Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Major Garland Briggs, USAF (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #22)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Major Garland Briggs, USAF (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #22)


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.

Major Briggs explores the depth of the woods and the distance of the stars, yet he keeps his feet on solid ground.


Thursday, February 23, 1989
All is calm in the Briggs household. Garland Briggs, a major in the U.S. Air Force, sits in his easy chair reading aloud from the Book of Revelation while his wife Betty quietly sews on the sofa. The apocalyptic language of the text makes a marked contrast with the placid environment, suggesting that outside these secure walls, a storm brews - a storm the Briggs are both in touch with and able to keep at a safe distance. Laura Palmer, a popular teenager, shows up at the door and asks for her boyfriend, their son Bobby. Told that he's in the basement, Laura jokes, "Right where he belongs, right?" and the Major chuckles as she descends the stairs. When she and Bobby come back up and Laura leaves, the Major notices that Bobby is lighting a cigarette. "Robert," he asks in a measured tone of voice, "please put out the cigarette." Bobby ignores them and goes back downstairs alone.

Friday, February 24, 1989
The Briggs sit in their kitchen the following morning; the Major reads the paper while Betty massages his shoulders. The phone rings, Betty answers, and a deeply troubled day begins. By evening, when the Major and his wife pick Bobby up from the sheriff's station, word has spread around town. Laura Palmer was murdered last night and the sheriff has taken Bobby in for questioning. The Briggs talk to their lawyer in the foyer; as Bobby and his friend storm out, father tries to comfort son - to little effect. "I'll be home tonight, if you need a sympathetic ear," the Major offers, to which his son scoffs, "I don't need any damn sympathetic anything."

Saturday, February 25, 1989
Bobby didn't come home after that - he got into a fight at the Road House and wound up in the sheriff's station again, this time overnight in a jail cell. Released without charge, Bobby joins his parents for dinner, folding his arms as they pray. The Major tries to break through to Bobby. "I respect your rebellious nature," he claims, but the teenager isn't impressed. The Major tries another route. "Silence can be golden," he ventures optimistically while Bobby, as if to clarify what his silence really means, arrogantly lifts a cigarette to his lips. The Major slaps it clean across the table (the unlit butt lands perfectly in his wife's meat loaf). His tone becomes harsher and he points a finger angrily in his son's face: however measured his speech, there is real force behind these words after all.

Monday, February 27, 1989
Third time's the charm? The Major sits down with Bobby, gently rather than adamantly asking him to stop smoking. He pontificates about death and the importance of ceremony. Today is Laura's funeral; perhaps the Major can relate to Bobby on this point since he had to bury so many of his comrades in war. No luck. As soon as he mentions being afraid, Bobby flips out: "Afraid??? I'm going to turn it upside down!!!" And indeed he does cause quite the scene at his girlfriend's burial, culminating in a fight with another young man which the Major has to help break up.

Wednesday, March 1, 1989
Desperate for help, the Briggs explain Bobby's various problems - the fights, the drinking, the sour attitude - to the psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Jacoby. Bobby sprawls out on the couch, bantering instead of reflecting. He notes that his father has killed people ("In war!" the Major protests; "That's different," Betty explains helpfully) and that alcohol doesn't count as a drug. Jacoby asks the parents to leave the room so that he can meet with each member of the family individually, starting with Bobby. The Major is miffed ("This is supposed to be family counseling!") but they agree, hopeful the doctor can achieve a breakthrough where they could not. That evening, the Major attends a grand party welcoming a group of Icelandic investors to the Great Northern Hotel. He waxes eloquent about the lingering myths and legends of Scandinavia to the group's leader, who seems more interested in his food than the Major's conversation. The well-meaning officer can't seem to connect with anyone lately...

