Hello, Dr. Nick! – The "Substitute" teacher connects the dots and leads us to. . .Jacob's Ladder

By NICK GORINI

I love puzzles. Sudokus, crosswords, word jumbles, even those maddening 5000-piece jigsaw puzzles picturing some blurry German castle. There’s something about the List-maker, the Completist in me. I appreciate the structure that can be built from what at first appears to be senseless and chaotic.

My favorite moment when putting a puzzle together isn’t starting the task, and it isn’t completing it, either. When solving a puzzle, the moment I get my “runner’s high”, when I get those little knots in my stomach, is when I can see the solution appearing before me. I’m not done yet, and I may have a long way to go, but that instant when I can forecast how the pieces come together, and I start moving very, very quickly to the finish line – that’s my favorite moment.

And that’s the feeling I had watching this week’s episode of Lost.

“And I’ve been Locked out, and I’ve been Locked in. But I always seem to come back again.”

What is about the Locke episodes that are almost always so adept at combining all the disparate elements of this show into a most magical elixir? A pinch of action, a teaspoon of mystery, one cup of mythology and whole pile of character development. The perfect cocktail – do you prefer your Locke shaken, like the Locke of old? Or perhaps you like your Locke stirred, like the winding, whirling-dervish of a devil now inhabiting our dearly-departed hero?

THE SIDE TIMELINE:
We open on the serene, bland suburbs that Locke serviced in one of his many previous job forays (looked an awful lot like Nadia’s old neighborhood, didn’t it?). Locke as Job continues, as he struggles getting out of his handicap van, tries to go all Evel Knieval popping a wheelie off the platform, and lands face first in his lawn. Before he can get too pissed, the sprinklers come on, drenching him in shame… Er, no wait: this isn’t quite the same Locke. Sure he’s prideful and stubborn, but this time he laughs. Laughs out loud at his predicament. I am sure it is laughter twinged with some level of pain, but here’s a guy who’s coping.

Then Peg Bundy comes hopping out of the house! I mean, Helen comes hopping out of the house! She’s back! Locke’s lost love (truly lost – if you remember that upon returning to the island, he was told she had died of a brain tumor) is living with him. This is great for two reasons: We’re happy for our beloved Locke, but we’re also happy because this romance was real – well-written and well-played. Helen and Locke, who originally met in an anger management class, seemed like real people, meeting in a real place, having a real relationship, on a show that can also indulge in some extreme existential fantasy.

Well, turns out they’re getting married. She even suggests they elope, and that dear old Daddy Locke should come along. WHAA? Can I get a HUHH? So who or what crippled Locke? Time will tell. I did dig that Helen’s shirt said something about Kharma on it, I believe. Also of note – Locke lies to Helen when asked about his trip. This Locke is a better man than the original, but not without flaws. Like all of us, dark impulses nibble away at our corners.

They have a brief discussion about his airport encounter with the friendly spinal surgeon, and how destiny may be telling him it’s time for a visit. Locke downplays the encounter, and we move on.

Back at Locke’s office cubical, we get a glimpse of a happy, less-follicularly-challenged Locke and his dear old bastard, I mean dad. Still not buying it – maybe this jerk just hasn’t sucked out his illegitimate son’s kidney yet.

Fate’s pain, isn’t it? I mean, here’s new Locke, still wheelchair-bound, and still working for that petty tyrant Randy. Still considered a nerd for playing Axis and Allies on his lunch break (“Hey Colonel!”), Randy paws at mousy Locke like fat, lazy cat until goes in for the kill. He knows Locke went on his thwarted Australian walkabout on the company dime. You’re fired, dude. Side note: Side timeline = No Abbadon. So, who convinced Locke to go on this trip?

Locke wheels himself and his box of belongings (including a polar bear statue, if memory serves) out to the parking lot, but there’s a problem. Prideful Locke doesn’t use handicap parking because he doesn’t have to and thus, his van is wedged against an obnoxious yellow hummer owned by Locke’s boss, Hurley! Aha! Now, as much as I like Hurley, I don’t like big, gas-guzzling hummers. So I now like Hurley a little less. Just a little. I bet he still eats hot pockets.

Follow the jump to get to gym class and then Jacob’s Ladder…

After some arguing, Locke tells Hurley he’s been fired. Hurley gives Locke the number for a temp agency he owns and reassures Locke in a Jacob-like manner (Hmmm) that everything is going to be okay. Give them a call, dude. I’ll set you up with a job.

At the temp agency, Locke is at first interviewed by another familiar face – the psychic Hurley visited back in Season 3. Man, Hurley will hire ANYBODY. Anyhow, after a few goofy questions, Locke asks to speak to a supervisor, and.. walks… Rose!

Lovely Rose. She tries to steer Locke to jobs that suit someone in his condition, but Locke’s pride and anger swell, and he demands a job managing a construction site. He wants to prove he can do anything. When Rose calmly tries to set him straight, telling him to focus on something “realistic”, Locke growls at her: “What do you know about ‘Realistic’?”

BIG SIDE NOTE: Last week, the Stupid Award went to Claire for hopping in a stolen cab with a gun-wielding felon. The week before, Kate got the Stupid Award by waiting for her luggage in baggage claim after beating her federal escort senseless. This week, the Stupid Award goes to Locke for trying to tell an African American woman that she doesn’t understand suffering or repression. So, SO STUPID. Not John Mayer Stupid, but pretty close.

Rose outdoes Locke by telling him about her terminal cancer (remember, the island was the only thing keeping her alive). She tells Locke that she has slowly learned to accept what life gives her, to live the life you have and enjoy it. Good job, Rose!

