Thursday, December 31

Tuesday, December 29

Meet Kevin Johnson (S4, ep. 8)

The Rewatch Column for "Meet Kevin Johnson" has been recruited for subterfuge for your reading pleasure on

Monday, December 28

The Other Woman/Ji Yeon (S4. eps. 6 & 7)

The Rewatch Column for "The Other Woman" and "Ji Yeon" has been posted on for your reading pleasure.

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, December 23

Happy Holidays

Sorry for the lack of updates this week - with the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, re-examining Lost has to take a brief backseat to the obligations and the joys of the season.

I've got a near-completed column for both "The Other Woman" and "Ji Yeon" which should be up by tomorrow. No matter your faith, I wish you the happiest of holidays.


Friday, December 18

The Constant (S4, ep. 5)

The Rewatch Column for "The Constant" has been irradiated for your reading pleasure on

Check out my theory on the end-game of the show and the potential events of Season 6!

Wednesday, December 16

Eggtown (S4, ep. 4)

The Rewatch Column for "Eggtown" has been inadequately placed on trial for your reading pleasure on

The Economist (S4, ep. 3)

The Rewatch Column for "The Economist" has been duplicitously seduced for your reading pleasure on

Friday, December 11

Confirmed Dead (S2, ep. 2)

The Rewatch Column for "Confirmed Dead" has been triangulated for your reading pleasure on

Thursday, December 10


There's been an influx of new readers on the site in the past day or two, and I'd like to say welcome to all of you. If you're here for the first time, allow me to explain what it is I'm doing:

Rather than provide a blow-by-blow recap of every episode (there are a number of wonderful sites available to provide that sort of thing - Lostpedia being the biggest and best) I'm concentrating on what I find fascinating about Lost: the mythic, scientific, philosophical, and religious underpinnings of the show. While you'll find a good amount of speculation here regarding most of the Island's mysteries, what you'll find more often are thoughts on the themes, allusions, references, inspirations, and subtexts of the show - all delivered in what I hope is a mellow, humorous, curious tone.

I invite you to bookmark the site and to leave your comments and thoughts here. Lost is, among other things, a wonderful figurative-fire for us to gather around and tell stories. I invite you to join the circle.

Wednesday, December 9

The Beginning Of The End (S4, ep. 1)

The Rewatch Column for "The Beginning of the End" has been institutionalized for your reading pleasure on

Too Much Information 11: The Letter of Truce

Thanks to the extremely generous gesture of a fellow fan, the "Letter of Truce" between Richard Alpert and Horace Goodspeed (included in the special edition Season 5 Dharma box set) has come into my possession.

It's good stuff, and I'd like to talk about it here. If you shelled out to buy the set you should get something for your money - so I won't reproduce the letter in its entirety here. What I will do is discuss what I think are the most important/interesting portions.

Dated as of August 15, 1973, the Letter of Truce outlines the terms of the truce between the Dharma Initiative and the "indigenous island inhabitants." Much of the letter is devoted to agreeing that both Dharma and the Others will respect one another and cease and desist from violent action against one another. It implies that Dharma's initial arrival sparked hostilities, and that these hostilities were problematic for both parties. The letter is type-written, contains hand-written comments from Richard Alpert, and is to be signed by both Alpert and Horace Goodspeed, leader of Dharma.

Some of the most interesting portions of the letter include:

1) Richard's insistence that the Dharma Initiative's presence on the Island be limited to a fifteen-year period, at which point they are expected to remove all personnel and "facilities" (presumably including the still-present Hatches). There is no explanation for this limitation, but I presume that in part it's to ensure a permanent society isn't established.

2) It's implied that Goodspeed is the one who drafted the letter. The letter makes a point of emphasizing the "right" of both parties to "live freely" and not "fear attack." Richard's comment ("REDUNDANT - WE GET IT") seems to emphasize his impatience with this.

3) Richard declares that he will act as "mediator" for the Others, and that Goodspeed will act as "mediator" for Dharma, a dynamic we see dramatized in Season 5.

4) Richard comments on the Others' "willingness to allow your presence" which is intensely tantalizing to me, as I'm fairly positive that all of the words in this document were chosen very carefully. Why would the Others be "willing" to allow Dharma on the Island? I've theorized that the Initiative may have been brought by/funded by Widmore, in an attempt to exploit the Island. But I'd like to suggest in the alternate that this may have been Jacob's doing. Dharma may have been the 70's equivalent of the Oceanic castaways or the Black Rock crew.

All of the above is pretty intriguing stuff for a fan. But most interesting is the following:

5) A mutual insistence that both parties "take every possible precaution for the protection of the island, including all shrines and sanctuaries used for whatever purpose by those who have an established right to visit them." The letter itself is chock full of legalese like this - to the point where Richard has hand-written a note in the margins asking "Goodspeed, is the 'Legal' language necessary?"

It's interesting that the 'ruins' on the island have been declared 'protected.' It's even more interesting that Richard opts to revise this section, writing "If the Dharma Initiative enters or violates any preexisting ruins on the island, the truce is violated." The word "preexisting" is then crossed out, as though Richard had reconsidered the use of that word. That's fascinating, and potentially meaningful on a time-hopping island. Does this imply that some of the Island's "ruins" have yet to be built? That the Others may be constructing them? That the ruins we see are actually from a future time? That they're not nearly as old as they seem? Does it imply that, on a time-hopping island, ruins might suddenly "appear"? It's not clear. But it is seemingly-significant.

6) Richard mandates that if Dharma digs or drills "more than ten meters into the ground, even in their designated territory," the truce will be broken.

This brings up a whole passel of questions. We know that the Island has underground passages, but we don't know the extent of them - whether they run all over the Island or are concentrated around the Temple area. Is Richard attempting to protect the Temple by trying to prevent the discovery of passages that would lead underneath it? We also know that the 'unique electromagnetism' of the Island is contained under the earth, and that Dharma specifically and willfully violates the truce when it digs the Swan Station. Is Richard attempting to protect the energy from discovery/release? Is he protecting Dharma from that energy? We suspect that the Island is not simply what it appears to be, and that over-zealous digging might reveal something telling about its underlying nature. Is he protecting the nature of the Island? Finally, we know that ol' Smokey dwells under the earth. Is Richard attempting to protect Dharma from Smokey/the MiB? I'll have some brief thoughts on the Island's "underworld" in the Rewatch Column for "The Beginning of the End."

7) Richard similarly mandates that the Dharma population cannot exceed 216 people "at any one time on the Island."

This also brings up some interesting questions. Why must the population stay below that number? On an obvious level, it could simply be concern about overpopulation on the Island - an attempt to maintain balance between people and nature. On another level, it could be a hint toward the meaning of/origin of the fertility problems on the Island. We know that Horace's wife gives birth to Ethan without the pregnancy complications that have plagued the Island in the 'present day.' We also know that Dharma established a school and that, presumably, the school was partially filled with children born on the Island. Was Dharma's violation of Richard's mandate the reason for the seeming 'fertility ban' on the Island?

