That's a thing of beauty, right? I managed to pick one of these limited-run screen-prints, created by artist Olly Moss, and I'm utterly in love with the retro design sense of it. You can still grab screen-prints of Tim Doyle's piece, "The Numbers," at this link.
If you'd like to check out some of Mr. Moss' other work (all of which is similarly inspired/inspiring) you can do so at his site, located HERE.
It's been a nutty week, so there won't be a column up til tomorrow. In the meantime, consider this post a space for you to talk about your expectations for the final season. What are you most looking forward to? What are you dreading? What 'must' be answered? What can be left ambiguous?
I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'll publish the most interesting comments in my next Too Much Information column.
Gilmore’s article in the new issue of Rolling Stone on the breakup of The Beatles is good stuff. I know it’s good because I have no real love for The Beatles, and yet it’s completely engrossing regardless. I have a lot of respect for the music that The Beatles made; I recognize their profound influence on music generally and on many of the bands I’ve listened to throughout my life – I’m just not particularly moved by them.
One of the reasons that I find them fascinating despite this lack of emotional resonance is touched on by Gilmore at the end of his article. The Beatles have attained a kind of mythic, symbolic importance in our culture – an importance that goes way beyond simple stardom.
The Beatles are in the process of becoming myths, essentially. And as they’re introduced to new generations through increasingly-abstracted mediums (see: Rock Band Beatles Edition) they’re becoming less and less ‘human,’ and more and more ‘iconic’; stripped to their essentials, traits exaggerated or downplayed, abilities exalted. Tomorrow’s children won’t know The Beatles as people – they’ll know them as simulacrum, as icon, as myth.
What does this have to do with Lost?
It’s my theory that Lost is, in part, operating as a means to comment on myth – how we create it and why we create it. This preoccupation runs through the show on several levels:
First, the show is festooned with references to myth, from ‘Apollo bars’ to Gilgamesh and Enkidu crossword details to statues of ancient Egyptian gods.
Second, the show has created a story arc in which John Locke essentially becomes myth, detailing how that’s achieved and how it affects both Locke and those who interact with him.
Third, the show’s mysteries operate to include the audience in the mythologizing, leaving open-ended questions revolving around characters like Jacob and Richard, around the Dharma Initiative, around 'the Smoke Monster,' around the Island itself, and in the process encouraging us, the viewers, to construct our own potential explanations for characters, places and events (The MiB is satan! The castaways are all in literal purgatory!).
It’s what we do, us humans. We mythologize, and often we worship what we’ve mythologized. As the late, great, David Foster Wallace once said: “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
A perfect example of this mythologizing, one that ties directly into the McCartney quote at the top of this column, lies in the gulf between what the Dharma Initiative became in the minds of Lost’s viewers, versus the reality of the Dharma Initiative as presented in Season 5.
Thanks to several seasons worth of teasing hints, smatterings of information, and compelling iconography, the Dharma Initiative achieved something close to mythic status among Lost’s viewers. They were symbolic of concepts important to Lost, simultaneously sinister and peace-loving, seemingly-spiritual and yet scientific. Even when flashbacks began to include glimpses of the Initiative’s heyday on the Island the essential, iconic, feel of it remained. I’d argue that to some extent it even increased – as the hippie-esque vibe of those early glimpses created an idealized notion of a utopian, countercultural think-tank.
But then Season 5 rolled around, and we spent a significant amount of time within the Initiative during its active phase, and we discovered that the symbol of peace and utopia and scientific advancement was actually just a bunch of flawed people bumbling their way through average, un-extraordinary days. They drank too much, they were deeply, viciously suspicious and hierarchical. They may have been talking about peace and love, but really they weren’t feeling peaceful at all.
This turned some folks off. That’s understandable. After all, the myths we build are often more appealing than the realities they were built to reflect, represent, and ultimately, supersede. In my view, this is one of Lost’s many ‘points,’ and on rewatch, one of its real strengths. The creation of myth is a deep-seated human compulsion. It helps us make sense of the world. It helps us to define the reality that Flashes Before Your Eyes everyday. But both the beauty and danger of myth lies in its ability to help us ignore a fact in favor of what we’d prefer to believe, whether that’s the true reality of Locke’s prophesized status or the reality of the Dharma Initiative.
Welcome back to "Too Much Information," the companion column to the Lost Rewatch at Chud.com. I'm using this column to air some of my more speculative (and scattershot) ideas about the remaining mysteries on the Island, and about the basic structure of the show. Today's discussion point:
TMI 3: Loopholes and Prison-Feet
There's been much speculation following the Season five finale about the 'loophole' that the mysterious Man In Black (who, I'm theorizing, may be a manifestation of the Island, like all of the apparent apparitions we've seen on the show so far) exploited in order to kill Jacob.
The most obvious answer to the question of 'what is the loophole': The Man In Black had to have someone else kill Jacob since, being a 'ghost,' he can't do it himself. Instead, the Island/MiB needs to use visions/apparitions to influence those that come to the Island, either to goad them into helping him kill Jacob, or to eliminate those that could end up interfering with that goal.
But there are some problems with this, most notably the fact that we see 'ghost' Christian use a flashlight to illuminate the picture from the Dharma barracks in Season five and sit physically in a chair in Jacob's cabin in Season three, implying that Christian, at least, can touch physical objects.
So perhaps its more complicated than an inability to physically kill Jacob. Let's consider Jacob's cabin.
We know through Ilyana that Jacob used to reside there (S5 finale). We also know that he's since moved to the statue's foot. Why?
Well, presumably the Island/MiB has been trying to kill him, directly or indirectly, for longer than the three years that the Oceanic castaways have been on the Island. The line of ash around the outside of the cabin (first seen in season 3) may have been meant, not to keep Jacob or the MiB trapped within, but to keep the Island/MiB out. Presumably, this stopped being effective sometime before Ben first takes Locke to see Jacob.
Does Jacob's move to the statue's foot - which resides on the beach and away from Island-centric sites like the Temple and the barracks, about as far from the Island-proper as its possible to be without swimming away from it - represent a retreat of sorts?
If that's the case, if Jacob's move to the foot is an effort to sidestep the Island/MiB's increasing efforts to destroy him, then this helps to explain why no one but the leader of the Others gets in to see Jacob. It limits the ability of the Island/MiB and/or the people that it's influenced to kill Jacob. The statue's foot, like the Swan and the Bear cages, may turn out to be a prison of sorts - a prison that Jacob has confined himself inside to escape the Island's wrath.
And if the MiB/Island is attempting to influence the people who land on it, it helps to explain why the Others are trained the way they are - why they're sometimes required to undergo conditioning, and why they're living a life that's simultaneously free of past demons and Walden-ian in its respect for the Island. They've been trained/conditioned in order to be as free of potential Island influence as possible, and their respectful treatment of it helps ensure that they won't be attacked by it.
All of this seems plausible (in the universe that Lost inhabits at any rate), but there's one more factor worth considering: the 'ghost' of Claire.
This year's Comic Con confirmed for us that Jacob has never appeared looking like another person. Season 4 confirmed for us that Claire's 'ghost' is quite comfortable around fake-Christian (who I believe is, like the Man In Black, a manifestation of whatever intelligence is inhabiting the Island itself). This implies that both manifestations are originating from that same Island intelligence. In other words, the 'Claire' and 'Christian' that we've seen in Jacob's cabin are more Solaris-esque projections of the Island.
If that's the case, then it's the Island/the MiB that warns Kate not to 'bring him back' while wearing Claire's face. If Aaron turns out to be Jacob somehow, a possibility that I've brought up before, then 'Claire's' attempt to influence Kate into leaving Aaron behind may turn out to be the loophole in the end. By leaving Aaron behind has the Island/MiB succeeded in breaking some time-travel anamoly that granted Jacob seeming-immortality? Has the MiB rendered him 'mortal' just in time for the leader of the Others, corrupted by his own inability to move on and the influence of faux-Locke, to enter Jacob's prison sanctuary and exact revenge?
Thanks to everyone who's visited and/or commented here at Back To The Island. I'd like to encourage all of you to use the subscription buttons a little further down this page so that you'll be alerted to new updates.
You can also subscribe directly to the Chud.com columns on their site. It's easy to do - just scroll down to the blog post marked "Subcribe to the Rewatch at Chud.com" and click the provided link.
Have a terrific week - I hope to have the next column up tomorrow afternoon!
