Thursday, December 24, 2009

In prepartion for S6: The Question of LOST.

For me, as a writer, and as a viewer, LOST boils down to one question:

Are the writers attempting to subvert and dismantle weak and tired storytelling techniques in order to make the cognate (and necessary) philosophical points? (If the answer is that they are not, then they are merely replicating and perpetuating poor narrative devices and philosophic premises--and their show will prove to be popular pulp, not the art it has appeared to be thus far.)

Routinely, the character that I focus on as the answer to this question is Jack Shephard. Ayn Rand explains my point in her essay "What is Romanticism?":
This phenomenon--the fascinating villain or colorful rogue, who steals the story and the drama from the anemic hero--is prevalent in the history of Romantic literature, serious or popular, from top to bottom. It is, as if, under the dead crust of the altruist code officially adopted by mankind, an illicit subterranean were boiling chaotically and erupting once in awhile; forbidden to the hero, the fire of self-assertiveness burst forth from the apologetic ashes of a "villain."
It is important to note here that LOST has both the fascinating villain (Benjamin Linus) and the colorful rogue (James "Sawyer" Ford). Both characters have thus far been characterized by a self-assertiveness that Jack has shunned in favor of pleasing the will of others (most notably his father). Ben's weakest moment, that seemed to pull him from his pedestal of villainy on the show in favor of a yet unnamed and undefined "Mr. X" (or Smokey? But are they the same? Are the a duo? WTF, LOST?), occurred in the Season 5 finale and featured a stark lack of self-assertiveness on his part where he allowed his will to be subjugated to faux-Locke's ("Mr. X's"?). Likewise, Season 5 featured the first moment where Jack stood up for himself, as he refused to heal Harry Potter (mini-Ben). Still, though he admitted he fixed Ben the first time (Season 3) for Kate, he still subjugated his will to the island in that scene, right as we were in the middle of an arc that taught us Locke's subjugation to the island's will brought him death and the use of his visage as a pawn by "Mr. X."

That Jack has been anemic through the series run thus far is impossible to deny. He is an emotional basketcase who, when forced to accept moral responsibility for a choice he made turned to pills, alcohol, and suicide (see: "Through the Looking Glass"). I won't recite the laundry list here. Go watch the series. You'll see. However, in case you still disagree, here is the definition of anemic according to

1. Pathology. suffering from anemia.
2. lacking power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness; listless; weak: an anemic effort; anemic tones.
Jack fans will, of course, point to his many decisions, medical procedures, and "displays of passion" (See: "Put it on me!") as examples of "power, vigor, and vitality." This incorrect definition is exactly what Rand is referring to in the above quote.

Which type of hero do you and, more importantly for our discussion here, the LOST writers prefer? Is it the self-assertive rationalist who is confident in his own mind thus making decisions on his own for himself or is it the weak-willed altruist who lacks self esteem so he turns to others for approval and indication as to how to choose?

I have tracked these themes not only through the show itself, but through its fan base. So far, I found sufficient evidence that the writers are playing with these themes intentionally (and not merely falling prey to them). In contrast, many LOST fans to this day believe that Jack is the ultimate hero of the show, and Sawyer will be "redeemed" through the altruistic act of laying his life down for others. We will all have the proof for arguments in a matters of months.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post I Made in the LOSTpedia forums regarding Sawyer in S6

Recently, for whatever reasons, I started reading the LOSTpedia forums. I found that the idea that Sawyer would die in S6 because it was the only way for him to be "redeemed" to be prevalent. Thus, I started a thread countering this idea. You can see it here or read the text of my post here:

The possibility of Sawyer dying exists, but if it occurs, it will not be of his own will in a move of "heroic self sacrifice." If it occurs, it will be tragically at the hands of another person, similar to Rorschach in the movie Watchmen. It is my argument that if Sawyer were to sacrifice himself for "the greater good" it would contradict everything the writers have done with his character (and arguably the entire show).

Sawyer's journey is not one of "being a jerk" to "being a hero." That interpretation is both simplistic and uneducated. Rather, his journey is about realizing he has a moral sanction to live or, in other words, from self hatred to self love (and the moral responsibility that loving yourself carries).

To better understand this journey, we have to turn to the philosopher that wrote most in depth on this concept out of anyone in the history of mankind, Ayn Rand. A famous work of Rand's is "The Virtue of Selfishness," a book that unpacks the commonly accepted belief that altruism (living life for others) is the best morality to live by and challenges it by properly defining "selfishness" as the best morality to live by. The writers of LOST have extremely intentionally incorporated Randian philosophy into Sawyer's story (and arguably the story of the entire show). I could point to many examples, but there are five main points I feel prove my case. The first three refer to Sawyer specifically. The final two refer to the Season Five finale.

1. In Season 2, Sawyer was reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand while sitting on the beach. The novel follows its hero Howard Roark, who lives his life selfishly or for himself, and contrasts him with what Rand calls "secondhanders," people who live life secondhand or for other people. However, Sawyer has read many books. Are we then to assume he is getting his period for the first time like the titular Margaret in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

No, what makes the appearance of The Fountainhead so important is that Damon Lindelof specifically mentioned it in the Season 3 DVD special feature "The LOST Book Club." In it, he said he thought Sawyer would identify greatly with Roark. It is since clear how much Sawyer did, and how much Randian thought has influenced him.

2. The Season 5 Dharmaville confrontation in Namaste between Sawyer and Jack was a Randian critique of his personality type and philosophy of "Live Together, Die Alone." Sawyer's key statement was as follows:

I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the blitz. He said it made him think better. That's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you because back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted.
This idea of thinking vs reacting is straight out of Randian, um, thought. For Rand, what makes humans humans, to put it very simply, is our ability to think. Every animal has some unique trait that differentiates it from other animals, our is our mind. Thus, to be human is to think, as you are doing the thing that is uniquely human. A key quote spoken by Roark in The Fountainhead explains this point better than I could:

When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life.
But what does this idea of the importance of thinking have to do with Sawyer's arc and the idea of selfishness being a virtue? First, let's look at the latter half of that question. The statement "I think" begins with the word "I." Therefore, in order to think you must acknowledge yourself first. In other words, no one else can think for you. It is impossible to live as a secondhander. Now, consider the fact that Sawyer made that exact statement in his argument to Jack. This man who hated himself so much that he used his rhetorical skills to create a bad public image for himself made the ultimate statement of self love! (Does this mean Sawyer's arc is over? I don't believe so. The importance of love to his story and Randian philosophy will be unpacked in Season 6.)

But aren't I reading too much into this dialogue? Maybe the idea of self worth and thinking being tied up together with Sawyer and in Rand's philosophy is merely a coincidence? The following points will address that critique.

3. Upon Kate's return to the island in Season 5, the writers were sure to point out the real reason Sawyer jumped out of the helicopter in the Season 4 finale. Whereas the majority of the viewers believed it was a heroic action (because it was for other people), it was actually extremely cowardly out of self hatred. Why did Sawyer jump? Because, as he told Kate, he didn't believe he would be a good boyfriend to her or father to Clementine. In other words, what he wanted was to leave the island, but the fuel tank getting shot to give into his fears (or The Doubt as I like to call it). As bitter as Cassidy was in The Little Prince she was right about Sawyer's cowardice.

It is apparently obvious from this understanding of the helicopter scene, that Sawyer's journey is all about self worth, and that the writers were very much critiquing the heroic action of self sacrifice by pointing out that it is not actually done for other people at all (but that is an entire other discussion of the motivations of secondhanders).

"The Incident" continued these Randian themes through the corruption of Locke and the low self esteem demonstrated by many of the characters, most notably Ben and Jack.

4. Something Rand critiques greatly is religion, as she believes many people use it to live secondhand lives, allowing a more powerful being to provide them answers rather than their own thought. To be completely truthful, she is an atheist and believes the secondhanders live their lives based upon the "Mystics," those who claim to know about the mystic ways of the world. The manipulation of Locke by Eddie (or Essau or Anti-Jacob or whatever name you use) was only possible because Locke lived his life based upon "The Island." In other words, from the moment Locke arrived on the island, he was living a secondhand life, substituting his own will for the will of the island. It is apparently obvious this substitution occurred because of Locke's low self worth (he tried to substitute his will for his Dad's or Helen's off the island). We now know that for the entirety of the first five seasons, the island's will was really Eddie's, as he was manipulating Locke and Ben into being his loophole. This arc is a completely Randian critique of faith and religion. Notice how throughout the first five seasons, several characters acted as Mystics for Locke, most notably Ben and Richard (and, ironically, in Season Five we saw how Locke was a Mystic for Richard throughout the series).

Though LOST appears religious on its face, this Randian critique of mysticism runs through the series. I'm sure you can think of many examples, but I'd like to point out that, for awhile, a main character was a fake priest!

5. For my final point, I'd like to turn to my signature, and two characters in "The Incident": Ben and Jack. Both make the same error as Locke for the same reason: low self esteem.

I don't believe I need to cut and paste Ben's entire speech to Jacob here. We all know the content. However, the end is important. Ben's low self esteem prevents him from thinking about what he is about to do. Rather, he asks, "What about me?" Jacob responds, "What about you?" Sure, Jacob is egging Ben on so Ben will murder him, but he is also making a point. You’re focused on Jacob, Ben. What about the decision of whether to kill or not to kill? Ben never faces that decision. Because of his low self esteem, he reacts and stabs Jacob, giving Eddie the seeming victory.

Likewise, Sawyer makes a similar point to Jack, getting Jack's ultimate explanation for wanting to set off Jughead. What's Jack's reason? He wants Kate, but can't get her because "It's too late for that." How did we reach this point? Sawyer made the following statement to Jack:

I don't speak destiny. What I do understand is a man does what he does because he wants something for himself. What do you want, Jack?
A man does something because he wants something for himself. Could that statement be more Randian? What Jack wants is Kate, and he believes he's so incapable of wooing her, that he needs to set off Jughead. Jack's self esteem is so low he wants to detonate a nuclear frickin' bomb to reset time so he can get a girl!

