Sunday, August 14, 2011

LOST Redux: S3E17 Catch-22

(At the request of a reader, I will be reposting old editions of my LOST column as they no longer appear on the internet. I will not be making any edits to them, so please be aware that they represent a moment and time--my thoughts and analysis after watching an episode's initial airing.)

The Midside S3E17: Catch-22

It’s been a long week. If you’ve talked to anyone at all or turned the news on for about 30 second, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done either of those things, why are you wasting your time reading my column? My musings are enjoyment spawned from enjoyment. Do you really need that much leisure in your life? Apparently I do, so to get on with the fun, I’ll skip the bullshit and get straight to the necessary ethos establishing eulogy. My condolences and sympathies go out to all the Hokies in the world. I could never be a Hokie or understand what you’ve been through, but if you need anything, just give me a ring.

LOST made this week even longer. No, I don’t mean emotionally, thank God. Last night’s episode was an intellectual investment…and a half. Immediately after the episode aired, a friend and I spent a large amount of time trying to understand what the Catch-22 of the episode is. Thankfully for you, I finally figured it out, so I’ll have something to write about this week (although, if you hate my column, my discovery of the answer is a bad thing, but if you hate my column, why are you reading it? I’ll never understand the internet.).

Alright, enough with this short winded introduction. Into the Midside…


In order to discuss this week’s flashbacks I must first make sure we all understand two things. The first is rather obvious and easy to all LOST fans. The conflict of Desmond’s character is to not be a coward. When he turned the fail safe key, he, and all of us, believed he was being brave, but was he really? That thought is one I will return to later. Before that discussion, let me explain the other concept.

A Catch-22 is when in order to accomplish A one must do B and C, but if there is B, there is no C and if there is C, there is no C. Got it? No? I understand. The logical relationship is a bit tricky. Let me explain it in simpler terms using an example that many of us face in life, an example that I recently faced. In order to get a job, you must have work experience, but in order to get work experience, you must get a job. Do you see the Catch-22 there? The end result you are trying to accomplish is A (Get money, get money), by getting B (work experience) and C (a job). However, needing to get work experiences implies you don’t have a job, while getting a job implies that you don’t need work experience.

How does this logical cyclical relationship apply to Desmond? His perception of the world is a Catch-22. He knows that his character flaw is that he is a coward. He tries so hard to overcome it that he makes it impossible to overcome. Let me say it in Catch-22 terms. Desmond believes that in order to do something with his life, he must be brave, but in order to be brave, he must do something. I would like to emphasis that this Catch-22 is Desmond’s perception and thus all in his mind. In actuality, doing nothing would be the brave action. Let’s take this idea and apply it to this episode.
Desmond joined a monastery. The question is, why did he join it? His excuse was that it was his calling. However, the responses of others contradict his excuse. First, his finance believed he was lying to break up with her. She saw the bullshit he was slinging. What she didn’t realize was that he was slinging it to himself more than anyway. Similarly, the monk deemed him unfit for the monastery. He was fired. But if it was really his true calling, would he have been fired? No, the monk saw through his façade, mainly because he got drunk off of his ass, and realized the truth. So if his excuse was that it was his calling, why did he really join it?

Desmond was afraid of getting married so he pulled a Kate and ran away to the monastery. He spun it in his head so the action would seem brave, when really it was extreme cowardice. “I was shunning my entire life in favor of God’s plan!” No dude, you had cold feet, wussed out, and ran away. I’m Bill O’Reilly and this is the No Spin Zone and you’re a bitch!

Now let’s apply this idea to the action on the island. Desmond is shown flashes of the future. In these flashes, Charlie dies. Constantly, Desmond makes the decisions to save Charlie. Really though, he isn’t being brave. He is being shown a plan (arguably God’s) and rather than trusting in it and doing nothing, he takes action and sabotages it. Consider how the story of Abraham and Isaac was told by the monk. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (notice how that was the name of the wine the monks bottled). Abraham intends to, but at the last minute is stopped by an angel. In other words, God was testing Abraham. Is whatever force testing Desmond and does not really intend to kill Charlie? Or does it intend to test Charlie and figures it can use the situation to test Desmond? I’ll return to this idea later.

