The red drapes of the Black Lodge fade through to the image of a four-point electrical socket as a low electronic hum builds. We’re back in the house on the Rancho Rosa estate. Mr. Jones’ small pile of vomit is on the floor, sliced up by sunlight that’s being divided by drapes.
The top right electrical socket glows and a black emanation begins. Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is gradually ‘poured’ out into our universe in a cloud of black smoke until he lies on the ground near the patch of vomit.
Jade (Nafessa Williams) comes into the room, now fully dressed and made up. She notices that ‘Dougie’ is wearing a different suit, has a different haircut, and is several pounds lighter. Cooper remains silent and passive, lying on the floor. Jade tells him that they have to leave, but he remains lying there.
This is the new situation for Dale Cooper, and something of a shock for many of the fans as Part 3 continued to unfold. While the Douglas Jones decoy has transferred to the Black Lodge, the Dale Cooper who has returned to our reality is not his old self. He is bereft of nearly all of his mental faculties, as though regressed to child-like innocence. As Parts 3 and 4 unfold, we come to realise that he can only communicate by parroting other peoples’ words back to them and requires supervision and guidance to perform even the most basic of tasks.
This state of affairs immediately calls to mind David Milch’s defunct HBO show John From Cincinnati, which was cancelled by the network before the first season had even been properly finished. Poorly received and often considered a disaster (its the butt of a few jokes on Bojack Horseman), John From Cincinnati had the potential to become another riveting mystery show like Twin Peaks. In it, a seemingly mentally challenged stranger arrives in a Southern California surfing community. This stranger, John, can only communicate by parroting back things he has heard through encounters with the various locals, but he displays otherworldly powers. We can now only guess at the overall shape it would’ve taken, but David Milch’s John and our own Douglas Jones are remarkably similar characters set adrift in, actually, fairly similar settings.
One initially assumed that, at this stage, Dale Cooper’s condition is part and parcel of the trick that Mr. C has performed. Balance appeared to be the key. If the original and the doppelganger could not coexist in the same reality then, for all intents and purposes, it seemed as though the ‘spirit’ of Dale Cooper was no longer wholly unified with the body, and that a physical remnant or shell came through the electrical conduit.
This operating theory is disproven in Part 16, when Cooper finally wakes up from his slumber within the guise of Douglas Jones and with Mr. C still at large. Whether its a by-product of the particular method of his transportation between realities or something else entirely, it seems as though Cooper has been temporarily made bereft of his capabilities. Yet he is in there. When he is restored to full capacity he has all of his ‘Dougie’ memories in tact. He knows Bushnell (Don Murray), he knows the Mitchums, etc, etc.
So it is rather that he has been subdued or submerged and it seems reasonable to argue that Mr. C was well-aware that the process would have this effect on him. He deliberately sent Agent Cooper ‘around the houses’ as it were (via the glass box to the Purple Realm) to ensure that his foe would emerged in this condition, making him an easy target to dispense with. Mr. C didn’t anticipate the forthcoming intervention by Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel) and the Black Lodge; seemingly allied with Cooper in an effort to restore balance as originally intended.
For now though, this is the Agent Cooper we’re left with; prone, vulnerable, infant-like in his abilities. For the sake of ease, I shall refer to him as Dougie until the fully-fledged Agent Cooper rematerialises in the narrative. Dougie is the vacant Cooper, unable to protect himself.
This is, in fact, visually imparted to us by Lynch. Dougie lies there on the floor, caught in the shade from the blinds. He is jailed in the frame, in a pattern reminiscent of prison bars.
Jade’s reaction to him – now and ongoing – suggests to us a couple of things. Firstly, that the Douglas Jones tulpa might not have been all that bright to begin with. Secondly, that she will be the first of several characters in the Las Vegas section of The Return to appear seemingly blind to the sheer seriousness of his present state. The show’s overarching commentary on how we as a society treat and respond to mental health issues begins here.
Next time: Jade gives two rides