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"Destiny is a Fickle Bitch" And Other Bon Mots on "Lost"

"We have to move the island."

If you didn't leap out of your seat upon hearing THOSE words at the end of last night's episode of Lost ("Cabin Fever"), you're in the wrong place, because I was on the edge of my seat throughout the fantastically taut (yet never overwrought) Locke-centric installment of the serpentine drama which did the nigh impossible: made me care about John Locke again.

Locke was always one of my favorite characters, yet this season he has taken a backseat to the complex machinations of Benjamin Linus. I was happy to see that this episode, which painted a more intriguing and destiny-charged picture of Locke's life before the island, from his premature birth to his departure for the walkabout in Australia. Along the way, his path intersected with not one but two pivotal figures in the Lost mythos... while on the island Locke finally and wholeheartedly accepted his destiny: to save the island.

So has Locke supplanted Ben as the most complex (and at times chillingly focused) character on the island? Let's discuss.

Locke. Last night's episode offered a brilliant opening depicting John's mother Emily preparing for a date while listening to a record of Buddy Holly's "Everyday," before she runs out into the street to meet her older boyfriend ("him") when confronted by her overbearing mother... and is promptly hit by a car. At the hospital, she gives birth to a premature son (she was secretly pregnant for six months) and tells the nurse that she must name him John. And that's where things get weird. John Locke is, simply put, a miracle baby: whatever happens to him--whether it be infection, disease, premature birth, or, well, being pushed out of an eighth story window--does not kill him and only makes him stronger, makes him fight harder. Like we saw with Michael Dawson, the island needs Locke alive and protects him from death his entire life.

Waiting in the wings of course is none other than the mysterious Richard Alpert, who appears at the hospital watching over baby John. (So he's been leaving the island for a long time, then.) Which is curious to me: either Locke's birth was somehow presaged, Alpert has the ability to time-travel (like Desmond), or they are all stuck in a neverending time loop, where each of them has memories of things yet to happen. (Ouch, I feel like I was just bitten by Schrodinger's cat.) Hmmm. John's second encounter with Alpert comes when he's a backgammon-obsessed little boy, a boy who draws a picture of something that looks chillingly like the smoke monster.

Alpert claims to work for a school for gifted youngsters (heh, Xavier's, perhaps?) and has a test for John, placing several items before him and then asking which ones "belonged" to him. Say what now? These items include a comic book called "Mystery Tales" (with the very apropos taglines of "What was the Secret of the Mysterious Hidden Land?" and "Does it Pay to Ignore the Voice of Warning?"). Nonetheless, John does seem drawn towards several items, picking up a glass vial filled with sand and a compass. But John seems torn between two other items--a worn book called The Book of Laws and a knife--and to Alpert's dismay, he chooses the knife. Alpert immediately packs up, telling John's mother that he is "not ready yet" for the school. Finally, Alpert reaches out through Mittelos Laboratories to a bullied teenage John, offering him the chance to attend their summer camp. Alpert had seen his science project about an ISLAND. Echoing their earlier encounter, John tells his science teacher that he doesn't want to be a scientist and that no one will tell him what he can't do. Effectively, he chooses the knife.

(Sidebar: did anyone else catch the Geronimo Jackson poster in teenage Locke's, er, locker?)

Knife. The choice of the knife is an interesting one. When he first arrived on the island, Locke was the ultimate hunter, wielding those knives with a deadly precision; he chose "superhero" over "scientist," "hunter" over "visionary." (He also uses one of those knives to slay Naomi in an effort to protect the island from her team.) In the hospital, Locke comes face to face with another familiar player: Matthew Abaddon, who is an orderly at Locke's physical rehabilitation center following his paralysis. Abaddon seems too to have knowledge of future events and knows that he and Locke will cross paths again in the future, but only if Locke takes his advice and goes on a walkabout in Australia, a life-altering event that Abaddon describes as being alone in the wilderness with just your wits and your knife. Curious.

Freighter. Just as I surmised a few weeks back, Ray the Doctor was still alive aboard the Kahana... but only because he hadn't yet been killed. We get to see the Morse Code scene from the opposite vantage point, as it comes in over the satellite phones at which time Ray is still alive, due to the difference in time-streams between the island and the Kahana. But sure enough, when faced with Frank refusing to fly Keamy's team back to the island, Keamy slits Ray's throat and tosses him overboard in an effort to force Frank to ferry them back. Keamy is freaking the hell out of me and that thing on his arm is making me very, very nervous. Is it rigged to detonate the freighter if Keamy can't defeat the island's populace in order to make sure that none of them are getting out of there? Or is it something else altogether?

In any event, I find Keamy to be very unnerving and he's quickly seized control of the freighter, torn Gault's safe key off his neck and pulled out Widmore's instructions for the Second Protocol, nicely bound in a little presentation with the familiar Dharma label on the outside. I loved the moment when Keamy tried to kill Michael (for betraying them to Ben) and his gun kept jamming... and I was shocked as all hell when Keamy shot and killed the Captain, just as he came to his senses about who the real villain was here. I'm liking that Lapidus and the scientists don't seem to be evil villains, but pawns just like the rest of the castaways.