(It's also interesting to note that Juliet literally dies because of her low self esteem. She reacted to a look, a look, in a way that eventually ended with her at the bottom of an ultra-magnetic pit hitting a rock against a nuclear bomb. I can't tell if that's more or less crazy than Jack.

Anyway, as you can see from my above points, an act of self sacrifice on Sawyer's part would not be heroic, not only in reality, but in the story the writers have crafted. If Sawyer does die, which he may, it will be in a tragic moment meant to drive home the dangers of altruism. However, I don't believe he will die. In fact, I believe that Jack will inevitably sacrifice his own life in a futile act of faith.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Midside: S5E16 The Incident

The fifth season finale of LOST carried three important themes through it: one mythological, one philosophical, and one interpersonal. Although, I would argue that the interpersonal is philosophical. But in that sense, isn’t the mythological also philosophical? Yes, you’re exactly correct. All three of these themes are intertwined in a manner that is almost impossible to unwind, kind of like Jacob’s tapestry (or our lives). We weave these complex designs and then want to focus on one string. The only problem is we can’t. All the strings support each other and must be considered together.

Why then have I separated the strings of this tapestry into three themes? The first answer is clarity and simplicity. I picked an organizational scheme in which to best discuss the episode. What is the best way to discuss the episode? The answer to that question is also the answer to the first question. I have a point to make and am going to design this column in a manner in which that point is going to be most apparent.

I’m leading with the mythology as to not get distracted by it. Yes, it’s extremely important, but it was created in order to make the deeper philosophical points. It’s not important that Jacob and Eddie exist. It’s important what they believe. Likewise, philosophically, I’ve discussed the compatibilism leanings of LOST many times over in The Midside, so having that be my main point would be counter productive. Thus, I am building this edition of The Midside towards what I believe to be a Randian undercurrent of LOST: self esteem.

True, I’ve also discussed that issue a million times over, but that’s because it’s the most important idea in the show, if not our culture. Every significant action that was taken in this episode was directly related to the self esteem of the character performing it. I don’t want to spoil that discussion though. Instead, let’s head onward on our final journey into The Midside for the season (now profanity free for the kiddies).


Five seasons later, we finally have our “two players, one light, one dark.” The most important three minutes of the final weren’t the big reveal at the end, but the big reveal at the beginning. Think about it. Locke’s body being in the box (and thus there being an imposter Locke) wouldn’t have carried the same weight if we hadn’t seen Jacob and Eddie. Why have I nicknamed the other guy Eddie? His name comes from my group’s discussions while watching the episode.

Immediately upon watching the opening scene, I called Jacob the good guy and his “opponent” the bad guy. Jacob was blonde and dressed in light colors (you might also recognize him from the first season of Dexter). His “opponent” had black hair and was dressed in dark colors. Symbolically, it would appear that Jacob is good and the other dude is evil. Hence, I started calling the other guy Ed for Evil Dude. My friends immediately turned it into Eddie as they reminded me that nothing in LOST is ever as it seems. I couldn’t disagree. I’ve argued for seasons that Widmore isn’t evil even though he was being made to appear to be. As of right now, I seem correct on that count. How could I not discount the possibility that Eddie is good? (And I know Esau is the popular nickname for Eddie, but I don’t want to delve into the Biblical implications of those character names.)

To better understand the two sides here, we must first consider their actions. Eddie’s actions are relatively simple. He killed Jacob, perhaps not with his own hands, but he plotted the murder none-the-less. I return to my ever repeated point about Ben and genocide. If you commit such an action, you’re evil. I understand there are many arguments about people making mistakes and learning, but there are levels here. Ok, so maybe you did drugs (Charlie) or had lots of meaningless sex (Sawyer), but, while those actions are harmful to yourself and the world, they can be overcome and combated. Genocide or plotting cold blooded murder cannot.

If killing makes someone bad though, aren’t we forced to decry a bunch of our favorite characters? Simply, yes, LOST has always put us in the tough position of liking characters who do extremely unlikable things. However, if we look at the concept on a more complex level, we can understand that killing does not always make someone bad or evil. Is a soldier bad or evil for killing in war? No, I would say not (though many people, aka hippies, would disagree with me). Is killing in self defense wrong? I would say not (though pacifists and some Eastern religions would disagree).

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of these answers, my point is that you have to consider the idea that killing isn’t wrong in every instance, and if it’s not wrong in every instance, then not everyone who has killed is bad or evil. Is Sayid bad or evil? No. In fact, his character has always walked the line. You could even argue he has had to make the toughest moral decisions of the series. He was a member of the Republican Guard. He became Ben’s assassin. Perhaps he is dumb for making these choices (to enlist in the Guard and to serve Ben), but then we find ourselves in the Nazi solider argument. Was every member of the Nazi party/army evil or were some just doing what they needed to do to survive? Moving to another character, was Ana-Lucia bad or evil? No. Rather, she was psychologically unstable due to the murder of her child. Her case is much clearer cut than Sayid’s. Likewise, Sawyer is not evil either, he’s just really really dumb. He reacted to Hibbs claim that Frank Duckett was Mr. Sawyer. The evil person in that situation was Hibbs. The most distressing case in LOST is Kate. Is she evil? I don’t know. She plotted the cold blooded murder of her father, down to taking out an insurance policy for her Mom. You could argue she was reacting to the revelation of who her real father was, but that is a tough line to walk, although, to be fair to the point, Kate’s MO has always been to react.

What does any of this discussion have to do with Eddie? It brings about the point that we don’t know his true motivations. We were given an impression as to what they are (a philosophical difference with Jacob), but we don’t know why he truly wanted to kill Jacob. Perhaps Jacob is previously murdered someone (but is revenge good reason for killing?). Perhaps Jacob will bring about the end of the world (is preventing the apocalypse good reason for killing?). I don’t know, but I do think symbolically through out the series Eddie has been shown to be the bad guy.

Eddie is clearly the black smoke. In “Dead is Dead” Ben called it and Imposter Locke walked out of the jungle. Then, Imposter Locke brought Ben to the Temple, where the black smoke, by taking the appearance of Alex, demanded Ben swear his allegiance to Imposter Locke. The last time we saw the black smoke take such an action was “The Cost of Living” when it took the form of Yemi and demanded Eko’s allegiance. Like Eko’s death, we can also look back on other key moments. Was every appearance of a dead person an apparition of Eddie? What about animals, such as Kate’s horse (black, BTW), Sawyer’s boar, and Sayid’s cat? Now, consider when Ben was brought to the Hostiles. Alpert claimed that, if saved, Ben’s innocence would forever be lost and he would always be one of them. He then carried Harry Potter’s lifeless form to the Temple.

We know the Temple is the home of the black smoke and it would seem Eddie. Does that mean the Hostiles (and possible the Others) were always tools of Eddie while believing they were tools of Jacob? Could Alpert have been made ageless by Alpert and not by Eddie? As we’ll see when we consider the dialogue from the first scene in a moment, Eddie seems to want to keep the island hidden from people, which was the stated goal of the Hostiles/Others on many occasions. Of course, considering that Eddie and the smoke monster are one and the same and live in the Temple, we have to wonder who was in the cabin, as we were led to believe it wasn’t Jacob and thus had to be Eddie. Illana said that no one had been there for a long time. Consider though that before this episode (LOST timeline year 2007), the last time we had seen the cabin was “Cabin Fever” (LOST timeline date December 29th, 2004). The time lapse is about two to three years. We still have no idea who was in the cabin, how they got there, and how they were freed. I’m almost willing to bet we won’t get that answer until the series finale, almost.

Interestingly, answering the converse question (Is Jacob good?) is completely contingent upon the answer to the previous question. We haven’t been shown much of Jacob’s actions (besides visiting people’s past, weaving, and cooking a fish), certainly not enough to make any type of concrete claim. For all we know, his entire goal could be to destroy the world. And we will delve into his plan, just in the next section. However, we do have some clues as to his nature, if we consider the opening scene.

The first thing Jacob and Eddie seem to discuss is the nature of humanity. As a ship (the Black Rock?) sails into shore, they consider Jacob’s bringing people to the island:

Eddie: “I don’t have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren’t you?”
Jacob: “You are wrong.”
Eddie: “Am I? They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.”
Jacob: “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.”

In this short exchange, Eddie seems to be taking the negative view of humanity, the same view espoused by Agent Smith in The Matrix:

“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.”

Jacob takes the opposite view, in what is actually a pretty deft argument tactic. He accepts Eddie’s premise, but defines it has progress by subverting one of Eddie’s assumption. Eddie says there are multiple ends, each fight, each destruction, each corruption, it ends. Jacob says there is only one end and that the fighting, destruction, and corruption is necessary to reach that end. In other words, Jacob is espousing the old adage of you have to make mistakes to get to where you want to be (or however it goes). Notice how Jacob’s point of view plays perfectly into our discussion of who is good/bad above. Jacob wouldn’t call Sayid, Sawyer, or Kate bad. He would say they’re making progress. And that analysis is why I can’t call Jacob bad and Eddie good. Considering how LOST blurs good and evil, Jacob’s claim seems to be THE ultimate statement of the show’s morality.


It’s also Jacob’s final statement that gives us a better view on LOST’s fate vs. free will dichotomy. More specifically, we have to consider each sentence in the statement independently before we can understand how they work together. I will then end this section with a discussion of Jacob’s plan in relevance to what we learn here.

“It only ends once.”

This claim is the more important of the two as it addresses all the issues brought up with the time travel this season. Additionally, it reconciles two concepts that seemed contradictory up until this point: whatever happened, happened and Faraday’s Variable. The first thing this claim does is put a limit on time. There is an end. Time is not circular. Time is not endless. Time is linear (mostly) and finite. The second thing this claim does is state that end can only occur once. In other words, there can be only one iteration (kind of like in Highlander). Once the end is reached, you can’t go back and do it better. It’s very much like our lives (which I’m sure is intentional on the part of the writers).

“Anything that happens before that is progress.”

To roughly translate, in order to pick it apart, anything will mean events and that will mean progress. Thus, events that happen before the end are progress. The definition of progress contains words such as “advancement,” “development,” and “growth.” All of these concepts carry with them the idea of change in a positive direction (which is the reason Progressives are so scary politically, they think they have the market on the definition of a “positive direction”). Thus, any event that occurs before the end can change the end. If such a statement is true, isn’t whatever happened, happened invalidated then?