Friday, March 3, 1989
And then, a mere day and a half later, something is just...different. Perhaps the Major himself has given up and by ceasing to try so hard, he opened the path to a more natural connection. Maybe something intangible in the town's atmosphere has changed, a larger force aligning the elements so that an opening appears. Or it could be Bobby who has transformed overnight, based on unspoken but deeply-felt experiences lifting a cloud from his vision and allowing him to see clearly for the first time. Whatever the reason, when the Major spots Bobby at the counter of the RR Diner, he invites his son to join him in a nearby booth and Bobby accepts. The Major doesn't ask Bobby to put out his cigarette, but the young man does anyway, figuring it's not worth the trouble. He slouches across from his dad, a bit more polite than usual but still not very engaged. The Major offers a slice of pie; Bobby declines. And then the father opens up to his son.
"A vision I had in my sleep last night. As distinguished from a dream, which is mere sorting and cataloging of the day's events by the subconscious. This was a vision, fresh and clear as a mountain stream, the mind revealing itself to itself. In my vision I was on the veranda of a vast estate, a palazzo of some fantastic proportion. There seemed to emanate from it a light, from within this gleaming, radiant marble. I had known this place. I had, in fact, been born and raised there. This was my first return, a reunion with the deepest wellsprings of my being. Wandering about I noticed happily that the house had been immaculately maintained. There had been added to it a number of additional rooms but in a way that blended in so seamlessly with the original construction one would never detect any difference. Returning to the house's grand foyer, there came a knock at the door. My son was standing there. He was happy and carefree, clearly living a life of deep harmony and joy. We embraced, a warm and loving embrace, nothing withheld. We were, in this moment, one. My vision ended and I awoke with a tremendous feeling of optimism and confidence in you and your future. That was my vision of you."
By the end of this speech, patiently and meticulously delivered with all of the Major's inherent thoughtfulness but none of his recent fussiness, Bobby is deeply moved. The Major rises from his seat and shakes Bobby's hand. "I wish you nothing but the very best in all things," he tells the weeping young man with a sincerity as crystal-clear as the mountain stream he just described. As he leaves the diner he exchanges a quick salute with Hank, husband of the diner's owner, and praises the pie.

Saturday, March 4, 1989
The Major is lost in thought as he sits at the diner counter. He is briefly distracted by a local deputy struggling with scotch tape at the door, but as the diner's owner scolds an unusual local nicknamed "The Log Lady," the Major seems preoccupied with something else. The Log Lady interrupts this reverie, at first a bit harshly (asking if he's proud because he wears "shiny objects on [his] chest," and insisting that the log she carries everywhere does not introduce itself), but then in a more measured fashion as he demonstrates his respect. According to her log, the Major needs "to deliver the message." The Major understands immediately what this means. That night he visits FBI Agent Dale Cooper, staying at the Great Northern Hotel as he investigates Laura's murder. The Major explains that his work involves deep-space monitors; some curious signals were picked up several nights ago, around the time Cooper was shot. He shows several printouts, mostly filled with a hodgepodge of letters and numbers but for two intervals: "THE/OWLS/ARE/NOT/WHAT/ THEY/SEEM" and "COOPER/COOPER/COOPER/COOPER/COOPER..."

Saturday, March 11, 1989
In the midst of a thunderstorm, the Major appears at the Road House with an elderly room service waiter from the Great Northern, who flagged him down on a rainy road and asked for a ride. When they arrive at his destination, they discover Cooper and several other townspeople gathered for some obscure purpose. The Major watches as Cooper tells them that his investigation has employed many methods and now he's going to use "magic" to find the killer. After lightning strikes, he turns to the other lawmen and identifies Benjamin Horne, owner of the Great Northern, who is already in police custody; Leland Palmer, Laura's father but also Ben's attorney, accompanies them back to the sheriff's station. The Major watches in amazement, uncertain what he's just seen.

Sunday, March 12, 1989
The next morning, the Major is waiting for Cooper, Sheriff Harry Truman, and another FBI agent as they trek wearily down a path flanked by sun-dappled trees. They have just witnessed something incredible, and somehow the Major understands. They discuss how Leland could've killed his own daughter, and whether a spirit named BOB truly possessed him or if he was just insane. "Gentleman," the Major paraphrases, "there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy." Confronted by the brutality of the crime, the Major wonders if it matters what caused it and Cooper affirms it does - because it's their job to stop it.

Wednesday, March 15, 1989
The Major greets Dr. Jacoby at Leland's funeral, and when Cooper says he's thinking of using his vacation days, the Major suggests some night-fishing. Over a campfire later that night (toasting marshmallows), they discuss BOB. The Major advises Cooper that some people must face darkness and choose whether or not to react to it with fear. The Major also mentions a place called the White Lodge. As Cooper heads into the bushes to relieve himself, a bright light flashes - surrounding a hooded figure who stands in silhouette on a small hill nearby - and the Major disappears.

Friday, March 17, 1989
The Major reappears in his own home, wearing an old pilot's uniform. He is greeted by his stunned wife and son. Calmly, he asks the latter to put out his cigarette and fetch a cocktail.

