Monday, April 26, 2010

The Midside: LOST S6E13 The Last Recruit

aka All You Need to Know for the Last Four Episodes (of LOST)

I’d like to congratulate you. You’ve officially made it. Six arduous years later and you’re here, reading this column, waiting through the final LOST hiatus ever, in over your head with the rest of us. With this newest episode, the end of LOST is finally upon us. There will be no more extraneous episodes about the meaning of Jack’s tattoos or Nikki and Paulo’s diamond heist. (Now you understand the critiques of S3.) There will be no more exposition. There might not even be any more questions (I take that one back). No, from here on out, it’s going to be all action: Resolving action, falling action, action action. LOST is about to kick our butts, but mostly our minds.

First though, a set up episode was necessary, and that’s exactly what we got in "The Last Recruit." I’ve heard people call other episodes in the history of this show and other shows set up episodes, but none of those come close to setting up things the way this episode did. Hell, even the flash sideways didn’t go anywhere. The episode didn’t even revolve around one character. Besides season premieres and finales, the only other times a multitude of characters were the center of an episode were “The Other 48 Days” in S2 and “Confirmed Dead” in S4. All of these choices were made because it’s finally time to address the mythology for the final time.

Like S4, this episode took the focus off of the characters and put it back on fast movement towards reveals. Some people value this style of show because it keeps them constantly engaged. I call them fans of Heroes and Chuck. I understand the need to have episodes such as this one sometimes, but I don’t favor them because they take depth away from the story, most notably away from the characters, the heart of any story. I’m not attempting to argue that this episode was awful, however. Though it was arguably the worst of the season, it served its purpose well and had some strong moments. I’m simply trying to guide us on the path we must follow on our week off. (Oh no, he’s acting like Jacob; what a hypocrite!)

Consider this my set up for the ending of LOST, my argument as to how you should prepare yourself to properly enjoy and understand it. To start with, we’re going to look at the words of one of the show runners Damon Lindelof. In a recent interview with Wired, he explicated the basic theme/question of the show:
“It’s order versus chaos, which is what it always was. But first it had to start as science versus faith, because Jack is a doctor and Locke is a guy who got up from his wheelchair and walked. Now the question has been boiled down to its essential root—is there a God or is there nothingness?”
Sounds a lot like what I’ve been saying all season, doesn’t it? In this journey into The Midside, I’m going to examine the two sides of the (somewhat false) dichotomy Lindelof has created here. Then, I’ll look at the show from two perspectives. From the writers’ perspective, I’ll discuss the main technique they’re using to tell us about this universe, the same technique that makes any good mystery story work: Inversion. From the characters’ perspective, I’ll discuss how they’re supposed to live in this universe (the methodology) as I have been all season, rational self-interest, and then close with where the characters are trying to end up, “Happily Ever After,” by picking apart what it exactly means. Oh, and throughout all this information I’m going to be referring to tidbits from “The Last Recruit” as evidence. Yeah, I’m that good.

Sorry that was so academic sounding, sometimes you just have to lay it out there like that. I tried to keep it terse though, and to keep the jargon to a minimum. Anyway, buckle your seatbelts, it’s time we pressed the gas…


One of the biggest arguments about LOST that will rage on past the finale is the importance of Jack. Is he the main character? Is he a commentary on the typical main character in such group dramas? Was he supposed to be the main character, but his role was lessened due to a number of factors including audience response, Public Relations problems, and Matthew Fox’s poor relationships with the cast? You have to answer these questions for yourself based upon the evidence you see, but I will tell you the following. Jack is extremely philosophically important to the show and how should have been clear to you in this episode.

This episode sets up three things concerning Jack. 1. His relationship to the 815ers. 2. His relationship with MiB. 3. His relationship to the island. Numbers two and three can’t be separated in any sort of discussion, as that is the choice he will ultimately have to make, trust MiB or “the island,” but we can look at his relationship with the 815ers differently because that is the choice he made in this episode when he jumped from the boat. When your friends are all going one way and you decide to go the other, the statement is pretty clear.

Still, though Jack left everyone behind, one point was yelled to us in this episode. He is bound to Claire and won’t be able to escape her. In the original universe, we saw how important he is to her, and we’re left to wonder how she’s feels about him jumping off the boat. The two people she trusts the most are back on the main island. She can’t like that fact. In the parallel universe, Jack P and Claire P met for the first time at Christian P’s will reading. Jack then, of course, ran off to the hospital, but I can’t see why they would have this introduction, of the characters and plot element, if it’s not going anywhere. As for Jack and Kate, sorry shippers, if they go anywhere with that relationship now, I just won’t believe it. This season has been completely devoid of anything between them except for small glances. Jack has clearly tied himself to figuring out what is going on with the island.

Basically, it all boils down to candidacy, which directly addresses questions one and two. By returning to the island, Jack committed himself to picking a side between the MiB and Jacob. Except, in Jack’s estimation, he is picking between the MiB and the island, as I’m not sure he understands the full scope of Jacob’s involvement. Regardless of his knowledge of Jacob, what he has done with this choice is make himself the last remaining candidate and the next Jacob. That’s what you need to understand about Jack, and to understand the full depth of that character growth, we need to look at the scene where he explained himself.

The conversation between Jack and Sawyer on the bow of the boat was by far the best part of the episode. It is an instant classic LOST moment, perhaps the last, but hopefully not, not-so-overtly-yet-still philosophical conversation between the pair. Their disagreement harkens back to all their conversations, from the S5 fight to the S1 “looting” of the fuselage. Essentially, Jack is defining himself externally, reacting to the world in an attempt to fix “the part” of him that “feels” the “mistake.” This outlook manifests in his loyalty to the island. Sawyer is defining himself internally, pursuing what he wants. We can see this difference most clearly at the end of their conversation. Jack says what the island wants with him. Sawyer says what he wants the island. Here’s the entire conversation:
Jack: “It doesn’t feel right.”
Sawyer: ‘What doesn’t feel right?”
Jack: “Leaving the island.”
Sawyer: “Wanna tell me why not?”
Jack: “Because I remember how I felt last time I left, like a part of me was missing.”
Sawyer: “They got pills for that, Doc.”
Jack: “We were brought here because we were supposed to do something, James, and if Locke, if that thing, wants us to leave, maybe it’s afraid of what happens if we stay.”
Sawyer: “Get off my damn boat.”
Jack: “What?”
Sawyer: “You got a decision to make, and you make it now. Either you’re with us, you keep that damn crazy talk to yourself, or you’re going in the water.”
Jack: “James, this is a mistake, and I know there’s a part of you that feels that. The island’s not done with us yet.”
Sawyer: “Yeah, well, I’m done with this island. So, if you want to take a leap of faith, Jack, then take it. Get off my damn boat.”
This sharp distinction between the pair continues moments later as the writers deftly distinguish their differences with one line of dialogue. Kate, as she refused to run away from Hydra Island in S3, doesn’t want to let jack float back to the island. She challenges Sawyer’s decision:
Kate: “We have to go back and get him.”
Sawyer: “We’re done going back, Kate.”
Sawyer’s line is a clear call back to Jack’s iconic line in “Through the Looking Glass.” Jack still thinks they have to go back, but Sawyer refuses, finally saying the line I’ve been waiting for someone to say since Jack first issued his mandate. There was never any evidence they had to return, and that’s what makes Jack’s character change so evident. He clearly has gone from a man of science to a man of faith. (The irony is, of course, that is was Sawyer in the parallel universe that said the faith-like line, "It's almost like someone's trying to put us together,” referring to himself and Kate P after her car smashed into his, though I have to wonder if he was just flirting when he said that.)