We have to consider the idea that time is linear. If time is linear, small endings (as Jacob accepted Eddie’s premise of small endings occurring) constantly happen and build towards the (big e) Ending. Thus, when an event ends, it happened. Whatever happened, happened. It can’t be changed. However, what can be changed is the most up to date present of the time line. Yes, you’re correct. This discussion carries with it some interesting implications for the plot.

First is the idea of relativistic physics. The only people’s present who matter are the people who are in the (big p) Present or people who are from the Present. This fact grants a large amount of power to time travelers. Consider our characters that went to the past. They couldn’t stop or change any events that happened because the events were in the (big p) Past and each character’s past. However, their futures are still unwritten, so they can make changes that will progress towards the End. In other words, actions taken in the Past can affect the Present (but not the characters’ present if their present is the Past). The writers established this fact through two important plot decisions. First, the time skips never ever went to the (big f) Future. There was no way to go to the Future because it isn’t written then. In fact, in this theory of time travel, if you live in the past, the only way to regain your ability to make changes is to travel to the Future. Second, when Faraday knocked on the Swan door, the memory came into Desmond’s head in the Present. In other words, the actions Faraday took in the Past affected the Present (the most forward spot on the timeline). God, I don’t feel like I’ve written anything this complex since my analysis of Live Together, Die Alone and my electromagnetism of The Swan.

What does all this mumbo jumbo tell us about The Incident and Jack’s plan to stop the plane crash? Sorry Jack, your plan failed (like that’s a surprise). The plane crash happened. It can’t be changed. However, detonating the nuclear bomb will have an affect on the Present. Rather, the events the characters in the Past will affect the way they address events when they return to the Present. Did Juliet detonating the bomb cause The Incident? No, it was always part of The Incident. Consider how underneath The Swan concrete was poured as thick as with Chernobyl. However, what detonating the bomb did do was enact Jacob’s plan as Eddie’s plan ended, which is why the colors of the end screen were inverted for this episode.

The first five seasons of LOST were the enacting of Eddie’s plan to kill Jacob and the laying of the groundwork for Jacob’s plan to combat his death. In order to prove my point, I refer to three things: Locke’s ability to be manipulate, Jacob’s flashbacks, and Jacob not fighting his own murder.

Locke has been an easy mark since day one of the season (in the same way Ben has been). He has looked for a father figure and a purpose (externally, rather than within himself) to the point that his father conned him out of his kidney. Likewise, Eddie conned him out of his life (using tools such as time travel). All the events were part of a plan with Locke and Ben being the key pieces. However, Jacob has a greater plan, as evidenced through his flashbacks.

As noted in lots of place, Jacob made it a point to touch all the characters he saw in flashbacks (except for Sawyer, but I digress). Most notably, when he touched Locke, he apparently brought him back to life. If Jacob didn’t have a greater plan, why would he bring back to life the guy that would be such a key pawn in the series of events that would lead to his death? Likewise, what significance does his touching of each of the characters (except Sawyer) have? I can tell you why he visited Hurley. Now that we know Jacob is dead, we can understand why he told Hurley talking to the dead is a good thing. I can say with 100% assurance that Hurley will talk to Jacob next season. We can also come pretty close to saying that Jacob is the one who made it so Hurley could talk to the dead. Hurley said it made him crazy and Jacob assured him he was not crazy, thus proving Hurley’s dead talking is all part of Jacob’s plan.

Do you need further proof? Consider Ben’s plea to Jacob. All Ben wanted was some comfort. He asked the old question that demonstrates low self esteem, “What about me?” All Jacob could reply with was, “What about you?” which is pretty much the worst response you can give to that question, especially if it’s asked by a violent vindictive person like Ben. (Although, Jacob’s response is actually also the best response, but we’ll get that into a second).

So, Jacob clearly has a plan and knew he needed to die. The only question is how Jack, Kate, Jin, Sun, and Sawyer fit into it. Oh, and Desmond. In case you were wondering, yes, he still is a character in this show…maybe.


This season of LOST (and arguably all of LOST) came down to the same thing life does: self esteem, and the writers did a brilliant job of pulling the theme throughout the episode. More specifically, the episode was about not allowing your past to hurt your self esteem to the point that it hinders your present decisions. The exchanges that demonstrated these ideas occurred in the second half of the episode, mostly centering on Jack and Sawyer, the two characters that have always embodied these ideas. I’ll use their conversation to frame this section.

The first important thing to note is Sawyer basically quoting whatever happened, happened to Jack. As they sat on that log and tried to sort out their differences, Sawyer explained his past to the doctor and why he didn’t try to change it:

Sawyer: “Right now it's July 1977, which means that happened last year, so I could've hopped on the sub, gone back to the States, walked right into my house, and stopped my Daddy from killing anybody.”
Jack: “Why didn't you?”
Sawyer: “Because, Jack, what's done is done.”

What’s done is done. Not only does that statement mean whatever happened, happened, it means that you shouldn’t even want to change what has happened. Yeah, Sawyer had an awful past, but look where he was at the time of this discussion. All he tried to fight for this season was to maintain his present (all it wasn’t the Present). While he was presented with the opportunity to directly confront his past through a science fiction story element of time travel, the rest of us will never have that chance, so what’s done is done speaks even more loudly. We have no choice but to live today. Even if we focus on the past and let it affect all our decisions, the decisions are still being made today. As the discussion with Jack continues, we see how focusing on the past can be so debilitating. Jack explains what is fueling his plan:

Jack: “I had her. I had her, and I lost her.”
Sawyer: “Kate? Well damn, Doc, she's standing right she's standing right on the other side of those trees. If you want her back, just go and ask her.”
Jack: “No, it's too late for that.”

Jack is so focused on the past that it makes him incapable of going after what he wants today. In fact, he doesn’t even believe it’s possible. He needs to erase everything. Truthfully, in the past, he probably was incapable of getting her, but what’s to say he isn’t capable of getting her in the present? He has had a bit of a change of character. It’s like Sawyer said, she’s just on the other side of the trees. However, Jack’s flashback shows the deep rooted issues he has that hinder him:

Jack: “It's bad enough that everybody in this hospital thinks that the only reason I got this residency is because you're my father, but then you, you put me in a timeout during my first major procedure, in front of my entire team. Dad, I know you don't believe in me, but I need them to.”
Christian: “Are you sure I'm the one who doesn't believe in you, Jack?”

With Jack, the issues have always been with his father. Except, there is one major fact that needs to be pointed out: Christian has been dead since before the show even started. He died in one of Jack’s flashbacks. Still, Jack can’t get over it because he couldn’t even get over it when Christian was alive. Even more poignant is Christian’s response to Jack. Our memories are often highly fictionalized accounts of what occurred that become more and more fictional over time. Focusing on them warps our perceptions of reality and, more importantly, ourselves. In the case of Jack, and many other people, it causes them to search for their self esteem in external sources. Jack’s not the only character to make this tragic mistake either. In her exchange with Sawyer, Juliet makes the same error, which eventually leads to her tragic death:

Sawyer: “I don't care who I looked at. I'm with you.”
Juliet: “And you would stay with me forever, if I let you, and that is why I will always love you. What we had was just for a little while, and just because we love each other doesn't mean that we're meant to be together. Maybe we were never supposed to be together. So if Jack can make it that none of you ever come here then, he should.”
Sawyer: “Why are you doing this, Juliet?”
Juliet: “If I never meet you, then I never have to lose you.”

Just as with Jack, Juliet’s flashback revealed the error in memory that hindered her self esteem: the lie her parents told her when they explained they were getting divorced. By internalizing that lie, she always saw herself as the other woman. She never believed the love she was feeling was true love because she was always expecting something to happen and her partner’s true feelings to be revealed. You could even argue that this false belief caused her to be drawn to situations where she would be the other woman, such as with Edmund Burke, Goodwin, and Jack. She hasn’t exactly had the best taste in men. Then she had three years with Sawyer and her issues probably largely subsided. However, then Kate returned and her self esteem issues kicked in, causing her to search for even the slightest sign that she was the other woman, and she found it in a look. How unimportant and inconsequential is a look? How many looks have you shared with people, perhaps people you never saw again? Juliet took it to heart though and it caused her to detonate a nuclear bomb setting next to her. If that action isn’t low self esteem hurting your ability to make rational decisions, I don’t know what is. Then again, she could have been Ben. His diatribe to Jacob was disturbing:

Jacob: “Benjamin, whatever he's told you, I want you to understand one thing. You have a choice.”
Ben: “What choice?”
Jacob: “You can do what he asks or you can go. Leave us to discuss our issues.”
Ben: “Oh, so now after all this time you've decided to stop ignoring me. Thirty five years I lived on this island and all I ever heard was your name over and over. Richard would bring me your instructions, all those slips of paper, all those lists. And I never questioned anything. I did as I was told. But when I dared to ask to see you myself, I was told, 'You have to wait. You have to be patient.' But when he asks to see you, he gets marched straight up here as if he was Moses. So, why him? Hmm? What was it that was so wrong with me? What about me?”
Jacob: “What about you?”

Like Jack and Juliet, Ben focuses on the past. He mentions the past 35 years and that Jacob would never see him. He mentions his loyalty and obedience. Then, rather than considering another explanation, he assumes the answer is his not being good enough, returning to his parent issues in the same way as Jack, Juliet, Locke, et al. And like Sawyer, Jacob tells Ben to focus on the present. Except, unlike Sawyer, he sums it up in one word: “choice.” Sure, Ben has done and been through some messed up things, but he still has one thing: the ability to make a choice. However, his low self esteem prevents him from making a choice. It has already been made for him, as Jacob points out with his return question, “What about you?” Sure, Jacob is egging Ben so Ben will murder him, but he is also making a point. You’re focused on the past, Ben. You’re focused on Jacob, Ben. What about right now? What about the decision of whether to kill or not to kill? You see, Imposter Locke used Ben’s low self esteem to cause him to make the decision before he even knew he had a decision. He took away Ben’s present by making him focus on the past. The middle of Jack and Sawyer’s exchange explains this point more fully and brings our discussion full circle:

Sawyer: “Then what is it about?”
Jack: “Three years ago, Locke told me that all this was happening for a reason, that us being here was our destiny.”
Sawyer: “I don't speak destiny. What I do understand is a man does what he does because he wants something for himself. What do you want, Jack?”

