Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Midside: S6E05 Lighthouse

This week on Everwood, Andy, still dealing with the ramifications of a tragic family death, desperately tried to figure out how to connect with his son, Ephram, who snuck out of the house to audition for a prestigious music academy.

Wait, the characters’ names were Jack and David, and the show is called LOST? Never heard of it.

In all seriousness, for those of us that remember the show, this week’s flashsideways was extremely reminiscent of Everwood. Andy Brown, a talented New York neurosurgeon, moves his family to the small Colorado town of Everwood after the death of his wife. There he tries to reconnect with his piano prodigy son, Ephram. The show was actually very good in the first couple of seasons before, spoiler alert, they went with the pregnancy storyline.

There was no pregnancy in this week’s storyline, but there was a surprise birth. The fact that Jack P had a son named David is not only the most prominent difference between the flashsideways and the original timeline so far but also demonstrated an important concept philosophically. David’s actions represented a breaking of the cycle for Shepard men, standing in stark contrast to Jack in the original timeline.

The key to understanding the importance of David’s actions is in Hurley’s conversation with Jacob. There Jacob seemingly differentiated Hurley from Jack. Actually, I would argue, he pointed out how they are the same, but Hurley just wasn’t smart enough (he never has been) to understand how. We are smart enough, so that idea is what I will be focusing on this week:

Who is the bigger dupe, Jack or Hurley? The answer isn’t what you might first think.

(And no, this isn’t just because I hate Jack. I want him to get better, but every time he starts on the path, he ends up negating all his progress.)


The key to understanding Jack, O or P, is in what Jacob told Hurley at the end of the episode:
“Jack is here because he has to do something. He can’t be told what that is. He has to find it himself. Sometimes you can just hop in the back of someone’s cab and tell ‘em what they’re supposed to do. Other times, you have to let ‘em look out at the ocean for awhile.”
Despite all of his shortcomings, Jack has always been a man of science. He needs to see and understand things for himself before he believes them. Now, Jacob is attempting to use that quality against him, but we’ll talk about the morality of that action later. For the moment, it’s important to figure out why someone who thinks in a way that is so admirable, understanding the importance of your own perception, is so tragic, paralyzed by fear and thus unable to make a decision, or concept.

Jack P’s son David taught him, and us, this important lesson. Through a deft bit of writing, as always, Lindelof and Cuse led us to believe that David was the same as his father, a bitter angry mopey emo teenager who pouts and listens to music all the time, but really doesn’t accomplish anything. Through much of the flashsideways, it seemed as if they were showing him this way so we would feel bad for Jack. “Man, even in his flashsideways, Jack’s life is tragic. The guy just sucks.” However, we soon got the sense that something was lurking under the surface.

Perhaps the difference in Jack P’s life, in contrast to Jack O’s life, was his mother. In the scene in the office while looking for the will, she seemed much more sympathetic and understanding than she did in the original timeline. Here she was able to pinpoint what she saw as the basic error of Shepard men and communicate it to Jack P. Maybe she was able to do so throughout Jack P’s entire life. Maybe that’s how he was able to have a son and make the break through at the end of the episode. Except, for all her positivity in this episode, she still missed the point. The desired ability to communicate well comes from one place, and it took David teaching his father it to finally get Jack P to open up and do as his mother said.

(Side note: It’s interesting to note here the difference between the metaphors of the white rabbit and the lighthouse. With the former, you are following someone. With the latter, you are communicating with someone. This dichotomy gets a bit muddled in that Jack O is still following Jacob, but the point holds true for the episode. Jack P went from following his father to communicating with his son. He went from the white rabbit to the lighthouse.)

During the episode, I made a joke while Jack P was all angsty about his son’s disappearance through rebellious flight. I pointed out that he had the best juvenile delinquent kid ever. He didn’t sneak out of the house to get drunk or high or join a gang. He snuck out of the house to audition for a prestigious music academy. To a certain extent, for me, David’s actions are very surprising and, arguably, only possible in fiction. By rebelling through productivity, keeping his talent and goals to himself, David demonstrated a wisdom far beyond his years, a wisdom that most adults I know and meet don’t even have. Heck, I might not even have it (even though I intellectually understand it).

What David’s actions demonstrated is what Jack, P or O, has always lacked: Self-esteem. Someone who rebels through self destructive methods is only saying one thing: I don’t like myself. In contrast, David said the opposite: I love myself. We definitely see the parallels and similarities between him and his father with the way he approaches his gift. In their discussion following his performance, David chastises himself for missing a couple notes. Jack P responds that it sounded perfect to him. David’s perfectionism is parallel to Jack’s desire to fix everything. They both want something to be as good as it can be, and they want to use their talents to do so. The difference, however, is how they are motivated, which goes back to the self-esteem point.