Saturday, March 18, 1989
At the sheriff's station, the Major attempts to report his experiences in the woods, evoking a vision of him sitting on a throne amidst lush foliage. A tattoo - of three triangles placed to form a kind of "hazard" signal - has been emblazoned on his neck. The Major mentions his involvement with Project Blue Book, a military investigation into UFOs in the late sixties (noting that after it was supposedly "shut down," many of those involved continued their work not just by focusing on the stars, but also the woods around Twin Peaks). He touches the wooden table and murmurs, "Is this meant for the soul? My soul?" Before he can reveal much, several soldiers burst into the conference room and demand that he leave with them.

Sunday, March 19, 1989
The Major stumbles into the sheriff's station and collapses before the receptionist's desk. Revived with water, he tells Truman and Cooper that he believes he was taken to the White Lodge during his disappearance, and that he has begun to suspect the Air Force's motives in searching for the Lodge "are not ideologically pure." He tells the lawmen that when they need him he'll "be in the shadows."

Wednesday, March 22, 1989
Enjoying a piece of pie at the diner ("Compelling," he tells the young waitress), he runs into the Log Lady again. She is stunned to discover they share similar tattoos. At the sheriff's station, the Major listens as the Log Lady explains to Cooper how she received her own tattoo (on her leg) when she disappeared in the woods as a child.

Friday, March 24, 1989
As Andy draws a reproduction of a petroglyph found in Owl Cave, the Major studies it intently (even correcting him on a few points - though he hasn't been to the cave, he recognizes the drawing from dreams). Cooper enters the sheriff's conference room asks the Major to help them look into the history of Project Blue Book, where he worked with murderous rogue FBI agent Windom Earle - who is now hiding out near Twin Peaks and threatening townspeople. The Major is worried that sharing such confidential information might betray his military oath but he considers the petroglyph and envisions flames, owls, and the hooded figure from the woods before agreeing to participate.

Saturday, March 25, 1989
The Major, surrounded by Blue Book files at the station, describes Windom's involvement with the project in the sixties - how he was brilliant but became erratic and paranoid. The group watches a video of Windom from the time, in which a gloomy figure mumbles about dugpas, ancient sorcerers who could access the evil in the Black Lodge. Cooper concludes that the Lodge is Windom's real purpose in coming to Twin Peaks, and everything else (his murders, his taunts of Cooper, the chess game he's been conducting with him) is meant as a decoy. The Major decides to go for a walk in the woods to clear his mind; he was so disturbed by his findings that he couldn't sleep the night before. In the forest, the Major runs into a strange sight. Two men in a horse costumes stroll toward him yodeling a western song and neighing, "Hello, Wilbur!" before firing a stun gun directly into the Major's neck. Before he passes out, he sees the horse unmask itself to reveal a cackling Windom. At Windom's cabin in the woods, the Major is tied up and questioned by the apparent madman, who fires arrows dangerously near his head when he refuses to answer. Injecting the Major with a truth serum, Windom starts to get answers: the Major first saw the petroglyph in dreams, his greatest fear is that "love is not enough," and the Lodge will open when Jupiter and Saturn meet. That night, as Windom breaks down the meaning of the petroglyph and laughs with glee, the Major and Leo Johnson (a local troublemaker who has been captured by Windom and turned into a monosyllabic henchman) experience intense seizures and disturbances, aided no doubt by the drugs Windom has administered to the Major.

Sunday, March 26, 1989
The following morning, with Windom gone from the cabin, Leo finds a key that unlocks the Major's chains. He sends him on his way, pleading "Save Shelly!" (Leo's wife, whom Windom has threatened). The Major stumbles through the woods, barely able to stand upright given the stated of his mind. Deputy Hawk discovers him on a dirt road and brings him back to the sheriff's station where, wrapped in a blanket, he struggles to answer Cooper's and Truman's questions (Cooper identifies the drug he's on as Haloperidol). Through a mixture of free association, rambling attempts to provide direct answers, and cryptic statements like "The King of Romania was unable to attend," the Major eventually guides the lawmen to understand that the door to the Black Lodge will open when Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction (as they are now) and that Windom intends to "take the queen" (the winner of the currently unfolding Miss Twin Peaks contest). The Major himself seems barely aware of any of this as he shudders and stutters; he remains behind as everyone else flees the station to stop Windom, all the more determined once they discover that Windom has been spying on them, via a bug, all week.

Monday, March 27, 1989
A scar on his head but otherwise recovered, the Major sits in a booth at the diner with his wife and enjoys coffee and a kiss. Sarah Palmer, the mother of Laura, is escorted into the diner by Dr. Jacoby, who says she has a message for the Major. He listens intently as she speaks in a strange voice: "I'm in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper." Sternly reflective, the Major contemplates his next move.