The next day, we hear Locke’s alarm go off (sounded an awful lot like the hatch. Hmm….), and we watch Locke struggle through his morning routine. He calls Jack’s office, but hangs up before he can make an appointment. Helen nudges gently, and this new and improved Locke tells Helen the truth. He’s been fired, the lost luggage that just arrived is a bunch of knives from his Crocodile Dundee daydreams, etc. It actually ends up being a great speech, because we see what hurts Locke the most: He feels emasculated, and bitter that he can’t walk his future wife down the aisle. He tells Helen to not spend his life with him waiting for a miracle, because miracles don’t happen.

This new Locke is braver than the old Locke, not because he’s fearless. He’s braver because he opened up, and told Helen about his fear. There’s hope for our dear friend yet. They embrace, and we know they’re closer for it.

The next day, we see that Locke has his new temp job. He’s coaching a girls high-school basketball and substitute teaching – Biology! He’s a man of science, now! Teaching female reproduction (aha – I was wondering when the show would get back to Bad dads, and dying moms. Soon, it will be here).

In the teacher’s lounge, we get out biggest reveal: Ben, who got off the island as a child, is now pretending to be C3PO, getting all fussy with R2D2 (or an empty coffee pot, I wasn’t sure). Ben teaches European history, of course. I knew this was coming, and they played this meeting beautifully. I sure hope for this new Ben gets to have the daughter he was robbed of in our old timeline. We shall see.


THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE:

Our first POV (
that’s Point of View) shot through Smokey’s eyes! Nice!! We experience Smokey flying through the forest, checking on sulky Sawyer, and then back to the forest, where Smokey goes back to Locke-mode, grabs a machete and frees Alpert from a hanging makeup bag. ‘Okay Richard, time to talk.’ If it isn’t regarding eyeliner application tips, my guess is that they’re going to talk about the island, and Jacob, and other cool stuff.

Yup. Alpert seems to be more in the dark about what’s going on then we realized. Locke apologizes for the beating and explains that taking Locke’s form was the only way to get to Jacob. Alpert doesn’t understand what this guy’s talking about when he mentions Locke being one of the “Candidates”. I guess Alpert needs a voter registration card or something.

Smokey makes a point to let Alpert know that he would never be coy or keep people in the dark about the big plans, like Jacob did. “I’d treat you with respect.”  He asks Alpert to come with him, but Albert’s reply?

“Never.” And the way he says it, so calmly, you know he means it. Alpert knows what side he’s on, and he accepts whatever this fate provides for him. Smokey sees something over Alpert’s shoulder that spooks him, something Alpert can’t see, and leaves.

We cut to Ilana and Ben beneath the 4-toed statue. Ben, out of habit, or instinct, still lies about killing Jacob. Ilana knows about as much about everything as we do – but she does know something about the damn ash, and grabs Jacob’s from the fire, and puts it in her empty Crown Royal bag. Bottom’s up!

Back at Dharmaville, we see Sawyer drinkin’ whiskey and listening to the Stooges play Smokey’s theme song, ‘Search and Destroy’. A raw scream of a tune about a ‘Forgotten Boy’ who’s looking for some soul salvation. A perfect tune for both Sawyer and Locke, who pops in to say hello. unfazed, Sawyer says, “I thought you were dead.” Smokey’s response: “I am.” Sawyer isn’t bat an eye, and what we’re about to get is yet another awesome Locke and Sawer adventure.

You know, it’s funny – I talk about the best pairings of characters on the show (Locke and Jack, Locke and Ben, Locke and Sawyer, etc.). I finally see the pattern. Terry O’Quinn is just that good of an actor, and Locke is just that good of a character.

Anyway, there’s great stuff here. Watch Smokey as Locke get a nice taste of booze that he hasn’t had in God knows how long. I think Smokey may become too accustomed to his human form. We saw him on the beach last year enjoy the Hell out of a mango. Even Smokey in some way is losing his purity by being a flawed human: His purity of mission, of purpose, of strongly representing the dark in contrast to the light. I’m telling you, Locke’s gone in this timeline, but he’s not really gone. No sir. More on that in a bit.

So Sawyer tells Locke to get out of his house. Locke initially tries to entice ‘The NEW Substitute’ to come with him, because he can answer the biggest questions. Sawyer knows this isn’t the real Locke, though. Mostly because Smokey seems confused at Sawyer’s responses. But, Sawyer agrees to come with him – but first, he has to put on some pants..

Back at the statue, the show really wants us to know this other Locke ain’t getting up anytime soon. His skin is taut, yellow and has crabs crawling on it. Lapidus makes a point of explaining how “Ripe” the body smells. Ilana grabs this new fun foursome (herself, Ben, Sun, Lapidus), and starts heading towards the temple to find Jin! With a short detour to bury Locke, at Sun’s request.

Back to the graveyard to Losties, Ilana explains that once Smokey picks his portal person, that’s who he’s going to be. He can’t hop from body to body. A little bit of a cop-out by the writing staff, but I’ll accept it.

As they bury Locke, guess who delivers the eulogy? Ben! Ha! “John Locke was a believer. A much better man I will ever be. And I’m sorry I killed him.” Nice! And Lapidus remarks under his breath how damn weird all this stuff is.

Meanwhile, Locke and Sawer are on their walkabout. Arguing until a Blonde kid pops up that both can see. Locke chases him deep in the forest but falls. Why not go all Smokey on this kid? Maybe he’s losing some of his ethereal powers the longer he inhabits Locke? Hmm… The kid pops back up and tells Smokey that “You can’t kill him. You know the rules.” Do they mean Sawyer, or somebody else?

