The appendix is a weird thing. Its full name is vermiform appendix, and it's a vestigial organ at the base of the large intestine, packed with useful bacteria once used to help us break down high-cellulose veggies. Charles Darwin compared vestigial organs to silent letters in words; the letters aren't pronounced, but they offer clues to a word's origins. Over the ages, as our diet became more refined, that original purpose of the appendix was lost, and we were left with a worm-like thing hanging out in our guts.
However, recent research suggests the vermiform appendix may have actually evolved into serving some other purpose in conjunction with the immune system; when good bacteria is wiped out of the digestive system because of some illness, that useful bacteria can be replaced by the stuff sitting in the appendix. This is especially useful in under or undeveloped areas, where sanitation is lacking (like the tropics).
In other words, the appendix is a kind of security system. "Vermiform" also means "shape of a worm." Seen any worm-shaped security systems lately?
This isn't to say Smokey is some kind of vestigial appendix, but it is an entry point into the astonishing development of narrative parallels and mirror twinning that the end of the fourth season is developing. (I nearly included a photo of an inflamed appendix, but it was really unsightly.)
After "The Shape of Things to Come," it was increasingly clear that Sawyer is becoming the de facto guardian of Claire and Aaron. Something protective has been triggered in Sawyer. This episode, "Something Nice Back Home," is the tenth episode of the season; if we look at previous tenth episodes going back, we have "Tricia Tanaka is Dead," where we see Hurley's dad Cheech abandon him and we find the corpse of Roger Linus; "The 23rd Psalm," where we learn how Eko was stolen as a child to be raised as a warlord and Walt seems to contact Michael through the Swan Station computer; and "Raised By Another," where Claire's baby daddy ditches Claire, and she gets these warnings from Richard Malkin:
"It is crucial that you, yourself, raise this child";
"This child parented by anyone else, anyone other than you – danger surrounds this baby";
"Your nature, your spirit, your goodness, must be an influence in the development of this child";
"There is no happy life—not for this child, not without you";
"It can't be another. You mustn't allow another to raise your baby."
It seems there's a developing parental theme around tenth episode of each season. And Sawyer may have some reason to feel a bit parental; seeing Claire with Aaron may have sparked some latent fatherly drive he left behind for Clementine, whom his former partner Cassidy claims is his daughter.
Let's break this down a bit: Clementine is of course the subject of the famous folk song, where the daughter of a gold miner is lost. One of the best films by famous Western director John Ford is a morality play about anarchy vs. civilization called My Darling Clementine (named for the song). The film was about Wyatt Earp (played by Henry Fonda) and leads up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but rather than stuff the film with impending meaning, as Roger Ebert points out, Ford tends to focus his film around domestic concerns—and don't forget Sawyer's real name is Ford. Sawyer's former scam buddy/lover, Cassidy, also shares the same name as Neal Cassady, the real-life person who gave rise to the literary figure Dean Moriarty—one of Ben's alter egos. Dean Moriarty is also a character in Ken Kesey's book structured around the idea of Maxwell's Demon, Demon Box.
We now know that Claire is indeed not raising Aaron, and Aaron is indeed being raised by another/an other. Could this be the reason Jack is so crazed about getting back to the island in the flashforward from "Through the Looking Glass"? "We made a mistake," he claims, and "We were not supposed to leave."
Speaking of "Through the Looking Glass," the Alice in Wonderland reference was unmistakable in this episode, and suggests we're heading back down the rabbit hole (if we ever left). The scene Jack reads from is out of the second chapter, "The Pool of Tears." This is just after Alice has fallen down the rabbit hole and is trying to find a way out of the small rabbit door. She first drinks the elixir that makes her very small, but she forgot the key on the table, and then has to eat the cake that makes her very large so she can reach the key. But when she becomes large, she realizes she'll never get through the door of the room and begins to weep. Alice eventually begins to shrink, but grows smaller than she was before, until she is chin-deep in a pool of tears she wept when she was massive. Moral: No adjustment is right; each leads to future unforeseen problems. What's more, the steps one takes to solve a problem can lay a trap later on.
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are both notable for their indulgence of logical fallacies; false dichotomies, tautologies, causes are confused with effects, and minor absurdities are stretched to their logically absurd conclusions. (When those who are soaked in Alice's pool of tears need drying off, the mouse tries to help by telling the driest story he knows, the history of William the Conqueror.) In short, down the rabbit hole, that world becomes the mirror twin of the other. If the Lewis Carroll nod wasn't enough, Kate's holding the mirror for Jack's gut check should bring home the idea. Jack demands that Kate is the one to hold the mirror; indeed, Kate is still holding that mirror up to Jack when they're off the island, and Jack is Kcaj, the opposite of what he was on the island, a man twisted inside-out who's still losing to Sawyer despite having won his freedom. For Jack, the worm, or vermiform thing, has turned.