If you focus on the past, you essentially create determinism for yourself. Your past controls all your actions by subverting your decision making process, causing you to react rather than think However, if you focus on what you want, your desires will guide your choices, causing you to live in the present. What do you want to do? I want to eat. Then go get a sandwich. What do you want to do? I want to talk to her. Then call her. Maybe you ate a bad sandwich or dealt with a girl that didn’t answer your questions in the past, but currently the odds of that happening again are small.

The smart critique here is the need for self improvement, which only comes from self analysis. I do agree that self analysis can be a powerful tool, but what’s important to note about all the cases above is that the characters weren’t focusing on themselves in the past, they were focusing on others. Jack was focused on his dad. Juliet was focused on her parents. Ben was focused on Jacob (and his dad as well). Self analysis and awareness is healthy, the danger is that when most people try it, they focus on other people. Think about when a girl says, “All guys are jerks.” She’s focusing on the bad people in the past, not on how she brought herself to that bad outcome, thus illegitimately painting all guys as the same.

So, from this season of LOST, remember:
What’s done is done.
What do you want?


Wow, it’s been a long one, which is to be expected from a season finale. However, we’re still not done. We finally saw Rose and Bernard once again, in what I believe to be their final scene in the series. It was extremely important as it echoed the main philosophical thrust of Eddie and Jacob’s discussion. I point to two quotes:

Rose: “It’s always something with you people. Now you say ‘Jack’s got a bomb.’ And what, you guys are all going to try to stop him, right?”
Kate: “Yeah, that’s right.”
Rose: “We traveled back 30 years in time and you’re still trying to find ways to shoot each other?”

Rose is essentially proving that people can overcome what Eddie says is the basic drive of humanity: fighting, destroying, and corrupting. She is sick of it and wonders how many ridiculous things have to happen before they realize it’s unimportant. To a large extent, she’s right. If they had decided to live peacefully on the island, almost none of the danger and violence would have happened. The problem is, this idea partially conflicts with “What do you want?” (you have to fight for what you want) and the way the world is (even if I decide to stop, everyone else has to too). Juliet then tries to argue the point, to which Bernard responds with his line:

Juliet: “Rose, we just need to know which way the Dharma barracks are from here so we can stop Jack, or you’re gonna be dead. We all will.”
Bernard: “So we die. We just care about being together. It’s all that matters in the end.”

Considering how heavily romantic LOST is, a stable romance in the middle of being demonstrated and expounded by the two most content characters we’ve ever seen. All that matters in the end is being together? Think of how many relationships on the show are messed up because of people’s poor decision making, and think of what other ramifications it caused. Just in this episode we saw Jack and Juliet detonate a nuclear bomb because they couldn’t be with Kate or Sawyer (or so they believed). No think of the history of humanity. Think of your own lives. Is that all that matters? The older I get, the more I soften to the idea. And if you disagree with that…

Actually, I probably agree with your critiques of the stance, but if you disagree with its importance in the LOSTverse, then I’m forced to say…

Shut up, you’re wrong.

(See you in January.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Midside: S5E15 Follow the Leader

Tee dum, tee dee, cue the Peter Pan music as we delve into another LOST adventure. We’re following the leader, which means we’re playing the part of Richard Alpert in what ended up being a disappointing turn for me. I read some rumors earlier in the week that the episode would be Alpert-centric and hyped myself up. On Wednesday, I discovered it was only Alpert-centric based on a technicality. Technically, he was the only one in 1977 and 2007 following the leader (whoever he may be), but it wasn’t a traditional “centric” episode in which we learned about the character’s back story. You could even argue that Alpert’s character was majorly weakened in one scene. I’m not so sure of that claim though.

Fret not, for while this episode may not have lived up to expectations, it still provided us with something we can always depend on in LOST: Jack was the anti-Jack Bauer. Seriously, can the guy ever make a good decision? For part of this column, I’ll revel in pointing out the absurdity of his actions this episode, even though it’s so obvious how he is a fuck up that I shouldn’t have to. I can’t help it. I just enjoy it too much. Then, I’ll talk about a random assortment of things and other characters, as this episode was merely a random assortment of things in order to set up the season finale. Onward!


The previews for this episode teased us with the question “Why are Jack and Kate fighting?” Well, the answer to that question is simple: because Jack is a moron. And he started right away in the episode. With Faraday shot dead in front of the pair, Kate says they should get the hell out of Dodge (which is probably a good idea).

Kate: “Jack, he's crazy.”
Jack: “What if this is why we're here?”

So, essentially, Jack’s response to Kate’s argument is to make himself seem crazy too by agreeing with said crazy person (Faraday). And, to be fair to Kate (because we aren’t fair to Jack), Faraday did seem pretty crazy ranting about relativistic physics (which were seemingly contradicted in this episode). Jack got his response though, as Widmore came through on horse back and gave him a crimson mask. Am I the only one who’s noticed that Jack has become the new Boone? He gets the crap kicked out of him pretty regularly.

He brings it on himself too because he never learns his lesson. In Hawking’s tent, he tells a Hostile to “Take it easy on, her” (Kate). He is immediately kicked in the face. To make matters worse, he tries to convince Kate they need to “fix” the timeline again, but goes about this objective in a way that demonstrates that he has no knowledge of audience.

He calls everything they have gone through during the first five season misery. This statement says two things to Kate. First, it tells her that Jack considers they’re time together off the island (in the flashforwards) as “misery.” Second, it tells her that Jack doesn’t really care about her at all. If the plane never crashes, Kate will be in prison. Clearly, life after the plane crash hasn’t been misery for her at all. Jack had no chance of convincing Kate with this line of argument, which is clearly shown when Hawking comes into the tent. Jack explains everything to her, and she turns to Kate.

Hawking: “Does he know what he's talking about?”
Kate: “He thinks he does.”

That statement isn’t the last time Kate owns Jack either. Later, before they dive into the tunnels, Kate wants to leave. Jack tries to convince her that going back to Dharma is pointless.

Jack: “You can't go back there now. They know about us. They tried to kill us.”
Kate: “And what are you trying to do?”

To make matters worse, he doesn’t even understand how he is getting owned and continues to give orders. A Hostile points a gun at Kate and he commands, “If she wants to leave, she can leave.” Really, Jack, you’re going to tell the guy with the gun what to do? Since when were words more powerful than a gun (in an immediate sense)? I suppose you did create enough of a distraction for Sayid to shoot the Hostile. Still, Kate insisted on owning you one more time before she ran away from you for good.

Kate: “And if you're wrong, then everyone on the island dies. Do you understand that?”
Jack: “I'm not wrong, Kate. This is it. This is why we're here. This is our destiny.”

It’s amazing to me how someone can make a complete character change and still be a fuck up. He went from a man of science to a man of faith in this season (as is the dichotomy created within LOST), but still insists on doing ridiculous things like blowing up a hydrogen bomb to save everyone. At least we know Jack and Kate is finally over. Seriously, if she ends up with Jack after this episode, then screw her, she’s not worth anyone’s time, let alone Sawyer’s. There’s only so many mistakes someone can make before they stop being mistakes and you realize the person is just a fuck up.

Also, am I the only one who is starting to wonder if Jughead is a joke by the producers about Jack?


The most logical place to start this section is with Richard Alpert. His involvement in this episode was mainly interesting due to the way he interacted with John Locke. His interaction with the characters in 1977 was pretty typical of what we’ve seen of him so far. He acted like he knew a lot, although didn’t really say that much at all. In contrast, when speaking with Locke, Alpert seemed to be unknowledgeable, dimwitted even, in a way he had never seemed to be before. This appearance began when Locke showed up:

Alpert: “There's something different about you.”
Locke: “I have a purpose now.”

Here is also where the interesting debate begins. Is Alpert as unknowledgeable as he seemed in this episode or was he pretending to be that way in order to appease Locke? Consider the above exchange. He immediately notices something is different about Locke. Wouldn’t that change the way he interacted with him? Before, Locke was easy to mold if you acted like you knew what was going on with the island. Now, he thinks he knows exactly what is going on with the island. On a similar note, consider how Alpert acted like he knew nothing about time travel when Locke was explaining it to him. How could he not know about time travel? We know he was there in 1954 and 1977 when the other characters appeared. We know he’s met some of them since that year (he was with the Others when Jack, Kate, and Sawyer were brought to Hydra Island). There was no way he actually knew as little as he did when he was questioning Locke. On the contrary, he had to be pumping Locke up, making him feel like an expert.

While mentioning 1977, Alpert says he watched all of the people in the picture Sun handed to him die. I guess we’re operating under the assumption that he is immortal, because I can’t think of another reason he would have survived the Incident and none of the other characters did. Of course, maybe the faulty assumption is that he watched them die in the Incident. Maybe he watched them die in the Purge. The immortality theory gained more ground with what Ben told Sun:

Ben: “His name is Richard Alpert. He's a kind of advisor, and he has had that job for a very very long time.”

I do enjoy how out of it Sun appeared. She knew nothing and was only focused on finding Jin (too bad she doesn’t care that much about her kid). It’s also clear that Ben knows about whatever secret Alpert has. Beyond that fact, we have to think about Ben’s use of the word “advisor.” Of course Ben would think Alpert is an advisor, he’s one of the leaders Alpert has manipulated. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that Alpert is not simply an advisor. Consider how he reacted when Locke said he was going to see Jacob. He clearly did not want that to happen. Perhaps he’s worried he won’t have time to set up the elaborate ruse he has been running for years.

Where did he come from? His building of the ship in the bottle seems to be a huge bit of foreshadowing that he was on the Black Rock. Clearly we’re going to find out more about that ship in future episodes, as Widmore also bought the log. Where is he going? It would seem he is going to take some sort of over action soon. Look at this exchange with Ben:

Alpert: “I'm starting to think John Locke is gonna be trouble.”
Ben: “Why do you think I tried to kill him?”