(This column is a 'footnote' to the "Fire + Water" rewatch column at Chud.com)
Fire + Water gave me the opportunity to stew over another pattern that’s asserting itself this season: the notable increase in potentially ‘supernatural’ visions and visitations. These visions and visitations almost unfailingly act to tempt Lost’s characters into behaviors and attitudes that are destructive to the self or the community – whether that’s Kate’s horse, Charlie’s Biblical dream, or Hurley’s forthcoming Dave encounters.
In the Rewatch column for “What Kate Did” I used Kate’s horse as an example of phenomena that could be explained via the supernatural or via the mundane depending on how the viewer chooses to interpret it, and I suggested that Lost intentionally keeps both options open to the audience – allowing us to come to conclusions that are informed foremost by our own perspectives, biases and preferences. In other words: is a force outside of the castaways providing them with fuel for relapse and regression? Or are the castaways themselves responsible for these visitations?
Fire + Water gives us the opportunity to ponder this question again through Charlie’s visions. Through his flashback we come to understand the ways in which Charlie’s life Before Island may have provided all of the necessary psychological triggers to induce the sort of visions he experiences in this episode. At the same time, we the audience know that some manifestations on this Island appear to go beyond what appears to be ‘rational’ explanation (I’m thinking here specifically of Christian and Claire in ‘Jacob’s’ Cabin, and of Alex’s reappearance in S5). These appearances have all served an arguable primary purpose: to goad.
Let’s set aside the simpler, rational explanation for Charlie’s vision and explore the less rational for a moment.
Charlie’s mother urges him to ‘protect’ Aaron, but his efforts to do so only succeed in further separating Charlie from the rest of the castaways, making him look as though he’s begun to lose it, due to a combination of stressful factors (and perhaps he has – that’s certainly the ‘rational’ explanation). This motif occurs several times throughout S2, and in each instance the visitations and visions that appear to the characters seem to be urging them to let their deepest fears and neuroses take over – to give in to the kind of fear and self-doubt that plagues us all. We’ll see this again, even more explicitly, in the upcoming Hurley episode, “Dave.”
Viewing these episodes again with an eye toward the way this story develops in later seasons, I began to wonder whether a ‘higher power’ was sending Charlie these dream messages – with the apparent intent of isolating and disempowering Charlie Pace. But what power? Jacob? The MiB? The Monster?
Judging from my utterly-unscientific scouring of the internets, the Man In Black is currently the most popular suspect. The general consensus appears to be that the Man In Black (who is either working with the Smoke Monster, or who is in fact the Smoke Monster) has been appearing to the castaways in the form of ‘ghosts’ from their past. That’s an interesting assumption, if utterly unfounded, so let’s run with it for a moment straight into crazy-speculation-town.
Since the ending of Season 5 there’s been much theorizing about who, exactly, the Man In Black is. Is he an Adversary for Jacob, ala Satan? He appears that way – in his color-coded outfit and his pessimistic outlook. Season 5’s opening scene is practically a rewrite on the Book of Job, after all. It’s also been suggested that the MiB is a personification of, or allusion to, the Egyptian god Set.
But Lost, as this Rewatch is making clear, has never been content with such a simple one-to-one comparison – it isn’t interested in functioning as a new riff on any one myth. It’s more concerned with the idea of myth, and how people (ie: the audience) construct myth and legend, by using the bits and pieces of information we have at our disposal, and filling in the blanks via our experiences and our influences.
So who is the Man In Black, really?
We know now, courtesy of that maddeningly-vague and intriguing opening scene in “The Incident” that the Man In Black holds a fairly nihilistic view of visitors to the Island: “They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same way.” Why should he care? Why should the MiB resent Jacob continually bringing people to the Island in order to enact some unspecified drama/game/experiment out over the centuries?
Maybe it’s because the Man In Black is the Island.
It’s my current, utterly-speculative opinion that every apparition we’ve seen on Lost so far has been a creation of the Island - in much the same way that Kris Kelvin’s dead wife in Solaris is a creation of the titular planet (note that Kelvin’s name in Solaris is shared by Clancy Brown’s Lost character, Kelvin Inman). Note that all of the people who have appeared as 'ghosts' over the course of the show are people whose dead bodies reside on the Island (the single exception being Dave - and that can be explained, if we're feeling generous, by assuming that the Island is able to access the memories of the castaways, as we see it do to Eko). All of these apparitions seem to be united in purpose – in an attempt to fracture the community apparently being assembled by Jacob and ultimately, to arrange the death of Jacob via proxy.
I submit that the Island itself wants very, very badly to kill Jacob.
Perhaps it craves what both the real John Locke and the John Locke of Lost so fiercely advocated – the same essential state that all of humanity aspires to, for better and for worse:
Welcome to the first edition of Too Much Information, the surly, drunken sibling to “Lost: The Rewatch Column” at Chud.com. Each recap that I've done has given me the opportunity to touch on ideas ranging from religion to scientific theory to literary analysis in my own inimitably amateurish way, but some topics invite more thought (and rambling! can’t forget the rambling!) than a recap allows.
As themes, recurring motifs, and ideas emerge from the story during the Rewatch, and as the inspiration strikes me, I’ll be taking a closer look at them and how they may apply to the story that’s being told. I’ll primarily use the recaps (check them out here in the archive, or visit Chud for the latest!) to do this, but once in a while I’ll want to spend some time delving into a specific topic that appears to be of interest to the writers of Lost in my own scattershot way.
I hope it’s enjoyed. And if it is, why not tell a few friends?
Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or, How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction.
As Season 2 progresses and Season 3 looms closer, Lost appears to be becoming increasingly preoccupied with two ideas (among many others, obviously): Stimulus-Response (which, for our purposes, includes Positive and Negative Reinforcement) and Control Theory/Control Systems.
I say ‘appears to be’ because the act of taking in any work of art or pop culture involves filtering that work through our own biases, interests, interpretations and ideas. In other words, just because I think something is significant/meaningful doesn’t mean that Lost’s writers would agree.
Still, there’s real validity to the idea that art should encourage us to engage with ideas, concepts and information regardless of a creator’s initial intent. As example: Joss Whedon’s work may not explicitly be about Existentialism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun and educational to see how Existentialism influences and colors the world view of his shows. In doing so we gain additional appreciation for the potential depth of narrative storytelling and we learn something more about the Great Wide World around us.
So, today: Stimulus-Response and Control Theory.
The introduction of the Swan is an introduction to both of these concepts, and both of them will come to have increasing relevance in terms of potentially interpreting Lost and some of its philosophy/reasoning.
The Swan serves two potential ‘practical’ purposes, neither of them exclusive of the other:
1) It operates as a Skinner Box (more formally known as an Operant Conditioning Chamber). 2) It operates as a Control System.
According to the always-reliable (except when its not) Wikipedia, a Skinner Box is “a laboratory apparatus used in the experimental analysis of behavior to study animal behavior.” A Control System is likewise defined as “a device or set of devices to manage, command, direct or regulate the behavior of other devices or systems.”
Why are these two concepts important to Lost? Let’s start with the Skinner Box.
The Swan will not be the only appearance of a Skinner Box on the Island. The next most obvious example will be the Bear cages introduced at the beginning of Season 3. In both instances, the basic makeup of the Box consists of a closed-off area (Hatch/cage) furnished with ‘response levers’ (In the Hatch, this is The Button – in the cage these are the various buttons/pedals that dispense either fish biscuits or electric shocks).
By furnishing both positive and negative reinforcement via the response levers, it is possible to investigate psychological phenomena and further, to change behavior through stimulus and response. Crudely and reductively, the Skinner Box affords an observer the opportunity to provide positive and/or negative reinforcement to the box’s subjects. Push the right button and you get a reward. Push the wrong button (or refuse to press The Button) and get a punishment.
It further offers those subjects the opportunity to learn from their experience of these reinforcements, and to make future choices based upon what will reward them versus what will punish them.
The Swan’s magic Button, with its promise of World-ending catastrophe if it is not pushed, gives us an interesting example of these reinforcements. If the Button is pushed, a ‘good’ result occurs – namely, the world doesn’t end. If the Button is not pushed, a ‘bad’ result occurs. This manifests, first, in the sounding of alarms and then in the appearance of ominous symbols.
This premise of positive and negative reinforcement – of reward and punishment – arguably underlies every aspect of Lost’s thematic preoccupations (and just existence generally, really), whether it be interpersonal relations, the act of faith, the field of science, the question of ethics, the notion of authority, of rebellion, of freedom itself.
All of these larger concepts can, in one way or another, be simplistically boiled down to the notion of positive and negative reinforcement. Push the right button and you get to sleep with Kate in a bear cage, or get approval, or get respect, or get a ‘right’ answer to a question, or maintain harmony within a community. Push the wrong button and you get a shock, or get rejected, or get a ‘wrong’ answer to a question, or fracture a community.
