LOST 026 - The Next Few Weeks Are Going To Be Very Unpleasant

Unpacking the TV show LOST — Season 3: Episodes 1-3

LOST 026 - The Next Few Weeks Are Going To Be Very Unpleasant

Talk about a season break! It’s been three whole months since there’s been a LOST post. Where did the time go? Maybe it got swallowed up when the destruction of a mysterious island ate an entire iterative version of reality. Maybe I just enjoyed my summer as best I could while writing about the galloping rise of global fascism. Who can say?

To any and all new readers: I do this recapitulation of the TV show LOST sometimes. If you’re interested in why somebody would do this, you can start here. If you’re not interested at all, you can delete it and literally nobody will have gotten hurt. If you would like to tell me that the working conditions on the show have recently been revealed to have been racist and abusive, god damn and holy shit yes they sure were, and it’s been addressed here before and will keep getting addressed as we go. It’s going to get upsetting sometimes. If you’d like to hop in the comments and tell me you think the ending sucked and nothing made sense, go ahead, but guess what? I already know you think the ending sucked and nothing made sense. I think this show actually makes a lot of sense and ends pretty well, and I’m explaining how and why. This is the place for that.

OK? Have we covered everything? OK. Let’s LOST it up.

Previously, on LOST: Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on an island and there were lots of survivors, all mysteriously connected in ways they are only dimly aware about, if at all. Their struggle for survival keeps getting interrupted by angst, flashbacks, and the fact that they are not alone on the island by a long shot. There’s a smoke monster, and polar bears, and a tribe of others called The Others that keep kidnapping and killing and terrorizing them, and also there are signs everywhere of an abandoned scientific community called Dharma, who built a hatch leading to a bunker where a Scotsman named Desmond was pushing a button because he was told if he didn’t push it the universe would be destroyed, and if that sounds like a social experiment to you, that’s what a lot of our heroes thought, too, and eventually one of them, John Locke, didn’t push the button, to prove that nothing would happen.

And the universe was destroyed.

And then came back. Look, just read the last entry for details, this is too long already.

Oh and Kate and Jack and Sawyer have been abducted by The Others. Jeez, guys.

It’s a new season.


Quick thoughts on Season 3. It starts rough, and gets rougher. This is the exact part of the series I’ve referenced before, when the show was: a) a massive hit, and as a result had: b) no end date. What that meant was that the writers—who I think we’ll see did have a larger story in mind—had no idea at what pace they could parcel that story out. Too fast, you run out of story. Too slow, you have to lard it with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really advance the story, and the story will get: c) boring.

The option they chose was “went too slow,” as we’ll see. We’ll also be able to see the moment when the showrunners wisely negotiated an end date and a set number of remaining episodes, as the slack rope of the plot goes taut again. And then it gets, in my opinion, very very very good.

But for now, It’s a slog. Let’s have fun in the slog, by making fun of Jack.

I hope you like failed escape attempts!

Jack yells at Juliet "You think I'm stupid!?"
Worth watching the episode just for the expression on Juliet’s face in reaction to this question.

Episode 1: A TALE OF TWO CITIES¹ (Jack): It’s a classic LOST season intro, as we are thrown into an unfamiliar location featuring a totally new character. This new character is a nice-seeming lady in a nice-seeming little town who is running a book club. Let’s call her “Juliet,” since that’s her name. The book club has a sort of unhealthy fixation on an absent member named Ben, we notice, and then rumble rumble rumble! earthquake! Everyone runs outside just in time to see … Oceanic 815 splitting in two pieces a few hundred feet up. OMG you guys, we’re witnessing the crash from the perspective of The Others. And here comes their leader, Ben, who fully expects survivors, ordering Goodwin to reconnoiter the tail section and Ethan to reconnoiter the front, and Ben is none other than the man we’ve known as Henry Gale, who glances at the book in Juliet’s arms (author Stephen King) and snips: “so I guess I’m out of the book club.” We pull waaaay back to see that this ordinary suburban village is in the middle of the island jungle.

