"Lost" in Translation: Sympathy for Goofus

Mom always liked the Marx Brothers best, actually….

Another hour closer to The End (but please, please, please, ABC, can we NOT set the whole 2.5-hour climax to the dull-witted college-boy philosopher drone of Jim Morrison?) and now comes an episode-long peek back in time takes us to the birth of Jacob and his mysteriously unnamed dark-eyed twin, and then to the glowing (literally!) headwaters of some of the most crucial riddles at “Lost”‘s heart: Is there a connection between the golden light of faith and the piercing Klieg light of science? How will the show be able to explain the distinction between the two, and the bond that links them?

More questions: Are Jacob and his twin brother merely fancier versions of Goofus and Gallant? Why are the show’s good guys just as capable of lying/murdering/pillaging as its antagonists? How will they ever bring the most intellecutally, philosophically and sc-fily sprawling series in the history of American tv dramas to a satisfying conclusion?

Forget about that last one. Already this morning the blogosphere — including the level-headed James Poniewozik at Time, who is always my go-to guy for day-after recaps — is bristling with crankiness over the episode titled “Across The Sea,” musing on the line between too much information and how-the-hell-could-they-NOT-resolve. . . .

JP raises excellent questions, as ever. Still,  I just can’t kvetch about “Lost” with a lot of conviction, no matter what happens in the next two weeks.

And, by the way, I also thought “Across the Sea” did a fairly miraculous job of explaining a lot of the series’ most complicated moral, philosophical and sci-fi-intific assertions. Let’s take them one-by-one…

but after the jump.

Jacob and the Man in Black’s creation myth: Turns out their mother was a sweet-faced dark-haired woman (see also: Rousseau) who washes up at the island heavily pregnant, only to be greeted and cared for by CJ Cregg from “The West Wing,” who turns out to be the worst mid-wife ever when she ends the birthing process by bashing mom’s brains out with a rock. She seems a bit melancholy about the whole thing — even apologizing before she goes after the helpless and nice-seeming mom — but also entirely confident of the moral purpose behind her frankly psychotic behavior. See, she’s responsible for protecting the island’s unique powers, and keeping the inherently wicked humans (“They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same”) at bay. Though when it comes to fighting and destroying it’s awfully hard to out-do a murderous midwife, now, isn’t it? And why, exactly, does her goal of finding the next Island Protector mean more than another woman’s right to live? We’ve been running through these questions ever since “Lost”‘s pilot episode. And also in millennia of real-world events, e.g. the mysterious chain of mass murders currently taking place in China’s schools. Is there an Island portal somewhere in the People’s Republic?

Black/White; Good/Bad, and why there’s often no real distinction between them: Because often it’s the biggest self-described do-gooders out there (CJ, Jacob, Pope Benedict, name your favorite religious extremist here, plus also the good old United States of America) who end up doing exceptionally vile shit in the name of truth and justice. While the black-cloaked smoke monsters among us (Man in Black, etc.) have their reasons/justifications that also kind of pencil out. And when it comes down to it, who would you rather hang out with: The pompous, fruit-sharing, door-holding Gallant or his bad-ass, wickedly funny brother Goofus? Which one has the good collection of Stones records? And which one only has Michael Bolton cd’s in his Prius? I think we both know the answer to that one.

The connection between faith and science: Seemed to me they did a brilliant job with this one: Denied access to the golden waters of the river of faith, the MiB figured a whole other way of accessing the same energy: through the practical, unsentimental processes of science. Thus the stone-and-wood versions of the Dharma Initiative’s hatches and gravitational-power sources. The kvetch on the Internets is this revelation somehow crossed the line between too much info and the crucial magical realism that needs to be left mysterious. But just imagine the shitstorm of invective that would follow the finale if they DIDN’T reveal this one. See also: “Aha, they really were making it all up as they went along!”

Bad parents and everything else: Your high-functioning types always seem to be working through some serious parental bullshit – disconnection; emotional dysfunction; etc. –  and so no surprise that even the twin personifications of dark and light have inner childs with matching scars from their own self-appointed step-mom, the well-intended psycho-killer who lies, cheats, mass-murders whole villages and bashes the brains out of everyone who seems to stand in her way, including her adopted kid. . .whose name she never, ever utters, and if you think THAT isn’t kind of hurtful, well, just think about it more.