Characters the Major interacts with onscreen…

Betty Briggs

Bobby Briggs

Dr. Jacoby

Einar Thorson

Hank Jennings

The Log Lady

Agent Cooper

Room Service Waiter

Albert Rosenfield

Sheriff Truman

Doc Hayward

Lucy Moran

Shelly Johnson

Deputy Andy

Windom Earle

Leo Johnson

Deputy Hawk

Sarah Palmer

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through the Major
Major Briggs is one of those perfect figures who sum up the spirit of Twin Peaks, or at least one big chunk of that spirit. He's entirely earnest and honest, an authority figure who wears that authority in a dignified, thoughtful manner. He believes in oaths, and duty, and the integrity of institutions but also the necessity of individual conscience in navigating these matters. In other words, he is an idealized patriarchal, all-American traditional figure, a throwback to the postwar era when mainstream depictions of military officers tended toward respect and deference rather than a suspicious resistance. Yet he is also deeply immersed in the weird side of Twin Peaks, its connection to the supernatural and paranormal, its faith in dreams and intuition - while we see him reverently reading the Bible, his spirituality is quite amenable with New Age currents of the late eighties and early nineties. Despite his occasional stodgy and/or disciplinarian flourishes with Bobby, the Major exhibits a kind, generous, and patient demeanor. He is accepting of the Log Lady's unconventional (and feminine) wisdom in a way that even Cooper initially isn't and he openly express his warm, fatherly love for Bobby in a way that finally wins over the gruff teenager. The Major's sensitivity and solidity mutually reinforce one another: a kinder, gentler conservatism that isn't just campaign rhetoric. In other words, Major Briggs demonstrates Twin Peaks' willingness to turn cliches on their heads (and to take others to their logical extreme) not merely to be subversive and quirky, but out of a deeper ethos and vision of the world.

The Major’s journey
So many character lose their way in the second season, but the Major finds his true path. He's a fairly minor supporting character in season one, an awkward if well-meaning bumbler whose stiff bearing and comical verbosity align with a relatively benign strain of pop culture's tendency to ridicule stick-in-the-mud officers. This attitude certainly gained traction with the antiwar sentiment of the late sixties, but was evident in irreverent products of earlier eras - it may in fact be rooted in the military itself: a grunt's eye view of the big brass' pomposity that co-existed with the World War II/Cold War lionization of generals ranging from the humble Marshall to the vain MacArthur. This vision of the Major is emphasized by the wild contrast with his own son whose quasi-greaser hair, leather jacket, and ever-present cigarette recall the era when "teen culture" first became a thing (and if Bobby seems like a figure transplanted from the fifties or early sixties, so does the Major - his age means the "war" he references must be Vietnam, but it's hard not to imagine him twenty years out from D-Day rather than Da Nang).

Had the Major just remained a conventional stick-in-the-mud, he wouldn't be the fan favorite he is today. Lynch and Frost had other plans for him in season two, evident as early as the premiere. In its own way, it's a sudden shift in character as radical as Donna's, Maddy's, or Leland's, and it spills over to Bobby as well. With a single speech, the Major resets expectations for his character and clears the way for one of the most interesting developments of the second season. In the following episode, he opens up a whole new direction for the series (albeit one slightly misleading in its emphasis on "the stars above"), which essentially begins his dramatic arc. After all, until this moment, the Major has been a side note in Bobby's story, not a character in his own right; even that magnificent moment in the diner, when he blossoms into a rich, fully realized person in his own right, attaches the Major to Bobby's own development. From his visit to Cooper onward, however, the Major hardly appears with Bobby at all; after a long break his recurring appearances are tied to the growing prominence of the Lodges. In the final episodes of the series, the Major becomes one of the primary protagonists battling Windom's plans alongside Cooper and Truman. Had a season three been commissioned in 1991, the Major almost certainly would have been elevated to the top echelon of the ensemble.

Even without that elevation, here he is very near the top twenty characters in Twin Peaks. Looking ahead, there will be few other characters whose prominence is so disproportionately rooted in the second season, and none whose rise to the top occurs almost entirely in the series' back half, after the central mystery has ended. As such, Major Briggs became one of the most promising characters in Twin Peaks; his journey takes him to a place where he, and almost he alone, represents the possibility of the Lodge mythology to open this narrative in an ongoing, ever-expanding direction.