To an extent this suggests that the characters of Lost are like the bears in the S3 cages, trapped and jabbing at the buttons of their life with a mixture of desperation and bewilderment. They are not free, because they continue to engage in a game/experiment where they unfailingly fail to learn what is arguably the most important lesson of the Skinner Box, which is this: It is a kind of prison. As long as you reside inside it you are captive to an observer, beholden to his or her levers, and less man than animal.
In Season 2 (and in the sections of Season 1 where his Hatch obsession overwhelms him) Locke is like a bear that keeps hitting the wrong button and howling out in pain, asking why the universe is punishing him – and then pushing the same button again. the question becomes: is the Hatch (and whatever force/power/entity compelled Locke to discover it) conditioning Locke for his fate as a puppet? Or is it, instead, trying to break him of the conditioning that will, unless broken, make him a puppet?
Now that I’ve bored/perplexed you, let’s talk a little about Control Theory and Control Systems. A Control System is “a device or set of devices to manage, command, direct or regulate the behavior of other devices or systems.”
The Button is just such a Control System – designed to manage and regulate the behavior of a system which (apparently) allows for the safe dispersal of electromagnetic energy. Lost features a literal Control System with The Swan, but it’s also fascinated by figurative Control Systems – power hierarchies (see: Dharma and the castaways with their ‘circles of trust’ and the Others, with their rule that only the Leader may see Jacob, and even then only if Jacob permits it), religion, governmental interference and other social systems.
Some of these systems are arguably ‘good’ (see: community) and it can be argued that all such systems are ‘good,’ so long as they remain uncorrupted.
Here’s where things get interesting - Control Systems are a subdivision of what’s known as Control Theory, a term defined by Wikipedia as “a theory that deals with influencing the behavior of dynamical systems.”
From the same article: “In a closed-loop control system, a sensor monitors the output (the vehicle's speed) and feeds the data to a computer which continuously adjusts the control input (the throttle) as necessary to keep the control error to a minimum (that is, to maintain the desired speed). Feedback on how the system is actually performing allows the controller (vehicle's on board computer) to dynamically compensate for disturbances to the system, such as changes in slope of the ground or wind speed. An ideal feedback control system cancels out all errors, effectively mitigating the effects of any forces that may or may not arise during operation and producing a response in the system that perfectly matches the user's wishes.”
Does that sound like anything to you? To me it sounds an awful lot like Course Correction – that mysterious phenomenon Lost continues to explore. Look at this chart:
Take away the names in the boxes and just examine the diagram itself. It perfectly illustrates the path that Lost’s castaways have taken through time in Season 5, breaking away from the forward momentum of the flow of time and arcing neatly backward to an earlier ‘system restore point.’
If I’m right, then the trip the castaways have taken back in time is a mammoth instance of course correction – an attempt to compensate for disturbances within the system, and the system is time itself.
The entirety of the Rewatch thus far has now been posted to this blog. Please to enjoy, and I hope you'll comment if and when you feel moved to do so.
Starting with The Other 48 Days, and going forward from here, all the Rewatch recaps are now posted on Chud.com. Chud is a consistently entertaining film site, and I'm very happy that they've chosen to feature these recaps. I'll link to each of them here as they become available, and I'll be adding additional Blog Commentary on this site where appropriate.
Shannon’s swan song, in which we learn that our favorite spoiled, bikini-flaunting half-sister is a fundamentally decent human being who’s lost her way.
--Sayid builds a love-hut for Shannon, replete with candles, flowers, and a cozy-looking bed. This is one smooth move. Note to self: Carry a gun on my person the next time I’m looking to mack on my wife. It is, apparently, quite the aphrodisiac.
--Walt appears to Shannon again, just after some sweet lovemaking. This appearance is even freakier than the last, with Walt barely visible at the flap of the tent, shuddering and talking in his newly acquired little-man-from-another-place patois.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, and to the people with far more free time than I possess, we know that Walt says “They’re coming, and they’re close.”
Is he attempting to reunite the castaways with their fellow survivors and the tailies? Is he warning Shannon, because ‘they’ will end up killing her? Is he deliberately leading Shannon to her death? It’s unclear.
Charlie: “You heard screams, so you woke up the baby and ran towards them?”
This episode marks the beginning of a depressing downward spiral for Lost’s resident hophead. Claire is beginning to bristle at the way Charlie has assumed a fatherly role in the life of Aaron and herself. As she says to Locke, they’re practically strangers in many ways, and yet Charlie hovers over her and the baby like an over-attentive helicopter parent. To make matters worse, Claire tips Locke off to the fact that Charlie has taken to carrying around a statue of the Virgin Mary – one of the statues filled with Heroin found in the Nigerian plane.
--Shannon’s step-mother is a monster, yes? How else do you explain her denying Shannon a plane ticket to New York, given that Shannon’s been accepted as an intern with the Martha Graham dance company? Could it be that, like Ms. Hawking, Mrs. Rutherford knows something about her daughter’s destiny?
Libby: “How’d you get shot, anyway?” Sawyer: “With a gun.”
--Rose is back out on the beach hanging laundry again, despite having learned of the Swan station and its alluring washer/dryer. She doesn’t like the Hatch and we continue to receive the vibe that the Hatch is not a ‘good’ place. Rose steps up for us and utters what might well be the ruling ethos of the Island and its band of merry Others:
“Who needs a dryer when we’ve got sun and fresh air – wouldn’t want to spoil ourselves, would we?”
This basic mantra crops up over and again, in different forms and from the mouths of different people, throughout the run of the show. Ben informs Locke that Jacob doesn't like technology (though who knows if that was the truth), Locke questions Ben's comfortable barracks lifestyle and asks if it's what Jacob wants...there's a naturalism at work here on the Island, and it seems to be arguing that a 'good' life is a life stripped clean of the trappings of technology and society.
--Shannon makes it her mission to find Walt, despite Sayid thinking she’s crazy. She does something arguably clever – she finds one of Walt’s shirts and has Vincent scent it, then follows him. But Vincent doesn’t bring her to Walt – he brings her to Boone’s grave. Not a good sign for your longevity, kiddo.
Locke: “Babies like the feeling of being constricted. It’s not until we’re older that we develop the desire to be free.”
--I love that Shannon and Boone drink scotch out of Shannon’s old toy tea cups. It’s a great detail.
--Ana Lucia finally gives us the bare bones of the tailies’ story as they continue making their way toward the beach camp on the other side of the Island, now hauling Sawyer along on a stretcher because he’s gone and passed out from infection on them. Her story: On the first night they crashed, the Others came and took three of them away (if memory serves, they attempt to take Eko as well, but he doesn’t look too kindly on their efforts). Two weeks pass, and then another nine are taken away.
Ana Lucia: “They're smart, and they're animals, and they could be anywhere at any time. Now we're moving through the jungle - their jungle - just so you can save your little hick friend over here. And if you think that one gun and one bullet is going to stop them - think again.
It’s unsettling stuff, and all of this build-up over the Others and how frightening they are makes me reflect on the apparent disappointment of some when they were revealed to be Dharma barracks-living, book reading, erudite pretenders with too much spirit gum and too many fake beards. I never experienced that disappointment, for two reasons: (1) I loved the notion of Ben and Co. living cozily in the barracks, but traipsing about the jungle in disguise, and (2) I’d assumed (and still assume) that the Others Eko and Jin spotted in the last episode were Richard’s – a group far less likely to be living in decadent comfort (comparatively speaking), and far more likely to be out learning the trick of silent jungle-walking.
Ana Lucia: “You would risk our lives – for him?” Eko: “It’s the only way I know.”
No, it’s really not, sir. It’s the way you know now.
--Backgammon makes its return, with Locke and Charlie playing in the sand. It’s difficult to tell for certain, but I’m fairly sure that Locke is playing on the dark side.
--Cindy the flight attendant vanishes into seeming thin air, leaving no trace behind. We won’t see her again for some time, and what happened to her has never been explored or hinted at. We’ll learn that the Others took her – but to where, and why? To Room 23?
--Ghost-Walt appears a final time in the closing minutes of the episode, and both Sayid and Shannon see him. Mrs. Clugh (sp?) will inform us later this season that Walt sometimes appears in places that he shouldn’t be – is this an instance where he has physically transported himself to warn Shannon? He shushes both her and Sayid several times before running off – but he runs directly to where Ana Lucia and her crew are emerging from the jungle in the rain.