As I’ve stated many times before, the theme of faith in LOST has been a proper metaphysical critique. Faith is anti-knowledge, as you are sidelining your rational mind by unquestioningly trusting an external source. Jack is now doing so with the island, and this concept was otherwise best demonstrated in the episode by Claire. Her initial conversation with Jack about the MiB went as follows:
Jack: "Actually, I haven't decided if I'm coming with you."
Claire: "Yeah you have.
Jack: "What do you mean?"
Claire: "You decided the moment you let him talk to you, just like the rest of us. Just so you know, whether you like it or not, you're with him now."
What Claire is explicating here is how her mind turns off when she trusted the MiB. His judgment overrode hers. This is exactly how faith operates. However, Claire clearly contradicts this supposed belief of hers at the end of the episode when Kate convinces her to get on the boat. Notice how Kate appealed to her values to change her mind (more on this later). Her faith was lost when she began to think about herself. The most interesting development here is that it’s much clearer that the MiB is also being seen in a faith-like manner. As he told Richard talking to Jacob was bad, Dogen told Sayid talking to him was bad. If Jacob really is the argument for God and the MiB is the argument for nothingness, then the writers may be arguing that belief in either equates to faith and is thus equally bad. It’s an interesting point that I would be impressed if they finished with.

At the end of the episode, Jack has seemingly fallen prey to faith in the MiB as explicated by Claire. However, I believe the line, “You’re with me now,” will take on a different meaning by show’s end. Does the MiB believe he has recruited Jack? Yes. Has he? No. Rather, where they both are together is trapped on the island forever as the cycle begins again with Jack as the new Jacob and Locke as the new MiB.


The forgotten center of LOST is John Locke. With a total of ten centric episodes (only counting episodes that had flashes exclusively for his character), he comes in at a mere one behind Jack. The only other two characters who come close to Jack and Locke’s episode tally are Kate, also with ten, and Sun, with nine. Locke even took a centric episode away from Sawyer, as “The Brig” should have been all about Sawyer because hunting the real Sawyer was his arc for the first three seasons. Yes, Locke has been the other side of the coin to Jack since S1, and Jack has always said he was “going to have a Locke problem.” Now, it’s not exactly a Locke problem, but the character was so important, that one of the most philosophically important characters has taken his image as his own, even to the point that there’s confusion as to what Sun P means when she looks at Locke P and says “It’s him.” Why have things developed this way? Because, if we refer back to the Lindelof quote in the introduction, Locke’s arc has always been about the failings of faith, so it’s logical for him to become associated with the “nothing” side of things.

The most insane moment of this episode was the conversation between Jack and the MiB. Literally, everything I’ve been claiming about Locke’s arc since, well forever really, was spelled out by the MiB. Does this voicing of my ideas in the show demonstrate the truth value behind them? I certainly think so, but if you don’t come down on the side of “nothingness,” then you’re going to disagree. At the very least, it speaks to how well I understand the show. Here I have to refer to Dr. Cox. Here’s the exchange:
Jack: “Why John Locke?”
MIB: “Because he was stupid enough to believe he was brought here for a reason, because he pursued that belief until it got him killed, and because you were kind enough to bring his body back here in a nice wooden box.”

Jack: “John Locke was the only one of us who ever believed in this place. He did everything he could to keep us from leaving this island.”
MiB: “John Locke was not a believer, Jack. He was a sucker.”
To briefly rehash, Locke’s self-esteem was so low and self-defined by his relationship with his father, that he sought out another external factor to replace that father figure and give him self-esteem. The island became that new father figure, especially after it healed him so that he could walk again. Locke was a sucker because he bought into Jacob’s game hook, line, and sinker the same way Jack currently is. You see, Jacob creates the same (false) dichotomy that Lindelof explicated in the quote in the introduction. He makes it seem as if you believe in him, or the world will be evil--as without him there is nothing. The problem with that position is it’s observationally false and metaphysically dishonest.

Nothingingness doesn’t mean there is nothing; it means there’s nothing more. Observationally, there is something. We see it around us every day. It’s called existence. Metaphysically, what that means is the meaning of our lives is to live them. It’s a really simple idea, I know, but one we never hear. Why is that? Because people like Jacob perform a metaphysical conceit on us. They tell us the searching for “the meaning of life” will never be complete because there must be more than existence, there must be more than us. They then subtly twist this statement and tell us, if there is something more, that is what’s really important, and thus what is and what we know is nothing. Notice how Jacob does the same in his conversation with Richard in “Ab Aeterno.” He essentially convinces Richard “if you don’t choose me, evil will corrupt everyone” or, in other words, “if you don’t choose my something, everyone will become nothing as their souls will be lost to sin.” It’s a very deft rhetorical tactic, except that it's not true, and the writers showed us how in this episode as Sawyer and Hurley discussed who to take on the boat with them:
Hurley: “What about Sayid?”
Sawyer: “Sayid ain’t invited. He’s gone over to the dark side.”
Hurley: “Yeah, but you can always bring people back from the dark side. I mean, Anakin.”
You can bring people back? But, once they are corrupted, they’re corrupted, right? Once they become nothing, as we’re supposed to believe Sayid is now, they can’t ever be something. Except, maybe Sayid isn’t nothing. Maybe our entire conception of nothingness is wrong. Maybe it’s more like I’ve outlined it above. Really, nothingness is impossible or, at the very least, irrelevant, because in order for us to even be talking, there has to be something, making a discussion self-defeating--a false paradox.


This type of false paradox is what the writers have been utilizing to continually hit us over the head with the best method to make a mystery: inversion. It works as follows. You set up a situation. You set up what is normal in that situation. You set up expectations. You fill expectations. At the end, you defy those expectations by showing that what was accepted as normal is not actually normal. The writers have done this in small ways throughout the series, but, as Lindelof describes in another quote from the same Wired interview, the entire series itself has been one long inversion:
“The paradigm has shifted from [man of science versus man of faith] to, were we brought here for a very specific reason, and what is that reason? Locke is now the voice of a very large subset of the audience who believes that when LOST is all said and done, we will have wasted six years of our lives, that we were making it up as we went along, and that there’s really no purpose. And Jack is now saying, ‘the only thing I have left to cling to is that there’s got to be something really cool that’s going to happen, because I have really, really fucking suffered.’”
Now think back to the beginning. Jack was freaking out because he saw his father walking around. Now think back to S2. Jack refused to push the button. Now think back to now, err. Jack is completely the main of faith whereas Locke, the old man of faith, is dead, and someone else is using his image. There has to be an identity theft joke in here somewhere. What’s my point? They’ve inverted things, and we’ve accepted it. Why? Because they’re not really inverting things; they’re showing them for what they actually are. The difference between Jack and Locke, Jacob and the MiB, isn’t that big. In fact, I believe Sawyer told Kate the same thing back-in-the-day, referring to himself and Jack. “The difference between us ain’t that big, sweetheart.”

Whatever you’re expecting to happen, expect the opposite. Whatever you think is true/good, think the opposite. Me? I’m lucky enough that I think differently already that when they invert, they’re more in line with my thinking than before they invert. Ever read the book Atlas Shrugged? Well, I even saw that inversion coming. It was so obvious to me that the book isn’t really a mystery novel in my eyes. Of course, these observations are what I’ve been sharing with you since The Midside came into existence, so you’re already on the right path, the path to understanding the importance of self-interest.


Before you can properly exist in the world, you must accept that the world exists independently, that you can understand it, and then attempt to understand it. Only when you do that can you begin to properly be self-interested because you have a proper sense of context in order to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world in order to best understand yourself. Those two types of intellectual explorations are what LOST is all about.