Well, the next line(s) is pivotal: Smokey shouts to the kid: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” He repeats it for emphasis. This was Locke’s line for years. NOT SMOKEY’S. So, that leaves us with two options here: Some piece of Locke still exists in Smokey, and is indirectly infecting or influencing him. Or, even more intriguing, has some part of Smokey been inside of Locke all this time? Was Smokey slowly whittling into Locke’s brain all those years prior to arriving at the island? Double hmm….

Sawyer, left behind gets approached by Alpert, wide-eyed and full of warning about Smokey’s “Search and destroy” mission. Alpert runs off before Smokey sees him, and Sawyer plays dumb.

Later, Sawyer spins a tale about Steinbeck (Smokey doesn’t know him: “After my time,” he says), and compares the two of them to Lenny and George in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Sawyer doesn’t want promises of tending rabbits whilst meeting buckshot in the head, so he pulls a gun on Smokey and threatens to shoot.

Two conmen trying to outdo each other. Smokey tells Sawyer that he could shoot, but he’d just be killing someone who was once a man himself, who knew love and loss, who get trapped on the island, and that it would be such a shame to quit now, when the answers are so close. Sawyer is persuaded and puts the gun away.

Does anybody think that this game Jacob and Smokey play has a rule tied to free will? That neither one is allowed to kill a candidate, and that they can’t kill each other, but through the manipulation of frail humans, these candidates can do the dirty work for each other, because it is through their choosing to do so? That’s why Ben had to be the one to kill Jacob. That’s why Smokey is recruiting Sawyer to be his next killer (or maybe replace him as the Smokey on the island so he can be free of the game?). And maybe Sayid is Jacob’s new substitute assassin of some kind? Just thinking out loud here…

Sorry. Onto creepy rope ladders going down a ocean cliff, to a mysterious cave. Sawyer advises Smokey to go down these ladders first because, “You already died.” Of course, the ladder breaks with Sawyer on it, and Smokey saves Sawyer just in time. Was this planned?

Into the cave, where we find a desk and a scale, with black rock on one side, white rock on the other. Smokey tosses the white rock into the ocean, calling it an “Inside joke.” That guy is a sore loser, AND a sore winner, isn’t he..

Here’s the big deal, right? Names of all our characters, with corresponding numbers (THE NUMBERS!!) next to their names. Many of the names are crossed out. But most of close characters are not. Sayid’s and Hurley’s are in plain view, not yet crossed out. Smokey explains Jacob’s game to Sawyer, and we see flashbacks from MOST of Jacob’s early visits to others. Not Ilana’s, or Kate’s…

It gets heavier: Smokey tells Sawyer that all these choices he thought were his own were just the grand manipulations of Jacob to bring him and these others to the island. You and a few of the others are just being auditioned as candidates to replace Jacob! Presumably because Jacob knew he’d be gutted and turned into duraflame log.

Smokey explains that Sawyer has three choices: He can do nothing, and get his name crossed off as a candidate. He can become the new Jacob and protect the island, although according to Smokey, there’s nothing to protect. The island’s fine – it’s just some big cosmic joke being played on all of us, and we don’t have to play the game being forced on us anymore (somebody is angry at their dad, I think.) It’s almost as if Smokey was saying ‘Fate’ and ‘Destiny’ do indeed exist, but that as humans, we have the capacity to cho
ose it, or ignore it and “Go Rogue”, Sarah-Palin style.

The last choice Smokey gives Sawyer is to reject all this game-playing B.S. and help him get off the island, to which Sawyer replies, “Hell yes.” To which I say, either Sawyer’s audition for Smokey went well, or, and I’m close to banking on this, Sawyer thinks he’s such a good con man that he can con the devil himself.

QUESTIONS, FORECASTS, AND THOUGHTS ABOUT THEM DARN BOOKS:

Ash! ASH! ASH! What is up with the damn ash, already?! Considering what week it is/was, I expected Ilana to indulge in Ash Wednesday with Jacob’s remains, but I digress…

Why TWO rope ladders to get down that cliff? That was symbolism with some kind of intent, but I’m still scratching my head. And yes, that was (Ahem) Jacob’s Ladder…

While I don’t think who got what number scrawled on the wall is important, I didn’t see Kate’s name up there. Believe me – I looked.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Before I forget! Doc Jensen pointed this out, so credit goes to his highness! Locke’s getting married, right? Boone’s family owns a wedding planning/catering business, right? More criss-crossing to come!

Next week’s episode is called “The Lighthouse.” Yes, feel free to apply all direct religious symbolism at this one, because it will fit. Anyhow, expect plenty of screentime for Jack and Hurley. And more ass-kicking from Claire. Also, let me prep you with a question: Aaron got off the island with Kate. Think Claire knows that? If she doesn’t yet, how do you think she’ll react when Kate tells her? Lastly, one of my favorite nice guy red shirts returns.

More bad guys coming back soon! Even one rotten scumbag, who killed so-and-so’s daughter, will return in a couple weeks. No word on whether he’s a ghost, still a jerk, or a, uh, ghost jerk.

Again, many more familiar faces from the past will be popping up. Remember me mentioning someone unlikely popping up in Locke’s new world? Turned out to be Ben, right? Well, expect more unexpected, jarring pairings in the side timeline.

Don’t think that tearing up Jack’s business card will prevent fate, destiny or Jacob from ensuring that these two guys end up together, maybe even in an operating room.

So, the show has made a point to let us know that while the coping skills of our heroes might be improved in this side timeline, they are still the same people, chased by the same inner demons (except for Hurley. Hmm…). It’s all about how they deal and grow. Even the side characters are the same: Locke’s boss Randy has always been a petty jerk. With that said, why do I have trouble, extreme trouble, believing Locke’s dad is a decent guy?