--Of course, we all know how this ends: In gunshots, blood and anger. In mistrust, fear and regret. And in death, of course – this place is death, after all. But that’s just this episode – the show must go on. And as Jacob has told us, it only ends once – everything that happens before that is just progress. Rest in Peace, Ms. Rutherford. To date, you are the only major character not to have resurrected or reappeared in one form or another.
Michael: “Is that why you threw us in the pit? ‘Cause you’re scared?” Libby: “And we’ve got…trust issues.”
"...they drew near the Neverland; for after many moons they did reach it, and, what is more, they had been going pretty straight all the time, not perhaps so much owing to the guidance of Peter or Tink as because the Island was looking for them.”
- Peter Pan
We’re back with Sun and Jin, who, on re-watch, have spent a significant portion of this show being physically separated from each other. Sun’s on the beach with the 815ers, having now realized she’s lost her wedding ring. Jin’s on the other side of the Island, having just made a tentative peace with the tightly-wound, haunted remainder of the Tail Section. The Tailies have decided to take Michael, Jin and Sawyer back to ‘their people’ at the beach. But the Others have taken Mike's boy, dammit. He runs off into the jungle, and Jin and Eko follow after him.
--The detail of the tag on Jin’s tie is a great one. As is the way his interviewer sneeringly rips the tag off. That’s the kind of well-considered choice that makes this show emotionally intelligent. Jin puts up with a good deal of verbal abuse from his superior at the hotel where he’s been hired, but none of that abuse is as immediately effective as that simple gesture.
Jin’s Boss: “The Seoul Gateway is one of the finest hotels in the country…do not open the door for people like you.”
--Cindy the flight attendant, last seen helping Jack along on the path to eventual alcoholism during the 815 flight, is shown here as a part of the Tail group.
--Jack tells Sun that he lost his ring once too, and that he’d torn his house apart looking for it. He never told Sarah he’d lost the ring. He just went out and bought a new replacement. He ‘fixed’ the surface problem, but the underlying issue – true communication – was left ignored. That’s Jack all over.
--We’re formally introduced to Mr. Eko. We’ll eventually discover that he was once known as the man without a soul, but while that was once a truth, it’s no longer the case. He’s a testament to what’s informally known in recovery circles as “fake it til you make it” – a process of repeating certain habits so often that they cease to be habitual affectations and become an organic part of a person’s life. It’s clear from Eko’s eyes that this is a dangerous man – but it’s clear from his actions that this is also a penitent man.
--As I’ve previously suggested, Lost has an ongoing preoccupation with twins and duality. This preoccupation comes to the fore with the introduction of Eko and Ana Lucia, the arguable twins of Locke and Jack. Like Locke, Eko simply knows what plants will heal, how to track, how to make and wield weapons, and is naturally observant and intuitive. He is also stubbornly individualistic when it comes to himself, but protective of the group.
Similarly, Ana Lucia is a hard-headed pragmatist, as protective of the people around her as Jack. She’s the ostensible ‘leader’ of her group, despite the fact that people seem to naturally trust Eko’s instincts, in much the same dynamic as the one between Jack and Locke.
Hurley: “So…Seoul…Is that the good Korea or the bad Korea?”
--The puppy we saw Jin give Sun in S1 is named ‘popo,’ which apparently means ‘a kiss’ in Korean. I couldn’t help laughing at this. My mind immediately went to Broken Lizard’s good-naturedly shaggy comedy Beerfest and the brief Donald Sutherland cameo from that film. There are few things in life that make me laugh uncontrollably, but Donald Sutherland saying ‘Good night, popo’ and pulling his own plug is, for some reason, one of them.
--I like that Sun and Mr. Lee, her hotel heir suitor, have Bachelor degrees in ‘Art History’ and ‘Medieval Russian Literature’ – subjects that they must have known would be ultimately useless to them in the lives their parents have envisioned for them. It’s a small detail that’s nonetheless very telling.
--Michael goes running off into the jungle because they took his boy, and Jin and Eko go after him. Jin gets run over by one of the boars that Locke doesn’t want to hunt anymore, and tumbles into the bloody, impaled body of Goodwin. He points at it and asks Eko, “Others?” Eko nods. On re-watch, that question and that nod have two separate meanings.
--Sun’s suitor is an ass:
“I really like you, Sun. And I’d like us to keep seeing each other. Hey! By the way, in six months I’m going back to the States to marry an American girl I met in college. What? What’s wrong? Oh, you didn’t think that I was taking you, or any of this, seriously, did you?” (paraphrased, just slightly)
--In what was, at the time, one of the most electrifying moments of the show for me, Jin and Eko hide in the brush as the bare feet and mud-caked pants/legs of a group of Others pass by without a sound. The sight of a dirty, well-loved teddy bear swinging from the waist of what appears to be a child Other is one of those iconic images – something simultaneously surreal and spooky.
It’s that brief image that got me thinking about a classic children’s story and how it, like the Narnia books (see: The Lamp Post Station) may have been consciously referenced by this show in a number of ways throughout the seasons to come.
“The boys on the Island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two. Let us pretend to lie here among the sugar-cane and watch them as they steal by in single file, each with his hand on his dagger….observe how they pass over fallen twigs without making the slightest noise.”
The image of a battered teddy bear calls to mind the Lost Boys, Peter Pan’s group of child adventurers/cannon fodder.
They, like the Others, live on a magical Island in a state of nature (in Barrie’s novel the Boys wear bear skins). They, like the Others, are winnowed out and/or sent away, either dying to protect the Island or banished for 'growing up' and letting 'adult' concerns, like Widmore's desire for a child, take over. They, like the Others, have a tempermental, unpredictable leader (see: Ben/Peter) that is hated and pursued by a vicious man who resents what ‘the boy’ has taken from him (Hook,/Widmore):
“In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II…”
Widmore's representatives reside off of the Island on a threatening ship, just as Hook does. The Lost Boys have no mothers, and the subject of them is forbidden (see: the fertility issue). Note that six Others pass by Jin and Eko, the same number as cited in Barrie's book. Pan never grows up, never grows old or sick (see: Richard Alpert, Jacob), and is continually welcoming new arrivals to the Island, either in the form of more Lost Boys (who are taken to Neverland when they’ve been abandoned), or in the form of Wendy, Michael and John, who are lured to the Island (see: Flight 815).
Neverland, like the Island, is near-impossible to find. As illustrated by the quote above, it is sentient in some way. It changes based upon the desires of its denizens. It is patrolled by a monstrous beast that makes a mechanical ticking sound when it appears (see: the Monster/the Croc). In other words, there are quite a few parallels to be made.
Do I think that Lost’s end game will reveal that we’ve been watching a revisionist Peter Pan this entire time? Of course not. But the parallels are still interesting to draw, and fun to tease out. One of Lost’s strengths is the way in which it invites these kinds of comparisons and digressions, in how it invites its audience to seek out these sorts of potential references. It’s a literate show, in that it consistently and organically evokes a surprising number of other fictional worlds.
Great Sawyer Line (to Ana Lucia): “You married? No? Funny, you seem suited for it.”
--It’s when Sun chooses honesty with Kate, and lets go of the ring, saying ‘it’s just a thing,’ that she finds it again. Once more the theme of letting go is reinforced – accepting that ‘things’ are temporary.
-Kate’s attraction to Sawyer is admitted for the first time in this episode, when she laments the fact that she didn’t get to say goodbye. Oh, Kate. Don’t you worry. You’ll be screwing in a bear cage soon enough.
Michael: “They took him! Right out of my hands. Right. Out. Of my hands!”
We get it, Michael. We really, really, really get it. Please stop.
--The episode ends with Sun and Jin both walking away from the same hotel, unknown to one another. Jin has just quit, because as much as his past might shame him personally, he doesn’t seem willing to accept the raw snobbery of his new job. Sun has just excused herself from the humiliating position of being a hotel heir’s beard. Both of them found the strength to walk away from a different form of servitude – and it’s in that act of letting go that they find one another.
Jin: "Everything is going to change....Everything is going to change. Have a cluckety-cluck-cluck day, Hugo."
-- The opening image is a spinning record again. Lost likes to repeat motifs like the opening eye, and the spinning record appears to have acquired a similar status within the show. The record eventually becomes an analogy for the Island itself in Season Five.
-- I'm a fan of the sneak-attack dream sequence just generally, and I think it's used to good effect in the opening of this episode. There's something about the act of slowly introducing bizarre, nonsensical elements into what's presumed to be 'reality' that makes me happy. The way that the scene progresses - from Hurley gazing adoringly at all the food in the Swan pantry, to gorging himself on what looks like every concievable dish available in the Hatch (including a box of what look like room service-style plates of steak and vegetable - the first hint that this isn't 'real'), to Jin suddenly appearing and speaking english, to Hurley beginning to speak in subtitled Korean, to the sudden inexplicable appearance of a dude in a Mr. Cluck's chicken suit - is a real hoot. Kudos, writers.