The exchange closely mirrors Jack’s “We’re going to have a Locke problem” from Season One. Maybe the end of this show will be people killing Locke when they realize he’s been messing things up from the beginning. Regardless, it was almost as if Alpert was looking at his old puppet figurehead (Ben) and regretting that he chose to exchange him for Locke.

Typing about the new puppet figurehead, Locke has an interesting plan up his sleeve. At the very end of the episode, he informs Locke that they are going to see Jacob to kill him. It’s not clear exactly what his motivations are. I’m not sure if he even actually wants to kill Jacob. Doesn’t he believe that he saw Jacob before? And when he saw him, didn’t Jacob ask for help? Why would he kill someone who asked for help? Maybe he is just intent on calling Alpert’s bluff. He is killing Jacob metaphorically in order to expose Alpert. Although, didn’t Christian say he spoke for Jacob? Does Locke think Christian is Jacob and thus wants to kill him? Regardless, won’t Christian show up during the attempted murder? Locke is also making some very interesting claims:

Ben: “Your timing was impeccable, John. How did you know when to be here?”
Locke: “The island told me. Didn't it ever tell you things?”

If the island actually tells him things, which seems absurd to me, how does it tell him things? Does a voice talk to him? Do ideas pop into his head? If ideas are popping into his head, maybe they’re just new memories the way Faraday gave Desmond a new memory earlier in the season. In that case, it’s not the island telling him anything at all. It’s just him experiencing reality.

Then there’s the Asian convention in the middle of the jungle that Hurley somehow became a part of. PF Chang, Miles, and Jin all met, and Chang finally understood that all these people were from the future. And later on, Miles finally understood why his father kicked them off the island and acted the way they did. It’s a lesson to all of us about analyzing people’s actions, both past and present. You can’t ever really know why people do things unless you witness the actions, sometimes even if you witness the actions.

Oh, and Sayid is still a character in this show. He shot a Hostile and followed Jack to Jughead. What was his reasoning for doing what he’s doing?

Sayid: “Well if this works, you just might save us all, and if it doesn't, at least you'll put us out of our misery.”

It’s interesting the dichotomy that’s being created based upon characters that are happy and characters that think their life is misery.


-The preview for the season finale was by far the best preview I’ve ever seen, just for the first few seconds. You can watch it here. Jack having a hydrogen bomb has to be the most horrific thing that could have happened on the show. I don’t think I could have written a better comedy routine about Jack constantly fucking up and the worst fuck up he could achieve.

-Abrams’ new Star Trek movie is a lot better than I expected and worth seeing. Kurtzman and Orci don’t mess up the writing because the movie is just a reboot, so it didn’t need much intellectual depth. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the “Spock is picked on as a kid” scene. I was a big fan of the blatant plug for the movie on Abrams, Kurtzman, and Orci’s show Fringe though. It was so over the top, it had to be appreciated. And if you disagree with that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Midside: S5E14 The Variable

We’ve reached it, 100. Well, the show has reached it anyway. I’ve only written 75 columns, including non-episode special editions such as “The Key to Locke” and “Jayemel’s List.” To be honest, it’s a bit disappointing. I wish I could revel in the same 100 glory that the writers of the show surely did. Although, my favorite glory is 300. Immortals? We put their name to the test. Besides, I think the 108th episode will be a bigger deal for LOST than the 100th episode was, even though this milestone contained a lot of expository information (it had to, it was a [the?] Faraday episode).

I get what The Variable means. It’s cute, really, it is. The problem I have with it is that it may be a little too cute. It drips with over exertion on the part of the writers the way young Faraday’s “I can make time” did. And for that reason I’m extremely surprised Kitsis and Horowitz wrote this episode. On initial viewing, I declared this effort as the worst they’ve penned in the five seasons of the show.

However, upon second viewing something interesting happened. The episode got better, a lot better (proving that whatever happened didn’t necessarily happen). The intricacies of the writing became a lot clearer. What we had this week was a set up for the season finale, which is, of course, a set up for the final season of the show. So, Faraday’s episode was a set up for the set up for the final arc of the series. It’s also extremely interesting to me that the later episodes of the series get better with repeat viewings, while the first couple seasons (at least) seemed amazing on initial viewing. Am I just spoiled by the high quality of LOST that I don’t truly appreciate the brilliance until I see it twice or are the newer seasons so jam packed with information that they don’t become clear until you watch them multiple times? The world may never know, like with how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

Oh, and if you let out a sigh of relief a few weeks ago because you thought the time travel was over: HAHA. It’s baaaack (and better than ever). In fact, this week I’ll only be discussing two things: Faraday and Time Travel.


I once read that the writers of Aladdin had a motto written in their office: “When in doubt, hurt the bird” (I think I read it in Disney Adventures when I was younger). Kitsis and Horowitz must have had a similar motto in mind when writing this episode: “When in doubt, have Faraday spaz out.” Immediately after climbing out of the sub, he runs to Jack’s, freaks out (saying stuff like “And how did she convince you, Jack? Did she tell you it was your destiny?” and she was wrong), and leaves. Jack even thought he was “spouting nonsense,” and if Jack thinks that, it must be nonsense. Of course, Jack usually thinks anyone who disagree with him is spouting nonsense, so I might have to take that back. Regardless, it makes sense to have Faraday spaz out as much as possible this week, considering it may be the last time we ever see him. Ok, maybe not ever see him, but it does seem like he’s dead. Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Finally, a character doesn’t have father issues. He has mother issues. Ok, so it’s not that different, but it’s enough of a difference to get me a little excited. (So it doesn’t take much to excite me. Don’t mock). And as this episode unfolded every Jewish guy with an overbearing mother suddenly identified with Faraday. Seriously, she showed up in his life every step up the way and tried to subvert his personhood, from the time he was a child playing the piano until his end. She even showed up when Faraday wasn’t there, harassing Penny as Desmond was in the OR. She claimed Desmond being shot was her son’s fault. How exactly was it his fault? True, his request to Desmond did bring him up to Los Angeles, but many people ask us to do many things, they can’t be held responsible for the chain of events that occur to us after we fulfill their request. I guess when you think like Hawking and everything is a causal event, you can’t help but make the connections. Besides, I get the impression that she was there more to harass Penny out of some grudge with Widmore than to express true grievances.

The most interesting parts of Faraday’s past were the first thing his mother said to him and the fact that Widmore is his father. While he was playing the piano as a kid, Faraday had destiny defined for him. Hawking explained it as a special gift being nurtured. She, of course, meant nurtured in the way she saw fit because you could argue that anyone with a special gift nurtures it in the way they see fit. However, it’s interesting to consider this definition of destiny in light of the series in general and the season specifically (the slogan is “Destiny Calls” after all).

The show has always presented free will and destiny as polar opposites (or maybe we just do in the way we’re taught to think). What if they aren’t? If destiny is a special gift being nurtured, aren’t we succumbing to destiny with how we nurture our talents? Likewise, Locke goes on and on about destiny, but maybe all he means, without knowing it, is that the island helps people nurture their special gifts. Faraday’s mind was healed. Locke’s legs were healed (making him a hunter). Sawyer became a leader. Jack became an even better doctor (it’s easy to heal people on an island that heals people). Kate became…well, we won’t get into her special talents. The point remains. Maybe destiny is free will.

It’s important to note, however, that the writers have simply parlayed the free will vs. determinism debate into the nurture vs. nature debate. What I mean is the following: Faraday’s mind was made for science. He could never be a professional tennis player. His nature (or genetics) determines what his special talent his, but he decides how to nurture it. Therefore, we start with certain capabilities (determinism/nature) and go where we want from there (free will/nurture). This idea simply substitutes biological determinism for determinism by outside factors (such as outside causal events). However, to be fair, biological determinism is a bit more complicated. This idea substitutes in light biological determinism. Maybe at the end of the day LOST is just an argument for compatibalism.

Where was I? Oh yes, Faraday’s mother issues. Hawking shows up at his graduation, gives him the journal, and tells him that “The women in your life will only be hurt.” Was that statement a prediction of the future? Was it a threat? Does it include her? Regardless, it was correct, as we know what happened to both Theresa and Charlotte. Also, note how the journal has affected Faraday’s life and will play into the rest of the season. Was Hawking course correcting the events of the series by giving her son the journal? Unfortunately, we won’t know the answers to these questions until the true end game is revealed.

And then we have to ask ourselves if Faraday’s mother issues really are father issues considering that Widmore is his father and he had no idea his entire life. Why did Hawking and Widmore have a child? They’ve never seemed particularly loving to each other. Even in their scene in this episode, they didn’t appear to be former lovers. Did they have Faraday because they had to for the sake of the timeline? Is that why his last name is Faraday and not Hawking or Widmore? See, it all does go back to father issues. Although, you probably have to define the issues through the eyes of the person, and Faraday would almost certainly say his issues were with his mother and not his father. What about her issues with him though? Had she given birth to him before she shot him? If not, imagine how weird it must be to give birth to a child you’ve already shot. Time travel makes my head hurt.

It also creates incredibly creepy scenes such as Faraday talking to young Charlotte. I’m calling it right now, that scene will go down as the creepiest scene of the series.


Continuing to play upon the discussion of determinism and the expository nature of Faraday’s character, the writers introduced a new perspective on time travel (one that I quite like), but, in true LOST fashion, contradicted it throughout the episode. Now it’s up to us to decide which side we agree with…or we could just wait and see what happens. I like to indulge myself with these columns however, so we’re going to delve into the discussion. First, a quote from a random character:

Random Guy working in the Orchid: “Did you hear that? Time travel. How stupid does that guy think we are?”

Clearly it’s an in joke by the writers. Are we supposed to identify with the character or scoff at him? If it’s the former, the writers are mocking us. If it’s the latter, they’re mocking themselves. I’m going to be generous and say they were mocking themselves, after all, who would think they could make a successful major network show about time travel? Obviously only someone stupid, or the two guys who think they can reboot Star Trek (with Kurtzman and Orci writing to boot).