No answers here - only more questions. Such is the way of Lost. My sincere thanks to Jacob (yes, really) for providing this tasty nugget of mythology to me for eager digestion.


Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 10: Bad Dads

Too Much Information 9: How To Be Good

Too Much Information 8: The Question Jar

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays

Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative

Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?

Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Tuesday, December 8

Monday, December 7

Too Much Information 10: Bad Dads

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." - Exodus 20:5

"The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." - Numbers 14:18

Tolstoy once wrote that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." That certainly applies to the fathers and children of Lost. With a few notable exceptions the characters that populate this show have fractured and/or ruined relationships with their respective poppas that are each as unique and as horrible as a toxic snowflake:

Jack's father is a drunken and distant man fond of telling his son that he doesn't have what it takes. Sun's father is a controlling overlord, a man willing to use his daughter's husband as a personal pitbull. Kate's stepfather is an abusive drunk. Locke's father cons him and tries to kill him. Ben's father is a shiftless drunk who vocally blames his son for the death of his own mother. Penelope's father treats her boyfriend like dirt and uses her name to provide a cover story for a freighter full of homicidal goons with automatic weapons. Alex's father steals her from her mother and, incidentally, is a power-mad sociopath.

That's a lot of bad dads.

The fathers on the show who aren't out-and-out "bad" are, nonetheless, absent. Hurley's father runs out on his family for years before finally returning and appearing to atone. Aaron's father runs out on Claire. Michael is separated from Walt at infancy all the way through most of his childhood.

Jin is the exception that proves the rule. His father seems like a kind, loving man but interestingly - by Korean society's standards - he's still a 'bad dad' as a 'lowly' fisherman.
What's up with this?

Are Lost's writers just unusually obsessed with terrible poppas? Is this pattern of problematic patriarchs meaningful in any way, or does the proliferation of pitiful paters in the show's narrative simply serve to signify generalized generational grief? And can the amount of alliteration in this analysis be alleviated in any way? Because, man, it's annoying.

One thing's for sure - the children of these men haven't been shy about expressing their anger and pain over the various ways in which their fathers have screwed them over - and that includes the figurative children of figurative fathers.

Take Jacob and Ben.

When Ben kills his father he essentially adopts Jacob as his surrogate dad - an elevated figure who he obeys and, judging by his emotions in The Incident, regards paternally. Just before Ben runs Poppa Jacob through with his knife he complains that he's followed Jacob faithfully - that he's done everything Jacob asked of him and what about his needs and his feelings? What about Ben the Good Son? Jacob's answer to Ben is, when looked at objectively, just as cool and callous as the answer that Cooper gives to Locke: What about you?

Judging only from what we know of character motivation I think it's fair to ask: What's the difference between Cooper and Jacob? Aren't they both fathers using their sons to their own ends?

Because what do we actually know about Jacob? Not a hell of a lot. We know that he seems to have a plan, but we don't know what it is. Richard indicated in "The Brig" that the Others had important work to do on the Island, but does he know what that work is? Does he understand it's purpose? Does anyone, other than Jacob?

Whatever Jacob's doing, it's putting a lot of people in some serious misery. Maybe Jacob's goal is a sort of universal rising-up of humanity and/or human consciousness (and again, while I've theorized that this might be the case there's next-to-no-evidence for it, other than a brief shot of a great Flannery O'Connor book), but in order to secure that goal Jacob must allow the lives of individual people to go horribly wrong when he could arguably have stepped in and tried to make things better. That makes him kind of a monster, from a certain point of view.

And yet. While a good many of the fathers we've seen on this show are legitimately awful, none of them forced their children to make the decisions which they ended up making. Cooper may have conned Locke out of a kidney, but he didn't force him to trail around after him like a wounded puppy. Jack's father may have been a cold dude, but he didn't create Jack's problems - Jack created those problems. No one forced Jin to become a hired thug - both he and Sun created that reality through their choices, choices that they withheld from one another.

In fact, from another point of view, some of these dads aren't 'bad' at all. What if Sun's father had 'good' intentions for his son-in-law? What if Mr. Paik is simply following the lead of his own father, and attempting to teach Jin a lesson in 'toughness,' so that one day he might be 'worthy' of the Paik name? What if Christian's ham-fisted talks with Jack were his way of awkwardly reaching out to connect, and not to chastise? What if Jacob recognizes that real change comes not from forcible imposition, but from voluntary attempts at reformation?

Even if these fathers are as terrible as they seem however, the choices that their children have made are their own. And it's our own choices, Lost has argued over and over and over again, that define us and either lift us up or let us fall. The characters of Lost have the ability, and the opportunity, to remake themselves and their lives in the image of who they are - not who they think their fathers have made them.

If we look all the way back to Season 1's episode "The Moth," we can see the dynamic of the bad dad and the surly man-child playing out on the Island itself, in the form of Charlie and Locke. Locke tells Charlie that he could take away his drugs, but that it wouldn't help him the way that Charlie needs to be helped. In order to be free of his addiction, Charlie needed to learn to help himself - and Locke's stern paternalism was instrumental in getting him to realize this. Charlie was the boss of Charlie - not Locke, not Heroin. Only Charlie could decide to change Charlie.

Part of what may be Lost's larger point about 'Good Being' involves the idea that, in large part, we create our own misery - that we have the power to make choices and change our lives - that we decide who and what matters and why. That's a lofty, high-minded and admirable thought, but the problem is that it's a lofty and high-minded thought that's pretty difficult to keep in mind on a not-lofty, not-high-minded day-to-day basis. It's an ideal that most of us labor to aspire to - not something we just do in our day-to-day lives (David Foster Wallace writes wonderfully and compassionately about the act of directed thinking in the book 'This Is Water,' a book I could not recommend more highly as a gift for any graduate and, more importantly, as a gift to anyone who enjoys thinking about how we all think).

We're mostly a bunch of Charlies, wanting someone to take our drugs away from us without doing the work of changing our mindset so that we won't feel the need for them anymore.

I began this edition of TMI with a Bible quote that suggests the iniquities of the fathers will be visited on the sons. But I don't think that's Lost's message. I believe that it's message is bound up in ideas of Good Being and Sartre-ian ideas of self-definition and self-realization. That message might be summed up by another Bible prophet, the bizarre and wonderful Ezekiel:

The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." - Ezekiel 18:20

Of course, all of this assumes that Jacob's plans are benevolent, or at the least, benign. We'll deal with this ambiguity in an upcoming edition of TMI.


Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 9: How To Be Good

Too Much Information 8: The Question Jar

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays

Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative

Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?

Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Friday, December 4

Greatest Hits (S3, ep. 21)

The Rewatch Column for "Greatest Hits" has been ordered numerically for your reading pleasure on

Wednesday, December 2

New England Rocks (And Hunts and Fishes)

A warm welcome to our newest visitors here on Back To The Island - The good folks over at New England Fishing and Hunting. If you're here for the first time I encourage you to poke around in the archives and leave your feedback in the comments.