LOST began as an opening up of our eyes to the world. Why do you think a convention for so long was the close up of the eye opening? It all began in the “Pilot” and was perfectly punctuated with the Charlie quip, “Guys, where are we?” It’s kind of like life. Here’s the world. Let’s figure out where we are. And that’s what everyone did most of the first three seasons, fans and characters alike. Except, along the way, we all got entwined. Each of us not only found characters we identified with, but situations and relationships we preferred them to be in, choices we preferred them to make. Should they shoot the Marshall or keep him alive? What should they do with the b-o-d-y-s? Should Locke be punished for Boone’s death? Should they open the hatch? Should they push the button? Just like life, you’re forced to start making decisions before you have all the tools to make those decisions.

Then came S6 and the mirror moments, something I haven’t really talked about as of yet. Up to this point, we thought we had it all figured out, flashback, flashforward, time travel, the island moves, there was DHARMA, ok, this is a piece of cake. The characters thought that way too. Daniel Faraday was introduced to us. He explained all the rules. Then, he learned, as was the journey of S5, and we finally knew enough to make an epic decision. Let’s blow up a nuclear bomb to change the timeline. It’ll stop the crash. Except it didn’t. And it did.

The parallel universe was born and the mirror moments began. In every flashsideways, a character would see a reflection of himself and make a change. In other words, he was forced to look at who he was, what he wanted, and make whatever the decision was based upon that. Kate P sees one and decides to help Claire P, something that took her a four and half seasons to do normally. Locke P looks in his mirror right before he tries to call Jack P, but decides to hang up in the process. Jack P looks into a mirror twice, both times considering his past and how he got to where he was. Sawyer P punches the mirror before he decides to open up to Miles. All of these moments, and the ones I didn’t mention, become more concrete when Desmond travel’s between the two universes and understands the kind of self-knowledge that can give you.

Desmond P seeing Charlie P put his hand to the glass was literally a mirror moment and it caused him to remember/learn about the original timeline. Likewise, Hurley P kissing Libby P was literally a mirror moment and had the same effect. The theme of both of these episodes was the character finding true happiness by taking an interest in himself. No more would Desmond P live for Widmore P. No more would Hugo P live for everyone else (p?). They would pursue what they themselves wanted, and by doing so would gain the self-knowledge to finally live happily ever after.


The one thing I’m most uncomfortable about concerning LOST is that they’ve seemingly linked a happy ending with finding true love. Twice in “The Last Recruit,” Jin and Sun finding each other was linked with some sort of finality. In the original timeline, Jin said, “Well never be apart again. I promise you.” In the parallel timeline, the line was much stronger, as Jin said, “It’s over, and we’re all going to be ok.” Yeah, I saw Slumdog Millionaire. I didn’t buy the ending. Then again, maybe I’m just letting my personal experiences through and being bitter about issue rather than addressing it objectively. Humans are social creatures. Part of the point of our lives is to bond and procreate. Still, to dumb us down to a purely biological level is wrong, and the writers have been sure not to do so.

In “The Last Recruit,” the scene between Desmond and Sayid was very telling about the idea of “happily ever after.” Desmond asks Sayid why it is Sayid is going to shoot him. Sayid explains, and Desmond essentially asks him if that is sound reasoning, by referring to how Nadia would assess the action if he went through with it:
Desmond: “So what will you tell her?”
Sayid: “What do you mean?”
Desmond: “This woman, when she asks you what you did to be with her again, what will you tell her?”
Sayid then doesn’t shoot Desmond and even lies to the MiB about it. Desmond’s appeal was completely based upon values and, like Kate’s appeal to Claire; it seems to have brought Sayid back from wherever he was. Essentially, Desmond was saying that without the proper values to base a relationship on, a relationship is meaningless. Proper values are come to through self-interest. So, in other words, the writers are demonstrating a good end to a journey of self-interest through emphasizing the importance of proper values to a relationship. By these characters attaining strong relationships, it shows their character growth. Look at Sawyer and Juliet. Those two characters didn’t really belong together, their senses of life were so divergent, but their relationship was strong, and beloved by fans, because it represented the result of personal growth for both of them, especially Sawyer

It all really makes you look at the triangle in a new light.
(Yeah, I mentioned the triangle again. What now?)


It’s been a long time coming, but here it is, the end of the setup for the end of LOST. Now we can journey forward into the last four episodes and past the ending of the show to the rest of our lives. When it is all said and done, and you want to know what it all means, I ask that you only do one thing:

Think about it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Midside: LOST S6E12 Everybody Loves Hugo

Columns are a waypoint in LOST fandom. They serve as both alleviation for and worsening of your addiction. For an ever so brief moment, your jonesing stop, but soon begins again tenfold. Call them the Virgin Mary statue filled with LOST information. You’re going to need a whole stash of them because each one is really only about a quarter of the actual experience of watching an episode. In fact, the really good ones will make you do just that, go back and watch an episode again.

Columns come in many forms. There’s the recap column that rehashes everything that happens for your…memory? I‘m not really sure what the point of the recap column is. I’m always disappointed when I decide to venture into the wild of the internets (is that redundant?) and read a new column and it’s just a recap. Some say they’re more than a recap, but their new information is neither new nor insightful. Then there’s the “what can I connect LOST to” column. In this type, the author likes to take every reference the writers make and have it explain the entirety of the show (see: Doc Jensen). The close cousin of this variety is the “I’m going to be the first to come up with this theory” column. It’s exactly how it sounds, coming up with the most insane idea about the show before anyone else. It’s not really about theorizing though. It’s more an internet-ego-test for the writer. (see: Doc Jensen)

Then there’s The Midside, which is all of these things and more. Wait, no, it’s none of those things. I do like to be the first to come up with a theory, but only if it’s right. I don’t really read the message boards anymore (mainly because I’ve been banned from every one of them) either, so I don’t really have a point of comparison anyway. I think my riff of defending the MiB is pretty novel though, and I don’t see anyone else taking the self interest angle. Regardless, we can all agree, everybody loves The Midside. From humble beginnings to mass fortune to giving back, it is a model citizen, one we can all look up to for lacking an identity.

Wait, what? No, The Midside is a journey into the philosophy of LOST as embodied by the characters and mythology (but mainly the characters). The reason you keep coming back for more is (I hope) that you gain a deeper insight into your favorite Tuesday night friends. (No, not the cast of Glee. I could deal with Sue Sylvester on the island though. And Rachel. Yes, definitely Rachel.) My problem for preferring a, shall-we-say, off balanced type of woman aside (a parenthetical is an aside, J), I like to believe The Midside is unique in LOST fandom. I know I’m probably fooling myself.

Why did I start this column this way? I’m attempting to emulate PF Chang P’s (that’s a lot of initials) speech at the beginning of the episode. It was a unique opening that both caught my attention and gave us Hurley P’s back story. It also served as a joke about the entire series. No matter what happens, whether you like Jack or Sawyer, Kate or Juliet, the MiB or Jacob, we can all pretty much agree on Hurley’s likability. The episode continued in that direction, even trying to serve us with a mini-twist because of it. Before their arrival at the MiB’s camp, Jack and Hurley had switched places.

I’m aware (wolf) that claim is large and enticing. Why do you think I put it in there? Now you’ll read on as I discuss Hurley P (and self interest), Hurley O (and leadership), and Jack (and being an almost-was). See what I did there?


Hurley is going in different directions in either universe. In the original universe, he is becoming more and more of a pawn (though perhaps the new Jacob). In the parallel universe, he is moving more and more towards self actualization. As has been the trend all season here in The Midside, I believe the parallel universe Is the better universe for Hurley, so we’ll start there.

Once again, in the P universe, the idea of self knowledge and self interest reared it’s commonly-accepted-as-evil head. The writers brought the issue up in a very subtle way as well. In fact, it was so subtle I was worried at first. I thought they were just accepting the general understanding of the issue and running with it. However, I was quickly surprised, very surprised, at how they undermined that cultural convention in a way that probably few understood.

