Welcome to our biweekly roundtable of Twin Peaks where we are working our way through every. Single. Episode. Some of us are regulars and some of us newbies, but none of our experiences are the same. So get yourself a damn fine cup of coffee, watch along with us, and feel free to chime in on the comments section. Say anything you like, our log does not judge.
Other, more plotty things happen in this episode, but the part that’s important to me is Albert’s big speech to Truman when he’s finally driven over the edge and goes to clobber him. When I first saw this episode, I was 19. I was raised with a certain amount of violence, so I learned at an early age that physically hurting someone was an acceptable response to getting mad. (By the way, if you think the best way to get a kid to stop hitting their sibling is to hit them, you’re not a good parent. See about taking a class or something.) As a young adult, I could tell this wasn’t good, but it was a reflex, a first impulse. Hey, I thought, that’s just how I am. I was a deeply angry person, and sometimes the violence was directed at myself, since I was as depressed as I was angry.
But most of the time, I expressed anger through sarcasm. When I did, onlookers usually laughed, because I have a way with words and a good sense of timing. So the minute Albert showed up in Season 1, OF COURSE I loved him. I was a little jealous of his fictional-character freedom to say exactly what he thought, although as a college kid, I had more leeway to say hilariously mean things. Albert obviously has a lot of anger bubbling right under the surface. What happened to him? We don’t know about Albert’s past, but I’d wager he had to slog through some seriously awful stuff because I did too and it makes all the sense in the world. But he’s also smart, great at his job, and usually right, even if he’s not nice. I could identify. So back to our scene. Albert says:
“Now you listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchetman in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method…is love. I love you Sheriff Truman.”
I was floored. Miguel Ferrer didn’t write it, but he delivered that speech so well that it opened a little door in my mind, and I realized for the first time that violence is a CHOICE. You can learn not to give in to the impulse. You can channel that rage into other things–being dead serious about forensic crimefighting and having little patience for bumbling law enforcement officers (slack-jawed yokels, blithering hayseeds), for example–but you don’t have to physically lash out. I honestly didn’t know that before. I never thought I had a choice, and felt I needed physical strength to protect myself. But suddenly I realized I was wrong.
Words can hurt, but physical violence hurts so much more, and can’t be taken back or smoothed over when you calm down. The only times I’d ever heard people talk about embracing non-violence were dismissed as wimps and hippies. They couldn’t know what I was feeling! And maybe they didn’t, but that doesn’t matter.
I typed up that speech the next day and printed it out. I’ve carried a copy in my wallet ever since. And aside from a few brief (and alcohol-related) lapses in the couple of years after that, I quit punching people. I learned to control it. I started focusing more on what I love than what annoys me. I wouldn’t say I’m a complete pacifist on every level and Albert works for the FBI, surrounded by armed law enforcement officials, so I’m guessing he isn’t either. But I choose not to cause violence personally. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” you know?
Should Albert be rude to people? Probably not. He could stand to be, let’s say, at least 30% less rude to people. But Albert gets it. Like the Hulk, we’re ALWAYS angry. That’s less of a secret with Albert, but he’s learned not to hulk out and so have I.
Cooper is used to how Albert is, and still respects him as a professional and one of the Good Guys. And Cooper’s not wrong in his assessment: “Albert’s path is a strange and difficult one.” It’s difficult, but it’s worth it. And that’s how Twin Peaks made me a better person and probably saved my life.
SO! What else happens? We meet the mysterious recluse Harold Smith. There are “who’s the father?” hijinks, Audrey’s still a prisoner at One-Eyed Jack’s, and we still don’t know who killed Laura Palmer.
Now I am roused because what Annie wrote about Albert is so good, but within my own circumstances I am in such opposition to Albert. I don’t think that the wrongness of violence starts at the very end of the wrongness of cruel or disrespectful language, or social manoeuvring! I don’t think Albert’s way is cricket at all, but that’s my damage, innit? My parents were strongly, strongly against violence towards or amongst children, even if gentle or symbolic, but my school playground involved a lot of roughhousing–no abuse, but heavy jolts, fists, falls, wrasslin’. It’s always seemed clear to me that what’s uniquely painful is the decision of an opponent to hurt you, or the ability of the opponent to hurt you, and their choice, or oversight, of not avoiding that. Physical violence hurts physically, sure, and sustained physical bullying is atrocious. But words and socialising can and do lock you into hurts just as deep, and I don’t believe that a punch in response to sustained verbal belittling is worse than spotting what makes somebody feel small and then using it to make them feel small. Which is what Albert does.