But we know why future Jack is twisted—it's the SAT analogy question of the episode: Christian is to Jack as Charlie is to Hurley. Both Christian and Charlie were manic substance abusers at one point; both are making regular post-mortem appearances to their respective Oceanic Six members, where they are far more cleaned up than before; and Charlie was one of the most Christian of the survivors. Both figures provide just enough weight on the fate scales to tip Jack and Hurley's mental balance, and turn them each into clonazepam-eaters. (Clonazepam is an anti-convulsive and anti-anxiety drug that, when abused, can lead to psychosis.)
Christian Shephard isn't just appearing to Jack, though. He also appears to Claire, and her one tossed-off line that at least she's not seeing things anymore after the rocket attack on her cottage suggests she's been seeing Papa Christian for some time. Don't forget that Jack and Claire are half-siblings via Christian, which helps the Millennium Falcon shot make a little more sense; Luke and Leia were sibs (twins) whose ghost-dad would appear on occasion. (Does this make Christian Darth Vader or just Anakin?)
The Star Wars nod may only be window dressing, the old wookie prisoner gag to misdirect us. (Or as Doc Jensen has been suggesting, there may be some kind of ship buried under the island with a busted hyperdrive, and Smokey has been waiting for ages for the right humans who could possibly help it run again.) But Christian's double appearance suggests something possibly more interesting than jedi knights. There's an Indo-European root word that needs to be brought out first, ghos-ti. This is an interesting word; it originally meant a stranger to whom one has reciprocal responsibilities. From this, we get both guest and host. The ghos-ti is a stranger or alien in the home. Of course, guests can be unwelcome, and hosts can be rude, and sometimes when the responsibilities aren't adequately reciprocated, guest and host can become enemies. Along the linguistic way, as the Indo-European languages diverged off into Latinate and Germanic tongues, and ghos-ti also picked up two other particular meanings:
From the season three episode, "The Man Behind the Curtain":
BEN: Are you one of them?
RICHARD: One of whom?
BEN: A hostile.
RICHARD: Do you even know what that word means?
Ghosts, mirror twins of corporeal lives, are of growing importance here. Claire is seeing ghosts, Miles is in sync with Ghostworld, and Miles is a bit confused by Claire; after Keamy and company shock and awe Otherville and Sawyer saves Claire, Miles begins to notice something odd about the Australian. (It's worth noting that Sawyer's attempts to save Claire and Aaron are rather out of character—there is no gain for him in the exchange, it's all expenditure, an authentic sacrifice.)
Maybe Miles is intrigued by Claire because she didn't actually survive that rocket attack. I'm still curious how Keamy and his mercenaries showed up walking through the jungle after that grinding by Smokey. The teaser for the next episode showed Horace Goodspeed talking to Locke, announcing he might not make any sense because he's been dead for twelve years. Cuselof recently stated in a Popular Mechanics interview that they tend to come down on the scientific explanations for things, so this will be interesting. Don't forget The Invention of Morel, where the ghost-like apparitions had a mechanical (but no less unsettling) explanation. (By the way, shout-out John and his comment from last week's post that Cimi is the Mayan glyph/word for death.)
To keep stitching things together like Jack's lower-right abdominal (eight stitches, by the way), the doctor whom Hurley didn't believe existed is named Dr. Stillman. Many viewers picked up on a possible Paul Auster reference right away. His themes generally focus on protagonists being confronted with the vaporous nature of their own identities (and identity in general), and this is often presented in fairly metafictional ways. Auster is very much of the school of Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, and a whole host of French critics and writers.
In 2007, Auster wrote and directed the film The Inner Life of Martin Frost, which was a film first mentioned in his novel, The Book of Illusions (2002). The film itself (the one that appeared in theaters to the consternation of nearly every critic) featured a writer who meets a mysterious woman whom he can't be sure even exists. She may be a figment of his own psychosis, he may be writing her into some sort of existence, she could be a ghost, a stalker, or something else.
Auster's Book of Illusions is a return to the themes of his breakthrough work, The New York Trilogy (1985-86). The first tale of the trilogy, City of Glass, is an anti-detective novel that many readers of Bad Twin thought may have been the model for the Lost book Bad Twin, due to their shared anti-detective novel architecture. The detective of City of Glass is no detective; he's a writer named Daniel Quinn, and his wife and son are gone (dead? divorced? unclear). Quinn is contacted one day by someone asking for Paul Auster of the Auster Detective Agency. With nothing else going for him, Quinn decides to be Auster's dopplegänger and take the case.
