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You'd think we'd start with Jughead. The episode is telling us to start with Jughead. It's part of the Universal Plot. But there are plenty of questions to be raised in this episode, and one thing was deceitfully subtle. I originally planned to focus on that subtlety, but my DVR has a habit of randomly deleting scheduled recordings (thanks, Comcast!), so I didn't get to watch the episode closely until the following day. For good or ill, that provided more time to find a lot more going on. The key symbol of the episode is the cracked bomb, threatening to release a lot more than it would seem to hold; it's an apt symbol for the episode itself.  Rather than batter readers with a term paper, this post is broken up into sections that you can click on to jump down to. So first let's lay out some structure, and you can choose which section(s) you'd prefer to read:


  • If you'd like to read some masterful detective work on Jughead and its connection to physicist John Archibald Wheeler, the person who coined the terms black hole and wormhole, check out Doc Jensen's Entertainment Weekly preview of "Jughead." He dug deep and found something solid.
  • The Otherville Book Club at DocArzt. In a synergistic handshake, a quick run-down of the texts in each post here will also go up at www.docarzt.com. Doc Arzt (Jon Lachonis) is then linking back to these Powell's Books pages. If you'd like to get a quick look at just the texts, or wander in theory land for a while, check that page. Majordomo Jon Lachonis is also the author of Lost Ate My Life, a book chronicling how new media like blogs have helped shrink the distance between audience and artist.

The Subtle Reference

On to the subtlety: We find out from Richard that the soldier-types are in the year 1954. This is right after the Korean War ended, and those M1 Garand rifles were still in use. But look at those soldiers again; they're not just white males, there's also a black soldier, and they're being led by a woman -- in 1954. We can glean from the episode that the equipment is lifted off at least some U.S. soldiers (as per Miles' comment that they just walked over the graves of four U.S. soldiers). But the Others' ad hoc military appears decidedly forward-thinking for the 1950's. Add to this a little Latin flavor provided by the Others Widmore/Jones, Cunningham and Juliet, and we have the makings of an important Renaissance influence.  (And doesn't this answer why the blast door map was written in Latin?)

We know the island was supposed to be an ideal community. In Western literature, the idea of a planned, ideal community stretches back to 1516 and Sir Thomas More's publication of Utopia. Structurally, More wrote the book anachronistically, finishing the second part of the book before the first, then came back and filled in the rest. He also attempted to create a new Utopian alphabet that resembles geometric glyphs; the British Library has a page of the glyphs on their web page.

Heavily influenced by Plato's Republic, More wrote the book in Latin, the language of Renaissance scholarship and, as Juliet says, "Others 101; gotta learn Latin-language of the enlightened." But More's book is a bit of a two-faced work. The title itself is a pun; the Greek ‘topos' means ‘place', but the ‘U' is the trick--both Eu and Ou in Greek sound like how we pronounce the ‘U' in ‘Utopia.' ‘Eu' means ‘good,' so ‘Good Place,' but ‘Ou' means ‘no,' so "No Place."

Where's that Lost island again?

The name games don't end there. Although More wrote in Latin, many of the names are corrupted Greek.  In "More's Strategy of Naming in the Utopia," James Romm called it a carefully constructed verbal ambiguity (you can get the article here, but it requires JSTOR access through a library).  In Chapter 3, "Of Their Magistrates," the official hierarchy goes the Syphogrants, then the Tranibors (who answer to the Archiphilarchs).  The names seem meaningful and resonate Greek, but any attempt at sensible translation breaks the rules of grammar.  The best one can get out of Syphogrant is "manipulator," and Tranibore is "bench-eater" (ben-cheater), which both seem pretty provocative for Lost themes.  Considering More was a lawyer, "manipulator" and "bench-eater" may have some other meanings. Romm finally suggests that "the reader's temptation to meddle in these nomenclatural mysteries is quite strong," but our need to map real-world words onto invented places is first invoked, and then defeated, and that in itself is the lesson.

Utopia is related as a frame narrative, with More himself first meeting a character named Raphael Hythlodaeus who had voyaged with Amerigo Vespucci to the New World. But Raphael went a little farther, and came across this island called Utopia. The rest of the book is Raphael trying to convey what he discovered.

Can we trust Raphael? He may be a little two-faced as well; although his first name means ‘God heals,' his last name is Greek for ‘slinger of nonsense.' In other words, Utopia could be a good place that heals, or the entire idea is a traveler's tall tale because such a place could never exist--it's no place. More is having it both ways here, but why? Stephen Greenblatt offers one argument in his book Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Briefly, More was putting forth ideas that would get him in hot 16th century water (and he was eventually beheaded by Henry VIII). More took those parts of himself that could get him dragged before an authority and displaced them into his character Raphael. Furthermore, he made Raphael's name ambivalent, so a reader couldn't really tell if these were healing words or nonsense. Thus More was protected -- by his own fictional mirror twin.

But More's island holds a few more echoes worth listening to. His imagined community was strikingly progressive for More's era, and nearly communist in its lack of private property and promotion of shared space and material goods. There's a whole lot of equality going around in Utopia; all material goods are shared, and even population distribution is handled so no one area becomes over or underpopulated.

Gender equality is also present; divorces are granted by the Senate, women and men of all classes attend lectures, and women learn trades, are taught to read, and are trained as soldiers. This seems commonplace now, but it wasn't in the early 1500's. Also, note that the leader of the island guerrillas was a woman, Ellie.

When it comes to religion in Utopia, women can be priests, and priests can marry. Citizens are also free to follow whatever religion they like; Raphael notes that some worship the sun, the moon, a planet, or the incomprehensible Deity that pervades all. "They differ in this: that one thinks the god whom he worships is this Supreme Being, and another thinks that his idol is that god." Note the varieties of religious experience symbolized by the Lost island inhabitants, from Catholicism to Buddhism to Islam to ancient Egyptian symbols. However, the Utopians are not keen on atheists, but nor do they punish or coerce them: "a man cannot make himself believe anything he pleases." The faithless aren't punished, but neither can they hold any important social positions. Raphael explains if a man is afraid of nothing but the law, then there's nothing to stop him from finding ways around the law.

In matters of Utopian war, there are still more echoes. The Utopians aren't big on war; they find it abhorrent, so they prepare for war in such a way as to end it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Think back to "The Man Behind the Curtain" and the Purge, when the pacifist DHARMA Initiative -- searchers of peace through science -- were also ready to defend themselves, as are the Others. Raphael goes on to explain that if the Utopians have to go to war, there are two main objectives: 1.) Obtain that which had the Utopians had it earlier would have prevented the war, or 2.) Punish their opponent so severely that they'll never think of starting up against the Utopians again. The Utopians are also great shots with arrows, and "It is hard to tell whether they are more dexterous in laying or avoiding ambushes." Again, think Purge, the arrow attacks, and every time a gang of Others seem pop out of the trees and then melt back into the jungle without a trace.

Utopia is a very wealthy nation, and its assets stretch beyond the island itself. But since they abhor war, and only use it as a last resort, they choose another way to protect their holdings; they hire mercenaries. The Zapolets live 500 miles east of Utopia (remember that location), and are uncultured barbarians who live to fight and hire out their services to the highest bidder. This is also another name game; Zapolets is a strange dialectical portmanteau of "selling people." Being so wealthy, the Utopians often have their own private Zapolet-staffed Blackwater off securing Utopia's transnational interests. We now know that Charles Widmore was once an Other of some sort, living on the utopian island, and he too paid top dollar to mercenaries like Keamy in order to secure the island, which he seems to consider his.

Since More is channeling Plato, there's also the question of slavery to consider. The conditions for enslavement in Utopia are strict: Slaves are either prisoners of war taken in battle or are people sentenced to slavery for deeds that would get them capital punishment in Texas; Or slaves are poor people from neighboring countries who offer their labor. The slaves constantly work, but also get an education. No son of a slave can be made a slave, and the slaves of other nations can't be made Utopian slaves. One echo here rings through Lost: Roger Linus was a poor person from a foreign country who offered his services to the DHARMA Initiative. Horace Goodspeed, who helped Roger when Ben was prematurely born outside Portland, got Roger a job, but the DI made Roger into a Work Man. Like a Utopian slave, he was given the benefits of citizenship and his son received an education, but Roger had to do all the menial labor.

If a slave can also be a POW, that brings us back to Enlightenment philosopher John Locke's Second Treatise of Government. (Incidentally, Locke knew Latin, believed it was necessary for for education, and his Latin epitaph begins with SISTE VIATOR, ‘STOP TRAVELER.') In the treatise, Locke argues that the only justification for any slavery emerges from an act of war, where one intends to violate someone else's life -- Locke may have been writing with Utopia on his desk. This was discussed in the post for the episode "The Brig," where Locke cons Sawyer into killing Cooper. Locke's father had fulfilled all of the philosopher Locke's conditions for war, and qualified for slavery; he left Locke homeless as a child, conned him out of his kidney and left him again, and then tried to kill him. What Cooper did amounted to an act of war on Locke, and appropriately enough, when he was killed by Sawyer, Cooper was bound in slave chains in the brig of a slave ship.

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The Overinterpretation Station

If you clicked down here, the above section laid out the connections between Sir Thomas More's book Utopia and the island of Lost, as seen in "Jughead" and previous episodes. More's land of Utopia is like a pre-Enlightenment Eden, and the line about the mercenary Zapolets residing "east of Utopia" rings of "east of Eden." So with that, here's the overinterpretation of the day: In More's book, the narrator Raphael relates how the Utopians save their baser work for the hunters. Hunting is seen as uncivilized and something more readily found in cultures like the Zapolets (whom Raphael refers to as huntsmen). Conversely, the Utopians are great farmers. In the comments for "Because You Left/The Lie," sosolost pointed out that Locke is still working through his identity crisis first raised in the episode "Further Instructions" -- is he a farmer or a hunter? When Locke is asked that question, the scene cuts before he can give an answer. However, when he later claims he is a hunter, he can't act like it. Locke seems to be a bit of both, and in some interesting ways; like Hurley wanting to be Hyde but always coming out Jekyll, Locke wants to be a hunter, but fate pulls him in the direction of the farmer.

The mythic trope of the hunter-gatherer vs. the farmer is allegorized in a number of familiar places. Basically, it reflects the conflict of the wandering man who lives in concert with nature vs. the civilized man who controls nature. The myths always display the civilized man winning out in the end (as he did historically), and include a female figure near the center of the conflict. Suggestion: Locke is an embodiment of the trope itself.

In Mesopotamia, the hunter/farmer myth is The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of Enkidu, the wild man who is at one with the animals, and Gilgamesh, the city-builder and king of Uruk. Enkidu was causing trouble for the herders, so Gilgamesh sent the sacred prostitute Shamhat to tame him. It worked; Enkidu lost his wildness, but his energy was displaced into overcoming other challenges, so Shamhat sent him to wrestle Gilgamesh. This version of the hunter/farmer myth is rather even-handed, as no one dies in the fight, and Gilgamesh befriends (and civilizes) Enkidu. Recall Locke's crossword from the episode "Collision"; the clue was ‘Enkidu's friend,' and the answer was ‘Gilgamesh.' Locke and Eko's relationship also resembles that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, starting as rivals and ending as friends when Eko/Enkidu is killed by Smoky/Humbaba. Despite Locke being cast in the Gilgamesh/farmer role, in "Further Instructions" Eko tells him that Locke will find his missing people: "After all, you are a hunter, John."

In Egyptian mythology, the hunter/farmer conflict is related through the brothers Set and Osiris, and their sister Isis. (Plutarch lays this out in Moralia, where he calls Set by his Greek name, Typhon.) Set is the wild one, the desert god of chaos who is represented by an animal, while Osiris is a dying-and-rising civilized god of the harvest. Osiris was busy living the good life with his sister/wife Isis, being king and making sure the Nile flooded, when Set became jealous of his brother's success and killed him, tearing Osiris into 14 pieces and scattering him around the land. This is where Isis steps in: she collected the pieces, reconstituted Osiris, and bore a son by him, Horus with the famous vertical strike below his left eye.

Horus, the nephew of Set, grew and eventually overcame his father's slayer, gaining his scarred eye and becoming the pharaoh of all Egypt. In this case, the civilized man is killed, but not forgotten. Osiris becomes a god of the dead, and both figures are symbolized in Horus, the son of the civilizer who unites Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom, and the war god who overcomes chaos. Egyptian mythology and Horus have been brought up quite a bit during recent seasons; along with the hieroglyphs, there's also Horace Goodspeed (another wedjatbloody-noser like Charlotte and Minkowski), and the vertical scar below Locke's right eye resembles the eye of Horus -- but note it's the equal but opposite eye, the left eye's mirror twin.

Then we get to the Old Testament and the sons of Adam and Eve; Cain the farmer, and his brother Abel the (hunter-gatherer) shepherd. The brothers both offered sacrifices to Yahweh, who clearly appreciated Abel's animal sacrifice more than Cain's grain sacrifice (Yahweh wasn't a vegetarian). As a result Cain became angry and killed Abel--the farmer overcomes the hunter-gatherer. Yahweh had to do something, so he banished Cain to the Land of Nod (wandering) east of Eden, and gave Cain some kind of mark; the mark of Cain denoted that he was cursed for committing murder, and that he was protected by Yahweh. Cain then went on to do what any farmer in this mythic trope does; he built a city, Enoch. The Jewish midrash develops the story a bit; each had a sister/wife (like Isis), but Cain found Abel's sister/wife more appealing and wanted Abel out of the picture, not unlike Set being jealous of Osiris, except the attacker roles are reversed. We've seen Juliet's mark of Cain for murdering Pickett in the episode "Stranger In a Strange Land." Locke seems to be the constant wanderer, even arriving on the island as the result of a walkabout, and now we have the wandering island, stuck in its own Land of Nod. And with Locke's luck, who could argue that he isn't cursed?

Connections? Not necessarily, but an echo (Eco, Eko) isn't a map. Yet we know that Locke embodies this hunter/farmer conflict -- he's both at once. He claims to be a hunter, but he's seen working the land in the "Further Instructions" flashback, can't bring himself to kill like hunter (the FBI agent at the farm, Cooper, Widmore), and is heading toward the farmer-civilizer role of a leader of people. Locke also has the naïve capacity to allow himself to be used by anyone; he gets played by Cooper, his mother, Jack, Sawyer, Ben, and possibly Richard and Jacob. LOSTcasts has done a good job of tracking Locke's missteps over the course of the narrative. Myths aren't necessarily cast in stone forever; they get passed around from culture to culture, adopted and adapted and used in ways that suits that culture's purposes, just as the hunter/farmer archetype is adapted to suit the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Hebrew purposes. What's interesting about this is if Locke is an embodiment of the hunter/farmer mythic trope, then he should be used to different purposes by anyone who finds a use for him. If Locke is a walking myth, we can expect him to be manipulated for other people's intentions.