-- The carton of milk Hurley is drinking out of when Jin appears has what looks to be a picture of Walt on the side, under the word "Missing." It's little details like this that make stark raving lunatics out of people like me. Since this is a dream, we know that the Missing advertisement isn't 'real.' But we also know that Walt's been taken from his father and has gone missing, even if no one on the Island knows that yet. So the question becomes: Is the show just screwing with us? Or does this mean that on some level, Hurley senses that Walt has been taken?
This might seem like a silly question. If it's option one, and the show is just playing with us/tossing in a fun but unimportant easter egg, then there's nothing else to think about. But if it's option two it reinforces what we'll continue to learn as the series goes on - that Hurley appears to have a gift/curse of 'sight.' He sees someone in Jacob's cabin, he's identified as the one who can find it, he gets visitations off-Island from 'ghosts' (who could be the MiB, or could be apparitions/electromagnetic echoes/something else) and he's had the fullest, most meaningful conversation with Jacob of any of the others.
Is this the first hint that Hurley is 'special'?
And on a similar track: Jin's comment that 'Everything is going to change' seems more ominous than a warning about the Dharma pantry. It's tempting to go too deep into the rabbit hole with this show, but it strikes me as possible that comments as portentious as this one can be seen as commenting on the larger story of the show. Given how many times we hear phrases like 'it's not supposed to happen this way,' or 'he changed the rules,' I do have to wonder if Jin's weird appearance is a warning of sorts.
Kate: Jack told me about your job. At least we have jobs again, right? Hurley (audibly unenthused): "Hooray for us."
As life begins to orient itself around the Hatch - as more folks get involved with the Swan station and the button-pushing, we watch as folks like Hurley and Locke are sucked back into an unfulfilling cycle of menial labor. The show suggests that while hunting boar and sleeping on the beach may be a real pain to civilized folks, returning to 'normal life' is no picnic either.
-- Sawyer, Jin and Michael are still in the pit when we return to them. Eko and Ana Lucia let Michael and Jin out, but leave Sawyer down there with an infected bullet wound.
Great Sawyer Line (to Jin, referring to his wound): "Why don't you pee on it."
A great call-back to Hurley's jellyfish accident from S1. Sure, we don't know how Sawyer found out about that but we don't really care, because it's funny.
--Hurley’s flashback is good stuff. We follow him from the moment he learns that he’s won the lottery (Reyes falling through a table? Priceless) to the moment when the clerk who sold him the ticket identifies him as the winner to the tv news crews. In between, we learn that Hurley is terrified of change, of being resented, of being treated differently.
Hurley's Mom: “Falling down is not exercise….you have to change your life, Hugo. You think someone else will change it for you? Maybe, if you pray every day, Jesus Christ will come down from heaven and bring you a decent woman. And a new car. Yesss, Jesus Christ can bring you a new car.”
--It’s a cute moment, and a telling one, when Hurley visits Rose and discovers that she doesn’t seem to care whether Hurley knows something she doesn’t, or what that something might be. So of course, Hurley shares the Swan discovery with her and the castaways get to do their laundry in washing machines (Washing machines that apparently caused a frenzy of fan speculation when it was pointed out that the machines were too new for the rest of the equipment in the Swan. It turned out that the show’s buyers had just thought they’d look good down there – there was no secret meaning to the age of the machines in question. This goes to illustrate how thoroughly the show’s details were, and are, being studied).
--We get our first look at the hidden door to the Swan – It’s really camouflaged.
--Hurley’s boss at Mr. Cluck’s was also Locke’s boss in “Walkabout.” This sort of cross-character coincidence, which we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the show, has always suggested to me that these people were perpetually crossing each others paths for a reason. But as I watched this episode it occurred to me that there was another explanation: some or all of the castaways’ flashbacks/memories have been tampered with, changed, which has created the illusion that some of the characters continue to cross paths in odd ways.
--Hurley’s friend Johnny is played by DJ Qualls, the frighteningly-emaciated actor/scarecrow also featured in Road Trip (and apparently Road Trip: Beer Pong, the DTV sequel that took nine years to emerge).
--Hurley’s music store crush is played by the luminous Marguerite Moreau, who was immortalized forever as Coop’s crush in Wet Hot American Summer. I’d like to think that she’s on the rebound from Paul Rudd when we see her here.
--While at the store, Hurley and Johnny sing along (badly) to “You All Everybody.”
--Back on the Island, Hurley is put in charge of the pantry and all his fears about things changing, about being disliked and treated differently, begin to come true. Charlie’s creepy peanut butter fixation pops up again as he demands it from Hurley like an addled addict hustling his dealer for more of that sweet heroin.
Hurley : "Let me tell you something, Rose. We were all fine before we had any potato chips. But now we've got these potato chips and everybody's going to want them. So Steve gets them, and Charlie's pissed - but he's not pissed at Steve, he's pissed at me... And I'm going to be in the middle of it. And then it's going to be: well, what about us -- why didn't I get any potato chips?"
We watch as Hurley wrestles with the power that’s been given to him via his supervision of the pantry, the temptation to simply destroy his ‘wealth’ instead of dealing with it, and we see the freedom and the love that come from the difficult act of giving away what you’ve earned/amassed/been given for the benefit of all. If I’m feeling charitable (and I am) I’d point out the similarities between this character-based plot arc and the teachings of, say, Buddha or Christ. I’d also point out how Hurley appears to have used this experience to help himself move on from his fears about being cast out or hated for having more than others. I’d also point out that dynamiting the pantry is a terrible, terrible idea. Hurley’s lucky that nitroglycerin didn’t get tetchy on him, as it did with Arzt.
--The Tailies let Sawyer out of the hole, and we meet Libby for the first time.
Sawyer: Howdy, boys. Thanks for the rescue. Michael: Everything's cool. We had a talk and they believe we were on the plane, too. Sawyer: Swell, I guess we can all sue Oceanic together.
--The Tailies take S J &M to their hiding place – a second Dharma station. This one appears to have been stripped/abandoned. It’s The Arrow. We’ll learn later on what The Arrow’s Dharma function was, and we’ll discover that it potentially had more than one use. Given what it ends up being, it’s not really a surprise to find it so hollowed and empty.
--We meet Bernard for the first time, blowing away people’s unconscious assumptions about race by showing up and being a white guy.
--Sayid and Jack investigate the poured concrete wall inside the Swan. Sayid notes that the last time he saw concrete poured this way it was ‘at Chernobyl,’ connecting what we know of the S5 finale (with Juliet banging away on that bomb) with what we know of the Swan.
--The messages in a bottle that were given to Michael and Co. when they set out wash up on the shore, and Sun makes the decision to hide it. She loses her wedding ring in the process – something she hasn’t realized yet. Having been married myself for just under a year, I’ve only experienced the pure panic that comes from thinking you’ve lost your ring once, and that was enough for me. Even as Sun buries the bottle, preserving the hope of rescue for the other castaways and covering over her own fear over her husband’s fate, we see Rose quietly slipping an Apollo bar into her pocket – preserving it for her husband. It’s never been easy for Locke to believe, but for Rose it seems as natural as breathing. She doesn’t know that Bernard’s alive, but she has faith.
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!
"Never on land or by sea will you find the marvelous road to the feast of the Hyperborea."
- Pindar, Greek Poet
Michael: “WAAAAAALLLLT! WAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLTT! They TOOK my SON!”
--Michael’s lawyer is played by Saul Rubinek, otherwise known as W.W. Beauchamp of Unforgiven and Lee Donowitz of True Romance, among many other character roles.
--During the last episode we entered the Hatch from Jack’s POV. During this episode we enter it from Locke’s. Not only does this give the writers a chance to show off more of the Hatch, it literalizes the distinction between Jack and Locke in terms of how they have approached this mystery up ‘til now, and how they’ll approach it going forward. Both of their points of view on the Hatch will drive this season.
--Locke follows Peter Venkman’s advice and says yes when Desmond mistakes him for the [del]poor unfortunate sucker[/del] new recruit that’s meant to help him/replace him. Unfortunately, Locke isn’t up on his third-grade jokes, so Desmond’s question to him (“What did one snowman say to the other snowman?”) goes unanswered, and the jig is up.
Michael: “They TOOK my SON!”