Self-determination? Not so much: Original sin. Weird parents. Emotional scars. These are the only constants that can move through time without getting their noses bloodied. Do what you like, try as hard as you might. Treasure the rare moments when you actually do seem to have some measure of control. You’re still working with the raw genetic material, and rawer-still parental/situational experiences, that someone else handed you when you stepped off the boat. Mom always liked someone better, didn’t she? Gallant will never stop handing out orange slices to prove he’s the rightful heir. And Goofus will always get crap for taking the apple. But apples don’t come pre-sliced and easily shareable. And maybe you didn’t want an apple, anyway. Maybe you and Goofus were planning to get a Slushie, or a case of beer. No matter, Goofus is taking the fall. He can’t win, but that’s how it goes in the bifurcated universe of black and white. And at least Goofus is a beautiful loser.

"Lost" in Translation: The lust for power, principles, principals and a better parking spot

academic politics are always the most brutal…

The contrasting lives and travails of our two Bens – alt-Ben in L.A. and original recipe Island Ben – takes us back to the headlines in the morning newspaper right here at home. In a land where partisan battle takes precedent over policy; where each side is so convinced of its own moral authority that they can focus only on destroying the other side; where it’s not just expected, but perfectly acceptable for ordinary folks to shed blood and even die while their leaders feud among themselves…suddenly the struggle for the “Lost” island seems far more familiar than its population of monsters, polar bears and walking, talking dead folks would lead you to expect.

The common thread, of course, is the seductive, often destructive, quest for power.

Island Ben, the leader of the Others and the acknowledged conduit to the God-like Jacob, never actually met his leader, and thus could only interpret His wishes and demands to protect the island. Most often, this led to carnage – the slaughter of the Dharma gang (including his own abusive-but-still father); bloody fights against other Others, perpetual war against Widmore & co (who may in fact deserve it) and the insta-persecution of the Oceanic survivors.

But to what end? the feud between Jacob and the Man in Black, in all their forms, continued unabated. Sacrifices were made – including Ben’s own beloved daughter. Lots of blood, lots of suffering. And nothing ever changed. For al the talk of power and glory, for all the brutality meted out in pursuit of being proven right — how many factions were led to proclaim, at one point or another, “We’re the good guys”? –  each character’s internal struggle continued unresolved.

Until we got to the alternative life in L.A. Unsurprisingly, the alt-life of Ben Linus — a high school history teacher, rather than a leader of men – takes a particularly sharp turn. Away from the grand stage of Island leadership he can focus on his own humanity. Now he’s a caring son for his elderly, sickly, but no longer abusive, dad (Roger, who he personally gassed to death back in the Dharma initiative slaughter). He flirts with a grand power play – using a sex scandal to oust his truly odious high school principal – but backs away when the boss threatens to take vengeance on favorite student (if no longer his adoptive daughter) Alex.

Away from the allure of glory, Ben opts for the smaller, yet arguably more fulfilling, victories of tending to the specific needs of the people he values the most.

I’m still not certain if all of “Lost”‘s many philosophical/political/subtextural themes will ultimately add up to a tidy moral package. It could be that these threads serve only as dramatic enhancement: the conceptual fuel that pushes the action to a higher emotional pitch. But what seemed particularly evident to me last night was the deepening shadows surrounding all of the show’s leaders. Jack’s heroics often seem triggered by a combination of impulsiveness and stone-cold suicidal tendencies. Locke was/is driven by fear. Jacob, for all his fair-haired sweetness, comes off as manipulative and, possibly, wicked. The man in black, now best seen as NotLocke, simply destroys everything in his path. And God (or Jacob) only knows what Widmore and his submarine crew have in store for the Island and it’s paranormal powers.

Whatever’s going on between the Island reality and the Los Angeles reality, the quest for enlightenment seems far less complicated, and more fulfilling, the further you get from attempting to define, and control, the terms of right, wrong, truth and justice. Where the debate over health care policy matters less than rolling up your own sleeves and comforting the person nearest you.

Hello, Dr. Nick! – Nick Gorini Visits "The LIghthouse," Smashes the Hell Out of It

Ever wonder where Nick gets his insights into “Lost”? And no, he’s not telling you where it is.


Hello, folks! Once again, I have successfully procrastinated in bringing you my recap of this week’s Lost episode, ‘The Lighthouse.’
Why the delay? I’ve been spending too much time starting at myself in the mirror with the sound of running water in the background. You know, like all the characters on our show (Jack, in particular, seems to do this an awful lot).
Before I begin, two real-life Lost-related incidents to share with you:

