LOST 015 - The Sacrifice The Island Demanded

Sayid gets his 2nd close-up, and Jack and Kate each get their 3rd. Unpacking the TV show LOST — Season 1: Episodes 20-22

LOST 015 - The Sacrifice The Island Demanded
"It's a boy! An enormous, 9-month old boy!"
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on August 29, 2022.

Recently, on LOST: The survivors of Oceanic got secrets, they got flashbacks, they’ve got a jungle hatch, who could ask for anything more?♫♪

Also, Others and Monsters lurk in the bushes, Michael and Jin are building a raft to escape, and Locke and Boone found an airplane in a tree—but then Boone climbed up in it and it fall down go boom. Now Boone is bleeding from most places and Locke is r-u-n-n-o-f-t.


Not a lot of back story information to chew on this time, sorry.

What we are going to get are some character moments, with Jack and Kate even more front and center, to varying degrees of effectiveness. I’ve written this before, but both of these characters are much-maligned by fans (including by me), because while they are unquestionably heroic, their heroism stems from deep character flaws that betray an inner brokenness. This is common story stuff, but the nature of those flaws and how they’re presented lead to main protagonists who aren’t particularly beloved.

I think both actors do a very good job with what they have, and the story actually does very well by Jack (especially later on), by recognizing those flaws (in his case, an overwhelming need to prove his worthiness to himself by fixing everything all by himself) and making those flaws central to the story and his overall character arc. The result is he’s often pompous or unlikeable or self-centered and pissy, but compelling and believable all the same. Kate, in my opinion, fares worse even as she gets far more “likeable” characterization, partly because she was supplanted as “main” hero by the decision to keep Jack around, but mostly because the story itself doesn’t ever really let her come to grips with the inherent selfishness that drives her bravery, and rarely lets the moral grayness exposed in her (incoherent) off-island story bleed into the on-island action—where she is pretty much always understood as well-intentioned, even when she actually demonstrably isn’t (like, for example, in these episodes, when she drugs one person, and suggests that somebody poison somebody else). Shorthand: Jack is a dick, but Kate is a muddle.

Anyway, there is a finale coming up, and those things need to be pulse-pounding, so we’re going to see major movements to prepare people for the pounding of their pulses. It’s big soapy action in these three episodes. We’re going to see a birth (as-yet unnamed Aaron), a death (Boone—spoilers!), and a lot of narrative positioning before the big end-of-season fireworks.

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) attends to the badly-mangled form of Boone Carlyle (Ian Somerhalder) while Sun-Hwa Kwon (Yunjin Kim) assists.
"Does it hurt when I do this?"


Episode 20: DO NO HARM (Jack): Chaos at the caves. Boone’s injuries are extensive, the needed remedies are brutal, and everyone is understandably in shock, except for Jack (trained and ready), and … Sun, who Jack immediately and correctly assesses as possessing the necessary psychological grit to assist him. Boone looks really bad. It’s legit intense. Jack, who never met a check so big he didn’t want his ass to try to cash it, promises Boone he’s going to save him.

That’s right, folks. Jack is going to make Boone’s death about himself.

Kate hits the beach to get the alcohol in Sawyer’s stash for sterilization purposes (giving Sawyer a chance to show some nice character growth by giving it up immediately and expressing concern). On her way back, she hears moaning in the jungle. It’s Claire. At the very moment the doctor can’t be spared, Claire is giving birth. Kate will have to deliver it! She does! It’s a boy! (A time-displaced Sawyer from the future is hiding in the bushes watching it happen! We won’t know that for years, but it’s pretty cool!)

It will soon become clear to everyone—except Jack, who refuses to accept failure—that he is not going to be able to keep his promise to Boone. Jack Of Course is a universal donor, so he taps his own arm to provide a transfusion. It’s enough to bring Boone back to lucidity long enough to spill the beans about the hatch, and the disturbing fact that Locke swore him to secrecy about it. Boone’s leg is crushed, and Jack is fixing to amputate it when Boone finally convinces him that the game is played, and to let him go, which, after making about five different “I ate poo” faces, Jack finally does.

Boone dies.

Fare thee well, Boone. You weren’t helpful, but you wanted to be helpful, and sometimes that’s enough. Not in your particular case, but, you know, sometimes.

Meanwhile: Sun proves hugely resourceful, finding many practical solutions to many of Jack’s problems. I’d have liked to have seen this dynamic develop further but if memory serves it doesn’t. Jin accesses his better self to become the calming presence and emotional anchor at Claire’s delivery, and it’s so nice to see Daniel Dae Kim getting out from under the one-note dickhead characterization he had been saddled with at the start that I’ll barely mention how annoying it is that Jin and Charlie eventually sit around like dips while Kate does all the birthing work to play up a corny angle that positions Charlie as the stereotypical 1950s nervous waiting room father. (The two actors are good enough that it almost works, but geez guys.) Anyway, it’s a good episode for the Kwons all around, and they both level up.