--The Dharma Shark makes his first (and I believe, only) appearance under the raft that Michael and Sawyer are using. The infamous Dharma Shark logo is still a terrific easter egg, and the actual symbol on the shark isn’t one we’ve seen since. It looks most similar to The Arrow’s symbol, but it’s not the same.
-- I'd like to smack Susan's lawyer directly in the face. She's like a smugly evil Cheri Oteri.
Great Sawyer Line (post-bullet removal): “You got a band-aid?”
--As of this episode they’ve been on the Island for 34 days (over the course of 26 episodes).
--A model of a ship that looks like the Black Rock is located in the room where Michael and Susan discuss their son’s fate.
--The Dharma Pantry is discovered!
--Interesting that Locke is held at literal gun point and made to enter the Numbers into the computer. He’ll be at figurative gun point until the end of the season.
--Apollo Bars make their first appearance here. Want some random-yet-intriguing-and-seemingly-relevant info on the history of Apollo? Okay!
1) Apollo was associated with medicine and healing, and was also seen as a god who could bring sickness and plague – a yin and yang-like combination.
2) Apollo, in one form/name or another, existed as far back as ancient Babylon.
3) Here’s where things get interesting: Apollo’s human mother, Leto, was forbidden from giving birth on ‘terra firma,’ and so found the floating Island of Delos and gave birth there. Delos was surrounded by swans and the island became sacred to Apollo.
4) Here’s where it gets more interesting: According to myth, Hera kidnapped the goddess of childbirth to prevent Apollo’s mother from going into labor. Is it coincidence that up until at least the 70s, giving birth didn’t equate to death, but that in the period up to and through Aaron’s birth it did?
5) Finally, it’s said that apollo rode on the back of a swan to the land of the Hyperboreans. Hyperborea supposedly contained an island as well – a mirror island to Delos, one might say:
Among the many designations of the Hyperborean center that came to be applied also to the Atlantic center was Thule, or “White Island”, or “Island of Splendor” (the Hindu Sveta-dvipa; the Hellenic Leuke island; the “original seed of the Arian race” or Ariyana Vaego in ancient Iran); and “Land of the Sun”, or “Land of Apollo”, that is, Avalon.…the “Island” or “Land of the Living” (the term “living” here referring to the members of the original divine race), which is the land to which the well-known symbols of the Supreme Center of the world allude, was often confused with the “region of the dead” (the term “dead” here referring to the extinct race). Thus, for instance, according to a Celtic doctrine, mankind’s primordial ancestor was the god of the dead (Dispater) who dwells in a faraway region beyond the ocean, in those “faraway islands” whence, according to the Druids’ teachings, some of the prehistoric inhabitants of Gaul came directly.
--Michael gives baby Walt a stuffed polar bear.
--Sawyer and Michael stay alive until morning, when they discover that they’ve drifted back to the Island. They agree that the ‘current’ must have brought them there, but as we’ll learn from Desmond, it’s hard to leave this Island, and this place has ways of getting you back.
--This episode ends with one of my favorite teases – Jin running out of the jungle with arms tied, barking out ‘Others’ as Sawyer and Michael look up and see a group of shadowy, menacing figures there like a Lord of the Flies fever dream.
Desmond Hume: "Good luck, brother. See you in another life, yeah?"
-- During Desmond's morning prep we get a quick look at a Dharma Swan Station symbol. We also get a glimpse at the labels on the 'medicine' Desmond is injecting. 4 8 15 16 23 42 is clearly marked on all of them.
-- If it weren't for Hurley's apparent good/bad luck, I'd suggest that The Numbers are the show's way of illustrating Apophenia - the tendency to see connections in random data - to 'mistake coincidence for fate' by assigning meaning to the arguably meaningless.
-- Adam Rutherford dies when Jack makes the choice to save Sarah, his future fiance. Rutherford is Shannon's father.
-- We get our first look at the "Quarantine" warning on the inside of the Hatch door. My current theory for the Quarantine labels: During the Purge, the Swan crew was not discovered. The gassing of the Island through the Tempest Station rendered the air toxic, and someone in the Swan discovered this either through communication with Dharma or through unfortunate direct experience. Because of this, and because of the threat posed by the Hostiles, Quarantine labels were put up. This is why the suits that Kelvin and Desmond use were originally needed.
Locke: "Why don't you want to go down there, Jack?"
I'm enjoying the idea that the descent into the Hatch is a metaphorical descent into the sub/unconscious. The allusion to Alice In Wonderland is right there, after all (and is further shaded in by The Looking Glass). Maybe that's just because I like the idea of my subconscious being piloted by a twitchy, wild-eyed Scotsman.
-- Sarah's then-fiance is supposed to sound like a jackass when he starts asking about whether he'll have to help Sarah use the bathroom, or whether they'll be able to make love, and he does in fact sound like a jackass. But I can't help thinking that these are the sorts of things that almost anyone would at least think, including good-hearted, loving people.
Jack: "That's false hope, Dad." Christian: "Maybe. But it's still hope."
-- Shannon sees ghost-Walt in the jungle, and it's effectively spooky business. Good ol' Walt is dripping wet and speaking backward. Then he vanishes. Farsight, how does this sudden appearance fit with your 'Walt has glimpsed Le Future' theory?I went ahead and checked to see if anyone had made sense of Walt's creepy-speak, and there are some conflicting views. One site seems to think Walt is saying "Push the Button. Don't push the Button. Bad."Another site has it as "Don't push the Button. Bad."Anyone know if there's a definitive answer?
Either way, what does this mean as far as Walt's concerned? We know that Mrs. Clugh says Walt can be in places he's not supposed to be - is that a literal comment? And why is he soaking wet (other than to be eerily incongruous with his surroundings)? Is this actually Walt? Is it Jacob/the MiB?
-- The shot of Jack running up the stadium steps from far away is wonderfully disorienting at first. One of my favorite shots in the show so far.
-- Jack's encounter with Desmond at the stadium points up the question of these people and their interconnectivity. Is this fate/the Island/Jacob/Widmore/something/someone pulling the strings and moving the pieces into place? We learn that Desmond is training for a race around the world, but not why.
-- Speaking of Desmond, everyone already knows about the way the name is a subtle reference to philosopher David Hume. Two interesting facts about Hume worth knowing:
(1) He was an Economist.
(2) "Hume, along with Thomas Hobbes, is cited as a classical compatibilist about the notions of freedom and determinism. The thesis of compatibilism seeks to reconcile human freedom with the mechanist belief that human beings are part of a deterministic universe, whose happenings are governed by the laws of physics.
Hume defines the concepts of "necessity" and "liberty" as follows:
Necessity: "the uniformity, observable in the operations of nature; where similar objects are constantly conjoined together..."Liberty: "a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will..." Hume then argues that, according to these definitions, not only are the two compatible, but Liberty requires Necessity.
In other words once again: Science requires faith, determinism requires free will, fate requires coincidence.
-- When Jack climbs down into the Hatch after Locke and Kate we see him pass a very familiar concrete wall, and we watch as the key to the Marshall's case floats up and slowly toward the wall. Decades earlier, Jack is standing just above where he is now, attempting to stop any of this from ever happening. If he and the others end up causing The Incident, then he's just unknowingly strolled by his own handiwork.
-- The electrical box that Jack examines for a moment has a large 'W' stamped on it. I'd like this to be the first appearance of a Widmore product on the show, but I doubt that it is.
-- Jack also stumbles onto the '108 Mural.' I remember scanning it for clues back when this episode first aired, but now, looking back, there's not really any information conveyed in the mural that's useful or interesting. The 'Eye M Sick' declaration hints that the infection Rousseau talks about could be real, but we've seen nothing in five seasons to support that. The number 108 is clearly the 108 minutes in the countdown between button pushes, and the number 42 could mean any number of things, or nothing at all.
Locke: "Do you really think all of this is an accident?....we were brought here for a purpose - a reason - all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason." Jack: "And who brought us here, John?" Locke: "The Island. The Island brought us here...The Island chose you too, Jack. It's destiny."
Locke: "Boone was a sacrifice that the Island demanded. What happened to him was part of a chain of events that lead us here - that lead us down a path - that lead you and me to this day, right now." Jack: "And where's that path end, John?" Locke: "It ends at the Hatch....All of this happened so we could open the Hatch." Jack: "No. We're opening the Hatch so that we can survive."
This conversation between Jack and Locke serves to sum up the cosmic questions being asked on Lost (Fate or coincidence? Determinism or free will? Science or faith?) and to answer them, all in one fell swoop. The answer is both, of course. Science and faith. Fate and coincidence. Determinism and free will. Like the black and white Dharma bagua that will soon be introduced, these seemingly antithetical concepts coexist side by side, incompatible and inseperable - human perspectives on the inscrutable.
