5:13 – Dr. Amp’s gold shit-digging shovel

After setting up so much mystery and intrigue, it’s time for Frost and Lynch to give us just a little pay-off, so we delve back into the Twin Peaks woods to learn what Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) has been up to with those painted shovels.

Broadcasting from his rundown trailer nestled in a leafy clearing, Jacoby takes on his new persona ‘Dr Amp’. Waiting for 7 pm to hit, he begins broadcasting his vlog; a video blog on which he rants and rails against ‘the man’. It’s a heady, impassioned spit-balling that takes big easy swipes at targets with their backs to us all.

“It’s 7 o’clock,” he opens (what sounds very much like a bedded-in catchphrase), “Do you know where your freedom is?” – This itself is a riff on the slogan “Do you know where your children are?” which came into parlance through the late ’60s to mid ’80s following a long-running PSA (Public Service Announcement) on US network television at 10 pm. See also the posthumously released Michael Jackson song which appears 2014 album Xscape. The phrase has also appeared prominently in the second season of David Fincher’s Netflix show Mindhunter, which explores the origins of serial killer profiling and the FBI’s own Behavioural Science Unit.

Jacoby’s words are not stream-of-consciousness; his script is written out before him , laid out like sheet music, but the way he rattles energetically through them makes them sound of the moment, insistent. Around him are such accoutrements as American flags, a model of the statue of liberty and his own self-styled ‘cosmic flashlight’. He casts himself as an American rebel and a truth speaker. Dr Amp’s worldview is that “the fucks (meaning those in power, the government and other corporate agencies) are at it again”.

Jacoby’s Dr Amp persona has a costume, too. His bow tie features lightning bolts, striking down in tandem, these emblems similar to those you might find on a superhero from a comic book movie (a world of costumes as symbols and also alter egos). The season theme of duality is sustained here. There are now two Jacobys in a sense; the original, and this self-created doppelganger, broadcasting his complaints to the world.

This subversive streak isn’t a particular shock. Jacoby has always taken pride in his outsider status as a physician and therapist, accentuating his eccentricities and his counter-culture tendencies. Mark Frost expands on this a little in his book The Secret History Of Twin Peaks by filling in some history on the character, whose background includes a preoccupation with tribal rituals and medicines.

And yet, Dr. Amp is a fraud or, at least, an ethical contradiction. While he shouts down capitalism and greedy corporate interests, he also uses his platform as a vehicle to advertise his own range of branded merchandise; the Dr. Amp Gold Shit-Digging Shovel. Something to help you “shovel your way out of the shit”. They’re hokey and overpriced and they cast Dr. Jacoby in a poor light as someone happy to exploit the desperation in others. On the other hand, isn’t this the game played by big brand names? All brands that place a value on their own recognition are successful because they fulfil a need in others. That’s where their fortunes come from, be it low-priced hamburgers or trendy running shoes. Jacoby is taking part in the American dream, but it comes at the price of his integrity. His Dr. Amp persona feels compromised.

He has his loyal viewers though. Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) watches somewhere out in the woods, beginning his season-long expedition just as he told his brother in Part 1. Jerry watches on a small portable device, lighting a joint as he does so. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) is another rapt viewer and she has evidently grown something of a crush for Jacoby (previously her own therapist). She watches on a laptop.

It’s perhaps telling that Jacoby’s viewers represent the kookier extreme of Twin Peaks’ residents. Jerry was always the brother than Ben Horne had to reign in for his dalliances and tangents; Nadine’s mental health has by turns been played for comedy and tragedy. Their outsider status, adjacent to the conventional even in this unusual town, marks them out as predisposed to radical (or semi-radical) thinking. They have the open minds.

In these scenes Lynch underscores another trend witnessed throughout season three; people isolated in their viewing experiences. Though these characters are connected by the experience they share, they do so remotely, through Jacoby’s camera. The need for human contact in conversation has been downgraded and we are learning to exist without others, learning to prefer to exist that way. It’s an evolution in habit that the show depicts as both sad and sinister at different times.

Dr. Amp sips huckleberry extract and clean boiled water having gotten himself so irate at the spread of poisons in our food and air supply, railing against our pollution of the world and ourselves. Hammering his shovel – which gives off a satisfying “dong” sound – he segues into an ad for his own shovels. So there we go. The shovels weren’t important to the larger story of The Return. Jacoby wasn’t secretly working on a plan to rescue Cooper from the Black Lodge or similar; he was simply looking to make a buck or two.

$29.99, to be exact (plus shipping).

Next time:  Colonel Davis

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