Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lost - "The Long Con"

Episode Title: “The Long Con”

Brian’s Deeper Meaning Guess: This is a Sawyer-centric episode, so “The Long Con” seems to be a fitting title. I’m sure this episode will involve some other scheme he was running back in the day, but the “long” part is intriguing. Granted, it could just be referring to a particular scheme that went on for a prolonged period of time (boring), but I’m thinking it’s more referring to some other aspect of Sawyer’s life, not tricking someone else, but rather himself.

Gibberish? Okay, let me rephrase – I’m thinking the episode will be about Sawyer lying to himself about who he is and the justification for his actions. Since his father murdered his mother and took his own life, he’s felt that he had the vindication – the right and authority – to do whatever it took to find the true Sawyer, the person responsible. He had the mindset that he could take whatever he wanted from the world because the same world took so much from him. But in reality, this is just him lying to himself about the nature of right and wrong.

Want more? How about the same theme of Sawyer’s flashback playing out on the Island, in a much more literal sense? “The Long Con” that’s been going on this whole time on the Island. Jack called Zeke out on having a spy two episodes back, “Ethan” – but based on Zeke’s reactions, Ethan wasn’t the spy he was thinking of. Libby you say? Well, given that she’s only been with our Survivors for the equivalent of eight Island days, I wouldn’t say that qualifies as a long con, but a short one.

So who is it? I’ll get there…

TV Guide Description: Survivors fear that "The Others" may have returned when Sun is injured during a failed kidnapping attempt. Meanwhile, Sawyer is an amused but highly interested bystander when tension escalates between Jack, Locke, Kate and Ana Lucia.

TV Guide Breakdown: The “failed kidnapping attempt” is somewhat disappointing. I would think that a true kidnapping of a pure, innocent Sun might be just what Jack needs to get his “army” rolling. However, judging from the previews and his confrontation with Locke, he’s still pretty fired up about the incident.

But the bigger question is - why Sun? Was she simply an easy target, since she was out in her garden away from anyone else? Or is there something more at play here. Goodwin said that The Others took the “good ones” and left those who weren’t so good. You could make a strong case that the only true “good ones” left in the Survivors are Sun and Claire. We’ve already seen Claire be kidnapped, so Sun seems to be the next logical choice. Or could it be that Sun is pregnant??? It’s entirely possible since she is all lovey-dovey with Jin again! The Others love the babies…

Tension escalating between Jack, Locke, Kate, Ana-Lucia isn’t surprising. You already have the tension between Jack and Kate (love lost), Jack and Locke (faith vs. science), Ana-Lucia and everyone (Shannon murderer), Jack and Ana-Lucia (sexual) and Kate and Ana-Lucia (hot!). Sawyer prefers to stay on the sidelines. He’s more than willing to help out, pick a fight, or make witty banter, but he’s no leader. His interest likely results from what is surely a debate between our core Island leaders over the guns / The Others. Sawyer will come down on whatever side wins, and will prove to be a tie-breaker – making him more important than he thinks… or wants.

Previously on Lost…

We learned more about Charlie’s troubled past and got a healthy does of religious symbolism. I was infinitely proud of calling the whole baptism theme in the title and the John the Baptist symbolism (did you catch the picture in the beginning when Hurley was coming down the steps?). But in the end, not a lot happened. Eko mysteriously marked trees that were his favorites, we saw images of Hurley as Jesus, Claire and Charlie’s mom as Virgin Mary / some other Biblical chica, and saw a flying dove interpolated with a crashing plane…

But what does it all mean? I’m thinking Charlie is going to end up being right – Aaron is in danger – but now that he’s viewed as a druggie, no one is going to believe him. It’s like The Boy Who Cried Wolf but without the wolf – “The Boy Who Cried Others”.

But perhaps the most important part of the episode for me was a scene at the very end…

My Locke Manifesto.

So here’s the thing – a funny thing happened during one of the last scenes of the last new episode, where Locke is showing locking up (pun intended, I’m hilarious) the Virgin Mary statues full of H. I thought to myself, “What the hell? Why wouldn’t he destroy them? This makes no sense.” But the more I thought about it, the more it began to make sense and I came to a realization. Although I had our “strips-to-change-the-subject” friend Libby (why aren’t all girls like that?!) pegged as the “Mole” in our group, she’s not. It’s John Locke. It’s been John Locke all along.

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Shocked? Like many, John Locke has long been my favorite character on the show. That’s the point. The writers have creatively (or accidentally) kept his shadiness just under the surface – so that in watching a typical episode, you wouldn’t catch it.

