"How can you possibly not understand that you're mine?"
?Ben to Juliet
"This island's mine."
?Caliban to Prospero
Admit it: You really wanted to find out who Ben's man on the ship was. But you also have to admit, that opening was tricky. Juliet was done up, looking like she just stepped out of her Miami home, not the jungle. "I don't like being treated like a celebrity," she says, giving the nod that she may be one of Oceanic 6 ? until Tom walks in with the hairy lip and blows out any assumptions or preconceptions.
Overall, "The Other Woman" is a bit of a pressure drop from "The Constant," which gives the audience a bit of a chance to reset and just deal with the smaller reveals, rather than spacetime-twisting anomalies in physics. It's a safe bet that this is one of those episodes that will disappoint many after "The Constant," but won't feel so out of place if watched back-to-back with the other episodes on the DVDs (a common sentiment about each season, it seems). There are plenty of places where "The Other Woman" will take its lumps on the writing, pacing, and motivation, so no need to pile on. Let's see what else is there.
Pressure-dropping right in:
The first name of note comes with the angry psychotherapist, Harper Stanhope. Like Anthony Cooper, Harper Stanhope has a name resonate with the 17th and 18th centuries; the 18th century Anthony Cooper was the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the Stanhope name holds a few similar peerages.
For one, Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816), was both a politician and a scientist who experimented with electricity. But he is known for, among other things, writing a response to Edmund Burke's scathing 1790 essay Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke ? whose namesake was Juliet's husband ? supported the American Revolution, but thought the French Revolution devolved into mob rule. Charles Stanhope, however, was a supporter of the French Revolution, and responded with A Letter to Burke, Containing a Short Answer to His Late Speech on the French Revolution. A few years later, Stanhope stood in opposition to the British Parliament's suspension of Habeas Corpus, which was also occasioned by the French Revolution; Parliament used the revolution and demonstrations by radicals to effect a sort of proto-Patriot Act, where publications deemed to be seditious were censured, and people could be detained without trial (rather like Ben has been on more than one occasion).
A generation before Charles Stanhope, two of his predecessors held some different ideological positions. James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope, and his relative Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, were both instrumental in crushing the Jacobite uprising. Jacobitism, besides recalling the name of our Jacob in the island shack, was a 17th and 18th century movement to restore the Catholic Stuart kings to the thrones in England, Scotland, and Ireland (but as these things go, it was a lot more political than religious). The uprising was of particular importance in Scotland, where the Highlanders, with their Gaelic clans and culture, were primarily Jacobites. The key battle was the 1746 Battle of Culloden, not far from Loch Ness. At this battle, the well-equipped and organized British forces managed to put down the Highland Jacobites, spent the next week hunting down and killing other Scottish Jacobite leaders, and that was pretty much it for Gaelic Jacobite clan culture as a political force in Scotland. This is also the same clan culture that Arthur Widmore, scion of the American Widmores, yammers on about incessantly in Bad Twin. So in that name Stanhope, we have connections back to Edmund Burke, the Scottish background of the Widmore clan, and echo of Jacob in Jacobitism.
Lastly, there is an orchid species called Stanhopea named after the 4th Earl of Stanhope, Philip Henry Stanhope (not to be confused with Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield).
Harper's first name is uncommon enough to warrant a second look. It didn't take long before Lostpedia had two suggestions up: Karen Harper is the author of a book called Empty Cradle, about a fertility doctor named Dr. Stanhope who steals her patient's eggs for testing. There's also the echo of one of the more famous Harper authors, Harper Lee. Although there doesn't seem to be any direct connections with Lee's one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, there is something else to consider: Lee was good friends with Truman Capote, who based a character in his book Other Voices, Other Rooms on Harper Lee. That book concerns a young boy who has to live with his absentee father after his mother dies, which echoes Ben's story.
The bigger reveal of "The Other Woman" is the new station called The Tempest, a power station whose evocative name recalls both the Shakespearean drama and a bit more. When we first saw Smokey bounce off the sonic barrier in the third season, many people recalled a particular scene from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, when the monster from the id attacks the space rangers and is blockaded by a force field. Forbidden Planet was based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest, and features a box-like machine that manifests thought into reality, much like Ben describes the magic box on the island to Locke in "The Man from Tallahassee." The Forbidden Planet box, however, is a massive machine 20 square miles large, and was designed by the original inhabitants of the planet. Those inhabitants, the Krell, displayed hyper-advanced intelligence, far beyond human capacity, and tried to use the machine to create a kind of utopia. What they didn't count on, however, was their ids leaking through their conscious minds into the machine and manifesting something terrible. That something terrible eventually wiped them out; they couldn't control it.
