Wednesday, April 5, 2017

FBI Agents Chester "Chet" Desmond and Sam Stanley (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #33)


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.

Chet and Sam divide the qualities of a good detective between them and can't quite sync up to figure out what's going on.


Friday, February 12, 1988
FBI Special Agent Chester "Chet" Desmond, cool, aloof, and collected, gets a call from his supervisor Gordon Cole while making an unusual bust in Fargo, North Dakota. Two prostitutes and a bus driver are getting arrested in a field (unusually green and sunny for a winter day in Fargo), while a school bus full of schoolchildren wails behind them. Chet takes the call on his car phone and has to lower his antenna due to the volume of Gordon's voice. He's told that a seventeen-year-old girl named Teresa Banks has been killed, and he's to meet Gordon at the private Portland airport. There, Gordon introduces Chet to FBI Special Agent Sam Stanley, a nebbishy young blonde man in a bowtie carrying a strange green contraption. "Sam cracked the Whitman case!" Gordon crows. Sam may have cracked Whitman, but he can't make heads or tails of Lil, the woman in a red dress and bright red wig whom Gordon invites onto the tarmac to perform a strange symbolic dance for the agents. When she finishes, Gordon sends them on their way to Deer Meadow, the small town in Washington where Teresa was killed.

On the drive over, Chet explains all of Lil's clues: sour face = local authorities won't be receptive to FBI; both eyes blinking = trouble higher up; hand in her pocket = they'll be hiding something; fist = they'll be belligerent; walking in place = lots of legwork; Gordon calling her "his mother's sister girl" and placing his fingers over his face (like prison bars) = sheriff or deputy with an uncle in federal prison; tailored dress = drugs. After this bout of ridiculously literal codebreaking, Chet withholds one secret: the blue rose pinned to Lil's dress. "I can't tell you about that," he states calmly. At the Deer Meadow sheriff's station, Lil's clues suggestions prove true - the sheriff, deputy, and receptionist are all surly, guarded, and mocking. As Sam sits in the waiting room, tapping his knee and mumbling/mouthing something to himself while he glances around the room, Chet forces his way into Sheriff Cable's office. When Deputy Cliff Howard tries to block him, Chet mesmerizes the deputy for a moment with a raised hand and then lunges for his nose, pinching and dragging it over to a chair where he shoves Cliff.

Cable doesn't require such physical violence...yet. After the sheriff snickers, "when the state boys called me about a J. Edgar coming up here, I think I told them so what," Chet reminds him that "the operative word is federal," forcing the smirking, almost demonic sheriff to hand over a box of Teresa's possessions and the attendant paperwork. "A basic kill," he grumbles. "Teresa was a drifter and nobody knew her." On his way out back to the morgue (essentially a wooden shed with a freezer installed), Chet glimpses a newspaper clipping on the wall: headlined "Cable bends steel", it shows the sheriff doing just that with a steel rebar. As Chet and Sam enter the morgue, Sam reveals his own findings: "You know, Agent Desmond, I figure this whole office, furniture included, is worth $27,000." Chet stares back in silence. Inside the morgue, Chet reads Teresa's file. "No one came to claim the body," he reveals. "No known next of kin." Sam conducts the physical analysis, determining that Teresa was beaten repeatedly over the head, noticing the impression of a ring on her dirty hand (though no ring can be found), and finally extracting a small piece of paper with the letter "T" from underneath her left ring finger with the help of Sam's contraption.

Leaving the morgue at three-thirty in the morning after an eleven-hour session, Chet and Sam head to Hap's Diner, where Teresa worked the night shift as a waitress. They question a man named Jack in an entryway and then talk with Irene, a waitress. She isn't much help (she speculates that Teresa's brutal murder was "what you might call a freak accident") but does reveal her suspicions about Teresa's cocaine use, as well as the fact that Teresa's left arm once went numb. The agents also, briefly, talk to an old man and a young French woman sitting at the counter whose only input (besides repeatedly asking "Are you talking about that little girl who got murdered?") is to declare "I know shit from shinola." Chet, growing annoyed with Sam's earnestly oblivious interjections, notices that Sam is holding a cup of coffee and asks him what time it is. Sure enough, Sam instinctively checks his watch and spills the coffee all over his lap while Chet chuckles and faintly apologizes.