Furthermore, they’ve developed this great sympathy for his character through the flashbacks, which makes you even less likely to view him as “bad”. Think about it. Through most characters’ flashbacks, we see crimes they committed, people they murdered, and lives they’ve messed up. Locke’s flashbacks always leave us with a feeling of “Awww! Poor Locke! His dad / mom / boss / everyone in his life are the meanest ever! I love Locke!” This makes him an even more unlikely traitor.

But in doing some research, I went back and isolated his actions in each episode so far. Once you do this and look at them critically, his actions become glaringly obvious.

So this is it – my John Locke Manifesto. Why now? Because I’m thinking the big reveal is coming soon and I want you to be prepared. Let’s start at the beginning. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

The Plane Crash.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is some huge conspiracy on Locke’s part. He didn’t get onto Flight 815 with any malicious intent. He was just the perfect choice. Think about his life prior to the crash:

In flashbacks, we see an angry wheelchaired Locke shouting, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” We see his father telling him “Go away and don’t come back. You’re not wanted!” We see a broken man having imaginary relationships with telephone sex line operators, working at a box factory wishing he could be something else – do something more with his life. He had nothing going for him, and seemingly could do nothing about it. Then things changed.

His plane crashed. Locke could suddenly walk. Locke didn’t know why, but didn’t really question it.

After teaching Walt the history of backgammon, Locke asks Walt a very creepy question: "Do you want to know a secret?" In a later episode we find the secret is "a miracle happened."

At this point, Locke has already bought into the idea that the Island allows him to be something he’s not. However, as we see him attempting to hunt wild boar (and quickly getting knocked down), we see that he’s still not the man he wants to be. Which brings us to his encounter with “The Monster”.

The Monster.

Remember, we have no idea who or what this monster is. I think right now, knowing what we know from Eko’s episode, we’re assuming Locke encountered some version of the Smoke Monster – but we can’t be certain. I still don’t quite have this encountered figured out. Did he encounter the Smoke Monster? Did it show him something? Was Zeke / An Other there as well, who offered to spare his life if he worked with them? I’m not sure. But it’s really not that important for the argument. Here’s the thing:

When pressed about what he saw during his encounter with “The Monster”, Locke says, “I didn't see anything.” Obviously he saw SOMETHING. Is this the face of someone who sees nothing?

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So obviously, he is LYING. Why would he lie about seeing some crazy Smoke Monster in the jungle? Fast forward a few episodes (days) on the Island…

Let me set the scene: Night has fallen at the caves and Hurley is roused from his sleep when Locke returns to camp with some additional luggage he and Ethan found while out tracking game. Locke and Ethan “hunting” at night? Pretty odd, and not in a Brokeback Mountain sort of way. Not coming back with anything from the hunt? Also pretty odd since Locke was a pretty sweet hunter. Granted, we know that Locke was “hunting for boars” during the whole Hatch escapade and repeatedly coming back empty handed, but this is before any of that. Clearly Locke uses “hunting for boars” as his excuse the same way I use to always be “studying in the library” in college.

So what was he doing? It’s pretty clear that through some combination of Locke’s encounter with “The Monster” and his meetings with Ethan, he was changed. He somehow gained his “powers”, those being knowledge of survival skills, ability to handle and use weapons, etc. – because he lacked all of them right after the crash. How? You’ve got me. But the important thing is they didn’t come for free.

From this point on, Locke has been secretly working with some Others (be it the “Ethan Others” group, the “Zeke Others” group, some combination of the two, or a third party altogether. In Locke’s eyes, he has been chosen for a reason and needs to perform certain tasks for them, such as monitoring the Survivors, occasionally kidnapping people, etc. But he’s cool with it. After a lifetime spent of wishing he was important, and could make a difference – all the sudden he’s the Big Man on Island Campus.

Locke isn’t a bad guy – they have him convinced that he’s doing all of this for the greater good. Locke even believes it, telling Charlie, “have faith — this island will give you a great deal…if you are willing to give it something in return.” Clearly, Locke “has faith” and “gave something” to the Monster / The Others – his services as a liaison between the Others and the Survivors, a la Walt Cummings on 24.

The weird thing is, his abilities seemed to fade at a few points last season. Remember when he was having trouble walking when he and Boone found the plane? Well his inability to walk kept him from being the one in the plane when it fell from the tree. It’s almost as though the Island was protecting him from a certain doom, since it knows Locke is on its side. Locke protects the Island’s secrets and in return the Island protects Locke.