Awwww yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

We needed to know about Juliet, because weeks later in the main timeline, abducted Jack is now in a strange Dharma-branded enclosure of cave and glass and submarine doors, and Juliet is the one who keeps coming in to offer him sandwiches and interrogate him for personal information about himself—information that she already has in a neatly organized and very thick dossier. Juliet is very nice and pleasant and menacing. Jack refuses to cooperate in any way, and he makes sure to be noncompliant in the most dramatic and self-defeating way possible. He eventually attempts escape, but when he opens the door it turns out that—surprise!—he is underwater, and it is only with Juliet’s help that they don’t both drown2. Yes, it’s the Hydra station, former home of Dharma sharks and dolphins. Do the Others’ machinations seem needlessly convoluted to you? Hmm.

Meanwhile, abducted Sawyer is being held in the Dharma-branded cages that once held polar bears, and figures out how to solve a puzzle that gives him a fish-shaped reward biscuit, which would be an impressive accomplishment for a bear but sort of remedial for a Sawyer. There’s a kid in the other cage named Karl, who helps Sawyer escape, but they’re just immediately captured again. Juliet bags Sawyer with a taser. We don’t see who bags Karl, but he’s led away for punishment after being forced to apologize to Sawyer for misbehavior. Do the Others’ machinations seem needlessly convoluted to you? Hmm.

Even more meanwhile, abducted Kate is given a non-Dharma-branded pretty dress to wear and offered a bountiful breakfast with Ben by the beach, because, as he says: “I did all these things so you’d have something nice to hold onto. Because, Kate … the next few weeks are going to be very unpleasant.” And they are going to be! For all of us! Kate is put in Karl’s former cage, the better to share meaningful glances with Sawyer. Kate eats Sawyer’s fish biscuit (not a euphemism). Do the Others’ machinations seem needlessly convoluted to you? Hmm.

In the flashback Jack is being a weird obsessive as usual. His marriage has fallen apart, and now he is stalking his ex at her place of work, convinced that she has become involved with a guy at work, which would obviously be fine; but then he becomes (wrongly) convinced that the other man is his dad, Christian, which would be … legal, but pretty Jerry Springerish. Jack eventually physically attacks his dad at what turns out to be an AA meeting. Whoops. This event drives Christian off the wagon, which as we all know led to the revocation of his license to practice medicine with a god complex, and ultimately his death in Australia. Damn, Jack. You got martyr complex in your hero complex. You got hero complex in your martyr complex. And that’s how Reese’s Jack Peanut-Guilt Cups came to be.

End of Episode 1.

No snark. I just thought this was a really pretty shot.

Episode 2: THE GLASS BALLERINA (Sun/Jin): Most meanwhile of all, remember Sayid and Sun and Jin? They were on Desmond’s boat, planning to reconnoiter with Jack and the away team and surprise-attack the Others, but that failed because they were operating on faulty premises. Now Jack & Co. Inc LLC haven’t shown. They’ve found the dock from which Michael set sail with Walt, but there are no Oceanics on hand, and they’re not sure what to do. Well, no: Sayid is sure. Always the sharpest knife in the drawer, he’s correctly surmised that his friends are captured, so he decides to light a signal fire to draw the Others in and capture a couple. If you abduct us, we abduct you, appears to be Sayid’s position.

Sayid asks for help from Sun (a sharp knife herself) in lying to Jin about their situation—Sayid has been pretending that the signal fire is for their friends—because Jin’s priority is keeping Sun and her unborn child (remember that?) safe, and his understandable concern is making him return to non-understandable Season 1 levels of controlling volatility. Jin figures out the ruse, though, because as he informs Sun, he knows more English than she thinks he does. Oh damn, Jin. No dull knives on this dock. Anyway the dudes send Sun to stay safe on the boat while they wait for the Others. So of course the Others attack the boat, because the boat, which apparently none of the Others knew about, is very clearly Ben’s top priority3. Sun grabs a spare gun, shoots their leader, Coleen4, and jumps overboard. The Others take off with the boat.