Jack and Locke spend the majority of this episode working to accomplish the same goal for philosophically different reasons. Jack wants to open the Hatch because he sees it as a hope for survival. Locke wants to open the Hatch because he sees it as his destiny. But no matter the motive, the fact remains that they're working together, rigging the charges to open it. Their interactions sets them at odds, but their actions unite them.
-- The idea of Boone as a sacrifice that the Island demanded is deeply troubling to me. As was pointed out a page or so back, the Locke/Boone beechcraft scenario in some ways mirrors the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible. However, the Bible paints a different overall story than Lost does. In the Bible, God urges Abraham to sacrifice his son but then, crucially, stays Abe's hand via angelic proxy. Here, there's no literal sacrifice. Locke doesn't willingly take Boone's life by his own hand - he watches as Boone seems to sacrifice himself. But that is not to say that 'God' does not intervene. The closer Locke comes to the plane where Boone will die, the more his newly-restored legs begin to give out on him.
I believe that Locke has decided to use his faith to justify what happened to Boone. This sort of justification is arguably a salve to emotional pain. But it's also a gateway to sin. Human sacrifice is not something a 'good' God should ever demand.
-- Blowing up Artz = bliss.
Paik's Man: "You are not free."
We learn that Jin was also planning on running away, ironic given that his wife was plotting the same thing without him. Now that I know the full story behind Paik's watch it makes ZERO sense for Jin to have beat Michael up over it. What does make sense: Jin was jealous of the obvious attraction between Michael and his wife.
--For all that Hurley might typify the concept of PU, he's got a lot of Eeyore in him.
--We learn that, at some point during Claire's disappearance, she scratched Rousseau in the jungle. I have no recollection on this at all, but I assume Rousseau was helping her to escape?
-- Charlie, beat up by a junkie groupie = pathetic
-- The Last Temptation of Chuck: a plane full of heroin revealed to him. It's no surprise to learn that he's kept one of the statues. At this point in the series it does look as though some force/someone is actively taunting/tempting Charlie.
Sun: "Do you think we're being punished?" Shannon: "Punished for what?" Sun: "Things we did before. The secrets we kept. The lies we told." Shannon: "Who do you think is punishing us?" Sun: "Fate." Claire: "No one's punishing us. No such thing as fate."
-- The Hurley Bird makes its first appearance in the Dark Territory. It's the only bird I've seen on the Island to date. The interpretation is up to you, but both times it calls out, its cries do sound an awful lot like Hurley's name. Note that the bird calls out, flies away, and is immediately followed by the first visible appearance of Smokey. Note also, that between Smokey's mechanical clanking, the same bird cries out again, and seems to call Hurley's name a second time. In both instances, the show's editors have chosen to feature Hurley on the screen directly before and after those calls. This seems deliberate, but I do not know what it means.
-- Locke's confrontation with the Monster is markedly different than previously. It behaves as we see it behave in "This Place Is Death" - attempting to yank him down a hole into the underworld of the Island. Like Juliet at the Swan, Locke wants to be let go of, but Jack refuses and dynamite is used to free Locke from the Monster's grip. Is Smokey/the MiB attempting to 'convert' Locke as it converted Rousseau's team? What does this say/mean about the ultimate game plan of this entity?
Sun: "Aaron is a beautiful name. What does it mean?" Claire: "I don't know what Aaron means."
I'll help you out, Claire:
1) In ancient egyptian, 'Herr' is 'to concieve.' 'Hrara' is 'conception.' 2) In Hebrew, 'Har' means 'from the mountain,' which may refer to the place of the Biblical Aaron's death. 3) In Arabic, 'Haroun' means 'high mountain.' 4) Unascribed to another language, it apparently also means 'one of light' and 'exalted.'
-- As Hurley rides his scooter through the airport, the numbers on a soccer team's jerseys spell out 4 8 15 16 23 42.
Locke: "We shouldn't be this close to each other, Jack." Jack: "If we blow up, we blow up."
Nice metacommentary, Lost.
-- We see the Numbers have been etched on the Hatch and we've now seen that etching take place, four seasons later.
-- Tom Friendly makes his first appearance as the Others finally show their faces. This is a deeply creepy moment in the show's history. God knows that the first time I saw this sequence the banjo line from Deliverance snaked through my mind.
--The final shot of the first season: Locke, Kate and Jack staring down into the Hatch as the camera pulls further and further away, making clear just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.
Much like the Harry Potter books, future generations will have no real understanding of what it was like to have to wait and gnash teeth over the lack of any resolution. They'll just shrug and pop in Season 2. When they do, I'll pop my dentures in and lecture them on 'the way things used to be,' when 50 cents would get you all the penny candy and moon pies a boy could want.
Much as I thoroughly enjoy the character-oriented flashback episodes on this show, at the end of the day I'm a total whore for the overarching plot. That's what gets my biscuits warm. And here, at the very end of Season One, the writers pull the strings Bela Lugosi-style, unleashing a torrent of plot-threads that they will willfully pick at, tease over and flat-out ignore for seasons to come. Bless them.
The sorts of things that make Lost great television are generously heaped all over this two-part finale: smartly-essayed character work, twisting mysteries, pulpy action and spectacle, emotional truthfulness, and a kind of sadistic glee in torturing the audience. I guess that makes me something of a masochist.
Long story short: The Others are (supposedly) coming. Jack wants to hide everyone in the newly-revealed Hatch. John wants to see what's inside, and pretends at caring about hiding everyone. Much drama ensues.
- Exodus can be seen as a reference to the Book of Exodus, the second book of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It can also be seen as a reference to Kirk Hammett's old metal band but should not be.
-The fourth book of the Hebrew Bible? Numbers. Both books deal with Moses and his brother Aaron leading the tribe of Israel to the promised land.
- The writers introduce Ana Lucia to us and to Jack, having her meet him in flashback at an airport bar before 815 takes off. Michele Rodriguez took a lot of fan hate for her character/portrayal, and I recall some of it being justified. But I also think the brief scene between her and Jack here is some of the softest, most vulnerable work I've seen her do, and it makes me look forward to re-visiting her character in season two. I'm already planning to argue that the negativity directed at Ana Lucia is based around ideas of gender. We'll see if that hypothesis holds up.
Artz (referring to Hurley): "If you wanna keep a secret, don't tell the fat guy." Nice one, chubby. Pot. Kettle. Black.
- Danielle's story about how the Others came to take her baby seems like outright fabrication to me. Speaking for myself, at this point in time there's only one plot point about her stories that outright bothers me. We'll get to it shortly.
- This episode is the first to use a multiple-flashback structure, in which all the main characters are featured. This must have been difficult and a lot of fun to break in the writers room.
Sawyer: "Small world, huh?"
- Sawyer's revelation to Jack - that he met and spoke with Christian in Sydney - remains genuinely powerful stuff. If Lost had been cancelled after the first season, Josh Holloway and Matthew Fox could have used that scene on their reels for the rest of their lives.
- Great Locke/Rousseau exchange:
Locke: "Where'd you get the scratches?" Rousseau: "A bush." Locke: "Mean bush."
- As for Rousseau's story...from the speech she gives in this episode, as compared to the events as we know them from "This Place Is Death," it sounds as though the Black Rock and the Temple are in close proximity to each other. Either that, or the Temple essentially replaced the Black Rock for the writers as the location of/center of the 'sickness/infection/mind control/enlightenment' that Rousseau's crew undergoes. Anyone know if, canonically, the Black Rock and the Temple are in fact close together?
- The constant references to the ship in Rousseau's story sort of aggravate me. In the seasons to come, the ship essentially disappears from the story (making a supremely memorable reappearance in "The Brig"). It resurfaces at the end of season 5, but I'm fuzzy on how the timing of the Black Rock/Temple shenanigans works out and I'd like that clarified in one way or another. Why was her team going back and forth from the ship? Simple curiousity? If she saw the ship as the site of/catalyst for infection why would she bring the castaways there?
- Apparently it rains on only one part of the Island at a time. It's sunny on the beach, where Michael Sawyer and Jin prepare to set sail, but it's pouring rain in Rousseau's "Dark Territory." Dharma weather control? Bad Island mojo? An artificial/supernatural system? An editing mistake?
- Rousseau tells the castaways, and us, that the Monster is a security system meant to protect the Island - the same explanation that her lover will give her 15 years earlier just before trying to shoot a pregnant woman in the face.
- Walt gives Vincent to Shannon, and it's pretty moving. Nice work by both actors.
- No one says thank you on this show. At least, not when they're upset/angry/depressed. Learn some manners, Lost.