Peter and I had an interesting ‘discussion’ about Steinbeck, and other literary references thrust into the inner workings of the show, sometimes with great success, and at other times too forced to feel natural. I wanted to crack some jokes about The Ghost of Tom Joad wandering around the island (hey, Christian Shepherd looks a little like Henry Fonda, so it works for me). I admit I sometimes get the sense that somebody on the show wants us to know that the Master’s in English Lit they got at Berkeley isn’t going to waste writing for television. We get the idea! You’re well-read! Can we just enjoy the freaking show?! BUT, I think taking that glib approach only denies you, the viewer, an even richer and more rewarding experience.

Why do they reference all these dang books, then? Well, for fun, sure. To show off their smarty-smart pants, yes. To defend this television show as being more important, more meaningful than nearly all the other dreck dripping out of our media portals – absolutely. I think they also want to teach us that these stories, these moral fables, are ancient. They’re immortal, and they’re ingrained in our existence and societal evolution. If they want to remind me that by pointing towards the Bible, Steinbeck, or even the primal sounds of Iggy Pop and The Stooges, I’m totally down with it. Give me more to puzzle, please!

One last thing to mention: For diehard fans, I encourage you to go to EW’s website and read Doc Jensen’s recap. I know, I know – even more verbose than my postings. But he really grasped what happened this week better than any other Lost blogger and even has some really KOOKY theories (examples: Smokey is either Cain or Abel, and the ghost boy that appeared in front of Smokey? He says it’s young Sawyer… Huh? Doc also says Alpert is probably Smokey’s son… HUH?!)

Thanks for reading and for watching

"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.

Hello, Dr. Nick! – Nick Gorini's latest pre-episode "Lost" post. . . and this one is amazing.

By NICK GORINI
 
Now that we’ve had nearly a week to sit with our Kate-centric episode, it’s time to gear up for what will be a more revelatory-what-the-heck-is-going-on episode, titled, ‘The Substitute.’ Although all episodes of this show are a must-see (minus a few that spent way too much time in bear cages), this week’s will be especially important. More on that in a minute. First:
 
A FEW SCRAPS I MISSED:

In the first episode, I initially failed to notice Desmond’s wedding ring in his little 30-second plane ride. Well, remember that he threw Penny’s engagement ring in the water way back when that nice/sinister Old-Lady Faraday told him his love was doomed and he couldn’t change fate. Now we have a married Desmond, presumably to Penny. And an episode later, we have a broken Sawyer tossing his Juliet’s engagement ring in the water. Coincidence? Well, of course not.

Also in that first episode, I didn’t notice Sayid’s new passport: Iranian. Not sure how relevant this is… Yet.

Last week, Sawyer tossed that ring from the submarine dock. The submarine dock? Wasn’t that blown up by Locke awhile ago? Well, looks like it’s been rebuilt. And I imagine we’ll be seeing the submarine again, too. Could that be a piece of the timeline convergence puzzle?

Just as Kate was meant to be part of Claire and Aaron’s lives, so too was Ethan. And for all the bad stuff Ethan did  back in Season One, I think we can speculate that Ethan was meant to save Aaron’s life – in both timelines.

To restate, Jacob wanted Sayid or whatever is possessing Sayid to get beyond the Temple’s protective barriers. So all so far is going according to plan. But here’s the catch: remember how unsurprised Dogen was that Jack didn’t give Sayid the poison pill? Well that was part of the plan. What wasn’t part of the plan was Jack popping the pill in his mouth. Further proof that Jack is the new variable.
In a recent interview, show producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof wanted to reassert that the main question they want all of us to ask: ‘Is humanity essentially good or essentially evil?’ Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it’s a good compass for us viewer’s to hold onto when we get too caught up in all the side stuff that occurs.

Peter’s last post astutely mentions that the ‘infection’ that some characters appear to be succumbing to is really a metaphor for the Original Sin. As you will see in upcoming episodes, this infection can come in various forms. More on how this relates to the next episode in a little bit.

In another recent interview, Michael Emerson, who plays Ben, had what was probably the best quote about this final season’s story-telling conceit: In regards to the two timelines, “The dimensions of time and space are… Porous.”

In a weekend conversation with a friend, he stated that he dearly loved the show, but was surprised that the impending game is becoming so blatantly Biblical. I agree, although I am finding as many parallels if not more in another Christian writer’s primary work: C.S. Lewis and his ‘Chronicals of Narnia.’ I skimmed through my beaten, beloved books and found Jack, Kate, Locke, Jacob, Esau and even Ben in lots of of characters. It was a fun exercise, and made me look forward to reading them with my seven-year-old.

How does he do it? No one knows. . .Follow the jump for even more. . .


DOGEN IT, I THINK I KNOW YOU:
 
Dogen is the calm badass running the temple. So who is this guy? Almost every character’s name means something, and he is no exception. He’s named after Dogen Zenji, a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher who was around in the 1200’s. Just a cursory look at his history has so many ‘Lost’ parallels, it proves that the show researchers do their homework:

Dogen’s most revered Buddhist writing was a book called Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma. Dharma, people! Dharma!

Dogen’s mother may have died when he was seven. We know this show loves to give characters with dead or absent mommies. Locke, Sawyer, Ben, all lost their mothers at a young age. And to a lesser extent, you have characters like Kate and Jack, who have complex, complicated relationships with distant mothers or mother figures.

Dogen was a searcher, and pushed past the original doctrines and Buddhist teachings to find deeper meanings and answers. What he found wasn’t always to his liking. In particular, he questioned the idea that you could truly ‘Find Enlightenment’. Perhaps it existed in us all along, and what was the true necessity of engaging in spiritual practice? This concept was tied to the idea of “Original Enlightenment”, the idea that nature already gave us this knowledge. Fate vs. Free Will, anyone?