What I’m referring to is the speech PF Chang P gave at the Man of the Year award ceremony. He begins by stating, “In a world of conflict and strife, there is but one fact we all can agree upon. Everybody loves Hugo.” He then goes on to explain Hurley’s story. He was poor. He made Mr. Clucks huge and became rich. Interestingly, we’re never told how he got his first Mr. Clucks. Did he win the lottery and then buy it? Who knows. What we do know is that the reason Hugo is loved is not because he is rich. No, we don’t love rich people in America, we envy them and wait for them to fail. PF Chang P continued:
"But financial success wasn't the end. It was the beginning. Hugo and giving became synonymous."
It was Hurley P’s giving, his charity, his selflessness that made everyone love him. It wasn’t turning a business into a success that earned him adoration, it was giving away what he had earned from that business that did. It’s the commonly accepted America ethic. What you do for other people is what matters. That statement is why I added the word “selflessness.” If you truly embody that ethic, if you worry more about what you do for others than what you do for yourself, than you have no sense of self. Thus, you are selfless. I didn’t think the writers understood this line of logic, but they proved me wrong with the conversation with his mother.

Hurley P’s mother got to the heart of the matter. I didn’t mean that pun when I thought of that sentence, but I’m rolling with it as she brought up Hurley’s lack of a love life which, not so coincidentally, is the theme begun in “Happily Ever After.” She said to Hurley, “Another trophy. Everybody loves Hugo. You know who doesn't? Women.” Her point? Hurley is alone. The broader point? That’s revealed in the next couple lines of dialogue. First, I’d like to make an important distinction. I don’t mean to say that if you’re alone that you don’t have a sense of self or that having a sense of self is determined through having a relationship. Being in a relationship can be just as selfless as doing charity for the wrong reasons. How Hurley lacks self was revealed when his mother brought up a possible blind date. He quickly made up an excuse as to why he’s alone.
Hurley P: “...and I'm too busy to meet someone.”
Hurley's Mother P: “You're not too busy. You're too scared.”
This fear Hurley P’s mother is referring to comes from another issue I’ve addressed in depth in previous columns, most notably when discussing Jack and Ben, self esteem. Hmm, Jack had a big change in this episode, coincidence? (No.) People who lack self esteem will seek the approval of others. Hurley P did so through altruistic behavior. It’s also the reason he didn’t pursue women. Need more proof? How about that Hurley O has acted the same way in the original universe? Remember Starla? Better yet, remember his exchange with Libby O that was replicated in this episode? It all centers on his weight, and we saw this issue in the following exchange while on his date with Libby P:
Hurley P: “Why do you want to be with me?”
Libby P: “What?”
Hurley P: “Come on, look at me.”
Libby P: “I want to be with you because I like you.”
Hurley P: “Yeah, but, you like me because…well, you’re delusional.”
If someone has to ask why someone likes them, they have low self esteem (see: Dan’s discussion of She’s Out of My League). Hurley P then says it has to do with his size. Libby P breaks it down to the simplest level, that she likes him, but his self esteem is so low, he can’t accept it. He calls her delusional. He’s actually lucky Libby is so mature and secure, as most people probably would have flipped out. Anyway, the pair kissed, and Hurley P moved a step closer to self actualization. He addressed his major issue, self esteem problems due to his size, and was able to pursue a value he desired that he previously could not bring himself to, in either universe. In contrast, Hurley O is rapidly losing his sense of self.

The change in Hurley O this episode (and season) and my claim about it may seem contradictory, but they’re not. In fact, Hurley’s rise to power is exemplary of the mentality of the followers of Jacob: listen to somebody else. That’s all any of them are doing. Illana was listening to Jacob, but Jacob told her to listen to Richard, who was originally listening to Jacob, but is now listening to Isabella (who may or may not be listening to Jacob) via Hurley. Hurley is no different.

Not even five minutes into the episode, Hurley was taking orders from everyone else. Most disturbingly, he took orders from Michael of all people. I know Michael is trapped on the island and feeling remorseful, but why would you listen to a murderer? Of course, Hurley’s been acting this way all season, taking orders from Jacob. While it’s true Michael’s plan was more a suggestion than orders, the point remains. Hurley went along with it without questioning it, to the point that he blew up The Black Rock, one of the coolest places on the island. Also notice how right after Michael tells Hurley what to do, Jack walks and tells Hurley, “Come on. We’re leaving.” And what does Hurley do? He listens.

That dynamic, Hurley and Jack, inverts by the end of the episode though. As I’ll discuss in a moment, Jack abdicates his power position to Hurley. Hurley is now officially the leader (which is why Illana had to die in this episode, as she acted like the leader much of the time). This episode was Hurley’s coronation, where the writers showed how being beloved and in charged often carries with it a sense of selflessness. How is Hurley selfless In the original universe? It’s all about what he asks Jack, “Why’d you come with me?” It’s a question that mirrors Hurley P asking Libby P why he likes her, except Hurley O’s question points out something much more dangerous. He took charge without knowing what’s going on. To his credit, he does say that going to see “Locke was his idea,” but he then quickly admits that he has no idea where he’s going. Making choices and decisions without any basis is as selfless as letting other people tell you everything.

Which Hurley do you think is better off, the one who is pursuing Libby and attaining happiness or the one who is basically afraid and leading based on what everyone else is telling him and/or nothing? Clearly, these two version are going in opposite directions.


Similarly, Jack is going in the opposite direction of his parallel self. Whereas Jack P is addressing his issues by understanding and overcoming them (through conversations with his mother and son), Jack O is constructing false dichotomies that undermine his sense of self. Though he finally said a few of the words I’ve been waiting for him to say since S1, he fucked it up in true Jack style. My reaction to his speech went as follows: “What? No way. Yes, good. No….no, no, no. Too far, Jack. Too far!” Why did I react that way? What’s the false dichotomy? First, we need to remember the speech:
“Ever since Juliet died, ever since I got her killed, all I’ve wanted was to fix it. But I can’t. I can’t ever fix it. You have no idea how hard it is for me to sit back and listen to other people tell me what I should do. But I think maybe that’s the point. Maybe, maybe I’m supposed to let go.”
This speech certainly represents a huge turning point for Jack, one that began in S5 and is very similar to when he refused to fix Harry Potter, but it’s a negative transition. It is very good that Jack has finally decided to accept reality. Admitting there is something he can’t fix, that parts of reality are out of his control, is a huge step. However, Jack then uses that acceptance as an excuse to evade by swinging to the other extreme. He’s constructed a false dichotomy along the lines of free will and determinism, and by accepting the latter his abdicating his own moral responsibility as a human being.

Jack’s argument is simple. Either free will means you can control everything up to and including reality itself (we now understand why he thought he could change the past) or you can change nothing at all. This is an extreme form of the free will and determinism debate, one that leads down the path to such ideas as relativism and social constructionism on one hand and religion and nihilism on the other hand. If you can control everything, if you can change time, then everything must be relative to the minds of people and we must construct reality based upon what we believe. Thus, if we all believe strongly enough, we can change the world. Notice how this is an argument of not only many fans of the show, but many people about life in general. On the other hand, if you can’t control everything, than nothing is in our control, we’re merely cogs in a giant cause and effect machine that includes the chemical reactions in our brain we call thoughts. Notice how this argument is similar to Locke’s idea of destiny and Jacob’s idea of touching people and the loom. Now flashback to Jacob’s conversation with Hurley in “Lighthouse.” Was Jacob really letting Jack exercise his free will or had Jacob manipulated the series of casual events such that Jack could only end up giving the this speech in this episode?

(Note: I believe in free will, such that the only way for Jacob’s determinism to hold true is if you believe in determinism. Jack is only seeing that he’s supposed to do something because he wants it to be out of his control. It’s an evasion on his part. By not being morally responsible, he doesn’t have to fix the one thing he has the most control over, himself. Yes, this idea continues the, as I see it, Jacob as God critique.)