Meanwhile: Sayid takes Shannon on a picnic date to a secluded beach, so she’s not around when Boone breathes his last. She will have much guilt and anger about this, as we will see.

Death and life: Claire introduces her baby to everyone, as Jack tells the returning Shannon about the tragic news.

Then Jack heads out: it’s time to reckon with Locke.

End of Episode 20.

Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews) points a gun at John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), the back of whose head is visible in the extreme left foreground.
From left to right: Locke, and loaded.

Episode 21: THE GREATER GOOD (Sayid). Kate remonstrates with Jack (who, to use the old cliché phrase, looks like a short stack of sheep shit that’s been run over by a ten ton taco truck), convincing him to chase after his nemesis some other time and return to the group where he’s needed. Jack eventually and surprisingly agrees, but never mind: at Boone’s funeral, Locke returns, and an enraged Jack—who blames Locke’s lies for adversely affecting Boone’s treatment—attacks him.

Jack can’t follow through, though, because he’s exhausted and literally drained of blood, and also drugged by Kate¹ so he’ll finally take the rest he needs. Enter savvy Sayid, who is a) not exactly the first person you’d want on your trail if you were secretly setting up an island cult with a smoke monster, and b) a guy whose island girlfriend would very much like revenge on Locke for killing her brother.

Sayid gets Locke to take him to the Beechcraft, ostensibly to take a look at the radio to help him build a transceiver for the raft (continuity!), but in reality to grill him about the holes in his story, the hatch (Locke denies knowledge of any hatchery) and his general Lockishness.

To gain Sayid’s trust, Locke hands over the gun he picked up off the priest’s corpse from last time (albeit only after Sayid calls him out for concealed carry) and tells him a secret: the person who attacked Sayid and smashed his transceiver was … him, Jonathan Gambolputty¹ Locke.

This proves a strange but ultimately effective way to gain trust. Sayid points the gun at Locke in sort of a head neck and throat direction. After a bit more questioning, though, Sayid uses his intense deduction skills and decides that no, Locke didn’t kill Boone.

Sayid lets Shannon know he’s not going to be dispensing any rough island justice, and Shannon isn’t having it. She grabs drugged Jack’s gun case key and sets out to perforate a bald man. Sayid arrives in time to save Locke, doing severe structural damage to his burgeoning romance.

That night, Sayid visits Locke and informs him: no more lies, bucko. You’re taking me to The Hatch.

End of Episode 21.

Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) looks sadly at her toy airplane, which is embedded in the sand of the beach.
"I really really don't understand my choices here."

Episode 22: BORN TO RUN (Kate). The raft is almost ready, but unfortunately here comes Dr. Arzt, that character we all know so well!³

Artz—a high school science teacher with a doctorate and a hilariously insufferable attitude—explodes their plans. As he monsoonsplains, the seasonal rains of the South Pacific are coming and will blow the raft to Antarctica. There’s no time left. They should have left yesterday.

Kate Of Course accosts Michael: when the raft leaves, she tells him, she is coming along. Michael demurs; the raft is full. There’s a lot of jockeying back-and-forth as Kate tries to chisel Sawyer out of his spot, and suspicion all around when Michael’s water gets poisoned. Eventually Sawyer exposes Kate’s secret to draw suspicion from himself, which isolates her from the group … until next episode. (Did I mention this treatment of Kate annoys me?) It turns out the poisoner was Sun, acting on Kate’s suggestion, who was trying to keep Jin from leaving her. Those poor crazy kids. Anyway, Michael recovers and The Gang Decides To Launch The Raft. They sail the next day.

Meanwhile, Sayid and Locke bring Jack into the circle of mutual mistrust, showing him the hatch. Jack and Locke both want to open it. Sayid, being the most sensible guy in the room, points out that things that have no outer handle generally aren’t meant to be opened from the outside, and they have no way of knowing what’s in there, but it probably isn’t anything good, because, again, hatch with no outer handle on mystery friggin’ island.

Also on team common-sense: Walt, who apparently has Dead Zone powers this episode, and learns about the hatch when Locke touches him, warning him emphatically “don’t open it, Mister Locke.” Later, he confesses to his dad that he burned the raft, and Michael has a nice fatherly moment, immediately forgiving Walt, and telling him “hey man … we don’t have to leave.”

To this, Walt ominously intones: “yes, we do.”

End of Episode 22.