Thanks for stopping in!

Tuesday, December 1

Monday, November 30

The Brig (S3, ep. 19)

The Rewatch Column for "The Brig" has been strangled like Jabba The Hutt for your reading pleasure on

Hope the weekend was kind to all. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 29

Tease Me

Over on's venerable Message Boards 'Deanburger' has put up a link to a Spanish TV promo for Lost's final season. It contains no spoilers for the final season, but it's an impressive piece of marketing and it got me excited enough to share with all of you:

Wednesday, November 25

Gobbling Toward Ecstacy

Happy American Thanksgiving, everyone.
Due to the fact that I'll be in a tryptophin-induced coma tomorrow, as well as the fact that my thoughts on the next episode ("The Man Behind The Curtain") have run longer than most, the next column probably won't be up for you to read until the end of the week.
In the meantime, I encourage you to explore the archives, catch up on the Too Much Information columns (there'll be another of these up soon as well), and comment away.
Whether you're celebrating tomorrow or not, I wish you and your loved ones well. I'm thankful for your attention, and I'll be back soon.


Monday, November 23

TMI 9: How To Be Good

Goodwin: "Nathan was not a good person. That's why he wasn't on the list."

Ben: "You killed two of us -- good people who were leaving you alone."

Ethan: "We're good people, Claire. We're a good family."

Ben: "I was coming for you, John. You're one of the good ones."

Ben: "We're the good guys, Michael."

What does it mean to be 'good'? The typical dictionary contains dozens of different meanings for the word, which range from 'morally excellent' to 'socially proper' to 'healthful' to 'fresh in quality.'

The question of what it means to be 'good' becomes even more unclear in the context of Lost, where the word is used by the Others and their associates to describe themselves, those people on Jacob's list, and those people who are apparently unworthy of being on Jacob's list.

I believe that part of, if not all of, the answer to that question can be found in a book - a book that Lost has specifically referenced several times during the course of the show. If you're a close watcher of the show, or if you've read my column for the Season 2 finale, you know that the submarine dock - the dock that Michael and Walt leave the Island from - is named 'Pala Ferry.'

The name Pala comes from Aldous Huxley's novel "Island," of which I wrote:

Pala is the name of Aldous Huxley’s fictional Island Utopia. Huxley’s novel contains a great many connections to Lost. Namely:

Huxley’s Island’s primary religious practice is Mahayana Buddhism, a system of belief that melds eastern and western traditions in a way that’s not dissimilar to Dharma’s melding of science and faith, or to the way that various faiths have been seen expressed on Lost’s Island.

The people of Huxley’s Island practice ‘selective modernization,’ by embracing certain technological advances (like refrigeration) while rejecting more overt industrialization, not unlike the way that the Others choose to take over the Dharma barracks but resist Dharma’s ‘industrialization’ of the Island through their installation of multiple hatches. They also, like the Others and like Dharma, utilize drugs and ‘trance states’ to achieve faster learning and greater consciousness and focus on fertility.

Huxley’s novel gives us this provocative passage, which links together a bunch of stuff that we’ve been discussing this season, and which, I’d guess, comes close to what Lost is attempting to say about the idea of faith in general:

...."For faith is the empirically justified confidence in our capacity to know who in fact we are, to forget the belief-intoxicated Manichee in Good Being. Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.”

All of the above would seem to have thematic relevance to Lost, but the most interesting portion of Huxley's writing for our purposes today is his use of the word 'good,' as in 'Good Being.' Huxley's description of Good Being feels like a perfect description of the struggles that we've seen the castaways going through - a struggle that John Locke compared to the emergence of a moth from its cocoon:

Good Being is knowing who in fact we are; and in order to know who in fact we are, we must first know, moment by moment, who we think we are and what that bad habit of thought compels us to feel and do. A moment of clear and complete knowledge of what we think we are, but in fact are not, puts a stop, for the moment, to the Manichean** charade. If we renew, until they become a continuity, these moments of the knowledge of what we are not, we may find ourselves, all of a sudden, knowing who in fact we are.

Self-knowledge - the path to 'Good Being.' We've seen this illustrated in the way the flashbacks have shown us how the castaways have learned, or not learned, from their pasts. We've seen it in their efforts to grapple with the things they've done and the regrets they've harbored. By showing us a group of people dealing with their personal demons, Lost may be showing us the process of attempting 'Good Being,' a process of willfully and consciously coming to know who they think they are so that they might come to know who they truly are, or wish to be.

Locke's conscious choice to kill his father through a surrogate could be argued as a choice to start defining himself by destroying the man who has done the most external destruction to Locke's life. But in truth, Cooper isn't the one responsible for Locke's life at all - Locke is. It was Locke's choice to pursue the man who conned him, his choice not to let go; to keep holding on to something that was hurting him both figuratively and literally. The same is true of Sawyer. Sawyer made the choices that turned him into the con man he became. Cooper did something terrible to Sawyer's family - something that has caused our favorite smart-ass no end of personal pain - but it's very arguable that the person who has hurt Sawyer the most is Sawyer, and no one else.

All of this, none-too-coincidentally, does a fine job of echoing the ideas of self-definition and realization that Sartre explores in 'No Exit,' a play that's come up during the course of this Rewatch a number of times (see TMI 7: Sartre-speak, as well as the column for 'Three Minutes').

Killing Cooper won't automatically restore peace and balance to either Locke or Sawyer - anymore than killing Inez or Garcin would have given Estelle peace in 'No Exit,' but, if we follow the logic of 'Good Being,' doing so may allow them to take a clear look at who they truly are without being distracted by who they think they are. In effect, killing Cooper allows Sawyer and Locke to smash their darkest 'mirror' - the man that reflects the worst, most hated parts of themselves.

By confronting and murdering the man who he believes has made him who is he, Sawyer is forced to confront himself and what he thinks of himself - in other words, who he thinks he is (a bad man, one who's never done a good thing in his life thanks to the man who conned his mother). If I understand Huxley's reasoning, by eliminating him Sawyer can, potentially, discover who he really is - who he'd like to be. He can remove the roadblock that's kept him in a cycle of hate and self-loathing for most of his life. He can, if he chooses, start fresh - defining himself not by the Sartre-ian mirrors around him but by his own soul and mind.

By doing this, Sawyer can become a 'good' person, at least as the Others define the word.

That's my take, at any rate. What do you think?

**Notice, also, Huxley's reference to the 'Manichean Charade.' In one of the previous columns we talked a bit about Manichaesism and Gnosticism - two belief systems that may have something to do with Lost. That split between black and white, good and evil, has been dramatized many times on this show, all the way back to Locke's first conversation with Walt about backgammon ('two sides - one dark, one light').

Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 8: The Question Jar
Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism
Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays
Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative
Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet
Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?
Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Course Correction & Welcome

Greetings and salutations to all of you, and especially to the fans of Liverpool FC.
A commenter on their site was cool enough to recommend this blog on their boards, and I'd like to return the favor. You can visit's Lost forum by clicking here.