David is motivated internally, whereas Jack is motivated externally. We can see this dichotomy best through Jack O. He doesn’t want to fix himself, he wants to fix everyone else and the world. Likewise, in this episode, he explains why he came back to the island. He was broken and thought the island could fix him. Nothing externally can ever fix you. You can only fix yourself. David, in his spirit of youth, understood this idea of being internally motivated. You can’t succeed at anything if you can’t take care of yourself. You can’t take care of yourself if you don’t have self-esteem and are externally motivated.

That fact is why Jack O, despite all his progress, is still a tragic figure and will probably have a tragic end in the series. It’s also why he’s arguably a worse dupe than Hurley. Presented with lots of information, rather than figure out what it means and how it fits into his plan, he destroys it and pontificates on how it affected him. In other words, he is completely focused on whatever the other person’s plan is. OK, so, Jacob was watching you, are you going to sit around and be mad about it or factor that information into the pursuit of your own agenda? Jack always chooses the former, which is why Jacob says he needs to let him stare out at the ocean. He knows that Jack isn’t thinking about himself right now. He’s thinking about the island and Jacob’s plan. Contrast this perspective with Sawyer who, last episode, “joined” the MiB because he wanted to know the answers and figure out what to do with them. In many ways, Jack is the worst kind of dupe. His external motivation makes him easy to push from place to place because he’s never asking, “What about me? What about Raven?”

Yes, that was a reference to the dark brooding pro-wrestling gimmick. But that comparison is exactly the point. Raven was dark and brooding because he was made to feel guilty for asking that question. Similarly, Jack has so little self-esteem that he has no ability to communicate or reason properly.

David is more mature than Jack O, crazy, huh?


The growth of Hurley in Season 6 is continuing how I thought it would. This episode is exactly why I didn’t think Sayid’s body had been taken over by Jacob. It would have killed this entire arc for Hurley. What’s interesting is he’s starting to resemble Hurley P that we saw in Locke’s flashsideways. He’s stepping up and becoming a calm and collected leader. This type of personality contrasts drastically with the Hurley we saw at the beginning of the series, passing out over the blood when holding Marshall Mars down and spelling bodies “b-o-d-y-s” to treat and spare Walt from the discomfort he was feeling.

The misspelling, though, reminds us of the most important character trait Hurley has: Not only is he uneducated, but he’s not too bright either. The evidence for this claim is apparent throughout the series. I also don’t mean to look down upon him for his level of intellect. I point it out because it explains the decisions he makes. Take how Hurley P dealt with Locke P in “The Substitute.” Locke P explained that he had just been fired, so what does Hurley P do? He offers Locke P help in finding a job, even giving a personal reference to Rose P, one of his employees, for him. While this action demonstrates the reason everyone loves Hurley--he has a positive sense of life--it also very clearly demonstrates his poor decisions making. Why would you help a man who was just fired from your company find a job? You wouldn’t. Why would you bad mouth a manager, Randy Nations, yet continue to employ him? Hurley, in either universe, simply doesn’t have the tools to be wise.

Enter Jacob, who understands how Hurley is, and even tells him to his face. Hurly simply doesn’t have the tools to properly deal with someone like Jacob. Instead, Jacob can get in the back of his cab and tell him what to do, tell him to go back to an insane island and carry a guitar case without knowing what’s in it or opening it to find out. If someone were to tell you that, what would you do? I know what I would do, and Hurley did the opposite. He did exactly as he was told without asking a single question. He even carried it through time, holding onto while living in Dharma times, driving around with it in the van, just in case (pun ftw). How can someone exert that kind of effort for instructions that he knows nothing about? I certainly couldn’t. Here, of course, is where people will enter an argument for faith, which is actually pertinent to the overall theme of LOST. Jacob is well on his way to acting like the Christian conception of God does.

Hurley, likewise, is acting like the Christian conception of a religious believer does. This turn for his character has arguably been foreshadowed since the character of his mother who was extremely religious and talked about Jesus often. Except, this turn is a bit strange as, up until this point, Hurley has seemingly gotten along, and often chosen to side with, Locke and Sawyer. As we’re beginning to see the drawing of the line in the sand that has been foreshadowed since Season 1, Hurley is straddling it more than any other character except perhaps Kate. Of course, his apparent siding with Jacob at this point is exactly why he could be seen as the ultimate dupe.

Continuing the theme from last week as faith being bad because it is necessarily anti-rational, Hurley is necessarily a dupe because he’s not using his mind. In fact, his lack of education and intellect makes him the ultimate dupe in many ways. He’s not often going to question what anyone says. He’s also not going to look too deeply into situations. True, listening allowed him to tell off Jackie Chan and get under the Asian master’s skin, but it wasn’t really his fortitude coming through; it was Jacob’s.