Great Shannon Line:
Shannon: Some arab guy left his bags by me and walked away." Security: "Could you describe him, please?" Shannon: "Ummm....Arab?"
- The Black Rock is a terrific set. It looks practical to me, which is a testament to the relative quality of the CGI here (a far cry from the eye-rollingly terrible CGI that typically infests this show) since common sense tells me that there's no way the entire structure was practically built. If it had been practical I imagine they would have used it more. And they should have. It's good stuff.
- As previously noted everywhere, the Black Rock calls 'Portsmouth' home.
- Okay, so Jin and Sun's reunion may have made me mist up.
-It's jarring to see random castaways interacting with and saying goodbye to the raft people. I have no investment in any of them. They are red-shirts to me.
- Okay, so Vincent's swim may have made me mist up a little also. Sue me.
- Locke calls the skeletons in the Black Rock slaves, but it strikes me that there's a better explanation for the ship and the skeletons and I'm not sure that it's been addressed. Australia was originally used as a British prison - the first penal colony there was established in 1788, and it was common practice to ship criminals there throughout the 18th and 19th century. A ship full of criminals and suspicious folks? Sounds a lot like flight 815 to me.
Do No Harm, The Greater Good, Born To Run (S1, eps. 20-22)
These episodes are fun, but they don't offer a ton of stuff to chew on in terms of the show's larger plot - they're great, character-based television (generally speaking), but that's not really what I'm aiming to write about here, unless it connects to the overarcing story in some way. As such, I'm cramming these episodes into a shorter, more focused recap.
Do No Harm (S1, ep. 20)
Christian Shepard: "Committment is what makes you tick, Jack. The problem is, you're just not good at letting go."
-- This show is not afraid to get a little gruesome on us. Jack ventilates Boone's collapsed lung with a metal spike. Hardcore.
-- Jack's Best Man in his flashback to pre-wedding shenanigans is played by Zack Ward, probably best known as Scott Farkus, the bully with yellow eyes (So help me God! Yellow eyes!) in A Christmas Story. According to Lostpedia, it's his character we see being beaten up by schoolyard bullies in White Rabbit.
-- Note the black and white yin and yang symbol on the t-shirt Jack wears during their first scene.
Great Jin Line Delivery: "Oh."
-- As Boone dies, Aaron is born. This is relatively stock dramatic symbolism, but the Island's fertility issues make me wonder if there's something more to this than just symbolism. Does Boone's death trigger/allow for the birth of Aaron? There's certainly something to be said for the way the notion of balance is reinforced by this idea.
Jack: "Don't tell me what I can't do!"
-- This episode starts to delve more into Jack's 'over-commitment issues' in a big way. His quest to save Boone's life isn't about Boone as much as it's about the notion that he can't let go. It's a self-centered need, not a selfless one. In this, as in other ways, he mirrors Locke more than either of them would like to admit.
-- I'm almost positive that Kate says 'fuck' as she falls and breaks the liquor bottles in the jungle. It's realllly hard to hear, but it's there.
-- As Kate helps Claire give birth, Season 5 Sawyer is watching from the shadows.
-- Aaron is clearly important to this story but it's still not clear why, or how. Is it because, as Farsight suggests, Aaron will become Jacob? Is it because Aaron will become the MiB? And if Aaron's destined to grow into one of these enigmatic figures how will he do so, considering that he's been left off-Island with Claire's mother? Will he seek the Island when he learns his mother died/turned into a smirking ghost there?
The Greater Good (S1, ep. 21)
Sayid: "John, no more lies."
-- Another great Sayid-isode. His flashback is compelling stuff, and the on-Island business regarding the fallout from the death of Boone is stirring stuff.Random thoughts: Another heavily character-based episode. Shannon's grief over Boone's death humanizes her further, and Sayid's inability to help her or his flashbackfriend is believable and sad. I didn't remember Locke's admission at Boone's grave ("It was my fault"), but I'm glad that they included it. It makes Locke seem more human and not as coldly-driven to have him honestly (apparently honestly at least) grapple with guilt over the death.
-- I'm also grateful yet again for Naveen Andrews, who turns his questioning of Locke's story into an artful game of "I See You." Sayid reminds us that, much as we may want to trust Locke it's not clear that we should.
Asam (Sayid's Martyr buddy): "So much for my philosophy degree." I can relate, my Muslim friend. I can relate.
-- From the looks of him, Asam is Gerard Butler's long-lost skinny brother.
-- It was about halfway through this episode that I realized: Hey! Locke's legs are all better. Why is this? What happened, or didn't happen, to grant him a new license on mobility?
-- According to Locke and Sayid's conversation by the Beechcraft they've now been on the Island for a month's time.
-- Hurley singing James Brown (poorly) in order to calm Aaron: priceless.
-- Aaron calming down at the sound of Sawyer's voice is pretty damn adorable.
-- John admits to sabotaging the attempt at triangulation that Sayid, Sawyer and Shannon made earlier in the season - he was the one that bopped our favorite Iraqi on the head. John thinks that information like this ought to enable Sayid and the others to trust him. As Sayid notes in pointing out that John has been carrying a concealed weapon, admitting to having a secret after being called out on it does not earn a person trust - it earns them 'adaptability.' Adaptability is a trait that both Locke and Benjamin Linus have in spades.
Born To Run (S1 ep. 22)
Jack: "My God...what is this thing?"
-- Artz makes his first appearance (that I remember at any rate), claiming that monsoon season is coming. This never occurs on the show, and as someone noted earlier in the thread it's probable that the Island's movement (Sayid notes the sudden, inexplicable shifting of tides) pulls them out of the danger zone.
-- Tom, Kate's childhood friend in this episode, is played by MacKenzie Astin - Sean Astin's younger brother, better known as Dodger, the lovable homeless scamp that helps a bunch of vomiting, alligator-faced, pimple-pocked nightmare children put on a fashion show in Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie.
-- Finally, Locke reveals the Hatch to Sayid and Jack. This episode really highlights the ways in which Locke and Jack handle their respective secrets, and how similarly they justify keeping others out of the information loop. Locke, as is typical of O'Quinn's portrayal, appears to appreciate this irony. Jack, being Jack, just gets all pissy and self-righteous about it.
Great Charlie Line: "This is track two. It's called 'Monster Eats The Pilot.'" That's a great band name, I thought. Someone's going to steal that. Sure enough, here they are on MySpace.
-- I love that Kate and Tom's time capsule is a New Kids On The Block lunchbox. That's a cute, small joke and an example of attention to detail. Note that in The Incident, it's this lunchbox that Kate is stealing when she has her encounter with Jacob. Jacob buys it for her, further cementing the notion that, while Jacob may be a sympathetic or even 'good' character, he's got no qualms with helping folks along to their painful, painful destinies.
And speaking of Kate, her backstory is much more interesting to me this time around. This time through it's about the emotions, not the mystery. The lightly-etched history between childhood friends and the awful way that Tom dies make that plane seem meaningful in ways it didn't the first time I watched. And while Kate remains sympathetic, given both her on-Island kindness and the hints that she's not a cold-blooded murderer, it's much clearer why the Yellow Eyed Marshall Demon would be as contemptuous of her and as cautious around her as we see him.
Ominous Walt Line: "Don't open it. Don't open it, Mr. Locke. Don't open that thing."
Walt apparently recieves some kind of psychic flash when he touches John Locke. Is this meant to represent Walt getting a flash of future events? Is this a warning from the 'Island'/Jacob? It's not clear. But if 'whatever happened, happened,' holds true then Walt's words are so much dust in the wind. Locke has already opened the Hatch, further down the time-line.
Sawyer: "There ain't anything on this Island worth staying for."
Well, he's certainly changed.
Michael: "We can stay here. Just you and me. We don't have to go." Walt: "Yes we do."
Given Walt's psychic-friends moment, you can read this comment one of two ways: (1) they need to get away from the Island, because something 'bad' is going to happen, or (2) Walt knows that leaving is what Michael and he are going to do, giving them no apparent choice in the matter. They have to go because they've always gone.
Welcome to Back to the Island, a site dedicated to exploring the philosophical, theological, literary, pop-cultural and thematic aspects of LOST. I encourage you to bookmark and/or join this blog, and to contribute your comments and your thoughts - they are always read, and always appreciated. If you'd like to get in touch with me for any reason (lucrative writing assignments, offers of free swag, and embarrassingly-flattering compliments are all encouraged), you may do so at WhatIsWater@gmail.com.
If you're visiting us for the first time, I encourage you to scroll down to the "Archive" section and begin there. Thanks for reading.