If you're new here I invite you to explore the backlog of commentary on this site using the sidebar. I've been re-watching the show on an episode-by-episode basis, and my rambling thoughts were apparently entertaining enough/crazy enough (much more likely) to warrant an invitation to post them on You'll find all of the (shorter) pre-Chud columns right here, as well as links to all of the columns on I encourage you join in, to comment, question, criticize, cogitate and other action-y words that start with 'c.'

That takes care of the welcomes. On to the course correction:

Lost has announced that its final season will begin on February 2, 2010. That leaves me with just over two months left to complete this re-watch. I plan on stretching it out so that the columns I write will run up to the sixth season's premiere on February 2 instead of working to finish up by mid-January as originally planned - this means that I'll be able to also include the 'mobisodes' that were included in the Season 4 dvd.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 20

D.O.C. (S3, ep. 18)

The Rewatch Column for "D.O.C." has been ventilated for your reading pleasure on

Share and enjoy.

Thursday, November 19

Catch-22 (S3, ep. 17)

The Rewatch Column for "Catch-22" has been shot through the neck for your reading pleasure on

Digg that sucker.

Wednesday, November 18

Too Much Information 8: The Question Jar has begun using a feature which allows you to leave comments at the end of each article they publish. A gentleman named Drew posted in the column for "Left Behind" and asked the following question:

"Damon and Carlton (or Darlton, as they're affectionately called) have said that certain mysteries will not be answered or "fully revealed", such as the Numbers. What mysteries do you think are of absolute importance and what could be sacrificed? Besides the big obvious questions, I need to know about that damn Hurley bird. Keep up the great writing."

Thanks, Drew. If by great writing you mean 'primitive, alcohol-aided stabs at a keyboard,' then I will, in fact, keep up the great writing.

I think your question is excellent, and it's one I'd like to pose to you folks at large. What mysteries must be answered? What mysteries can be left unanswered?

Speaking for myself, and taken off the top of my head, these are some of the questions that I'm hoping the sixth and final season will answer:

1) What is the importance/purpose of the Island?

I don't know that I need a detailed explanation of what the Island actually is/what it contains, so long as we're told more-or-less why the Island is so darned important to characters like Jacob, Ben and Widmore. Not important in the personal sense (the Island is Ben's home, so of course it's important to him), but in the larger, mythology-inclusive sense of the word. What is the Island's percieved purpose? Is that purpose up for personal interpretation? What makes people like Widmore want to possess it? Lost doesn't need to tell me that the Island is really a spaceship, or Atlantis, or Mu or Neverland or whathaveyou (my totally-unfounded guess: the Island is alive, and the Man in Black, as well as the other apparitions we've seen, are manifestations of it's will/intelligence) - in some ways I'd appreciate it if they didn't. What I 'need' to know involves the motivations of the people we've been introduced to throughout the show as those motivations relate to the Island.

2) What is Jacob's goal?

Why was Jacob popping up at certain points in the lives of certain castaways? What is the practical meaning behind his half-veiled conversation with the Man In Black? What is Jacob working to accomplish, if anything? And why?

3/4) Who/what is the Man in Black? What's the deal with the Island's apparitions and visions?

If I'm right in my rampant speculation, questions 3 and 4 are connected - the Island's strange 'ghosts' and the Man In Black are one and the same. Whether or not I'm right, I want very much to understand the origins of these 'ghosts,' their goals and their drives, their purpose in appearing on the Island. Is 'Christian' dead? Undead? Somehow alive again? And does he serve Jacob or the Man In Black? As mentioned above, my working theory is that they're creations of the Island itself - that they're similar to the 'ghosts' that the planet Solaris creates in Stanislaw Lem's novel of the same name. But if I'm wrong (and I'm probably wrong)? Then I need the answers, Lost.

5) What is the Temple?

The show has built the Temple up to be a place that's central to the mythology of the Island. We've seen that the Smoke Monster lives in its ancient spaces, that Ben was somehow made well inside of it, that the Others retreated to it for safety when the Island was raided by Widmore's men. What is the Temple? What does it 'do'? Why is it important? Why is it hidden?

6) What happened to Rousseau's crew?

This isn't a major mystery, in and of itself, but it's one that seems to be linked to the Smoke Monster, the Temple, the Others, and potentially Room 23. Rousseau's companions changed after following Montand down the Smokey Hole - they became sinister, deadly. Were they brainwashed? Possessed? Infected? ....Enlightened?

7) What are the motivations of Widmore and Hawking?

Season 5 muddied the already muddy waters of motivation for both Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore, as well as their relationship. If Hawking is working 'for the good of us all,' why has she kept in contact with Widmore who, according to Ben, is not a good man? If Widmore is actually on the side of 'good,' then what's with his involvement in getting Locke to return to the Island? And why is he employing Abbadon? Why is Widmore trying to recapture the Island? Why is Hawking so concerned with returning the castaways to its shores? And why does she appear in a photo with Desmond's monk friend?

8) Why did the Others take Walt?

We don't need the actor who played Walt to return in order to discover why he was important for a little while there. Why did the Others grab him? How and why did they know he was 'special'? Why did they subsequently let him go?

9) Who are Illyana and the 'shadow of the statue' people?

They're clearly working with Jacob to some extent. Are they Others? Are they anti-Others? How do they know the answer to Illyana's riddle? And what does that riddle actually mean?

10) What's up with the fertility issues on the Island? And why is it a (mostly) cancer-free zone?

In the column for "One of Us," I pointed out that both the absence of cancer and the pregnancy difficulties involve a mysterious force preventing the growth of new life within the human body. What's the reason for this?

11) What are the core tenets/beliefs of the Others?

What does the word 'good' really mean to the Others? Why do they seem to require the murder of a father figure in order to claim leadership? Why is their society structured as it is? Why are they required to learn Latin? Why do they give their dead viking-styled funerals? What is their self-percieved purpose on the Island? Their actual purpose?

12) What are The Whispers?

They seem to be connected to the sudden appearance of Others, they involve key members of the cast, and they seem to comment directly on the action when they're heard. What are they?

Those are the questions that I feel 'need' answering before it comes to an end. There are other questions that I'd enjoy seeing answered, but that aren't significant enough to me to feel disappointed if they aren't. These include:

1) What is the Hurley Bird?

Sorry, Drew. I know this one's a biggee for you, but if the Hurley Bird goes forever unexplained I won't care overmuch.

2) What purpose, if any, do the various injections on the Island serve?

Desmond, Kelvin and Claire have all been seen injecting themselves. It'd be nice to know whether any of this medication has a purpose, but if it's never revisited I won't complain.

3) Who are Adam and Eve?

I'm assuming that they're Rose and Bernard, last seen chilling out in the 70's in a retirement shack. And if the skeletons in the caves are never addressed again, that's what I'll continue to assume.

4) What was the 'true' purpose of the Dharma Initiative?

