Our favorite peanut butter eating Australian comes up on the flashback-go-round, and through those flashbacks as well as the on-Island action we're immediately made aware of (a) just how 'special'/important Claire's baby may be and (b) just how dickish and weak (and human) Claire's boyfriend is.
--We begin straight-off with a quietly creepy Lynchian dream. Claire awakes in the caves, hearing what we assume is (not-yet-named) Aaron crying in the distance. Claire wanders into the jungle and she comes upon Locke, working at a table.
Locke: "It was your responsibility but you gave him away, Claire. Everyone pays the price now."
--Locke has one black eye and one white eye in this moment. This calls back to the backgammon pieces, the notion of two sides to a conflict, and looks forward to the events of the future and to Locke being used as a pawn between those forces.
--In the dream, Aaron's cradle is filled with blood. There's no way to know if this hints at anything. It's pretty much just horrifying (albeit in a 'horrifying for tv' sort of way). Apropos of nothing in particular, here are some tidbits about the Biblical Aaron, as interpreted by some Jewish scribes:
Contrary to popular belief, it was Aaron, not Moses, who cast down the
staff that became a snake before Pharaoh (Ex. 7:10-12). It was Aaron, not Moses,
who held out his staff to trigger the first three plagues against Egypt (Ex.
7:19-20; Ex. 8:1-2 or 8:5-6; Ex. 8:12-13 or 8:16-17). According to Jewish
tradition, it was also Aaron who performed the signs for the elders before they
went to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:30).
Aaron's most notable personal quality is that he was a peacemaker. His love
of peace is proverbial; Rabbi Hillel said, "Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace
and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them near the Torah." According to
tradition, when Aaron heard that two people were arguing, he would go to each of
them and tell them how much the other regretted his actions, until the two
people agreed to face each other as friends.
--Jack apparently talks in his sleep, or so an Ex told him. When Kate asks what he used to say, Jack responds "Whatever it was, she didn't like it."
--Speaking of sleep, someone keeps trying to stab Claire with (possibly imaginary) needles at night, and this is understandably upsetting her. Jack, consummate bull-headed rationalist that he is, is convinced its pregnant hallucinations at work. Charlie, puppy that he is, defends Claire. Jack should really take the time to listen to those around him. But he doesn’t. Because he’s Jack.
--This episode introduces us to Richard Malkin, psychic/con man extraordinaire, whom we’ll see again in Eko’s flashback to Australia under different, intriguing, circumstances.Malkin knows about Claire’s baby without asking anything of her. On first watch, this appeared to be a psychic phenomenon. On rewatch, with the knowledge that he’ll out himself as a fraud to Eko (and assuming that he’s honest in that assessment), we have to ask who is providing him with information.
We know the Others have detailed dossiers on the 815ers, and that those dossiers are remarkably complete. We also know that Abbadon, now revealed as an agent of Widmore (at least tangentially) has information on the 815ers as well, or on Locke at the very least. So there are three possibilities: Malkin is psychic, or Ben and the Others, or alternatively Widmore, Abaddon and friends, have worked through Malkin to influence Claire.
Given the ways in which Malkin’s tune changes over the course of this episode, I’m going to theorize that BOTH parties have gotten to him, and that both parties are working toward separate, undefined ends. His first vision, perhaps a true vision, makes him shoo both Claire and her friend from his house without giving a reading. This seems to fulfill the idea that Malkin is psychic, although it could also be that Malkin is setting Claire up for a longer con as we see Sawyer do to his mark with the briefcase full of cash.
His second meeting with Claire, which Claire initiates (lending some credence to the idea that his first vision was actually somehow psychic), introduces the still-unexplained idea that only Claire herself can raise the baby:
Malkin: “It is crucial that you, yourself, raise this child….Danger surrounds this baby. Your spirit – your goodness – must be an influence in the raising of this child.”
Malkin: “There is no happy life for this child without you. You mustn’t allow another/an Other to raise this child. The baby needs your protection.”
I like the idea that Malkin is warning Claire not to let an Other raise her child. His comments about her ‘goodness’ influencing Aaron suggest that without that influence, Aaron will grow up to be someone fearful/terrible. Someone like the MiB, perhaps? Malkin, of course, changes his tune again before the end of the episode, suddenly reversing course to provide Claire with ‘good people’ (there’s that word again – almost exclusively used to describe the Others in the context of the show, and always used without any anchoring notion of what ‘good’ means. ‘Good’ meaning morally just? Meaning healthy? Meaning useful for something?) that will take the baby for her.
Only, in order to give these people the baby, Claire will have to take flight 815 to LA. As Charlie helpfully points out, getting Claire on that plane practically ensured that no one else would raise the child. If Malkin is actually psychic, perhaps he knew something would happen to the plane. If Claire had died, then Aaron would never be born, much less be raised by anOther. Of course, Charlie doesn’t have our benefit of hindsight. With that, we can see that there are quite a few other options: (a) Malkin is psychic, and not only knew that the plane would crash, but that Claire would survive and land on the Island. (b) Malkin is not psychic, just a con man, and was paid/bullied to send Claire to the ‘good people’ in LA, (c) Malkin is an Other or an agent of Widmore. Time travel makes all of these options plausible.
--The way in which he suddenly changes horses midstream suggests to me that Malkin may have begun on one side of the B/W conflict and ended on the other. What's clear is how important to the overarching storyline Aaron appears to be here. That thread extends through the series, and becomes entwined with other 'special' children like Walt and even arguably Ethan. The Others steal the children from the tail section in Season Two (interesting that Ethan and the Others do not attempt to take Walt until later). What is the purpose? Simple replenishment of their ranks (and an echo of Eko's childhood, where he was taken by warlords to become one?)? Something temporally-related? Are only children with 'special' abilities like Walt taken? Answer me, Lost!
Great Shannon Line: “I am so not moving to the rape caves.”
--This episode ends with what I remember as the most frustrating/exciting cliffhanger of the first season: Hurley discovers Ethan wasn’t on the flight manifest, and the camera cuts to Charlie and Claire alone in the jungle, where Ethan steps out silently, putting on his freakiest Buffalo-Bill-Serial-Killer face for the good folks at home.