1.   Earlier this week I was watching that Michael Bay masterpiece known as ‘Con Air’, or as I call it, Crap. I mean, rarely do you get a pop-culture moment with so many talented people (Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Rhames, Buscemi, etc.) dumpster-diving for dollars in one dingy flick.
Anyhow, there’s a scene where the convict-plane pilot, played by Frederic Lehne, is booted from the cockpit. Frederic Lehne plays Kate’s caustic pursuer, Marshall Mars, on Lost. Well, when he steps out of the driver’s seat, who steps in? A swarthy convict by the name of Swamp Thing, played by the great character actor M.C. Gainey… Who was Mr. Friendly, original face of ‘The Others’ on Lost! One Lost character gets replaced by another Lost character in a movie over ten years old. Whoa!!!
2.   If that wasn’t enough, I took my family for a fun weekend hike around Sauvie Island. On the far Eastern tip, away from the farms, corn mazes and bike lanes, there’s a three-mile dirt trail that is the only island path leading to… A lighthouse! Knowing what was coming up on Tuesday night, and (while looking at the map) realizing that in all the times I’d gone to this island I NEVER knew it had a lighthouse, I had to check it out. Maybe it would give me wisdom or insight into this week’s episode and what was to come. Or maybe it was just a beautiful, sunny winter day in the Great Northwest.
(If you’re curious why I’ve now combined the two, it’s because there aren’t two timelines! Ha! Read more about it at the end of the post.)
Jack wakes up in his nice, antiseptic apartment (hey, this other Jack doesn’t sit on his dirty apartment floor drinking whiskey and dreaming about frequent flier miles!), and stares all deja-vu-like at his reflection while water runs out the sink (see?). He sees his appendix surgery scar (you know, when he wanted to operate on his damn self until Juliet and Kate tricked him?). He has NO memory of any surgery, even after a quick phone call to his mom (welcome back, Veronica Hamel! Loved you in ‘Hill Street Blues’) reveals that he had it removed when he was a boy. Oh yeah, your dad wanted to do it, but the hospital wouldn’t let him. Just like your old island self, Jack! A chip off the old whiskey barrel..
Jack gets ready and we briefly see the same exer-cycle that Desmond had in the hatch. In fact, I believe this cycle has shown up at least three times this season. I believe the cycle officially has a SAG card now.