Does it matter? I'd argue that it doesn't - that Dharma's served as an excellently enigmatic chunk of backstory, backstory that's already been sufficiently elaborated on. Leave it up to the audience to decide why Dharma went to the Island (my theory: Widmore and/or Jacob brought them).

5) What are The Numbers?

No matter what the explanation for The Numbers turns out to be, I suspect it won't be as satisfying as their current opaque-ness is. Are The Numbers meaningful at all? It seems that way, but it also seems possible that they're meant to illustrate the concept of 'Apophenia,' and the vagueness of them is satisfyingly Lynchian.

6) Is Richard Alpert immortal?

Sure, it'd be unspeakably nifty to learn Alpert's history, and to learn the secret to his eerie arrested development (my theory: he arrived on the Black Rock with Magnus Hanso, and we'll get a Black Rock flashback during the final season). But the answer to Alpert's agelessness isn't an answer that I feel the 'need' to recieve. I'd be honestly contented if they left his potential immortality alone and allowed the audience's imagination to fill in the gaps.

7) What's up with the quarantine warnings?

I've theorized that the warnings were put up following the events of the Purge - that the Dharma workers in those stations were instructed to quarantine themselves and to use Haz-Mat suits when and if they needed to emerge. That's explanation enough for me.

8) Why was Libby institutionalized?

My guess? She committed herself following the death of her husband. But who really cares, unless the reason for her stay in the hospital is directly related to a larger question about the Island?

9) Who is 'Grandpa Ray,' really?

There's no immediate reason to think that Jack's visit to 'Grandpa Ray' was anything more than a convenient way for Jack to get his father's shoes. But introducing Ray to the storyline this late in the game felt like the planting of a story-seed, not just a one-off encounter. Lost could very easily never mention this character again and that'd be fine with me, but I admit to being curious about him. Why is he always trying to escape? Is he included to indicate that the Shephard clan has been involved with the Island for generations, in some manner or another? Is his resemblance to Jack Shephard meant to indicate that Jack is his own grandpa, and that time-travel shenanigans will end up placing a much older Jack at a point in the timestream when he can provide himself with the means to return to the Island?

What did I miss? What do you 'need' answered? Are there any questions that you'd prefer they didn't answer? Let me know in the comments!

Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays

Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative

Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?

Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Tuesday, November 17

One of Us (S3, ep. 16)

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Left Behind (S3, ep. 15)

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Monday, November 16

We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Hey, all.

Having spent the past few days enjoying a very relaxing vacation in honor of my anniversary, I've returned refreshed and raring to go. We'll be resuming our usual schedule, with the next column (for Left Behind) expected to be up by the end of the day.

Thanks for reading, and stay Lost.


Tuesday, November 10

Exposé (S3, ep. 14)

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FYI: the link to the confirmation of the spiders-as-Monster theory was lost in translation, so here it is for those of you who're curious:,_2008

The Man from Tallahassee (S3, ep. 13)

The Rewatch column for "The Man from Tallahassee" has been shoved from an eight-story window for your reading enjoyment on

Monday, November 9

Apropos of Nothing

Over at, the site that this column calls virtual-home, writer Devin Faraci has posted a list of his ten favorite films - films that he can watch any time, any day. They aren't the 'best' films he's seen, just the ones he loves on a near-primal level. I liked that criterion, and it got me thinking about my own top ten. These are the films I can watch at any time, that I'll see on television and stop to check out despite owning them. I can't claim that they're 'great' movies, just favorites. Feel free to use the comments section and let me know what yours are. As always, I'm interested in your opinions.

In no particular order:

1. Roadhouse - Patrick Swayze's greatest film and a film that I've seen, in whole or in part, more times than I can count. Gleefully preposterous, Roadhouse was released in 1989 just in time to send up and warmly embrace everything terrible and wonderful about the 80's. It presents a pop-philosophical worldview that's simultaneously ludicrous and seductive, and it yields up an unending treasure trove of terrific moments and dialogue. Lord, that dialogue..."Callin' me sir is like puttin' an elevator in an outhouse. Don't belong." "Pain don't hurt." "A bear fell on me." "I used to f@$% guys like you in prison." A true classic.

2. The Iron Giant - Brad Bird's first full-length animated feature, The Iron Giant is everything a family film should be - warm, sweet, sad, laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply moving. You know you've got something special on your hands when one word from an animated robot ("Superman") can make tears gather in a grown man's eyes.

3. Cool Hand Luke - Paul Newman was The Man. I think we can all agree on this. and he left behind no shortage of sterling performances. My favorite has always been, and I suspect will continnue to be, his work as Lucas Jackson, a small-town man with an authority problem that's a mile long and wide. There's endless pleasure to be found in the character work in this film, and while the ending ain't exactly a happy one (SPOILER!), the journey resonates with me in a profound sort of way. Also: eggs!

4. Super Troopers - Is there anything better than stumbling onto a piece of pop culture that feels undiscovered or half-hidden? Super Troopers, a low-budget cop comedy from the 'Broken Lizard' comedy troupe, is a rambling, shambling, half-baked flick full of the kind of comedy that one suspects was crafted during long hours spent toiling over a bong and/or keg. It's absurd and meandering and crass and intelligent and, best of all, it gets funnier every time you see it. Meow will you go and check it out?

5. North by Northwest - It's not considered one of Hitchcock's 'great' films as far as I can tell, but this fizzy espionage caper is still magic. Cary Grant was never cooler, and Grace Kelly was never hotter. It makes no sense that anyone would attempt to kill Grant with a plane, and yet the image of Grant running from a crop duster is an iconic one. This movie is just that enjoyable.

6. Clue - I'm not sure what the creative team behind 'Clue' was embibing when they crafted their terrifically entertaining film from a Parker Brothers board game, but I want some. Watching an all-star ensemble of comedy heavyweights snipe and flirt and freak out with each other as the people around them drop dead from Sudden Murder Syndrome is the definition of a well-spent rainy Saturday afternoon.

7. Groundhog Day - How is it that a film that repeats itself over and over ends up being endlessly rewatchable? Credit the genius of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. To hear Ramis tell it, this collaboration more or less ended the friendship between he and Murray, and the world is a poorer place for that, but it's also a far richer place thanks to Groundhog Day, perhaps the deepest and most moving comedy I've ever seen.

8. The Usual Suspects - I've heard people argue that the punch goes out of The Usual Suspects once you know the ending, but that's a load of horsepuckey. Bryan Singer's first film is crammed full of great dialogue, solid acting, dark humor, and tough-guy machismo. The script is a finely-tuned machine, and like Lost, the fun isn't knowing how it all adds up, it's in appreciating just how much work and love went into crafting the puzzle pieces. Who is Keyser Soze? Ultimately I don't care, and neither should you. It's never the answer that interests me most - it's the riddle that precedes it.