We’re now reaching almost quantum levels of meanwhile. Ben is creepy in the workplace with Juliet. Kate and Sawyer are put to hard labor (digging up rocks?) under the watchful eye of armed guards, led by a guy named Pickett. Sawyer quickly attempts escape, but is foiled when Juliet holds Kate hostage, forcing him to make his patented disgusted-but-resigned face as he surrenders. And that’s how Sawyer meets Juliet. Later, Sawyer and Kate talk in the cages, while Ben surveilles them from the Hydra station. Afterward, Ben visits Jack in the shark tank, and promises to return Jack back to his home if he cooperates. “Cooperates” how? is what Jack very reasonably wants to know. Ben demurs, because to tell him that would mean no revelations for future episodes. However, he does convince Jack (and us) that he can get Jack off the island by showing him some recent news broadcasts on a TV5.

Our flashback is Sun & Jin, with a focus on Sun. As a child, Sun got herself out of a scrape with her father (she breaks the titular glass ballerina) by blaming her infraction on a maid, who gets fired. As an adult, Sun’s relationship with the consequences of lies remains tragically tenuous, as we learn that her emotional affair with hotel scion Jae (who taught her English) has taken a turn for the sexy. The dalliance is discovered by Sun’s father, who (let’s not forget) is simultaneously the owner of an automotive company and a crime lord, in ways that probably don’t bear thinking about too much. Anyway, Sun’s father feels his daughter’s indiscretion represents a horrible disgrace upon his family honor, and (without telling Jin why) commands Jin to go murder Jae. Jin does what we’ve seen Jin do in such cases, which is to simply give Jae a horrible beating and tell him to leave the country forever, and then we see what happens when Jin does that, which is that somebody else kills him (or maybe Jae killed himself, but probably not—either way we get the thing where the person who falls to their death lands on a major character’s car). Anyway, Sun almost certainly thinks that earlier this year, Jin killed her boyfriend on her father’s orders. This put a strain on their marriage.

End of Episode 2.

Appropriate for an episode about the time Locke dealt grass.

Episode 3: FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS (Locke) Locke was last seen inside the Swan station, having lost his faith in The Island, and as a result he was going to prove that it was all a big nothing by not entering the world-saving sequence. It went badly, from a perspective of world-ending.

Now we see him lying in the grass in the exact same position we saw Jack in at the very start of Season 1 (let’s remember that). Looking up he sees not Vincent, as Jack did, but a naked Scotsman. It’s Desmond, whose clothes apparently did not survive the failsafe. Off runs Desmond! Locke calls after him and discovers his voice is gone, which is a traditionally Biblical penalty for doubting the divine. Locke stands and Eko’s Bible verse stick falls from somewhere above, hitting him. Where did it come from? Maybe a tree? Sure, let’s say that.

Anyway, Locke enlists Charlie’s help. He needs to speak to The Island in order to get his voice back. It’s sweat lodge time! Locke makes some vision drugs and builds his lodge on the site of Eko’s unfinished church, in case you weren’t getting the religious themes. Locke has a cool hallucination with Boone whereby he learns where Eko is: he’s been captured by comically rendered CGI polar bears. Off goes Locke to clean up his mess, and save the man whose life he endangered—which he eventually does. Eko seems to speak without waking, telling Locke that he will be the one to rescue his friends, because “he is a hunter.” This is a callback to the flashback (see below), and it’s definitely The Adversary talking through Eko.

Also: Hurley, on his way back from the Others-abduction, connects with Desmond, who seems disoriented. He mentions things that never happened, like Locke giving a big speech to everybody about saving their missing friends. What speech? asks Hurley. Desmond just looks confused.

In the flashback we learn that at some point Locke once worked for a cultish group of cannabis growers6. He’s also still an easy mark and everybody knows it—including the FBI, who choose him as the point of infiltration for one of their agents. The agent is a young kid named Eddie, who poses as a hitchhiking drifter and bonds with Locke; this forms a father/son dynamic involving Locke, so take a drink if you’re playing. When Locke discovers the ruse, he attempts to murder Eddie, but can’t bring himself to do it, because, as Eddie puts it, “he’s a not a hunter, he’s a farmer.” It’s fine, but it’s the same beats we’ve heard before. Locke is good-hearted but starved for belonging and meaning, which leads him to be led by the wrong people toward the wrong ends, and makes him vulnerable to manipulation. Wash rinse repeat.

