SPECIAL AGENT Albert Rosenfield appears in only eight episodes of the original Twin Peaks, but like the stinging insults he hurls around Twin Peaks, he leaves a mark.
Albert, an FBI forensics expert, arrives in Twin Peaks early in Season 1, sporting dark sunglasses, flanked by two unnamed assistants (also clad in dark sunglasses) and carrying his metal briefcase. Albert’s rapid-fire delivery and sharp tongue disrupt the sleepy Sheriff’s Department, provoking eye-rolls from receptionist Lucy and aggression from Sheriff Truman and his deputies. It’s clear right off the bat: Twin Peaks and Albert just don’t mix. He continues to alienate himself when he callously attempts to drill into the lifeless Laura Palmer on the autopsy table, earning both a black eye from Sheriff Truman and the disdain of notable townspeople.
Special Agent Dale Cooper, intuitive mystic that he is, immediately meshes with the quirky, otherworldly nature of Twin Peaks. He is accepted, while Albert prefers to remain the outsider. As colleagues in the FBI, the two share a deep mutual respect, although each is often left bewildered by the other’s behavior. Albert represents the skeptic at home on the couch, the cynical yin to Cooper’s earnest, eccentric yang.
Here are five standout moments on Albert’s strange and difficult path.
As Season 2 begins, Albert is still chock-full of insults and sarcasm, but a quick exchange he has with Agent Cooper hints to his complexities.
Agent Cooper asks him, “Albert, where does this attitude of general unpleasantness come from?”
Looking into the distance, Albert answers straightly, without his trademark flippancy, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
But fear not, it soon returns:
Cooper: “Well, if you don’t want two black eyes on a regular basis, I suggest you make some kind of peace with rural life.”
Albert: “Great. After the square dance, maybe we can all take a hay ride.”
During a scene (Season 2, Episode 8) in a hospital hallway following Nadine’s overdose, Cooper listens intently as Big Ed recounts his woeful tale of unrequited romance with Norma and the origin of Nadine’s eye patch. After ridiculing Big Ed, Albert makes a big show of the terrible hospital coffee, then reacts incredulously to Ed’s heartfelt tale, going so far as to pull out a hanky in an almost Chaplinesque manner to wipe fake tears (of laughter) from his eyes. It’s Albert as foil to the small town hayseed melodrama, and pure fun.
In the next episode, Cooper and Albert share breakfast, back-dropped by a barbershop quartet (who appear to be smoking, not singing at all). Here, Albert begins to pave a gentler path — but, being Albert, it is of course a path paved with snark. After listening to Cooper tell him about a group of Tibetan kings known as “The Happy Generations”:
Albert: “I’ve performed the autopsy on Jacques Renault. Stomach contents revealed... let’s see, beer cans, a Maryland license plate, half a bicycle tire, a goat and a small wooden puppet. Goes by the name of Pinocchio.”
Cooper: “You’re making a joke!”
Albert: “I like to think of myself as one of the ‘Happy Generations.’”
And a few moments later:
Albert: “How do you feel?”
Albert “I believe it’s customary to ask after the health of the recently-plugged-three-times.”
Cooper: “Thanks for asking.”
Albert: “Don’t get sentimental.”
The most well known Albert scene is his speech to Sheriff Truman. Some fans dispute it as an outlandish turn in character, but I find it perfectly aligns with his uniqueness, saves him from villainy and eases his relationship with Truman. Not to mention solidifies him as a fan favorite. Truman has had enough, and after Albert likens him to a Neanderthal — “You might try walking without dragging your knuckles on the floor” — he grabs him and sneers:
“Albert, let’s talk about knuckles. The last time I knocked you down, I felt bad about it. The next time is gonna be a real pleasure.”
Albert spits right back: “Now, you listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet man 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.”
Cooper: “Albert’s path is a strange and difficult one.”
Here, finally, we know the real Albert in all his many facets. Back in Twin Peaks to warn Cooper that his old foe Windom Earle is seeking revenge, Albert enters the conference room, bumping into Bobby and Shelly, who are on their way out.
“Get a life, punk!” he shouts after Bobby.
Sheriff Truman and Albert share a bear hug, genuinely happy to see each other again. After a spot-on imitation of Gordon Cole (“I’m worried about Coop!”), Albert begins a classic Albert briefing on Earle’s recent activities.
“He’s making his move, most definitely,” Albert says to a pensive Cooper, who gazes through the window.
Albert gives Cooper’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze and lightens the mood:
Albert: “Oh, Coop, about the uniform... Replacing the quiet elegance of the dark suit and tie with the casual indifference of these muted earth tones is a form of fashion suicide, but, uh, call me crazy — on you, it works.”
Cooper: “Thank you, Albert.”
This subtle exchange between the two borders on tender. It’s the only time in the series that every aspect of Albert’s character is fully realized within a scene and in all his difficult, competent, supportive and hostile glory. Although he appears one last time (in an attempt to bring Josie Packard to justice), this scene is Albert’s swan song, and to my mind a much more fitting exit for an unforgettable character. 💣
NICOLE LANG lives in the South Shore of Massachusetts with her husband; their dog, Anchovy; and one hundred house plants. She eats pizza almost every day.
Copyright Nicole Lang
Photo by George Allen