At some point he became disillusioned with the politics tied to his faith and left Japan to study in China. Further frustrated with not finding satisfying answers, he even refused something called “Dharma Transmission” from a teacher. So, reluctant student, searching for answers. Locke and Jack, anyone?
 
It only gets deeper from there. If you’re curious, Google the guy. There are many more parallels to be drawn. The question with this show is, where do you draw the line? I’m going to watch Dogen a little more now, but won’t draw any conclusions about his true significance yet.
 
I used to think Abbadon (remember him?) was going to become a key character in the show’s mythology, given the religious significance of who Abbadon was and how cryptic all his Locke visits were. Then he was quickly gunned down against the trunk of a car after a day of driving Locke around like Miss Daisy.
 
THE SUBSTITUTE, OR ‘WAR! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?’

Next week’s episode is called ‘The Substitute’ and will focus on Locke. We’re going to see what alternate-timeline Locke is up to, and needless to say, his life still mostly sucks. However, as I alluded last week, some unlikely faces may be popping up in his timeline.
In the original timeline, we’re going to see The Man In Black-as Locke pull the same recruiting spiel on Sawyer that Ben pulled on Locke (Parallels! Parallels!).

We’re also going to see Alpert come to from his bonk on the head and warn Sun, Lapidus and the others that this is a very bad man who will kill all of them.

I was hoping that the ‘War’ everyone had been talking about all these years was going to be of the more symbolic type, taking place inside each character as they wrestle with those darned inner demons. But nope! This show likes to spell it out, so we have the Fake Locke, infected Sayid, infected Claire and what looks to me like a successful job interview with Sawyer to join the dark side.
 
How will all this play out? Stay tuned…
 
Thanks for reading and watching
 
Nick Gorini

"Lost" in Translation: What Kate Did Doesn't Matter.

Turn your head and cough!

This episode, titled “What Kate Does,” features a serious thematic revelation: Sayid, we learn, has an infection. A really bad one. LIke, it’s going to kill him bad. Here’s the worse news: Everyone else has it, too. And not just the people on the screen.

He was killed, then resurrected, seemingly none the worse for the mortal wounds he sported just hours/minutes ago. Everything about him seems normal. He looks the same, acts the same, knows everyone and re-engages where he (briefly) left off.

But he’s infected. There is, Guru whotk tells him, a “darkness” growing within him. “and once it reaches his heart, everything he once was will be gone.”

This revelation comes late in the episode, but it hardly seems surprising. Because what we’re really talking about — what we’ve seen repeatedly during the episode, throughout the entire history/ies of “Lost” and our own lives — is original sin. The seeds of darkness that exist in the foundations of everyone’s consciousness, growing (or not) according to the quirks of character, experience and, more grandly, fate.

Which brings us to the most fundamental questions of existence: Are we free to create, and re-create, ourselves? Or are we merely enacting our part of a story long since written by larger hands?

And this takes us back to this hour of “Lost,” the second episode in the series’ final arc, in which we are to learn, finally, What It All Means. Ooh, delicious! Only here’s a prediction: The final answer will (or should) be that there aren’t any real answers. Because the deeper you travel into your own soul, the more shadowy and deceptive it all becomes.

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow. But let’s follow the jump first.

And if this season of alternate existences and timelines seems to be proving, no amount of running or hiding or even leaping planes of existence is going to change anyone’s essential nature.

When Kate gets in a tough spot, her first, all-but-undeniable impulse is to hit the road. To do a geographic, as our 12-stepping friends will say.

Sawyer, meanwhile, can’t escape the externalized self-loathing (his anti-social impulse; the hair-trigger temper and guilt) he’s felt since witnessing the murder/suicide of his parents.

Jack’s compulsion for super-human status — the impulse to heal the sick, to save everyone in sight, to be the hero no matter what — plays out in his surgical practice at home. On the island it compels him to be an action hero. Trouble is he knows he’s only a mortal, just like everyone else. His decisions are far from infallible. He takes wild risk and other people suffer and die.

Claire, who shares Jack’s distant/screwed-up dad, both yearns for connection (to her son; to her friends; to anyone) but ends up wandering wild-eyed in the jungle. As the temple guru tells Jack, she’s already fallen to the same “infection” that will inevitably claim Sayid.

Back to Sayid, then. The guru and Lennon perform “tests” to see how profound his infection has become, and they amount entirely to the same tortures he once performed as a Republican Guard in Iraq. “Why are you doing this!?” he wails, as if he didn’t know. And maybe that’s exactly what reveals how far gone he is: That the blood on his own hands has seeped so deep into his own soul that he no longer remembers how it got there, or even realizes that it exists.

Also significant: the alt-timeline/off-island appearance of creepy villain Ethan Rom as a white-coated, seemingly sweet natured Dr. Goodspeed, who now tends to Claire’s false labor with warmth and kindness. Only why does this feel so unsettling? Are we responding to what we THINK we know about Ethan based on his Island self? Or does his essential creepiness flourish no matter where he is?

Ultimately all these scenes about parents and children, fundamental health and sickness, the balance of light and dark and how difficult it can be to tell the difference, boils down to the foundations of existence:  Where we came from, who made us, and how we can (or can’t) will ourselves into becoming something else.

They called the episode “What Kate Does.” And maybe what this means is that whatever Kate does can’t really make a difference. No matter how fast and far she runs, when she arrives she’s still going to be Kate.

Nick's "Lost" Re-cap: episode 2 – You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

By NICK GORINI

“I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on
Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind.”

