7:6 – The whistler

FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole – played fittingly by David Lynch himself – is no ordinary man.

Though he wears hearing aids of a kookily unsubtle variety to make up for his impaired hearing, his other perceptive abilities are advanced. He has a level of intuition even surpassing Agent Cooper’s; and a susceptibility to psychic messages. Where Cooper may be a strong sender (something he attests to himself in season one), Cole is most certainly a strong receiver.

We rejoin him whistling in his office, and lets take a moment to talk about the decor. The scene opens with a shot of a framed piece of artwork. It depicts a large ear of corn. The backdrop to this ear of corn is the same as the one that can be seen as the start of each and every part of The Return; the same grainy, out-of-focus black and white image behind each installment’s ‘Rancho Rosa’ ident.  It appears to depict either television static (recalling the opening of Fire Walk With Me) or the bursts of interference seen throughout that film denoting the encroaching presence of otherworldly spirits, or it could be a close-up of smoke and debris pluming in the wake of a nuclear explosion. Each possibility has ramifications, indicating Cole’s perception of the past events that have shaped the present, and will shape the future, too.

The ear of corn is especially astute of him. In the Black Lodge, The Arm (as played by Michael J Anderson) ingests creamed corn as a physical manifestation of the pain and sorrow brought to him by BOB. This physical manifestation is called “garmonbozia“, very likely the same substance vomited up by Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) and the Dougie Jones tulpa (also MacLachlan) during Part 3.

Creamed corn first appeared significantly in the series in the second episode of season two, when Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) visited Mrs. Chalfont (Frances Bay) and her grandson during her search for Harold Smith.

In that scene the grandson – played by Lynch’s own nephew – appeared to do a magic trick (not too dissimilar to the one performed by Red (Balthazar Getty), come to think of it), making creamed corn teleport from a plate into his cradling palms. It later became apparent that this was not the real Mrs. Chalfont; the elderly woman and her grandson were impostors and actually denizens of the Convenience Store (and, by extension, the Black Lodge). This fact becomes clearer in Fire Walk With Me, when the same characters approach Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) with the unusual framed photograph recently discussed. It is heavily insinuated during the Theresa Banks murder investigation that they have assumed the name Tremond in order to remain in close proximity to Banks. These two appear to be foot soldiers, as it were, send out into the world to blend in and observe. They do not appear in The Return due to the sad passing of Frances Bay who played Mrs. Chalfont/Tremond, though those named will make an important appearance at the very end of the show.

Still, these two characters were the first we saw with creamed corn, and its reappearance as “garmonbozia” in Fire Walk With Me affirmed this food’s strange significance in the show’s lore. Gordon Cole – consciously or not – is evidently aware of it, too.

Panning across, we find Cole enjoying a whistle at this desk, and here there is another prominent and dramatic piece of artwork worth discussing.

Framed on the wall behind Cole is a very large black and white photograph of a nuclear explosion. It’s a domineering and exceedingly powerful image to choose for an office wall. On first approach (it’s first seen in Part 3 but gets more screen time here), it seems like nothing more than another quixotic styling choice from the ever-quirky Gordon Cole, but Part 8 will make it’s significance more glaring.

A key part of the lore surrounding the otherworldly spirits and their interest in our world is connected to a nuclear detonation. We will look into this more thoroughly in Part 8. Still, along with the photo of the corn, the presence of this looming image reiterates that Cole is a man who knows things, is in possession of some information, and exists in an enlightened sphere.

Cole’s whistling is loudly interrupted by Albert (Miguel Ferrer) banging on the door. Cole invites him in. Albert reports back on his inauspicious meeting with Diane (Laura Dern) – the beginning of which we saw in Part 6. Diane evidently guessed that his appearance as Max Von’s Bar was in connection with the reappearance of Dale Cooper.

“She said, and I quote, ‘No fucking way'” Albert relays. This gives us a taster of Diane’s colourful vocabulary which we will come to know very well.

“I was at home dripping wet on the verge of pneumonia fifteen minutes later,” Albert adds sourly, “How was your evening chief?” Albert has clearly not forgotten the evident comfort that Cole was enjoying the night before. No wonder he’s been whistling.

“This is not good news, Albert, she needs to see him,” Cole replies. Albert nods and suggests, “Your turn.”

“But you’ll go with me?” Cole asks. One might take from this that he is afraid or intimidated by Diane and wants the back-up.

“Say please,” Albert responds. It’s an act of subordination.

“What?” Cole plays on his defective hearing.

“You heard me,” Albert stands his ground.

That he is able to do this speaks of the relationship between them. One would assume few other agents would be in the position to act in a manner that challenged Cole so confrontationally and get away with it without reprimand or reprisal. Gordon and Albert, however, are friends, so this shorthand and liberties such as this one are allowed in their daily interactions. Gordon, respecting Albert, acquiesces and says, “Please”.

Next time:  Diane

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