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