Follow the jump for a wide array of mind-bending revelations. . .
Jack listens to some Stevie Ray Vaughn in his beaten-up brown truck (the Iggy Pop tune Sawyer listened to last week made sense. Not sure what the Stevie Ray connection might be, other than that Stevie Ray is awesome) and pulls up to a school to pick up his pre-teen son, David. Um, did I just say Jack has a son? Whoa!
BIG SIDE NOTE: Now, some of the Internet Chatter complained about this twist, but I thought it was PERFECT. What better way for the universe to force Jack to deal with his daddy issues. Damn you, Internet Chatter! You are so wrong, and get so worked up about the dumbest things and don’t put trust in the storyteller. For this, Internet Chatter, you are getting this week’s Stupid Award. For anyone keeping tally, I give a Stupid Award each week, because as much as I love this show, somebody does something stupid in order to propel the story forward. But this week, the storytelling was so awesome, so fitting, that complaining about is was just stupid. This means the winners so far, in order, are: Kate, Claire, Locke and Internet Chatter. At the end of the season, I will give final numbers and perhaps an award, a stupid award, of some kind.
Back to our great story: We see Jack looking at his reflection AGAIN in some pond water, rippling his reflection. Calm Dogen comes to speak to him, and lets him know that even it seems to be a hostage situation (Jack: ‘was leaving here even an option?’ Dogen: ‘There are ALWAYS options.’), Jack is in control of his fate. Meanwhile the underutlized Miles, and Hurley are playing Tic-Tac-Toe until Jacob pops up and tells Hurley it’s time to grab pencil, write some junk down, and get to work, okay? Someone’s coming to the island, and it’s your job to help them find it, Hurley!
Back in normalville, we get some quick brushstrokes to show that Jack has the same warm relationship with his son that he had with his dad. Jack awkwardly tries to bond with David over ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (yes, another literary reference, but other than some stuff about Though the Looking Glass, don’t worry about it), but David shuts him down with a ‘we see each other once a month. Let’s just.. Get through it.’. Ouch! Jack’s mom calls, frantic about Christian’s missing will, and Jack’s gotta cut his emasculation short because…
Island Sayid comes to talk to Jack, and Jack, continuing the trend showing a different leadership style than his first go, tells Sayid everything (‘they wanted you to eat some poison’).
We flash to Krazy Klaire as she frees Jin from a bear trap, and before Jin collapses, we learn that she has no idea that she’s been jungle-bound for three years.
Back to Hurley, who’s wandering in a dark cave with lots of Bic ink on his inner arm. Dogen confronts Hurley, and we get some great Hurley AND Jacob lines (I like that we’re starting to see Jacob has a sense of humor). Jacob instructs Hurley to brag about being a “Candidate”, and rather than give him a baby to kiss, Dogen just gets all pissed off and leaves. Jacob also gets Hurley to grab Jack who reluctantly goes traipsing along only after getting some bait (“Jacob wanted me to tell you that you have what it takes.”).
Jack thinks, “Hey – my dad used to say that, too! Only, he said something like, “You DON’T have what it takes.” I bet this Jacob cat knows where my dad is, and much like five years ago, I am going to go looking for my dad. But before, it was my dad’s ghost I was chasing through the forest. Now it’s Hurley. Whatever.” And they’re off!
Back to Jin waking up in Krazy Klaire’s tent, where she’s surrounded by Rousseau’s dynamite and raising a beautiful baby deer skull. She drags back my favorite Red Shirt Other, Justin – hey, he’s alive! Probably not for long…  Justin’s wounded and gets tied up, because Krazy Klaire’s about ready to go all Mel Gibson “GIVE ME BACK MY SON!” on poor Justin. When she leaves to prep for some emergency Jin surgery, Justin lets Jin know that this bloodthirsty blonde mop is going to kill them both if they don’t leave.
Jack and Hurley are wandering through the forest and of course, randomly bump into Kate. I mean, it’s a real, fricking small island, I guess. She reiterates she’s looking for Claire, and Jack warns her about Dogen’s cryptic infection message. But Kate’s going one way, and Jack and Hurley are going another.
Meanwhile, happier Jack is at his mom’s, refusing
a scotch (good for you, Jack) keeping his mother calm, and looking for a will. In more shadows of ‘Jack-is-his-dad-now’, his mom explains that David’s scared of him. Jack’s mystified as to why, much like Christian probably was mystified about Jack. Before they can get into a real discussion, the will is found, and Jack’s mom quickly finds a new name in there: illegitimate daughter Krazy Klaire, I mean Claire Littleton.
Back to Jin, who resists untying Justin, who’s looking legitimately scared to be there. She comes back with a big axe and mentions her dad and her “friend” (who we all know is Smokey) telling her that the temple folk have Aaron. She’s going to get Justin to talk. Or turn him into kindling. Probably kindling.
Back to island Jack and Hurley, who have happened upon the old water source – you know, where Adam and Eve are. They step on an old inhaler of Shannon’s and Hurley wonders aloud, on behalf of all viewers, one of the oldest show mysteries: Whose skeletons are these? Are they us from another time travel event? (If you like to bet, bet that ultimately, these skeletons are Bernard and Rose. Everyone online seems to think so). (PAC chimes in, uninvited and to Nick’s obvious annoyance – Oh, yes. Bernard and Rose = white and black, respectively,,,)