The only puzzling piece to this theory is the second time Locke encountered The Monster. Things were different, Locke was afraid, and it tried to take him. Why? Remember, it attacked as our fearless heroes worked their way through the jungle with TNT needed to blow open the Hatch. Clearly The Monster was trying to prevent this from happening. Yet even in this peril, Locke still knows that he’ll be fine. He implores Jack to let him go, saying “I’ll be okay”.

Later in that same episode, Jack says, "I don't believe in destiny." To which Locke replies, "Yes, you do, you just don't know it yet." Clearly, Locke knows the master plan, that they are all there for a reason, and someday Jack will too.

Locke’s Deceptions:

So what? So, ever since Locke turned, he’s been playing every single other person on the Island, lying to them and causing havoc right before our very eyes! Let’s check some examples:

Back in the beginning of Season One, there was a plan to triangulate a radio signal and try to send a distress signal. Remember, Sayid got hit on the head and the plan was ruined. Immediately afterwards, Sayid questions Locke on his whereabouts when he was attacked. Locke claims he was out hunting and points Sayid in Sawyer’s direction. This sets Sawyer up for an Iraqi-style beating and makes him the “bad guy”.

Cleverly, the writers finally reveal that it was indeed Locke – but not until so much later in the season, we’ve almost forgotten about it. Locke defends his actions by pointing out that the source of the distress call isn't really a place one would want to lead people. How does he know this unless he’s been there? Per CFL, the Black Rock is Others-central. Cahoots!

Then there was the attack on Claire. There was clearly a knife involved. Who has the most knives on the Island? One John Locke. It’s debatable if he had an accomplice role in the attack, or if he just helped Ethan. Once she eventually is kidnapped by Ethan, Locke did two very curious things. First, he sides with Sayid, saying they should not track him down – instead staying at the camp and building their defenses. Weird.

Later, once the search party leaves, Locke insists that Jack return to camp and look over Sayid, saying "You be the doctor, I'll be the hunter." Locke wants to follow Ethan - alone. He’s trying to ditch everyone else in the pursuit of Ethan so that the goals of The Others can be accomplished. After the search party is finally formed, right before they encounter Ethan, Locke wants to rest - but Jack insists they push on. It’s as if Locke knew they were getting too close… very similar to the scene two weeks ago!

Jack, Locke, and Sawyer are in pursuit of Michael when Jack and Locke argue about whether to turn back or keep searching – again, Locke wants to quit. Not ten seconds later, Zeke appears. Coincidence?

Locke’s Plan:

Last year, when I thought Locke was pure Kendall goodness, I thought his interactions with each character were to help them overcome their fears and weaknesses, in order to create a strong army to fight The Others. However, now that I look back, his interactions strike me far more sinister, as if he’s “winning everyone ever” so that they would never expect him of doing anything evil. But at the same time, he’s gaining knowledge about each of them, learning their strengths and weaknesses, and how to exploit them. Look at some examples:

Sayid - Locke makes peace with Sayid when the two could easily be enemies after the radio incident – he even counsels Boone not to make an enemy out of Sayid saying “we are going to need him on our side… later.” Sayid also admits that Locke is their best hope of surviving on the Island.

Sun – Remember when Sun was breaking down Jack Johnson style after she thought Jin was dead? Locke shows up, gives her the speech about “the only way to find something is to stop looking” and makes her feel better.

Claire - Locke made Claire a baby crib, knew it was her birthday when no one else did (how?!), and is now teaching her how to care for Aaron and keeping Charlie away.

Michael - Locke teaches Michael how to use a gun – combined with the bad directions being fed to Mike via the computer, this effectively gets Michael out of the picture, leading him to some sort of Others capture, keeping Walt safely wherever he is.

Sawyer - Locke reveals that he is aware of Sawyer's real name, James Ford. It’s interesting that no one else knew this, and the manifest reading took place over a month earlier. Locke knows too much…

Charlie - Charlie doesn't hesitate to say that Locke is the one man on the island that he would trust his life to. By taking possession of the Virgin Mary statues, Locke now controls the one thing that has power over Charlie.

Walt – Locke has taught Walt the nature of good and evil, how to throw a knife, given him support when Michael wouldn’t, and even covered up for him when Walt burned down the raft. That’s an awful lot of attention… but we’ve seen that Walt has some special powers, and is clearly worth stealing in The Others eyes – he was obviously prime target #1, so Locke kept him close and won him over.

Jack – For crying out loud, Locke convinced Jack to push the button, thus going against every scientifc fiber in Jack’s body. He plays on Jack’s weaknesses and turned him into a man of faith. The undisputed leader of the Island playing by his rules? That’s a pretty big win for Locke.

