the elevator with Truman.

Episode 3: When Cooper explains his dreams, he adds something we didn't actually see in the dream: "BOB vowed to kill again, so MIKE shot him."

Episode 4: When they arrive at Lydecker's Veterinary Clinic (slogan: "Aid to the Beast Incarnate") Cooper notices a convenience store next door and tells Truman, "In my dream, MIKE said he and BOB lived above a convenience store." (We will eventually see a "room above a convenience store" inhabited by spirits in Fire Walk With Me but, interestingly, MIKE is not there - at least not in Gerard's form.)

Episode 10: Truman asks if anyone's seen Gerard - "I came back from lunch and his sample case was gone." Cooper is shocked that "the one-armed man" (as he persistently refers to Gerard) was at the station without his knowledge. He reminds Truman of his dream and proceeds to the bathroom where he checks every stall until he finds Gerard's needle on the floor. Holding it in a gloved hand, he refers to one of the Giant's clues: "Without chemicals, he points."

Episode 11: Cooper spots the logo on Andy's boots - Circle Brand - which matches the boots found on Leo's property. Andy says Gerard sold him this pair.

Episode 12: Truman tells Hawk to look for the one-armed man, and later Hawk informs Truman and Cooper that he's been "staying at a motel on Highway 9" but he hasn't been seen in a few days. Hawk reveals a paper bag full of syringes and vials that he found in the room.

Episode 14: When Cooper comes across some clues about Ben Horne in Laura's diary and from Audrey, he reminds Truman that Gerard collapsed at the Great Northern as soon as Ben entered the room.

Episode 15: Leaving Gerard's room Cooper talks to his tape recorder about the one-armed man, reporting to Diane that in another time he would have been a shaman, but today he's just a shoe salesman who lives in the shadows. Several scenes are spent reacting to Gerard's escape and re-capture from the Great Northern. Cooper interrupts Truman's conversation with Pete to launch a search, and Cooper is talking golf with Leland when they receive the call that Gerard has been found.

Episode 25: Nine episodes after his last appearance, "Gerard, the one-armed man," is briefly mentioned one last time. Gordon Cole reveals that Windom Earle was once on Haloperidol, and Doc remembers that this was Gerard's drug.

Fire Walk With Me: After Gerard drives away from Laura and Leland, Leland rants about how that man came "out of the blue like that." Laura asks if he knows him, and wonders why he seems familiar to her.

Gerard in the alternate "European ending"
In the winter of 1989, as the Twin Peaks pilot was being filmed in and around Seattle, David Lynch and Mark Frost had another matter to worry about. In order to finance the pilot, which ABC was hesitant to provide with a full budget, Lynch/Frost Productions had secured a distribution deal that required them to shoot a "closed ending." This way, if the network rejected the series, the pilot could still be released as a feature film in Europe (hence the "European ending" or "European version" as this extra twenty-two minutes is sometimes called). Lynch and Frost didn't give it much thought but when they were ahead on schedule, they quickly cooked up a wacky resolution with Lynch, it seems, doing most of the cooking. Intrigued by the idea of a man who cut his own arm off to purge himself of evil, Lynch gave Strobel just a short time to memorize his speech on set before rolling. In this alternate version of events, "Mike" (not MIKE, thank you) is a person, not a spirit, who calls Cooper from the hospital: "It's a strange night," he hisses over the phone. "There's something in the air. Can you feel it? You know about Teresa Banks, pretty girl they found last year...I know the man who did her. I know about the stitches. With the red thread." Cooper meets Mike at the hospital and is told all about his strange relationship with Bob, who is in the basement of the hospital at this very moment. All of his dialogue from the dream sequence is featured; additionally, Mike explains that Bob "sometimes works among the infirm, the injured of the species. I was watching, Mr. Cooper, for over a year. Waiting for Bob to come out again." He identifies the sketch of the long-haired man as Bob, and later creeps downstairs as Cooper and Truman confront the self-confessed killer. When Bob swears, "I promise, I will kill again!" Mike shouts "Like hell!" and charges forward, firing a handgun several times at Bob's chest. After murdering his former partner, Mike himself collapses, randomly asking Cooper, "You got a nickel?" before dying at his feet. This bizarre non sequitur - in which Twin Peaks' underworld is presented as a vaguely psychosexual ritualistic criminal cult rather than an interdimensional spiritual realm - became, in many ways, the template for the entire Twin Peaks mythology (especially when you consider that the second half of the alternate ending was, virtually intact, the Red Room sequence which later became the bulk of Cooper's dream). Certainly it establishes the idea of the one-armed man being named Mike, hunting down Bob after being a former partner, and even suffering inexplicable, potentially deadly, seizures. It even plants some seeds that aren't picked up until Fire Walk With Me, including the link to Teresa and even "the red thread"...Lil the dancer's red dress is stitched with thread ("the tailored dress is code for drugs," Agent Chet Desmond will tell Agent Sam Stanley), and of course Gerard shouts at Leland that "the thread will be torn." This is a simple but still enigmatic beginning to a very complex character.