Hurley also starts questioning Jack about what went wrong in his off-island time. Jack talks about his failures with Kate, his failures trying to raise Aaron, etc. Hurley says he always thought Jack would make a great dad – Jack strongly disagrees. Jack also admits to Hurley that he originally found this water source when he was chasing his dad’s ghost and found his dad’s empty coffin. Which he smashed to pieces (much like the smashing he does to the lighthouse later).
Back to happier Jack, who comes back from Mom’s with a pizza for David, only David isn’t there. Jack rushes over to his ex-wife’s house (his old house, because he found the hidden key under the rabbit!) and goes looking for David, who isn’t there, either. What he does find is his son’s room, full of life and things about his son that he realizes he never took the time to see. It dawns on him that he desperately wants to be part of his son’s life. He listens to David’s answering machine and hears his own broken voice calling from Australia when he was there to pick up his dad’s body. The next message is about David’s audition, which he’s currently at. Jack rushes off to catch up with him.
Side note, part deux: First off, Matthew Fox is a great actor. With no dialogue, we watched him encounter his failures, his shame and his needs in a few brief moments in one room. Awesome. Second, we all want to know who the mom is, right? I’m basing this on absolutely nothing, and haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, but in this alternate series of events, couldn’t it turn out to be… Juliet?
Back to island Jack, where Hurley reminds how cool all this “Old school” stuff is, just the two them, going somewhere unknown, doing something dangerous. Hurley says he came back because Jacob told him to, while Jack says he came back because, “I was broken, and I was dumb enough to think the island would fix me.” Boom, because of that catharsis, the lighthouse appears. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they found it, right? No. If Jack hadn’t said that, or felt that, they would’ve kept on walking. It only appeared because Jack was finally ready to see it.
Back to Krazy Klaire, who’s ready to kill Justin for taking Aaron until Jin tells her the truth: Kate took Aaron off the island. She’s been taking care of him. Let this seemingly nice man Justin go! Well, she ain’t havin’ it, being all infected, see? The axe swings and we say, “TIMBER!” as another red shirt comes crashing down. Expect to see a lot more of these dudes die in the next two weeks.
A quick shot of Jack and Hurley busting into the lighthouse, which quickly shoots to…
Happier Jack walking past a sign for David’s audition that says “Candidates Welcome.” Jack beams with genuine pride and love for his son while David plays a beautiful piece by Chopin. Did it sound familiar to you? It may have because IT WAS THE SAME PIECE FARADAY PLAYED FOR HIS MOM!!! WHOA!!
A young boy asks Jack about his son, and the boy’s father begins speaking to Jack – it’s Dogen!! Double-Whoa!!! Dogen says that children are too young for this kind of pressure (wise), and also tells Jack that his son has a “Gift”. Is this the same “Gift” that Michael was told Walt had? Hmm. Or maybe the gift is that there’s still someone under the age of forty that can read sheet music. Either way, when Dogen asks Jack how long his son has been playing, Jack says, “I don’t know.” On the one hand, we want to say that’s because of the split Jack situation. But the show’s toying with us. Jack said that because he’s been a distant dad.
Back at the lighthouse, where Hurley gives Jack some coordinates with which to turn the reflective mirrors. There are numbers and names scrawled along the wheel for each point along its axis, and most of the names are crossed out. Much like the cave last week!
As Jack turns the wheel, we see strange reflections in the mirrors (this lighthouse is for looking inward, and not outward, okay?). First image Jack sees, not that he’d know it, is the temple where Jin and Sun got married. It’s where Jacob ‘touched’ them. The next image Jack sees is the church steps where a young Sawyer met Jacob, clutched revenge letter in hand. Jack finds his number, 23, and turns to it, despite Hurley’s objections.
Jack sees his childhood home and quickly gets enraged. He demands that Hurley bring Jacob to him this instant – how long has he been watching me? In frustration (for more on why he’s really frustrated, read more below) at himself, not liking this reflection, he smashes the mirrors, just like his dad’s coffin. Anger, with potential future catharsis, ensues.
Back to happier Jack, who gently confronts his secretive son. David says he didn’t want to disappoint his intense dad, and Jack, reaching perhaps with his father’s help, goes beyond what he was capable of before, and tells David, “When I was your age, my dad told me I didn’t have what it takes. And I always carried that. You will never fail in my eyes. I will always love you and just want to be part of your life.” Well, what kid doesn’t want to hear that from their dad at some point? Good job, Jack! If you noticed, what was also key here, is that Jack didn’t speak with anger and resentment about his father (like he did in the past). Within his speech to his son, you heard a man who understood his dead dad, forgave him, and loved him.
Back to the lighthouse, where Jack sits looking at the sea while a recently arrived Jacob gets chided by Hurley for being so cryptic and obtuse. When Jacob lets Hurley know that the plan was for Jack to smash everything in the first place, Hurley gives Jacob a little what’s what. But Jacob explains two things: one, you can’t reach everyone the same way, and two, I had to get you and Jack out of the temple, because some BAD stuff is about to go down. Hurley wants to go back to help his friends, but Jacob’s having none of it. If your friends at the temple are going to fight Smokey, they’ll be doing without Jack and Hurley. Good luck, guys..