Actor: Don Davis
As with several Twin Peaks actors, Davis' personal appearances suggested a spirit not very far from the character he played - although Davis probably had a more wry sense of humor than the lovably serious Major Briggs. Like the Major, however, he was recognized as a warm, gentlemanly, thoughtful individual, a regular at fan events like the Twin Peaks Festival. An erudite scholar, teacher, and artist, Davis earned a PhD in Theater (with an emphasis on set design) in the seventies, and shifted toward practice rather than instruction in the eighties. Living in Vancouver but working in Seattle when Lynch and Frost were casting the pilot, he remained a Canadian resident while the series was picked up and re-located to Los Angeles, re-settling in Nevada only after it ended.

Davis received his first screen credit at forty, and racked up nearly a hundred fifty more in the next twenty-five years, averaging six a year (not including various episodes of the same series). He appears in films like Hook, A League of Their Own, Hero, Cliffhanger, Needful Things, and The Fan, while TV guest roles include MacGyver, Wiseguy, L.A. Law, 21 Jump Street, Knots Landing, Columbo, Highlander, Northern Exposure, The Outer Limits, The West Wing, NCIS, and The Chris Isaak Show; Simultaneously with Twin Peaks, he had a recurring role on Miguel Ferrer's show Broken Badges (which also starred upcoming Twin Peaks player Ernie Hudson). Later he appeared in seven episodes of Madison as Mr. Winslow.

Having served in the Army during (but not in) Vietnam, eventually rising to the rank of captain, Davis struck many a casting director as the military type. In his acting career at least, Davis kept shifting branches, playing officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force at various point (I'm not sure if he was ever enlisted in the Marines). He was also frequently cast as as policemen, judges, doctors, pastors, prison guards, politicians, and various other officials. In addition to Major Briggs, he played a Navy veteran in The X-Files (a small but crucially important character: the father of Dana Scully), and, in the biggest role of his career, with one hundred sixty episodes, Air Force General George Hammond on Stargate SG-1(series pictured: The X-Files, 1994)

Episodes
The Pilot

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

Episode 3 (German title: "Rest in Pain")

Episode 5 (German title: "Cooper's Dreams")

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

*Episode 9 (German title: "Coma" - best episode)

Episode 16 (German title: "Arbitrary Law")

Episode 17 (German title: "Dispute Between Brothers")

Episode 19 (German title: "The Black Widow")

Episode 20 (German title: "Checkmate")

Episode 21 (German title: "Double Play")

Episode 24 (German title: "Wounds and Scars")

Episode 26 (German title: "Variations on Relations")

Episode 27 (German title: "The Path to the Black Lodge")

Episode 28 (German title: "Miss Twin Peaks")

Episode 29 (German title: "Beyond Life and Death")

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

Writers/Directors
Including his famous speech (which is delivered almost verbatim from the page), Mark Frost writes the Major eight times (twice solo, including that famous speech). Harley Peyton is also credited for eight episodes (three times solo, including his delivery of the message and recounting of the disappearance in the woods). Engels writes the Major four times (never solo), including for Fire Walk With Me, while Lynch - also including the film's screenplay - writes him thrice. The Major appears in half of the teleplays by Barry Pullman, Tricia Brock, and Scott Frost (twice in the first case, once for the latter two).

As will increasingly be the case, most directors have a shot at the Major (with the exception of Graeme Clifford, Diane Keaton and - somewhat ironically, given his fondness - Mark Frost). Most, even including directors with multiple episodes, only direct him once. Tim Hunter and Tina Rathborne get two episodes each with the Major, while Lynch directs him five times. Those last two directors had an interesting (and revealing) exchange about the character as revealed in the episode 3 DVD commentary (included in the 2001 release but excised from later editions).

Preparing for the episode, Rathborne presumed that the Major was a clueless fuddy-duddy, an oppressive presence in his rebellious son's life, the square bearing down on the cool kid. However, she checked with Lynch first and was surprised by his answer: No, he corrected her, Bobby's father is a very wise man. So she treated the scene more ambivalently, as a fruitless, poignant attempt to connect - and the character, however muddled in season one, remained open for the clarification of early season two.

Statistics
The Major is onscreen for roughly fifty-two minutes. He is in thirty-two scenes in sixteen episodes, taking place over a month. He's featured the most in episode 27, when he is kidnapped by Windom. He appears the most in the sheriff's station. He shares the most screentime with Cooper. He is one of the top ten characters in episodes 9 and 28, and third only to Cooper and Windom in episode 27. He isn't even among the top thirty characters of season one, but just makes the cut for top twenty in (the much more crowded) season two.

Best Scene
Episode 8: Father and son finally bond over a visionary dream.

Best Line
“Achievement is its own reward. Pride obscures it.”