The Beach. Flying over the beach, Frank tosses out a backpack containing a satellite phone, which Jack and the others recover. I am not sure why Jack thinks that the helicopter would want them to follow it (shouldn't there have been a note or instructions then?) and I believe that Frank was given them the phone as a warning that they were coming and so they could see Keamy's team on the monitor and expect them. Still, those scenes for next week do make it seem like the Oceanic Six are getting off of the island, so something has to happen to reunite Hurley and Sayid with Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Aaron, and Sun. As for where Keamy thinks Ben is heading (based on the protocol from Widmore), I think it has got to be The Temple, which Ben once described as "the last safe place on this island."

Horace Goodspeed. Locke has a vision of poor Horace Goodspeed, dead these 12 years, chopping down trees--or rather, the same tree, over and over again--in some sort of time loop or an eternal punishment befitting Sisyphus. Horace has been expecting Locke and tells him where he needs to look in order to find his next clue to the cabin's location: the mass grave in which the bodies of the murdered Dharma Initiative lay. And sure enough (after taking a "pit stop" at an actual pit), Locke uncovers Horace's skeleton (he was a mathematician, according to his Dharma jumpsuit) and a blueprint for the cabin that shows its physical location. Did Horace look familiar to you at all? Good, you're paying attention: he was the man who Ben's father flagged down after Ben was born and Emily died outside Portland... who took them to the island. Obviously a disciple of Richard Alpert (and close to the location of Mittelos Labs), Horace almost seems like he was waiting for both Ben and Locke.

The Cabin. I loved seeing Locke, Ben, and Hurley on this mythical quest together (the silent scene between Hurley and Ben, when Hurley offers him half of his Apollo chocolate bar, was absolutely genius) and how Locke manipulated Hurley into remaining with them rather than returning to the beach.

While Locke might not admit it, he is remarkably similar to Ben in his own way: both are master manipulators, both were born prematurely, both have mothers with the name Emily and the same initials (EL) who give their sons specific names from the Bible, and both have led their followers to their deaths. Ben believes that the island wanted him to get sick and wanted Locke to get better and that his "time is over." Does that mean that Locke is now the chosen one in an unending cycle in which the island finds a new successor to the "throne"? Does Locke replace Ben, who in turn accepted the responsibility from Richard Alpert? Is Walt the next in the line after Locke? Ben hits the nail on the head when he says that "destiny is a fickle bitch" and that there is always a price to pay for being "chosen."

Inside the cabin, Locke finds not Jacob, but Christian Sheppard, looking remarkably relaxed, and Claire. While it seemed likely that that was where Claire was heading when she left Aaron behind and wandered off into the jungle with Christian, it was still a shock to see her there. Does it mean that she's alive and safe (thanks to Christian's intervention) or that she's dead, as she's in the company of her dead father and in the creepy shifting cabin? Why does Christian press Locke to not tell anyone that he saw Claire? Christian forces Locke to admit that he is there because he is "chosen" and forces him to ask the most important question of all: how can he save the island?

The Island. I gasped when Locke tells Ben and Hurley that they have to "move the island." My mind is spinning, though this might just explain the impossibility in finding the island (beyond the spatial/temporal issues) and how there was a Dharma polar bear in the middle of the desert in Tunisia... or how the Black Rock was in the middle of the jungle: because the island has moved around the planet before and does not exist in a fixed time or space. While Locke might receive his answer from Jacob (via Christian), it opens up a floodgate of questions.

How do you think Locke will be able to move the island? How can the island be moved? How and why do only the Oceanic Six make it off the island? And what is Widmore and Keamy's endgame?

Next week on Lost ("There's No Place Like Home"), it's Part One of the three-hour season finale as the war between the castaways and Widmore's mercenary team escalates and the Oceanic Six fly back to the "real" world.

Comments

Anonymous said…
It seems clear now that there are two forces competing for the island. On one side you have Ben, Richard and the Others. On the other side you have Widmore, Abbadon and the Dharma Initiative. So I'm thinking that the rest of the series is going to be about each of the castaways aligning themselves with one side or the other...like a game of backgammon. The question is, how do Richard and Abbadon fit into the hierarchy. Are they the leaders or followers?
Locke is back! And better than ever!

This season has been a tough one for John Locke, who was definitely overshadowed by Ben and his antics. But last night's episode turned everything on its head (in typical, brilliant Lost fashion).

I loved seeing scenes from John's childhood and the casting of little kid John and teenage John was excellent. You truly believed they were all the same person.

And, back on the island, the scenes between John, Ben, and Hurley were some of my favorite yet. They were funny and creepy and their search for the cabin was darkly reminiscent of Dorothy's search for Emerald City. Fantastic!
Anonymous said…
Keamy may not be the most complex baddie on Lost but he is scary. I don't think I've seen the actor who plays him in anything before but he's really good. One look from him sends shivers down my spine. And that's impressive when you're competing against Ben Linus, a creepy dude in a mystery cabin, a dead doctor, and a monster made of smoke!
UPennBen said…
Last week's Official Lost Podcast makes a reference to the Dalai Lama in this episode, wherein the next chosen one knows the belongings of the prior one, remembered through reincarnation. This would be consistent with your theory that there is a line of succession on the island.

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