Saturday, February 13, 1988
Chet and Sam bid farewell (nearly saying "Goodnight, Irene," as they were warned not to) outside the diner before driving over to Fat Trout Trailer Park at sunrise. They disturb the grouchy Carl Rodd, owner of the park, who escorts them to Teresa's trailer. The detectives take their time looking around her trailer; Chet discovers a photo of Teresa wearing a green ring, presumably the one removed just before her death. Carl shares a couple mugs of "Good Morning America," and the agents wince at coffee's taste - "This stuff's sure got the sting of the forty-eight hour blend," Chet remarks. As they're drinking, a woman wanders into the trailer with an icepack held to her eye. "Did you know Teresa Banks?" Chet asks, but she shuffles away in silence. Carl seems particularly spooked; he and Chet share a moment as he explains, "You see, I've already gone places...I just wanna stay where I am."

Chet and Sam return to the sheriff's station where an FBI van waits to move Teresa's body. Cable has other ideas: "You're not taking that body anywhere." When Chet tries to change the subject to Teresa's ring, Cable smirks ghoulishly: "We got a phone here. It's got a little ring." Chet gazes back, impassive. Clearly this is going to be resolved some other way. Out back, Chet and Cable remove their badges and prepare for a fight. Cable bends a steel rebar to show his prowess and when Chet reaches for hiw own, Cable blindsides him with a punch to the gut, followed by a kick that knocks Chet to the ground. It's the last shot he'll get in. Chet stands up, assumes a boxer's stance, and the two begin circling one another. A very methodical two-and-a-half-minute fight unfolds, in which Cable never lays a hand on Chet. Chet, on the other hand, after missing his first five punches, land twenty in a row - mostly to Cable's face. The last punch knocks a kneeling Cable to the ground as Chet declares, "This one's coming from J. Edgar." Then he finishes bending the rebar and tosses it aside.

Teresa is loaded into the van, but Chet tells Sam he's staying behind because he wants to follow up on something in Fat Trout. Sam nods and mentions the blue rose - "you're going back to the trailer park for the blue rose." As dusk falls on Fat Trout, Carl reminds Chet where he can find Teresa's and Cliff's trailers. But when Carl wanders off with a tenant, Chet's attention is drawn to the power lines overhead and a utility pole marked by the number "6". He turns around and heads toward another trailer in the corner of the park. No one responds to his knock and when he looks underneath the trailer he discovers a mound of dirt with Teresa's ring on top of it. He reaches for the ring...

Tuesday, February 16, 1988
FBI Agent Dale Cooper visits Sam Stanley's workshop to inquire after Chet (who has vanished) and he seems perturbed by a large tub churning a thick white substance. Sam is chatty but Cooper is curt, cutting him off when he asks if Gordon showed him a woman named Lil; "Stanley," Cooper says almost as a rebuke, "I'm up to speed." When Sam tells Cooper that Chet wouldn't explain the blue rose, Cooper serenely stares him down. "And neither will I." As Sam goes on about his machine that solved the Whitman case, an exasperated Cooper groans with his entire body. However, he is interested in the "T" found on Teresa. Sam recalls Chet fondly (repeating, for the second time, Gordon's declaration that Chet has his own M.O.) and shakes Cooper's hand, offering his services if they're ever needed.