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Other(s) Texts

Thomas More's Utopia (laid out in the above sections) gave rise to a number of later works building on his political ideas and taking them in new directions. Of interest to Lost are Aldous Huxley's utopian and dystopian counterparts Island and Brave New World, and George Orwell's 1984. Huxley wrote Island to balance out the dystopian vision he laid out in Brave New World, a book which influenced Orwell -- Huxley was Orwell's schoolteacher at Eton.

Lostpedia also points out that Island begins with the protagonist, Will Farnaby, "lying there like a corpse in the dead leaves" and then waking with a start, just like Jack did in the pilot episode. The Pala Ferry of Lost hearkens back to the name of Huxley's utopian island, Pala, and the island's Queen Mother (the Rani) tells Farnaby "Nothing happens by Accident. There's a Great Plan, and within that Great Plan innumerable little plans. A little plan for each and every one of us." It sounds like the Rani was reading some Umberto Eco; she could have replaced "Great Plan" with "Universal Plot."

(If you would like to see a real-world megalithic manifesto of a kind of utopian vision, check out the Georgia Guidestones; these ideas don't just exist in fiction.)

Orwell's dystopian vision in 1984 introduced readers to Room 101, where the Ministry of Love re-educates subjects by using a subject's deepest fears against them. In Lost, this is echoed with Room 23, where Ben has Karl re-educated. But Room 23 also pulls from another dystopian vision, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (and Stanley Kubrick's cinematic adaptation of that work), which depicts an attempt at re-education in the hopes of more toward a more utopian society. In A Clockwork Orange and Room 23, both Alex and Karl are re-educated by being strapped into chairs, injected with drugs, their eyelids are forked open, and they are forced to view a multiple series of images designed to play on their subconscious. Lost adds a bit of a techno twist, with driving beats and backward-masked messages accompanying the flashing, intercut images on the screen.

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Heterotopia: Other Place

There is one more take on the idea of utopia (laid out in the first section) worth noting. In a 1967 lecture entitled "Of Other Spaces," French critic Michel Foucault broached the idea of heterotopia, or other place. One of his first claims seems to conjure the current central conflict of Lost: "Time probably appears to us only as one of the various distributive operations that are possible for the elements that are spread out in space." Translation: time is part of space, we just don't experience it that way, and that becomes important to the notion of a heterotopia. Foucault then defines utopias as sites that don't exist, and heterotopias as counter-sites where "all the other real sites that can be found within the culture [are] simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted." (Note: Michel Foucault has no bearing on Foucault's Pendulum and Eco denies any influence, but some scholars disagree.  His lecture is available in Diacritics 16:1, but library access is required.)

Foucault has a harder time getting to the point than I do, so here's an attempt at an encapsulation: a heterotopia is both a geographical and mental site that exists outside of conventional culture, and can reflect all the other established sites a culture has to offer. In short, it's an other place that exists in reality and either carries an echo of utopian possibilities (colonies, ships, cyberspace, Otherville), or a parallel place that contains negative elements in order to maintain utopian possibilities in conventional culture (prisons, hospitals, cemeteries, Room 23). He goes on to describe six principles of heterotopias. Of note for Lost are:

  • The third: a heterotopia juxtaposes several sites in a single place, sites that would otherwise be incompatible (the Others, the DHARMA Initiative, the survivors);
  • The fourth: heterotopias are slices of time, and function best when people absolutely break with traditional time (the entire narrative is now about the islanders and the Oceanic Six + Ben and Locke experiencing their own absolute break with time);
  • The fifth: heterotopias are not freely accessible, but require permission and certain gestures (recall Ben and Locke's requirement to sacrifice their fathers to become an Other, or Mr. Friendly out in the jungle: "This is not your island. This is our island. And the only reason you're living on it is because we let you live on it.");
  • And the sixth: heterotopias either create an illusion exposing real space, or create an other real space that is the equal and opposite of our space--a mirror twin (Otherville vs. the outside world, Otherville vs. the beach).

The idea of heterotopias has been influential on a good deal of speculative and science fiction since the 1970's. In the collection Political Science Fiction, Neil Easterbrook's "State, Heterotopia," explores the heterotopian models presented in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and Samuel R. Delany's Triton. In each book, a heterotopian civilization on a moon is at war with its more traditional parent planet, and each author presents a different imagined political response.

Heinlein, Easterbrook argues, heads in a libertarian anarcho-capitalist direction with a dollop of Ayn Rand (think Sawyer, Widmore). Le Guin's novel, subtitled "An Ambiguous Utopia," is in part a response to Dostoevsky's anarchist novel The Possessed, and imagines a more productive form of anarchism than Dostoevsky does (or possibly Mikhail Bakunin). Her model is more along the lines of Thomas More's, and is closer to the social structure of the Others. Delany's Triton, subtitled "An Ambiguous Heterotopia," is in part a response to The Dispossessed and displaces politics from group social action to the individual body. Delany's book imagines technology that can repair social problems by changing the body itself.

In Lost, this physio-techno politics is represented in many ways, such as with Room 23, where technology is used to socially reprogram Karl to fit Ben's imagined utopia; with some of the DHARMA Initiative attempts to solve the political problems through manipulating the Valenzetti Equation (like parapsychology); with the Skinner-like experiments, where a subject's psychology is manipulated through technological interactions; and through finding ways to zap people into different locations in time, possibly in attempts to re-engineer history.

The above writers are also familiar to Lost. Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land provided the title for the Jack-in-Thailand-with-Bai-Ling episode, and Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven is a noted precursor to Ben's magic box, where thought can be manifested into reality (like Walt looking at a polar bear in a comic book, and then the bear appears out of the jungle). Given the above examples, Lost could arguably be read as a mass-media model of competing heterotopias.

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The Narrative SandboxForsythe Jones III

Jughead: When one hears the word Jughead, one's thoughts generally turn to a cryptic, gangly, and eternally hungry Archie Comics character who runs as fast as he can to wherever he's going, wears a crown beanie, and is a lot smarter than everyone else. He shares a last name with the dead soldier whose uniform the young Widmore wore, and his first name functions a little like the Utopia narrator's ambiguous last name, Hythlodaeus; Jughead is very intelligent, but his name is a euphemism for a fool.

The good old Oxford English Dictionary and American Dialect Society explain that "jughead" was first used in reference to WW I American Expeditionary Forces in the 1926 L.H. Nason novel Chevrons. By 1964 "jughead" was interchangeable with the U.S. Marine nickname "jarhead." The military angle is interesting; in 1954, the year that the the survivors flash back to the island, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission commenced Operation Castle. This was a series of thermonuclear hydrogen bomb tests in the South Pacific's Bikini Atoll. Following on from WW II's Fat Man and Little Boy, the bombs dropped on Japan, the idea was to make smaller and more powerful bombs that could be easily dropped by an aircraft.

DeGroot: On March 22, 1954, Castle Yankee was scheduled to test a TX-16, codenamed "Jughead." The test was meant as a backup in case the March 1 test of "Shrimp" failed. It didn't; Shrimp packed a wallop more than a thousand times stronger than Fat Man or Little Boy, and the fallout poisoned islanders and Japanese fishermen in the region. Jughead was subsequently dismantled (or dropped on a mysterious electromagnetic island). This isn't hidden history, but the work of one professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland is worth noting. He chronicled these tests and their fallout in his 2004 book The Bomb: A Life.

His name: Gerard DeGroot.

No, this isn't the same Gerald DeGroot who started the DHARMA Initiative, the one who has been missing since the 1970's. No, this isn't part of any Alternate Reality Game. Note that's Gerard with an ‘r', not Gerald with an ‘l'. He's not a fictional character, and he's not playing a fictional character in reality like Rachel Blake.

But consider the subjects of his scholarship. Professor DeGroot has written on subjects that relate to the same eras and themes that motivated Gerald DeGroot's establishment of the DHARMA Initiative, like Student Protest: The Sixties and After (1998); A Noble Cause?: America and the Vietnam War (1999); Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest (2006); and The Sixties Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade (2008).

Here is his University of St. Andrews web page. He was already a footnote on Gerald DeGroot's Lostpedia page, but the Jughead link seems too coincidental. Can this be a coincidence? A Scottish professor named DeGroot whose studies jibe with the same period and themes that led to the DHARMA Initiative? Maybe someone on the Lost staff was familiar with the real DeGroot's work, and used it as an influence. Maybe someone on the Lost staff saw that the community had found a Scottish historian with (nearly) the same name, and then went to The Bomb: A Life when drafting the "Jughead" script; that would be an interesting way to toy with the boundary between fictional narrative and real audience. In any case, it's some connection.

Smoky: If that's not enough, check out what Doc Jensen dug up on John Archibald Wheeler, the American quantum physicist at Princeton who coined the terms black hole and wormhole. He also helped create the first hydrogen bomb (like Jughead). Doc does a little yoga to make it from Jughead of Archie Comics to John Archibald Wheeler, but what locked it in for him was that Wheeler had his own pet name for something called the delayed choice double slit experiment.

One problem in quantum physics is if matter presents itself, at the quantum level, as a wave or a particle. A particular experiment demonstrated this problem: Fire a photon (a packet of light) at a wall with two slits, and depending on what measuring instrument the experimenter chooses, the photon either passes through one slit as a particle or both slits as a wave. It's called particle-wave duality.

Wheeler suggested the experimenter could choose the measuring instrument after the photon had passed through the slit/s, and the experimenter's choice will still determine whether the photon showed itself as a particle or a wave. In effect, the experimenter takes part in the creation of the past. Wheeler explained one could detect the start and end points of the photon, but in between was a "great smoky dragon" of uncertainty, it's tail at the firing point and its teeth on the measuring stick. From this, he claimed the past had no existence except for how it was recorded in the present.

A great smoky dragon that effects time -- if that doesn't sound suggestive. The experiment has been undertaken a few times now, successfully.  A 2002 Discover Magazine article titled "Does the Universe Exist if We're Not Looking?" follows up on Wheeler's delayed-choice work. He had moved on to an almost mystical genesis-by-observation theory, postulating that our observations of the world "contributed to the creation of physical reality," including the future, present and past.

Compass: One of the building connections is with Locke and his compass. Richard gave Locke the compass during his flashes, telling Locke to show him the compass the next time he sees Richard because Richard wouldn't recognize him. Recall the flashback in the episode "Cabin Fever," when Richard visited a young Locke in California. We know that Locke was 5 years old when Richard visited him to try out the Dalai Lama test, placing objects that belonged to the previous leader and asking the boy "which of these things belong to you already?" Two of those objects are a knife and a compass.

In "Jughead," we learn that Locke was born in 1956, and gives Richard the compass in 1954; Richard doesn't seem convinced by Locke's claim the Richard gave him the compass. This means Richard visited Locke around 1961 or 1962. Since it's California and it's raining when Richard visits, we can guess it's probably winter, and if it's early in 1962, that would put Richard's visit some 42 years before Richard gave Locke the compass on the island during the flashes -- and there's one of the numbers, 42.

In 1962, Richard thinks the compass belonged to the Locke he met in 1954, but Locke received that compass from Richard in 2004. See the problem here? Neither of them really know whose compass it is; the Locke of 2004 thinks it belongs to Richard, and the Richard of 1954-1962 thinks it belongs to Locke. In any event, Locke chooses the knife (he wants to be a hunter). This needs some untangling.  If Richard mistakenly believed the compass belonged to young Locke, and young Locke chose the knife, then he didn't choose wrong.

Compasses are also becoming increasingly important. Faraday has that complicated gold device in "The Lie" he uses to determine where they are in time, just like a compass determines where one is in space. Or maybe it's a flux capacitor, and it'll take 1.21 gigawatts to stabilize the island.

flux capacitor

Theresa: We also learned that Faraday worked with a woman named Theresa at Oxford, and possibly tried some of the same kinds of experiments with her that he did with Eloise the rat. When Desmond finds Theresa in Oxford, she seems to be unstuck in time like Minkowski was. In the comments for "Because You Left/The Lie," Montand's Arm points out that in the season one episode "Deus Ex Machina," Locke has a dream where he sees a bloodied Boone repeating "Theresa falls up the stairs. Theresa falls down the stairs. Theresa falls up the stairs. Theresa falls down the stairs." Boone later tells Locke that Theresa was his nanny, and when he was young he would constantly use an intercom to call her up the stairs. She fell on one of these trips and broke her neck. However, the Oxford Theresa's consciousness seems to be flashing back and forth in a similar way, forward and backward, up the stairs and down the stairs.

Ms. Hawking: So Ms. Hawking is making her presence known again, and she knows Ben. Lostpedia states that on the season three DVD, Damon Lindelof called Ms. Hawking a temporal policeman who makes sure that the people who are supposed to be on the island get there. And that brings us back to Jughead (which Doc also pointed out); in 1990, an Archie spin-off comic began called Jughead's Time Police. Jughead was given a hi-tech beanie from some unknown benefactor (very Dickensian), and it allowed him to travel around time. His job was to make sure history stayed on course.

Recall the jewelry shop scene in "Flashes Before Your Eyes," where Ms. Hawking tells Desmond that pushing the button will be the most important thing he ever does. It seems Desmond's job helped keep the island fixed in spacetime. Now the question is why was pushing the button necessary? We know there was an incident, but we don't quite know what occurred. When was it? Here are some hints: When Desmond triggered the failsafe in the Swan station, causing the latest incident, that made the island detectable by Penny Widmore, and possibly the Freighties. We know from Miles that it took Charles Widmore 20 years to find the island the first time; unless Miles knew Widmore as a baby, that ‘first time' Miles refers to is probably when the Freighties found the island in 2004. (Miles is speaking sarcastically, so he's possibly not being specific.) If an incident triggers the island's detection, and Widmore started looking for it 20 years ago, that puts us back toward the mid 1980's, shortly before Danielle Rousseau arrived at the island Alex was born (if Danielle is to be believed). If this holds up, we may be seeing an earlier incident involving Rousseau and Widmore.

Who Knew What When?: A number of subtle hints from the 1954 Others seem to be seeds planted for for harvest later this (or next) season. One of the first came when the survivors first tripped the land mine and the Others captured them. Ellie walks up, points her gun at Faraday (via a first-person-shooter point of view shot, something not seen at least on this show), and says to him "You just couldn't stay away, could you?" This suggests she's seen Faraday before intruders recently. When she asks where the rest of their people are, Miles cracks that maybe they were blown up by one of their land mines; Ellie responds "We didn't put them here, you did." When Ellie brings the survivors back to the Others camp, Richard says "I assume you've come back for your bomb." When Richard questions Faraday about where the other people are, Faraday won't tell him because he thinks Richard will just kill them; Richard responds, "We didn't start this, friend, your people attacked us. You come to our island to run your tests, you fire on us, and what -- you expect us not to defend ourselves?"