Additional Observations

• A note on scene selection... Gerard/MIKE has so many good scenes that it was hard to choose just one. Going in, I assumed the climax of episode 13 would be my pick; I've long described it as my favorite non-Lynch-directed sequence, and Strobel's performance in this scene as possibly the best of any actor in the series. Yet the more I looked, the more I recognized its stiff competition. Hell, for any other character the motel room scene in episode 4 would be an easy selection - the fact that it may not even be Gerard's fourth-best scene speaks volumes about the fascination of this character, and perhaps especially the grandeur of Strobel's performance. In terms of character, Gerard's "coming out" as MIKE to the lawmen probably is his signature scene (which is why I chose episode 13 as Gerard's best episode), but two Lynch-directed moments, the ball-bouncing lineup at the Great Northern and the screeching confrontation in traffic, are astounding pieces of cacophonous cinema. They tell us in their own visceral way what episode 13 tells us through dialogue: what it's like to be inside poor Phillip Gerard's head, maybe especially when he himself is barely present.

• The footage from Gerard's traffic scene in Fire Walk With Me is split into two scenes; in the second, Laura is sitting on her bed, reflecting and she flashes back to close-up slow-motion shot of Gerard waving the Owl Cave ring.

• In capturing images for this post, I noticed how many times circles appear in conjunction with the character(s). Of course in his final scene, Gerard forms a circle with his thumb and forefinger and says, "Bob and I, when we were killing together, there was this perfect relationship: appetite, satisfaction, a golden circle!" This inspires Cooper to remember his ring that the Giant took several episodes earlier (and which he will return a few scenes later when Cooper remembers Laura's killer). In the film, of course, Gerard is one of the characters to wield the Owl Cave ring (and when he runs toward the train car, one shot catches him in the circular beam of a - physically impossible - flashlight). In his deleted scene from the film he lights a circle of candles (just like the one Bob appeared within in the alternate ending to the pilot which ties in with Glastonbury Grove in an interesting fashion). And of course Gerard sells Circle Brand Boots. Though this one may just be coincidence, Hawk also spies Gerard in a circular mirror at the hospital in episode 1.

• That particular scene unfolds differently in the episode 1 script. Instead of nonchalantly strolling toward a room as Hawk watches from afar, the mysterious "one-armed man" acts very sneaky. He retreats behind a corner when he notices Hawk and a trooper and hides in a stairwell, creeping away as Hawk looks for him.

• Episode 2 was scripted to include all the footage from the European ending, including the full dialogue of Mike as well as his death scene. That's why Cooper describes all these details in episode 3, which was shot before episode 2 (and hence before the MIKE/BOB portion of the dream sequence was whittled down to a few choice clips).

• In deleted dialogue from episode 4, Gerard tells us he was a "Smokey Mountain sales rep" when he lost his arm. He also gives us some more information on Bob Lydecker as well as himself: "Extremely dedicated. Has his own clinic about eight years now. No maybe seven. Let's see ...'81 ... I'm still at computer school ... yeah, it's eight years." Cooper follows up with, "In my dream he was a regular doctor." Though it's not much more, it does make me wonder if the writers were toying with eventually revealing "the other Bob" as a character. What would he look like? More to the point, why wouldn't he look like dream-BOB the way Phillip Michael Gerard looks like dream-MIKE? What is the nature of his relationship to Gerard; are they both hosts in this version - are either of them hosts? Did they have a secret history of killing together somehow related to the figures in Cooper's dream? In this light, the unseen but intriguing Bob Lydecker feels like the relic of an alternate, abandoned path for the character of Gerard. More on that momentarily.

