An Interpretation of Parts 17 and 18, Part 1: Dale Cooper, or How to Lose the Lodge Test Repeatedly and Influence People

By Pamela Tarajcak

Many fan theories exist about what exactly is happening to Dale Cooper throughout Season 3, especially what happens when Cooper seemingly rescues Laura Palmer. Some posit that a real Richard is dreaming of being the hero Dale. Some posit that Cooper did go back and change history permanently, cancelling out Laura’s death through all dimensions and planes of existence. Here is yet another one to consider. Dale Cooper didn’t change history at all. Laura still died, but she lives, just not the way you think. There are parts of this theory that aren’t entirely believable (even by the author), but the idea has merit (to steal from Dwayne Milford) and perhaps someone who has trouble with Parts 17 and 18 may see this and say, “Now here is a theory that makes me feel comfortable.” There will be two articles that unpack this. This current article deals with Dale himself, the second will be about Laura’s end of things.

Cooper’s Largest Personality Flaw

Now we all know Cooper. We know that he has an intense guilt complex. We know that he feels he has to save the world. We know that he took it to heart when Jean Renault said, “Before you came here, Twin Peak was a simple place. My brothers deal dope to the teenagers and the truck drivers. One-Eyed Jack welcome the businessman and the tourist. Quiet people live a quiet life. Then a pretty girl die and you arrive and everything change. My brother Bernardo shot and left to die in the … the woods. A grieving father smother my remaining brother with a … a pillow. Kidnapping, dead. Suddenly the quiet people they’re quiet no more. Suddenly the … the simple dream become the nightmare. So, if you die maybe you will be the last to die. Maybe you brought the … the nightmare with you and maybe the nightmare will die with you.” We know simply by the look on his face that he felt guilty for this.

Cooper always felt guilty for things he could not control. He thinks he’s the only one to be able to solve someone’s problems. He wants to be able to control the outcome no matter what. This is especially evident in a very nuanced way when he was arranging the visit to One Eyed Jacks during the end of Season 1. He came in the Great Northern Lobby bearing a lode of cash for Big Ed and him to gamble with. He said that when he gambles with the Bureau’s money he likes to come back with a 10% return. How could he guarantee that every time?

He is extremely prideful. He always feels that only he could take on the world and all its problems. There is no humility in him. Once someone or some event denies him that victory, Caroline, Maddie, Annie, his shooting, Jean Renault’s words, Windom Earle’s actions, Josie and Truman, he goes into a deep, dark place where none can follow. This is proven when Gordon (S2 E7) said that both Albert and he were worried about Cooper and worried that this was turning into another Pittsburgh situation. It is hinted that Cooper was nearly driven past the point of no return with that one.

The Lodge and Cooper

There is quite a bit of fan consensus that when one enters the Lodge, one never really leaves it and one is always there. This is especially the case when Cooper dreams of being in the Lodge even before he steps in it during Season 2, Episode 29. He is in the Lodge during Laura’s dream where he instructs her not to take the ring. He remembers being in the Lodge in the future when he was an old man.
It is also fair in saying that when he does his Lodge test, all the people he meets (like Cheryl Lee Latter said in “The Ghost of Caroline Earle”) is in someway a failure of his. Perhaps his shadow self is his pride and his control freak nature. Mr. C, if that is his official shadow self, is overly prideful, “I want, I never need.” He also is overly controlling, the situation with the prison phone call comes to mind. So the Lodge was meant to burn away his guilt, his pride and his control freak tendencies. The Lodge does know he’s failed. He’s stuck.

The Lodge may have thrown him out. It seems without BOB in the Lodge in Season 3, the place does exist less as a scary hell scape and more a neutral testing place that Hawk’s Nation believes it to be. They threw him out not only to get BOB back in, but also for Cooper to do another test. Again, a test in his pride and his control. He had to have everyone take care of him as Dougie. He couldn’t control one thing he did during the day.

Then he gets himself back. Instead of simply going to Twin Peaks to defeat the “Other One” and get him back in, he travels back to Lodge Land. His reason is unknown. To defeat Judy? But he does go back in. When he does go, it’s obvious from the recitation of the Fire Walk With Me Poem, that Dale is starting a new Lodge Test, though he doesn’t know it. This time, it’s not in a red room with chevron floors; it’s a test in his own mind.