9. Back to the Future - All that stuff I just wrote about a script being a finely-tuned machine? That goes triple for BTTF - a film that stands on its own as a bonafide classic (and a time machine in its own right - Marty's 'present day' is hilariously dated now). That's two Christopher Lloyd flicks on this list, which is the sort of odd realization that makes lists like these worth creating.

10. Indiana Jones and the last Crusade - It's not as good as Raiders, and it's not as dark as Temple of Doom, but there's something about Last Crusade that makes it more rewatchable for me. Maybe it's the goofily-compressed origin of Indiana at the beginning, or the quest for a relic that's not sought for destructive power, but rather for illumination and longevity. Maybe it's the way that Spielberg cuts from Indiana lecturing the Nazis on how Marcus will 'disappear, blend in - you'll never see him again' straight to a shot of Marcus blundering his way through a market asking for directions. Maybe it's the connection between father and son, and the love of family that suffuses the film. Maybe it's all in the sad, small wave given by the last remaining knight as his temple falls down around him as if signifying both a loss and a gain far greater than any simple cup.

What are yours? And why?

Par Avion (S3, ep. 12)

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Wednesday, November 4

Enlist Today!

Maybe you've stumbled onto this page by accident, searching for 'atheist russian,' or 'gnostic pizza,' on google. Or maybe you're a Lost fan, and you've found yourself here because you're chomping at the bit for the final season to begin and you need a fix - any fix- to get you through the months ahead. Maybe you're a fan of, and you're enjoying my dependably-scattered and twitterpated ramblings enough to see what 'Back to the Island' holds.

No matter your reason, I'm glad you're here. I'd like to encourage you to subscribe to this page, to click on the Twitter link to the right, or to 'follow' this blog using the button located under the 'newest comments' section of the sidebar. You'll be notified every time something new is posted here, and I'll get that warm fuzzy feeling inside that comes when a blog's viewership rises out of the double digits. Everyone wins!

So come along and join us. I'll feed that hungry lil' monkey on your back.

Thanks for reading,


Enter 77 (S3. ep. 11)

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Tricia Tanaka Is Dead (S3, ep. 10)

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Monday, November 2

Stranger In A Strange Land (S3, ep. 9)

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Flashes Before Your Eyes (S3, ep. 8)

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Thursday, October 29

Not In Portland (S3, ep. 7)

The Rewatch column for "Not in Portland" has been miraculously impregnated for your reading pleasure on

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Wednesday, October 28

The Ballad of the Shameless Shill

I hope everyone's enjoying the Rewatch so far. The comments that you've seen fit to leave have been insightful, intelligent, and fun to read.

I'd like to see if we can get more people involved, and I'm posting this shameless missive in the hopes that you all will help me out with that. If you've got friends, relatives, acquaintences and/or frenemies that watch Lost - if you visit other websites dedicated to discussing the show or to discussing television in general - I'd like to ask you to pass this site's URL along to them and invite them to join in on the fun.

The person who can draw the most peepers in this direction will be invited to contribute a guest article here on a Lost-related topic of their choice, and that article will be incorporated into one of the Rewatch columns on

As always, my sincere thanks for visiting, for reading, and for contributing.


I Do (S3, ep. 6)

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Tuesday, October 27

The Cost of Living (S3, ep. 5)

The Rewatch Column for "The Cost of Living" has been lovingly laid on a funeral pyre for your reading enjoyment. Apologies for any confusion regarding the title - this column covers only "The Cost of Living," and not "I Do."

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Friday, October 23

Tuesday, October 20


Seeing as we're now at the center of the storm, so to speak, having started in on Season 3's Rewatch columns, I thought I'd throw a few links up here for those of you who are just stumbling onto this site. All of the Rewatch columns written so far are available for viewing by clicking through the "Blog Archive" sidebar here on the main page.

In addition to the individual episode write-ups, I've also taken some time to write more in-depth pieces. I've labeled these columns "Too Much Information," and they're scattered throughout the Rewatch columns. Here they are in their entirety, and each one attempts to tackle an aspect of the show:

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays

Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative

Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?

Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Thanks for reading. The Rewatch column for S3, ep. 4 should be up by tomorrow morning.

Monday, October 19

Further Instructions (S3, ep. 3)

The Rewatch Column for "Further Instructions" has been canned and preserved for your reading pleasure on

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Friday, October 16

The Glass Ballerina (S2, ep. 2)

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Thursday, October 15

Rousseau's Transmission

A thing of beauty. That's how I'd describe this latest screenprint, issued today on It's larger than the past prints, and it benefits from that sizing. I was lucky enough to snag one of these, and you can still grab one (if you hurry) at

A Tale Of Two Cities (S3, ep. 1)

The Rewatch Column for "A Tale of Two Cities" has been lacquered and shellacked for your reading pleasure on! I'm offering a prize to the first person that figures out the subtle Sondheim reference in the column for "Live Together, Die Alone." If you think you know the answer, guess here in the comments.

Wednesday, October 14

Wednesday, October 7

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-speak

“Life begins on the other side of despair.” – Sartre

“The best way out of hell is through the other side.”Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

In the Rewatch Column for “Three Minutes” I briefly discussed Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and its relevance to Lost. If you’d like to catch up on what was said you can do so by clicking over to

In talking about No Exit I barely scratched the surface of it in general, and more specifically, as it relates to Lost. I’d like to take the time to delve just a little deeper into Sartre’s play in this edition of Too Much Information.

I’ve read two separate accounts of No Exit’s origins. According to one account, Sartre originally titled his play “The Others.” I discussed the concepts of Others and ‘Othering’ in the Rewatch column for “One of Them,” which you can read right HERE.

According to a separate account, he originally published his play with the title “In Camera.” I’m unable to independently confirm that both these claims are true. But assuming that they are (and why not? I’m not an academic, just a curious fella) both of these titles have clear significance to Lost.

Here are some thematic ideas that emerge from Sartre’s play. Rather than spell out the links I see between it and Lost, I’m more interested in your opinion. Can you spot the way(s) in which these ideas may have come into play on Lost? I invite you to use the comments and let me know what you think.


In No Exit, the room in which the play’s three central characters (Garcin, Inez and Estelle) are confined contains no mirrors. Instead, the three characters act as mirrors for each other; literally, as when Inez offers to be Estelle’s mirror by describing her appearance for her, and figuratively, as each of them are reflected back to themselves by the opinions and the judgments of their companions. Within the play, each of the three characters is left with a decision they must make or have, perhaps, already made: to define themselves by how others see them, or to define themselves on their own terms.

Estelle becomes concerned that without mirrors she essentially ceases to exist. Without something (literal in this case, but certainly figurative overall) that reflects back to her who she ought to be she feels lost. Sartre’s belief that humanity is free to choose who it will be and how it will act. He also believed that this choice was a responsibility on the part of each person.

I've discussed mirrors and 'mirroring' quite a bit in the Rewatch Columns. How have you seen this phenomenon crop up on the show? Do you agree that the writers are 'mirroring' intentionally?