The space rangers, led by Leslie Nielsen, find only a few inhabitants on the island, a philologist named Morbius, his daughter Altaira, and his proto-droid Robby the Robot (who seemed to grace the covers of a number of K-Tel Records in the 1970's). As it turns out, the monster that attacks the space rangers is a manifestation of Morbius' nightmares; Morbius had been using the machine, is barely able to manage it, and didn't count on his id escaping through his dreams and running rampant like a presidential candidate in Ohio. (Morbius is also just another way of saying Morpheus, who was the Greek god of dreams.) Eventually Morbius realizes the only way to stop the id monster is if Morbius himself dies, and his last will is to have the machine destroyed.
Shakespeare's original play of The Tempest was the sci-fi of his day, including sorcerers, witches, a sprite, and an odd, hybrid-human who struggles for supremacy over the island against an enslaver. The basics: Prospero, the Duke of Milan and a sorcerer, is deposed by his brother Antonio and his brother's friend Alonso (the King of Naples). They send Prospero and his young daughter Miranda off in a crippled boat to die at sea. But Prospero had a friend who secretly made the boat seaworthy and supplied it before they were jettisoned, so Prospero and Miranda survive and make it to an enchanted island.
At the island, the parallels to Lost settle in. Start with Sycorax, a blue-eyed witch who was exiled to the enchanted island when she was pregnant; only she died after giving birth, not in the second trimester. Her progeny was the hybrid-human Caliban, a kind of half-creature, half-man who is the only non-supernatural thing on the island. Sycorax also imprisoned a sprite named Ariel in a tree, but died before she freed the sprite.
Along came Prospero, who freed Ariel only to use him as near-slave, exploiting Ariel's powers while continually promising to release him sometime in the future. (Note: Ariel is often depicted as female, but was originally male.) Prospero and Miranda also found the orphaned Caliban and took him in. They taught Caliban their language and religion, while Caliban in turn taught them how to survive on the island. (Contemporary literary critics have looked at this dynamic as an early literary model of European colonialism, with Caliban as the native inhabitant who rebels against the European master.)
After some years, Caliban began to lust after Miranda and tried to rape her. Prospero in turn enslaved Caliban, which only drew Caliban's scorn: "Thou didst prevent me; I had peopl'd else / This isle with Calibans." This generates one of the internal struggles of the play ? who has a claim to the island, Prospero or Caliban.
At the play's outset, twelve years of exile had already expired. Prospero was using his sorcery and discovered that his treacherous brother Antonio and Antonio's entourage were sailing nearby, so he ordered Ariel to whip up a tempest in order to have their ship crash on the island and to scatter the survivors. From there the plot unfolds; Prospero tries to use the shipwrecked survivors to regain his place in Milan, just as Caliban tries to use the newcomers to overthrow Prospero and regain the island. (It's also not coincidence that The Tempest station, with its connotation of a massive storm, was introduced at the time the 2004 tsunami swept through the Indian Ocean. We saw a storm, but we didn't see the effects of the tsunami; after all, we're not even sure if the island is indeed located in the Indian Ocean.)
The Prospero/Morbius, Miranda/Altaira, Ariel/Robby the Robot, Caliban/id monster connections are pretty basic, but both The Tempest and Lost use a good deal of mirroring in structuring their characters. Prospero, Caliban, and Antonio mirror each other in their grasping for power. Prospero is ostensibly the representative of good magic and Sycorax of bad, but as Prospero wields his power in an increasingly unjust way, those black and white distinctions become a lot more gray. Both Caliban and Ariel mirror each other as different versions of slaves; one is forced to do physical labor, the other intellectual labor, and as is often the case, the physical labor is looked upon with scorn, while the intellectual labor is offered never-ending but rarely emerging promises.
The Lost mirroring is interesting because its just not that simple. Who's Prospero in "The Other Woman?" It might at first seem to be Ben, but not so fast. Start with Juliet, who seems to cover two roles; she is the indentured servant made to continuously employ her intellectual labor with the false promise of someday being released, which puts her in line with Ariel. But she's also the target of creepy, unwanted advances by someone who many agree is a kind of monster, Ben. This puts Juliet in the position of both Ariel and Miranda, and Ben in the position of Caliban ? and it's arguable that Smokey is another Caliban-like manifestation, like Forbidden Planet's id monster.
Caliban had a mother who died when he was young, the blue-eyed witch Sycorax; likewise, Ben's blue-eyed mother Emily died when he was young, and both Caliban and Ben carry serious torches for their mothers. Harper even tells Juliet "You look just like her"; indeed, the painting on Ben's wall seems to be Emily, and woman in the painting could be Juliet's sister. However, Carlton Cuse has noted that Annie, Ben's childhood friend, will be of seismic importance, so that could also be the "her."
But just as Sycorax trapped Ariel in a tree, Juliet was stuck in place by her former husband Edmund Burke until Ben, Prospero-like, frees her from that trap of a marriage. Even Goodwin has a Shakespearean role as the outlier Ferdinand who hooks up with Miranda/Juliet. But beyond everything, the most sorcerer-like figure on the island seems to be Jacob, which suggests Ben/Caliban may be having a behind-the-scenes struggle with the phantom/Prospero. Given what Ben told Locke, it wouldn't be surprising to see Charles Widmore playing an Antonio-like usurper role in the future.