• Gerard's dialogue in episode 8 is delivered as scripted, but an early draft interrupts him with a chatty mailman named Tom.

• In altered dialogue from episode 13, when asked where BOB comes from, instead of saying "That cannot be revealed," Gerard replies, "There are indications that we come from another world." I wonder if Lynch, who was obviously present on set for this scene as Gordon Cole, intervened to change just this one line?

• Gerard was scripted to be at Harold's house after his suicide in episode 14. Asked if BOB had been there, he responds, "BOB never lingers after death." Cooper stresses the past tense, and Gerard says BOB did not visit the house. He then wearily sits down and Cooper and Truman chat about how ill he looks, and whether or not it's a good idea to show the state troopers what he's doing. "It's not easy being 'Mike,'" Cooper states. Later in the episode script Hayward attends to a "weak and pale" Gerard, and warns the others that he needs to take his medication, but refuses. For some reason, even though the visit to the Great Northern is mentioned in the first scene, the actual visit is placed much later in the script, after clues are discovered in Laura's diary. (Maybe the copy available online is a composite of different drafts?)

• In episode 16, as scripted, Gerard tells Cooper, "Bob is a fire spirit. So are we both, both creatures of the fire." After he speaks his last line, the script reads, "Gerard goes slack in his arms. 'Mike' is gone. Cooper holds Gerard's limp body. He looks at Doc." This sounds a lot like he has died, which isn't exactly how it plays onscreen.

• In the Fire Walk With Me screenplay, Gerard says "Bob, I can hear you singing," as he hunts him through the woods. Most notably, as Laura is being killed, Gerard laughs and yells, "THAT'S HIS OWN DAUGHTER YOU'RE KILLING." In the Red Room, Leland sees Gerard retreating through the curtains just ahead of him. When he separates into Leland and BOB, Gerard and the Man From Another Place say in unison, "Bob, you're not going home without me."

• Gerard/MIKE is one of the few important characters never to appear in any Twin Peaks spin-off book - not even The Secret History (unless memory and a return skim have failed me) which devotes a small section to the Laura Palmer case near its end. He does have a Twin Peaks trading card which traces him back to Spokane and lists his accomplishments/strengths/weaknesses in that order: "I lived to tell about BOB."/"I can tolerate BOB."/"Without my drugs, I'm BOB's familiar." The series, on the contrary, tells us that BOB was MIKE's familiar - and familiars aren't mutual. More on that in a few weeks.

• I will mostly be dealing with the spirits of Twin Peaks in a single, massive entry devoted to them collectively, within which I'll dive into individual entities. MIKE presents a dilemma, however, and requires some discussion here. In that entry, I'm focusing almost exclusively on instances when the spirits appear in their own form...but what is MIKE's form? When we're introduced to the spirit for the first time on the show, in Cooper's dream, BOB appears as BOB not Leland, but MIKE appears as Phillip Gerard. This is extremely confusing, but there are some obvious practical explanations...

• When writing season one, Lynch and Frost had not yet settled on the course their mystery would take (although both claim they identified their killer early in the process, they don't seem to have charted out a resolution). The "supernatural" elements of season one are usually more psychic than anything else; it's possible the one-armed man was not supposed to have any actual relationship to the "MIKE" in Cooper's dream, any more than Maddy knows the "cousin...who looks almost exactly like Laura Palmer" or Jacques' curtains and spinning record connect in some supernatural way to the Red Room. Rather, Cooper is remaining receptive to the universe and allowing clues to arrive in a dream form which will guide him in the real world. In that sense, Gerard's role is finished when he tells Cooper about his veterinarian friend (conveniently named "Bob") who happens to treat Jacques Renault' pet bird and work next to a convenience store that sells the twine Laura Palmer was tied up with. There's no mention of drugs or blackouts; Gerard's middle name is "Michael" but the tattoo on his lost arm read "Mom" not "Fire walk with me." Maybe Gerard will be brought back in connection with Bob Lydecker, whom we never get to see (though Gerard's glance at the police sketch confirms that he doesn't look like the Bob from Cooper's dream). Or, more likely, Gerard has just served his plot purpose and now we can move on...