One last flash to Krazy Klaire who now looks like she wants to kill Jin for the hell of it. In a pre-emptive bid to save his own ass, he tells Claire that he lied – Aaron’s at the temple, and he can take her. That’s when Smokey pops into the tent and Krazy Klaire corrects Jin. “That’s not John, that’s my friend…”
· NUMBERS! Hurley told Jack to turn the Lighthouse dial
to the number 108. Yes, we all know that Jacob meant for Jack to turn it to his number (23) and smash the hell out of everything. But here’s some numbers for you to chew on: Hurley’s numbers equal 108 (4 + 8 + 15 + 16 + 23 + 42). And this episode was the 108th episode of Lost. Whoa!!!! Does it mean anything? Probably Nooo!!!! Still cool, though.
· NUMBERS? Seriously, though, a couple other notes about the lighthouse numbers: Benjamin Linus was number 117, and yes, he was crossed out. Kate was number 51 – still not crossed out! But why wasn’t Kate one of Hurley’s numbers? Could it be that Kate has a different, even more mysterious role in Jacob’s plans than our other heroes?
· MIRROR, MIRROR! What Jack went through this episode is an almost exact mirror of Jack’s first season episode titled ‘White Rabbit’. Is this a gimmick? No way, man! If you want to get a read on what next week’s episode is going to be like, re-watch or read up on Sayid’s first season episode(s). You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll know about next week beforehand. Seriously…
· I’M GOING DOWN, DOWN, DOWN! Speaking of next week’s episode, it’s called ‘Sundown’. Should we take it literal, as in Jin’s Sun goes down for the count? I hope not… Show producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof said that this episode, in addition to being about Sayid, is a bit of an homage to ‘High Noon’. The temple serves as the dusty town that evil gunslinger Smokey envelopes, giving everyone there “Until sundown” to get out of damned temple-town before he tears it to pieces. We shall also see Sayid and Dogen finally confront each other.
· GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? So who is coming to the island? Did Jacob simply mean it was Jack coming to the island, and having to get a good cathartic look at himself to do so? Is it our perhaps still powerful Widmore? Is it our good man Faraday? Maybe even another Desmond appearance (“We miss ya. Come back to us, Brotha.”).
· DOC’S THE MAN! AND WHY THERE AREN’T TWO TIMELINES!!! Once again, Doc Jensen from Entertainment Weekly had an exhaustive take on the whole thing, but one of his insights I found so piercing was that the lighthouse wasn’t for looking out – it was there specifically for looking in. It made me think that when we are going through our most difficult times, when we aren’t our best selves and we’ve lost our way, like we always do, in that rocky sea inside, being able to look at yourself, LOOK! Don’t look away, no matter what it is you see. Stop and look at yourself honestly and nakedly. It may hurt, and you may want to smash that mirror, but this is the only way to heal, and maybe move forward.
Jack wasn’t angry about being spied upon. He was angry because he looked in that mirror and saw his childhood home. He saw that JACOB SAW Jack’s been locked in that space in his life for so long. He was still that stressed little boy scared of the man whose approval he so desperately sought. He smashed those mirrors because he recognized all the fear and anger he’d held onto – all the growth-stunting turned into false bravado. He raged at himself for not letting go. And just as he did that, the other Jack was able to move past viewing himself as a “broken” son and finally begin the journey of being a dad.
Jack’s been reborn, folks. And in light of this (pun intended, and not), I can safely say that these timelines aren’t serving as a comparison. The emotional catharsis taking place in one is directly influencing the other. We aren’t watching two Jacks – it’s still one soul, temporarily split apart, for whatever greater purpose is out there. Now, is that not cool storytelling, or what?
The other cool fringe benefit to this? I’m telling you, I just don’t believe Locke is all dead yet. Because half of Locke is in a wheelchair, learning to live the life he has, and being in love with Helen, he is influencing Smokey in ways that Smokey doesn’t yet understand.
We’ve got rebirth. Now it’s almost time for some resurrection.
In another recent interview/torture/tease, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof told us that we would learn specifically what the island truly is in mid-season episode (my take: likely to be the episode centered our ageless Maybelline man Alpert).
In a concerted effort to drive me even more nuts, they said that it’s a four-letter word that has no ‘A’ or ‘E’ in it. Well, it may not be Hell, but when I get clues like this, it sure feels like Hell to me.
Perusing the net, the dominating names/theories seem to be:
· Ship (oh man, I hope not. I don’t want Aliens to be thrown into the mix).
· Brig – like the brig of a ship. More intriguing, but still kinda lame.
· Gift
· Door (ah, now we’re getting a little more interesting)
· Tomb
· Lost – Yes, it’s possible that the island is what’s lost, and it’s using our players to find its’ way back home. But does that also make it a ship?…
· Cork, or Plug – now this I like. In the 6th Season Promotional Posters, there was all sorts of symbiology thrown at us, some of which has already appeared on the show (i.e. Hurley’s Ankh from the guitar case). One symbol that appeared in the poster that hasn’t (heh heh) ‘POPPED’ up yet is a champagne bottle with a shooting cork. Might the island need a new Jacob because it’s preventing something from leaking out? A Black Hole, another electro-magnetic explosion, demons from hell? Or is it the metaphor of the island, of redemption, hope and inner growth that is holding back the bad things inside of us?
Thanks again for reading, and watching.