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something the characters don't. We've seen it before in the shot cuts, like when the young Widmore complains to Richard that some old man couldn't track him and doesn't know the island as well as he does. Then the shot cuts to the old man Locke, looking out over a ridge having just tracked Widmore across the island. That's for us. But these cryptic remarks by the Others are something different; the Others know something that neither the survivors nor the audience do. That puts the audience back in the same position as the survivors we've been following all along, again fading the delineations between character and audience.

Here's a final example of that kind of character-driven dramatic irony: Faraday clearly knows more than he's letting on, about the island, Charlotte, all of it. We're left out of his loop. We know he went into the (story's) past and infiltrated the DHARMA Initiative, possibly to gather information about their work. Could he go into the future as well? If this is the case, perhaps he already knows what everyone's fate is, and he knows there is nothing he can do about it. Like with Desmond and Charlie, no matter what Faraday does, Charlotte will either A.) live, or B.) die. All he can do is try to calm her in the meantime. In this sense, Faraday takes on a role similar to Dr. Manhattan of Alan Moore's Watchmen, the scientist who, after a heavy-duty radiation accident, can experience all time. Dr. Manhattan knows when bombs will fall, when those he loves will die, when disasters will happen, all of it, but he accepts events: "I can't prevent the future. To me, it's already happening."

Who thinks Ellie is Faraday's mother? The enhanced episode of "The Lie" referred to Ms. Hawking as Eloise Hawking, Faraday's rat was named Eloise, and Faraday kept gaping at Ellie when she marched him off to Jughead: "...it's just... you look so much like someone I used to know."


(back up)

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Locke: The Second Treatise of... Used Trade Paper $4.50
  2. Utopia (Penguin Classics) Used Trade Paper $6.50
  3. The Republic: The Complete and... Used Trade Paper $4.95
  4. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From... Used Trade Paper $14.00
  5. The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics) Used Trade Paper $8.00
  6. Moralia New Trade Paper $40.95
  7. Onslaught Against Innocence: Cain,... New Trade Paper $25.79
  8. From Metaphysics to Midrash: Myth,... New Hardcover $36.25
  9. Island (Perennial Classics) Used Trade Paper $10.95
  10. Brave New World (P.S.)
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  11. Foucault's Pendulum New Mass Market $15.50
  12. A Clockwork Orange (Norton Paperback...
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  13. Lost Ate My Life: The Inside Story... Used Trade Paper $4.98

  14. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
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  15. The Dispossessed
    Sale Trade Paper $8.98
  16. Trouble on Triton New Trade Paper $17.95
  17. The Possessed - Volume One New Trade Paper $38.50
  18. The Fountainhead
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  19. Stranger in a Strange Land
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  20. The Lathe of Heaven
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  21. The Bomb: A Life
    Used Hardcover $7.95
  22. Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum... New Trade Paper $15.95
  23. Watchmen
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J. Wood is the author of Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island

111 Responses to "Lost: SISTE VIATOR"

    THE_3RD_ONE February 2nd, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    You hit my thoughts right on the head in regards to Faraday's mother. the name thing just can't be coincidence. insightful and delightful post as always.

    zorro February 2nd, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    You completely missed what was going on when the Others talked to Faraday and his group about not being able to stay away and planting the mine and coming back for the bomb. At the time those statements were made, the Others were under the mistaken impression that Faraday and his group were with the US military. Thus, the US military couldn't stay away and planted the mine and left the bomb.

    Basically, you fell for the writer's trick. They planted those lines to make us think that Faraday really had gone further back in time and done those things. But then they revealed to us that the US military had done those things, unrelated to Faraday.

    Charlotte February 2nd, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Excellent, as always. One correction, though: Bikini Atoll is just north of the equator, so it is technically in the North Pacific.

    I like your analysis of Locke as hunter and farmer (as light is both particle and wave). What he chooses is so often in opposition to his true nature (saying he likes sports rather than science) that he has become both while being neither. In rewatching season 1, I was struck by how often Locke was shown in an ominous light, as well as scenes that showed him positively.

    I do believe that he has echoes of memories of his time-tripping on the Island. He did choose both the vial of sand and the compass before picking up the knife. All three he would have an memory-echo from the Island, though the knife led to Richard's disappointment. It's also the reason he adapted so easily to the Island, and knew to save Jack in "White Rabbit" so Jack could save the rest by finding the water.

    Locke is both the light side and the dark side (remember his eyes in Claire's dream in "Maternity Leave"); the farmer and the hunter; the past and the future.

    Phutatorius February 2nd, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Wow! You warned of less this season but are delivering more. I can't think of a thing to add.

    john norris February 2nd, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    All this lovely speculation and connectedness, and still I can't look past one practical consideration: In 1954, the US Army apparently had no problem landing a group of soldiers on the island, with the wherewithal to set up a good-sized camp and construct a scaffold for an H-bomb test.

    If the island is hard to find and harder to get to (in our now), it certainly seems that wasn't the case in 1954. What happened? Are Dharma's experiments with time in the '70s responsible for hiding the island? Until then, was it protected only by its remoteness and its Others?

    J Wood (Post Author) February 2nd, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    zorro, not sure I follow you here. First, I did mention that whole scene, under "Who Knew What When." Second, if it's the case that the Others think Faraday, et. al. are U.S. military, then why did Ellie say they didn't believe a scientist, a British woman and a Chinese man were U.S. military? I'm not sure that's much of a trap. I did see a comment, though, that the mine was too recent to be from 1954 (some people know these things). Either that was an error, or the U.S. soldiers who were on that island were from a different time.

    zorro February 2nd, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    "Are Dharma's experiments with time in the '70s responsible for hiding the island?"

    Well, given that the destruction of a DHARMA station is what made the island visible to the outside world, I'd say it's a pretty safe assumption that DHARMA is responsible for making the island invisible.

    J Wood (Post Author) February 2nd, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    True, we don't have any evidence that the island was visible or not in 1954. One possibility is that the flashing out of time came as a result of the DI looking for a way to either go back or forth in time to figure out what to do with the Valenzetti Equation, i.e. "If we turn that knob and do this thing with that bunny in 1977, what happens in 2057?" After some incident (which we're still waiting on), the island became unstable and they used the technology they'd already developed to hide it.

    There's a physicist working at UCONN who's focused most of his work on time and the possibility of time travel. His name is Ronald L. Mallett (let's see if these links work), and one of the things he discusses is how it could be done with light -- lasers. I'm still brushing up on it, but his basic model is a cup of coffee; drop a spoon in, stir until you get a little whirlpool, and then drop a coffee bean in; the coffee bean is being moved by the coffee, and will drop down the whirlpool. He argues this sort of thing could be done with lasers as the spoon, and space as the coffee, and has the mathematics to back it (but the tech doesn't exist yet). He calls it frame dragging. There are some objections to the math, but it's still a growing theory.

    Someone at Lost may have seen his work, which makes the light flashes take on a bit different meaning (except he argues you couldn't go anytime earlier than the time when the wormhole/time machine was created, only into the future). The light itself from the flash creates the time warp. (Maybe.)

    He demonstrates his idea in a couple places; he's been on Discover Science and National Geographic explaining the theory, and Spike Lee is making a film about him. It's interesting geek food for thought,

    Phutatorius February 2nd, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Now I can think of something to add. Those expeditions to the western Pacific to test H-bombs were always accompanied by a naval task force. (I used to check out from the Cal State Hayward library Chuck Hansen's book on the history of those H-bomb tests.) Now if I were to try to lend credibility to Lost's placing Jughead on the island with only 30 or 40 troops, I'd speculate that the naval task force was somewhere nearby until someone moved the island, leaving only 30 or 40 troops/technicians remaining with the bomb. Also, now that I think of it, wasn't bomb disposal Desmond's specialty in the British army?

    zorro February 2nd, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    "zorro, not sure I follow you here."

    What don't you understand? Everything that the Others initially said to Faraday's group they said under the assumption that Faraday's group was with the US military. The US military had come onto the island to run their H-bomb experiments. The Others then killed the US soldiers, moved into their camp, and put on their uniforms. Then, when they encountered the Losties on the beach, they assumed that the US military had come back. Go back and re-watch the episode with that understanding. It's pretty clear that everything Ellie and Richard said to Faraday's group (especially early on) was said in reference to the US military.

    Thus, everything you said about dramatic irony and planting seeds is pointless. The writers aren't setting us up for a moment when Faraday goes further back in time and plants a mine and a bomb, etc. Rather, the writers set a trap for the audience. The audience was supposed to assume exactly what you had assumed--that Ellie was referring to Faraday going back in time. But as the episode progressed, the writer's trick was revealed.

    "Second, if it's the case that the Others think Faraday, et. al. are U.S. military, then why did Ellie say they didn't believe a scientist, a British woman and a Chinese man were U.S. military?"

    She said that because she was beginning to doubt their story. But that was after she had said everything to them about not being able to stay away and planting the mine. She said those things before having time to realize that maybe they weren't actually with the military.

    "I did see a comment, though, that the mine was too recent to be from 1954 (some people know these things). Either that was an error, or the U.S. soldiers who were on that island were from a different time."

    I don't know anything about mines, so I don't know what time it's from. I'm completely sure, though, that it's a simple production error. There's no way that the producers purposely used a modern bomb with the expectation that the viewers would realize that time-traveling US soldiers planted it.

    JMan February 2nd, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Unfortunately, I can't find a screen capture to re-examine the look of the mine that Miles found. If it is a claymore mine, as some have suggested on other boards, then this ordinance apparently did not come into play until 1960. However, explosive land mines did exist before that time, so who knows...

    ginny February 2nd, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks J. I love reading your analysis because I learn so much not only about Lost, but about other authors, themes and books. I'm making a huge reading list! I can't get over all the connections with Ms. Hawking, Ben, Widmore, and now Faraday. I agree that Ellie from the past is Eloise H. and Daniel's mother and that Danielle may be connected somehow with Widmore. She was with a "science" team when her boat crashed on the island.

    One aside comment that no one has mentioned on your post, but what about Sun meeting with Widmore and then Kate. She shows Kate a baby picture of Ji Yeon, but her daughter would be 2-3 by then. Why doesn't she have a picture of her in the present? One thought I had is that Sun is so obssessed with avenging Jin's "death" that she does not have time to raise Ji Yeon so she gives her to relatives to raise? "Raised by another"! Sun figures in here somewhere.

    Keep up the great posts and don't ever worry about it being too long...I love reading them!

    j.b. February 2nd, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Love the discussion on Locke's bifurcated personality. However, I have a question about the assertion that he is not a killer (hunter): we have seen him kill, most famously Naomi, but also one of the soldiers who are about to kill Sawyer and Juliet in the jungle (i.e., a companion of Cunningham's and Jones/Widmore's). The reason Locke gives for not shooting Jones/Widmore as the latter flees into the jungle is that he is now "one of my people" (or words to that effect), but otherwise, we're left with the impression that Locke would have no difficulty in pulling the trigger. I'm sure there's some explanation for this, but I do sometimes feel as if the powers that be aren't sure in which direction they'd like Locke to go. (I'm all too willing, though, to give leeway for fact that something in Season 1 might be hard to accommodate with something written/produced four years later.) Thoughts? And thanks, as always, for your unbelievable work, J. Wood. I wonder how you have time to pull it all together!!

    J Wood (Post Author) February 2nd, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    zorro, I'm apologize; I think we're crossing wires here, and maybe I didn't explain dramatic irony sufficiently.

    There was nothing to suggest that Farady, Miles and Charlotte had been there earlier, and if they had been, they might have known where they planted the mine. The Others assuming Faraday's crew is military doesn't seem like much of a trick, especially if it's solved in 15 minutes. I didn't mean to suggest that they had all been there before; however, this doesn't mean Ellie wouldn't assume Faraday was with the military, nor do we know that he wasn't there at some earlier point, spotted by the Others, and then assumed to be with the military. After all, I'm pretty sure Pierre Chang assumed Faraday was DHARMA when he ran into him in "Because You Left," and Faraday went pretty quickly from seeing radiation burns on someone's hands to telling Richard there was a leak in the bomb. Perhaps the line "This suggests she's seen Faraday before" should be changed to "This suggests she's seen intruders recently." I'll change that.

    All the comments from the Others toward the survivors suggests that there were intruders there before, and Miles tells us that the intruders were U.S. military long before Richard does (yes, I did watch the epsiode). The Others made an assumption, and we knew better. But the Others know stuff about the military on the island that we don't, which I noted in the line "the Others know something that neither the survivors nor the audience do." So what you're claiming actually supports dramatic irony, it doesn't make it pointless ("Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something the characters don't"). Whether Ellie thinks Faraday is a scientist or a commando when she first sees him has no bearing on whether this is dramatic irony or not; the audience knows something the characters don't, and the Others clearly know something about U.S. troops that we don't. Those are the planted seeds; if that was pointless, then we should expect not to find out anything more about the military that brought Jughead. If that's wrong, please explain, because then I'm really lost. If Faraday and the rest actually were U.S. military, then yes, it would be pointless.

    But my larger point was to extend those moments to two other examples; Locke tracking Widmore (which was cheap dramatic irony, and kind of funny), then to Faraday possibly knowing what will happen to Charlotte. Since we've seen Faraday travel to the past and work as a DHARMA Initiate, we can guess that he may have gone into the future as well (like Ben). If that's the case, he may already know Charlotte's fate, and in that way, the dramatic irony is shifted; the character knows something the audience and other characters don't. The fact that we're shown evidence of this -- through his being DHARMA at one point -- supports this sort of inverse dramatic irony. At least for me, that's what's interesting here, how the traditional take on dramatic irony is turned on its side.

    Morgan February 2nd, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Fantastic post yet again. I'll assume you've seen this comic con video with Pierre Chang, and (possibly faraday behind the camera?)

    I think Miles is this Marvin Candel, Hallowax, etc. kid.


    Witkacy February 2nd, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    The interpretations are always fascinating J., over- or otherwise.

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the resonance of various names during the Oxford sequence. Edmund Spenser? Herbert Spencer, who seems to have had an influence on H.G. Wells 'Time Machine'? The most interesting connection I found was this passage from St. Teresa of Avila:

    "I saw close to me toward my left side an angel in bodily form . . . in his hands (was) a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me. . ."

    Given the number of arrows this season it seemed worth bringing up. Also, and rather wonderfully, St. Teresa is the patron saint of headaches.

    Lostie February 2nd, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I just want to know why Locke always gets screwed. Foster home, Alpert's visit as a kid, high school bullies, kidney stolen, girlfriend break up, cripple, walkabout (even the callgirl didn't want to talk for 80 bucks an hour) - and now the ordeal with Richard again and him not really being chosen. Geez, the writers need to give the guy a break!

    o’brien February 2nd, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Very good post, especially the stuff on Utopia. I always really enjoy reading these. I think your viewing of the Alpert/young Locke scene from Cabin Fever might be off though (or maybe I'm just misreading you and projecting my own mistakes from the first time I watched it). Originally I thought he was supposed to choose one item, but then noticed that Richard twice says "belong to you" as in more than one item. Locke pulls the the compass and the cylinder of sand toward him, and only when he grabs the knife as well does Richard seem upset. It seems like your saying Locke didn't choose the compass and that's what made Richard think he had failed, but I think he did choose the compass but failed by then also choosing the knife.

    Iczorro February 2nd, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    "I did see a comment, though, that the mine was too recent to be from 1954 (some people know these things). Either that was an error, or the U.S. soldiers who were on that island were from a different time." The mine was an M18A1 Claymore, and they were first developed in 1952, though not put into widespread service until 1961. Seeing as how the Army was there testing an experimental H Bomb, I can see them also having other weapons to test.

    Also, if I post here at all regularly, it's going to get confusing with a "zorro" and an "Iczorro".

    As far as Widmore/Rousseau, I don't think so. Rousseau got there very very shortly before giving birth, and Alex was 15/16 at the time of her death. If it took Widmore 20 years to find the island, he started looking at least four years before Rousseau got to the island.

    tinyblob February 3rd, 2009 at 1:27 am

    JMan - here's a screenshot of the mine, edited for clarity:

    If the shape wasn't enough to prove that it's a claymore, the classic "Front towards enemy" branding certainly is.

    It's correct to say that the Claymore came into active service in 1960, inferring that this mine cannot have been placed in 1954 - however if you look at the genesis of the Claymore (M18A1) mine, you'll see that the progenitor (M18) was developed prior to 1954. According to wikipedia the M18A1 was developed following a request placed IN 1954.

    If you compare the picture i've linked you to, to an actual photo of a claymore you'll notice the top of the mine featured in Lost appears a little less "refined" than a real claymore. This is probably because they've just some plastic prop - but could also infer that it's an early prototype.

    My purpose of posting this is simply to suggest that we should not assume the mines were placed outside the 1954 setting, and could be explained away by the writers if they really needed to.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Sorry Zorro but I don't think your accomplishing anything

    eric February 3rd, 2009 at 3:40 am

    The whole section about Wheeler and Smokey was FASCINATING. The best hypothesis on what Smokey possibly derives from I've ever read

    Patton McGinley February 3rd, 2009 at 6:55 am

    JMan, it definitely looked like a Claymore (I'm not sure if there were any earlier versions that looked like them but weren't them, per se). Lostpedia had noted the anachronistic mine as a "goof" on the page describing the episode... but how can anything involving a temporally misplaced object be a "goof" at this point?

    JWood, this blog KICKS as always! Watch out for those MRIs. MRI-related accidents have tripled since 2004 (hmm... an interesting year for giant magnets).

    BTW, I have FINALLY stumbled onto a reference to something I blathered about way back but could never track down: the imprisoned-faux-Henry-Gale and-Dostoevsky connection via Ursula K. LeGuin. I won't go into here since I'm no Dostoevsky expert and it's slightly "OT;" but, if you can, check out the introduction for "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" in the collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters. Definitely not in Portland...

    Kyle February 3rd, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Currently typing up a blog post comparing Daniel Faraday to Pariah of DC Comics.

    One thing to remember: the blast door map was drawn by a DI operative. Alpert's crew are the Hostiles, the opposites of DI. Or are you postulating that Radzinsky was an infiltrator? If you aren't, I will. I like it.

    LostMommyof3 February 3rd, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Brilliant ties as always!

    "In any event, Locke chooses the knife (he wants to be a hunter). This needs some untangling."

    I have seen so many say that Locke chose the knife and that it why Richard is disappointed. While that is true, the last thing he chooses is the knife, but Locke also picks the vial of sand and the compass. I get the impression that Richard is disappointed because Locke chose a knife...a weapon. Not that he *didn't* choose the compass, because he did. Given the Utopian tones of the Others and all you so clearly laid out here I think that is why he's upset. Locke should be more of a pacifist "already" and not the hunter.

    That whole scene in Cabin Fever gives the feel of the fact that Locke ought the be aware of his whole life "already". Richards question is "which of things belongs to you already?" He can tell Locke must have some awareness of the Island based on little Locke's drawing of Smokey hovering over some victim.

    I cannot thank you enough for the added element and joy you bring to LOST!

    El Prez February 3rd, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Wow...I call myself a fan, but you, sir, take it to another level. In regards to Faraday, the only comment I have is on this:
    "We know he went into the (story's) past and infiltrated the DHARMA Initiative, possibly to gather information about their work. Could he go into the future as well?"
    I think what we saw in the season opener is a "flash forward" of something that will take place this season, in a future episode. Perhaps Faraday and the rest travel to 1970 or so, when the DI is building the Orchid and Faraday is attempting to set the record straight, pun intended, by examining the frozen wheel up close?
    Of course, that's just speculation. But what isn't with this show??

    Ajax February 3rd, 2009 at 8:47 am

    As always a great read, I look forward to your reviews/insight almost as much as the episode itself, far and above anyone else's, keep 'em coming.

    MD February 3rd, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I wonder if Faraday's rules of time travel are correct or not.

    Can you really change the past?

    I'll take Faraday's comments at face value for now, but some things are bugging me.

    Due to the time traveling by our characters, 2 people have been killed who otherwise weren't killed before.

    A) Locke killed one of the Others while saving Sayer and Juliet (remember the shot of him taking the knife out of the guy's body)

    B) Widmore broke an Other's neck just before he made his escape.

    Will these deaths have any impact in the future? Could these deaths be the cause of Charlotte's problems?

    jphimself February 3rd, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Thanks, J, for once again helping us think well beyond the normal bounds of fan forums (would forii be the correct Latin plural?).

    In discussing and summarizing Michel Foucault's notion of hetertopias, J touches once again on the recurring mirror twining found in the Lost narrative.

    It seems that this episode may have provided a glimpse of another example that specifically goes to Foucault's sixth type of other utopia, summarized by J as, "heterotopias either create an illusion exposing real space, or create an other real space that is the equal and opposite of our space--a mirror twin (Otherville vs. the outside world, Otherville vs. the beach)."

    When Desmond barges into Widmore's office we are shown a painting on the wall to Des' left featuring a polar bear, an inverted Buddha and the word Namaste prominently displayed. In Season 3's, "Flashes Before Your Eyes" during a time flashing visit by Des to ask for Penny's hand in marriage, there is a shot of the same painting, this time on Des' right and flipped horizontally, as in a mirror image. Here is a url for a screencap of that episode:


    It is clear that this image was flipped in editing, for not only is the painting backwards, but the lamp is also not on the "right" of the desk. The question is why was this done in post production.

    In another forum where I suggested this was significant, most viewed it as an aesthetic or practical choice by the film editors that should be ignored. But, especially as a faithful reader of J's posts, I find it more than accidental. I'd be interested to hear what others think.

    For me, by the third season, when the producers were very well aware of the fan obsession with the show and screen caps of its detail, providing a shot with the key word Namaste backwards had to have been done purposefully. Are we now seeing the payoff for what was set up two years ago? Are they proposing that the "reality" visited by time travelers will display this kind of subtle mirror twinned difference?

    Pedro Munoz February 3rd, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I've been meaning to bring this up since the S4 finale, but Ben's antics at the donkey wheel reminded me of a section from Albert Scweitzer's Quest for the Historical Jesus:

    The Baptist appears, and cries:
    'Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' Soon after that comes Jesus,
    and in the knowledge that He is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the
    wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which is to
    bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws
    Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing
    in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls
    onward, and the mangled body of the one immeasurably great Man, who was
    strong enough to think of Himself as the spiritual ruler of mankind and
    to bend history to His purpose, is hanging upon it still. That is His victory
    and His reign."

    Sorry, I don't have the page number handy at the moment, and quite honestly I'm still not sure what to make of it in terms of how it relates (or does not relate) to LOST, and particularly Ben's arc. Perhaps Ben sees himself as a messiah-type and comes to tragic ruin like Schweitzer's Christ? If this is worth consideration, I'm eager to hear others thoughts.

    LostAddict February 3rd, 2009 at 10:21 am

    MD, I take your point, although I don't think we can say for sure that these minor characters "shouldn't" have died, because we don't know if these particular people are alive in the future (2004) island. But as I posted last week, it bothers me that Frogurt was killed by the flaming arrows, and yet we know he is alive in 2004 island time....

    Charlotte February 3rd, 2009 at 10:22 am

    As I see it, the time-jumping that Locke, Sawyer, and company are doing were things that were supposed to happen because they already had happened.

    Locke was supposed to see the Beechcraft crash and get shot by Ethan because we saw in "Deus ex Machina" that he had a vision of the plane and lost the use of his legs in the same spot where he's been shot in the future-past.

    Locke was supposed to visit Richard, give him the compass, and tell him to come see him as an infant because we saw that Richard already knew that Locke would give him the compass and that he would visit the infant Locke.

    So the two men who were killed were supposed to be killed because everything (or almost everything - Charlotte's symptoms may be a sign that some small change may have significant results) is happening as it's supposed to happen. I also think that Daniel knew that he could talk to Desmond at the Swan because he had written down in his notebook that he had done so.

    If all time exists at once, which the show has used as its premise, then certain people may be more attuned to this (it's been used as an explanation for deja vu). Locke seems to be one of the those people, as his instant rapport with the Island suggests.

    Rose also seems to have this connection, as her insistence that Bernard is alive and her cancer is cured seemed more forceful and rational than wishful thinking. Sawyer also seems to have some of these memory echoes, though they may be more diffuse. If you watch the first season mindful that Locke, Sawyer, and Rose are time-traveling, then certain odd things start to make more sense.

    Olivier February 3rd, 2009 at 10:30 am

    "Perhaps Faraday and the rest travel to 1970 or so, when the DI is building the Orchid and Faraday is attempting to set the record straight, pun intended, by examining the frozen wheel up close?"
    (El Prez)

    He certainly went there to study the core of the mystery.
    Widmore clearly hired him to take care of it, study it, harness it.

    Now Faraday needs to study it to save his group (Charlotte above all).

    Since that's the point in time prior to the setting up of the necessary equipment to use everything, he may have to drill his way through to the wheel-- which he may have known a bit about: Keemy's red file told him about the secret station, and how to get down there.

    Faraday may thus know or learn that turning the wheel is what moved the island, with the effect we know.
    However dangerous drilling through the wall to access it (as we've seen with this fallen worker), he may have to do it because time is running out.

    Doing this may cause a very serious incident that triggers all the troubles we know about-- lethal pregnancies, for instance.

    Come to think of it, what might happen if you spinned the wheel the other way (the wrong way?) around?
    Would the island shift back to where and when it was? Should you go far enough, would you be able to travel into the future?

    Olivier February 3rd, 2009 at 10:34 am

    "I wonder if Faraday's rules of time travel are correct or not.
    Can you really change the past?
    I'll take Faraday's comments at face value for now, but some things are bugging me.
    Due to the time traveling by our characters, 2 people have been killed who otherwise weren't killed before."

    Well, that Faraday's theory, so it could be proved somewhat wrong, but Mrs Hawking explained Fate had a way of correcting any obstacles and interventions; Desmond's attempts to save Charlie showed he could only delay his death, not prevent it; the important thing was to let it occur at the right time.

    Maybe those two deaths had to happen; maybe those two guys would have stepped on a mine a few minutes later-- or failed to do so a few minutes earlier.

    zorro February 3rd, 2009 at 11:17 am

    MD, you said: "Due to the time traveling by our characters, 2 people have been killed who otherwise weren't killed before."

    You don't seem to understand Faraday's theory of time travel. It's impossible to change the past. You see, if those two people were killed in 1954, that means that they ALWAYS had died in 1954. In other words, there was never a timeline in which Locke didn't kill that Other or one in which Widmore didn't kill another Other. If you want to understand what's going on in LOST, you need to forget everything you know about "Back to the Future" style time travel, in which you can go back and make major changes in the timeline. On LOST, we are simply watching the history of the island unfold as it always had unfolded.

    Olivier February 3rd, 2009 at 11:28 am

    "If you watch the first season mindful that Locke, Sawyer, and Rose are time-traveling, then certain odd things start to make more sense."

    As I have seen suggested, maybe we will discover that in certain scenes it was actually a future-traveling-in-the-past Locke (or someone else?) that did such or such key (or at the time and in that context) insignificant thing.

    MD February 3rd, 2009 at 12:07 pm


    I think that clears a few things up.

    MD February 3rd, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Lost Addict:

    But as I posted last week, it bothers me that Frogurt was killed by the flaming arrows, and yet we know he is alive in 2004 island time....


    Yes, but his death via flaming arrow doesn't prevent Frogurt from being on the island in 2004. It was not a "past" Frogurt who was killed. So it is not a problem.

    zenguy February 3rd, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Phutatorius or J Wood:

    Can you provide a link to this article?
    "did you ever read Melvyn New's essay describing Proust's influence on Sterne?"

    Thank you !

    Charlotte February 3rd, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Correct, MD. It doesn't matter what "time" Frogurt was in when he died. He died when he was supposed to die, and that doesn't prevent him from being born and later going back in time and dying in 1954. The most visual example of this is in the movie "12 Monkeys", where the young version of Bruce Willis's character watches himself die as a grown man.

    Brian February 3rd, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Hey J!

    Great digging into dusty books again my friend!

    Okay, first off "You just couldn't stay away..." It's a double line, like so many of our characters and situations, and it's open ended, leaving our writers of Lost options. But the fact that Faraday was in 70's Island time under the Orchid Station, who knows where/when else in time he will go. Perhaps he will meet Eloise in the past, and just couldn't stay away. Or maybe she thinks he's a US soldier. Either way, I don't think the Ellie/Faraday story is close to done yet.

    Thanks for pondering the compass trick as well. I agree with you that I don't think Richard recognized the compass in the past. It didn't seem to make any difference to him. So why would 2008 Richard give it to 2008 Lock to give to 1954 Richard? 'Cause that's what happened. Not because Richard would recognize it. (I'm supposing here)

    This leads to some more paradoxes. If the compass is in a time loop like this, then entropy is a problem. Richard gives Lock a 50 year old compass. Lock give is to Richard in 54. Richard holds onto it till 2008. It is now 100ish years old. Lock now takes a 100ish year old compass to Richard in 54. Richard holds onto it, gives it to Lock in 2008. Now it's 150ish years old.

    Ouch, hurts the brain.

    Or look at it linear. One day in 54 a man and a compass pop out of nowhere. Man disappears. Compass stays. Richard hold onto it for 50ish years, gives it to Lock in 2008 and *poof* it disappears. Linearly, the compass only exists for 50ish years.


    this one explains it all except why Richard didn't seem very impressed with the compass.

    Richard did recognize it. He's had this compass for, let's say 100 years (why not) But the Lock Compass is an older version of a compass he has in his pocket in '54. Lock goes *poof* Now Richard has 2 compass in his pocket. One newer, one 50ish years older. 50 years later in 2008ish, Richard gives the youngest, newest compass (the one that's always been in his pocket, not the one Lock gave him in '54) to Lock who goes *poof* and Richard is left with the older compass that he received from Lock in '54

    Ouch, right? Still, I like the brain twisting version of only 1 compass that is a time-loop-paradox. I hope Richard has no idea what the hell the compass is or for or where it came from or when or anything!

    Well, I got more, but I also have work!

    Cheers J, thanks again!

    Brian February 3rd, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Ok, work can wait one more min...

    Why would Richard say "One of these belong to you already?" if he knows what the compass is all about? I mean, Lock only had it for like 12 hours or so...

    And also, back to Ep 1 of this season. Perhaps I was looking into it too hard (HA!) but in a way there was one Open Eye moment at the start. We didn't have an opening shot of an Open Eye, but there was something. The shot that came as close to it was a quick shot of the Darhma guy filming the Orchid Station video. He has one open eye, staring at us. I kinda took it as it's us, the audience, with the opening eye this season.

    Or maybe I love Lost too much.

    Charlotte February 3rd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Brian -

    According to the Lostpedia transcript of the episode, Richard asks "Which of these things belongs to you?", then "Which of these things belongs to you already?" The 'which' is very numerically unspecific. So Locke picks up the vial of sand, the compass, and the knife.

    As for the compass, given what Richard of 19601/2 knows of Locke after the one encounter in 1954, he would have no idea how long Locke would have had the compass. Since they were on the Island, the vial of sand would be logical, as it would signal that Locke knew that the Island belonged to him as leader of the Others. The compass was the one object that Richard could tangibly connect to Locke, as Locke gave it to him.

    An obviously disappointed Richard then asks if Locke is sure about the knife. 1961/2 Richard would assume that Locke, his future leader, would chose a more appropriate object for a leader, like the Book of Laws. He wouldn't know about how much resonance and meaning a knife would have for future Locke on the Island.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I just posted a load of comments, but they seemed to flash out of spacetime. I don't seem them in the pipeline. So I'll repost -- I have them saved. But briefly, one thing we're running into with the spacetime problem and not being able to change the past (or the future) is free will vs. determinism. One philosopher split the difference with compatibilism, an idea that explained how all acts of free will are always already somewhat determined into a set of choices. That was David Hume. It's an idea nearly as hard to twist your head around as Brian's possibilities for the compass. But the compatibilist would recognize they were operating with a set of predetermined choices, and that their sense of free will was limited and partially an illusion. However, if it's an illusion, it doesn't really make a difference; it doesn't fundamentally change how you would live.

    Brian, Richard doesn't say "one of these things," he says "which of these things belong to you," suggesting a set of options. That's all coming from when the current Dalai Lama was found; the monks presented some objects to him when they first found him as a boy, some belonging to the previous Lama and some not. The little Lama immediately said "That's mine" and took one of the past Lama's things. That got the ball rolling.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    I've tried four times to post this page of comments -- not sure why they're not taking. So I'm going to start posting them comment by comment. Here's the first:

    Ginny, that's still one of the questions about Sun. You're right, her baby photo was far too young, and she has something else going on (taking over part of her father's business, seeming to set up Kate for something, trying to work with Widmore). I wonder if she found out that Jin may still be alive, and is trying to work the people who know how to get to the island to get him back.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    j.b. (great band, the JB's), yep, we have seen Locke kill. It's a little clearer why he wouldn't kill Widmore on the island, but when it counted, he couldn't do it -- Cooper, the FBI agent. At the same time, there are moments where he kills without blinking, either to save someone or a cause (like when he slew Naomi). It seems that Locke is becoming both the farmer and the hunter, not one or the other. Some of Locke's spiritual ambivalence may be related to this. But as far as the hunter/farmer mythic trope goes, of the three offered in the post, Horus is the only one who comes closest to embodying both -- and Locke has that same Horus scar under his eye. (Actually, I've been a little shocked at how much laid out early on, from seasons 1-3, have come back to play a larger role. Cuselof have said all along that they had a kind of overarching narrative structure and the first episodes lay out a number of the themes like an overture or outline, but how they got from one point to the next was flexible.)

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Morgan, I hadn't seen that video yet, thanks. (I kind of couldn't see much of anything while the ARG was going on, so I generally gave this one a miss.) It almost sounds like Faraday behind the camera, but his last few lines the accent seems pretty different. I'm not positive, but it might also be that camera guy people said resembled Sawyer. One thing jumps out at me right away from that video; it's recalling the dream video from John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, which was sampled in DJ Shadow's Endtroducing. Maybe the best thing about that film was Victor Wong; it wasn't well-received. (Here's the clip from the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbYJvvgF5LU "This is not a dream... not a dream... We are using your brain's electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through your conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year 1-9-9-9... You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter events you are seeing..."

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Witkacy, the patron saint of headaches seems interesting. To be honest Edmund Spenser's era of literature isn't my strong point (it's out of my area of research), but he as kicked off to Ireland, not Oxford, and he hated it. However, Herbert Spencer is promising; it's spelled the same way as Theresa's last name, he was at Oxford, he was an influence on H.G. Wells and many other writers, and Einstein delivered the Herbert Spencer Lecture in 1933, "On the Method of Theoretical Physics". Spencer gets a bum rap for being Darwin's foil when it comes to theories of evolution, probably because he was one of the first to use the term "social Darwinism." He had a notion of cultural evolution that was pretty involved; he argued that great figures in history don't exist without a great society to mold them, so rather than great men changing society, society created great men of change. Wells picked up on Spencer's ideas of cultural evolution and embedded them in his Eloi and Morlocks of The Time Machine. Spencer also argued that things like physical attributes developed out of necessity and faded away out of disuse throughout evolution -- we're talking vestigial organs like the appendix, and possibly the little toe, like the statue. He suggested that humans could carry a kind of (Lamarckian) cultural or genetic memory from generations past, so even if you were never taught to, say, fish, you could figure it out based on this genetic memory; this is and idea that, as far as I know, isn't born out by science, but it speaks to young Locke's memory of being on the island. Finally, Spencer was also a liberal utilitarian, and a follower of -- wait for it -- Jeremy Bentham. Bang, look at that. I'll do some more work on this.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Lostie, the Locke as a mythic trope was supposed to offer a suggestion for why Locke is always getting screwed; a breakdown would look like:
    A.) Mythic tropes get used and manipulated by people in all sorts of ways to suit their cultural purposes.
    B.) Locke is an embodiment of they hunter/farmer mythic trope
    C.) If Locke is a mythic trope, we can expect him to be constantly manipulated. What looks like bad luck to us is also the charging of a mythic trope, as he/the trope is manipulated by others to suit their own purposes.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    o'brien & LostMommyof3, yeah Richard doesn't say "which one of these belongs to you," but just "which of these things belongs to you." In all probability, all three probably belong to Locke. There may also be an argument for a compass being a symbol of the farmer-civilizer who leads people. But we don't know if Richard, at that point, knows Locke as a hunter. If he's looking for a leader -- a farmer-civilizer -- then his disappointment at Locke picking up the object of a hunter is understandable. But Richard does ask him if he's sure that belongs to him; when Locke nods yes, then Richard takes off. My own reading of it (with no definite evidence yet, so I haven't laid it out) is that Locke could have chosen any of the three items and they would have been correct, but Richard doesn't yet know that those other things belong to Locke. That still doesn't solve the problem of neither Richard nor the adult Locke really knowing who the compass belongs to, at least at this point in the narrative (they each think it belongs to the other person).

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Patton McGinley, Le Guin credits William James for the scapegoat idea in that creepy little story, but later recognizes that it was there in Karamazov (which she hadn't read in years). She was deeply influenced by Dostoevsky, in both positive and negative ways; as she says in her intro, she thought he was a radical, but found he was just a reactionary. Le Guin says she wasn't thinking about James or Dostoevsky at the moment of writing, but about a scapegoat, and her reading of the other two influenced her. But that idea of the scapegoat is, in its way, another mythic trope that is enacted over and over and over again throughout history; James and Dostoevsky were already pre-programmed to intuit it and then break it down. Another French critic/anthropologist, Rene Girard, has two books that get into the scapegoat notion from ancient history on and how it keeps manifesting over and over again: Violence and the Sacred and The Scapegoat.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    El Prez, do yo mean Faraday working with the DI is a flashback that's a glimpse of a scene (set in the past) we'll return to later on down the road? If so, then what you have here is the audience flashing forward in narrative time, via a flashback. Actually, I think we saw that sort of thing before in the Nikki & Paolo episode; the way past scenes were built upon shows us, in retrospect, that we were getting glimpses of future events.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    MD, I'm saying this with the clear proviso that I'm obviously no expert, but my understanding is that no, time cannot be changed. Hawking's paradox. However, physicists like Lisa Randall have made great ground in showing that parallel universes are most likely with us right now. One theory is that if you could actually change the past, you wouldn't actually be in the same universe anymore, but a parallel one. So the spacetime in universe A is set, but if something changes, it may seem like history has changed, but you've actually ended up in universe B, where most things are the same except for that one difference. (Actually, didn't Dr. Who did a whole season finale based on that idea?) I don't think we'll be dealing with parallel universes; that gets really complicated given the parameters the narrative has established, and Faraday's warning that time can't change jibes with the idea that the DHARMA Initiative were looking or a way to change the past, but failed. But as far as Locke's victims go, if spacetime can't change, they were always already dead at that point -- kind of like Charlie. Locke could have spared them, but they would have died some other way.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    jphimself, I saw that painting and recognized it, but I didn't go back and look at the first instance of it. Yep, it's mirrored. Here's a screengrab of the two next to each other: http://bit.ly/2vB7aE. Note the one on the right; were it just moved to the other side of the room, the bear and the 'namaste' would be facing the other direction in "Jughead"

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 3rd, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Just a side-note on Sawyer; Josh Holloway is from the Georgia, by way of California. Is Holloway a common name in the South? I only ask because I recently saw Sterling Holloway in a film, the guy who did the voice of Winnie the Pooh. Sterling was from Georgia, moved to California, and I'd love to know if Winnie the Pooh is related to Sawyer.

    Doctor Slop February 3rd, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Why, first of all, is Faraday still wearing his tie after so many days/weeks/months on the island? Second, zenguy, although you didn't ask me, I think that the Melvyn New article on Proust's influence on Sterne is included as a chapter in his book titled "Telling New Lies", available at your local university library. Third, I don't think that David Kellog Lewis's article on "The Paradoxes of Time Travel" rules out a compass (like Locke's) that seems to have had no origin outside of a closed time loop. Finally, it seems that Locke, with all the bad breaks he seems to be getting, is working off a substantial load of bad Karma in a brief span of time. This alone makes him quite fortunate.

    Charlotte February 3rd, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    J -

    According to Wikipedia, Sterling Holloway adopted a son, whose name was (yes, really) Richard. I haven't seen anything on any of the Josh Holloway sites to say he's related (but then I mainly look at the pictures). Holloway isn't a common name in the South, but it's not extremely rare either.

    leah February 3rd, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    On Daniel's theories of time travel... wondering if anyone else has read the Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis? There's an idea that could relate.... A busload of people, who live in a vast, gray city (perpetual dusk), travel to a bright, shiny place on a higher plane (perpetual dawn, and the bus flies). It's a dream, and an allegory of pergatory/heaven, but the idea I found interesting was that when the dusk people travel to the dawn place, they aren't "really there," so nothing they do can change anything in the dawn place. They are like ghosts there, and they cannot physically alter anything there, because they aren't actually there. To the point that the grass can stab their feet and a raindrop could kill them by falling straight through their bodies like a bullet. The physical attributes of the dawn world don't recognize those people as being there physically at all. And it causes the dusk people pain to step on the grass or get in the way of a falling raindrop.

    I'm just wondering how this might relate to what's going on with the time-traveling losties. Daniel says that the past can't be changed, or even the future for that matter (didn't he tell that to Des when he was trying to save Charlie?).

    It's like this story, both past and present and future, is on a set course and can't be changed. But sometimes it seems like it is changed. Some have suggested above, that it wasn't changed, it had always happened that way (like in Kate & Leopold when Meg Ryan's ex boyfriend says that time is a pretzel, and it's not meant to be untwisted; it was always that way).

    I guess my question is: how much of this story (history) is unbending, piercing any foot that would try to step on it? Is it free will or predetermined? And if it's predetermined, who is the puppeteer, ahem, the man behind the curtain?

    leah February 3rd, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    So, after watching that youtube vid again, and considering Miles Straume is Pierre's son... When I heard his last name last season my first thought was, "that's not Chinese." So, after Daniel or whoever talked to Candle/Chang and briefed him on the future of the island and DI demise, do you think Pierre "spirited" Miles off the island to be "raised by another" with a German last name?

    Obviously we haven't been told for certain that Miles is Chang's son, but there are a lot of open-ended questions still left about all of the remaining freighties, and their past connections to the island.

    Patton McGinley February 3rd, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    J.Woods, there's roughly 200 Holloway's listed in the Greater Atlanta Residential White Pages (which does cover Josh's home county, Cherokee). I've never met a Holloway in my 35 years here; but, I'm a typical Atlantian and don't go OTP (Outside The Perimeter) much.

    I can't remember what was the topic when I mentioned the LeGuin-Dostoevsky connection during last season. Presumably, it had something to do with Ben because I had always associated the scapegoat motif with the period where they had Ben locked-up in The Swan.

    Also, since it's a pet sci-fi-paranormal fascination of mine, I can't help but point out that since 2007 Everett's Many-Worlds Interpretation (aka parallel universes) has come close to being mathematically substantiated by David Wallace and David Deutsch. Viola! Paradox-free time travel! (I've been wishing for a parallel universe solution to Lost ever since Jack told Dr. Hamill to go see if his father was drunker than he was in Through the Looking Glass. The fake 815 wreck didn't help with my obsession.)

    Montand’s Arm February 3rd, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    "In 1990, an Archie spin-off comic began called Jughead's Time Police. Jughead was given a hi-tech beanie from some unknown benefactor (very Dickensian), and it allowed him to travel around time."

    Jughead is Faraday? Widmore is the benefactor?

    "Which of these things belong to you?"

    This is poor grammar. "Which" is the subject, NOT "things". However, this provides an interesting question...could it be INTENTIONALLY poor grammar to draw the focus away from the subject (which) to THINGS...allowing for more than one choice in the DL Pop Quiz.

    El Prez - I agree that the Faraday/Dharma scene we saw may have been a scene from one of the upcoming "record skips" in this season. J mentioned that other fans thought the camera man filming the Candle video looked like Sawyer, which if it IS Sawyer, it just might prove your theory.

    Charlotte - I love your idea that "If you watch the first season mindful that Locke, Sawyer, and Rose are time-traveling, then certain odd things start to make more sense." Talk about a reversal of dramatic irony!

    Something bothering me...Faraday tells Ellie to bury the cracked bomb underground.

    1) We saw Faraday underground, presumably in the 1970s, with the DI. Faraday warns them of the potential for danger if they continue digging.

    2) Des was underground, pushing a button to prevent "an incident". We learn that behind the reinforced concrete wall in the hatch is an intense power source. Des was told that biohazard suits were required outside of the hatch. When Des turns the fail safe, there is an incredibly bright flash of light.

    3) Pregnancy deaths.

    Are all 3 related to the bomb and its radiation?

    I'm not a science buff by any means, but does nuclear energy in any way translate into quantum physics and the potential for time travel?

    thepuma February 3rd, 2009 at 8:37 pm


    My gratitude for your insightful blog! Every week it is pleasure to see what seeds you sow for our minds to harvest (you must be a farmer). The Cain and Abel comparison is outstanding. It reminds us when Ben (Cain) shoots Locke (Abel) and leaves him for dead in the pit with the rest of the deceased DI. Ben is having a hard time accepting that Jacob prefers John instead of him. Ben seems to be determined to twist time and fate. The island ultimately denied him. The season 4 finales he told John once he leaves he can never come back. One must wonder when he and the oceanic 6 gets back to island will the island reject him again.

    The puma

    Montand’s Arm February 3rd, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Ok, since Locke and Jack have been opposites (Man of Science/Man of Faith) or ying and yang per se, J's theory that Locke is a mythic trope made me consider Jack as an Aristotelian tragic hero:

    According to Wikipedia, some common traits characteristic of a tragic protagonist:

    1) The hero discovers his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him. ("We weren't supposed to leave. We have to go back, Kate!")
    2) The hero sees and understands his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions.
    3) The hero's downfall is understood by Aristotle to arouse pity and fear.
    4) The hero is physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death. (Jack attempted suicide - talk about a spiritual low.)
    5) A tragic hero is often of noble birth, or rises to noble standing (a doctor is a noble profession and a son of a doctor is a noble birth by society's standards)
    6) The hero learns something from his/her mistake.
    7) The hero is faced with a serious decision.
    8) The suffering of the hero is meaningful. (Jack becomes an addict like his father.)
    9) There may sometimes be supernatural involvement (DUH).
    10) The Shakespearean tragic hero dies at some point in the story, for example Macbeth. Shakespeare's characters illustrate that tragic heroes are neither fully good nor fully evil. Through the development of the plot a hero's mistakes, rather than his quintessential goodness or evil, lead to his tragic downfall.
    11) The hero of classical tragedies is almost universally male. Later tragedies (like Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) introduced the female tragic hero.

    sosolost February 3rd, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    J - thanks for another great post! I so look forward to them and, again, truly appreciate your effort.

    I really enjoyed your section on Locke as hunter/farmer and the three related myths/stories.

    I've posted this elsewhere but wanted to post it here as well. I have a different take on the Richard/young Locke scene and Locke's choice of the knife (in addition to the compass and sand)...

    I believe our tragic “hero” Locke is also being manipulated by Richard and Abaddon (both of whom I believe have been around since the island’s beginning and both of whom I believe are the black/white characters on the hatch mural). (Read Revelation 9:1-11 and then look at the mural again – “falling star,” “smoke released,” etc. – mural link -- http://www.cs.iastate.edu/~andorfc/iowa_mural.html)

    Abaddon (another name for Satan, the great deceiver btw) planted the idea in Locke’s head re a walkabout “with just your wits and a knife.” Richard (and Locke) is lead to believe Locke might be the leader because he met Locke in 1954 and it goes from there; but, Locke is only on the island because Abaddon planted/manipulated his destiny -- possible that he is trying to put him in place as the Others’ “leader” so that he could use him to destroy (or take back) Richard/Others/Island. Remember Abaddon also told Locke, “when you see me again, you’ll owe me” Possible that Abaddon comes calling on Jeremy Bentham to collect on that debt and that that is why Jeremy/Locke hung himself. (Much as Judas did after he had been used by Satan to betray/kill Jesus.) (Also recall that Satan was an angel banished from Heaven because he tried to take over.)

    So, Locke's choice of the knife may alert Richard to the fact that Abaddon has gotten to Locke at some point in his life.

    I just think the use of the name Abaddon is too ripe with meaning to not consider the above (or a similar) scenario.

    BaronTR February 3rd, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    The one thing that the producers have been adamant about in the midst of giving hints about what's going on is that there will be no time paradoxes.
    That suggests for instance that Neil Frobert and the castaway red shirts killed in the arrow attack always died on the island, although the circumstances may have altered due to the island moving. Time and destiny always make a course correction (as Mrs. Hawking put it) when mere humans try to alter them. I just think that's an important element to factor into all this while trying to understand what's going on.

    I was also wondering about whether Mrs. Hawking is Farraday's mom, and if she is, who's side is she really on, because if she's working for Ben, how would Whidmore know how to find her so easily?

    Jeffrey February 3rd, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I cited him last season due to Jack listening to "Gouge Away" and Miles "loud quiet loud" T-shirt, but check out the lyrics to most of the songs on Frank Black's (leader of the Pixies) "Teenager of the Year" including:
    "This wrinkle in time, I can't give it no credit
    I thought about my space and I really got me down
    got me down
    I got me so down I got me a headache"
    Black also cites H.G. Wells and coincidently Frank Black is the name of the starring character of Terry O'Quinn's former TV show

    Thaifly February 4th, 2009 at 12:00 am

    One more thing about the compass:

    I have seen a screencap of the compass Richard gave Locke and I've also seen a screencap of the compass Richard had with him when visiting young Locke. They are two different compasses!!!! And I'm pretty sure it is not a production error; it's done like that for a reason....

    Young Locke looking at the compass:


    Older Locke looking at the compass:


    Mr S February 4th, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Hey all,

    I've been reading these blogs and posts after being introduced to them by a friend and not only are they an incredible read and hugely insightful, but they really help me to while away the hours I am bored at work by thinking about Lost and it's various intricacies (of which I knew there were many but nowhere near as many after reading these blogs!).

    Anyway, the whole compass thing got me thinking. A long time ago I did a masters in astrophysics (totally out of the subject now with only cursory memory and knowledge) and one of the things we learned was that travelling forwards in time was not theoretically possible. Things have probably changed now with the new quantum theories but the second law of thermodynamics is basically about entropy which is the rate of decay of the universe. The law states that entropy is always increasing and so our lecturers told us that what this meant was that you couldn't have something with one level of entropy exist in a place higher entropy as this would mean that the "thing" had less entropy than it's surroundings which is physically impossible as entropy has to increase. In "practical" terms this means someone travelling to the future will have less entropy than the universe at that time and this cannot happen. BUT, someone travelling to the past will have more entropy than the universe at that time and this CAN happen as entropy is supposed to increase and not decrease. Still with me? Good.

    So relating this all to the compass, the compass Richard gives Locke in 2008 has a set level of entropy that is more than it would have had in the past, so Locke travelling back in time to give it to Richard again is fine. However, as Brian points out, the compass would have a higher level of decay than the rest of the universe and as it seems to be stuck in a continuing loop from 2008 to 1954, the entropy should increase to a point where the compass no longer exists. I thought this was a bit of a problem until I started thinking a bit more about the second law and got this bit of info from wikipedia:

    "In a system, a process that occurs will tend to increase the total entropy of the universe. Thus, while a system can undergo some physical process that decreases its own entropy, the entropy of the universe (which includes the system and its surroundings) must increase overall."

    So if we need to get around this infinite loop of the compass decaying into nothingness, that entropy needs to be displaced and turned into something else.

    Course correction perhaps? People with nosebleeds dying? Maybe this is just the universe's way of utilising that entropy that needs to be dispaced instead of all existence as we know it imploding.

    Probably a tenuous theory about how the universe can course correct itself but a theory nonetheless that might also help explain how the compass can exist in a loop and people can move through time.

    J - theories about alternatve universes and how every possible decision gives rise to a different one have been around for ages, but I agree with you in that I don't think Lost has taken this direction.

    Zenguy February 4th, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Please don't foget my request.

    Phutatorius or J Wood:

    Can you provide a link to this article?
    "did you ever read Melvyn New's essay describing Proust's influence on Sterne?"

    Thank you !

    leah February 4th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    quick thought: rose had terminal cancer, which is sometimes treated with radiation therapy. i understand this radiation is usually targeted, but if the island was emitting just the right amount of it (seeping up from the ground from the bomb?), and the cancer had spread to a lot of Rose's body, could she have been "cured" through radiation?

    This could also explain the pregnancy deaths.

    That still doesn't explain Locke regaining use of his legs. But the initial injury for him was falling from a high distance on his back, right? So maybe he fell from just the right distance in just the right way when the plane crashed as to undo his paralysis? Seems I've heard of this kind of phenomenon happening before.... ?

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 4th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Man, we have an astrophysicist here!

    Very little time -- have to go teach -- but nice one on the compasses. Hard to say if that's a production error or not, and the Keeper of the Secrets is on Talk of the Nation today, so maybe someone can ask (I'll be in class).

    If the compass continues to decay, perhaps that's why the compass looks different in those images -- one gets replaced. Or we may get some compass-swapping or one decays away and is replaced by another, which will just confuse that whole question more. I keep thinking about sun dials, which had to point north and also told the time; by knowing those things, you can orient yourself in space and time, and that's all necessary for growing crops, building civilizations, etc.

    MrS: I've seen that notion that we can only travel in the past, not the future, but Ronald Mallett's calculations are showing the opposite. Yeah, the parallel universe idea has been around for a long time, but from what I understand, we're seeing more and more evidence of it being an actuality rather than a theoretical possibility. Lisa Randall has been arguing that gravity may actually come from a parallel universe.

    Patton: David Wallace or David Lewis?

    Something else about the tragic hero -- traditionally, s/he always commits an act of hamartia, the error that leads to the tragic downfall. G.B. Shaw evolved this idea into a harsher version of tragedy by the time he wrote St. Joan; his take was when people do everything they think they should do, but the tragedy happens anyway. In other words, they do the right thing according to all the information they have, and the error is still unavoidable. (A while back I wrote the introduction to the Penguin edition of St. Joan and tried to unpack that in there.)

    The Cain/Ben and Locke/Abel bit is a good read.

    Gotta split.

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 4th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Oh -- Zenguy -- I got my copy of the Melvyn New essay via JSTOR, which you need library access for. I'll try to post a link later, but it's not readily available directly off the web.

    zenguy February 4th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Oh -- Zenguy -- I got my copy of the Melvyn New essay via JSTOR, which you need library access for. I'll try to post a link later, but it's not readily available directly off the web

    Thank you, I have access with my library card. Please post.

    J Wood (Post Author) February 4th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Here's the JSTOR link for Melvyn New's essay "Proust's Influence on Sterne":


    Jeffrey February 4th, 2009 at 11:26 am

    A modern retelling of Cain and Abel (and east of Eden) is "East of Eden" of course. Locke's marijuana commune in flashback is very Steinbeckian. There are some name mirroring with Cathy who becomes Kate and the twin boys Caleb and Aron. Could Jacob be a spin on the name Caleb? The story hinges on the concept of the Hebrew word - "timshel" thou mayest - in that man can always choose to conquer evil of which Caleb represents.

    MD February 4th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    A) The idea of a "course correction" per Mrs Hawking
    B) The idea of Faraday that time cannot be altered

    Those two ideas seemingly clash.

    If time is not capable of being changed, then time wouldn't need a course correction at all, right? (Serious question)

    Think Charlie's death.

    If time cannot be altered at all, then Charlie was never really in danger of dying those various times. He was always meant to die in the Looking Glass Station.
    What does that mean for Desmond's "flashes?" The illusion of free will?

    Charlotte February 4th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Fascinating stuff on entropy, MrS. Throwing that in just makes my head hurt.

    Montand's Arm - The hero of the tragedy needn't always die (think 'Oedipus Rex'), so there's hope for all the Jack-lovers out there. (The ancient Greeks also had the tragic heroine with Electra and Medea).

    I'm fasinated by the way 'Lost' plays with the idea of the hero through its myriad characters. Locke seems to be the questing hero, with his descent into the underworld (the Swan station) and his often solitary escapades. Desmond also follows this archetype, with his obvious parallels to Odysseus and his long sojourn stuck on an island.

    Jack is looking more like the tragic hero of classical Greek drama. There's something very thematically Oedipus about him (no, not the mother thing). Oedipus was a leader whose unknown sins (killing his father) caused a great plague on his city. Oedipus cockily asserts that he will save everyone, much as Jack does. However, it's his own actions that have caused catastrophe. Tradegy through hubris. It remains to be seen if Jack later dies in exile.

    The characters of Kate and Sawyer play around with the antihero archetype. Hurley's the wise fool.

    Ben's character seems more biblical to me. There have been actions that echo David, such as him going into Widmore's room (Saul's tent) and sending Goodwin to the tailies (Uriah to the front). His character will become clearer once we know if he is a hero or villain, though I suspect he's probably a bit of both.

    Patton McGinley February 4th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    J. Wood,

    "Patton: David Wallace or David Lewis?"

    I believe it's David Wallace. He lectures on the philosophy of physics at Oxford (not to be confused with Sir David Wallace who is master of Churchill College at Cambridge). I checked when you questioned it since my first source was Wiki. Interestingly, the Wiki article on him has been deleted for "No assertion of importance/significance."

    David Lewis, the American philosopher who died in 2001, DID support the many-worlds-interpretation via his arguments for modal realism. The David Wallace I'm talking about spoke at the "Many-Worlds at 50" conference in '07.

    WOH! Check this out from the Wiki article on Modal Realism: "Some have objected that a world in which spatio-temporally isolated universes ("island universes") coexist is therefore not possible...." Also of interest is the many-minds interpretation: "... postulates that it is only the observers' minds that split instead of the whole world." Kind of neat since Daniel's initial work was in sending consciousness through time.

    J Wood (Post Author) February 4th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    MD, the static time/course correction seem to clash, but they're actually complimentary.

    Remember, Charlie had to die. There was nothing that could be done -- that was already determined. Each time Desmond messed with time by saving Charlie, the universe/spacetime/flying spaghetti monster changed things up to make sure Charlie died. So the end result was always "Charlie = dead," and if anything got in the way, spacetime would absorb the alteration and reconfigure itself to make sure "Charlie = dead" still held.

    This has a few implications.

    For one, it's reflective of the philosopher David Hume's notion of compatibilism. If all time is already occurring, we'd assume that everything is already determined, and our free will is an illusion. Hume argued that yeah, there is a lot that's already determined, but we have the free will within a set predetermined choices. So Desmond could choose to keep saving Charlie, but that just put off the inevitable. He was able to express a measure of free will, but the endpoint already existed.

    For another, this seems to point to what the DHARMA Initiative was getting into. We know the DI was trying to alter the Valenzetti Equation (which would be a sort of socio-political solution), and can tell from the Comicon video that the DI was trying to alter the past or future in that attempt. We also know from the first ARG that no matter what they did, the Valenzetti Equation always came out the same. Like Faraday said, whatever happened, happened. So the DI could try to alter the past/present/future, but no matter what they did, they failed. (There's a great Sam Beckett line, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.")

    For a third, this flexible-but-always-already-determined structure is reflective of how the entire Lost narrative has been structured, with us as a catalyst that creates the twists and turns. Cuse and Lindelof have had some clear ideas of where they wanted to get from the beginning; however, how they got there was a little up for grabs. Elements like Ben, Richard, the demise of Nikki & Paolo -- those weren't planned the way they turned out. The narrative changed in large part because of how those actors embodied their roles, and how we the audience responded in virtual communities like this. The universe of Lost already had its benchmarks to hit -- Charlie was always going to die -- but how the writers got to those benchmarks was an open question. Its compatibilism in action.

    What I like is how little things in the background of shots change when something is upset in this spacetime continuum. We see the world changing into something else in moments like when Miles walks up the stairs in LA and the picture frames are wooden, and when he walks down the stairs the picture frames are metal. That suggests that time was changed, and doing so had a ripple effect (no matter how minor). Yet we know that it always corrects itself.

    I completely understand how this can be a bit much to wrap your head around, and it took me a long time to grasp what Hume was getting at. The best model I can give is spacetime -- at least as it exists in Lost -- is structured a little like a web page with a global CSS. You can change the CSS, and that will make every page look a little different, but the links still point to the same places.

    Miss Gretchen February 4th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Pedro Munoz, thank you for printing that section from Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus -- what a powerful image. The chord which resonates within me has more to do with the character of Jacob -- I don't imagine we'll know his full story until the end of the series, but I'll keep this passage in mind until then!

    Julian February 4th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    tinyblob, while Claymores were put into use by the US military in 1961, it was on a trial basis limited to a run of 10,000. It wasn't until 1967 the M18A1 version came out and it was then put into widespread use. That being said, the image of the version used in last weeks episode defies classification. It has the peep sight of the earlier M18 models, but the top mounted detonator well of the M18A1's. But in the picture, there is nothing in the detonator well, which would mean it has the side located well of the M18. As much as I would like to think this is a clue, I'm going to chalk it up to a less than properly informed crew member.

    Links for images:

    Phutatorius February 4th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    For zen guy, I found the Melvyn New piece on Proust's influence on Sterne in New's book "Telling New Lies." It's probably cheaper to get the article on line as J Wood did. For Mr S: I, too, was in the past a "big fan" of entropy (whatever that could mean). But recently I've been reading more recent stuff by Julian Barbour (The End of Time) and Lee Smolin (The Life of the Cosmos), and I'm not so sure that the increase of entropy is so universal or inexorable as was supposed in the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century. Even under the old notion of entropy, at least as I understood it, there could be localized areas of decreasing entropy (like a time-traveling compass) as long as the net total in the universe always increased.

    Olivier February 4th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    "If time is not capable of being changed, then time wouldn't need a course correction at all, right? (Serious question)"

    It think it's not exactly time that cannot be changed, but the ultimate fate within a certain spectrum of possibilities.

    In other words, Charlie is to die, but the exact moment or manner are not quite set in stone and may be changed, up to a certain point.

    Thanks to his visions and his decisions, Desmond is thus able to prevent him from getting killed several times, but not forever; at one point, Fate makes sure the game ends, so to speak.

    All the possible deaths therefore do point to parallel universes: Desmond has seen those possibilities in a very real sense; they were not mere dreams, but what was going to happen; while Lost does not dwell on it, in other universes, Charlie died different ways at different moments, with different consequences-- but the same result, supposedly.

    The important thing, thus, is that Charlie can never survive past a certain point.

    "If time cannot be altered at all, then Charlie was never really in danger of dying those various times. He was always meant to die in the Looking Glass Station."

    This does seem to be the ultimate aim.

    An illusion of free will?
    I wonder.
    What is the point, exactly? That Charlie die, or that the station get flooded, the communication channels open, and the information about "Penny's boat" given, or both?

    I would say those were two unescapable events, which were achieved (in this universe) at once (one stone, two birds).
    Had Desmond not saved Charlie, someone else would have gone to the station, and the result would have been the same: dead Charlier (sooner), Looking Glass events (someone else).

    Thus, there is free will, but to a certain point: you can make a decision, but within set limits.
    The course corrections are there to enforce the deadline, and adjust things in relation to the decisions made, so that the major goals are reached.

    Was it really important that Charlie be the one to die in the station? Or was the point rather that he be dead before Hurley left, so that he could appear to him later?

    Now, a mystery remains: while his visions usually were exact, Desmond's last vision showed that Charlie's death in the Looking Glass led to Claire and Aaron leaving the island on a helicopter; yet only Aaron got away, and Claire never even got to see the helicopter.

    This reinforces the idea that two opposing forces are fighting each other, using everyone, appearing to people in various guises and possibly even the same one (good Christian / bad Christian).

    One force wanted Claire to raise Aaron; the other did not, or least, wanted to separate them.
    One force worked in such a way that Desmond would ensure Claire & Aaron would leave the Island, together, but the other force thwarted this plan by sending Christian to fetch Claire and leave Aaron.

    Even the free will granted within certain limits may then be manipulated, by sending someone visions or apparitions.

    That's very complicated and we're still lacking information, especially regarding Claire, Aaron and Christian, to better understand how this all works.

    Messenger 88 February 4th, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    This might be my favorite post yet--thank you so much for the always intruiging literary, scientific and philisophical references. You always really manage to get my hamster wheel spinning!

    I noticed something that I have not seen mentioned yet: Given the history of Lost's symbolic opening shots, I found it really interesting that our opening shot was of the tower at Oxford as Desmond approaches.

    After reading about parallel universes and paradox-free time travel, my mind wanders back to a much more pop-culture-friendly author that we know is influential to Lost: Stephen King and his Dark Tower. Particularly, "The Drawing Of The Three", in which our hero, (Roland) must travel through doors into different "whens" to collect the people necessary to complete his misson and reach his fixed endpoint, the Dark Tower (which holds all of reality, and many worlds, in place). The entire Dark Tower series, especially the conclusion, smacks of compatibilism.

    I also believe you are dead-on about Locke representing the mythic trope. He has become a (now) walking symbol of the duality of man--one black eye, one white; arguing with his high school teacher that he doesn't want to be a scientist and prefers to be a jock, fighting essentially, his true nature...it would be interesting to see how many past scenes point to this duality and internal struggle against his nature, given that, Locke does not struggle against nature on the external level.

    Lastly, and in keeping with the theme of duality, an arrow can be a weapon or can point you along a specific path. On the island however, we have another arrow-- the Arrow Station is a destination, an end rather than the means to an end. Just a thought...

    Olivier February 4th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Hmm-- of course, I had not read J's reply to MD yet, so I look silly, as my explanation is a long paraphrase of Hume's pithy point, which I did not have in mind (shame on me, yes).

    I'll try to make it up by bringing up another point.

    While Richard was disappointed with the 1961 test, he did keep an eye on Locke and tried to get him to join the Mittelos Summer Camp in 1972.

    Later, Abbadon suggested Locke that he go on a walkabout.

    For some reason, Richard & Abbadon (whom we have seen to be linked to Widmore, thus not on Richard's site) are thus highly interested in getting Locke on the island, yet not quite enough to find a way to entice him-- kidnapping is out of the quesiton: it has to be a deliberate choice.

    "How do they know? How does Jacob know?"
    can be answered by way of visions (or prophesies-- but is there that much of a difference)?

    This leads to the nature of visions: they are mental travels to the future.

    Desmond's consciousness travels back in time, and his "minds" from those different eras swap places in his "bodies".
    Some characters are now physically travelling backward in time.
    Dr Chang explains in his 2008 Comic Con video that he knows what the future holds-- but is it a physical or mental voyage?

    In Chang's case, he certainly cannot switch minds between his present and future bodies as far away as 2008, since he dies in the 1970s.
    Therefore, he has physically travelled into the future.

    Besides that of free will, the degree of actual freedom we have, fate and visions also raise the question of one's desire to know.
    Is it a good thing to have foreknowledge of the future / a future?
    Are you really better off knowing what horrible things will/may befall you?
    Does this very knowledge on your part limit your free will and/or your efforts more than the possible future revealed?

    This knowledge influences your decisions: while striving to avoid a certain event, you may actually trigger off a chain of events leading to the same result (ironically causing what you tried to prevent), and also neglect other (unrelated) decisions.

    This may be why Richard's visit to Locke, upon Locke's suggestion, ends in disappointment: it comes too soon.
    Or maybe the point only was to plant the seed in his mind, and let him know to watch Locke and wait for the right time.

    MD February 4th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Great replies to everything. Thanks, J Wood and others.

    I suppose I could ask a more direct, pointed question based on all my musings so far. If time is just a bit malleable, then are there some actual dangers to the time traveling all of our Lost heroes are doing this season?

    I still think Charlotte's sickness might be an effect from all this.

    Montand’s Arm February 4th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Just saw tonight's episode. I bet we get to find out what happened to my namesake! ;)

    sosolost February 5th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Charlotte, I like your thoughts on Locke. One thing you said got me thinking about something I saw when I rewatched all the past episodes on the SciFi Channel -- You said - "I do believe that he has echoes of memories of his time-tripping on the Island."

    Went back through my notes -- in the "Walkabout" episode, Locke is momentarily knocked out by the mother boar he's hunting. As he comes to, Kate asks him if he's okay and he says, "I'm fine Helen." Locke seemed like he was somewhere else after the boar attack (having a flashback or "time-traveling"?). Since that was Season 1, at the time you would just think he was momentarily confused. But now that we're into Season 5, this scene seems more like he was flashing back/forth in time.

    Brian February 5th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Thanks, J, for the great work. Love the book, too.

    Thanks, commenters; the comment threads on this blog are better than any other I've found.

    Not necessarily in relation to this particular episode, but a general comment. I feel like Lost is really two shows, Lost and Lost 2.0. Seasons 1 through 3 revealed bits and pieces of the sci-fi/mythical world that the island inhabited, and certainly leant dramatic tension to the show; however, they seemed MUCH more about the characters and character development. Ever since the first flash forward Through the Looking Glass, I feel like the show has been a plot-driven potboiler; very exciting, can't wait to find what piece of island mythology occurs next. We get some further character development in the 4th season, particularly with Locke. But when we look at Farrady, Charlotte, Miles, Keamy, and Widmore, all part of "Lost 2.0", we see the character's background pretty much only insofar as it helps to drive the plot. No really plumbing the depths of their psyches, the way we did in "Lost 1.0", especially Seasons 1 and 2.

    Not trying to argue that one approach is more enjoyable than the other (though I would favor the character development seasons by a bit) - just wondering if anybody else was thinking the same thing?

    Charlotte February 5th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Thanks, sosolost. I'm refining my thoughts on the memory-echoes after seeing last night's episode. I was thinking how little people remember of their early childhood years, just flashes of events, really, and not always even the most memorable ones. Why can I remember picking up sand dollars on the beach at Jeckyll Island when I was three but not remember when I broke my arm when I was four?

    Based on Faraday's hypothesis that the Leftbehinders are being affected by time displacement based on how long they've been on the Island, then Charlotte was on the Island for more than three years, possibly four. Miles was also there for more than three years. This is based on the fact that these two were affected before Juliet, who was on the Island for just over three years. Now Miles and Charlotte were probably there as young children, as they don't remember their time on the Island, though Charlotte may have some memories. (I have two nephews who lost their fathers at ages 3 and 4, and neither remembers much if anything of their lost fathers.)

    So that explains part of the time displacement illness. But what about the memory-echoes? They are a bit like a child's memory. They exist because the consciousness of the time traveler went back to a time before the 'present time', but they are faint and hard to access and understand, just a whiff of Proust's madeleine. It may be these memory-echoes that cause the time displacement illness, as they come out of order from when they're supposed to happen.

    There is evidence that the Leftbehinders are taveling into their future. Richard tells Locke that not only have the O6 returned to the mainland, but that Locke must die in order to bring them back. Now Richard is not a time traveler, so how does he know this? My theory is that it's because this scene takes place at some point after Locke has died and the O6 have actually come together to return to the Island. (But Locke has to travel to the future for Ricahard to tell him this so that it can come to pass.)

    They may also have traveled into the future during the 'canoe time'. The beach camp was in existence, but derelict. (And how did Juliet know about the airline? Is that who they were building the runway for?)

    So, to finally end this, it may be the future travels that may be causing the displacement. after all, Desmond had no problem with his consciousness going back in time to buy the ring, but he did when his 1996 consciousness traveled to 2004. It's memories of future events that causes the "really bad jet lag".

    Nan February 6th, 2009 at 4:34 am

    Love reading your thoughts - have a question and a couple comments.

    HOW did Richard know that the next time he saw Locke he would not recognize him. The way the flashes happen to us seem to have no rhyme or reason.

    Daniel was seen in the segment with Chang and we immediately jumped to the conclusion that Daniel was traveling back in time, especially since he was deliberately trying to avoid Chang seeing his face. Why would that matter, he did not seem concerned about the actual workers seeing his face.

    Sun's photo of her baby. This just breaks my heart but only one reason I can think of why you would have a photo of a newborn and not one of the first and second year and that is because the baby died. And THAT would definitely push Sun over the edge!

    darby February 6th, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Brian...I've been thinking about the same thing. I'm one of those LOST fans who is more likely to be a reader of John Fante and Studs Terkel than Mark Helprin and Tolkien. I'm still with the show, though.

    Jeffrey February 6th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I agree with Brian and Darby... I love the time travel stuff but I am not equipped without much research to get involved with the discussion on this matter. J. once chided that he is more concerned with the "why" than the "what" but throwing a lot of minutiae-laced theories around only to see them discounted makes less sense to me than just adding some color commentary - of an educated or at least informed kind and not the pop-drivel you get at the EW reader's blog. That is my unasked-for contribution to this fine forum, since I do enjoy the esoteric theories as much as the next fan - although with this season they seem to be taking up most of the space. Plus, I was an English major and not very good in science. Talk about your absolutes.

    Ryan February 6th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Here's my philosophical objection to the above:

    What authority or rule decides which events MUST happen and which events can be corrected?

    What makes "Charlie dying" any more important than "Desmond moving him away from lightning bolt?" If those are both considered facts, why is one "better" or "more important" than the other?

    Must certain events happen before others can? That implies that time is not all happening at once or that time is a circle which relies on the causality of certain fundamental events (think of those finger traps that kids play with).

    For me to accept this theory, I need to know why special events like Charlie dying are important. I personally can't accept "the deity chooses" as an answer.

    Lost in Bend February 6th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Among many other questions that have been add to my ongoing list, is this one that I'm just curious about:

    For the non-time-travelers (NTT) (e.g. 1954 Others), what happens to them (what are they thinking) when they are talking to a Lostie(s) (2005 time travelers going back in time) and all of a sudden those people are no longer there??? Also, do the NTT see the flash of light? I would like to see a scene done from their perspective. I can see this coming up again with Jin and the Rousseau team. He's going to disappear and how will they explain that to themselves?

    Olivier February 6th, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    "HOW did Richard know that the next time he saw Locke he would not recognize him. The way the flashes happen to us seem to have no rhyme or reason."

    The same way he knew to go find and help him there: at one point, Locke tells him about all his time travael experiences, including this first meeting.
    Or by this time, the memory of having met Locke by them is in his mind, and he knows the next flash will take him back then.

    "only one reason I can think of why you would have a photo of a newborn and not one of the first and second year and that is because the baby died."

    A sensible guess; that would be terrible indeed.

    "What authority or rule decides which events MUST happen and which events can be corrected?"

    Time cops?
    People with time-travel ability playing God?
    People with time-travel ability trying to correct history, even though theory and their own experience shows it's impossible (in the details, but not the big picture).

    "What makes 'Charlie dying" any more important than "Desmond moving him away from lightning bolt?' If those are both considered facts, why is one 'better' or 'more important' than the other?"

    The main difference is the time and circumstances, and what Charlie manages to do till then-- like shutting down the jamming of frequencies and warning Desmond about the ship.

    Maybe Mrs Hawking knew nobody should leave the Island and tried to prevent this by telling Desmond he should let Charlie die.

    "Must certain events happen before others can? That implies that time is not all happening at once or that time is a circle which relies on the causality of certain fundamental events (think of those finger traps that kids play with"

    Like Groundhog Day (the movie) and the skipping disc at the beginning of this season?
    (Things can't go on if a certain event does not take place.)

    "I personally can't accept 'the deity chooses' as an answer."

    People like Jacob and Mrs Hawking certainly do appear to be acting like deities in this matter: they do not take part in the action directly, but observe and direct from behind the curtain, and only intervene themselves when absolutely necessary.

    Concerning Charlie, maybe the point is precisely that there was no point: he was to die soon observation had shown it to be the case, and nothing could be done about it, especially if the observer knew the impact would be minimal, and that the jamming would be shut off in any case (by someone else), and the ship would come anyway, and six of them would leave no matter what and so on...

    As you said, it's an endless loop: it has to happen this way (more or less), because we have observed in the future that it happened this way-- in other words, "It's that way because.".

    As I said earlier, maybe what free will there may be is limited by this foreknowledge, as people focus on doing this and not that, and remain oblivious to any other possibilities and considerations.

    The best chance for free would thus be ignorance, as knowledge curses you to torment as you desperately try to change things and keep thinking about how restrained you are. If you don't know anything about this unavoiddable destiny, then at least you have the illusion of complete free will, which is in a sense worth just as much as true free will.

    This self-entrapment through foreknowledge, and self-fulfillment of visions of the future seems to occur in the Bible.

    I did not remember the hatch's light had shone the same night Aaron was born; seeing this last night, I thought about the three wise men, and checked Matthew 2, in case some sort of parallel could be found.

    2:13, an angel appears to Joseph and warns him to take the young Child and His mother to Egypt so that Herod won't kill him.
    2:14, "he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prohet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I called my Son'".

    Reading this, it seems to me 2;14 amounts to saying "He was sent to Egypt" so that the prophesy of "He shall return from Egypt" can be fulfilled.

    2:22, upon learning that Herod's son has taken over Judea, Joseph decides it's not safe; "being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee".
    2:22, "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfiled which was spoken by the prophets, 'He shall be called a Nazarene'.

    Again, it seems that, besides warning Joseph, the dream's purpose is to send the Child to Nazareth, so that the prophesy calling him "a Nazarene" can be fulfilled.

    Had Joseph decided both times on his own, the prophesies would be fulfilled through his decision alone.
    Yet, the way it is told, it seems that the dreams are sent so that the visions sent and presented as prophesies could come true.

    A simple, crude analogy might be: "I predict that you will find the red ball in this corner; here, throw it in this corner; now go check; hey, what did I tell you? you've found it where I told you you would!"

    Now, in Lost, who could Herod, the Child, the prophet, and God be?

    KatieBob February 6th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    WOW!!!!!! I just found this blog and you guys are awesome! I have to go take a nap now to rest my brain from all the reading but before I do I want to ask if anyone else has read The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien..... it has a "magic box" in it...... later, K

    asilgrass February 6th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I don't think that Sun's baby is dead. She talked on the phone to her in the episode last season before she talked to Charles Widmore, and the scene this season where he stopped her at the airport had the feel of not much time having passed since last she saw him. At any rate, when she talked to Ji Yeon she appeared to be baby talking in Korean as a toddler would. If the baby picture means anything I think it is to show us that Sun is so obsessed with revenge that she's missing her own child's life. I think it is just as possible that the show has yet to cast a little Korean toddler to play her so they just went with he baby picture.

    leah February 6th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    So, the way it was presented, it looks like the time-traveling losties are in the same time as Jin... all about 15 years in the past when Danielle's team arrived. So, Jin's alive, as we suspected... has he been traveling along through all of the same flashes to all of the same times as the others, and just unconscious floating on that door the whole time? Or, because he was in the water, was he flashing to different times?

    It totally looks like the "whispers" in the jungle we heard the first few seasons was the time-warped losties... but it still doesn't explain how Walt appeared to several people.

    Brian: you're right that there's been a shift in the way the story is told ever since the first flash-forward. To me it seems that the writers are trying to align the audience with the survivors/losties--make us feel like one of them. In order to do that, we have to know some of their backgrounds, understand how they think and the motivations behind their actions. The reason we don't get that background with the others and freighties is because the losties don't get that information, and they don't know what to make of those people either. If they are to remain "other" to us, they have to be mysterious. We can't understand their motivations or we might sympathize with them, and then we are no longer aligned with the losties; we are "other others." That may be why we've gotten some flashbacks from Juliet, but we still don't feel like we've got the whole story with her; she's still withholding information, even though she claims to be with the losties. She still isn't fully within our circle of understanding. That's my take on it anyway, but good observation.

    lira2012 February 7th, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Nan, i think you're right to question the assumption that Daniel Faraday was traveling back in time to mid-1970's Dharma days.
    If it's true that Eloise/Ellie is Faraday's mother, then DF would be the same age he appears to be now in the mid-1970's, implying that he has time traveled forward to the future/present.
    i think that as viewers we have a tendency to believe that a character "belongs" in the time period in which we meet him/her, and in this case, may not be true.

    Miss Scarlett February 7th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    How do you have time for anything else?
    Your posts are staggering.

    Can you bend time?

    Montand’s Arm February 7th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Brian, Darby and Jeffrey:

    I don't agree with the Lost 1.0/2.0 theory. Since the beginning we've only received detailed back stories about a select group of characters. Frogurt's a good example of this. Plus, we know very little about the other Losties who survived the plane crash. We see them hanging around in the background from time to time (or successfully/unsuccessfully running from flaming arrows), but that's as far as the acquaintance really goes.

    Jeffrey - I was an English major too. I know jack squat about quantum physics, let alone anything about the other scientific mumbo jumbo.

    If you view Lost like a novel, I think you can better understand why the writers are taking it in this direction. Their first goal was to establish compelling main characters that we the audience could identify with and have a vested interest in. Now we are seeing those main characters in action in the plot (as it thickens).

    J. Wood (Post Author) February 7th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Just a quick note that the latest post is up there waiting to get reviewed, and we're messing with one thing in particular. I needed to take a scene from the pilot episode and somehow make it appear on the post. I've been trying to make a little animated gif, but all of them look pretty ragged. Darin and Powell's has a flash file of the clip, and an avi, so we'll get somewhere with it.

    Montand's Arm: This is in the forthcoming post, but I wanted to float this out there: How did Montand lose his arm?

    DHARMA Shark

    Brian/darby/Jeffrey: I hear you on this, and I like the Lost 1.0 & Lost 2.0 analogy. Here's something that may help; in a recent either podcast or interview (I'd need to go check), Damon and Carlton talked about how these early episodes are setting up the framework for later episodes. Considering how much of this season has had to do with Faraday, Miles and Charlotte, and now with a bit more Widmore, my sense is we may be getting more of that psyche-plumbing. Whether it's presented in the same way as the flashbacks of the past, though, I can't say.

    The post for "The Little Prince" is also mainly free from the time-travel sci-fi material. There is a little geekery -- the Ajira water bottle was a nod to this past summer's ARG and the Ajira Airways website. There was embedded hexadecimal code in those pages; one decoded to the passage from John 3:16, and the other decoded to a passage from Ulysses. Guess which one I focused on.

    Nan: I think this was answered above, but in 2004/2005, Richard probably remembered meeting Locke in 1954 and not recognizing him.

    Ryan: Olivier took a solid swing at your pitch, and I don't know if I can add much to it before I'm called away to dinner. One thing that occurs to me is that the DI was all about solving the Valenzetti Equation. However, every attempt fails, meaning we'll blow ourselves up or drown ourselves or starve ourselves into mass extinction at some point in the future that they seem to know. What's interesting about that is it agrees with Faraday's time rules; it's not that we will come to an end, it's that it's already happened/is happening, and we just haven't arrived there yet -- in the same way that I'm sitting at my desk now and there is a beer in the fridge, and I just haven't arrived at the fridge yet. (Remember that time is part of space, so moving forward or backward in time is caught up with moving forward or backward in physical space.)

    So why must certain things occur before others? It's not a matter of need to, which implies a future event; they've already occurred/are occurring like that. To stop something from happening, as Desmond did on a number of occasions (saving Charlie) has more implications than just keeping Charlie alive; it alters spacetime. In previous seasons I tried to point out examples of this, and two of the clearest examples were the way the portrait of Ben's mother changed (sometimes hair is over her left shoulder, sometimes not); and in the LA house where Miles took care of the ghosts, the picture frames on the stairway were wooden on his way up, and metal on his way down.

    Extend that out a bit; if manipulating a little results in little changes in the universe, that suggests the more its manipulated, the more that universe is changed, until it's an entirely different universe. If that's the case, then you run into some other issues; in that new universe, maybe I don't love dogs, or dogs don't exist, or I don't exist, or we're all made of pleather instead of flesh and bone, or everything is floating dust.

    But when Hawking talked about course-correction, wasn't she referring to just such a situation? So (I hope this code works):

    • Everything that ever did or will happen is always already happening -- that's Minkowski spacetime, known for years in physics and philosophy.
    • Changing history or what's meant to happen would result in the known universe disappearing and something else taking its place (possibly nothing)
    • But since it's all always already happening, attempts at changing the course of history/time fail.
    • Proviso: We don't know how much wiggle room there is; will the picture frames stay metal? This is in part where Humean compatibilism comes into play.

    Have to split; hope this made some sense. Fortunately or not, I had to deal with a lot of these sorts of time issues years ago in both some theory classes, history of science classes, and then I just remained sort of interested, which probably makes me just knowledgeable enough to sound reasonable, but ignorant enough to mislead.

    Nan February 8th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    J - about Montand's arm - Danielle was leading Jack and group to the Black Rock to get the dynamite..

    [They come to a piece of black fabric hanging from a branch.]

    DANIELLE: Le Territoire Fonce.

    JACK: The Dark Territory.

    DANIELLE: The Black Rock is not far. This is where it all began -- where my team got infected -- where Montand lost his arm. We must move quickly.

    ARZT: You know what? I'm going back.

    JACK: Hey, I thought you wanted to help.

    ARZT: Yeah, I wanted to help -- that was before Montand lost his fricking arm.

    JACK: Well, what about the dynamite?

    ARZT: Be very careful with it.
    Now that we know the certainty of time travel, I thought perhaps someone pulled Montand when the light flashed and his arm went to the other time period.

    Maybe that's just silly! :)

    Crazy Bearded Jack February 14th, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I know I'm late on this, but I see Desmond as more Dr. Manhattan than Daniel.

    Jin fishing February 15th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Mr Wood,

    I've only recently discovered your Lost posts, but am fascinated by them and have been trying to go through the backlog while keeping up with the recent ones. You've done a magnificent job.

    One small correction to this post: Professor DeGroot at St. Andrews (the real one, in our world), is not Scottish, but American. I met him at a conference last September where we both delivered papers.

    But still an interesting twist - the old ex-pat on an island storyline.

    Weinberg Losty February 15th, 2009 at 3:15 pm


    We know from Miles that it took Charles Widmore 20 years to find the island the first time

    Couldn't that mean that Widmore left the islan sometime in 1954 and maybe looked for it for 20 ys, found it, thn lost it til now? I don't think that means He found it 20 years ago.

    Westy February 18th, 2009 at 9:34 am

    An error keeps popping up concerning the compass that is passed between Richard and Locke. As seen on this website’s screencap:


    The compass that Richard gives to Locke on the Island is not the same compass Richard shows a young Locke in the early sixties. They look similar, however the Island compass has the directions of N, S, E, and O – it’s in Spanish, French, or some other romance language; the one young Locke is shown (and chooses) has N, S, E, and W – it’s in English.

    ts ellen February 19th, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    One of the things that doesn't make sense about the course corrections, is that if the time tripping islanders keep going off course and picture frames then transform, or paintings re-paint themselves, wouldn't non-time-trippers notice this stuff? I realize this is a tv show, but if I came home and my bamboo plant had turned into a pointsetta I would notice.

    Lost in Bend: I too am curious about the what the NTT's think of all the strange things happening.

    Ryan: I'm with you. I don't really see how this can all be cyclical? If everything is happening at once, then Desmond wouldn't have learned new information from a dream about Faraday telling him to go to Oxford. He would have always know this. Since he didn't it proves that time is moving forward.

    THE_3RD_ONE February 20th, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I think that the NTT's wouldn't be aware of the items changing for one reason.

    Let us say that you buy a bamboo plant in 2003 then in 1999 something that the time tripping islanders do changes the course of the future and in 2003 you instead get a pointsetta. you would have no memory of ever buying the bamboo plant. the old history will be replaced by a new one.

    Perhaps this is why you seemingly can't change the timeline. you can change it all you want, but the histories will always be rerecorded and you won't remember the original timeline.

    that's at least how I always pictured time travel and I think that's what they are getting at on the show.

    Angelaa February 24th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Hmm, very cognitive post.
    Is this theme good unough for the Digg?

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