Additional Observations

• The Major is seldom discussed when he's not onscreen, except for the two episodes in which he's gone missing. Betty Briggs visits the sheriff's station after the Major disappears and explains that he often vanishes, and that he speaks about the woods constantly. In episode 19, Colonel Calvin Reilly, leading the Air Force investigation into the Major's disappearance, visits Cooper and Truman. He explains that the message Cooper received from the Major didn't come from outer space, it came from the woods. Ominously, he declares, "Garland Briggs is the best pilot I've ever known. He was born with hardware most of us only dream of having. He's been walking point on this operation for three years, carrying a full pack. I'll tell you this: his disappearance has implications that go so far beyond national security the cold war seems like a case of the sniffles." Bobby finds his mother sitting up at home late at night with the lights off, worrying about the Major. Betty tells Bobby how the Major will run his hand through her hair at night, and Bobby tells her about the vision he shared with him a few weeks ago. "My father is a deeply weird individual," Bobby remarks, "but he's got more going on under his hat than most people." In episode 28, Windom scolds Leo for releasing Major Briggs; as punishment, he rigs a cage full of tarantulas over Leo's head (with the rope holding them aloft placed between his teeth).

• On the DVD collection released in 2001, reproduced on the recent blu-ray set (disc 6), there are a series of interviews with cast members. These "postcards from the cast" include some truly visionary accounts - Al Strobel's near-death experience when he lost his arm and Richard Beymer's journey down the Amazon to take ayahuasca (about halfway through the interview, the camera pans across from the very serious Beymer to reveal a giggling Michael J. Anderson). Davis' postcard is, as I recall, one of the longest, including a visit to his home office and woodshop in which he offers bittersweet reminiscences and poignant reflections on his life.

• One of my favorite moments with Davis, however, is simple, short, and buried in another bonus feature (the cast/crew grid on disc 7 of the blu-ray). Davis wistfully recounts an on-set anecdote from Twin Peaks with deadpan sincerity that probably has to be watched to be truly appreciated:
"The main thing I remember about that whole sequence with Windom Earle, being captured and chained to the shack wall and before that shot with a dart at the tree, was an unfortunate incident that occurred. We were filming out at the Burbank airport and we had been fed a lunch, a Mexican lunch, which is my favorite food, Mexican food. And I had eaten some refried beans. And when the dart hit and I fell, an elephant wouldn't have broken wind any louder than I did. Thank God my poop don't stink. Or whatever. But there was a young girl working as a PA, assisting the prop master, and she was a few feet from me. And she'd been very friendly up till that point. From that point on, she hated me. She wouldn't smile at me. She would probably turn and walk away any time I came toward her. And I've never forgotten that. It was like losing a nice relative. (pauses, contemplative) All because of a fart."
• In a deleted scene from the pilot, the Major, Betty, Bobby, and their lawyer sit together in a holding cell where the attorney advises Bobby on how to interact with the FBI agent. The Major tells him to address the lawyer as "sir." In deleted dialogue from episode 5 his conversation with Einar Thorson continues: "I know, speaking for myself, that I find these last remnants of a connection to a natural, more primitive, almost pagan way of life, endlessly fascinating; locally, for instance, we have the Sasquatch mythos, or Bigfoot, a large, evil-smelling forest dweller, which I suppose would correspond to your 'huldufolk' or hidden people." The Major continues, in remarkably prescient dialogue considering where the character would go, "I also happen to be a firm believer in the UFO. I've seen some high-level classified data that would curl your hair." In episode 17, inviting Cooper to come night fishing, the Major was supposed to explain, "Heightens the meditative quality. Beta brain waves increase precipitously."

• Later in the episode 17 scripts, the Major and Cooper have an exchange that rather amazingly and economically articulates the spiritual ethos of the series, and also links the central story of the first half - Laura and Leland - with the central story of the second half - the Lodges.
COOPER
Major this is a fascinating concept. The other side of love is not hate - but fear?

MAJOR BRIGGS
Absolutely. And fear is the absence of love.

COOPER
For yourself as well.

MAJOR BRIGGS
All perceptions or conditions must begin with the self.

They put their marshmallows over the fire.

COOPER
So when I let fear into my life, I'm not loving myself.

MAJOR BRIGGS
You are in direct contradiction to a state of loving acceptance; incapable of it. Direct denial.

COOPER
Major Briggs, if I may ask a personal question ... do you love yourself?

MAJOR BRIGGS
Very much.

Cooper's fascinated. He rotates his marshmallow in the fire.

COOPER
Then it stands to reason that Leland Palmer didn't.