Throughout the series Jack has represented the negative views of both sides of one of the major LOST debates: free will and determinism. If there’s free will, he believes in socially engineering everything. If there’s determinism, he believes in doing nothing. Essentially, Jack is an accidental nihilist. Since he doesn’t believe in himself, he holds no values sacred. With free will, that means everything is up for discussion to be changed. In determinism, that means he easily accepts whatever value system is told to him, because none is inherently better than the other as they're all just accidental.

Jack is such a tragic figure. How can he not die or accept a bad fate (such as becoming the new Jacob)?


This week there are three mythology questions: Why did Desmond O have no fear and let the MiB throw him down the well? Why did Desmond P hit Locke P with his car? Are these two Desmonds the same person?

The interesting answer to the first question is that Desmond wasn’t afraid because he doesn’t value the original universe. What he learned from his flashsideways was that there’s a better universe out there and whatever happens in this universe is irrelevant, hence being thrown down the well doesn’t bother him. The other interpretation, of course, is that he understands being thrown down the well has to happen, so he lets it happen, and his knowledge of the plan gives him peace.

(Did you notice how those answers are all about free will and determinism?)

Likewise, Desmond P either hit Locke P to give him all the knowledge so that it’s possible for him to kill the best possible life (free will) or to kill the MiB (determinism).

The answer to the third question comes from where you fall on the free will and determinism debate and which universe you think is better. If you believe in the determinism of LOST, then Desmond must be in both universes at once, as all of these events are part of a master plan to keep the MiB on the island. In that interpretation, the P universe is a fail safe, a course correction for the nuclear explosion that fits into Jacob’s overall scheme. The most pressing evidence for this theory is Eloise Widmore’s seeming knowledge of both universes as she told Desmond, “You’re not ready yet.”

In contrast, if you believe in the free will of LOST, Desmond must be two separate entities who understand much of this broader context we’re discussing. By talking to Daniel Widmore and flashing between the universes, Desmond came to understand the fundamental nature of what was going on. Thus, he wanted to help everyone exercise their free will as best as he could by giving them as much information as possible. In this case, Desmond O knows the P universe is better because there is actual free will in it, so he doesn’t value you the O universe. Another interpretation is that the MiB is off the island in the P universe, so Desmond O understands that the MiB means free will, so he is not threatened by him or afraid of him getting off the island. However, I don’t think he’s aware of the MiB or Jacob as he called the MiB "John Locke."

(A possible third interpretation is that Desmond is the same in both universes, but values the P universe more for its free will.)

What do I think? Free well and self interest, of course. Like I asked at the end of the Hurley section, when you look at those two Hurleys, isn’t it obvious Hurley P is better off? The only way you can say he isn’t is if you argue “the greater good” is worse off in the P universe, and that kind of argument is flawed in its inherent utilitarianism (and Jack-esque social engineering).


Obvious prediction of the week: Locke P is brought to Jack P’s hospital where Jack P fixes him, making him walk again.

And if you don’t see how that prediction is obvious, I only ask that you do one thing:

Think about it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Midside: LOST S6E11 Happily Ever After

If you doubted S6, I’m not sure how you still could after the last month of episodes. First, Sawyer stuck true to his beliefs and chose himself over all of the hoopla on the island. Then, Richard met Jacob and the MiB, doubting which one was good and which one was evil just like we always do. Next, Sun and Jin re-introduced Keamy to the P universe. Finally, Desmond took us back down the path of romance, which is what we all need in our lives.

While the episode was vintage Desmond, I’m not sure it was on the same level as past efforts about the character--“Flashes Before Your Eyes” and “The Constant.” What made those episodes so powerful was the emotion behind them. In this episode, the emotional moments were carried by other actors, whereas Desmond spent the majority of the time trying to connect with his emotions.

Still, the episode was powerful in that it combined, finally, character development and mythology. The changes Desmond made had an effect in both universe, making me wonder if he’s existing in both simultaneously. In honor of this development, this week’s column will only feature two sections, the character section and the mythology section. I’ll discuss Desmond and his cowardice by explaining how it makes him similar to characters like Jack and Ben. Then, the mythology will bleed over a bit into Desmond’s section as I discuss his quest. In the mythology section, I will attempt to outline all the possible ending to the series.

Yes, this edition of The Midside will be heavy with information, but what did you expect? It was a Desmond episode. Now, onto another life, brother!


One major concern I have with this episode is that people will overlook Desmond’s character development because they are too distracted by the mythological concerns. However, some very interesting and precise things happened. It began with Desmond O, one of the most developed characters in the series, attempting to defend himself from Widmore O. Kidnapped and forced to return to the island, Desmond fought his hardest to break free from his captor. However, he was forced into another electromagnetic event, which only he can survive--like he’s the Dr. Manhattan of LOST--and his consciousness jumped into the parallel universe.

There we saw a completely different Desmond, one we never thought we would see. Not only is Penny not part of Desmond P’s life, but he is Widmore P’s right hand man, doing everything the boss asks of him without question. Their relationship is further revealed when Eloise P tells Desmond P that he has Widmore P’s approval, which is all he has ever wanted.

That statement is exactly the difference between Desmond O and Desmond P. Desmond O only wanted Widmore O’s approval for one purpose: So he could pursue Penny O. In the parallel universe, Desmond’s purpose in seeking Widmore’s approval must be different, as he had yet to pursue Penny. Thus, Desmond P’s motivation can only come from one source: His cowardice.

As I discussed with Jack, Locke, and Ben, living your life for another person is an demonstration of your own lack of self-esteem. Though slavery is illegal, in America, you choose to place yourself in subjugation to another human being by placing the verdict of their mind over the verdict of your own mind. This quasi-slavery is the employment Desmond P had with Widmore P. Sure, Desmond P surely must use his mind to solve problems that present themselves during the missions Widmore P gives him, but the purpose of those missions are all determined by Widmore P. In all seriousness, what value does it bring Desmond P if Charlie P plays with Daniel P at Eloise P’s function? Sure, he is paid and makes money, but here we see how the value of money isn’t always, um, constant. If, like Desmond P, you aren’t using money to pursue your own ends, beyond mere necessities of existence, then money isn’t valuable to you. Desmond P may have well been just working for Widmore P for room and board because the rest of his life was meaningless.

Enter Charlie P(ace). The drugged out rock star showed Desmond P that he could have his own purpose for living. (Note: You could have an interesting discussion here comparing and contrasting Richard/Isabella with Desmond/Penny.) You see, Charlie P’s near death on the plane showed him what crashing on the island showed Charlie O: At some point, Driveshaft was no longer Charlie’s purpose (making music) and became Liam’s purpose (chasing highs). Charlie P had this epiphany by viewing the visage of (we assume) Claire, and his life became meaningless to him. Ironically, he began chasing another drug: An unidentifiable unknown blonde woman. And instead of attempting to discover if she’s real, he spiraled downward into a suicidal existence.

The knowledge Desmond P gained from his near death experience is what ultimately propelled him to overcome his own cowardice. He found something he valued and had to pursue it. Say what you will about Desmond in any universe, but he always pursues what he believes to be the ultimate value, Penny. The scene when he finally decided to pursue her featured a boogeyman even Widmore P was afraid of: Eloise P. Amongst intense double talk dialogue, a cryptic list, and confused caterers, Desmond P, though he responds “no,” is actually questioning Eloise P when she asks him if he is doing so. The action has a payoff too.

For Desmond P, that payoff is his ultimate meeting of Penny P in the stadium. For us, it is the heavily mythological conversations he has with Eloise P and Daniel P. Both culminate in a manner which must be noted. After Desmond O snaps back to the original universe, tells Widmore he understands, and agrees to go with Sayid, we flashsideways one more time. Is Desmond existing simultaneously in both universes even after he snaps back to the original timeline? Why did he ask Penny for coffee if the P universe is meaningless?