Characters Chet and Sam interact with onscreen…

Gordon Cole

Deputy Cliff

Sheriff Cable

Carl Rodd

Characters whose corpse they encounter

Teresa Banks

Characters only encountered by Sam

Agent Cooper

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Chet and Sam
Chet and Sam never visit Twin Peaks (Cooper makes damn sure of the latter point in the pilot; more on that below). Yet the Deer Meadow they visit in Fire Walk With Me is a twisted doppelganger of the TV series' town, with each location corresponding and inverting a place from the series in delightfully on-the-nose fashion (the yin/yang of the sheriff's stations and diners are obvious, but the trailer park may also be a rundown, open-air takeoff on the Great Northern). Chet and Sam themselves subvert Cooper's master detective by splitting and exaggerating his qualities. Chet is quiet intuition, picking up signals from the ether but unable to translate them. Sam's obsessive attention to detail and pedantic insistence on small points, helpful while analyzing a corpse, are comically useless in other circumstances. Chet and Sam crystallize the FBI's lack of power in Fire Walk With Me (a narrative in which the victim, not the detective, takes over) and letting the viewers know we're not in Kansas anymore. In fact, in Chet's case at least, this is the only time that a character's scenes form an entire solid chunk of narrative, no cuts between them. Chet is onscreen for twenty-six straight minutes of Fire Walk With Me, our guiding presence in virtually every moment; if we splice in his deleted scenes, the duration extends even further. Sam tags along, mostly existing in Chet's dramatic shadow even though he's the one who gets the most results from his endeavors. As a team, they provide an offbeat center to the even more off-kilter universe around them. They aren't familiar from the show, which is already a bit confusing, but we get whatever bearings we have by their side and when they disappear - literally in Chet's case - David Lynch is finally hammering home that he will provide no safe harbor.

Chet’s and Sam's journeys
Facing an interviewer as hostile as Sheriff Cable at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival (Geoff Andrew calls Fire Walk With Me "a deeply cynical exercise, a blatant attempt to cash in" and asks of Lynch "is there a sentient human being behind those obligatory threads?") Lynch attempted to explain what's going on in this prologue. "It's like opening a window and looking for a a moment; then closing it and asking someone to explain an hour's worth of scenario when they've only seen a small bit. It was like impressions a detective might get - a prologue of sensations, of feelings, of trying to capture something. The FBI doesn't have a clue what's happening, but they have their sensors going." The journey of Chet and Sam feels inseparable from the viewers' which is odd because, if we've watched the show, we already know more than they do...namely, who killed Teresa Banks. And yet we're led to believe this information is somehow insufficient - faced with the physical reality of this town and Teresa's corpse (so different from the almost angelic body of Laura discovered on the beach in Twin Peaks), "They made me kill that girl Teresa" rings hollow. Whatever's going on here run much deeper than that and so we tag along with Chet and Sam, just as confused but from a different angle.

Despite the many challenges and disappointments he faces, Chet doesn't feel diminished or exhausted at the end of his arc - he exhibits a consistently patient, maybe slightly frustrated curiosity from beginning to end. He arrives in town with a job to do, but no expectations, ready to receive whatever the town will yield and detect any openings he can move through when they appear. Sam provides the perfect foil for Chet's laid-back reticence, speaking when there's nothing to say, making plain his confusion in a way that only exacerbates it. These aren't people built for dramatic arcs; as Lynch's description so aptly evokes, they are receivers, not transmitters. When Chet disappears in Deer Meadow - an act reported later by Agent Albert Rosenfield and supposedly "represented" by the shot freezing and fading as he reaches for the ring - I don't see him taking a bold new leap into another realm (to the Lodge, for example, where most fans think he goes). I see his purpose within the narrative coming to an end. The ring has as yet been unknowable and Chet is not the one to know it (a task which must be left to Laura and the viewers on a more subconscious than conscious wavelength). So he, and we, must stop here. His journey has come to an end because it isn't really a journey at all; a journey requires a destination and there's no destination possible, that's the whole point.