MAJOR BRIGGS
One could draw that conclusion.
• In a deleted, and never-filmed, scene from episode 29, the Major leads Hawk through the woods to find Windom's cabin. He is dazzled by the sights, sounds, and smells since the dose of Haloperidol has heightened his senses "I guess this is what the sixties must have been like," he marvels. "My God, the flowers, can you hear them?" He and Hawk burst in on Leo in the cabin, which doesn't end well.

• Aside from the pastor's ceremonies and Ronette's prayer (more or less), the Major's Bible reading is one of the few explicitly Christian references in Twin Peaks. The passages are Revelation 11:3-5, 7; 14:19-20; and 15:1-2.
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of Earth. If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth. ... And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them. ... And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth and cast it into the great winepress. And the winepress was trodden without the city even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, and seven angels. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had gotten the victory over the beast and over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God."
• The Access Guide informs us that the Briggs belong to the same Lutheran congregation as the Palmers and the Jennings, the Church of the Good Sheperd (sic?) led by Theodore Helmark. "Knowledge of the Nicene Creed required for membership although tourists and transients are tolerated."

The Secret History of Twin Peaks

Major Briggs is one of the most important figures in Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks, arguably (next to Dougie Milford anyway) the most important. The book is ostensibly a collection of documents related to Twin Peaks and/or Colonel Milford, bridged by a linking text written by the editor, mysteriously known as "the Archivist." The Archivist eventually reveals himself as the Major. but even before than that a news clipping from 1982 introduces us to the character: "Your United States Air Force has just posted one of their best and brightest consultants to our local airport, Unguin Field, to help us upgrade ... be sure to say hello to Major Garland Briggs and his family with a hearty handshake or a crisp salute." The Archivist notes that the Unguin airport project was  cover; the Major's real assignment was to oversee the construction, and then the operation, of a top-secret military base in Ghostwood National Forest. "The project known officially as SETI ARRAY 7-I -- or, as those on the inside more commonly referred to it, Listening Post Alpha (LPA) -- was in fact the centerpiece of Doug Milford's top-secret, ex-officio, post-Nixonian effort to plunge deeper into the post-Blue Book miasma of UFO investigation. ... With Major Briggs as the only officer on site, work proceeded at the LPA through the second half of the 1980s -- slow, methodical and extremely technical; combing the haystack of space for needles, searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe at large. At the direction of Doug Milford, the sophisticated intelligence-gathering array at LPA was also pointed in the opposite direction, toward the environs of Twin Peaks. At which point, almost to the day, a series of tragic events began to unfold in the that, at first, seemed entirely unrelated -- until they eventually began to shed light on the bigger picture."

In a section at the end of the book entitled "Revelations" (shades of The Missing Pieces), the Archivist writes, "I am the man that Colonel Milford ... handpicked to succeed him. My name is Major Garland Briggs, USAF." On May 17, 1985, the Major reports (relying on a transcript from Dougie's secret recording of their conversation), Dougie pressed him to admit that, despite his sterling discipline and obedience, he's "always, almost willfully, retained an internal independence of mind." He attributes this to his parents, "Catholic, but Bohemians at heart. He was a concert violinist, she a Parisian-born Montessori school teacher," and to his Jesuit schooling which "ingrained in me the value of fealty to an established order while retaining a private allegiance to the truth." When Dougie says mysteries' "true value lies in their ability to create within us wonder and curiosity," the Major disagrees: "I see mysteries as the truth itself; that they're the essence of our existence, and aren't necessarily meant to be fully apprehended." Dougie argues on the contrary that "the truth can be seen. Directly. The question is, are you willing to accept what it tells you?" The Major admits to a UFO sighting in 1979, and Dougie tells him his anonymous report with MUFON (the world's largest group of amateur civilian UFO enthusiasts), in defiance of his superior's orders, is what led Dougie to bring him to Twin Peaks. "You're not who I thought you were," the Major claims ominously. Dougie responds, I'm the white rabbit, drawing you closer to the rabbit hole. And like the rabbit, I'm late for a very important date. You're my replacement, Garland. You're going to become the Watcher in the Woods."