The case: A professor named Peter Stillman (Dr. Stillman) had a son named Peter Stillman. Peter Sr. studied philosophy and religion, and became obsessed with discovering the original language of God. He locked Peter Jr. up at two years old, thinking if little Peter was not polluted by the language of others, he would develop a natural language where words would be interchangeable with the things they referred to. After years of this, Peter Sr. realized that Peter Jr. was a basket case and his work was a failure, and in the midst of burning his notes, his home caught fire. This led to the authorities finding the shattered Peter Jr. and locking Peter Sr. away. Peter Jr. inherited Peter Sr.'s fortune, and needed to be taught how to be human over the next few decades. Peter Sr. is now getting out of prison, and he's been writing his son. Peter Jr. and his therapist/wife want to hire a detective to protect Jr. from Sr. (More daddy issues.)
The thing is, the more Quinn (pretending to be Auster) gets into the case, the less stable the case becomes. His clients disappear. His mark realizes he's being followed, and has conversations with him in the park about the nature of language, and Humpty Dumpty. But Quinn isn't even sure he has the right man; when Quinn went to the train to follow Peter Stillman after his release, two men got off the train who could have been the Stillman in Quinn's photo, one shabby and looking like he just got out of prison, the other well-groomed and looking like a well-to-do scholar. Quinn had to adjust and make a choice, and like with Alice, each adjustment leads to unforeseen problems and consequences that force Quinn to finally question who even he himself really is.
That's the first book of The New York Trilogy. The second book is aptly named Ghosts. A slimmer and possibly unnerving story, it features a very Reservoir Dogs cast of names long before Tarantino was scripting his film: Brown taught Blue how to be a private eye. Blue is hired by White to investigate a guy named Black. The more Blue investigates Black, the more White becomes the focus of his questions. Why? Because White and Black are the same person, a writer who is writing a story about being investigated by Blue. Guests and hosts, enemies and ghosts; this is the kind of head-twisting game that the Swan Station is built on.
The third book of the trilogy is The Locked Room. Let's wait to see what happens with Jacob.
Alice in Wonderland and Paul Auster aren't the only literary nods in this episode. The quick one that nearly gets by is when Miles is staring at Claire, and Sawyer gives him the restraining order.
MILES: What are you, her big brother?
SAWYER: No, I'm the guy who's gonna put a boot in your face unless you say 'Yeah, I getcha'."
In George Orwell's 1984, the character O'Brien tells Winston Smith of the "intoxication of power" that will occur once Big Brother has exacted total obedience: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever." This isn't to suggest that Sawyer will become a fascist powermonger; Orwell's Animal Farm has been a point of reference in the past, and whether through Ben, names, or through the dialog itself, we've seen the importance of language in Lost.
1984 is, like City of Glass, another text concerned with language and the way language shapes the way we experience the world; it's where we get the adjective Orwellian when we talk about twisted political rhetoric (free speech zones and enhanced interrogation). The idea: alter your terms, and you alter your perception; alter your perception, and you alter the way you experience the world; alter the way you experience the world, and you alter the way you interact with the world; alter that interaction, and you alter the world. How different would the world be if in India a cow wasn't sacred, but just something waiting to be packaged and served? Or if in 1954 the Knights of Columbus hadn't convinced the U.S. Congress to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance as a symbolic bulwark against the a-religious Soviet Union? O'Brien talks about how wiping out human history with controlled language, and how Big Brother will always find and enemy to defeat, because the enemy will always be redefined to describe whomever is getting their face stomped.
There are other mirrored parallels to be found in this episode. Kate's handing Jack a razor in the flashforward ties us directly back to Jack getting his tummy shaved before his surgery, which also marks the place where Jack acknowledged his feelings for Kate – "it has to be Kate" holding the mirror.
We've seen some important paintings in past episodes as well; keep an eye on the paintings in Jack and Kate's place. Most people probably had their eyes drawn to Kate's ass when she jumped Jack in the hallway. The painting down the hall behind them, however, somewhat echoes the shot we saw on the island when Miles seems to recognize that something is up with Claire. (I'm waiting to see more of this, though—painting echoes, not Kate's ass, not that there's anything wrong with either.)
When Kate and Jack have it out at the end of the episode, Jack's line about Aaron – "Your son? You're not even related to him!" draws us straight back to Ben's confession about not being related to Alex, just before Keamy puts a bullet in Alex's skull.
Jin's recognition that Charlotte speaks Korean mirrors Michael learning that Sun speaks English in "House of the Rising Sun," only no one threatened anyone's fingers back in September of 2004.
Finally, Rose asks the important question to be answered in the next few episodes: How did Jack get sick on that island?
Books mentioned in this post
J. Wood is the author of Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island