Immediately upon his arrival, Faraday introduced the idea that his mother was wrong. In a conversation with Jack, he stated: “You don't belong here at all. She was wrong.” Of course, he doesn’t explain himself before running off, leaving both us and Jack bewildered. The possibility of Eloise Hawking being wrong is a perfect way to start the episode though. Ever since she was first introduced in Flashes Before Your Eyes, we’ve had the impression that she knew what was going on with the timeline. With her being wrong, another reliable constant (hmm) in LOST is blown out of the water. Our only choice in the episode is to trust its main character Faraday as he scurries about the DI encampment. This notion also bookends the episode nicely, so we’ll return to it at the end of the section.

We’re left scratching our heads wondering how time travel can’t be deterministic, as all we’ve been taught in contemporary science fiction is that time travel must be deterministic, even though it being so creates things such as pre-destination paradoxes. Look, I love science fiction (hell, I even watch Fringe), and a good time travel story really gets me going (no, not like that), but let’s be serious for a minute. Is there much of a difference between 12 Monkeys and Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban? Blah blah blah protagonist realizes the mysterious figure he saw is actually himself from the future when he is himself in the future and sees himself in the past. That sentence is why I love time travel, it’s a fun mind game, but it’s a stale plot device. Simply for the sake of spicing up the genre, something had to be done.

In the middle of the episode though, the writers continued to play with the old fashioned rules. Faraday harasses PF Chang, almost revealing Miles’ secret, in an attempt to maintain the timeline. He and Miles share an exchange:

Miles: “Are you out of your mind? What are you doing?”
Faraday: “I'm just making sure that your father does what he's supposed to do.”
Miles: “And what's that?”
Faraday: “You'll see.”

See? It’s all determinism. Of course, it’s important to point out here that Faraday may have been trying to preserve part of the timeline (the lead up to the Incident), so he could later change another part of the timeline (the Incident itself), but the point remains that the writers are reiterating the idea of determinism to us. They want us to remember it until…

…Jack asks Faraday to explain how his mother was wrong. Faraday launches into a diatribe that begins with his recounting of the first four seasons and then continues…

Faraday: “...This entire chain of events, it's going to start happening this afternoon. But, we can change that. I've studied relativistic physics my entire life. One thing emerged over and over. You can't change the past. You can't do it. Whatever happened, happened, right? But then, I finally realized, I had been spending so much time focused on the constants, I forgot about the variables. And do you know what the variables in these equations are, Jack?”
Jack: “No.”
Faraday: “Us. We're the variables. People. We think. We reason. We make choices. We have free will. We can change our destiny.”

I definitely enjoy the linking of humanity with reason (further supporting my point that the writers are putting forward a Randian view of the world), but that point is minor. The major point of Faraday’s lecture is the sort of application of the theory of relativity to time travel and what it means for determinism, free will, and individualism. If you’re looking at time as a whole (and essentially removing yourself from it), nothing can be changed. All the events fit together like a puzzle. However, if you’re standing at any one point in time, you can change things because relative to you, that point is your present and in your present you always have free will. However, we are then presented with a mess of contradictions and confusing logical implications.

First off, depending on how many people time travel and from when, the time line can be in constant flux. If you travel to 1977 and I travel to 1966, I can change your present by changing my present. Of course, the answer to this implication is that, especially according to relativistic physics, the time line is always in flux. It can’t not be. There are always people existing in the present, because wherever they are people there is necessarily a present. (And I used a double negative on purpose.)

Second off, if they do stop the plane crash, how could they have gone back in time to stop the plane crash, so shouldn’t the plane crash always happen, but if it always happens, won’t they always go back in time and stop it? Yup, you got it. We have a giant mess of time travel soup spilled all over The Midside. However, relativistic physics opens the door to a very easy explanation that I’ve always been annoyed no time travel story has ever utilized (and works well with what LOST has already established): whatever happened, happened, but is only remember by the people it happened to. In other words, memories are relative to the individuals who experienced them (duh). So, if they stop the plane crash, they will always have stopped the plane crash and only they will remember it, but since they will cease to exist, no one will remember it. No one remembering somethng doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It just means no one remembers it. (That’s why after 9/11 people made the cheesy slogan “Never forget.” And, by the way, best knock knock joke ever:

Knock knock?
Who’s there?
9/11 who?
You said you’d never forget!)

Wow, that was a long parenthetical. Anywho, the writers then went ahead and contradicted this idea of relativistic time travel with Faraday’s (apparent) death. In his final throws, he looks up at his mother and says, “Eloise? You knew. You always knew. You knew this was gonna happen and you sent me here anyway.” So, they close the episode out with images of determinism dancing in our head.

But wait! In the previous scene Eloise Hawking admitted she doesn’t know anymore:

Penny: “What do you mean, is Des going to be ok?”
Hawking: “I don't know. For the first time in a long time, I don't know what's going to happen next.”

If deterministic time travel is true, how can she not know? We have to go back to the Desmond and Charlie plot in Season 3 to get a handle on this. The universe will course correct, but in the moment, an individual can change things, and if he does that for enough small things, it can change a big thing. It’s a form of compatibilism that I can’t remember the name of, but the gist of it is that free will only exists in the moment we make a decision. It’s some complex stuff (and the answer is, of course, that we’re always making choices in every moment. Furious debate ensues). It’s what happens when a showrunner went to Harvard (Cuse).

What do I think? Based on Desmond suddenly getting the memory of Faraday knocking on the Hatch door earlier in the season and his Season 3 plot, relativistic time travel is a go for this series. I just hope they don’t steal my idea for my book. I’d have to do some major rewrites. That’d be annoying.


-In a minor note of possible foreshadowing, when in the team meeting in Sawyer and Juliet’s house, Sawyer states their options: “...or we can head back in the jungle, start from square one.” Will Season 5 be starting from square one? Considering the end of LOST: Via Domus, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

-I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Friday night. I swear the thing is littered with LOST references. Dominic Monaghan and Kevin Durand are in it. I pointed out the numbers a few times. They kept looking for a mysterious island. If only Josh Holloway had played Gambit like he was born to do…

-If you haven’t seen Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse yet, you need to. It’s had two of the best episodes of television I’ve seen so far this year. The most recent episode “Briar Rose” was especially incredible. Alan Tudyk delivers the performance of the year. If he doesn’t win an Emmy, I’m going to riot. It may be me by myself running around lighting shit on fire, but I’ll do it. And if you show up and try to tell why he didn’t win, I’ll scream back at you:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Midside: S5E13 Some Like It Hoth

When they throw these one week breaks at us in the middle of the season, it feels like we’re far removed form LOST. Part of the reason I feel that way is my propensity for slackery, where I’ve pushed writing this column until over a week after the episode aired. The other part is that we’re all like addicts, and every week feeds our addictions. When we get an extra week off, we go through a bit of withdrawal, but then start to get over it. The situation is kind of like really liking someone and seeing them every once and awhile. The time apart makes the feelings less real and addictive. Then you watch an episode of LOST again and wonder why you ever strayed.

Over this short break though, I’ve started watching the series all over again. Yes, I am that crazy. No, it’s not simply for my own benefit. My friend wanted to watch the show from the beginning, so we are. That choice is actually rather appropriate, as this week’s episode (or last week’s or whatever) was very much like a Season One episode, although there are admittedly some major differences.

The story featured the old fashioned one flashback about one character where he and we learn a lesson. It was a bit slower and didn’t seem to reveal much about the mysteries of the island. In honor of these similarities, I will be using my old column format from before Through The Looking Glass. Reminiscing can be pleasant. However, I would be stupid to not mention the differences. The pacing of the episodes in Season One seems to be a lot slower. The stories feel tighter (literally physically) as they focus on extremely personal situations for the characters. The episodes were also much more ensemble based. Each character had to hit a certain point in each episode in order for the overall plot to progress. This week’s episode certainly featured different degrees of these elements (this show is still LOST after all), but it wasn’t to the same extreme. Does that difference mean the earlier or later seasons are better? I don’t know. I report. You decide.

And since this episode is more like a Season One episode, we have to ask a question, which will lead us to another extremely important question. What does Miles represent philosophically? Every character in Season One represented a philosophical mindset (be it concrete like John Locke and John Locke or abstract like Boone and a generation of American youth who throw money at problems). Their episodes were a certain type (Jin Sun and foreign romance, Sayid and war drama). We must consider what Miles is intended to represent/discuss, and if he isn’t intended to represent/discuss anything we must ask if the newer characters in the series are as important as the original characters. If a story doesn’t have philosophical weight to it, it becomes Heroes. If the newer characters are just added as plot points, then they pale in important to the original characters.


Miles represent the hypothetical situation we all daydream about that is uniquely presented to him in actuality in the show due to time travel: going back to the moments that scarred us with the knowledge we have now to better understand what happened. While outside the beginnings of The Orchid, he tells Hurley, “That douche is my Dad.” That line is important to understanding the observation I am making. Yes, due to time travel, the other characters have been able to go back and deal with events within the show that made them who they are (most notably Ben and his evilness), but none of them have been able to go back to their flashbacks the way Miles did in this episode. In fact, for the first time, a flashback was literally a flashforward. Thank about it. The flashback was backwards in Miles personal timeline, but in the overall timeline the events of the flashback took place after the events of 1977. Yes, it blows my mind too. Who wants to re-cut LOST so that all the scenes are in order of time? Do you think it would make less or more sense?

The first notable thing we learned about Miles in this episode is that he does indeed have a power. We could make an intelligent guess before that he did, but the opening to this episode confirmed it. And, by the way, has anyone else picked up on how much the writers have started to rely on the character as a child flashback? The first time they used it was in episode five of the series White Rabbit when Jack refused to stay on the ground while Marc was getting his ass kicked and they’ve used it ever since, more frequently in the later seasons. Anyway, young Miles finds a dead body and immediately listens to it. He knows things no one should know, so we know that he has a power. Instantly we start to wonder where the powers came from.

