I know what you were thinking, Lost fans. You were sitting there, with your remote control, your beverage, your bowl of popcorn, and you were thinking, “Bai Ling better be nowhere near this flash forward.” Luckily, your fears didn’t come true, but while “Something Nice Back Home” was miles better than “Stranger in a Strange Land,” it seemed to move at a snail’s pace in comparison to last week’s rocket ship of an episode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: whereas last week sought to cram in as much mythology as possible, this episode sought to fill in the narrative gaps between Island time and post-Island time. Different agendas, different pacing, different results.
How such a different tact fared depending on your perspective of Jack, or rather, your perspective on Jack/Kate, the slightly more stubbled/drug addicted version of Ross to the much more confused/more prone to wearing shorts 24/7 version of Rachel. (Honestly, Future Kate doesn’t own pants! Did no one else find this weird besides me?) Island action and future action were not so much built on guessing the outcome of the events (we know Jack will survive the surgery, we know Jack/Kate have a future falling out), but rather constructed around how those particular events shape future actions/interactions. And, most important of all, the notion that there are higher powers guiding everything ran rampant throughout the episode.
Looking at Jack’s appendicitis: what’s really important here was not the tension surrounding Jack’s fate, but the reason why Jack got sick at this particular moment. Rose doesn’t get much screen time, but bless her heart when she does, because she gets to be a voice of reason. Who else would assign a particular significance to the timing of Jack’s illness but her, a recipient of the Island’s healing powers?
And looking into the future: what’s really important isn’t so much that Jack’s engagement to Kate failed. From the moment we saw Kate in the shower, we knew this relationship was doomed to end up just outside LAX. What’s important is that the same forces we saw back in Season 1’s “Raised By Another” are still in play. I don’t know about you, but I plan on rewatching that episode, which might turn into one of the key overall episodes in the show’s history when all is said and done. In both past and present, there are forces at work literally shaping the lives of those on the Island as well as off.
It’s worth it to think about the narrative structure of the show as a key to understanding these “forces” I keep mentioned. We have a show in Lost that consistently dares us to define a singular “now.” It used to be easy: everything on the Island is “now” and all flashbacks were previous to those events. But now, with the introduction of flash forwards and Faraday’s assertion that time itself on the Island is relative, what we watch week in and week out are events stretches out literally over decades that could only happen in one particular way because that’s the only way in which they DID happen. As such, the show’s narrative structure calls into focus the unyielding, unrelenting forces at work here.
Now, defining these forces is naturally difficult. Some could call it “fate,” others “destiny,” others “the Island.” Characters on the show have carried on this debate as well as the viewing audience, but I’m less interested in defining it precisely than to state what I innately feel to be true: that there is not one general force at work, but multiple forces constantly accounting for, if not downright countering, the other. It’s yin and yang, it’s black and white, it’s matter and anti-matter, it’s Linus and Widmore, and it’s many more things. But whatever it is, it’s not singular, given all that we’ve seen; even though we’ve seen events inexorably play out in one particular manner, that’s not the only way in which things could have happened.
Here’s something to chew on: we know the Oceanic 6. We know who gets on, and who gets off. Think of events on the island in Season 4 as one long played-out drama performed by marionettes pulled by unseen puppet masters to get those particular six off the Island. As such, it’s worthwhile to think of Jack’s sickness not as a way to get Jack off the Island, but Jin in a position to understand Faraday’s crush on Charlotte coupled with Charlotte’s knowledge of Korean. THESE are the facts that lead to Jin getting off the Island, and this would NOT have happened had Jack gotten sick. Think about the ridiculousness of Claire surviving a bazooka attack on her bungalow. Her survival can be better understood as a way to go wherever notChristian wants her to go.
And when I say notChristian, I don’t merely mean that all we saw was a vision of Christian Shephard. That, friends, for what it’s worth, was NOT the real vision of Christian Shephard. Have we ever seen a vision of him in anything other than crisp suit and white tennis shoes? These dueling images of Christian (on the Island, in Jack’s private clinic) only highlight the multiple forces at work on our Lostaways. And somehow, at the center of a lot of this tension, is Turnip Head himself, Aaron.
I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
-An excerpt from the last freakin’ book in the world you should read a toddler unless you plan on messin’ him up good for life, “Alice in Wonderland”
A few months ago, I trotted out my “Sins of the Father” Theory of Lost, which states, in a nutshell, that the actions you see in the show are a response to the baby boomer generation failing miserably to save the world and leaving their children too messed up to save it themselves. (It’s a fun read, full of joy and merriment.) It’s interesting to watch Jack’s reaction to Charlie’s message, because you can’t really tell if he’s terrified that the Island is talking to him, or terrified that he might turn out to be as awful a father as his own. But in that the two visions of Christian both concern Aaron in way or another, clearly Shephard Senior’s own failings as a father have manifested itself into one of the competing forces working upon our protagonists. So who, or what, in the world is he? And how the heck did he get out of Jacob’s cabin? A great puzzle indeed.
In terms of this unsettled, unfinished energy, enter one Miles, a character I feel was introduced more or less for the sole reason of acting as interpreter between the whispers and the Lostaways. Lost actually filmed a scene for “The Constant” in which Miles listened to the whispers outside the sonic fence, but that scene was cut for running time. Here, tonight, we finally got onscreen confirmation that Miles can indeed understand the whispers. Which begs the question, naturally: what the blippin’ heck ARE the whispers? I think the key lies in a bit of dialogue back in “The Beginning of the End”:
HURLEY: I may be in a mental hospital, but I know you’re dead and I’m not having an imaginary conversation with you.
CHARLIE: I am dead. But I’m also here.
Taking Desmond’s “snow globe” analogy from Season 2 and abusing it for my own petty personal reasons, think of the Island as a place where one can die but stick around, if not corporeally than metaphysically. They are cognizant of their surroundings, understand their limitations, but perhaps, just perhaps, have been freed from linear existence and are they themselves either another force at work or in the employ of one of those forces. And that’s the way things have worked for decades, maybe centuries, maybe longer. But something’s about to seriously change, which is why, possibly for the first time, spirits/forces once merely contained to the Island can now permeate the real world.
(Meanwhile, a short requiem for Danielle Rousseau, the French Mad hatter of the Island’s denizens. May your whispers be crazy, and may your back story still be fleshed out when all is said and done.)
Not that you have to be dead to extend your influence in the real world. In true Kate fashion, she agrees to marry Jack and then mysteriously starts doing favors for Sawyer behind Jack’s back. If she were a superhero, she’d be Ms. WishyWasher, and every criminal she went after would get away due to her indecision about which item from her utility belt to use. Either Kate’s mad because Jack went to Jared to buy the ring, or there’s a debt/favor to be paid surrounding Sawyer’s reason for staying on the Island.
What Kate’s doing for Sawyer is one thing yet to be revealed, along with another semi-whopper: how Jack discovers that Claire is his half-sister, making Aaron his half-nephew…third cousin…bridge partner twice removed…something, but related all same. That’s some pretty key information right there, and all the more mysterious because we’re back to a “Claire’s missing” storyline, which makes me almost nostalgic for other Season 1 items such as “Shannon whining about everything,” “WAAAAAAAAAAAAALT!” and “Locke actually being a badass as opposed to nervous confused wimp.”
Odds on Claire being found before the Oceanic 6 leave? Approximately 1 in 4,815,162,342. She and Aaron are emerging as central to the mythology of the show, and for some reason, someone or something wants these two separated. Why? Beats me. Other than forming the world’s least intimidating iteration of Voltron ever, I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to keep these two apart. But obviously, these two are vital in some way, shape or form down the line.
Let’s look at the crucial scene from “Raised” that are potentially key to understanding what’s about to go down.
MALKIN: I can tell you, this is important.
MALKIN: It is crucial that you, yourself, raise this child.
CLAIRE: You mean with Thomas? Is he..
MALKIN: The father of this child will play no part in its life, nor yours.
CLAIRE: So what exactly are you saying?
MALKIN: This child parented by anyone else, anyone other than you — danger surrounds this baby. . .
MALKIN: Your nature, your spirit, your goodness, must be an influence in the development of this child.
CLAIRE: If Thomas and I don’t get back together I’m putting this baby up for adoption. I just wanted to find out what would give the baby the happiest life.
MALKIN: There is no happy life — not for this child, not without you.
CLAIRE: I don’t. . .
MALKIN: It can’t be another. You mustn’t allow another to raise your baby.
This is much more than “Jack’s a drunk and Kate never wears pants” in terms of a warning. As the only child born on the Island in…God knows how long, maybe EVER, Aaron himself might be the vessel than unleashes whatever spirit(s) on the Island has long been contained by the “snow globe” surrounding it. This would explain the dire warnings by the psychic, the visitations by spirits in the future, and most important, Aaron’ enormous freakin’ head. No kid with a head that big isn’t completely evil.
But seriously, as a way to tie everything up here: the psychic’s vision, while true, wasn’t written in stone. Obviously, Aaron DOES get raised by another: two in fact, and things aren’t looking exactly up for anyone involved in that household of pain and pills (or beyond for that matter. The psychic simply tapped into at least two visions of things to come, two variations depending upon variables yet to be enacted. Futures that can be molded, and once formed, nearly impossible to unmake. And if this psychic could see all those future permutations, then others can as well. Those are the people truly guiding the actions of Lost, and it’s up to the Oceanic 6 to find out who these people are, what they want, and what they can do to make things right again.
Easy, right? Exactly.
What did you make of Jack’s future relationship with Kate? What’s Kate doing for Sawyer behind Jack’s back? Why do you think Jack got sick on the Island when he did? And what do you make of the sudden centrality of Claire/Aaron after being on the narrative sideline so long?