The meaning of the P universe is hard to ascertain. The only character who seemed to believe it wasn’t worth a damn was Charlie P, the drug addicted rock star. By contrast, Eloise P and Daniel P were much more tenuous on the claim. Eloise P says that the way Desmond P sees thing has been affected and that’s a serious problem and a “violation.” Remember, Ben P and his father were on the island in the P universe. It’s likely Eloise P and Widmore P were as well. Are they somehow in cahoots with the MiB P? She even goes on to tell Desmond P he has the perfect life, making it easy for us to imagine the MiB lecturing Desmond at this point to try and stop him from undermining his escape plan. It’s also important to note here the key quote of the episode. After Eloise P tells Desmond he has what he’s always wanted, Widmore P’s approval, there is the following exchange:
Desmond P: How do you know what I want?
Eloise P: Because I bloody do.
By simply asking that question, Desmond P is asserting his own mind and thus individuality. He is correctly asserting that only he can determine what he wants. He also correctly follows through on his claim by demanding to see the list again. Here’s where things take a turn. Eloise P tells him he can’t because he’s not ready yet (and then walks away). Huh? Does she know what he really wants is Penny? Does she know what happens when Desmond finds Penny in the parallel universe? Once again, Eloise seems to know more than everyone else, but then so does her son Daniel.

Disguised as a discussion of love at first sight, Daniel P explains the nature of the two universes to Desmond P. After seeing Charlotte P at the museum, all of Daniel O’s knowledge of physics started to creep into Daniel P’s brain. Based upon it, Daniel P explains the nuclear bomb hypothetical, and asks the key mythological question of the episode:
Daniel P: What if this, all this, what if this wasn’t supposed to be our life? What if we had some other life, but for some reason we changed things?
Desmond P expresses the same confusion we as the audience are experiencing. He doesn’t know what it has to do with him and what he felt. Daniel P says that what he felt was love. Desmond P disagrees saying that the woman he saw was only an idea. “Idea” is an interesting word choice by Lindelof and Cuse considering that ideas are where all our feelings and actions start from. Desmond P then follows that idea, going to where and when Daniel P says Penny P will be, shaking her hand and then passing out. And that moment is when things got all screwy.

Desmond O woke up and told Widmore O that he understood what Widmore O needed him for. Then, after asking Penny P to get coffee, Desmond P asked George P to get him the flight manifest because he had to show the other passengers something. Here’s my take on the whole thing: While we’re not sure what Widmore O’s agenda is, I don’t think Desmond P is trying to show people that the P universe is “wrong.” He has gained knowledge that has truly made him himself and wants to share how to get it with the other 815 passengers. Maybe he is even trying to get their opinions on what is going on, but the important point is as follows.

Daniel P said they set off the nuclear bomb “for some reason.” That reason is the exertion of their free will. In order to create a life outside the influence of Jacob, which the P universe has been so far, they had to take a drastic action. Now, if you agree with Jacob, that makes the P universe bad. However, if you don’t agree with Jacob (which possibly means if you agree with the MiB), then the P universe is good. Why do I think the P universe is good? (Note: Yes, if the P universe is good then Jack made a good decision in setting off the bomb. Yes, I just said Jack may have done something good.)

It’s impossible for me to claim that the universe where more character are alive, Charlie, Charlotte, Daniel, Locke, and so many are happier, Kate, Jack, Locke, Sawyer, is the worse universe. The only way I could possibly believe so is if I supported the philosophy of utilitarianism and thought the deaths of some and the unhappiness of others were sacrifices necessary for the greater good. I don’t believe in such a philosophy, as it contradicts with the very nature of humanity. (Interestingly, I even believe it even contradicts with Desmond P’s arc in this episode. When he decided he was the only one who could make decisions for himself, he implicitly rejected utilitarianism, selflessness, and altruism.)

However, deciphering where the show goes from here is incredibly complex. There is any number of possibilities…


Based upon the developments of this episode, I believe that I can safely outline the possible endings of LOST. I understand that this list is finite and can always be refuted by inane counterexample (ie: The island is a moon, read that theory for a good laugh). However, I believe this list to be complete as far as endings that are logically consistent with the already established mythos. Thus far, the writers have constructed a consistent story. I don’t believe they would contradict themselves at the end.

The two possibilities are shaped by one question: What is the relationship between Jacob and the MiB? Are they in a struggle for power or are they necessarily equals, a yin and a yang? Under each of these possibilities, there are then several permutations. I will outline the possibility then discuss in detail each permutation about its philosophical consequences and what it means for who I believe to be the two major players at this point: Jack and Desmond. Afterwards, I will tell you which endings are my favorites and which I believe to be the most likely (those two categories happen to intertwine).

Possibility 1: The O universe is where Jacob is “dominant.” The P universe is where the MiB is “dominant.”

The basic premise of this possibility comes from an easy to observe difference: The island is submerged in the P universe and above water in the O universe. From there, I make a series of observations. First, the MiB is still on the island in the O universe, kept there by the actions of Jacob. Second, Jacob’s influence has clearly not been exerted on the 815ers in the P universe, as I have described in several past columns--i.e., Sawyer never wrote his letter. Finally, if we accept the notion that the island is a cork, assuming that Jacob was not lying when he told Richard that, then it is logically consistent that one universe is where the cork is in place and the other universe is where the cork is not in place. Obviously, an island’s place is not underwater. Likewise, if Jacob is the Cork Keeper (can I copyright that?), then the universe without his influence would be the one where the cork is removed. Note how the P universe is without Jacob and the cork is submerged.

In one of my columns this season, I noted how LOST often resembled a philosophical discussion. Different versions of the same concept where shown to tease out the intricacies of the concept. Possibility 1 would be doing the same thing. The O universe would be the result of one philosophy. The P universe would be the result of another philosophy. In a way, it’s tragic that the two universe plot only lasted for one season. By observing both universes, we can see the results of each philosophy, as defined by the “dominant” being in each universe.

A. Jacob is good and the O universe will remain.

Here, Jacob’s diatribe about the cork would be true, and his philosophy of paternalism and limited free will would be correct. Sacrifice for the greater good would be admired, as hinted at by Widmore in this episode. Jack, always following his need to fix things, would become the new Jacob and destroy the P universe to eradicate its evil. Desmond, as he goes about his quest, would tell all the 815ers how the O universe is better because they’re only being tricked into believing they're happy in the P universe.

B. The MiB is good and the P universe will remain.

Here, Jacob’s diatribe about the cork would be part of a con to keep the MiB in subjugation, and the MiB’s philosophy of truth telling (though not always all the details), deal making, and self-interest would be correct. Although, free will would not completely exist as the MiB’s mere existence limits it. (At this point it is important to note that theory that the P universe is the fulfillment of the MiB’s promises because he created it or is, at least, aware of it, carries a lot of merit.) Jack will either fail as the new Jacob, continuing his trend of poorly executed plans, or turn against Jacob as he finally gets over his father issues. Desmond will go about teaching the 815ers about the O universe only so they can maximize their happiness in the P universe by pursuing relationships they might not otherwise (if they didn’t have knowledge of the O universe).

C. Neither Jacob nor the MiB is good or evil. O universe will remain (or both will).

Here, Jacob’s diatribe about the cork is true, but only because he has to remain on the island as well. The existence of either of them in the general population tips the balance, not of good and evil, but of one belief system. This type of ending is what Hollywood most often produces. This type of philosophy is what academic and modern liberals most often endorse. The basic idea is that morality is relative and thus we need all points of view for the world to go round (yes, that includes the povs of murderers, rapists, etc). Jack will become the new Jacob and destroy the P universe as the balance is thrown off there. Desmond will lead the 815ers into epiphanies. They will all then realize their universe is meaningless. (Alternately, if the writers are really smart, they will realize that to be consistent, both universes will need to remain, as all possibilities must exist if everything is relative.)