Island-times: Back on the beach, Locke gives a big speech about saving their abducted friends. Hurley, mystified, says “I just got hit with, you know, deja vu,” and looks off to Desmond, at a distance, tossing rocks into the ocean.


End of Episode 3.


What do I believe from these observations? Check it out.

1) Oceanic 815 breaks apart. Way back in the recap of Season 1 Episode 1 the pilot informed Jack that the plane was at 40,000 feet when it broke apart, and I noted that we would one day see the plane break apart at maybe 1000 feet or less, and that when we did, I would have more to say.

That day is today. I think this seeming inconsistency actually is our answer to where the island is situated relative to the earth. We’re going to learn a lot of things about the island over time, including the fact that it can move in an orbit, and that this orbit can be altered and even (probably) halted. We learn that the orbit has been predicted by the Dharma initiative, which makes it findable. It also suggests that halting the orbit would make it impossible for people with access to Dharma’s tools to find it anymore. And we’ll learn that in fact the faction led by Ben Linus very much does not want people with access to Dharma’s tools to find the island.

So I think the island’s orbit has been halted.

It has also been strongly suggested that the island is a sphere, mostly specifically in relation to Desmond’s sailboat trying to get off of the island and simply finding itself back where it started again, and Juliet’s clear belief that any attempt to do so would produce similar results.

We will also learn that the mode of conveyance whereby Ben’s faction gets on and off island is a submarine. We also know—because of Michael and Walt’s escape from the island last Season—that taking a very specific bearing will carry you off the island.

So let me tell you what this suggests to me. It suggests that at the time of the Oceanic crash, the island was sitting atop the Pacific Ocean like a billiard ball sitting in a saucerful of tea. If you take a very precise bearing, you will find the spot where the water that covers the surface of the island touches and joins with the Pacific Ocean, allowing you to leave the island and enter the world. If you don’t, you won’t. If you have a submarine, you can find it and come and go undetected. If you are in an airplane, you can fly to it and land on it. If that airplane is nearby when the Swan station sequence just so happens to have not been entered, the resulting electromagnetism will pull you in and break the airplane into two pieces.

How far out of the water does the Island reach? I’d say based on what we are seeing, about 40,000 feet. That would put it about 10,000 feet higher than Mount Everest, by the way. So why wouldn’t anybody easily find such a thing?

That’s a very good question. Let’s save it for some other day.

2) “I want that boat.” Another thing we will learn is that as of very recently, Ben Linus has become extremely reluctant to let the submarine leave the island. We know already that the incident at the Swan station created a massive electromagnetic event, and that such an event would reveal the island’s location to anybody who knows to look for it, and we know that because Penny Widmore, Desmond’s ex-fiancée, was looking for it, and found it. We will eventually learn that the person who Ben Linus is afraid will find the island is Charles Widmore, Penny’s father.

I think we can assume that Ben has decided that the island is on lockdown—nobody in, nobody out—until further notice. And the sailboat is now a massive problem for him. Why?

Well … I also think that after the Swan hatch event, we are now viewing a different iteration of reality, that is so very like the one that was destroyed in that event that the consciousnesses of everyone from that reality were able to easily shift over, mediated by a constant. (Again, see last entry for a more detailed explanation).

So almost everything is the same. Almost. But the island is no longer sitting on top of the Pacific Ocean like a billiard ball in a saucer. I think it’s more like a bowling ball in a kiddie pool now. In fact, I think we’ll eventually be shown exactly that configuration. This means that even though Michael probably took the bearing he was given, he didn’t need a precise bearing to get off the island anymore. Pretty much any bearing would do, because the island is now mostly underwater, and any boat that knows where it is can now find it—as we will eventually see.

Speaking of a constant that can mediate consciousnesses from one iteration of reality to another one …

3) Desmond. Welcome to the most fascinating character of the next couple seasons. Desmond, the man unstuck in time.