But Ben, as usual, is the real enigma of the episode. Here's something to think about ? does Ben have Desmond-like abilities to peek into the future? Consider: Ben was in Locke's Guantanamo, yet Harper was out in the whispery jungle carrying out his orders. Ben set Goodwin up when he sent him after the tail section of Flight 815, expecting him not to make it back and thus clearing his path to Juliet. Ben also tells Locke that he knows Locke's people will be rising up against him, especially when they find out Locke has no plan. When Ben tells Locke "If my people still wanted me, John, they would have stormed this camp long ago," he already knows better since he already has Harper out working for him. In all of these cases, Ben seems to be operating with some sort of foreknowledge. But like Desmond, this isn't complete foreknowledge; he didn't foresee Goodwin getting in his way to Juliet before it was already underway.
Ben also dropped some theory-bait over his dinner-entrapment with Juliet when Juliet says Zack and Emma, the two surviving Tailie children, are asking about their mother in Los Angeles. Ben just says "They'll stop asking in time. They're on the list, Juliet. Who are we to question who's on the list and who's not?" Hold it ? didn't Ben tell Goodwin and Ethan to make the lists to begin with and bring the lists to him? Did he vet those lists with Jacob, or is something else going on? Just who is making the decisions here?
Before ending this one, just a few words about Kate and her freckles, Charlie and his swimming, course-correction, etc. This comes from some discussion in the comments and elsewhere, and given the amount of questions about it, it seems like it deserves some space.
A lot of people have said, like me, that Kate's freckles seem to be gone ? or at least a hell of a lot less prominent ? at the end of last season and the beginning of this season. They're obviously back now. Some people said that you just needed HDTV, which I have a hard time buying because regular TV was fine for the first two seasons. So let's break it down:
- In the podcast for "The Constant," Lindelof says "Even if you did something in the past that you didn't do before, somehow the sort of 'fabric of time' swoops in around you and fixes everything so things don't go off the rails." Lindelof's a decent writer and chooses his words carefully: Even if you did something in the past that you didn't do before seems pretty significant.
- Charlie says he doesn't swim in the first season. Des sees Charlie drowning in a flash in season three, and sees him getting caught in a tow and tossed against the rocks when he's supposed to go out looking for birds. This is all pretty suggestive (but not proof) that Charlie doesn't or can't swim.
- Yet in "Greatest Hits," we see Charlie getting swimming lessons in a flashback.
- Swimming could very well be something Charlie did in the past that he didn't do before. How could that happen?
- When we're talking about spacetime, there's no distinction between past, present and future; they're all of a piece. So when Des saves Charlie, he's not just changing the future, but that past and present as well. After a few saves, it could be that Des has changed something significant in Charlie's timeline; the non-swimming Charlie is now a fish. But like Mrs. Hawking said, the universe sets everything back into order again by making sure Charlie is knocked off in the Looking Glass station.
- Sawyer stops calling Kate "freckles" in the third season episode "Catch-22" (the episode where Charlie is supposed to get skewered in the throat). He walks in on her when she's changing her shirt, almost calls her a nickname, but is caught short. After that point, it's like he never remembers calling her "freckles" and he never says it again, until ?
- Sawyer starts calling Kate "freckles" again in the fourth season episode "The Economist."
- Between "Catch-22" and "The Economist," Kate's freckles are a lot harder to see, and I've posted screencaps here in the past. They're at least clearly washed out in the flashforward in "Through the Looking Glass." This may be another side-effect of Des saving Charlie and changing something that wasn't that way before, like Charlie not swimming and then swimming.
- HDTV is notorious for showing more than intended. It's actually a problem for the porn industry; there was a slew of articles during the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray wars about which format the porn industry would back, because that determined the winner of the Betamax/VHS wars (ex. NY Times, The Register, CNET did a series about it, and Leo LaPorte talked about it on TWiT). The problem was high-def video was showing too much under all the make-up; despite all the foundation, the pimples and flaws were still visible. Given that, it doesn't seem unlikely that if Evangeline Lily was given a good coating of makeup to cover the freckles, those freckles would be hard to see on regular tv, but still visible in high-def.
- "The Economist" is the 8th episode after "Catch-22" (the number 8 again)
- Charlie dies on day 93
- The course-correction is Charlie's death.
- "The Economist" is set on day 94.
- Sawyer starts calling Kate "freckles," and Kate's freckles are more clearly visible again, immediately after the course-correction where Charlie dies.
(And after that stuff has been set right, Kate's freckles are back, Sawyer remembers to call her freckles, etc.)
The writers are of care very cagey about how they present this sort of thing, but they love to set up games for the audience.
Maybe Christian Shephard is dead again in the future, unlike the suggestion in Jack's flashforward from "Through the Looking Glass." We'll see.