The most logical explanation seems to be that his powers come from being born on the island. If that thought is true, we then have to wonder if Aaron has some sort of power. However, we don’t know if Miles was born on the island. He may have been born off of the island and then brought back in with his mother on the submarine. Also, clearly people born off of the island have powers. The most notable example is Walt. (Interestingly, since a bunch of them have traveled back in time, they can now all talk to dead people. I know, I know, that statement is a bit of a play on time travel.)

The more interesting question regarding Miles’ power coincides with his relationship with his father. For seasons, I’ve been against the whole idea that the amount of characters with father issues is important. It’s just good storytelling to have broken characters, I said. Everyone has father issues (you, me, the Pope), I said. There’s an episode titled All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, I said. And all those statements are true. They make sense. However, they don’t address the spectrum of LOST characters with father issues, the way in which they deal with those issues, and Miles’ place in that spectrum.

Miles represents a new way of dealing with missing father problems in the LOSTverse. Kate runs from her father issues by running from every guy ever. Sawyer internalized his problems and (eventually) came out the other end stronger by finding his worth within himself. Ben, Locke, and Jack hated their fathers and then adopted a new father figure (the island). For much of the episode, Miles seems to take the Ben/Locke/Jack route, hating his father and becoming an angry metal rocker with a poorly glued on chin piercing. However, his returning of the money to Mr. Gray signified an interesting character transition.

By telling Mr. Gray that if he wanted his son to know he loved him, he should have told him when he was alive, Miles was standing up for himself and demonstrating self respect. He explained that by continuing the lie he wasn’t being fair to the son for the above reason. In the same sense, by lying to himself about what his father intentions were by making him and his mother leave the island, he was being disrespectful to himself. If his mother or father wanted him to know, they should have told him. Instead, he was left with a quest that brought him back to the same island his father made him leave. Interestingly, this notion of Miles showing more self respect when dealing with his father issues can be tied to his love for money. He uses his talents to make as much money as possible. From a Randian perspective, he is acting as extremely moral. (We also now know the significance of the $3.2 million he asked Ben for last season.)

As previously mentioned, what also puts Miles in a unique position regarding his father issues is the time travel quandary he has been presented with. I even am willing to bet this storyline with PF Chang will have an interesting conclusion. As Hurley so eloquently pointed out through his Star Wars metaphor, “Instead of putting his light saber away and talking about it, he over reacted and got his hand cut off. I mean, they worked it out eventually, but at what cost? Another Death Star was destroyed, Boba Fett got eaten by the Sarlacc, and we got the Ewoks. It all could've been avoided if they just, you know, communicated. And let's face it, Ewoks suck, dude.” You better believe the writers don’t want their epic to have Ewoks, so Miles will be speaking to his father. And by doing so he’ll probably learn some interesting things like why his mother got cancer, the nature of the Incident, and why PF Chang was forced to banish his son and mother. I might even be willing to assert that Miles convinces his father to send young him and his Mother away from the island. Heck, when he finds out that The Orchid is for time travel, he might even reveal that he is PF Chang’s son, which will help the other characters support their story.

This whole mess is making too much damn sense. I can’t wait for the inevitable Faraday episode. Hopefully it’ll be next week. And hopefully we’ll get a Frank episode soon. It’s too bad Charlotte was such a useless character. She’s like the Libby of the Freighter Folk.


The other character development in this episode mainly focused on the square (or on the quadrangle as they’re apparently referring to as on because it would seem the writers don’t think anyone cares about anything else as they’ve intertwined the plot of the show with those four. And each of them was pretty much playing their role to the hilt, well, their new roles anyway.

We’ll start with Sawyer because we always start with him in The Midside. He was in control and going after what he wanted. He couldn’t help but brag to Kate that he was the head of Dharma security. When Phil came to him about his having stole Harry Potter, he knocked him out without any apprehension. Finally, when Jack said that Kate’s heart was in the right place, Sawyer asked where her head was. He’s becoming an Objectivist before our eyes, and it brings a tear to mine. Are the writers supporting Objectivism or attacking it through his portrayal? It’s tough to say. Everything falling apart seems to be everyone fault, most notably…

Kate has finally decided to get in touch with her emotions rather than run (perhaps because she can’t run because she’s stuck in 1977) and is completely out of control because of it. The only reason she felt the need to talk to Uncle Rico about Harry Potter being missing is because she identified with his pain and wished someone had alleviated hers. From a Randian perspective, perhaps you could argue she was looking out for herself because she was trying to create a world she wanted to live in, but I would argue that she isn’t taking all the factors into consideration, as she is ignoring his alcoholism and stupidity and their need to keep their cover. Is Kate showing character growth? Actually, yes, but I’m not sure it’s in the right direction.

Likewise, Jack finally seems calm, cool, and collected. He came to Sawyer, gave him some information, and peaced out. He talked to Uncle Rico, even talked him down, and did so rationally and with self control. He seems to enjoy being a cog in the system rather than running the system. And you know what the truth is? Before you can run the system, you first need to be a cog in it. You have to understand how it works before you pick it apart and run it. Why do you think you have to be at least 35 and have lived in the country for 35 years to be President of the United States of America? The only problem is that he may be straying in the direction of Locke and Ben, exalting the island, but we’ve been over that point before.

Juliet, unlike the other three characters, doesn’t seem to be showing any growth at all. When Roger is upset, all she does is try to calm him down, because calm is good. (Although, her need to calm people down proves she works well with Sawyer. She can calm them down. He can talk to them.) Likewise, when something goes wrong, she gives us her vintage response, “Well, here we go.” Yes, Juliet, don’t come up with a plan or anything, just see what happens.

And I’m not even going to address Hurley re-writing The Empire Strikes Back. I hate Star Wars. There, I said it, and it’s finally in writing. George Lucas rant aside, Hurley’s relationship with Miles is similar to his relationship with Sawyer. He’s just so good natured he can get along with anyone. Also, if you didn’t understand why he likes being a cook, it’s because he’s fat. I just thought I’d clear that mystery up for you. I know it’s a relief because there’s so many to keep track of.


There are two main things to talk about this week: two Dharma stations and the van incident. We’ll start with the Dharma stations, as they were in the episode more. We learned two very important facts about The Orchid and The Swan. First, they were built after Dharma arrives on the island. That information means that if the Swan was indeed retrofitted, it was after the Incident. Second, the two stations were built at the same time. That information creates the perception that they work together. Consider the following:

We know that The Orchid is for time travel. We know that The Swan contained electromagnetic energy and released it (after the incident). We also know that the flashforwards and time travel didn’t start until after The Swan was destroyed. Did The Swan and The Orchid originally work together to harness the time travel of the island? Then, there was an incident and The Swan was used to stop the time travel of the island rather than control it. That way, people could come and go from the island whenever they wanted, as it stayed in a static place. Notice how the sub only returns to the island every so often in 1977. The island is only in 1977 every so often. Likewise, this idea explains why Ben wasn’t upset when the sky flashed purple. The island was being freed from its constraints. Finally, this idea explains why Radzinsky told Kelvin pushing the button was saving the world. If the island was traveling through time, it would give people the ability to mess with the time line. I don’t think my explanation is the final answer, Regis, but it’s close.

On the other note, Miles was pulled into a van by Hoodie Ninjas where he was confronted by Bram, Illana’s associate on the island. He asked Miles the same question that he and Illana asked Frank on the island, “Do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue?” This event seems to confirm that the duo isn’t sick on the island. Also, the entire scene seems to raise the idea that there is another person “playing” against Widmore. This idea would make sense, as Ben’s edge has kind of disappeared as of late. Who could this other person be? What if it’s Richard Alpert? He leaves the island a lot. He could be amassing an army while off of it. Who else would know what lies in the shadow of the statue? If anyone has more knowledge about the island than Widmore or Ben, it’s Alpert. Finally, it’s interesting that Bram used the words “team” and “win.” This language harkens back to Locke’s “two players, one light, one dark” from Season One.


To close, I quote Hurley from this episode: “Why don't we carpool? It'll help with global warming, which hasn't happened yet, so maybe we can prevent it.”

…and in one simple line, the writers of LOST completely owned global warming.

Oh, and if you’re feeling Emo, go to Ann Arbor and visit the University of Michigan. They have the cure there. And if you disagree with that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

(PS: The cure for Emo is Tom Brady.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Midside: S5E12 Dead is Dead

Here we go again. Another week, another episode of LOST, another edition of the Midside. Are you sick of it yet? I hope not, because if you are, I’m writing for an audience of one, and my thoughts are sufficient to satisfy me. You have no idea how many I have and how fast they go. If I were to twitter, it’d be out of control. You’d be getting updates every five seconds because of some great revelation I just had. And I’m not even joking. I’m mocking, but I’m not joking.

However, it’s all irrelevant. This column isn’t about me. It’s about the dichotomous television program we’ve come to call LOST. Why would I describe it as dichotomous? There is essentially two different stories being told: The Triforce of LOSTdom (Locke/Ben/Widmore) and The Survivors and Friends. Obviously, there must necessarily be some crossover between the two tales, as they are both smaller segments of a much greater narrative, but pretty generally the characters stay to their separate corners. Well, they do except for one notable exception: Richard Alpert. His importance is apparent again.

The Triforce of LOSTdom plot has subtly been in the show since S1, yes, through Locke, but most notably through Ethan. At that point in the show, Locke was still part of The Survivors, and thus his story was still a guy trying to survive on a mystical island. Since then, the Triforce plot became more and more important until it finally took center stage during the mini-arc over the first part of S3. Since then, it has directly interacted with certain characters, most recently Sun.

True, it also interacted with Frank, but we saw what happened to him. He reached his breaking point and might end up dead because of it. So, next time you try to come at LOST rationally remember Frank. Now we’re ready to take another journey into the Midside, one that will surely be muddled as we only have one section to cover three characters.


We’ve finally reached the shift in the Ben-Locke dynamic that has been teased since, arguably, S2. Ben was acting like Locke, and Locke was acting like Ben. The most important character to look at this episode is, of course, Ben, as the story was all his. However, before we delve into all that crap, it’s also important to note the heavy inclusion of Charles Widmore in this episode. He was perhaps in it more than Locke. His presence, and the portrayal of his time as leader of the island, means we now know about three separate island eras: Widmore, Linus, Locke. Each are marked by separate philosophical trends which I’ll delve into in a minute (and yes, Widmore is still a good guy).