How about applying this idea a little further back? How about my theories about Flashes Before Your Eyes? Well, obviously those theories have been disproved as someone found the island and that person was looking for Desmond. How could Penny have not been the one who found the island then? So what was that episode all about if it wasn’t the island course correcting so it wouldn’t be discovered? Whatever force is testing Desmond was testing him then. The jewelry lady told him that the fate of the universe depended on him getting rid of Penny, so what did he do? Rather than standing up, giving the middle finger to Penny, and riding off into the sunset, he was a jerk to her and scared her away. He took the cowardly action by acquiescing to the larger plan just as he did with running from his marriage and saving Charlie. I ask, what did Jack Sparrow when Davey Jones, the ruler of death, came for his soul? He formulated a plot to stop Jones from taking his soul. What did he do when the Kraken was poised to devour him? He jumped towards the fate of death with his sword drawn. Jack Sparrow is a hero. Desmond is a coward.

How about applying this idea to the failsafe key? Desmond believed he was being brave by turning the key. He kissed it and said, “I love you, Penny” as if he was sacrificing his life. He believed he was dying for The Greater Good of the world. However, wasn’t his action really cowardly? Sure, he didn’t know what would happen when he turned the key, but do we ever really know what is going to happen? No, and the much more intriguing outcome would have been to NOT turn the key and saw what happened when The Swan finally imploded. We would have learned the exact logistics of the plane crash, the station, and the geologically unique electromagnetic energy. Instead, Desmond got to run around the island naked, look like hippie Jesus for an episode, and receive the “power” of future vision.

On a final note, the scene where Penny and Desmond met for the first time was very nice. It was well written, acted, and filmed and it made me smile. My only question is, was Desmond even being a coward during the episode? Penny was the one who introduced herself and offered that he could help her unload the wine at her destination when he was the one who was so initially mesmerized. She was the forward one and he was along for the ride. I guess we know the final outcome of Desmond’s storyline. Penny loves him, but he doesn’t yet deserve her because he always picks the cowardly route rather than her.


I’m so glad they didn’t kill Charlie. It’s well known that I’m not a fan of the character. However, I don’t think I could have dealt with any character dying this week. It would have been too emotional. I have to admit as well that Charlie has gotten a lot last annoying when I don’t have to deal with his flashbacks. Entire episodes of Charlie feeling sorry for himself and doing nothing about it are too much to handle, but debates with Hurley over who is faster between Superman and The Flash are, dare I say, endearing. Ironically, this death storyline with Charlie has made me want him to die less than I have any other time of the series. Maybe it’s because he’s not on drugs anymore. In his flashbacks, the time he was the least annoying was when he was clean cut and annoying.

What’s with Hurley suddenly being a liar? In the beginning of the series, he was sweet and naïve. Heck, in his most recent episode, he was innocent and simple minded. I’m not saying he’s dumb, he’s just not very well educated. Now, he has conned Sawyer into being nice and lied to Jin to get him to go “camping”. Has Hurley been acting dumb this whole time or is he suddenly changing? Way back in S1 he did say that he was considered a warrior by some back where he came from.

Ok, I’ll try not to rant here, but I am worried about the prospects of the quadrangle in relevance to what it means to LOST. This episode didn’t feature much development in the Jack and Juliet department. Juliet was essentially a prop and Jack was Jack, doing what he felt like and being warm to Kate and Sawyer when they talked to him. What interests me is the way Kate and Sawyer acted.

Kate’s actions are a lot easier to understand than Sawyer’s. She was acting very childish. I would compare her choices to that of a teenager. When one guy she likes finds another girl, she goes to the other guy that she is attracted to and she knows is attracted to her and uses him as an ego boost. It is very interesting to me how Kate can be so intelligent, clever, and strong at times and so weak, insecure, and childish at others.