Despite all of this explanation, I don’t actually believe Hurley is a worse dupe than Jack. True, he should take more pride in himself, attempt to educate himself and maximize his intellect. True, he should attempt to rely on his own judgment rather than others. However, even though he doesn’t do those things, he understands that his choices ultimately aren’t his. In contrast, Jack works so hard at looking out at the ocean that he convinces himself that ideas other people give him, such as his father and Jacob, are his own. It’s worse when you have the ability and can somehow convince yourself that other peoples’ ideas are your own.

Does this differentiation between Hurley and Jack matter much for LOST? No, both are being duped by Jacob (which leads perfectly into my final section). However, it makes a difference to each of us in our own lives. It’s important to make sure that we’re actually thinking for ourselves and not convincing ourselves that other peoples’ ideas are our own.


Once again, I’d like to discuss the difference between MiB and Jacob, as I believe this episode places a finer point on the discussion of which is “light” and which is “dark.” The key here is what differentiates manipulation from non-manipulation. It’s clear that both Jacob and MiB have an agenda, though we are unclear what both of their agendas are. What’s more important is the information we have regarding their agendas and how we have it. Over the past two weeks we’ve been shown two competing methods for bringing people to your side. Not coincidentally, last episode was a Locke episode and this episode was a Jack episode.

Assuming he wasn’t lying, the MiB was up front with what he wanted and what was going on. He told Sawyer that what he wants is to leave the island and actually led him to and explained the cave to him. Furthermore, he was extremely up front with Richard. Consider the following excerpt from their conversation in “The Substitute:”
MiB: “Oh, Richard, I’m sorry. You mean, you’ve been doing everything he told you all this time, and he never said why? I would never have done that to you. I would never have kept you in the dark.”

Richard: “And what would you have done?”

MiB: “I would have treated you with respect. Come with me, and I promise I’ll tell you everything.”
If you are starting from the premise that the MiB is bad, then you are going to think that he is pulling one of the oldest religious tricks in the book: Purporting to have all the information in order to get you to follow him. If you are starting from the premise that the MiB is good, then you are going to think that he is doing as he said, showing you respect by telling you the truth. Which are you going to think when you don’t assume either premise? I can’t tell you what to think, but I can share my thoughts.

There are two major pieces of information. The troublesome bit of information is MiB’s tendency towards violence. He did attack Richard, kill Bram and company, and kill Eko and the Pilot. However, he did apologize to Richard for his attack, explaining why he did so, and only killed Bram and company when they attacked him first. The writers even pointed this out even further by having Sawyer point a gun at him but not fire it, insinuating that the MiB will not attack unless threatened. The positive bit of information is that the MiB has told people things that Jacob never has, most notably introducing the idea of candidates into the series (which is being treated as true by the writers through things such as the sign at David’s audition). So far, the MiB has been more of what he claimed to be than Jacob. He hasn’t even really badmouthed Jacob.

In contrast, Jacob has been very underhanded and deceptive about everything he’s done. He is, in every sense of the word, the ultimate social planner. Signified by his loom in “The Incident,” Jacob pulls everyone’s strings and pretends he is giving them free will and choice. Jacob is the ultimate meddler, and thus there is no way to see him as good. He subverts volitional consciousness, planning out other peoples’ lives for them. Unlike the MiB, he doesn’t treat people as equals, acting as if they are inferior by withholding information like a a parent. But if he is truly superior, why doesn’t he just do things himself? He doesn’t do things himself because he can’t, which means he isn’t superior.

What’s most interesting is how the definitions of these two characters closely resemble the traditional definitions of God and the Devil. Now consider the heavy use of mirror symbolism in this episode, and the use of the storytelling device of a parallel universe this season. Both of these things reflect but also invert the status quo. Likewise, I believe we are not only headed for an inversion of the Jacob/MiB dichotomy, but an inversion of our understanding of what is philosophically good and bad.


Epic Quote of the week: David’s mini-Jack-face when listening to the speech his father giving him about having what it takes. Though not an actual quote, the hilarity of it makes me wonder if in the script it was written “David makes Jack-face” and/or they auditioned actors for the role of Jack’s son based upon how well they could emulate Matthew Fox.

The inversion idea I ended the LOSTology section with has been present throughout the series. Personally, I have been able to see it from the beginning because of how I live my life. Now, I understand it one a deeper level because I am more philosophically informed. Watch the new episodes with this idea, re-watch old episodes with this idea, but, most of all, I ask you to do one thing with the claim:

Think about it.

No comments: