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Lost: Locke’s Unlucky Episode

Now we know. Locke's back was broken after his father knocked him out of an eighth story window.

The thirteenth episode of the third season, "The Man from Tallahassee" — the unlucky episode for Locke — gathers more narrative threads together than it introduces. This episode shows us why Jack seemed comfortable with the Others (he was promised passage off the island), raises the point of why some people are rapidly healed on the island while others aren't (Ben's surgery isn't healing too quickly), let us in on both Locke and Ben's motivations, and we now know how Locke ended up in that wheelchair. Every moment in that chair must have been a reminder of being rejected by his father three times, each more violently than the previous. And this episode is fraught with narrative mirror twinning and audience manipulation (and I mean that in the best sense possible).

The literary/philosophical references of this episode occur mainly in the names. Ben's room is littered with books, but almost none of them can be made out (although Lostpedia claims Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time can be seen, which brings us back to "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and the ideas of time warps and wormholes on the island). The most significant play of names is between John Locke and Anthony Cooper. John Locke the 17th C. empirical philosopher was retained by Anthony Cooper, the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, and was mentor to Anthony Cooper, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, who became a somewhat prominent philosopher in his own right. As echoed in Lost, Locke the philosopher was retained by the elder Cooper when he helped Cooper with a surgery on his liver (something which the poet John Dryden teased Cooper about in his writings; apparently Cooper had to wear a silver tap to drain his liver, and since Dryden didn't approve of Cooper's politics, he teased Cooper about his tap). Cooper the philosopher was also a deist and Neoplatonist who believed, much as Locke, that people were not born bad, and the natural state of man was not warfare (contra Hobbes). He understood the person to be a mess of competing appetites which had to be brought into balance. His ideas were really only collected in his book Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (which Powell's has an early edition of for $450); this book influenced thinkers like Immanuel Kant, who in turn was strongly rejected by last week's Ayn Rand. The 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury is very much a kind of mirror-twin to the Anthony Cooper of Lost; Shaftesbury pushed the idea of an innate moral sense imbued in every person, and argued that morality could be calculated in an almost mathematical sense. The Cooper of Lost calculates his immorality in an almost mathematical sense; he enters relationships only when there is profit to be had, nothing more. Whereas the Cooper of history worked towards social harmony, the Cooper of Lost manipulates for self-benefit.

And manipulation is the key to this episode: Ben, the seeming leader of the tribe, is a master manipulator. But as I argue in the book, the audience is as much a part of this narrative as the characters, so when a character is being manipulated, we can watch our own backs too. When Locke visits the disability case worker in his flashback, we assume he's in the wheelchair, partly because he's sitting and we can't see if the chair is there or not. It's a bit of a reversal of what we saw in Locke's outback flashback when we first find he was in a wheelchair — a narrative mirror twin. But this time, we learn his disability is severe depression after being rooked of his kidney. That's the first clue that this episode is going to play with our expectations and predetermined assumptions. There are the little manipulations — Jack playing the piano (Charlie's domain), Richard Alpert first hinted at in the noir scene through the closet slats and showing up at the end (Ram Dass will be back), Kate being told by Jack, "I'm not with anyone, Kate," (so much for the relationships). Where things get interesting are the scenes that play with audience attention. Locke at the disability official's desk and its mirror-twinned scene from "Walkabout" are both moments where Locke was at his weakest in front of people of authority. Cooper pours Locke some MacCutcheon whisky, which we saw in "Flashes Before Your Eyes" was named for Admiral MacCutcheon. Admiral MacCutcheon was also a character from ABC's television version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Bear with this one: Verne also wrote Around the World in 80 Days, a travel tale that employs a Henry Gale-like hot air balloon. This is their 80th day on the island, and Locke comes around full circle (around the world) in facing his fate on the island, deciding to destroy the submarine in order to remain on the island, and whole. Locke entering the submarine recalls Locke going down the Swan hatch at the end of the first season episode "Exodus," but this time he's controlling the destiny of the machine, rather than having his destiny controlled by the machine. When Locke looks down at his feet after being dropped into the wheelchair, the scene is a mirror twin to the pilot episode, where Locke looks at his feet after the crash and realizes he can feel them. Locke strung up in the boiler room at Otherville is a mirror-twinned image of Ben being strung up in the Swan station armory. Ben in the wheelchair is a mirror-twinned image of Locke off the island, and in many ways Ben is also a man of science while Locke is the man of faith. But Ben is manipulating Locke better than Anthony Cooper could have, and as such is a kind of mirror-twin figure of Cooper to Locke. The final scene of this episode, when Ben explains his gambit of using Locke to keep Jack on the island in order to not look weak to his people, is chess-like in its strategy, and the way Ben predicted Locke's reactions and moves was Desmond-like in its prescience. Locke won the chess match in the Flame station, but lost the one against Ben.

Yet Ben says two particular things that bring the audience right back into play. In these two instances, what he says has direct relevance to both Locke and the way the audience interacts with the narrative. The first occurs in Ben's kitchen, when he explains to Locke that if Locke blows up the submarine, he'll have a problem with his people. As much as his people love the island, he explains, they need to know they can leave it, and the sub "maintains that illusion" (which suggests they can't really leave the island). Ben's people — much as the audience itself — are there on the island because they want to be, but haven't necessarily made a full commitment yet. One of the major topics on websites like LOSTCasts, The Fuselage and Lostpedia is Lost's ratings, and how the thirty-some million audience members dropped by about half in the third season. Many of the grumpier responses to the complexities of the mythology reflected a desire for more traditional television faire, where an episode was self-contained and the threads were tied up more neatly than we were getting. Others complained that there wasn't enough focus on the relationships, while still others complained there was too much focus on the relationships. The scheduling issues didn't help matters. But Lost isn't like any other television narrative we've experienced, and as I've argued all along, it should be read more like a hybrid novel/game than a standard television show. That takes some effort; ask your friends who are familiar with the show, but found that when they missed an episode or two, the work it takes to catch up is almost prohibitive. If they get back into it, they have to wait for the DVDs to come out so they can spend a weekend crashing through the past episodes. Furthermore, the demographic where Lost still wins is in the 18-40-somethings; this is the generation who grew up with computers, video games, and their participatory narratives, and they're a much smaller population than the baby boomers (who make up the majority of the television-watching demographic). The attention the first season garnered could be likened to the attention a car wreck or side show gets; it was a strange phenomenon that caused many people to rubberneck over to ABC on Wednesdays to see what was going on. When more was asked of those people than they were willing to give, the audience thinned some, and even split into camps — those who devoured the complexity, and those who wanted little to do with it. That's not unlike what happened with modernist literature like William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying or James Joyce's Ulysses (and certainly Finnegans Wake, and possibly with their experimental inheritor David Foster Wallace), a phenomenon noted in the post for "Stranger in a Strange Land". But as Ben says, for those who stay (like Locke, who's made the commitment), he can show you "things you want to see very badly."

The other such double-meta-moment came with Ben's box metaphor. There's the link back to Hurley's flashback in the first season episode "Numbers"; when Hurley told Leonard Simms he played the lottery with the numbers, Leonard tells him he shouldn't have done that because he "opened the box." The box idea recalls the notion of the Skinner box experiments that were the Swan and Pearl stations (at least to an extent). Ben describes his box as a thing that contains imagination. In the second season episode "Man of Science, Man of Faith," Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is shown on Desmond's bunk (another one of those narratively complex modernist novels). In that book, the protagonist opens a box he thinks contains money, but instead contains something called omnium, a substance that's at the root of everything and can be anything one desires. This sounds very similar to Ben's box, and omnium operates in a similar way to the stomping smoke that manifests as Yemi, horses, Christian Shephard, and possibly Anthony Cooper on the island (unless you think Ben really has Locke's father). But what other boxes would the audience be familiar with that contain imagination? The boxes we use to engage this narrative — television sets and computers. The television is the box that contains just about anything we could imagine, and in many cases shapes the contours of our collective imagination. It certainly has with Lost. The computer is the box where the audience goes to imagine theories about the show, and stray into the matrix of links and information that drive the audience's collective imagination about the show. Ben's box metaphor, like his talk of commitment to the island, breaks that fourth dramatic wall and steps into the world of the audience.

Of course this isn't the first time that's happened. Whenever the writers acknowledge audience response in the narrative, the fourth wall is busted. The alternate reality game was all about breaking down that wall, which was marked by a television commercial for the Hanso Foundation that appeared during station breaks. When that fourth dramatic wall is dropped, the audience becomes a character — we're literally scripted into a show that's structured like a game, invited to actively participate in solving its mystery. The mirror-twin shot looking down the hatch of the submarine/the Swan station is an homage to the game Myst, letting us know that this is more than just television. As a game, as a narrative that the audience actively participates in by using these boxes that contain imagination, Lost may very well be the most massive video game ever played.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. A Brief History of Time: The Updated...
    Used Trade Paper $8.95

  2. Around the World in 80 Days New Trade Paper $12.00
  3. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text...
    Used Hardcover $12.00
  4. Ulysses (Vintage International) Used Trade Paper $9.00
  5. Finnegans Wake Used Trade Paper $11.50
  6. The Third Policeman (John F. Byrne...
    Used Trade Paper $8.95

J. Wood is the author of Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island

51 Responses to "Lost: Locke’s Unlucky Episode"

    Brockman March 22nd, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I always like to see how long it takes for the first comment to appear. Then I wonder what it's going to be about.

    Oops. Damn me...

    J Wood (Post Author) March 22nd, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Funny Brockman -- as soon as I sent this off to post, I wished I'd mentioned what I thought of Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson's performances, but I just didn't want to respond to my own post. (There's always something I wish I'd got in, but for whatever reason, didn't make it to the post.)

    But man, I thought O'Quinn was oerfectly menacing. Just a great subtle performance, even down to the hint of a smile when he's on his knees with guns pointed at him and the sub blows up. And Emerson's half-glare at the floor when Jack and Juliet leave -- it was inscrutable; I couldn't tell if he was smoldering or if the wheels were turning. Those performances really made this episode come together.

    an Other March 22nd, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Cooper = The Real Sawyer

    The Equation March 22nd, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Seemed to me that the whole Jack/Juliet happy afternoon have a good night thing was a big farce. To say they were bait for the incoming rescue party might be giving the Others a little too much credit, but by the time the episode ended I realized that's exactly what they were (whether they understood it or not). Once again Ben gets credit for being one step ahead of just about everyone, and you'd be a fool to believe he didn't know about Sayid and Kate way before Mr. Friendly showed up in his bedroom to tell him.

    Right before Jack shook Ben's hand however, I thought I saw a bright red tattoo on the inside of Jack's forearm. Was that always there? I also thought Sayid's glance at Kate (while she was viewing Jack with Juliet) was pretty telling. Kate's jealous.

    The writers showed us a swingset last episode, but this time they hit us over the head with it by chaining Sayid to it. The Others must have kids around, right? Nah. I'm still not buying it. I know it was dark, but the swingset just felt pretty unused to me. I think it was all for show. I still believe the children are someplace (sometime?) else, simply because I think children have the potential to be more dangerous than adults on this island.

    And when Kate asks Jack about the people/kids the Others took, he answers simply with "they're safe". Although Jack physically 'saw' the kids a couple of episodes ago, that answer sounded contrived. It sounded like an answer Ben would give.

    We Have Two Giant Hamsters Running a Massive Wheel in Our Secret Underground Lair
    This was the best line of the week, but the conversation that followed here was the real meat and potatoes of this episode. Not only was a huge secret of the island finally revealed, but we also see a giant hole in Ben's seemingly impenetrable armor: he doesn't have total control.

    It turns out that the island CAN manifest things, and it works exactly as I've always thought it would - on the thoughts of those who inhabit it. The box analogy was for Locke's benefit, but in short the thoughts, dreams, desires, and fears one might have can be physically realized by the 'place' on the island (interesting the way Ben put that).

    This is extremely powerful knowledge, but Ben confides the secret of the island to Locke for several reasons. First, Locke's "commitment is genuine" and Ben knows he's got no desire to leave. This puts the two of them in the same boat, so to speak. Ben also recognizes that Locke already has a kinship with the island that, at this point in time, might even surpass his own. Finally, Ben needs to learn from Locke. If Locke has knowledge of how the island works that Ben does not, he needs to gain that knowledge. Especially now.

    The really awesome part of this scene was how nonchalant Locke was about everything. Ben's really not telling him anything new here - since season one Locke's known that this place is very special. In fact, Locke is angry at Ben because he is abusing the very purity of the island's gifts. He uses its power to make himself comfortable with electricity and running water... in Locke's eyes he's 'cheating', just as his father cheated everyone he came into contact with. Locke shames Ben. "If you had any idea what this place was, you wouldn't be putting chicken in your refrigerator!" Ouch, man. Locke takes a proverbial crap over Ben's whole house, his lifestyle, and his leftover chicken. Then he punches him square in the face with "That's why you're in a wheelchair... and I'm not".

    As awesome a character as Ben is, it was enormously satisfying to finally see someone get the upper hand on him. Ben is totally astonished here, maybe for the first time ever. How could Locke be there only 80 days, and yet know more about the island than Ben does having lived there his whole life?

    The answer of course, is that Ben has lost sight. Living in comfort, Ben's lost his own communion with the island. Of all people, Locke knows the penalty of straying from the island's set path. When Boone lost interest in helping Locke enter the hatch, Locke lost faith and the island punished him temporarily by taking his legs away. The island then sacrificed Boone to show Locke the penalty for going against the flow. Locke understood this lesson immediately. Locke understands more than Ben gives him credit for.

    Still, the island DID provide a spinal surgeon to save Ben's life. Whatever its agenda truly is, the island must still need its favorite son for something. And as Ben struggles to learn the secrets of how the island 'works', he believes the answers must lie within those who are closest to it. Walt, Locke... maybe even Rose.

    Finally, if we accept that the island can manifest things based upon thoughts (and I think we've seen evidence that belief plays a major role too), those with the most vivid imaginations would be the most powerful and dangerous. And which group does this apply to the most? The children. Children believe in everything, from monsters to aliens to Santa Claus. I think this is why the others took the children first. This is why they isolated them who-knows-where.

    Brockman March 22nd, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    I agree. It's so easy to forget that John Locke was also The Stepfather. Creeeeeeeeeeepy!!

    The Equation March 22nd, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Oh.. and another mirror was when Kate was handcuffed...again, throughout all the seasons

    Armand March 22nd, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Hi, just wondering what you thought of the theory that Locke didn't blow up the sub, that he submerged it, got out somehow and then detonated the C4 to fool Ben.

    BeLO March 22nd, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    J Wood says:
    "There are the little manipulations — Jack playing the piano (Charlie's domain)."

    This actually is not unprecedented for Jack. We have seen him playing the piano before so I would'nt exactly call it "Charlie's domain". In one of Jack's flashbacks, right after he married Sarah when they were in Hawaii for their honeymoon they were playing the piano together. I think that this was the writers' little way of showing that Jack was anxious to get back home and he was possibly thinking about Sarah at the time. I could be wrong but that just my two cents.

    mark March 22nd, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    well into the first season, i posted a comment in lost-forums about the striking similarities and/or homages to the first edition of the game 'myst' and was somewhat derided. nice to see a little validation of that.

    and i'm glad you post-scripted about the two performances. i was knocked out.

    right now, i don't think the 'box' is the big secret revealed, more of a red herring, an anomoly of whatever gives the island its powers (though i don't mean to minimize its narrative and dramatic importance). rather, i believe the real 'gift' of the island is its redemptive power to send people back to relive their lives. which is why i think the others' tend to welcome death, as the bukanin and mrs klugh cryptically did in the last two episodes. perhaps desmond caught but a ripple of this in the 'purple sky' anomoly. and it's possible that ben, among others, are reliving their lives multiple times, which is why they know all about the losties.

    and, after last night's episode, i had a strange, fleeting feeling that perhaps locke is 'jacob,' he is the 'great man,' and the others are reliving their lives with prescience to witness his ascendancy.

    and as j wood continues to point out the web of character name and easter egg references to philosophers and thinkers, i'm starting to think the show's creators are offering those to us, the audience, as context to think about the moral implications of a redemptive journey to relive your life consciously (which is a distinctive difference from traditional reincarnation beliefs). if a scientific anomoly gave that to us, would we or should we use it, and if so, how does it affect pillars of thought about determinism, objectivism, etc.

    Eliza B March 22nd, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    J-This episode was amazing on so many levels but part of my enjoyment of last night's episode was watching Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson working with each other on some very fine acting.
    I also have to say in response to the audience's participation in the show, Lost is the reason I own a TiVo.

    The Equation- I think you are right on with the idea of the children being dangerous for the island. Think, if at the end of December you had a dozen Santas roaming around? Not to mention the occasional alien and imaginary friend. Maybe Ben wasn't kidding about giant hampsters.

    Ben mentioned they got more than they bargained for with Walt. Maybe they used him to figure out how to control the "magic box"? Or at the very least I think Walt was helping them explore it's usage.

    Nash March 22nd, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    I was able to make out some of the book titles in Ben's house from some screen captures that I took:
    Chemistry and Physical Sciences

    Science something and Elementary Statistics

    Steven King

    Fat Tuesday?

    Lain March 23rd, 2007 at 5:58 am

    Another great twinning happens right at the end, with Locke's comment of "Dad?" This evokes Michael's experience of communicating with Walt on the Hatch computer back in season 2. Again, we don't know if what we're seeing is really what we're seeing. We can't trust that Locke is really seeing his Dad or a manifestation; we can't trust that Michael was really talking to Walt. Manipulation is twinned here - we the audience can't trust what we see, just like our favorite characters are being worked over. Even the theme of boxes get twinned in this moment, with Locke at a room-box and Michael at the computer-box. I thought it was a wonderful episode, one of the brightest spots of the season!

    El Cid March 23rd, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Equation -

    Are you Vozzek69 who posts on Dark UFO?

    Your post is exactly the same as the one posted here.

    El Cid

    Blodgett March 23rd, 2007 at 7:39 am

    J. Wood, reading what you write makes me fall in love with Lost like I did two years ago.

    Fuse #8 March 23rd, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Just a quick note. Though everyone associates hot air balloons with "Around the World in 80 Days," the funny thing is that there isn't one in the entire book. Weird, eh?

    Locke on wood March 23rd, 2007 at 8:01 am

    The Others really do not know Locke like they thought they did. He is not the angry wheelchair bound man that their research took him for. According to Mikhail, Locke's anger kept him off of Jacob's list. Looks like he is a prime candidate to be an Other now. Especially since he seems to know more about the island after 80 days than Ben knows living their his whole life. I agree that Ben has drifted from his roots and that is why he is in a wheelchair and Locke is not. I suppose that after the purge, the Others turned away from their original island communal way of life (abandoned village from season 2?) and embraced the modern life that Dharma brought.

    The Others penchant for making lists of 'good' people is an interesting concept to me. They are trying to build a perfect society. They only want people in their society that can help them keep it perfect and that will use the powers of the box for good. The bulk of the Oceanic survivors are flawed, therefore, they are a detriment to the perfect society and cannot be trusted to use the box in an acceptable way.

    I reminds me of the book The Sphere, where the people that enter the sphere are given the ability to bring their imaginations to life. Two of the characters that obtained this power were seriously flawed and as a result very dangerous things happened. It seems to me that the box of which Ben spoke is a metaphorical box and that he is actually referring to the island as the box. We have already seen manifestations of the losties imagination at play.

    The struggle between the Others and the losties is an allegory of the struggle human beings have in making a perfect social structure. Our inherent flaws make it impossible for such a perfect society to work perfectly. Each character symbolizes a unique human flaw and no matter how hard the Others try to control them, the losties are disrupting their society. Of course the Others are by no means perfect angels, but they like to think of themselves that way.

    gabriel March 23rd, 2007 at 8:22 am

    so who was the man from Tallahassee?

    Hjortron flicka March 23rd, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Vis-a-vis the numerous box references cited: I can remember upon hearing the Leonard Simms/Hurley exchange many episodes ago, that what Simms' comment brought to mind immediately was Pandora's box--and I think that makes even more sense with the other boxes that have been presented to us now...i.e. the consequences of opening Pandora's box can never be anticipated...

    KA March 23rd, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I always find it hilarious when somebody makes a criticism of Lost writing by saying its all smoke and mirrors. Duh.

    Its nice however to to get to a place once in a while in the House of mirrors where things sort of make sense.

    The encounter between Ben and Locke seemed less like a duel and more like an exchange of gifts. Its a credit to Ben how quickly he realized that John was a gift and sorted things out in his long stares. Like when Locke is in the kitchen and you think Ben is looking at the picture of his daughter, but that is for the audience, he is actually looking at the clock, calculating. The diffference in this exchange from the one in the hatch is that Locke has ascended to another level and also sees what Ben is doing. He comprehends on an intuitive level eventually that Ben wants the same thing, but instead of questioning his intuition like he did with the button in the hatch, he continues toward the goal.

    For me Alex's presence in that exchange was a clue to both those men. Alex told Locke about her father's manipulations because her relationship to Ben seems similar to Ben's relationship to the island. She understands her father intellectually the way Ben understands the island but can't connect with him, and correspondingly he cannot connect with the island. Again this is supposition, but the fact that Ben keeps stating that he was born there implies to me that he is the child of the Island. Not literally, but that he is like a teenager that wants things from the outside world, like companionship, but because of the nature of the island (parental figure) he can't count on always having them stay. Locke on the other hand, is the adopted son and is not afraid of leaving, but losing the first parent that has truly cared for him to the outside world. Losing it to things like scientists and developers and progress. He wants to cut the ties to the outside world to keep it out, Ben wants to keep it in.

    I think with Ben and Locke we were given a glimpse of the centre of the vortex of this story. To use the box analogy, it is like the centre of a whirling Rubiks cube, different facets representing aspects of time and space whirling around interchanging ( Locke and Ben trading wheelchairs) as the puzzle continues to solve itself.

    KA March 23rd, 2007 at 10:02 am

    @ Gabriel

    I think we can safely assume that he is Locke's father, because as soon as Ben had his first encounter with Locke he started cueing up the chess pieces. Also Tallahassee has always been a running place gag for the producers.

    Dani March 23rd, 2007 at 11:01 am

    I think we are underestimating Locke. HE is the one manipulating everyone now. He was soaking wet when he came back from "blowing up" the sub. I do not think he really blew it up. Does anyone remember from the first season when he got a phone call at work saying something about being a General or a "rendevous"? And then in this eppy he said "for all you know I could be a navy captain" and then Ben looked at him funny...I think Locke knew all along that Ben wanted him to blow up the sub and it was really Ben that was being played here...I don't exactly know what Locke is up to but why would he want to blow up the sub anyway? Obviously he dad would never have come after him on the island and even if everyone left Locke could have stayed if he wanted to plus supposedly the island can't be found anyway. Locke has the upper-hand now I think and I am really interested to see how it plays out.

    J Wood (Post Author) March 23rd, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    There is so much to respond to here: First, I just want to say how impressed I am by the discussion. Honestly, such curious, engaging responses makes this whole enterprise well worth it.

    Whether Equation's post came from somewhere else or not, it was a very considered post. I think the point about kids being dangerous is fascinating, and plays right towards the Others getting more than they bargained for with Walt. But I'm not so sure anybody got the upper hand on Ben. After all, by the end of the episode, he explains just how he played Locke in order to keep Jack on the island. I'm also not convinced the sub was the only way off, and I'm not convinced what Ben told Locke was the full truth (yet). Nor am I convinced Locke blew up the sub; I watched that scene again before sending off the post, and I can't tell for certain if that was the sub or the end of the dock blowing up. There was debris.

    As for the hot air balloon, here's the clarification: The film of the book uses the balloon. MacCutceon doesn't appear in the book of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, either, but does in the (ABC) movie.

    I've seen Jack's other tattoo mentioned a few times. That's been there all along; you can see it in a few shots in past episodes. It's just not in a convenient spot.

    BeLO: Nice call on Jack. I think you're right; playing piano is a little marker of home for him. (And maybe yet another thing to make Charlie jealous.)

    KA: That's insightful, about the exchange of gifts and their conflicted parental relationships with the island. You're on to something with that. And those little tells that point to their respective relationships to the island take watching and re-watching, or extremely attentive first viewing. It's one of the things I appreciate about the narrative; it's never complete on the first reading. That's part of the game. And it strikes me that if the audience is also a character in this narrative, and if like Ben says we won't commit unless we know we can leave, then that "sub" for the audience needs to be somewhere. That, I think, is knowing that the narrative is heading to a conclusion someplace. Without that, it risks floundering, like Stephen King warned about in his now-famous article. Would anyone pick up a book or go to a movie that has no end (Finnegans Wake aside -- a different monster)? This is a narratively-driven show, a narrative like no other, but narratives also need conclusions. Knowing that the narrative is heading someplace maintains the audience's illusion, just like the sub does for the Others. This episode helped point us in the direction the narrative is heading.

    (Stupid question I should know the answer to: How do you all get the links in your posts?)

    J Wood (Post Author) March 23rd, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    By the way, those screencaps -- that really makes the case for HDTV. I couldn't see anywhere near that detail on my regular box. I saw that on a recent episode of My Name is Earl, they did an HDTV-specific move; a guy in the background of a shot held up a sign that said HDTV Rules, or something like that. You couldn't make out the sign on regular TV, only on HDTV.

    P. McGinley March 23rd, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Not to split hairs about the "Jack playing the piano (Charlie's domain)" concept but I really think it was much more for dramatic effect. First, it provides a built-in soundtrack for the scene. It's a very melancholic tune and it is a very dramatic moment for Kate. It also creates a nice frisson: at face value the scene is somewhat suspenseful yet the music isn't. Finally, you've got the fact that Kate probably never knew Jack played the piano. She sees Jack in different light (electric light, courtesy of the hamsters) at a point when she's also wondering if he's been "turned" by the Others. Part of Evangeline's face just oozed with the angst of Kate suddenly realizing that she knows so little about a person she's deeply in love with.

    sosolost March 23rd, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    J. Wood -- I always enjoy your posts/thoughts. (Thank you for the Myst nod -- I too said from beginning of the show that there were lots of similarities between Lost/Myst, in re to look/feel/etc.)

    Anyway, this may have already been discussed but, given the purposeful use of names, I keep thinking about Jacob/Ben/Rachel and 12 tribes of Isreal. That said, I keep thinking of Locke as "Joseph": he is his father's (Jacob)favorite so his brothers throw him into a pit (mirror throw him out window) and lead Jacob to believe he is dead. Joseph then goes on to become a leader, who his brothers end up depending on/bowing down to. So, could Locke be "Him"? (In the Bible, Jacob was father of 12 tribes, of which Ben and Joseph shared same mother -- Rachel.) Or, maybe he's the anti-Joseph so to speak.

    Also been thinking about fact that Locke and Alex (and Walt depending on how you look at it) were raised "by another" - meaning ? I'm not sure but seems like there could be some significance.

    Last rambling thought: great observations re the various mirroring scenes/instances -- have you been to ballcap's repitition website? It's a good site -- -- he and some others started listing all the repetitions seen in Lost over a year ago (which led me to my Smokie Manifestation theory over a year ago).

    P. McGinley March 23rd, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Again, I'm splitting hairs over plot points... and engaging in the "sin of speculation" -- but I've spent a better part of my day on the "sub not blown up" theory so here goes:

    I really do agree with what Dani says on the subject. Locke may have pulled a con worthy of his unworthy father. Aside from the question of why he was wet, a major clue could be his response to Alex's grousing about Ben's powers of manipulation: "I'll keep that in mind." I don't think he was simply dismissing her. I think this comment was the writer's way of telling us he HAD it in mind ever since Ben explained why he needed the sub. He's taken Ben's illusion of "being able to come and go" and created his own illusion of "nobody can leave." Not only does he out maneuver Ben, he now has a fairly powerful bargaining chip for the future. He knows there's still a chance for other people to escape and he can use that to get people on his side when the time comes.

    Also, I've neglected to mention that I think "Living Lost" is the best "3rd party" Lost book so far. You're spot on about Lost's literary merit and the fact that it's as close as possible to a totally unique beast in the wilderness of television. It's like getting watch the installments of a Dickens novel as it's being written.

    But, here's one ultra-nerd, correction for the next edition (and apologies if someone has already pointed this out): the Tintin adventure is "Flight 714" not 715. That gives a nice symmetrical 101 to add to get us to Flight 815. I have to say I found it such an amazing connection that I rushed over to my collection and pulled it out. Aside from the similarities you pointed out it's also got ruins of a lost civilization (hinted at with the four-toed foot statue?) and the hint of a scientist being involved it some sort of global conspiracy. Thanks for a great book!

    The Equation March 24th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Yes I am. But I keep separate identities online because of the v equation

    The Equation March 24th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    There is also something to be desired of Bens acting during this episode. It is flat and bleek.

    George STPfdownlGoombah March 24th, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I think it is easy to mix up the motivations of the island and the motivations of Locke. If you listen to the 3rd track of Seasons 1s Official Soundtrack, you hear the whispers at 1:03 of the song. Listen to it backwards letting that be the endpoint from 4:20 being the start point.. play it backwards and you'll hear whispers saying "Locke will remain while everyone else stays the same" "Time is a placeholder and fools are enslaved by it"
    These messages have more meaning now in season 3 than they did half way through S01 and S02

    WhatAreYouDoingTalkingAbout? March 24th, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Wow!! I listened to the soundtrack soo many times and I cannot believe I missed this.
    George are you a sound engineer?
    What do you think of the soundtracks last track? And also the song 'I Shall Not Walk Alone' by The Blind Boys of Alabama? Think that is in reference to what Alvar Hanso did after the purge?

    J Wood (Post Author) March 24th, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for the endorsement and the Tintin fact-check. I'm keeping a list of errors for possible future editions (I think there's going to be an e-book), so every little bit helps. We tried to get the book out before the third season re-booted, and consequently I didn't get a chance to see a galley and double-check printer's and other errors.

    But the Locke theory -- that he didn't blow the sub, and is keeping it hidden away as a bargaining chip -- that, I think, has a lot of promise. It also affords Locke more guile than he seems to deserve at this point, but I'm not convinced he's as naive about some things as he may have seemed to be in the past. Lindelof and Cuse said as much in a recent podcast referring to Locke's squirreling away the C4. I'd be wary of calling Locke 'Jacob,' 'Him,' or 'Joseph' at this point, since the Hostiles/Others have been there for so long, and Locke has an extended history on the mainland. But, of course, we'll find out.

    Gjay March 24th, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    thanks very much for this article J.Wood. I found the link through lostcasts, there are many things i agree with and some Im not to sure about, I wont get into my own theories or thoughts, i do enough of that in the forum sites. I just want to say thanks for a insightful and intellectual read about the greatest and most powerful show to ever grace television screens... prehaps with the excepetion of the simpsons :)

    Sphere TL March 26th, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Just one thought: I still think that it is the real Locke's dad who appeared in the Island. And I think Ben ordered Richard to get him, his reappearance is telling in that sense.

    He can't be the smoke monster because how come Ben could think of impriosining the all powerful smoke monster with ropes on a chair? And if he can, because he controls the monster, why does he need Locke's input anyway to understand the Island/Monster?

    Dani March 26th, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Here's a thought:

    IF in fact there is some sort of way to manifest one's desires (THE BOX) then I think Locke's dad is there not because of Locke but because of SAWYER. Think about it: Locke never really expressed some great desire to 'get back' at his father. Sawyer on the other had killed a man he thought was the original Sawyer and keeps that letter with him everywhere he goes. If anyone's thoughts brought Locke's father to the island I bet it was Sawyer. Whether or not the Others are aware of this is anyone's guess.

    all_games March 26th, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Another fan, who is as convinced as I am that LOST is a game, sent me here to see your video game references. You might be interested in taking a look at my website.

    Faramir March 27th, 2007 at 7:25 am

    Hi there, I'm the *other fan* that sent all_games here ;) I give credit to Lostcasts for letting me know of your weekly analysis: always great! I'm one of the voices of the first and only Italian podcast about Lost,, where I record a recurring segment called Lostbooks: something similar to what you write, but not as rich. On my latest TLE special (#16), I talk about the meta-narrative aspects of Lost, which are its really revolutionary contribution to enetertainment history, if not its literal *solution*, in the end.
    Keep up the good work! I'll have to quote Living Lost in my future podcasts ;)

    ballcapguy March 27th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Hi J. Your friend ballcap here (the one with the crash time issue)

    Just wanted to pop in and say very interesting read as usual. I really like your commentary on viewership and how the show is acknowledging it.

    I hope the idea brought up on here about Locke having NOT blown up the sub is true. I think it would be brilliant for Locke - for a change - to purposely lead Ben into thinking he had maniuplated him, only to call his bluff later and watch Ben's face grimace when Locke does a little "nahnny-nahnny-pooh-pooh" dance.

    rabidrage March 28th, 2007 at 2:18 am

    At first I thought what happened to Locke was a little anticlimactic. Upon talking about it with a friend and reading all of this, however, I am satisfied with what I have seen. Now I'm speculating other things...for example, is it possible that (as someone mentioned above) the Others, or at least one of the Others, has been living and re-living the end of the world so many times that that's why Dharma was initiated? I think that explains what happened to Desmond, why he was told what he was told, and what's up with all this Valenzetti equation business from the online game. I only saw the videos someone compiled from playing it, I didn't play it myself, but still...I think that has merit.

    I've also been thinking that it's possible they're sitting on the event horizon of a black hole. All that talk about black holes in earlier posts gave me that impression and I'm thinking it could explain the supposed time discrepancy between the island and the outside world that the writers have been talking about.

    Back to Locke...does anybody else think that he's been having "flashes" like Desmond has? Let me explain--in the very first Locke episode he keeps saying that going on a Walkabout is his destiny, and why else would he think that unless he'd been seeing it in visions? Oh, I understand that it's possible he believes men make their own destinies and that he thinks by saying it's his destiny he can make it so. But what if it's flashes? It would make sense. It would explain why he has certain insights into what's going to happen. Granted, we've seen these played out as dreams in the show, but we've also seen him tell Hurley not to run from the monster and act as though he has some kind of prescience. Have I got something here?

    That's all I have to say for now...fascinating stuff. This blog really wraps it all up in a neat little package.

    Gabriel March 28th, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Locke blew the sub. How the heck do you hide a submarine? He wouldn't have had time or means to transport it anywhere else.

    J Wood (Post Author) March 28th, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    I've been pretty busy and haven't been able to respond, but quickly, here's some thoughts:

    I don't know if Locke's been having Desmond-like flashes, but he's certainly been experiencing something more than the other survivors (aside from healing so quickly). I think Locke read quite a bit into his dreams before he ever got on the island, and once there, he gets stronger, more vivid, more interesting dreams because of being on the island. And that makes for much more to read into. We also saw him take that substance he smeared on Boone's head to have a vision, which is more or less a waking dream; and his vision resulted in him finding Eko hidden in a bear cave. Locke just seems to be more jacked-in to his experiences, while Desmond doesn't seem conscious of when he's out of time -- can he be? So I think Locke's experiences are of a different nature -- more supra-conscious than sub-conscious.

    How the heck would you hide a submarine? Submerge it.

    OC_Alf March 30th, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I can't wait for your "Expose" commentary!

    Do you think it's possible that Rousseau is manning the submerged sub? Do you think Locke might have talked to her about it before they even got to the Others facility? That would explain why she took off and hid herself before Kate went in to see Jack and Locke went to see Ben. We saw that touching shot of Rousseau at the dock as she looks at Alex. It is possible that she then goes to join Locke in the sub, and together they fake the explosion? The Others don't even know she was there so it would be the perfect plan. Maybe she won't appear for a few episodes and then randomly show up somewhere else, perhaps close to a beach :)

    KAR March 30th, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Any post for Expose' yet?

    J Wood (Post Author) March 30th, 2007 at 11:03 am

    My apologies all -- I had two impromptu meetings on Thursday, and couldn't get to writing until later in the afternoon. The post was submitted last night, and we're just waiting for it to go up.

    OC_ALF: That's an interesting take on Rousseau manning the sub. She did work on an oceanic survey before, no? So she may know her way around ocean-going vessels. This would all depend on how much Rousseau trusts Locke, though, and Locke's not winning any friends on the island at this point. She may have something worked out with Sayid, though.

    By the way, I didn't put this in my Expose' post, but did anyone notice two dialog points that seemed very out of character? They were from two regulars; I won't say anything until the post goes up, but it was something that stood out for me. I think I understand one, but the other I'm still puzzling over.

    soo March 30th, 2007 at 11:04 am


    TrillianM March 30th, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Just found your blog a few days ago and read all of it. Looking forward to the next one. Thanks!

    J Wood (Post Author) March 30th, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    soo: "Exposé" was the name of the most recent episode; the post should be up sometime today.

    psvnjulie April 11th, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Great thoughts, as always. To me, the whole 'having a box and imaging something and it manifests' is also very reminiscent of the book The Sphere. In this book, the challenge was, if you have the power, what will you do with it?

    dharma bum May 8th, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    J. Wood, I was just thinking back about your post concerning the quality difference in viewing the show in HD versus SD. Now that a handful of modern cult favorite shows like The Sopranos have been released on Blu-Ray, I wonder if ABC will release Lost on Blu-Ray as well. It'd be great to re-watch the episodes at 1080p while waiting for season four. Now I just need to buy an HDTV and a Blu-Ray player...

    mike May 24th, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I think that the key to Lost's secret may be that they are truly all dead, and various groups are vying for their souls- the others may truly be good as they talk to Jacob "Jacob's Ladder refers to a ladder to heaven described in the Book of Genesis (28:11-19) which the biblical patriarch Jacob envisioned during his flight from his brother ..." Jacob may be the key to their salvation, in the ethereal garden of eden that they occupy, this eden as well, has snakes and dangers. The new group may lead to a worse purgatory than the limbo that they occupy on the island as they wait for their passage up Jacob's ladder to salvation? Jack's flash forward is a future that may be, yes tied into quantum physics "what the bleep do we know" as he lives out the bad choice of going with the minions of satan that direct the mystery freighter...

    Вячеслав April 10th, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Автор, посты у вас, конечно, очень интересные. Но вы не думали поменять дизайн?

    Gil July 7th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Really interesting discussion here, and thought I would mention the "Shore Leave" episode from the original Star Trek series as well. Remember Finnigan? The idea of physical manifestations appearing on the island as a result of the inhabitants imaginings and beliefs makes a lot of sense:

    Jack's seeing his dad in the early part of the series
    Kate's seeing a horse matching the horse that helped her escape the marshal
    Eko's visions of his brother, which lead him to the question mark
    Ben's need for a spinal surgeon leading to Jack's appearance in the crash
    Juliette's ex-husband being killed by a bus
    Hurley's seeing Dave on the island during his food crisis
    John's father appearing on the island

    I love the way the Lost writers are taking these ideas, and the show is really groundbreaking in so many ways. I like the idea of children being especially dangerous on the island.

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