One reading of the film holds that Cooper is dreaming the Deer Meadow sequence, reflecting back on an investigation he undertook and placing himself within the mysterious, quiet figure of Chet inside the dream (much as the protagonists of later Lynch films take on new personas to digest their own experiences). This makes some sense, especially considering that Chet Desmond ("CD" instead of "DC") was literally written into the script as a replacement for Cooper when Kyle MacLachlan initially refused to appear in the film. The majority of Cooper's dialogue was retained verbatim, which makes Chet's very different personality even more surreal in retrospect. Sam, meanwhile, was a character mentioned in the pilot; so most who subscribe to this theory would imagine Sam was Cooper's actual partner in the investigation. If I'm humoring this idea, however, I would prefer to think that Cooper visited Deer Meadow alone and that Chet and Sam represent a division of his personality into two spheres - the intuitive and the rational, which aren't quite getting along, and hence are unable to achieve satisfactory results. On the show, Cooper balances these dual detecting traits perfectly although as the series progresses, he tends to have more trouble, eventually splitting in two in the season finale (though that split doesn't necessarily correspond to an id/superego division).

Whether we read Chet/Sam as a literal or figurative representation of Cooper's duality, it's helpful to view them in relation to Cooper's successes and failures on the series, and his near-absence from Fire Walk With Me, especially the Laura part. Their journey is a dead end, as it must be, but sometimes dead ends can help us learn a better route. Perhaps more importantly, there's a certain moody, pleasurable aspect to many a cul de sac, isn't there?

Actor: Chris Isaak
Of German-Italian stock, from Stockton, California, Isaak was raised by a forklift-driver and potato-chip factory worker. He was elected class president through most of high school. Only after college did he launch his musical career, with his first album released by Warner Brothers when he was nearly thirty. David Lynch was responsible for much of his early placement on film soundtracks (a consistent element in Isaak's career; see also Married to the Mob, True Romance, and perhaps most famously "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing" in Eyes Wide Shut). Lynch was also responsible, somewhat indirectly, for Isaak's breakout as a star in the early nineties. His single "Wicked Game" debuted in 1989 and made a slight appearance in Billboard's charts, along with the album, before quickly disappearing. Then, a year later, a disc jockey who was also a major Lynch fan heard an instrumental version of the track in Lynch's film Wild at Heart. He was so impressed that he began played the vocal track in heavy rotation, and its popularity spread until the single soared back onto the charts, peaking at #5 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1991. Two music videos were created for "Wicked Game." One features clips from the film and is directed by Lynch. However, the second version is the one that became a sensation in its own right, for obvious reasons (see above). Isaak has continued acting, performing, and recording, sometimes combining his talents as in the The Chris Isaak Show, a comedic mockumentary about Isaak's backstage life which ran on Showtime for several years. (music video pictured: Wicked Game, 1991 - Isaak discusses its creation here)

Actor: Kiefer Sutherland
Sutherland is the son of seventies New Hollywood icon Donald Sutherland (and grandson, via his mother, of the Canadian politician credited with bringing universal health care to Canada). He was already a prolific, successful actor around the time of Fire Walk With Me, a veteran of Stand by Me, The Lost BoysYoung Guns, and Flatliners, with an interesting range from nerdy shy guy (1969) to vicious heavy (A Time to Kill) and sometimes both (Freeway - in which, interestingly enough, the characters' destination is Stockton, the real-life hometown of Sutherland's Fire Walk With Me FBI partner) . In the zeroes, Sutherland became a TV superstar as Jack Bauer in 24, earning a higher salary than any other actor in television. If David Bowie is the biggest star associated with Twin Peaks, Sutherland may well be the second-biggest. Perhaps his most notable cinematic work since that period has been Lars von Trier's Melancholia, in which he plays the hyper-rationalist husband of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Sutherland is currently the lead on the network show Designated Survivor, in which he's the one member of the cabinet to survive a terrorist attack - a lowly official raised to the powers of the presidency in an instant. I had a bit of fun with this idea on Twitter recently(film pictured: The Lost Boys, 1987)

Episodes
Never appeared on the TV series

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (feature film)