Flashbacks. Here we learn that Jack married a woman named Sarah, who he saved on the operating table. More importantly, his best man is the brother from Titus—or Skut Farkus from A Christmas Story, if you like (and I do like). Anyway, Jack struggles to write his vows, and it’s clear he has reservations about the whole thing because he distrusts his motivations and his abilities to be the Very Best Jack, and he sits with his legs in the pool without rolling up his pant legs like a freak. Christian shows up and gives him some advice about the need to “let go” that isn’t super relevant to his present situation, but is very relevant if Jack were ever to oh let’s say find himself stranded on an island of mystery trying beyond hope or reason to keep a patient alive who obviously isn’t going to make it. Anyway, Jack marries Sarah, and it’s clearly a doomed relationship, partly because of Jack’s severe emotional baggage and partly because Sarah is going to have to go star in Modern Family for something like 18 years.

Sayid’s second flashback fills in his story just before taking the fateful flight on Oceanic. The FBI “snatched him up” to help them undercover with an old friend of his who has gotten involved in a terror cell with a bunch of C4. Sayid is unwilling until he learns that they can offer him a line on Nadia, the great love of his life⁴. They’ll help him find her if he helps them; they’ll run her in and hand her over to bad men if he doesn’t. Sayid, left with little choice but to cooperate, gains the group’s trust, and learns his friend is planning to martyr himself. Sayid tries to save his friend, but the FBI wants the C4—so he has to encourage the effort to proceed until the point of extreme danger. Sayid manages to prevent the explosion, but his friend kills himself all the same, leaving a very shaken and regretful Sayid to catch his flight to mystery island.

Kate’s third flashback, meanwhile, is … a Kate flashback. She’s on the run, she’s a super resourceful and competent fugitive, basically a Jason Bourne character. Let me say something nice about how the Kate story is done: I like the way each new piece of it is set at an earlier time than the one previous, a sort of slow fall into the revelation of what she did and why. I just wish the ultimate reveal was worth the trip, and that each new layer made coherent sense and deepened the story, instead of the opposite of that. In this one we discover the story of the toy airplane she later robbed a bank in order to recover, which last time we learned “belonged to the man she killed.” Here we learn that this isn’t exactly true, but it did belong to an old childhood sweetheart named I-don’t-remember, who helps her get access to the guarded hospital room (a guarded hospital room! Kate’s crime must be immense!) of her dying estranged mother while evading the law. We also learn that it’s that Kate’s mother is terrified of her, and all is very much not forgiven for whatever-it-is-she-did, because she calls for the guard, and in Kate’s desperate hospital escape, her childhood sweetie dies. So, not somebody she killed, exactly, but somebody she got killed by taking needless risks while on the run, whose memory she later honored by … staging a bank heist, endangering countless others, all to get his … toy airplane? for sentimental reasons? And the airplane was in a bank deposit box how? Help.


As mentioned, not a lot of big picture story stuff here, but we can fill in some cracks.

1) The Island “allows” Boone to die. With the first (but by no means the last) main cast death, I think it’s time to review a few things we’ll learn about death on the island.

First, let’s remember that these people—including Boone—are Jacob’s “candidates;” that is, people chosen by him to potentially replace him as The Island’s human representative. As such, in the game The Adversary is playing, It needs to see all of these possible replacements removed from the board. Preferably, it would like to see them all killed—but under the rules, It is not permitted to kill them Itself. However, The Adversary can manipulate events to create situations whereby a candidate might be killed by accident or at the hand of another candidate, and it’s likely that this is what It was (successfully) attempting to do to Boone.

We also will learn that at times Jacob, or perhaps The Island (or probably both) takes a direct hand, either in preventing a death or causing one. Jacob will, in other words, allow some deaths and disallow others—but sometimes these things will occur in ways that don’t seem particularly consistent with Jacob’s own goals. Thus, it would seem that Jacob’s control over probability and possibility is also conditional, and subject to being superseded by The Island, under conditions that seem to be contingent upon overcoming (or failing to overcome) some personal spiritual struggle.

Or, to put it in terms that I believe The Island would use, they are allowed to die when they achieve (or don’t achieve) some measure of progress.

What’s fun to me about this dynamic is the way it (deliberately, I think) mirrors the relationship between a character and creator. The character exists for a purpose, and until that purpose is achieved, the character will not be permitted to die; once the purpose is achieved, the character is free to be moved out of the story.

It’s not mentioned in these episodes, but before long Locke will tell Jack that that Boone was “the sacrifice The Island demanded.” I believe this is the explanation that The Adversary delivers to Locke to explain the death—as a test of loyalty. It might even be the way The Adversary genuinely understands these things—literally, The Island strategically and cold-bloodedly sacrificing a piece in their game to stay in control. However, I believe it has more to do with The Island realizing that Boone had come to the end of his struggle, and permitting him to exit the story as a result.