The Major explains how Dougie slowly lured him in to his mysterious world, "sprinkling a trail of bread crumbs straight out of the Brothers Grimm -- who I've since learned drew inspiration for their stories from real events in their own dark woods..." (how I'd love for that to tease something in the new series). He then throws himself into this work but is discouraged by the lack of results, eventually resigning himself to duty and "meaningless routine" to mask his despair. "Until one morning I awoke to the realization that this compensation had distanced and alienated me from my now teenage son; during the crucial years when he most needed my support and guidance, I was hiding myself away up the mountain, working late into the night." He relates how terrified he is when Laura is murdered and Bobby becomes a suspect, and how after he was cleared they realized that he "had drifted into recreational drug use and interactions with the local criminal element." The Major express personal relief and notes an uptick in "strange phenomena" when Cooper arrives. He implicitly relocates the message to Cooper after the Laura investigation ends, around which time Dougie officially and completely turns the LPA over to the Major. The Major evocatively describes his subsequent disappearance in the woods: "...the leviathan came for me ..."
"...blinding white light issuing from a suggestion of some mass or object above me, a silent dark-robed figure beckoning. Paralyzed with terror, I seemed to move without volition to some other space. Alone but in the presence of some immense, overwhelming force, as if gravity had increased a thousandfold. A flood of words sluiced through my mind, words not my own, nor in any language known to me, a voice metallic, ringing and bitter. This was knowledge, I sensed through my terror, from some unknown order, of a higher vibrational quality beyond my ability to process, uncanny, perhaps electromagnetic in nature and not in the remotest way human."
The Major describes  how "whatever I'd been sent into these woods to find had after all this time found me first, roughing me up like a midnight dockside beatdown." This force "possessed nothing benign or benevolent in form or content, only a cold, crushing, calculating presence." When the Major returns from this experience, and discovers that Dougie has just died and left behind one last communication, the message further confirms his suspicions. Writes Dougie:
"I'm convinced now that whatever I've glimpsed or encountered and spent my life tracking has been with us since humankind came down out of the trees. It is not something 'out there'--in the president's words. They may well have once been our 'neighbors' from some distant star, but I believe they were here before us. I believe that were we able to look deeply at the whole of human history we would see that they have always been here. I believe they have observed, helped, haunted, tormented and teased us since the beginning of time for reasons entirely their own. I believe that they are a multitude, and that their true nature is singular and energetic, not physical ... we are utterly incapable of knowing their true intent, and their true intent may not be to wish us well. It may be that they're here to guide or even aid our evolution; it's equally possibly we may matter no more to them than to those random protozoa in our tap water do to us. In other words, by our meager moral definitions, they may be both 'good' and 'evil,' and those precious distinctions of ours mean nothing to them. There may even be a 'good' and 'evil' side at play here, and we, our human race, is the game!"
The Major concludes that his new control (whom Dougie told him would arrive soon) is to be Cooper, but the FBI agent has already traveled into the woods and the Lodge. When he returns and visits the Major, he is deeply alarmed. The last passage of the dossier reads:
"12:05 PM MARCH 28, 1989
He just left. Something's wrong. The message holds the answer, just as I thought, but I've misinterpreted it. Protocols are in place. I must act quickly.
I'm heading to the LPA alone. 
* M * A * Y * D * A * Y *"
There is no mention of Sarah's message at the diner; the Major learns of Cooper's disappearance and reappearance from Truman. The Major also never mentions being kidnapped by Windom Earle, to the point where that event clearly is not a part of this version of the narrative, which leaps directly from the Major's disappearance in the woods to Cooper's own trip into the Lodge. This opens up all sorts of questions; the book is less a way to fill in gaps than to completely invert the narrative landscape - what it offers to occupy the blank space annihilates what was already there. This is either a forgery, a rewrite, or an alternate reality.

In a moment like this, the Character Series reaches its limit; within a month, we may not be dealing with singular characters at all anymore but the intersections of multiple fragments of identity and experience. This is one reason it's important to me to finish this work before the new series (potentially) offers a radical challenge to the entire premise of these studies. Into the rabbit hole, indeed...


SHOWTIME: No, Davis is not on the cast list for 2017. He passed away in 2008, and the absence necessitated by this passing was one of the most lamented going into the new series (only Frank Silva as BOB was noted as frequently). For over a decade, in writer reminiscences, fan speculation, and the whispers of a possible comic book continuation a year ago, the Major was considered central to any Twin Peaks going forward. This was an element the writers were already baking into late season two, but it was solidified with Lynch's improvised final scene for Major Briggs, in which Sarah Palmer contacts him with the message from the Lodge. Despite all the "cliffhangers" of the finale (many of which actually feel either circular or brutally conclusive), this may be the only element that feels truly open-ended and indicative of a way forward. With that in mind, plus the Major's (admittedly wildly contradictory) place in The Secret History, it seems fair to assume that we may have seen the last but we haven't heard the last of this beloved character, Somehow his legacy will play a role in the upcoming story.

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