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

Writers/Directors
Chet and Sam are totally the work of David Lynch and Robert Engels, since they only appear in the feature film. It's always hard to say who wrote what, but the characters feel like a genuine meeting of these particular minds. According to several participants, over the course of Twin Peaks, as Lynch's working relationship with Frost became strained, and he began clashing with writer/producer Harley Peyton (who was very close to Frost), Lynch and Engels grew ever more chummy. By all accounts, one of their essential bonds was a shared sense of humor. While Lynch/Frost collaborations also wacky comedy, I think the Lynch/Engels flavor tended more toward arch exchanges filled with throwaway references and belabored puns. The lines are potentially groan-inducing but delivered with such blank, unblinking conviction that they end up working, drying out the corn so to speak. (An example of a line that goes a bit too far and was cut from the film: "He's a bozo," Chet says; "Yes," Sam agrees, "he is like a clown.") So much of the Chet/Sam dynamic feels like an expression of this sensibility; I would imagine that this is the section where their talents most converged and fed off of one another.

I didn't want to bog down the already-long daily descriptions any more, but now that the entry's almost over, it's time to share some of Chet's and Sam's best exchanges. They have a dry, absurd patter that really bears the mark of Lynch and Engels.
"Remember Lil's wearing a sour face."
"What do you mean?"
(long pause, looks at Sam with faint disgust) "Her face had a sour look on it."

"Yes, I didn't realize so many hours had passed. Did you, Agent Desmond?"
(silence, looks at Sam and says nothing)
"You have your own M.O., don't you, Agent Desmond?"

"Sam, I think you and I oughtta see the sun rise at the Fat Trout Trailer Park."
(very earnestly) "Agent Desmond...are you talking to me in code?"
(staring into his eyes and speaking softly, in a manner totally polite yet just a hair away from passive aggressive) "No, Sam. I'm speaking plainly. I mean exactly what I said."
(oddly relieved and attempting to be amiable) "Oh. Okay, well in that case we should go to the Fat Trout Trailer Park."

"We sure do need a good wake-me-up, don't we, Agent Desmond?"
(no answer, Chet pleasantly glances at Carl and back at Sam with no apparent intent to answer, but then Sam only waits a couple seconds before repeating himself in the same tone and at the same clip)
"We sure do need a good wake-me-up, don't we, Agent Desmond?"
(slight cough, agreeable enough to throw this dog a bone, or maybe just cheerfully half-asleep) "Yeah we do, Sam!"
(Sam laughs, like he's just been patted on the head.)
Looking at these interactions, a certain dynamic emerges. If Cooper can barely disguise his contempt for Sam, Chet seems at times to have an vaguely condescending but sincere affection, or at least bemused toleration, for the eager-to-please (but also slightly lost-in-his-own-world) prodigy. Lynch and Engels really captured something sort of brotherly about their relationship, in the manner of say, a sixteen-year-old cool dude accommodating his bright-but-socially-awkward thirteen-year-old sibling as he tags along.

Statistics
Chet and Sam are onscreen for roughly thirty-three minutes. They are in fifteen scenes in Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces, taking place over a few days (but mostly within a day and a half). Their primary location is the Deer Meadow sheriff's station/morgue. Aside from each other, obviously, they share the most screentime with Cable. Collectively, they are second only to Laura in Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces. Individually? Chet is onscreen for roughly thirty-one minutes, with fourteen scenes, and is still the second-ranked character of the film. Sam is onscreen for roughly twenty-four minutes, with thirteen scenes, and would be the fifth-ranked character of the film.

Best Scene
Fire Walk With Me: Inside Teresa's trailer, the morning haze of the sleep-deprived agents drapes the scene in a woozy yet lucid haze; Chet's first breakthrough arrives with the photo (and the sight of Teresa as she once was), Chet's and Sam's brittle banter breaks into chummy camaraderie, and a wounded lady provides Chet and Carl with an iconic moment.

Best Lines
Chet: “What time is it, Stanley?” (mostly because of that smirk)

Sam: “Nicotine's a drug. Caffeine's a drug.”

Chet and Sam Offscreen

The Pilot: While examining Laura Palmer's corpse, Cooper finds a letter under her fingernail (in this case an "R"). Excitedly, he reports this discovery to Diane on his tape recorder, and then requests, "Diane, give this to Albert and his team. Don't go to Sam, Albert seems to have a little more on the ball."