• Except, of course, he hasn't and we don't. Because Gerard does come back, and it turns out he does have a relationship to MIKE - and how! I highly suspect this notion of spiritual possession, at least as far as Gerard goes (Leland may be another story), was a season two development and not something planned all along (according to several accounts, Lynch and Frost didn't even expect to be picked up for season two). Bringing back a great actor and a cool character, who could also continue to draw upon that goldmine of a dream, makes a lot of sense. At this point though, as the Log Lady says, "complications arise." We've seen MIKE. We've seen Gerard. They look the same. If MIKE is an inhabiting spirit, and so is BOB why does the former appear in his host's body when the latter doesn't - indeed can't (the mystery would be spoiled if he did)? It smells a lot like a retcon that was never fully retconned. As such, we have to come up with explanations on our own. And I'll save those for the upcoming "Spirit World" omnibus entry in a few weeks. For now I'll let MIKE himself have the final words.

• Because I already have so much material to work with, so far I've mostly avoided opening up the can of worms that is the USC retrospective series (literally a dozen hours of interviews with more than thirty cast and crew members). However, one of Strobel's comments is so interesting I took the time to dig it up again (someone uploaded videos of the entire series and I organized them onto a playlist). In a session that also includes great stories from Mary Sweeney, who edited the killer's reveal episode, Tim Hunter, who directed Leland's death, and two propmen loaded with anecdotes (and some actual props), Strobel talks about how he conceptualized and played the Gerard/MIKE divide.
"I have come to the conclusion - it was never fully stated - that there is an alternate universe where...some of the people who've studied physics know about string theory, some of these ideas that in fact we can see maybe five percent of what exists in the universe. We co-exist with so many other things and so many entities that are out there that sometimes they come into our world and sometimes they go [indistinguishable]. And I think that David was trying to get that. He meditates a lot, he's a great promoter of meditation and I hope everybody does. When you do that, you do put your mind into an alternate space other than the one that you're sitting in right now and I really think that my character and Leland and BOB, and I had my doppelganger sort of in Michael J. Anderson [who plays the little Man From Another Place] ... and the introduction of our almost otherworldly characters into the whole plot situation reflects the thinking that there is more out there than we can see."
The propman, sitting next to him, starts nodding and comments that on the set of Fire Walk With Me, Lynch actually used those words: "Jeff, it's an alternate universe. Just think of it that way."

• Strobel is quoted in Greg Olson's Lynch biography Beautiful Dark (slightly cleaning up a passage from an interview on the Fire Walk With Me DVD): "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is hard to look at if you're not prepared to look at a work of art. It's like going to a gallery and seeing extremely expressionistic paintings when you were expecting English landscapes. This was more a piece of art than a movie. The juxtaposition of horror and beauty has an elevating sense that brings out things in your mind and in your heart and in your soul like a very fine piece of art does. The critics didn't see that, and that makes me angry."


SHOWTIME: Yes, Strobel is on the cast list for 2017. No huge surprise here, as Lynch loves the character and the actor; Strobel himself has often stated that the only person he would come out of retirement for is Lynch. And yet in a way it is unusual, because both his Arm and his opponent won't be present. Will Strobel play Gerard or MIKE under Lynch's watch? (He's only played the former for less than a minute of Lynch screentime - a few seconds in the pilot, when the character wasn't even defined yet, and that very short scene in the season two premiere where supposedly straight-up Gerard seems about as cracked as the demon possessing him...I love how that blurry close-up of his grin anticipates the old couple in Mulholland Drive eleven years later.) Will the lines between the two worlds be blurred? Will we see him in the Red Room, Twin Peaks, or someplace new? I would love to find out more about his strange history, but something tells me we'll leave the upcoming series with even more questions about the mysterious one-armed man than we had going in.

Tomorrow: Eileen Hayward

No comments: