LOST 018 - Give Everybody Eat

Tailies! Unpacking the TV show LOST — Season 2: Episodes 4-6

LOST 018 - Give Everybody Eat
“Listen, Biff … nobody—nobody—calls me ‘chicken’.”

Another fortnight, another 3 episodes of LOST.

Previously, on LOST: Oceanic 815 crashed on an island! The survivors survived, but there are polar bears and French ladies and other monsters in the jungle. Also, a mystery group called The Others is already on the island, and one Other infiltrated the Oceanics and killed one of them and abducted some others. Also, there is a 19th-century galleon crashed a mile inland, full of dynamite. Also-er, there is a hidden hatch, leading to a bunker full of a) food; and b) a Scotsman who enters a sequence into a computer every 108 minutes to stop an apocalypse clock. Also-est, four Oceanics (3 men, one of them with his son) tried to escape on a raft, but The Others waylaid them, abducted the kid, blew up their raft, and now the Rafties are back on the island, captured by a mystery group who threw them in a pit.

None of them are yet fully aware that they’re being controlled by larger forces in a much bigger story, but some of them are starting to get some unmistakable clues, which makes them either feel outraged and helpless or energized and hopeful, depending on whether they are a Man of Science or a Man of Faith.

That’s the simple version of this narrative. Yikes.


The vaunted Season 1 served almost as a preamble, and while it teased the beginnings of a few mysteries, it concerned itself mostly with establishing character and with questions of how these characters were going to manage in a classic survival situation. Season 2 began with a status-quo resetting; a premise-expansion so dramatic it took a full three episodes to establish. That’s right; we’re in bunker-times, folks. Welcome to the Swan Station.

These next three episodes are going to focus on the other major Season 2 thrust, which is the introduction of the fascinating, and sadly fleeting, new characters known colloquially by fans as “The Tailies.”

Who are the Tailies, you ask?

Butter the popcorn and pass the remote.

Hurley stands mouth agape in the Swan Station's pantry, which is filled with racks of food and supplies.
“All this food, and not a single Popeye’s chicken sandwich.”

Episode 4: EVERYBODY HATES HUGO (Hurley): We open on the local island mayor and all-around Best Dude, Hurley, who is wandering slack-jawed amongst the cornucopia of food in the Swan’s storeroom. How much is there? It appears to be enough to power a lone Scotsman for something approaching ‘indefinitely.’ And it’s not just staples; there are tasty snacks, like candy and peanut butter and potato chips and milk cartons with Walt’s face on them. Hurley’s in heaven, until Jin appears, speaking perfect English along with a stranger (to us, anyway; it’s the guy who sold Hurley his winning lotto ticket) wearing a chicken outfit from Hurley’s old pre-moneybags fast-food job, and it becomes pretty clear that Hurley has stumbled into a Twin Peaks dream sequence…

… from which he wakes to find he is on Swan Station sequence-entering1 duty. Kate relieves him, and expositions that Hurley has been put in charge of the food—a task which he clearly approaches with trepidation. This made me nervous that we were going to begin the rather tiresome (and thankfully quickly abandoned) "the fat guy has food issues" plot—but no, we're not there yet; it's actually something more adroit. Hurley cannily recognizes the storeroom as a sudden influx of wealth, and as a sudden millionaire himself back in real life, he knows that sudden wealth changes how people see you, and he wants none of it.

Hurley wisely enlists Rose, who is less affected by the boodle than most would be, to help him make inventory of the supplies. The cache is mostly generic-label goods bearing the Dharma logo and comically dry descriptions, but there is one brand-name item: Apollo candy bars, which is a logo we don’t recognize, because it’s fictional, and which (the show makes a point of demonstrating) Hurley and Rose don’t recognize either, because … well. Let’s put a pin in that. Rose also takes this opportunity to remind us of her belief that her husband, Bernard—who was in the detached tail section at the time of the crash—is still alive.

There's a scene where Jack Of Course warns Hurley not to let anybody have anything until they can make a ration plan, and there’s a scene where Hurley tries to quit his post and Locke, who has decided he is the Bunker Boss, tells Hurley there’s no quitting, which Hurley accepts for some reason. As Oceanics back on the beach start to learn about the Swan Station and its goodies, Hurley’s fears come to pass, as people come to him for favors, they resent him for rejecting them—particularly his best bud Charlie, who wants some peanut butter for platonic island girlfriend Claire.2 It's also clear that there are going to be some people, like Kate, who are not going to respect his rationing authoritaw, because they are main characters and feel entitled to help themselves to what they want. Hurley spends the episode justifiably fearful of the coming division of his tribe into haves and have nots.

There’s also a brief scene where Jack and Sayid explore the crawlspace beneath the bunker, and we learn that the station runs on a geothermal generator, and that the magnetic wall seen in previous episodes is protected by what Sayid estimates is a dozen feet of concrete—a barrier that extends to the basement. Sayid ominously intones that what this whole setup most resembles is Chernobyl. It’s another indication that there is some serious shit happening with this here bunker and its apocalypse clock.

Meanwhile, the Rafties (that’s Michael, Jin, and a shoulder-shot Sawyer) are still in a literal pit, but they’re quickly released by their captors, who reveal they were also passengers on Oceanic 815! It’s a reveal somewhat undercut by the fact that (thanks to a shoehorned Season 1 flashback) we already knew that about the only one we’ve met—their stern authoritarian leader, Ana Lucia, who seems like she must have been a cop in a previous life, given her insistence on carrying the gun and her propensity to brutalize people who don’t immediately obey her.3 We also meet: Libby, about whom more next time; Christy, who sharp-eyed viewers will recognize is an Oceanic flight attendant; and Mistereko (Eko if you're nasty), who is, quite simply, my favorite character in all of LOST, a guy who singlehandedly elevates Season 2 simply by his magnetic presence. We also discover that while there were 23 Tailies to begin, there are only a handful left, living in an abandoned unstocked Dharma bunker. One of that handful? Bernard! Rose's husband! Still totally alive!

Rose was right! Suck it, doubters!

Meanwhile, to resolve his dilemma, Hurley first attempts to dynamite the entire storeroom, but after Rose wisely points out what a bad idea that is, he finds a more elegant and egalitarian solution: he’s simply not going to participate in any hording. He distributes the wealth. It will last as long as it lasts. Give everybody eat! He’s not going to follow bad rules designed to exert control, even if they’ve been delivered by well-meaning people. And that’s why Hurley is the Best Dude.4

End of Episode 4.

“Hey Eko, have you noticed that between us we have about 50% of the entire cast’s supply of effortlessly compelling silent screen presence?”

Episode 5: … AND FOUND (Sun & Jin) This episode puts focus back on our favorite Korean couple, who fate and TV writers often keep apart, but who always return to their enduring love for one another.

Sun’s island tale is simple but affecting. Last episode, Claire made a discovery: the bottle from the raft with everyone’s letters to home, which had washed back up on shore. Claire and Shannon told Sun, and Sun, who buried the bottle, is now dealing with her grave concerns, given the evidence of the raft’s failure, about what must have befallen her husband. These concerns are given a more direct focus when she realizes that she’s lost her wedding ring. In the end, after a day of frantic searching, she digs the bottle back up, and discovers the ring, which fell off when she buried it. It’s a lovely episode-long metaphor for the emotional subtext, and I quite enjoyed it, but it doesn’t really touch heavily on the main plot, so just watch it and enjoy it.

Meanwhile, The Rafties and Tailies are having a lot of trouble. The Tailies, led by an increasingly unstable Ana Lucia, have serious trauma and ongoing trust issues, but aren’t exactly offering many explanations as to what happened to deplete their numbers so badly. On the Raftie side, Sawyer’s gunshot is getting infected and is starting to pose a serious health risk, while Michael’s overriding concern is, understandably, his abducted son.

Ana Lucia announces their plan: they’re going to gather supplies, and then they’re going to travel to the Oceanic camp. It’s a good plan, and not one that the Rafties would be likely to oppose, but she delivers it as a command all the same. So be it. Jin goes with Ana Lucia and Bernard to fish, and Jin quickly establishes his value in that department, which will probably keep him safe from the vote next time he has to go to tribal council. Eko scouts, accompanied by Cindy. Michael and Libby go to forage fruit, and Libby mentions the direction from which the Others come—which, not the best move, Libby. Michael immediately lights out for the territories, seeking Walt.

When the group regathers and learns of this, Ana Lucia is adamant: they’re moving out anyway, no waiting for laggards. Jin is equally adamant: he’s not leaving without his friend. He departs in Michael’s direction, accompanied by an unexpected ally: Eko, the group’s tracker, who doesn’t assume leadership but clearly is the one member of the Tailies who Ana Lucia can’t boss around. Sawyer, meanwhile, is on team Leave A Man Behind, and quickly agrees to move out with the rest. It’s settled. The Gang Goes On A Road Trip.

Eko leads Jin after Michael, and eventually they come upon a hint of the Tailies’ trauma: the corpse of one of their number, impaled on a stick. “His name was Goodwin,” Eko murmurs. The continue, but before long, Eko pulls them up short, and compels them to hide, just in time: The Others walk by, and we get our first glimpse of this mysterious group. They’re not as expected: barefoot, filthy-legged, but silent, and one of them is carrying what may be the most menacing-seeming teddy bear in television history.

After the group has passed by without incident, Jin and Eko continue after Michael, where they finally catch up to him at a waterfall dead-end. After some debate, Eko and Jin are able to persuade him to return.

End of Episode 5

Shannon sits on the beach, looking at the two sticks that make the cross-shaped marker for Boone's grave.
“Hey Boone. You kind of sucked, it turns out.”

Episode 6: ABANDONED (Shannon). There’s a B plot this episode about Charlie getting more and more weirdly possessive of not only Claire, but of baby Aaron, and of Locke becoming aware of both that dynamic and the fact that Charlie, who he guided into a moment of clarity about heroin addiction, is now carrying an icon of the Virgin Mary stuffed with heroin baggies. This will pay off later, but not today.

The main focus, for the first and (spoilers) last time, is the ostensibly selfish and shallow rich girl Shannon, who we catch up to as she’s looking after resident island Good Boy, the golden lab Vincent, who happens to be Walt’s dog. Sayid approaches and leads her to a romantic island tent he’s made for her, which is very sweet of him, and they rekindle the burgeoning romance that was just getting started when it was interrupted by the tumult around the death of Shannon’s brother, Boone. Sexy times commence, chicka-bowwow. Aw. This relationship doesn’t make much sense given Sayid’s backstory, but these poor people deserve some joy, and get so little of it, so I won’t begrudge them their afterglow.

This reverie is sadly temporary. Drippin’ Wet Walt appears to Shannon again, doing the mysterious whispers. Sayid didn’t see it, and he’s perhaps understandably skeptical of Shannon’s claims (though given that he’s the first to have heard the whispers, he might be a little less hasty to Scully her). Anyway, burgeoning romance unburgeons once again. Shannon is deeply hurt by Sayid’s lack of trust in her, and hits the bricks, leaving Sayid in the Love Shack, Population 1. Sucks to suck, Sayid. Manage your business.

Meanwhile, The Tailies and Rafties trek through gorgeous island vistas, and we learn a few things about our new friends:

  • Libby is a clinical psychologist.
  • The Others are silent and untrackable, almost undetectable, and have abducted over a dozen Tailies—hence the Tailies’ persistent state of terror.
  • The Tailies were also infiltrated by Others, who seemed to be friends—”Remember Goodwin?” Ana Lucia snarls—hence the Tailies’ trust issues.
  • Sawyer’s wound is now in real bad shape. Warrior is about to die. Eko leads the group on a more direct route inland through Others territory, and Ana Lucia suspects his rationales are motivated by a desire to save Sawyer even at personal risk, and Eko’s response to this suspicion confirms it. “It’s the only way I know,” Eko claims. “I liked you better when you weren’t talking,” Ana Lucia says. Intriguing stuff! Will we ever learn more?

Eventually Sawyer growly-gruffs himself into a collapse, and Jin and Michael enlist Eko to help them build a trammel for him. Ana Lucia insists that the two upright Rafties be the ones to carry the prone one, but when they come to a cliff, the whole tribe bands together to get him up it. Team building exercise! Unfortunately, Cindy never makes it up the cliff. She’s vanished. And that’s when it starts to rain hard and the whispers begin.

The group all starts to freak out. Ana Lucia draws Sawyer’s gun.

Meanwhile, Shannon employs Vincent’s doggie nose to try to find his master Walt, who she’s (correctly) convinced is back on the island. Sayid follows her, first to Boone’s grave, and then into the jungle, where it starts to rain hard. Both of them are drippin’ wet themselves when the whispers start, and Drippin’ Wet Walt reappears, desperately making shushing gestures before walking away. This time Sayid sees him, too, but he trips over a tree root, and Shannon, pursuing Walt, runs ahead and out of sight. Sayid hears the report of gunfire. He runs to Shannon, who has been shot in the chest. She collapses and expires in Sayid’s arms. Farewell, Shannon, we just got to know you, and now that we know you, we know you never got a fair shake.

Sayid looks up in an exceedingly murdery fashion at Ana Lucia, a stranger to him, who just killed the woman he loves5.

End of Episode 6.

Flashbacks. This round of flashbacks focuses on characters who haven’t gotten the treatment very much so far, and (probably as a result), these are a generally successful set of backs that flash.

The 2nd Hurleyback is, I think, a strong example of how to do these things. We see Hurley on the day following his lottery win; he’s a carefree man without many prospects but an inner peace (an inner peace that is likely hard-won, given the time we already know he’s spent institutionalized to treat a trauma-based mental illness). Hurley spends the day screwing around with his bestie, played by the always-engaging character actor DJ Qualls, until finally reality intrudes: he comes to the gas station where he bought the winning ticket, where a camera crew is filming a remote piece about the fact that there is a winner, and the attendant who sold him the ticket recognizes him as the guy who bought that particular ticket—which makes no sense at all, and I wish they’d found a less contrived way to dramatize this moment, but whatever. The rest of the scenes are great character stuff that makes excellent use of Jorge Garcia’s laid-back charisma, and it’s crosscut into the episode in ways that buttress the main story to strong dramatic effect.

The 2nd SunJinback also exists in service of the main story, positioning the couple in the weeks before their meeting, as they cross paths on separate tracks, living on opposite poles of their class-based society, existing in sight of each other without seeing each other. We’re able to see what they aren’t—which is that, as each of them push back against the strictures that their society creates for them, they push toward one another. We see Sun as a scion of massive wealth, trying to hold onto her independence in the face of familial expectations that she marry before she’s seen as a worthless spinster. Sun’s mother has arranged a meeting with an eligible young son of a hotel magnate, who intrigues her but ultimately reveals that he himself is trying to escape social obligations to pursue his love of an American woman. Jin, meanwhile, attempts to break into high society by landing a doorman’s job at the very hotel owned by Sun’s putative beau, but quickly realizes that he’s being asked to participate in a system that sees poor people like him as worthless scum, and quits. It doesn’t inform much about the island plot, but it’s a lovely way to illustrate just how much the two of them mean to each other, the meaning and worth they give to one another, and the refuge they have been to one another.

Shannon’s sole flashback of the series, meanwhile, gives us something that’s grown rare from flashbacks (especially as for some characters we enter 4th, 5th and 6th returns to increasingly dry wells) which is some genuinely surprising character insight. We learn that Shannon’s father died in the same car crash that injured Jack’s future wife, and that Jack’s triage decision to work on the woman rather than the man left Shannon at the mercy of her wicked stepmother and her well-meaning but ultimately useless stepbrother, Boone. Wicked SM’s machinations create the self-doubting abandonment issues we see in the main narrative, and leave Shannon as not a rich girl, but a guilded pauper, unable to pursue an opportunity for a prestigious dance conservatory, dependent on Boone and the string of shitty men that we see Boone “saving” her from in last season’s Booneback—a situation which (from Boone’s perspective) was a case of Shannon’s bad judgment but which we now see is a part of a cycle that he himself was complicit in manufacturing—a situation that casts Boone’s icky pursuit of Shannon even more unseemly than it previously appeared, and her acquiescence even more obligatory. Boone offers money but he sure doesn't offer to stand up to his mother, and Shannon rather understandably (but rather foolishly) declines. Honestly, this flashback makes me wish Maggie Grace had stuck around.6 She wasn't given much to do until now, and she did good work here once she was.

Enough. We’ve observed. Now let’s believe.


Lots of things have been set up in these episodes that are better dug into after more of that setup has paid off, but I’ll try to lay down some groundwork. Speaking of:

1) Apollo bars: There is no getting around it, the writers deliberately put one and only one brand name into what is otherwise fully genericized Dharma supplies (the generics are a visual gag that never stops paying off), and then make sure we understand that in the world of the narrative, this is not a brand either of them have ever heard before. It’s perfectly possible, of course, to encounter an unfamiliar candy bar brand. It happens to people all the time in the real world, I’m sure. However, the world of fiction works on narrative efficiency, where mentioning something like that isn’t usually done for the hell of it. All I’m going to say for now is that in the world of sci-fi tropes, that is pretty much the textbook example of how you casually establish one-degree-of difference alternate dimensions. So. You know. There’s that.

2) Drippin’ Wet Walt: As I mentioned before, I believe this is really Walt, using his strange powers to manifest himself in places he doesn’t physically occupy. We rather famously never really will get back to Walt enough to get his perspective on anything that happens after his abduction, but based on the available clues, I believe that Walt is unusually attuned to the island on a spiritual level, to the degree that he on some level realizes that The Adversary is attempting to arrange a violent clash between the two factions of Oceanic 815 survivors.

I believe what’s happening here is that Walt is trying to warn Shannon of this, but The Adversary is far more adept than him, and in a case of deadly irony uses Walt’s warning to bring about the thing Walt is warning about. Why is Walt dripping water? My belief is that the spiritual connection The Island creates is extra-dimensional, and thus is something that transcends time. We also will learn that The Island is a spiritual nexus. Keeping these details in mind allows some of the more mysterious details of this incident to become somewhat more practical. Walt is wet because when he warns about that moment, he’s in that moment, which involves a rainstorm. When he warns her to be quiet, it’s because he knows that Ana Lucia is nearby, ready to shoot the next thing she sees. This also explains the whispers. A long time from now, we’ll learn that the whispers are literally spirits who are drawn to the light at the heart of the island but have not yet entered it, who have not yet let go of the living world, and that the way that most communication from spirits to the living manifest is as whispers. If Walt is operating in the spiritual plane, he would spirit-whisper.

So that’s what I believe was happening when Shannon died. And about that …

3) Shannon’s Death: Whenever a major character dies, I hope to use it as an opportunity to understand why The Island allowed that death. I think it’s time to remember that while The Adversary believes that the nature of Its disagreement with The Island is over whether or not people are worthy, The Island seems disinterested in that question and interested in progress instead. From this, and from many other hints and revelations that are coming, I believe that the island is a place that exists to help people progress. The Island will keep people who live on the island alive until they have progressed, and from there they will be allowed to die. In fact, I believe that in the original state of The Island and the entity we’re calling The Adversary and human beings, that people would live for an indefinite period while seeking their progress (and we will indeed meet people on this island whose lives have spanned centuries), and that, once they had achieved it, they would be invited into a state that people now perceive as death. As an aside, this touches near to why I believe that, in this original state, The Adversary was The Advocate, tasked with helping guide humans toward this progress and toward this invitation, and this is why the whispers of spirits tend to go before and follow after appearances of the black smoke … but this note is getting long enough as it is. More on all this sometime later as proof arrives.

I believe in this case, we see somebody who believes she will always be abandoned learn trust in another. She’s been taught to doubt herself and she learns to believe in herself even in the face of skepticism. She’s learned to protect herself from the pain of that by retreating into selfishness, but she’s decided to act on behalf of another.

I’d call that progress. I think that while The Adversary might have simply been looking for a way to kill a candidate (don’t worry about candidates for now), The Island may have been very interested in progress, and, seeing progress, made Shannon’s death an allowable thing.

4) The Others and the Other Others: The Others that Jin and Eko see are an odd thing to try to connect to what we know of the group usually meant when people say “The Others.” Next time, we’re going to learn a lot more about the Tailies and how they got to the state we see them in now, and that is going to be the right time to go deep on all of this, but for now let’s just say that, though this will never be made explicit, there is clear evidence for the fact that when Oceanic 815 crashed, there wasn’t a group of others already living on the island, but multiple—maybe two, possibly more. There is a faction led by a man we haven’t met yet, named Ben Linus, who are the group that abducted both Walt and Claire. This will be the group of Others we will come know best, but we will eventually learn, if we are sharp observers, that there are other Others, and many seasons from now we will be able to observe that when (for example) airplanes take off, whose flight paths are bound to cross with the island, at least one of those factions of other Others make sure to put some of their members aboard those flights…

5) Cindy’s Abduction: … and it’s pretty clear to me that Cindy is one of them; that she wasn’t abducted by other Others, but was simply rejoining them. As for the how and why …

… let’s wait for next time.


Next Time: Tail-back

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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. Every day he’s out there making duck tales, a whoo-hoo.

  1. I’m weirdly pedantic about this, but both fans and characters on the show continue to call the Swan Station “the hatch” even though it is not a hatch, and call entering the sequence into the computer “pushing the button,” even though that’s not what they’re doing. Why do I care? I don’t care. I’m not mad, I’m laughing actually. I’m not mad. Don’t put in the newspaper that I got mad.

  2. The peanut butter is a callback to an earlier scene with Charlie and Claire, which I didn’t mention because it wasn’t plot-relevant, but it’s exactly the sort of wonderful ongoing character fillips at which LOST excels. They aren’t necessary, dude, but they really tie the room together.

  3. We’ll soon enough learn that yep, she was a cop. Just sayin’. Spoilers, I guess.

  4. This is going to be extremely plot-relevant before we’re done, in my opinion. That’s all I’ll say for now.

  5. So comes the end to a romance that few really liked—and for good reason, which is that Sayid is already actively pursuing a different love of his life. Yes, it’s possible to be in love with somebody and then fall for somebody else, but his main backstory involves his consuming pursuit of Nadia, and every so often he digs out her picture to stare wistfully at it, and I would have liked just once for him to look over while doing so to find Sawyer wistfully staring at his “Dear Mister Sawyer” letter and for them to share a awkward “wistful staring bros” moment. Anyway, this is my last chance to mention that this romance was just a weird choice and could have been quickly solved by making Nadia Sayid’s sister.

  6. Maybe she wanted to work on movies. Maybe the writers didn’t know where to take the character. Honestly on the strength of this flashback I suspect the former, because this episode made Shannon interesting. Either way, a nice farewell to a little-loved, and, I’m surprised to say, an underrated character.