Orientation (S2 ep. 3)
Desmond: “‘What was that all about,’ I say. ‘Just saving the world,’ he says. So I started pushing the button too…And we saved the world together for a while, and that was lovely.”
Ah, sweet, sweet mythology, how I enjoy you.
Lost began as a kind of fictional Survivor, spiced up with bizarre, Twilight Zone-ish elements like Polar Bears in the tropics, Men in suits standing in the surf, and an unseen Monster. With ‘Orientation,’ the show begins to transform itself into something more. This is the episode that officially began my slow, awkward slide into madness and obsession. Fitting, then, that it should focus on those very things.
--I love the opening shots of this episode – Michael, Jin and Sawyer dragged through the jungle and dumped into a holding pen by what we presume to be the Others. Michael Giacchino’s (sp?) score in this brief section is fantastic.
--Katey Sagal, who starred as Peg in Married With Children, as the voice of Leela in Futurama, and as the older sister of the Doublemint Gum Twins(!) in actual, real life, appears as the formerly-mysterious Helen, who we saw Locke pretending to speak with in “Walkabout.”
--It’s our third episode of the season and we’re exactly where we were for the first two episodes – in the Hatch watching Desmond and Jack having a stand-off with Locke in the middle. Not that I don’t appreciate the way that the show is essentially rotating this scene around in front of us, allowing us to see it from all ‘sides,’ but I can see why some folks might have grumbled about this tactic. Luckily, they finally allow this scene to progress.
--There may be a shortage of many things on this Island, but guns aren’t one of them. There are guns all over the damn place. Kate finds a whole room filled with what appears to be row upon row of shotguns. Given that The Swan was originally a research station, I’m assuming that the weapons surplus is a result of Dharma’s wariness over the Others, or as a direct result of the Purge.
--Enter The Button. The Button ticked a number of people off during this season, and I can sort of understand why. The drama of pushing a button isn’t exactly obvious, after all, even if the show goes out of its way to set up the basic dramatic stakes involved with said button pushing. Still, The Button never irked me because I’m fascinated (on a very pedestrian, amateur level) by the sorts of dilemmas and philosophical arguments that The Button evokes. The act of pushing the Button is, variously, (1) a Skinner Box experiment, (2) an act/statement of faith, (3) an act of surrender, (4) an act of control, (5) an exploration of free will, (6) a revealing look at the psychology of the Button pusher, (6) a statement on obsession…
Its certainly obsession that drives Locke in his flashback. We watch him connect with someone else suffering from anger issues, but we also see him fail to let go of what makes that anger burn. We see him give in to an obsession that leaves him alone and abandoned, and watch as he gives up what will make him happy for what will make him miserable. And then we watch him repeat that process on-Island, with a crucial difference – he hooks the group in with him. In some twisted way, its as if they’re all standing with Locke at Anthony Cooper’s gate now as he rings the buzzer every 108 minutes, hoping to be let in.
--Whoever did Ana Lucia’s falling-into-a-hole stunt is a badass.
--With the Orientation film we get our first official introduction to the Dharma Initiative, and with it, a slew of what will become keystone mythology pieces in Lost’s over-arcing story:
(1) The Swan, which we learn is one of several on-Island stations. (2) The work of ‘Danish industrialist,’ Alvar Hanso. The Hanso Corporation would become a large part of the ARG games that populated the time between seasons, but if memory serves this is one of Alvar’s only appearances on the show. (3) The notion that there is a unique electromagnetic presence in ‘this part of the Island.’ (4) The 108 minute limitation is introduced. 108 is the sum of The Numbers when added together. Its also the number of beads on a Mala, which is the Eastern version of a rosary. (5) The DeGroots and the University of Michigan are shown. Apparently, there’s an Oceanic Airlines logo on one of their book shelves. (6) Dharma’s stated reasons for existing include meteorology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism and ‘utopian social…..’ (7) The Initiative was inspired, in part, by the work of B.F. Skinner, a noted behaviorist and an advocate of psychological behavior modification – something we’ve seen put into apparent practice inside room 23, and something which appears to have been successfully performed on Danielle’s crew.
Skinner was also an advocate of ‘utopian social engineering,’ which may in fact be what Dharma was interested in.
‘Marvin Candle’: “Until your replacements arrive, the future of the project is in your hands.”
This statement, for whatever reason, evoked Jacob’s apparent project to my mind.
--The Orientation film was copyrighted (Copyrighted! Doesn’t this indicate that the film is registered with the US Government?) in 1980, a full three years after the events of Season 5. What does this mean, if anything?
--Desmond makes the sign of the cross right before flipping the switch to turn the computer on.
--Locke receives a kind of ‘fail safe’ key from Helen, but he doesn’t use it. Again, we see John’s relative inability to let go of his pain and his demons. We see this reflected in Jack, who is consumed by the need to control and to fix the physical.
Locke: “This wasn’t what was supposed to happen.”
Jack: “What was supposed to happen?”
Locke: “Please – don’t leave me here.”
Jack: “Goodbye, John. You’re on your own.”
--Hurley finds the pantry!
--Sayid, interestingly, seems to trust Locke in this episode. He tells Locke that he’s sure he’ll be told why the computer needed to be fixed once he’s done so. Is this an example of Sayid having ‘read’ Locke and decided that John was being honest? Is this a result of the Hatch discovery, and an internal acknowledgement from Sayid that Locke did well by finding it? It’s not clear.
--What is clear: for all of Jack’s protestations, he pushes the Button. The counter rolls back up to 108 again, and we all settle in for what will be an increasingly claustrophobic and divisive season. Hooray!