A while back, back in the Twin Peaks Between Two Worlds group, during one of our rewatches, I posited that Judy could be Jeffries’s codeword for general failure. However, what if Gordon Cole said just was Judy is, negativity? Lynch is an avid practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, and the reason he began this practice was to do away with his extreme negativity. One will notice that as Dale enters “Judy’s realm,” Cooper closes his eyes and almost centers himself, like a meditator.

For some unknown reason he chooses this date to meditate on. Perhaps he knows that’s where his “Judy” resides. Though he gets his Judy wrong. His Judy is not in his inability to save Laura. His Judy is his inability to let go of the unavoidable. Cooper just needs to watch and observe one night, the night that he dare not do anything to change. The one night that he cannot do anything about, because the subject of that night is also undergoing her own Lodge test exactly as we speak, the night that Leland Palmer kills Laura and Laura passes her Lodge Test (again, more of this will be in Part two and also covered in my previous article, “The Ingredients of Perfect Courage”). Then, he does change things. He is prideful, controlling, and guilty enough to want to change it. As he starts leading the rescued Laura back ‘home’ his Judy remains unconquered. Therefore, the Lodge knows he’s failed immediately; they end the test by having Laura ripped away from him.

However, the guilt-complex-ridden Cooper can’t leave well enough alone. “I didn’t go because I didn’t wanna influence her. I’m a strong sender.” (S1 E5) Dale Cooper said this to Harry when he explained his reasoning for not going to the Palmer house for the sketching session. He knew he saw BOB but didn’t want to influence Sarah either way with how this, at that point, mystery man looked like. He is able to push out his influence in many ways. Remember Jean Renault’s persuasive mustache twirler? That probably did implant itself into Cooper’s conscience (let alone subconscious) and toyed with it. When Earle does start causing havoc he apologizes to Harry for bringing trouble into town.

He changes everyone’s memories, because he is a strong sender, especially in a focused meditative state. He wants to rid the town of their collective worst memory. Hence the reason why, when Tammy was interviewing everyone for the Final Dossier, she mentions them having a fog over them when they relate that Laura is missing. The fog is because someone, Cooper, is messing with their memories. But here is where it gets interesting, what happens if his sphere of influence only extends to 430 miles in either direction? This is why Tammy has the compulsion to leave. She knows she has to leave and get far enough away from the fog in order for her to think correctly. Therefore, within the 430 mile radius everyone has gotten their memories changed and to them, Laura is missing yet alive somewhere, Leland committed suicide a year after the whole event, Maddie lives. After crossing that 430 line, Laura is dead, Leland died in Sheriff’s custody, Maddie is killed in the Palmer Living Room. All the normal memories remain the same. The past two seasons are not negated.

Now here’s an interesting connection to something about Lucy. Kylee Karre, another Administrator in Twin Peaks Between Two Worlds group, had a mindblowing post a while back that states that Lucy was sort of aware of two timelines existing after Part 8 which caused her to wear two watch necklaces. However, Karre notes that Lucy is wearing only one watch in Part 17. Building on that, I add this. Lucy is aware now that there is only one timeline. Laura was always dead and nothing has changed. She returned to wearing one watch.

Back to Cooper and Part 18

Cooper is back in the Lodge, thinking he’s screwed up without Laura there (the reason Laura isn’t in the Lodge in Part 18 is for Part 2). He also gets a message from Leland to “Find Laura.” He is also reminded by the Evolution of the Arm, “Is this the story of the little girl who lives down the lane?” He follows the murderer’s advice and misinterprets the Supernatural “Help’s” advice. He feels he has to fix everything now, to get Laura back again, to rescue her. He is more powerful now, becoming more Lodge-being than person. He has repeatedly traversed Lodge Space and Reality too many times. He is now starting to “not exist, not in the normal sense,” like Jeffries. Knowing Laura will not be found within the 430 mile radius, he has to cross over.

From that point on, most of this is Laura’s story, except what happened with Dale and Diane in the motel room. Frankly, I’m still lost with that scene. Carrie Page is not really Laura. Cooper, though, blinded by his own ego, pride, hubris, refuses to see that. He should have never drug her back to Washington in the first place. When things don’t work out as planned on that street where she lived, he again failed at yet another test. The Lodge realizes this when it sent a Tremond to meet Cooper at the door. He has failed yet again, and his soul, by the end of Part 18, is further getting absorbed in the Lodge, further getting destroyed.

4 thoughts on “An Interpretation of Parts 17 and 18, Part 1: Dale Cooper, or How to Lose the Lodge Test Repeatedly and Influence People

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