D. Based upon who is good, the wrong universe will remain

Basically, re-read 1A and 1B above except what Jack and Desmond do in 1A happens in 1B and what they do in 1B happens in 1A. (ie: The MiB is good, but Jack destroys the P universe out of his loyalty to Jacob because of his need to fix things.

Possibility 2: The O universe has Jacob and the MiB. The P universe has neither.

There isn’t much to say about this possibility as far as introductory statements. The basic idea is that Jacob and the MiB don’t exist in the P universe. The most obvious, and difficult to get around, objection is that the island does exist in that universe; it is just submerged. It’s mere existence seems to suggest that Jacob and the MiB existed at some point. However, hypothesizing that they didn’t raises some interesting questions about morality and free will.

A. Jacob and the MiB are both good and need to exist for there to be order.

Yup, you’re catching on pretty quickly. This outcome is the same as 1C. The only difference is, mythologically, Jacob and the MiB can’t have exerted any influence in the P universe. (They are higher beings. The existence of higher beings necessarily limits/negates free will for lower beings.) This condition seems to be unlikely as the island was, at one point, above water in the O universe and, presumably, Jacob and the MiB existed on it. Assuming that point, when Desmond, Charlie, and Daniel gained knowledge from the O universe, it could very easily be argued that knowledge is the influence of Jacob O and the MiB O on the P universe.

B. Jacob and the MiB are both bad and need to die to allow for free will.

I mentioned the basic idea for this one already. Higher beings necessarily negate free will, as their actions limit the choices people can make. The easiest way to prove this assertion is to consider Jacob. Look at how he has limited the choices of all the characters in the original universe by merely touching them. Now consider his whole summoning people to the island thing. Likewise, the MiB’s super-human powers, turning into black smoke, have limited the choices of the people on the island while on the island, though to a much lesser extent to Jacob. The interesting question that is raised here is if the MiB off the island would exert any sort of influence on free will. In regards to Jack, he would, as mentioned above, overcome his need for approval from a father figure, see through Jacob, and destroy the O universe. In regards to Desmond, he would be showing the 815ers the O universe so they could maximize their happiness in the P universe by finding happy relationships. However, this idea raises a problem I stated before, namely that obtaining knowledge from the O universe could be considered being influenced by Jacob and The MiB.

My favorite ending would be 1B as it is in line with all I have been saying throughout this season: The MiB is good, self-interest is the ultimate morality of the series, and Jacob has been running a long con. However, I don’t think the writers will go in that direction, at least not explicitly.

I believe that the writers will utilize ending 1D; the MiB will be good and Jack will become the new “Jacob” and destroy the P universe, but we, as viewers will be left to debate whether the ending is really 1A or 1D. The final scene will be the MiB as Locke telling Jack how badly he wants to kill him. LOST.

The immediate reaction will be that Jack was vindicated as the good guy and saved the world by endorsing the morality of Jacob that is commonly accepted in our culture: Selflessness and altruism. However, as people look back and interpret the series, they will see the vast amount of anti-Jacob/pro-MiB evidence that supports self-interest and refutes selflessness. Fans such as yours truly will lead the charge and the epic LOST debate will continue as it always has. Many will adore Jack. Many will mock him. It’s the perfect ending to the show as it doesn’t piss of any viewers and retains the philosophical integrity it has built throughout the series, a mythology all its own, a commentary on society, and a challenge to the viewer all in one. (I even bet that Sawyer and Kate end up together in the P universe, while Jack and Kate end up together in the O universe. Those dichotomous outcomes are logically consistent with the 1A or 1D debate, as they have been the entire series.)

There you have it, LOST distilled down to its bare bones a mere handful of episodes before it is no more. You probably didn’t think it was possible. Still don’t think I accomplished it? That’s fine, I only ask that you do one thing with what I’ve written here:

Think about it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Midside: LOST S6E10 The Package

Before I rewatched this episode, I didn’t really remember what happened. The basics were on recall. It was a Jin and Sun episode. They weren’t married. Keamy made another appearance. There was some violence. There was Widmore. But as for the greater place in LOST mythos, as for the significance of the events in the S6 arc, I had little to no clue. I’m sure my understanding of the episode is partially due to my general dislike of Jin and Sun episodes. Yes, they’re still part of the best show on television ever, and, of course, they’re better than Charlie episodes (except “Greatest Hits”). They’re like the worst of the best. They’re like the Rams of the 2009 NFL season, not going to make the playoffs, but not as bad as the Lions. My understanding of the episode is also partially due to the hectic week I had. Yes, LOST wasn’t the number one thing on my mind like it almost always has been since the “Pilot.” Despite all these things though, I think the main reason for my lack of understanding of the episode was its content.

To put it simply, there wasn’t much in this episode. It was a rehash of everything that had happened up to this point in the season. In fact, it was the first episode of this kind that we’ve seen. Every other episode seemed to show us some new side of Jacob & the MiB and the parallel universe. This episode, however, seemed to drive home all we already knew. The same things happened: Jin and Sun were slightly different, they seemed happier, but their new life was but in peril, and an open ended, um, ending left us wondering if the parallel universe is indeed the better one. Likewise, in the original universe, the MiB did things that seemed good but could be interpreted as bad (or vice versa depending on your perspective), the characters squabbled about who to follow, and we were given a cliffhanger that promises to provide us with all these answers. It was all so…routine, which is my main critique of Jin and Sun episodes.

Fear not, loyal reader, for I did rewatch and have some (sort of) important things to say. Jin and Sun were different in the two universes. There was some interesting character development in the original universe, mainly concerning Jack who may have once again put himself in an impossible situation, and Widmore’s importance may have grown. Follow along as we journey into The Midside and sort it out (and kind of not think Sun is a bitch for the first time ever).


Per usual, this week’s flashsideways can be boiled down to two quotes:
Keamy P: "Just bring me the money and we could all live happily ever after, right?"
Sun O: "I came here to find my husband so I could bring him home, not so I could save the damn world."
Both of these quotes point to the broader themes of the season and the show. The first brings up the idea of agenda and ends. Can everyone reach happiness by operating on one person’s terms? Who sets the terms? Who decides what happiness is? The second quote points to more precise elements of the show and character definition. It once again elucidates the dichotomy of selflessness and selfishness. It reminds us that the Korean flashes are Sun’s world, and Jin is just living in it. (Not that Jin doesn’t have a character of his own; it’s just that his very nature puts him at Sun’s mercy.)

Keamy’s quote refers to the basic struggle that has been Sun’s life, no matter the universe. She is living according to her father’s agenda. This story is mainly a commentary of male dominated societies and specifically the culture of Korea. It’s also the reason Sun became who she is: A liar and deceiver. No matter the universe, that very nature cannot be denied. The difference is that in the parallel universe she seems to utilize that, shall we say, ability, for more positive ends. Sun O lies to her father about a glass ballerina and gets the maid fired. She lies to Jin O about being happy in their marriage. She has an affair and tries to run away. She learns English without telling anyone. She has a mysterious relationship with Charles Widmore. Sun P carries on an “involvement” with Jin P behind her father’s back. She opens up a bank account without anyone knowing. She plans on staying in America with Jin P, without even telling Jin P.

Sun P’s similar preference for lying reveals the ultimate root of her deceptive personality. She believes it’s impossible to live life by her own agenda. The reason she believes so is because her life has always been guided by someone else’s agenda: Her father’s. This condition is true in any universe. As I mentioned above, Sun O’s lying started when she was child when she lied about the glass ballerina. She does so as a protection of herself against other people. She believes that she cannot necessarily put forward her own agenda without being put down or harmed by other people, most notably her father. Notice how Sun P reacted to Keamy P’s threat as explicated in the first quote. Rather than telling him what he was doing was wrong, she agreed to pay him. She could have even pretended to go along with his plan and then rebelled, but she went to the bank to get the money and allowed Jin P to be, essentially, kidnapped. Likewise, Jin, P or O, has lived his entire life by abiding by other people’s agendas.