Fire Walk With Me: After Phillip Jeffries mysteriously disappears from Gordon's office in Philadelphia, Albert makes a phone call to the front desk and reports that Jeffries never entered the building and adds something else he just learned: "News from Deer Meadow. Agent Chester Desmond has disappeared!" Gordon, after checking a surveillance tape to ensure that Jeffries really was on their floor, asks Cooper, "Where is Chester Desmond?" We linger on this shot for a few moments, and if you glance at the monitor in the righthand corner, a man who looks remarkably like Chet strolls toward the entrance of the building. Sure, the image is tiny and it could be any agent in the standard-issue trenchcoat, but something about the swagger instantly evokes Chet - and I've noticed several people draw this conclusion independently of one another. The proceeding scenes offer no indication Chet was found (quite the contrary), so I have no explanation but I like to think Lynch put it there on purpose, even if he himself can't explain.

In the following scene from the movie, Cooper visits the trailer park where Chet was last seen. He comes across an empty lot - which is where the trailer Chet was reaching under was parked and asks Carl who lives there. Carl reports that two different Chalfont families resided in that spot - "Weird, huh?" - one of whom was an old woman and her grandson; both details immediately reminds us of the two different Tremonds in the series (and sure enough, the grandmother and grandson are listed as both Chalfonts and Tremonds in the end credits). Cooper discovers Chet's abandoned car with a message painted on the windshield: "Let's rock" (either a message from the spirit world, or mundane teenage graffiti which later finds its way into Cooper's dream/spiritual life). Cooper reports his findings to Diane and admits the investigation has led to dead ends.

• 

Deleted dialogue: When Gordon calls Chet, he tells him "GOT A MAP OF THE ENVIRONS OF YAKIMA INDIAN RESERVATION WITH YOUR NAME ON IT. BETTER BRING A POLE." When Chet tells Sam that Gordon speaks in code, he pulls his arm back so only his hand show above his sleeve and says, "Kind of a shorthand," a visual gag that Sam doesn't get. Sam asks what Gordon's tie meant, and Chet says it was just poor taste in fashion, not code. At the diner, when Irene introduces herself to them she says "Take a good look around - there's nobody in this place - you're meetin' the reason why." Chet asks her why Jack lets her work there and she informs him "Jack and I are united in holy matrimony." "Say no more," Chet replies. Irene informs them that Teresa applied for the job with a friend who looked like her ("could've been her sister") but there was only one job available so the other friend left.

At the trailer park, Carl also tells them Teresa had a friend with her who left ("Was there an argument?" Chet asks; Carl isn't sure but notes, "Arguments do happen, don't they?"). It is also revealed that Teresa rented the trailer from a Mrs. Simmons who lives in town. The agents talk about how they need to blow up the picture of Teresa's ring to make out more details, and Cliff shows up (he lives in the park) and gets into another argument with the FBI agents (this is discussed more extensively in Cliff's entry). Chet finds a golf ball underneath Teresa's trailer - interestingly in the finished film, Lynch chooses to avoid anything that might indicate Leland; obviously we know he did it but there's a weird feeling of disconnect between that knowledge and what we see of the aftermath in Deer Meadow. At the sheriff's station, Chet questions Cable about his own alibi (as he did with Cliff) and the sheriff challenges him to a fight - something we gloss over even in The Missing Pieces.

And then there's a very interesting change. In the script, Sam still says, "One thing has been troubling me." But he follows this up not with the blue rose, but with "The lamp at the diner. Do you think they were working on it for esthetic reasons or was their work due to faulty wiring?" Chet responds, "Faulty wiring," and Sam continues, "Esthetics are subjective, aren't they, Agent Desmond?" At this point, after shaking hands and saying the same thing he says to Cooper later, Sam does ask Chet if he's going back to the trailer park for the blue rose.