Bad Faith

Sartre defined ‘bad faith’ in interesting terms. To act in ‘bad faith,’ one needs only to let another person define who you are. If you love to play music, but stop playing music because a newspaper has given you a bad review then you are acting in ‘bad faith’ – making the mistake of letting someone else’s idea of your self-worth stand in for your own.

Garcin asks Estelle to tell him whether or not he is a coward. Estelle replies that it is impossible for her to say whether or not he is a coward, and tells Garcin that he must decide for himself – something Garcin chooses not to do and professes himself to be incapable of doing so. By denying his own ability to choose how he will define himself, Garcin surrenders his free will to whomever is judging him. If Inez should decide that Garcin is a coward, a coward he will be. The mirror, for Garcin, becomes the reality. He is what is reflected back to him. There is no ‘Garcin,’ apart from the value that Others assign to him.

Sartre’s belief that humanity is free to choose who it will be and how it will act. He also believed that this choice was a responsibility on the part of each person. Failing this responsibility is ‘bad faith.’

Faith is a huge part of Lost's thematic preoccupations. But Sartre's idea of faith is very different from religious faith. In what ways have we seen both kinds of faith explored?


In No Exit the characters have no reason to lie to each other – they are dead and (one presumes) already judged, if they are judged at all. And yet, despite this, they continue to lie to one another and to themselves.

The castaways on Lost aren't 'really' dead, but their crash leaves them effectively dead to the world and capable of reinventing themselves (or not) among people who do not know them. Despite this, they continue to lie to one another and themselves.

The Past vs. The Present and Suffering

Garcin, like many of the castaways on the Island throughout the course of the show, remains fixated on the events of his past to the exclusion of what is happening to him in the present. He refuses to set aside what has already occurred in order to Rise Up and Converge with his fellow ‘prisoners.’

Suffering, Sartre believed, was essential to experience in order to affirm one’s own existence. Buddhism agrees with Sartre. Lost appears to agree as well. How has suffering helped to affirm the characters' existence?

I ask these questions, not because I'd like you to do my homework for me, but because I believe that Lost is inviting us to participate in asking these sorts of questions. I invite you to do so as well.

Catch up on Too Much Information!
Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism
Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB? Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction

Wednesday, September 30

Dharma Station Break

Sorry it's been so quiet this week - there'll be a new column up by this evening!

Thursday, September 24

Two For The Road (S2, ep. 20)

The Rewatch Column for "Two For The Road" is poured, stirred and chilled for your enjoyment at! Click here to read it.

Tuesday, September 22

This Day In History

Five years ago today, September 22nd, the first episode of "Lost" was broadcast here in America.

If you'd have told me on that night that five years in the future I would be penning over-long missives on Lost's literary, theological, scientific and philosophical underpinnings I would have laughed heartily in your face for several minutes.

If you haven't jumped on the rewatch train I encourage you to do so. If you have, and you're enjoying these articles, I encourage you to add your thoughts, comments, criticisms and favorite baking recipes to the comments.

Friday, September 18

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism and Mondo Manichaeism

"I remembered that I was a son of kings,
and my free soul longed for its natural state.
I remembered the pearl,
on account of which I was sent to Egypt.
Then I began charming it,
the formidable and hissing serpent.
I caused it to slumber and to fall asleep,
for my father's name I named over it,
and the name of our second in command (our double),
and of my mother, the queen of the East.
Then I snatched away the pearl,
and I turned to go back to my father's house.
And their filthy and unclean clothing,
I stripped off and left it in their country."

- "The Hymn of the Pearl," excerpted from The Acts of Thomas

If you're an obsessive Lost fan like yours truly then you'll recognize the name of Thomas the Apostle from the Season 5 episode "316" in which Ben discusses Caravaggio's painting "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" with the show's resident physician/skeptic, Jack Shepard.

BEN: Thomas the Apostle. When Jesus wanted to return to Judea, knowing that he would probably be murdered there, Thomas said to the others, "Let us also go, that we might die with him." But Thomas was not remembered for this bravery. His claim to fame came later... when he refused to acknowledge the resurrection. He just couldn't wrap his mind around it. The story goes... that he needed to touch Jesus' wounds to be convinced.
JACK: So was he?
BEN: Of course he was. We're all convinced sooner or later, Jack.

Ben draws a nifty parallel between Thomas and both himself and Jack in that scene. Thomas had other claims to fame though - ones that Lost doesn't discuss as explicitly, but which may be pertinent to the show's larger themes/preoccupations/interests.

Thomas the Apostle was also known by two other names: Doubting Thomas and Didymus. Both Thomas and Didymus mean can be translated to mean 'twin,' and instances of twinning and/or mirroring are littered all over this show. The Acts of Thomas and The Gospel of Thomas, both apocryphal texts, are named after Senor Didymus, and are considered to be 'gnostic' gospels. In order to explain to my latest Wildly Nutty Theory I'm going to talk a bit about Gnostic and Manichaen beliefs. This might seem a little dry to some of you, but I'll ask you to bite the bullet, take your medicine, grin and bear it, or pick another applicable cliche while I take your hand and walk you through what I believe are some of the keys to discerning the nature of Jacob, the MiB, and the Island Itself.

"Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's three wicked disciples."
Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis V (4th century)

Gnosticism and Manichaeism (Manichaeism being, depending on who you consult, either an 'offshoot' of Gnosticism or a similar system of belief that developed parallel to the Gnostic tradition, named after its apparent founder, Mani) were considered to be heretical by other Christians. Despite many similarities between, say, The Gospel of John and The Gospel of Thomas, neither The Gospel of Thomas nor The Acts of Thomas are included in what we consider today to be 'The Bible.' In fact, the Bible that you and I might refer to today looks very little like the sort of Bible that would have existed during Thomas' time. In that era, any Holy Books were not kept bound and ordered in a specific, chronological order, but rather stored as scrolls without the order imposed upon it by those who later assembled the Bible that we know today.

So why is that Thomas was deemed 'apocryphal,' while John was admitted into the rarified company of the King James version? Some claim that it's because of Thomas' cosmological worldview - a gnostic and/or Manichaen, dualistic worldview that more 'conservative' Christians found heretical:

For Thomas there are only two realms of existence: the material realm and the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is a blissful reality of goodness, life, and light; it is the "Kingdom of the Father". The material realm is a reality of evil, death, and darkness...

While most people in this material world, according to this ancient belief, are lifeless, soulless beings (little more than animated corpses) created to serve the Lion and his rulers; a few people are actually spiritual beings in disguise. These chosen few — though clothed in a mortal body — are actually immortal pre-existent beings of light and "Children of the Living Father" who have become intoxicated and fallen asleep under the weight of the material world and its vices. These solitary elect, upon hearing the words of the Living Jesus, will then shake off their slumber and — upon the death of the material body — will return to the Kingdom of the Father.