What was Boone’s struggle to overcome? That’s a good question. Here’s my attempt: Boone was obsessed, in an unhealthy Jackish sort of way, with being the guy who could save the day, but unlike Jack he wasn’t very good at that sort of thing, so he struggled with insecurity as a result. Also, he was romantically obsessed with his step-sister, which is not in my opinion the healthiest thing. In the latter case, he moved past the need through Locke’s intervention. In the former, he allowed himself to become a secondary part of something, even if it was only Locke’s cult of two, and to act for the greater good, sacrificing his safety in an attempt to send a distress call.

In the end, even though I believe Locke was (probably unknowingly) corrupting Boone for the Adversary, he might have also been doing the thing I believe he was telling himself he was doing: helping Boone toward a spiritual awakening, in other words. Which also serves The Adversary’s goals, because once that’s achieved, The Adversary was free to set up his death.

In any case, the result is the same. Exit Boone.

2) Walt’s premonition: OK, so what the heck? Walt can read people by a touch? We never saw that before and we’ll never see it again. How does Walt know about the hatch? Walt’s strange abilities are never defined, nor is his premonition here that bad things are coming to the island because of the hatch. From a story perspective, it does good work (along with Professor Arzt’s monsoon talk) at establishing a sense of urgency that will be necessary to get the raft launched.

Here’s what I believe: I believe Walt is unusually attuned to the spiritual nexus of The Island, which gives him perception of (and some small control over) ranges of possibilities. He’s like Desmond will become—able to see various possible futures—but unlike Desmond, who has to physically act to make even temporary alterations, Walt can manipulate reality in small ways, which makes him a valuable potential asset to an entity who is looking for loopholes in the rules.

My guess is that The Adversary, hoping to get a ‘rule maker’ on his side, seeks to corrupt Walt most of all, and deliberately leans on Locke’s desire to be a mentor and guide to achieve that end. We’ll see that Jacob ties people to him with physical contact. I suspect Locke conveys The Adversary’s influence in similar fashion.

However, I also believe Walt’s ability gives him significant awareness of The Adversary, which also probably makes him particularly resistant to The Adversary’s influence. When Locke touches Walt’s arm, I think Walt senses The Adversary, and a good deal of what The Adversary is up to. Not enough to understand any of it at all, but probably more than the overly trusting Locke himself senses; certainly enough to know that there are very bad things going down, and that The Adversary’s intentions very much involve that hatch.

Also possibly enough to eventually convince The Adversary to pick easier targets. Eventually … but, as we’ll soon see, not right away.

3) Turnip Head. We’ve met the last of the Oceanic 6 (who are the Oceanic 6? don’t worry about it), and it is a little baby. Aaron (as he’s soon to be named) is a serious McGuffin for the next several seasons before getting sidelined; he will indeed eventually be “raised by another” (Kate) though not by An Other. Also, as we’ll learn down the road, he is the first child to be born on the island in a very long time. This was why Claire was abducted by Ethan; it’s also why, though I don’t think it’s ever overtly said, the introduction of Aaron is one of the primary reasons (Walt’s powers and Ben Linus’ illness being the others) that the Oceanics are about to have to deal with the increased and persistent threat of an incursion.

That’s right; The Others are coming, The Others are coming.⁵


Next Time: The End Of The Beginning


¹ See, this is exactly the sort of morally gray thing that I’d like the show to treat as a lot more morally gray than it ever does. Make Kate more complicated! You have the tools to compliKate—use them! She stochastically poisons Michael the very next episode and everybody lets her off the hook. Argh.

² His middle name is never revealed, so I think it’s safe to assume.

³ Who is Arzt, you might ask? Arzt is the first example of a character ostensibly promoted out of the mass of Oceanic background survivors who never get any lines, which means that suddenly there’s a new character that everyone acts as if they knew all along. It’s never an extremely successful narrative gambit, but it actually works halfway OK here, as there’s never any attempt to integrate him into the main cast, instead opting to give him a single dynamite scene.

⁴ I guess I’m just going to bang on about this every time it comes up, but: given that Sayid has started an island romance heavily featured in this very episode, they really should have made Nadia his sister or cousin or just his good friend, and not his romantic interest, because all this ostensibly happened a month ago and it makes Sayid seem like either a cad or somebody with no attention span. I dunno; maybe it’s just me.

⁵ Emergency, emergency. Everybody to get from street.


A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places. In the time of chimpanzees he was a monkey.