– Jackson Browne, Running on Empty

Too obvious a reference? Maybe. But you know that an episode of Lost centering on Kate is going to have to mention ‘Running’ more than a few times to restate what her issues are.

“I’m thinkin’ about runnin’, Kate.” Sawyer says it in the first few minutes of this episode, and we know he’s voicing Kate’s constant thought stream – in whatever timeline she happens to be trotting through. If they can be this obvious, by golly, I will, too.

If this was a Sawyer-centric episode, I’d probably be quoting that touching Van Halen ballad, ‘Runnin’ (NOT running) With the Devil’. As a matter of fact, that song may be quite apropos in coming episodes – more on that later this week.

THE ‘SIDE’ TIMELINE (aka, what used to be called the NEW timeline, before the producers let us know in a post-premiere interview that this was the wrong way of thinking):

Picking up right where last week left off, Kate has commandeered a very pregnant Claire’s cab using the Marshall’s gun (question: in real life, do cops really lose their guns so easily? Happens a lot on TV.). Before getting ten feet, we nearly plow over the good Doc Arzt, who gets to do a pretty decent Rizzo impression (“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”).

The cab soldiers on, but not before Kate locks eyes on Jack. They instantly share a deja vu moment, letting us know that Jack isn’t the only Lostie becoming aware of alternate realities.

The cab driver bolts from the cab, followed shortly by sad-looking Claire, kicked to the curb without her purse and luggage. Kate pulls into an auto chop shop and implausibly, the friendly mechanic helps her lose the handcuffs with for a couple hundred bucks. I wonder how many escaped felons and convicts wish they’d bumped into this guy.

If you were wondering where you’d seen him before, the actor’s name is Jeff Korber and he was on ‘China Beach’, and ‘Sons of Anarchy’. I scrambled on the interweb to find him because I was convinced he was on an early ‘Lost’ episode. I was wrong, proving that this show will make me chase shadows in broad daylight.

Kate goes into a back room to change and finds Claire’s picture and baby stuff, triggering guilty pangs, and possibly some hormones. She also gets the strong sense that she’s seen this before. Obviously, the universe wants her, Aaron and Claire to be intertwined, no matter how much she runs.

Kate drives back and finds Claire right where she left her, on the side of the road, waiting for destiny, or maybe just a bus, to pick her up. In another implausible moment, Kate, who minutes earlier held a gun to Claire’s head, manages to convince Claire to hop BACK in the cab for a ride to Brentwood, to stay with the family who will be adopting her unborn baby. You see, the were supposed to pick her up at the airport, but got their days mixed up and… WAIT! WAIT A MINUTE.

Follow the jump for more….

Now, last week, I accused Kate of extreme stupidity for hanging out in baggage claim after beating a G-man senseless and stealing his gun. Well, I think Claire just topped her. Not only that, but Brentwood? Really? OJ Simpson’s old stomping grounds? Uh, no thanks.

Faster than you can say “The Juice is loose”, Kate and Claire pull up to the Adopterers, uh Adopters, house. Kate thinks this isn’t going to work, but Claire’s clearly in denial. Crikey, she let an murderous criminal drive her there in a stolen cab. Lots of denial. To cap this denial, Claire asks said criminal to accompany her to the doorstep of this couple’s home.

At the door, a weeping, broken woman opens up and apologizes profusely. Her husband just left her and she can’t take care of a baby on her own. She meant to call Claire, but I guess phone calls to Australia might be too rich for her blood. On cue, Claire collapses with contractions. (Note: for you writers out there, try writing an alliterative sentence that includes words like “cue”, “collapses” and “contractions”. It’s good, clean fun).

To the hospital! Where we have an awesome reveal: Ethan Rom, the very first Lost villain, is back! And is still a doctor that wants to help Claire have her baby! Only this time, without the kidnapping, violence and attempted murder of Charlie. This Alternate Ethan is a really nice guy, with good bedside manner, and with his original last name: Goodspeed! Horace’s son, remember? In this side universe, his family got off the island, and because the island sunk, they never came back! He never had to work for Ben, and infiltrate the plane crash survivors, and never had to die. It was good to see Ethan again, and even in the original timeline, he had moments of real tenderness with Claire. It was an early example of this show forcing us to think beyond Heroes and Villains.

After some timeline-parallel discussion/re-discussion between Claire and Ethan, Claire decides that, even though she can have the baby now, she wants to wait until it comes naturally. Then, in a great scene pulling us back into our memories of before, the baby appears to flat-line, throwing Claire into a panic where she shouts, “Is Aaron okay!?” Kate has ANOTHER deja vu moment. That name… That name…

The healthy heartbeat is quickly found, Ethan reassuringly tells Claire, “Aaron will be a handful”, and Kate and Claire hold hands tightly, both knowing there is some transcendental connection of some kind.

Later, detectives check in on Claire, asking her of Kate’s whereabouts. Claire plays dumb while Kate hides. After they leave, Claire tries to get Kate to confess her sins, but Kate plays cryptic – guess we’ll figure out what she’s guilty of in a future episode. They exchange grateful thank-yous’, Claire willingly parts with her credit car, and on her way out, Kate encourages Claire to keep Aaron.

I like that we’re seeing the juxtaposition of both Kate and Jack doing good things in one timeline, succeeding where they failed before, while the original Kate and Jack are miserable, convinced that their plans have crumbled at their feet. How this plays out will be very interesting.

THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE:

The episode began right here, with John Lennon racing to his boss George Harrison to let him know that Sayid’s alive! Dude! It worked! Only, again, Miles is quietly looking askew at all of this. Everyone seems mystified, but happy. Everyone, that is, but Sawyer. He reminds Kate that Sayid is a torturer who shoots at children. Guess we can kiss Sunny Sawyer g’bye for awhile, if not possibly for good. This is also when Sawyer lets Kate know he’s thinking of escape.