Here we finally saw Ben for what he is: weak, sniveling, manipulative, and unknowing. OK, so we knew about manipulative and I’ve always supposed the rest, but it as all still in the example. The first view we got of him was his manipulative side, and it was a perfect example of how he works. When talking with Caesar, he convinced him Locke was never on the plane and that he (Ben) was the good guy. He achieved this lie by playing on Caesar’s lack of information and paranoia. Ben had a little bit more information than Caesar (ok, so maybe a lot more) and used it to eventually shoot him. I’m not exactly sure what the point of getting Caesar on his side was besides maybe having an ace in the hole in the long run. Of course, isn’t that how Ben works? Always have a contingency plan.

And that’s an easy trick to manipulation: find the people who know the least and exploit them. It’s especially easy to pull one over on them if they don’t have an established opinion of you. Caesar had no idea who Ben was, so Ben could play innocent. Although, I have to wonder if Caesar was sick, as it appears Ilana and company maybe. Of course, they didn’t exactly seem trusting of Ben, so if Caesar were sick, he probably wouldn’t have trusted Ben either. Regardless, hopefully he’s not dead, as he would feel like a waste of a character. If he is, I guess that would make him the S5 Arzt. You’d think I’d start expecting these random minor characters to die. The second I start to though, they’ll all live.

Next, we saw him as weak, sniveling, and unknowing through his interactions with Locke and the Monster, which they don’t have a name for (really, they don’t have a name for the monster? Come on now!). Now that Jacob (or the island or whoever) has picked Locke as the new “leader,” Ben has no idea how to deal with him. We can see this confusion in two key quotes from his conversation with Sun.

First, he said: “Dead is dead. You don't get to come back from that, not even here, so the fact that John Locke is walking around this island scares the living hell out of me.” Except, Dead obviously isn’t dead on the island. Christian is alive and walking around (or is he?). Locke is alive and walking around (or is he?). Clearly, there are things going on Ben isn’t aware of, and it scares the crap out of him. However, Christian and Locke could both just be apparitions of the Monster (which could just be Jacob/the island). Consider how the Monster has taken many forms throughout the series, most notably Yemi and Alex. It’s not that far fetched to think it took Christian and Locke’s forms, except that neither of their bodies are in their respective coffins. Dead isn’t dead for my money. Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Second, he said, in a clever bit of writing because he was actually anticipating the Monster: “Because what's about to come out of that jungle is something I can't control.” Locke then immediately walked out of the jungle, and we realized that since Ben met Locke he has been unable to control him. Locke has always been kind of a wild card, especially ever since he became the “leader.”

Even more notable is how confident and Ben-like Locke was acting in this episode. He always had something rude or condescending to say to Ben. He always acted like he knew exactly what was going on, even if he didn’t. When Ben tells him he doesn’t know the first thing about what the island would want, he asks Ben if he’s sure. When Sun wants to find Jin, he says he has a plan. How exactly does he know how to travel to the past to get Jin? Is his plan to go back to the Orchid? It can’t be, as that would kick him off the island again. Later, when Ben asks him how he knows where he’s going he says he just does. If it hadn’t been Locke speaking that line, I would have thought Sarnoff and Vaughn wrote that dialogue for Ben. Finally, Locke was the one leading Ben to be judged.

Ben’s judgment was little more than a more concrete/explicit version of what we saw with Eko. I don’t understand why people are freaking out over the scene/episode and telling me it was huge. The Monster surrounded Ben and showed him flashbacks? Yeah, after Eko was killed because of the flashes in the Monster then I supposed that all the show’s flashbacks come from the Monster and they are all always being judged. The Monster took the form of Alex and communicated with Ben, demanding something of him? Yeah, remember when it took the form of Yemi and tried to make Eko apologize for his sins? I do. Maybe my problem is I just remember too much about LOST.

What’s most important is that Alex demanded power be transferred to Locke, and Ben agreed not to kill him, as he was supposedly plotting. The Ben era is finally over and its finality has some interesting implications regarding Alpert and Widmore. In regards to Alpert, Richard seemed to have picked Locke as the leader back in S3 when he sent him after Sawyer to have his father killed and acted as if he were the leader ever since. This seemingly the same goal as the Monster makes me wonder if there is some relationship between Alpert and the Monster. There has to be other ways to summon it besides an old school drain inside of a secret room inside of a secret room. Besides, it already seems like the Monster is connected to Jacob and Alpert is connected to Jacob, they all have to be connected, right?

The end of the Ben era makes me also consider the end of the Widmore era. Interestingly, the only time we ever really saw Widmore in control is when he talked to Harry Potter, after that scene it was always Ben undermining his leadership, as Locke undermined Ben’s leadership from the latter half of S3 on. The first thing I want to discuss is Widmore’s banishment. Supposedly, he was banished for continually leaving the island or, essentially, acting of his own free will and not doing what the island wants. Near the end of S4 and this season, Ben has tried to act like leaving the island is wrong. However, we have seen several characters off the island throughout the series that we know were on it before and after the scene: Ben, Locke, Alpert, and Ethan. Oh yeah, and the Oceanic Six (minus Aaron). I don’t think leaving the island was a problem for the island.

I think it was an excuse Ben used to get Widmore kicked off the island. What’s interesting is their exchange regarding this “offense:”

Widmore: "And what makes you think you deserve to take what's mine?"
Ben: "Because I won't be selfish. Because I'll sacrifice anything to protect this island."

Ben is essentially a thief who stole Widmore’s position as leader of the island. This exchange of power is especially interesting to consider when we realize Locke didn’t steal Ben’s power, it was given to him. Regardless, we see two important contrasting philosophical ideas here: selfishness vs. altruism. This dichotomy is especially important to consider with Sawyer’s apparent rise to power with a Randian perspective from The Fountainhead. Rand is all about being selfish (not self centered, there’s a difference) and despises the ethic of altruism in our culture. Likewise, Sawyer has always been “every man for himself.” In contrast, Jack, who allied with Ben early in this season, has always been the altruist “live together, die alone.” As I’ve said repeatedly throughout the series, Ben and Jack have done the most wrong, whereas Widmore and Sawyer have done the most good. Are we actually entering the final arc or will there be a double twist and Ben and Jack will see their rise to power again? I hope the former is true and not the latter.

But wait a minute, Jay, isn’t Widmore bad because he wanted to kill Alex as a baby? Even Ben realizes, apparently, that children are sacred. It’s an interesting turn of events that even Ben protects children on this show. They seem to be the one sacred cow. However, people like Ben with childlike mentalities often identify with children the most and thus want to protect them. Go read “Catcher in the Rye” if you don’t want to believe me (or want to torture yourself. I hate that book). I don’t believe Widmore is at fault for the Alex situation for two reasons. The first can be revealed through the second half of his conversation with Ben on the dock:

Widmore: "And what makes you think you deserve to take what's mine?"
Ben: "Because I won't be selfish. Because I'll sacrifice anything to protect this island."
Widmore: "You wouldn't sacrifice Alex."
Ben: "You're the one who wanted her dead, Charles. Not the island."
Widmore: "I hope you're right, Benjamin. Because if you aren't, and it is the island that wants her dead, she'll be dead. And one day, you'll be standing where I'm standing now. You'll be the one being banished. And then you'll finally realize that you cannot fight the inevitable. I'll be seeing you, boy."

Alex did die eventually, proving Widmore was right. In fact, you could even argue that the island (or Jacob or what/who/whenever) needed Widmore to try to force Ben to kill Alex so Ben would protect her so fervently and then she would be killed by Keamy ever. Remember, it could all be part of a course correction in time. Interestingly, Ben was never banished however. This inconsistency in Widmore’s statement can be possibly rectified for two reasons. On one hand, Ben was the one banishing Widmore, not the island, but that all could have been part of the island’s plan as it does use people to do its bidding. On the other hand, Widmore seemingly stopped looking up to the island like a father figure as he made decisions on his own. Maybe he was banished for his lack of faith and no other reason. What’s interesting is he said he was never able to get back. (And, by the way, I still think he could have founded Dharma during his times off the island and that’s how he got rich). Besides, there’s another reason the Alex situation doesn’t make Widmore evil.

Widmore wouldn’t kill Alex. Ben tried to turn it around on him by telling him to kill the baby. Widmore just walked away. Once again, when given the choice to do something bad, we see Widmore not do it. In fact, the only seemingly “bad” things we’ve seen Widmore done throughout this show are own a company, be mean to Desmond, and act in his self interest. Meanwhile, Ben continues to shoot and manipulate people.

While we haven’t seen much of Widmore’s time as leader, it would seem each of the three eras of the Triforce of LOSTdom had/have a distinct flavor to them. Widmore’s seemed like it was always at odds with some opposing force (the American military, Dharma). Ben’s seemed more peaceful, but only after genocide and through continued “the ends justify the means” ideology. Locke’s would seem to be a return to the state of nature, as his namesake would suggest. The interesting thought is that perhaps the island picks leaders based on what is occurring on the island. It’s hard to know why it picked Widmore without learning more about his past (can we get a Widmore flashback please?), but it seemed to pick Ben because it needed a sociopath to eliminate the Dharma people (who probably came from Widmore) and it seemed to pick Locke to move away from the violent turmoil of Ben’s leadership. Is a new leader constantly being picked because of the shortcomings of the old one? If so, why is Locke so important? Why is his story the one being told? We started with him coming to the island and not Widmore or Ben.

These are all things to think about as we forge ahead into the rest of the season.


What lies in the shadow of the statue? Isn’t it the temple? Or is it the Orchid? Is that question some kind of password or do Ilana and company legitimately want to know? Are they sick of did someone, such as Widmore, send them? Their twist in the storyline is incredibly intriguing to me, especially considering Ilana brought Sayid back to the island (after refusing to change flights) and we can pretty safely say Ben didn’t break Hurley out of jail. I’ll be interested to see Hurley’s episode (which is probably next considering the next episode is called “Some Like It Hoth) and how these characters play into it all.

And I don’t proofread this week out of laziness, so if you’re mad at me about that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.