Twin Peaks season 3 decoder: Buenos Aires

With Dale Cooper’s situation becoming clearer, our attentions turn to Phillip Jeffries and an unexpected trip to South America.


Martyn Conterio


This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks season 3 part 5. For maximum enjoyment, we recommend reading after you’ve watched the show.

Remember: there are three FBI special agents who have gone walkabout in Twin Peaks. Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), we know what’s happened to him. ‘Good Coop’ was trapped in the Black Lodge for 25 years and his BOB-powered doppelgänger allowed to gallivant around America, getting up to all sorts of mischief. But we mustn’t forget Chris Isaak’s Chet Desmond, who vanished into thin air at the Fat Trout trailer park in Fire Walk with Me. And then there’s Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie), whose appearance in the 1992 prequel film is deeply enigmatic (read: batshit crazy).

In the dying moments of Part 5, Lynch whisks viewers off to South America. It’s a moment which no doubt had diehard fans shouting “Holy Jumping George!” Accompanying a drone shot above a foreign-looking cityscape, an on-screen caption reads: ‘Buenos Aires, Argentina’. In a dank subterranean space (what appears to be a basement) amid dusty shelves filled with old files, on a concrete floor, sits a communication device in a wooden bowl (seen earlier in the episode during a phone call scene, made after Dougie Jones’ car explodes). The device’s LED lights blink red and the whole thing magically reduces in size.

The preceding scene sees ‘Bad Coop’ displaying his supernatural gifts to the Yankton prison warden. Allowed to make a personal phone call, given to him on the orders of Deputy Director Gordon Cole, Bad Coop works his witchy mojo to cause screens, lighting fixtures and listening devices to go haywire. “The cow jumped over the moon,” he says into the receiver, after dialling a super-long sequence of digits. Who was Bad Coop giving a bell? At this point, we just don’t know.

To fully appreciate Phillip Jeffries’ backstory, you really need to watch the longer version of his bizarro appearance in Fire Walk with Me. Lynch cut it down significantly for the theatrical release, making Jeffries’ surreal ramblings and references to events even more perplexing. Luckily, it’s included in feature-length Blu-ray extra feature known as ‘The Missing Pieces’.

So, what happened to Jeffries? In 1987, he checked into the Palm Deluxe hotel in Buenos Aires. After asking the receptionist if “Miss Judy is waiting here, by any chance?” he is given a piece of paper left to him by a person the receptionist only refers as the ‘señorita’ and again in English as ‘young lady’. Phil goes to his room using the lobby elevator and… exits at an FBI field office in Philadelphia in 1989.

The lines “We’re not going to talk about Judy,” “We live inside a dream,” and “Who do you think this is there?” have been obsessed over be fans ever since. Especially the Judy line. The calling into question of Coop’s identity should be read as Jeffries having esoteric knowledge of Dale’s fate. Phil mentions the meeting of the Red Room spirits above a convenience store. He described to Gordon, Dale and Albert finding something in Judy’s apartment in Seattle and mentions a ring. Jeffries then does another vanishing act, re-emerging in the Buenos Aires hotel, on a staircase, the wall behind him blasted and scorched. The bellhop reacts to the freakishness of it all by (literally) crapping his pants. Jeffries is so frazzled, he’s lost the ability to speak. “Are you the man?” the terrified bellhop asks.

Nobody has seen Jeffries since his brief time-travelling sojourn to the Philadelphia office in 1989. In season 3, part 4, Albert Rosenfield admitted to giving Jeffries secret information (via a phone call) after Coop’s disappearance in 1989 (Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2 are set over the course of a few weeks). Given the extended sequence’s status as a deleted scene, with only the bare bones of it used in the theatrical release, the Buenos Aires ‘Missing Pieces’ segment is not strictly canon per se, but it looks very much like Frost and Lynch have remixed elements from it for the new season.

With Special Agent Jeffries proving a surprising – if phantom-like – presence in the new series so far, his appearance in Fire Walk with Me (and ‘The Missing Pieces’) and the city of Buenos Aires is growing in narrative importance and portent. The far-flung location might be puzzling to newcomers or viewers who skipped the film, but it goes way back in Twin Peaks mythology.

Published 6 Jun 2017

Tags: David Bowie David Lynch Twin Peaks

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