Why is he naked while nobody else is?

Let us start with the idea that there are infinite iterations of the universe expressing different possibilities (an idea Desmond will allow us to unpack at length this Season), and that the specific iteration of the universe we had been watching ended with the Swan event. Continue with the idea that Desmond is the constant of a large subset of these iterations, and that by activating the failsafe, he was able to mediate the consciousnesses of everyone on the island from that iteration into an extremely close nearby one (and we’ll see plenty of evidence for this as we go on as well).

There is no Swan station in this iteration of reality. This is an iteration where the nuclear device that Desmond set off in the now-destroyed iteration of reality was set off way back in the past, in the 70s, by somebody else, and there is only a crater in the ground where the Swan station was to have been placed—a crater that was created when that device was set off, by … well. If you know, you know. Maybe we’ll see that incident happen in some future episode. Stay tuned!

Additionally there are some other artifacts that made it through from that iteration into this one. For example: the hatch door, which fell out of nowhere from the sky, into a reality where there never was a hatch.

Or: Eko’s stick, perhaps? Another object that fell from the sky, an artifact from a now-destroyed iteration where Eko—who last Season we also saw being considered by The Adversary for a role that will eventually go to Locke—chose the righteous path rather than the one he chose in this iteration.

Or: a Scotsman, on an island where there was no Swan station for a Scotsman to come to, who nevertheless sailed there for similar reasons, but who met some other fate upon his arrival.

But not his clothes.

Or maybe not. Nevertheless, it’s my theory, and it fits with the rest. I think it’s a fun one.

What I find interesting about Des this episode is not that he had awareness of something that hadn’t happened yet—Locke’s speech. It’s that when Locke’s speech actually happened, he was down by the ocean throwing rocks, out of earshot.

He’s not only aware of something that he hadn’t experienced yet, but that he never experienced at all. Which suggests some other things we may want to discuss sometime soon.

4) Locke’s Vision. Locke’s dream guide is Boone, who makes Locke get back into his wheelchair and pushes him around, eventually telling him to “clean up his mess.” That’s right, a formerly dead person who is manifesting to guide John Locke also has control over whether or not a person’s body is sick or well. Hopefully we realize at this point that this is The Adversary. I mean, maybe it’s the drugs, but no, it’s The Adversary. Take this as another proof-point that when Locke thinks that he is speaking to The Island, he’s almost always actually speaking to The Adversary7.

The dream itself shows the now-familiar Sydney airport filled with alterative versions of our characters: a married/together Kate and Sawyer; Charlie, Claire, and Aaron as a family; a gate attendant Hurley; a TSA-worker Ben; a pilot Desmond walking with flight attendants, who Boone says is “helping himself.” Now this might just be the drugs showing Locke an enhanced version of present reality, but I think it just might be our first peek at a rather controversial plot element we won’t see again until Season Six.

That’s right; we might have just received our first peek at the dimension that will eventually be known as The Sideways.


Next Time: Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before

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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. He is armed with seven rounds of space doodoo pistols.

  1. This episode had nothing to do with A Tale of Two Cities as far as I can tell. Imprisonment, I guess? It could at least have been the book the book club was reading. I dunno.

  2. I mean, come on, Jack. It was a submarine door. Use your noggin.

  3. Juliet points out “sailing in circles will just keep them busy” but Ben very clearly doesn’t see it that way for … some reason.

  4. We see a lot of Others in these episodes but almost none of them will matter. I’ll mention those who do.

  5. The Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in 100 years.

  6. And their leader is Hank from Twin Peaks!

  7. As for “clean up your mess,” my read is that Eko had been The Adversary’s thrall in this iteration of reality, and now, as everyone’s consciousnesses moved to this iteration, he isn’t anymore. So The Adversary is simply picking things back up with his thrall from the now-destroyed iteration. This one is maybe a massive reach, and there won’t be any other evidence for it, but it fits with the other pieces (including the fact that The Adversary can apparently speak through a still-living Eko), so I’ll throw it into the footnotes.