Additional Observations

• In his book of cultural/political essays The Shape of Things to Come, published in 2006 when few writers in any field were discussing Fire Walk With Me, Greil Marcus devotes an entire essay to this film, titled "American Pastoral: Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer." The emphasis is obvious based on the title, he devotes several pages to Deer Meadow in one of the most evocative, exciting descriptions I've read, with particular emphasis on the above image...
"You begin to notice the state of the trailers. Except for Banks's, which has a white picket fence around it, they are decrepit, peeling, cracking, boarded up, abandoned. The residents are blind and crippled. This is the residential hotel as garbage drump, or the last frontier of what could be called a town, a place that deserves a California Gold Rush name: Rough and Ready or Confidence for irony, maybe, Hangtown or Sloughhouse for what it is. 
Desmond sends Stanley and the body off to Portland. With dusk coming on, he returns to Fat Trout, to check out the trailer where the sheriff's deputy lives, he says, though the way he walks and talks says something else. This is a place he cannot stay away from. It has a kind of gravity that can't be found anywhere else. The fact that there's another trailer in the place belonging to someone at least formally connected to the case is if nothing else an excuse to go back. 
The park operator banters with Desmond; then he walks a complaining woman with a stiff leg out of the frame, and for a moment Desmond occupies the center of a shot so perfect it becomes less a frame in a film than a painting on a wall, a painting that is also a door. Though the shot occupies a split second, in memory it can expand until it seems like an entire scene, as if everything the film has done with Desmond up to this point has been nothing but an excuse to get him here, standing exactly as he is. For its moment it is one of the most complete and uncanny images of America ever produced. 
Desmond is standing in the center of the picture, in his trenchcoat with his feet planted on muddy ground, framed off center by a line of smashed-together trailers and splintering shacks on this right, the line fading out in a receding perspective; the same sort of structures are on his left, but with less weight. The lanky FBI agent is himself the weight, the only anchor the shot has; the longer you look, freezing the frame, the more abstract it feels, the more everything feels as if it's floating off the ground. Earlier, showing Desmond around Fat Trout, the park operator had stopped, looking at a telephone pole as if it were alive, as if it were reminding him it will kill him if he tells what he knows. Now Desmond sees the telephone pole, though really the feeling is that it sees him. Behind Desmond is a desiccated fire tree; far beyond that are the purple mountains you know from 'America the Beautiful.' 
In the instant, a scene  from the country's founding plays itself out again, Fitzgerald imagining the first Dutch sailors to reach American shores: 'For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.' It's that contemplation that now fills Desmond's face - and if a trailer park can stand for a country and if Fat Trout is saying that the country has been abandoned, no one left but people who have reached its absolute dead end ('I've been places,' the park operator has said a minute before, begging the agent to accept his cowardice, to not ask why he doesn't want to talk, about Teresa Banks's murder or anything else: 'I just want to stay where I am'), the mountains that form the backdrop to the ruins around Desmond say what they have always said: there was no last time. The wonder that was there to be seen nearly four hundred years before, and two hundred years after that through the eyes of the Hudson River painters, is as visible now as it ever was; what has been used up is not the wonder, but the eyes of the people below the mountains, the country that set itself up in their shadow."

SHOWTIME: No, neither Isaak nor Sutherland are on the cast list for 2017. Sutherland's TV salary is, I'd imagine, way outside the Twin Peaks budget although he enjoyed his work on the film and reveres Lynch, so there's always a possibility he'd take a pay cut. He mentioned in a tweet last year that he was working on secret projects, so maybe his casting has been kept under wraps? Likewise, Isaak's absence from the cast list might conceal a surprise (if Lynch is going to be secretive about anyone, something tells me it would be these two). Brad Dukes looked into Isaak's touring schedule and noticed that he had a quiet month in the midst of his busy itinerary around the time Twin Peaks was shooting in L.A. Perhaps "Where is Chester Desmond?" will finally get an answer.

Or, hell, maybe it was all a dream after all.

Tomorrow: Annie Blackburn
Yesterday: Mike Nelson

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