It was nice to see Sawyer be so mature in this episode too. He knew Kate was using him as the Crutch Guy, called her on it, but then whitewashed the whole thing by saying she didn’t need to use him, she just had to ask. To me, that line was basically saying, “I love you, but I know you don’t love me, so I’ll be here for you if you need me.” His actions towards Kate weren’t what were interesting to me. I wonder why he chose to play ping pong with Jack. Was he really just trying to be friends with Jack? I don’t think so, as such an action is not one his character would take. Rather, I think he wanted to find out why Kate was crying. The logical explanation was that she was crying because of something Jack did, either intentionally or unintentionally. What is the best way to find out what Jack did? Strike up a friendly conversation with him. Eventually the small talk will turn to the event. Sawyer did exactly that by asking Jack to play ping pong.

What does all this quadrangle crap have to do with the eventual end of LOST? I fear that LOST will end with Sawyer sacrificing himself so that Jack and Kate may be together. Such a move would be disrespectful to Sawyer and anyone like him. Sawyer does not need to be redeemed. It is frustrating to have to continually defend him and plead his case because people have decided he’s a jerk and won’t let their minds be changed otherwise.

On the other hand, would it really be a good move to kill Jack and have Kate and Sawyer end up together? Wouldn’t that be just as disrespectful to Jack and the people like him? Maybe, but isn’t the difference between Jack and Sawyer that Jack has always made it a point to go out of his way to harm himself for the greater good. I mean, he was giving all his blood to Boone before Sun stopped him.

The other option, of course, is to have Kate die. Thus, Sawyer and Jack would finally come together as co-leaders and save the rest of the Survivors. I’m actually leaning towards this outcome of the series. The whole Kate thing is getting to be played out. I’m ready for it to end. Hopefully, it will be by the end of the season, especially so I can decide if I want to keep watching LOST or not. Although, with how good LOST is, I can’t see the producers doing something as stupid as killing Sawyer for Jack and Kate, but I’ve learned to never underestimate the stupidity of people.


The main topic I want to discuss this week is the testing of Desmond. Typically, we do not have evidence of immediate and forceful testing by whatever force tests the Survivors. However, with Desmond, the mode of the test is implanted right into his head in the form of visions. Do this visions represent a legitimate view of the future or a fake view in order to manipulate Desmond? I’ve already put forward that his flashbacks in Flashes Before Your Eyes are fake, why couldn’t the visions be?

Say, for instance, that whatever the force is uses the layout of the island to create a false storyline. The cable was always there. The trap with the arrow was always there. They didn’t necessarily have to find the trap or the cable. Why would they have even gone “camping” if Desmond hadn’t asked them to? I’m not so sure they would have. The easy answer to this question is that the crash of the presumed helicopter and the Flash vs. Superman conversation demonstrate that the visions he’s given are of the future. I think they really are visions of the future, but are only given to him as a test.

The next question is, what is the point of this test? As explained in the flashback section, Desmond is intended to overcome his cowardice. What happens when he overcomes it though, does he die? The main example I always turn to when overcoming their main conflict and Eko and his death. Demonstrated by his silence following the plane crash and his building of the church for his brother, Eko had a deep guilt for the life he had lived. In the end, he overcame that guilt and realized he had nothing to ask for forgiveness for because he did not take those actions out of sin, but love. He never once killed a man out of a malicious action. Once he stopped believing himself to be bad, the Black Smoke killed him.

Similarly, Desmond believes himself to be a coward the needs to be redeemed. Jack believes he’ll never be good enough. Sawyer believes he is a bastard child unworthy of love (Kate doesn’t help that complex much). Similarly, Kate believes she has to earn love. When these people see their value and self worth, is that when they die? Is it when they overcome being a bad person that their death is imminent? Charlie has seemingly overcome his addictive personally and whatever the force is is trying to kill him. But what kind of a force kills good people? Are The Others really The Good Guys? Should we have known from the minute we saw The Black Smoke that it was essence of pure evil?


Alright, I’m done. See you next week. I know, I know, it’s just that by the time I get to the end every week, I’m so drained, this week especially. Do you really want me to go out of my way to scribble some bullshit down that makes no sense? If your answer to that question is yes, then you know what I have to say:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

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