In the original universe, Jin found himself at the mercy of rich people. He was so ingrained with the culture that he was raised in that he refused to try and break free of what he saw as morally wrong. We saw him break free from this a bit when he quit his job at the hotel, but that action didn’t seem to be intended as any sort of statement of independence, but rather as a mere statement of momentary defiance. Even more to the point, when he fell in love with Sun O, he lived at the mercy of her father. As Mr. Paik O’s bodyguard/hitman, he had to do anything Mr. Paik thought of, up to and including killing someone. Jin P sported the same problem, telling Sun, “I don't ask your father questions. I do what he tells me.” It’s a secondhandedness that reminds us of Alpert’s loyalty to Jacob as I discussed last week.

Rather than living on his own, Jin P found himself living by Mr. Paik P and Sun P. Like his counterpart in the original timeline, he was sent to Los Angeles for a business deal. Unlike his counterpart, the deal was his own murder, although we now must call into question the pretenses under which Jin O was sent there. Also unlike his counterpart, he seemed to live more by what Sun P wanted than what anyone else wanted, which is especially ironic considering that the parallel universe is the one where they aren’t married. And, while we’re comparing the two universes, Jin P and Sun P seem to be better off than Jin O and Sun O.

Yes, Sun P was shot in the stomach while pregnant, possibly with Ji Yeon (which brings into light the importance of children and babies on LOST, a major theme in the series). Yes, they weren’t married. However, they were in a better place in their relationship at the time of flight 815 in the parallel universe than they were in their relationship at the time of flight 815 in the original universe. Sun P was still planning to run away, but she had included Jin P in those plans. She definitely didn’t seem to hate him. That difference brings into light another Keamy quote that helps us understand the quote I’ve already referenced, “I'm sorry. Some people just aren't meant to be together.”

Said to Jin P as he is locked up in the refrigerator, Keamy P’s comment carries with it the idea of determinism, making us wonder if the parallel universe will end up the same as the original universe. The “happily ever after” is in a clear reference to the name of next week’s Desmond episode, probably the end of his story. Desmond’s episodes are always about his relationship with Penny. They are truly the soul mates of LOST (sorry, people who are shippers of other pairs). These two lines by Keamy seemingly contrast Jin and Sun with Desmond and Penny forcing us to consider if the longest running romance in the series will end negatively and what that means for the show.

The end point of the Kwons relationship leads us perfectly into Sun’s quote. In any universe, she is only concerned with one thing: Starting a family with Jin. In the original universe, that purpose carries much more weight, as it has seemingly been placed in opposition to Jacob’s plan. At least it has been placed so morally.

If Jacob’s stated purpose of keeping the island protected and bottling up evil is true, then being a candidate and possibly the next Jacob is an honor. Also, as I have previously mentioned, it’s a selfless role. You must give up all your other desires and possessions in order to take up residence on the island and protect it. Sun, on the other hand, only wants to reunite her family, a completely selfish interest. Jack even asks her about being a candidate and she replies, “What about it?” I personally have no issues with her statement, as I believe in rational self-interest, but it does contradict Jacob’s morality. Under his moral umbrella, Sun is acting immorally. Ironically, though she ran from him, her actions are much more in line with the MiB, who professed to reunite her with Jin. Throw in the fact that she denied the MiB’s open hand and accepted Jack’s and matters are confused even further.

The questions we’re left with are as follows: Was Sun P pregnant with Ji Yeon P and thus the child will never be born? Does that possibility make Ji Yeon O important? Is Sun O’s deal with Widmore the reason he kidnapped Jin O? And finally, is Jack O going to become the new Jacob and then let people leave the island?


The most striking character development for me in this episode was Jack. While he’s still putting himself in difficult positions (How can he stop the MiB and let people leave the island?), he seems to be more accepting of the idea that Jacob has a reason for all of them coming to the island. The problem is he has just traded one father figure for the other.

Rather than stop living for his father and start living for himself, Jack has started living for Jacob. He has truly made the transition from man of science to man of faith. For my money, that change probably makes him worse. His desire to fix things hasn’t diminished, he just now believes he has a higher purpose in doing so and can discover that higher purpose by communing with a dead guy. (Whoops, I didn’t just mean to describe Christianity.) This idea is further concretized by the reemergence of Alpert from the woods, which surely mirrored some religious parable. Alpert’s return is probably what spurred on Jack’s change in this episode, as it acted as the final confirmation of his faith.

I mean, really, when Jack handed the tomato to Sun, was it supposed to be a metaphor for himself or her? Couldn’t he have just referenced “The Little Engine that Could”? No, because the key word in that story is “think.” “I think I can.” Remember: Sawyer thinks, Jack reacts.

In other news, Sayid can’t feel anything, sadness, happiness, pain, nothing. The MiB thinks that may be a good thing for what’s coming. What’s coming? War, as the MiB quoted Widmore to Widmore. (BTW, one of my life goals is now to have someone random quote something awesome I said back to me.) The MiB seems to think Sayid’s lack of feeling is a gift, but it raises another issue to me.

Is Sayid human anymore? Does the ability to feel make someone human? If so, Sayid is no longer human. From a Star Trek interpretation, mainly TOS, where the Vulcans are purely logical, the answer would be yes, as continually it is said what separates humans from Vulcans is emotions. Hmm, interesting that I capitalize Vulcans and not humans. Anyway, I’m not sure if Sayid is human or not anymore. My initial thought is no, but then I wonder if someone with a disorder that blocks certain chemical receptors would still be human or not. Plus, what is unique to humans is their ability to reason, not their emotions. Maybe Sayid is just a sociopath now, like that woman on a recent episode of House

(That ellipses means you should go find that episode of “House” and watch it now.)


The major mythological moment of this episode was an exchange between Sun and the MiB:
Sun: “You killed those people at the temple.”

MiB: “Those people were confused. They were lied to. I didn't want to hurt them. Any one of them could have chosen to come with me. And I'm giving you that choice, Sun, right now. I would never make you do anything against your will. I'm asking you, please, come with me. Jin is waiting.”
This riff is the same one the MiB has been playing all season. “It’s kill or be killed. They’ve been indoctrinated. I offered them a choice. If they chose against me, I have to be threatened.” This repetition is why I sort of found the episode stagnant. It also points to an idea that my friend recently reminded me of, by a conversation he had with a random Christian girl.

Though we don’t know which is which, Jacob and the MiB might be the anti-Christ and Christ. As I’ve discussed over previous weeks, there is lots of evidence either way. Thus, there is only one important piece of evidence I want to present. In Christian mythology, the anti-Christ will appear to be Christ-like. Of the MiB and Jacob, Jacob has appeared to be the most Christ like so far. Chew on that one for awhile.

In reference to the parallel universe, I wonder if Keamy P and crew work for Widmore P. I can’t think of any other way they were all brought together. I thought of this idea this week because of the appearance of Mikhail P. His involvement with Keamy P and Omar P is pretty suspicious, especially considering his involvement with DHARMA. Remember, when Keamy O read the “secondary protocol” in “Cabin Fever” there is an Orchid logo on the cover…


Random fact: This column was my hardest to write to date. I’ve had a crazy week, up to and including today.

Epic Win of the week: The Philadelphia Eagles finally unburdened themselves of Donovan McNabb and proved Rush Limbaugh correct by trading the quarterback to the Washington Redskins for a couple of draft picks. Also, the Washington Redskins are awarded the Epic Fail of the week.

Yeah, I don’t really have a witty lead in, so just do like the new catchphrase says:

Think about it