Our beloved crew is dragged outside to face The Beatle doppelgangers – with John, George, and Jack looking a little like Paul, we now have dopey, dazed Sayid looking sorta like Ringo. Hey! The Fab Four is back!

Miles gets a few good zingers in at Hurley’s expense (too few lines – Miles is the most under-utilized character on the show), and we see that Sayid’s wound is nearly healed. He thanks Jack for saving – which Jack didn’t do. It was the coffee pot Sayid swam in that did the trick. Why doesn’t he remember? And why are all the Temple folks so unhappy that his guy’s walking and talking?

Of course, the temple folks want to take Sayid away to “talk” and don’t want to tell anyone why. Jack echoes us, the audience, by saying, “I get the feeling you won’t tell us anything.”

Jack steps in to prevent them from dragging Sayid off, and a fight ensues. Sawyer sues the diversion to grab a gun, tell everyone he’s leaving. The leader of the Temple tells Sawyer he needs to stay. At first, this is a firm order. But he becomes more pleading, gently t
elling Sawyer, “Please – you have to stay.” But surly Sawyer says ‘See ya’, and reprimands Kate, in front of everyone, to not follow him! A public diss! Awww, Snap!

Sawyer’s outta there. Lennon declares that they have to have Sawyer return, and Kate quickly says she can get him back because she “Can be very convincing when I want to.” Jin quickly volunteers to join her, although I’m not so sure Jin plans on coming back to the Temple. After three years, he’s finally back in the timeline where his wife is. He’s got some stuff to do, man.

Off they go, with a couple of Temple people, who actually DO turn out to be more of our official ‘Others’ in tow. This leaves physically restrained Jack with no choice but to watch Sayid get hauled off for an ‘interview’ and a ‘check-up’ by our friendly Temple leaders. Kate and Jack get a warm moment to almost embrace, before agreeing to take care of each other’s friends and to be careful.

In the other official ‘Old Lost Character Cameo’, we get actor Rob McElhenney, star of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, and one of the others who ate the butt end of Kate’s rifle three years earlier in an old episode of Lost. Remember him? Ah, well. Probably not, but it counts as a return character, nonetheless.

By the way, he’s still pissed at Kate and lets her know. I think he may officially be the most sarcastic ‘Other’ next to Ben. He spends the next few minutes just slamming on Kate, while his sidekick, a seemingly nice fellow named Justin just wants to be everybody’s friend. He even prevents Kate from stepping into what looks like an old Rousseau booby trap. Speaking of, when Rousseau is mentioned, Justin starts to answer that she’s been dead for years – couldn’t be one of her traps. But he doesn’t get to talk much, because this sarcastic guy won’t shut up. And everytime Jin starts asking questions about the Ajira Airlines flight Sun was on, sarcastic guy starts flapping his jaws again. I think he needs to drink a tall glass of what The Rock calls, “Shut-up Juice,” and I think Kate is fixing to serve it.

Bam! She did it, and she and Jin use the booby trap to knock out nice-guy Justin, who probably deserves a much great fate than being another island Red Shirt. When Jin looks around asks Kate, “What are you doing?” She replies, as you guessed, “I’m escaping.” Oh, Kate. Don’t you know you can’t do that here?

Back at the Temple, Sayid is getting another taste of his own medicine, strapped to a toture board much like he did in his past, and much like Rousseau did to him in the first season. Now, not only does he get mildly electrocuted and branded with a hot fire poker – the Temple leader blows dust all over him! The nerve!

Very curiously, and worth mentioning, Sayid seems to be unfamiliar with all this going on. Shocked and in tears, weeping. Remember when Rousseau tortured him? He knew the second he woke up in her cave what was going to happen. He didn’t want it to happen, but he was fairly resigned to the process, having experience as a professional torturer and all. I mention this because this not the same Sayid. Something is significantly different.

Post-torture, Lennon walks in and apologizes for “The test. It was necessary.” But Sayid, the good news is “You passed!” As he’s dragged back to the root beer pool, Lennon looks at his boss and says, “I just lied to him, didn’t I.”

The Temple leader answers: “Yes.”

Back at the spa, Sayid tells Jack all about this fun test, leading Jack to stomp off to the leader’s botany lab (we’re going to learn what those plants are REAL soon), to question their testing methodology. Lennon and his pal seem to be treating Jack with respect and talk to him as an equal, but they tell him that Sayid is “Sick” and “Infected”. Lennon does get in a great line about Jack not seeming to be the kinda guy with a sense of humor, which is about as accurate of a one-sentence description you can get of that guy.

They give him a pill to administer to Sayid, because the patient has to take it willingly in order to work. It will ‘heal the sickness’, but they adamantly refuse to tell Jack what’s in the pill, Jack says he won’t give anything to Sayid unless he knows what it is.

But the Temple leader must have read Jack’s file. He subtly reminds Jack of all the people that have been hurt or killed helping him in his cause (the manner in which he is told would indicate that both of these men have led many people down a similar path): ‘There have been others who have been hurt or died helping you. This is your redemption. This medicine, your friend needs it.’ Jack takes the pill back with him.

This temple leader is similar to Ben in many ways. We quickly see he can manipulate emotions as well as Ben can, but he seems cooler, more distant in his approach. How long has he led these people? I bet we already know someone very close to him, but I’m keeping that idea under wraps for now.

While Jack’s gone, we get more great lines from Miles and Hurley. First, our guys are quizzing Sayid on the afterlife: Any white light? Any angels? Nope. Sayid ony remembers being shot, and waking up.