Some of these themes seem relevant to Lost. Certainly the two realms of the Island and the 'real world' echo the notion of the material world and the spiritual world. The Gnostic/Manichaen notion of the material world (the world of 'the body') being somehow 'corrupt' or imperfect finds a home in the way the castaways are depicted as having been brought low by the world around them, pre-Island. The idea of a 'slumbering elect' being awoken by the "Living Jesus" to return to the 'Kingdom of the Father' echoes in the wake of Jacob's appearances to the castaways, the ways in which he's shown to interact with each of them and the ways in which they've subsequently 'awoken' to the reality of their suffering and the longing to do something about it.

But there's more if we delve a little deeper in the Manichaen end of the pool:

In the beginning...the two "natures" or "substances", light and obscurity, good and evil, God and matter, coexisted, separated by a frontier. In the North reigned the Father of the South, the Prince of Darkness...

As we've seen, Jacob and his Others reside to the North on the Island. By contrast, the MiB/Smoke Monster makes his home in the South.

...the "disorderly motion" of matter drove the Prince of Darkness toward the upper frontier of his kingdom. Seeing the splendor of light, he is fired by the desire to conquer it. It is then that the Father decides that he will himself repulse the adversary.

The Adversary, of course, brings to mind God's companion in The Book of Job, a book of the Bible that Lost references near-explicitly in the opening scene of Season 5's finale, 'The Incident.' But the description above also neatly encapsulates the little we've seen of the conflict between Jacob and the MiB.

[The Father]...projects from himself, the Mother of Life, who...projects a new hypostasis, the Primordial Man...With his five sons, who are...his "soul" and "armor" made from five lights, the Primordial Man descends to the frontier. He challenges the darkness, but he is conquered, and his sons are devoured by the demons...

Here's where I stretch things a little, in order to make a larger connection: (1) The Mother of Life calls to mind the idea of fertility, the statue on the Island, the baby-making troubles therein. (2) This talk about the 'Father' projecting a Primordial Man to challenge the darkness, and that Man's conquering, echoes the journey of one John Locke, who was touched by Jacob, who was rumored to be some kind of Savior, and who was 'conquered' by the MiB. Locke's form has been assumed by the still-mysterious Island Adversary and his identity used to bring about the death of the 'Father.' Locke's 'sons,' the other castaways left alive at the end of Season 5, have been devoured by figurative demons, by ghosts of the past and an aching desire to wipe the slate completely clean.

This defeat marks the beginning of the cosmic "mixture", but at the same time it insures the final triumph of God. For obscurity (matter) now possesses a portion of light...and the Father, preparing its deliverance, at the same time arranges for his definitive victory against darkness.

In terms of Gnostic belief, it would seem as though the defeat of the 'Father' at the hand of the Prince of Darkness results in a mixing of black and white, of material and spiritual - a reunification of sorts. That kind of coexistence is echoed in the various Dharma sigils we've seen scattered throughout the show and specifically in the eyes of Locke during Claire's freaky-ass dream sequence from Season 1. It's worth noting that Mani's belief system was apparently influenced by Buddhism.

More specifically, as it might relate to Lost, the end of 'The Incident' suggested that Jacob's death was all part of the plan, so to speak. As the Darkness has devoured the light, it has ingested the light and made the light a part of it. A communion between the two dualistic halves would appear to be the answer for the conflict. And this is another echo of Lost's preoccupations - communication with 'The Other,' understanding between differing sides, reunification first through conflict and then eventual recognition that 'The Other' is simply a part of the Self. This brings us from Manichaeism to Gnosticism.

Where Manichaeism and Gnosticism can be said to split definitively is over this concept of clear-cut dualism. Manichaeism posits two co-equal forces, dark and light. We'll call this 'radical dualism'. Gnosticism, on the other hand, typically posits that all things are emanations from an Ultimate God, a kind of platonic ideal of divinity. We'll call this 'mitigated' dualism.

As one travels further away from the Ultimate God, the fabric of being begins to degrade and break down. Think of this in terms of making photocopies. The original is clear, distinct. Any subsequent copy will be less clear and distinct. And copies of copies will degrade further and further, but each of those copies captures the essence of the original, no matter how degraded.

So, under a pure 'Gnostic' system of belief, there are no 'sides.' All things, even a 'false' god (or 'demiurge') comes from the original Source. In this system of belief, the 'Prince of Darkness' is a degraded copy of the 'True God," and has been viewed as an 'evil' god:

The demiurge as a tyrannical God having caused the imperfect material world and all of its suffering, is...not real but a construct or illusion of the human mind since no secondary creator God is necessary or of high importance as everything is eternal or emanated and can not be created or destroyed. The demiurge typically creates a group of co-actors named 'Archons', who preside over the material realm and, in some cases, present obstacles to the soul seeking ascent from it.

This again brings to mind the MiB/Smoke Monster, and more specifically the various 'ghostly' forms which the MiB has taken. His 'Archon' appearances in the forms of Yemi, Alex, Dave, etc. have emphasized to the castaways that they are not free, that their personal anchors of guilt and fear and shame will never leave them. The notion that 'the demiurge' is a construct of the human mind fits nicely in with the last episode we've rewatched, 'Dave,' where the title character was an apparent creation of Hurley's mind set on influencing Hurley with a solipsistic, selfish, 'evil' worldview. Under the view of 'mitigated dualism' the demiurge is not evil, simply flawed and unable to see or comprehend the full picture any more than you or I.

I'm going to suggest that this is the path Lost is taking. Rather than set up a fight between 'good' and 'evil,' the show is instead illustrating the struggle between 'free will'/progress and determinism/entropy. The MiB isn't a 'bad guy,' instead, the MiB is limited by the very flaws it's so good at perceiving and exploiting in others. It can't see past humankinds failings, or its own, and this is not a choice to be 'evil,' but rather the essential character of the entity. Jacob, by contrast, takes the longer view. He sees the potential in the freedom to choose, and while he recognizes the flaws in man and in the world, he doesn't see those flaws as permanent or insurmountable. Thus the line: "It only ends once. Everything that happens before that is just progress."

In the Rewatch column for “Dave” I suggested the idea that the Island is a kind of ‘dark god’ – a force that may not be entirely benevolent. Having plowed through all of this I'm inclined to change my mind. The more I consider all of this, the more I've begun to think that the MiB and Jacob are meant (metaphorically, in part) to represent two sides emanating from the Ultimate God described by the Gnostics.

In “Just Spitballin’” I suggested that the Island is analogous to Solaris, the incomprehensible, powerful planet imagined by Stanislaw Lem in his novel of the same name. I still believe this analogy is apt, and now I'm even more inclined to push it on all of you. If Jacob and the MiB represent emanations from an Ultimate Source, then that ultimate source is the Island.

In other words, metaphorically-speaking, the Island IS God. The God. The Ultimate, incomprehensible Deity. The Island is the Source. It is the well-spring of Creation. It is good and evil, black and white, 'right' and 'wrong,' progress and entropy. Like Solaris, like the Gnostic conception of God, it cannot be understood, it can only be encountered.

Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays
Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative
Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?
Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction