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Damn Good Coffee… And Hot!

The Top Nine Lines From Twin Peaks' FBI Agent Dale Cooper

By / Posted on 10 June 2011

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the final episode of Twin Peaks, the small-town murder mystery designed by cinema auteur David Lynch and screenwriter Mark Frost. Something of a phenomenon when it first aired, the short-lived series became both a cult smash and an entire tome added to the lexicon of popular culture, with parodies on Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Darkwing Duck, Sesame Street and Psych, among others. Any television murder mystery is eventually compared to the long-asked question “Who killed Laura Palmer?” (The central arc of most of Twin Peaks‘ run), and all sorts of ephemera from the world of Twin Peaks have found their way into the lexicon of modernity.

Frost, of Hill Street Blues fame, was responsible for establishing almost all of the characters when developing the series, while Lynch focused on the atmosphere and environment. Lynch did claim one character for his own, though: FBI Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan. The logic was that Cooper would require a different voice from the rest of the townspeople in order to establish himself as an outsider, and that Cooper would talk the way Lynch does. The tone of Agent Cooper was carried on in all other government agents introduced through the series – FBI Pathologist Albert Rosenfield, played by Miguel Ferrer, DEA Agent Denise Bryson, played by David Duchovney, FBI Chief Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself, and former FBI Agent Windom Earle, played by Kenneth Welsch – but more than anybody else in the series, Cooper had a magic to him. There was an air of sophistication and an appreciation for the supernatural, both of which juxtaposed perfectly against the down-to-Earth course of events displayed.

In honor of two decades since the show’s finale, we hereby present the nine most insightful and character-building lines from Agent Dale Cooper across thirty episodes of Twin Peaks. Why not a top ten? Out of respect for the series’ fondness for cliffhangers and unanswered questions, of course:

Pilot

“Diane, 7:30 am, February twenty-fourth. Entering town of Twin Peaks. Five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. Never seen so many trees in my life. As W.C. Fields would say, I’d rather be here than Philadelphia. It’s fifty-four degrees on a slightly overcast day. Weatherman said rain. If you could get paid that kind of money for being wrong sixty percent of the time it’d beat working. Mileage is 79,345, gauge is on reserve, I’m riding on fumes here, I’ve got to tank up when I get into town. Remind me to tell you how much that is. Lunch was $6.31 at the Lamplighter Inn. That’s on Highway Two near Lewis Fork. That was a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat, a slice of cherry pie and a cup of coffee. Damn good food. Diane, if you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop.”

It is with this soliloquy to the ever-not-present Diane that we, the audience, are introduced to FBI Agent Dale Cooper, a shocking and refreshing difference from the seemingly simple folk of Twin Peaks. More than just a slick suit and a law man, Cooper is a man of the world, with unending curiosity and a flair for the poetic. By being an oddity and person of interest from the get-go, Cooper sets himself up as a gateway, drawing the audience in so that they may later recognize the common denizens of Twin Peaks for the oddities they are.

The use of a voice recorder being sent to “Diane” back at the Bureau also allowed Cooper to serve as a narrator and express his thought process to the audience without simply talking to himself, because that would have seemed weird. Not at all like the Log Lady’s introductions to each episode…

Episode Two

“Following a dream I had three years ago, I have become deeply moved by the plight of the Tibetan people, and have been filled with a desire to help them. I also awoke from the same dream realizing that I had subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique, involving mind-body coordination operating hand-in-hand with the deepest level of intuition.”

Cooper explains the plight of the Dalai Lama before engaging the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department in a deductive technique that involves throwing stones at a bottle in the woods. Unconventional? Absolutely. Compelling? Without a doubt.

Episode Five

“I’ve got the pictures to prove it.”

The flirtations of the barely legal Audrey Horne were a major subplot for half the series. In this particular exchange, Cooper is rushing off to an investigation when the eager lass with stars in her eyes suggests she could be of assistance. “Wednesdays were typically a school day when I was your age.” “I can’t believe you were ever my age.” Agent Cooper’s response is perfectly cool: stern and absolute, suggestive of wisdom and simultaneously casual with eroticism. Pictures? Oh, the very concept must get Audrey’s blood pumping, along with many an admiring fangirl.

Episode Six

“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee.”

Agent Cooper’s simple philosophy about self-gratification served as both an eye-opener about his mannerisms as a character as well as a rallying cry for exhausted fans all over the world. It’s hard to find a single line of dialogue anywhere that ever seemed to be more of a personal mission statement from the writer. It is this increased sense of id over the ego and superego that make Cooper such an unconventional lawman, and such a fascinating one.

Episode Eight

“Diane, my recorder is on the table. I’m unable to reach it at this time. I can only hope that I inadvertently pressed the voice activation button. I’m lying on the floor of my room. I’ve been shot. There’s a great deal of pain and a fair amount of blood. Fortunately I was wearing my bulletproof vest last night per bureau regulations when working undercover. I remember folding the vest up trying to chase down a wood tick. If you can imagine the impact on your chest of three bowling balls dropped from the height of about nine feet, you might began to approximate the sensation. All things considered, being shot is not as bad as I always thought it might be. As long as you can keep the fear from your mind. But I guess you can say that about almost anything in life. Its not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”

Much like the pilot needed a soliloquy to Diane to establish Cooper’s character, so did the season two premiere. It is a common tv trope for people facing their own death to have revelations about the philosophy of life, but Agent Cooper does that every day over breakfast. Cooper never screams or writhes in pain, he simply lies flat and plainly states the details of the situation like an agent should. His final line about fear, though, is a cautious bit of foreshadowing to the series finale, where Cooper must face all of his fears at once.

Episode Fifteen

“Diane… 10:03 a.m. at the Great Northern. I’ve just been in a hotel room with the One-Armed Man… or what’s left of him. In another time, another culture, this man would have been a seer, a shaman priest… possibly a leader. In our world, he’s a shoe peddler, and lives in the shadows.”

Where the world sees a deviant, Agent Cooper sees what the man could have been in another time, another place. Ever the detective, Cooper never stops looking outside of the limited worldview around him, and here it carries a certain sadness with him.

Episode Sixteen

“Gentlemen, two days ago a young woman was found murdered by the same individual I believe responsible for the death of Laura Palmer. I have reason to believe that the killer is in this room. As a member of the Bureau, I spend most of my time seeking simple answers to difficult questions. In the pursuit of Laura’s killer I have employed Bureau guidelines, deductive technique, Tibetan method, instinct, and luck. But now I find myself in need of something new, which for lack of a better word, we shall call ‘magic.’”

Ah, now here’s more of the weird David Lynch stuff we’d come to expect! With time running out, Cooper calls all the related parties into one room and, rather than ask questions, simply allows a series of visions to come to him, ultimately revealing Laura Palmer’s killer. This would never hold up in a court of law, but it’s damn excellent television!

Episode Twenty-Five

“Surefire cure for a hangover, Harry. You take a glass of nearly frozen, unstrained tomato juice. You plop a couple of oysters in there and you drink it down. Breathe deeply. Next you take a mound and I mean a mound of sweetbreads sauteed with some Canadian bacon and chestnuts. Finally some biscuits, big biscuits, smothered in gravy. Now here’s where it gets tricky, you’re gonna need some anchovies. You take —”

Oh, Agent Cooper…

Of course, upon hearing this recipe, Sheriff Truman runs off, nauseated, which appears to have been Cooper’s plan all along. Relentless and unconventional, Agent Cooper still gets the job done efficiently and with panache.

Episode Twenty-Six

“I believe that these mysteries are not separate entities, but are in fact complimentary verses of the same song. I cannot hear the song yet. But I can feel it.”

Comparing multiple seemingly-unrelated crimes to a singular composition of music? Oh, the poetry of it all! Majestic in it’s innate simplicity!

 

Of course, we couldn’t just leave you with nine quotes from the show’s lead character, not after the indelible impact Twin Peaks has had on popular culture over the past twenty-two years.

Here’s what the crew from VH1′s I Love The ’90s had to say about Twin Peaks in retrospect.

Additionally, USA’s Psych had an entire episode titled Dual Spires that parodied/homaged the Twin Peaks pilot, reuniting several of the original series’ cast members. While Twin Peaks references abounded, this final scene had more visual gags than the Log Lady had pitch gum to chew:

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.