"Lost" in Translation – Child is the Father to the Man

Mama said knock you out!

Talk about feeling lost: parents never really know what’s going on with, or what they’ve done to, their own kids until it’s too late to do anything about it. I just listened to a song by Okkervil River, “Savannah Smiles,” that captures the feeling. Tune is “Savannah Smiles,” the narrator a divorced dad contemplating what he’d just learned by (accidentally) reading a page of his teenaged daughter’s diary. In that moment he realizes he can’t reconcile the smiling photos he keeps on his wall with the feelings she records by hand.

“Is she someone I don’t know at all? Is she someone I betrayed?”

So back to “Lost,” and another haunting episode describing the emotional discord haunting its characters: the disconnections between parents and children; the terrors of a failed parent; the scars borne by lost and confused children. Particularly when they become parents themselves, and realize how their wounds now define the unhappy relationships they have formed with their own children.

“Just cannot believe, could do that to a child,” the song continues, far beyond the point where feelings trump words. “A child, a child.”

It’s easy to forget how crucial the emotional side of the saga has been; how easy it is to get so caught up in the action we barely notice how we keep coming back to these particular headwaters. It’s the one undertow that never, ever loses its grip.

“Lighthouse” was a Jack-centric episode, toggling between Island Jack in 2007 and alterna-Jack in Los Angeles, 2004. Island Jack, we recall, lives in a jungle of his father’s creation. We’ve always known how fraught/broken the relationship between Christian and Jack Shephard has been. It is Jack’s most primal experience: of loving and fearing his dad; the tangled strands of admiration and resentment; the love and the hatred; the need to be nurtured, and to destroy. Jack was bringing his (alcoholic) dad’s body home from Australia when he stepped onto Oceanic #815, and when the plane crashed the impact seemed to revive Christian’s soul: He kept reappearing, silently, only to lead Jack further into the depths of a literal/figurative jungle that presented far more questions than answers.

As the series continued it seemed that Christian had some connection to Jacob. He appeared in Jacob’s stead. He delivered (or claimed to deliver) Jacob’s instructions. But now that Jacob has stepped in himself, in both real and spectral forms, the connections between the Island’s Good Father and Jack’s bad daddy have grown murkier. Is there a reason why Christian and Jacob have never been seen together? And if the Man in Black has the power to animate the bodies of the dead, doesn’t it make sense that Jacob would, too? Has he been walking in Christian’s burial suit for all these years?

What seems clear now is that Jacob plays the role of Father of Fathers. From his perch on the Island – and in that groovy, previously-unseen lighthouse – he has been keeping track of his charges, monitoring their lives and stepping in when it seems they need a gentle push to keep them moving in the right direction.

Jacob’s vision of a right direction, anyway, which opens up an interesting can of worms: For all his clear-eyed, seemingly warm-hearted affection for the Losties, has Jacob’s presence enriched their lives, or simply made them much, much worse?

Consider that alterna-Jack in L.A. – the Jack who never went to the island and seems untouched by Jacob’s presence – is actively breaking the cycles of dysfunction that “broke” him (as the other Jack tells Hurley on the island). So while his relationship with his own teenaged son (who didn’t even exist until now) bears the marks of his own disconnection from Christian, Jack is growing and changing on his own. He comes to terms with his own feelings for his dad, admits his failings as a father and these revelations lead him to reconnect with his own son.

We’ve seen this again and again in the alterna-Losties in Los Angeles: From Locke to Hurley and now to Jack, the bonds between fathers and sons seem far more functional than it is in their island alter-egos. And now that Jacob presents himself as a kind of father-in-general. . . . God the father. . . what are we to make of how screwed up the Jacob-influenced Losties are? Why are the Jacob-free characters so much more able to control, and find satisfaction, in their lives?

Back on Jacob’s island virtually every paternal/maternal relationship is a disaster. Most vivid case in point: Crazy jungle Claire and her insane pursuit for Aaron, who she saw last when she abandoned him on a log and wandered off into the jungle, presumably in the grip of the Man in Black, or some other wicked force. Now she’s basically Rousseau 2.0, wild-eyed and dangerous, stalking the jungle for a lost child. She has no idea where the kid is, but her free-wheeling desperation to reconnect has turned her psychotic. She’ll kill any and everyone she encounters, always in the name of her lost child, but actually because her maternal instincts have been subsumed, and poisoned, by the island’s darker forces.

So is the dark force the Man in Black, or is Jacob fostering the darkness too? Consider how he manipulates Hurley into leading Jack to the lighthouse, seemingly to help guide someone else to the island. Only, when Jack realizes that the lighthouse is actually Jacob’s monitoring station – that the mirrors are what have given Jacob the power to see into their lives – he smashes the whole works to smithereens. A fact Jacob takes with surprising aplomb. In fact, it was the plan all along:

“It’s the only way for him to understand how important he is,” Jacob tells Hurley. “Jack is here to do something. He can’t be told what it is, he has to find it himself.”

This is Jacob’s version of paternal guidance. Whether his lighthouse is leading him – and everyone else – to a safe harbor or onto the rocks still isn’t clear.

"Lost" In Translation: Of Mice and Smoke Monsters

 I don’t think he’s gonna pull through…

When I was in 4th grade the rock group Three Dog Night had this huge hit with “Black and White,” which found a maddeningly tuneful way to reduce the world’s racial/social conflicts, the very headwaters all the non-tea tax-caused wars in world history, into a child’s singalong:

The ink is black/the page is white/together we learn to read and write…

Even as a 10-year-old I could sense that this was far too simplistic an analysis; that it offered limp platitudes rather than tough moral choices; that it might inspire Paul McCartney, ten years hence, to rewrite it and score an even bigger hit out of the arguably more dreadful, “Ebony and Ivory.

Only what I didn’t foresee was that 20 years after that, “Lost” would take up the same issue (albeit not in racial terms) and present a far more complex and entirely compelling version of the age old manichean struggle: White v black; community v independence; fate v self-determination; good v evil.

No matter where you look, it’s the same story: Stark distinctions; impossible choices; because you can never really tell what is good and what is bad, and why certain acts that seem like unalloyed evil might, in fact, be truly just and even merciful.

So when Sawyer, in seemingly idle talk with the NotLocke/Smoke Monster/Man in Black during a jungle stroll starts musing on John Steinbeck’s “Of MIce and Men, sit up and take notice. And realize that what what you’re about to see in the cave they’re heading for tells you as much about “Lost”‘s core themes as it does about the relevance of the notorious numbers and a glimmer of a hint about why the Losties were ever drawn to the island, and then all but forced to remain there.

All from the Man in Black/Smokey perspective. Which, as it turns out, makes some sense.

Central plot reveals: 

Jacob, who long since won the role of Island caretaker/boss/spiritual headwaters, chose/nurtured each Lostie in their pre-island lives, somehow pushing/compelling them to the point where they would all be on that Oceanic #815.

Each number was a signifier for an individual Lostie. If they signified something more profound (a top forty?) we don’t know yet.

Argument for greater significance: Jacob was cultivating each Lostie as a potential substitute/replacement for him when he either retired, went on vacation, or got stabbed to death and then shoved into a campfire.

Someone brought an Iggy Pop record to the Island.

The non-island/alternative “Losties,” left to their own devices in the good old US of A, seem far more successful, less angry and (to coin a phrase) fucked up than their Island-bound alter-egos. Hurley is a successful businessman; Locke, albeit wheelchair bound, is in a warm relationship with Helen and, by the end of this episode, finding new meaning as a substitute (!!!!!) teacher; Ben, also a teacher, satisfies his bossy nature by kvetching about other teachers’ unwillingness to start a new pot of coffee even when they finish the old one; etc. etc.

The deep end analysis, from God to mice, comes in the jump….

But what does all of this mean in a larger, philosophical sense, which we can’t even pretend to ignore given how perpetually the “Lost” creators come back to the whole question of philosophy, literature and etc.

Community vs. individuality; fate vs. self-determination, and the elusive nature of both. Consider how Jacob represents the essence of community – the “either we live together or we die alone” ideal. To him the only thing that truly matters is the island, a kind of headwaters of communal life, which must be protected and perpetuated at all costs. The individual lives of the Losties mean nothing in comparison (consider that Jacob’s touch all but guaranteed lives of darkness and dysfunction for the Losties, often to the point of psychotic-caliber chilliness; e.g., he distracted Sayid at the precise moment his beloved Nadia was headed into the path of the truck that killed her.) The irony here is that by attempting to take control of their fates (Locke on his walkabout; Jack taking control of his father’s body; Clare’s attempt to remove her child from her life) the Losties were actually surrendering to their Jacob-ascribed fate.

Oh, but that’s the larger purpose, you say. That’s fate and meaning and a universe whose seemingly random events are actually part of a real and meaningful pattern described by a supreme being in front of whom we can only kneel. See also: world religion and/or Grateful Dead fans.

But what if the God in question – and his entire sense of meaning – is totally wack? This is where NotLocke/MiB/etc slaps all of us pretty hard in the kisser, as he tells Sawyer near the end of the hour:

“You’ve got three choices. You can do nothing and see how all this plays out, and possibly your name will get crossed out. (e.g., you’ll be killed). Second option: you can accept the job, become the new Jacob, and protect the island.”

Sawyer: “From what?”

Not Locke/MiB: “From nothing. That’s the joke. There’s nothing to protect it from. It’s just a damn island. It will be perfectly fine without jacob or you or anyone else whose lives he wasted. The third choice is that we just go. Get the hell off this island and keep going, and not look back.”

In other words: Die together or live apart.

MiB/Smokey/NotLocke, in other words, is something of an existentialist. What matters is his own safety/comfort/imediate surroundings. Beyond that it’s all superstition and self-delusion. Consider NotLocke’s outrage at the mystery jungle boy (seemingly a vision of the yonger Jacob)’s assertion that he could NOT bring the rules: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Sound familiar? And wasn’t it interesting to see how peaceful the alterna-Locke back in the USA appeared when he finally did resign himself to what he couldn’t do?

So maybe there’s a certain amount to be said to taking what you’ve been handed and finding a way to make the best of it. To understand that there is power in acceptance. That it can be pointless to struggle. That when the lynch mob is headed your way (ala Steinbeck) the only righteous thing you can do is shoot your best friend in the back of the head and get the hell out of Dodge.