I have nothing but admiration for the storytellers’ inclusion of this strange character, and gosh I’m glad he was there for Annie. But as a person? I think he’s horrible, and his philosophy bothers me. A binary distinction between spoken attack and bodily attack doesn’t sit well with me. I’d already taken against him before now (he’s just so needlessly rude) but this “haha, I win at principles though!” scene drove me up the wall!
Beyond the Albert problem, I L O V E whatever’s going on with Nadine. Norma and Ed are such a straight-up classic little subplot (every time Norma is on screen I get the urge to buy perfume), and Nadine is so unguarded and full-throttle that she throws it off in just the right ways.
I completely understand your point of view, Claire! I wouldn’t claim Albert is a role model. I was already a prodigious jackass, but his struggle helped me understand my own at a still-impressionable age. Nearly twenty years later, I’m a much better and nicer person all-around. But sometimes you have to treat the most serious symptoms first. I’d love to see a long conversation between Cooper and Albert about Buddhist principles of non-violence, which include verbal violence. Like Cooper says, Albert’s on a path. I wonder where that path has taken him over the past twenty-five years.
This is one of my favorite things about art, in general: you never know what’s going to connect with someone, and how or why. I’m sure this scene was meant mostly as a throwaway gag, a surprise twist to a minor character’s quirks. But it affected me forever anyway.
It’s so hard to imagine you as a meanie, Annie.
It’s been a hell of a path, and I still have my moments. But I also believe that the things that make a person awesome are also the things that make them suck, and vice-versa. I can use my “will say exactly what I think” powers for good. Now I point the smartass cannon at people who don’t think women belong in a comic shop, for example.
But you can ask my sister what I used to be like. Or better yet, don’t. I’m not proud of it. I truly do not want to be mean to people, but I’m so good at it and it’s so easy for me. Fortunately, I learned a few things from Dale Cooper at the same time I was learning from Albert, and that let some light in.
I enjoy Albert as a sort of catharsis–he makes the comments I often want to make which is interesting in contrast to Annie’s story (which like Claire, is so hard for me to imagine). I appreciate the spin on Albert as the non-violent type. However, what Claire said really resonated with me–he enacts a sort of epistemic violence that can be as harmful as physical violence yet he gets to win on principle? I hadn’t thought of it like that, but the scene gives him the win in the interaction which seems unfair to Harry who is reinforced as the sort of small town hero, following the uncivilized cowboy code.
I am noticing something emerging here in regards to Hawk. These frequent expression of white guilt towards him. For me, they highlight the cluelessness and self-absorption of white guilt, but I think Hawk still ends up filling the role as the object of white guilt instead of being able to become a more well-rounded character like several of the other outlying characters (Nadine, Lucy, etc.) Michael Horse is so subtly funny in the portrayal, and I want to see more of that.
Right! The uncivilised cowboy code. It’s just not playing fair, especially since Albert is meanest to Andy, and Andy… is Andy ever going to hurt somebody with a punch? Is he? If he does I’m gonna be shocked.
Michael Horse is SO good though, you’re right. It’s confusing, though, that’s his character is called Hawk by everybody. I figured it was his name? Like, Deputy Firstname Hawk. but apparently his name is Tommy “Hawk” Hill, so calling him Hawk seems weirdly stereotypical for the characters to do, now, as well as for the creative team. Why call him Hawk if you’re going to do lampshade jokes about white guilt? Then again, maybe the lampshade jokes wouldn’t work if he wasn’t called Hawk, or something like it, and maybe it’s important for those jokes to get made. I was surprised to see as much indigenous art and aesthetic culture as there is in Twin Peaks, and I have no idea whether that’s something that’s a natural element of a town like Twin Peaks, or if it’s part of the turned-to-eleven combative cultural commentary that Twin Peaks engages in. I am all at sea.
There’s a lot of Native American influence in the Pacific Northwest. And this was made at the same time Dances with Wolves came out (late 1990), so those issues were very much part of the public consciousness.
Hawk’s name is a pun: Tommy Hawk = tomahawk. I can see that becoming someone’s nickname as a joke. I wish Hawk got more to do, but at least he gets to be funny. And if he ever slides to the mystical, it doesn’t stand out as much as a “magical minority” trope because nearly everyone on this show is up to their ears in magic stuff.
Agreement on the verbal abuse being as destructive as physical abuse. Also agreement on loving Albert’s delivery of said lines. I do not have any point to make that would be equally as eloquent as the points made above. But speaking of name puns, Lucy’s lunch date’s name was Dick and he was a total dick. He actually wetted his eyebrows down with his fingertips and said they’d go dutch for lunch. I was dying.
Albert’s speech is one of the most memorable, jaw-dropping “did that just happen?” scenes in the series, and Miguel Ferrer is fantastic. Obviously a lot has been said about Albert already, but the dichotomy between his sincere belief in nonviolence and his verbal cruelty is fascinating. He certainly isn’t the first character in Twin Peaks to have a dual nature.
Albert also mentions that Cooper was shot with a Walther PPK–James Bond’s gun–and I wonder if that’s a nod to how completely at odds Bond and Cooper would be. Agent Cooper can put on a suit and play cards and look damn good doing it, but he’s not a sardonic, womanizing killing machine like Bond. The FBI Agents in Twin Peaks are intriguing for how unconventional they are. Cooper is a relentlessly kind young mystic, and Albert passionately believes in nonviolence. (His concerns are global!) Neither of them represent the hypermasculine ideal of the black-suited killer G-Men that frequently shows up in fiction. (This is even more true when Denise Bryson and Gordon Cole show up, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
Cooper is the only person who is concerned when Audrey goes missing, and this makes me sad. Twin Peaks strikes character gold with a pre-Tarantino Michael Parks as Jean Renault, a super creepy bloke who talks to Audrey about candy with French-Canadian accent. Candy is dandy.
Re-watching the series has made me realize just how much I hate Donna Hayward. I make fun of James a lot (“Sometimes I just wanna get on my bike and go.” JUST GO!) but I feel a very virulent dislike for Donna. Fear of losing her boyfriend to someone who looks just like his dead ex-girlfriend is understandable, but yelling at Laura’s gravesite is just ugly. “Your problems are still hanging around!” Well, Laura was raped and murdered by an unknown monster, Donna, so your problems are pretty chickenshit. Get real.
Kayleigh, you hate Donna so much! I disagree again. Laura had awful, awful, enormous problems, but she doesn’t have them any more. Donna’s still alive and dealing, and it’s hard. At least she’s being honest with her best friend, you know? Laura hid so much from her and it’s messed her up. I have a lot of sympathy.
Being Laura’s friend would be really hard, especially for a nice girl like Donna. That’s not Laura’s fault, but it’s a lot of stress. I’m not Donna’s biggest fan, but I think she’s coping about as well as any teenager.
I like Michael Parks a lot. He’d been a character actor and B-movie regular since the 1960s. As Kayleigh mentioned, Twin Peaks came along before he got the mid-1990s career boost given to a number of actors who Quentin Tarantino had enjoyed for years. I’ve always loved his performance in the opening of From Dusk Till Dawn as doomed lawman Earl McGraw. He absolutely embodies the West Texas good ol’ boys I grew up around. They’re a different variety than the good ol’ boys of the Deep South or even East Texas. I think his French-Canadian accent is kind of iffy here, but I am no expert. Regardless, it’s fun to see him.
Kayleigh also mentions the dual-nature thing regarding Albert (and pretty much everyone else), which is true. We haven’t yet met everyone we’re going to meet from the FBI, but there are some interesting things going on there and I look forward to unpacking those in another 10 episodes or so!
And I hope it’s clear that I am not pro-verbal abuse. (Claire: That’s totally clear, Annie, no worries) It can do such insidious harm. I’ve experienced plenty of both, but still, you never see headlines that say, “3 Dead, 5 Injured, As Jerk Says Some Mean Stuff.” I see physical violence as an immediate, high-level danger. If someone can’t control their hostility, I’d rather have them say mean things I can choose to ignore than injure someone. But by all means: let’s all try to get our anger issues under control and not hurt anyone. We do have a choice.
Speaking of hard choices, whose baby would you rather have: Andy’s or Dick’s? Of all the hot-stuff men in Twin Peaks, why would it have to come down to those two? You can do better, Lucy!
Ian Buchanan is really good in this role, in the sense that Dick is awful and he obviously revels in it. Buchanan is a Scottish model-turned-actor, and probably is best known for his soap opera work. In 1992, after Twin Peaks ended, he was a regular on David Lynch’s next TV show, On the Air, which was set at a live TV variety show in the 1950s. On the Air was wonderfully weird, featured a number of actors who appeared on Twin Peaks (including Miguel Ferrer), and lasted a whole seven episodes. I’m not sure if it’s available anywhere anymore. It was released on a single VHS tape in the mid-1990s. I wish I could watch it again.