Hurley, to Sayid: “You’re not a zombie, are you?”

Sayid: “No Hurley. I am not a zombie.”

Jack arrives and asks to speak with Sayid alone. Hurley likes that idea, because he when he’s involved, he always ends up being forced to do something he hates. As they leave, Miles gives us THE best line of the episode:

“We’ll be in the food court if you need us.” Please, please give Miles some more to do or say, Producers!

Jack, being an open communicator, shows Sayid the pill and tells him that they want him to take it. Sayid asks Jack his opinion, to which Jack replies, ‘I’m not the one who saved you – they did. I don’t know what to do. But I won’t try to make you do anything you don’t want to.’ Sayid lets Jack know where he stands: ‘I don’t care that they save me. It’s who I trust that matters. You want me to take that pill, I will.’

A lot gets written about Jack and Kate, Kate and Sawyer, Locke and Ben, Locke and Jack, etc. But over five years, Sayid and Jack have developed quite a bond. While they may have disagreed at times, they usually respected each other’s approach to things, and more often than not, had each other’s backs. To see these beaten, bowed but unbroken men leveling with each other in what they both seem to know is an approaching endpoint, it reminds us that the bonds formed by these people who have been through so much continue to endure. It’s good stuff.

Back in the jungle, Jin argues with Kate about abandoning everyone back at the Temple. He also pointedly asks her as she turns to run: “What do you believe in?” He’s got love on the brain, and he’ll find Sun if it kills him. I hope it doesn’t, and I hope we see more off good-guy Jin, who I really like, than bad-guy Jin, who well, like I said last week, is a jack-ass.

Kate knows where Sawyer is, of course. He’s back in the old Dharma suburbs, in his old yellow house, tearing up the floorboards to get a shoe box out, while wiping dirty tears off his face. He hears Kate watching him from the other room – he cocks his pistol and orders her out of the shadows. Speaking of, I think I’ve seen more than a hundred shots of Sawyer cocking a pistol, with that badass look on his face. They just LOVE that shot on this show. If Josh Holloway can’t carve out some sort of action-star career out of this, I’ll eat one of my many hats.

Kate and Sawyer end up on the old submarine dock, talking about regrets and the island. She admits she came back to find Claire (though finding Sawyer was a fringe benefit, I am sure), and reunite Aaron with his mother. But Kate feels horrible because she showed up and messed up everything Sawyer and Juliet had.

But Sawyer has his own guilt. Remember that last year, Juliet was going to hop on the 1977 submarine and head back ‘home’, or whatever may have been out there. But Sawyer feels horrible because he convinced her to stay so he wouldn’t be alone. ‘I killed her’. He throws the wedd
ing ring he was going give her into the water and tells Kate to get lost (pun not intended). Kate’s in tears.

Back at the Temple, Jack goes to speak to the leader, whom we find out is named Dogen. Dogen is throwing around the same baseball that Jack had when he was imprisoned by the Others back in Season..2, or 3? Jack asks Dogen why he doesn’t use his mastery of English with his own people, and Dogen explains that being “separate” from his people helps him be a better leader, especially when he has to make unpopular choices. Hmmm… I thought Dogen was supposed to mirror Ben in some ways, but perhaps he’s serving as a mirror to Jack as well.

Anyhow, he tells Jack that he was ‘brought’ to the island, same as Jack, many years ago. But enough about me Jack, did you give your friend the pill? No? Why not? You need to trust me.

But Jack says he doesn’t trust himself anymore, so how could he trust anybody else? Awesomely, in a flash of old Jack, he decides he’ll find out what this pill is, and suddenly pops it in his mouth. Well, that sure shocks Dogen, and he quickly pulls off what can best be described as Kung Fu Heimlich, beating the pill out of Jack before he swallows it. No surprise – when Jack asks what it is, Dogen simply says, “Poison”. So this is the treatment for the sickness we’ve seen ‘infect’ various people on the island through the years. And I thought those were just cute little Bonsai plants Dogen was tending to. Apparently Dogen is President of the island chapter of the Hemlock Society.

Lennon runs in, also shocked: He tried to swallow it? Jack sits back down for tea with these fine fellows, while they explain to him that they believe Sayid has been “Claimed”. Claimed by what? “There’s a darkness growing inside him”. Once that darkness reaches Sayid’s heart, they say, he will be gone forever. When Jack questions there belief, they counter with the shocker that they’ve seen this before: “It happened to your sister!” Oh, what has happened to our sweet, junkie-dating, felon-abetting Claire?

Last scene, we see the two jungle-bound Others, Justin and the sarcastic guy, catching Jin as he was heading back to the Temple. Sarcastic guy beats and Jin and debates killing him, while poor Justin just wants to get back to the Temple. Jin runs away and (only with this show can I type this with a straight face) he steps into a bear trap. Sarcastic guy is just about to kill Jin when Bam! Bam! He’s shot down. Then poor Justin, who wasn’t doing a damn thing, gets shot down, too. Sorry, dude, you’re this week’s Red Shirt.

Jin looks up, and of course, it’s Claire who did the shooting! Looking kinda grunged out and more than a little nuts.

Yeah, Kate’s still running. But looks like she’s got to run back and save her friends again.

Folks, I intend to post my other two categories, ‘Questions to add to the pile’ and ‘What to keep in mind for next week’ in a couple of days. Suffice to say, the internet chatter is going nuts about the next week’s episode. Why? It’s called ‘The Substitute’ and will show us what “Side Universe” Locke is up to these days. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that this episode is supposed to throw in some real shockers about this other timeline that should give you a real kick in the pants.

Thanks again for reading, and for watching.