Remember the last line of Season One? It served as a sneak preview of Season Two, one we’re just now getting two. Jack says, "We're going to have a Locke problem."

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Okay, enough ranting. Hopefully I’ve made my point. I guess I could have forgone the previous Manifesto by typing a simple “LOCKE = BAD”, but where’s the fun in that?

Here’s the thing that’ll really blow your mind. Now that we’ve established that Locke is in cahoots with The Others (“the bad guys”), what is going to happen when there’s finally a battle between them and our Survivors (“the good guys”)?

If Lost wants to be the coolest TV show ever, I’m banking on the good guys turn out to be bad, and the bad guys turn out to be good.

Remember - all along we’ve been told that The Others were taking the people who were good and that there is no need to worry about them because they’re fine. The good guys (and we as an audience) are convinced that none of this is true. Why?

Again, judging by the flashbacks – almost every good guy has a tortured past full of lies, murder, and criminal acts. How is that good?

Is it so hard to believe that Locke and The Others actually do have the best interests of everyone on the Island in mind, but the good guys just can’t see the big picture?

Remember the Comic Book in the first episode? The writers said they picked that comic book for a reason, because it had a deeper meaning that related to the whole show. The basic storyline of the comic is that a group of superheroes (read: “good guys”) fight and kill this alien (read: someone different that they don’t understand, like The Others), only to learn in the end that the alien was actually there to help save the world, and was a good guy.

If I’m a writer for Lost, I make the last scene of the last episode end with Jack and Co. finally defeating The Others only to realize in horror that they just killed the good guys, effectively ruining any chance of getting off the Island / dooming themselves / bringing about the end of the world – choose your adventure!

Fade to black.


Okay, sorry for the Manifesto-heavy post. But at least it gave me something to write about after a fairly symbolism-weak episode followed by a repeat. Watch, this episode will reveal Locke to be good and Libby to be the traitor all along, meaning I spent the past four hours of my life for nothing. But if not, I expect your praise and adulation in the comments section.

I hate Pittsburgh.

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Trent said...

You da man.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

Brian...good post!
1.) I still feel that Locke never was handicapped and that he is faking it to us.
2.) Also, how did he know it was Clare's birthday? He didn't. He was simply making a crib for the baby. While making it, she mentioned it was her birthday, and he acted surprised. After it was finished, he said, "Happy Birthday." If it wasn't her birthday, he would have said something like, "For the baby." 3.) As for not destroying the heroin statues, this also perplexed me. But I am thinking he is just keeping them around in case Charlie goes completely ape-shit. I can see them banishing him somewhere and giving him his drugs and saying, "Welp, see ya never."
4.) I hate Pittsburgh too.

Anonymous said...

After Locke took the statues, he went back to the beach. I can't remember who he was talking to, but when he opened his backpack to put his water in, he hesitated as if he saw something in his backpack that surprised him. Any ideas?


Brian said...


Good point on the Claire birthday part. But the way that Locke said it, it made it seem like he knew all along.

As for the "surprise" when opening the backpack, I took that more to be him trying to hide the statues from whoever was standing next to him and realizing that he would have to squeeze the water in.

p diddy said...

Locke will turn out to be shady. Come on, don't you remember that shot of him looking at Claire and the Baby where they panned the camera around him? That was a vintage bad guy shot right there. He's gonna pull a classic wrestling move. He will help Jack accomplish some feat (a la winning the championship belt) then in their Moment of Glory, Locke brings out the steel chair and whips Jack with it, to a smattering of boos from the people in the crowd. And Locke stands their defiant with a shit eating grin as people throw their beers on him. Then the Others come down the aisle and he shakes their hands and they raise each others' arms in victory. Cue the music til next Monday, er Wednesday night. I see some kind of nWo-esque split coming. Locke is gonna color in a beard and enter every scene to Jimi Hendrix.
I hate Pittsburgh too, but they won me lots of money. Gotta love the 12-1 odds of Big Ben scoring first hitting for me.
Also, I am in the Pacific time zone, so if any of this has come true, I didn't know about it.

W Riley said...

You were way off - this show is starting to suck.

Brian said...

I stand by my Manifesto. Locke is a bad guy. Have patience.

Agreed - not my favorite episode.

Rachel said...

This may be too picky also... but... why would Analucia get Steve and Scott's names mixed up? Scott died WAY before she was around.

Brian said...

Probably because all the Survivors continue to use the wrong name when referring to Scott / Steve. She probably heard them incorreclty saying it, and assumed it to be correct.

p diddy said...

You guys are nuts. It wasn't the best episode, but it was good. We saw a big change in the dynamic of the island and it set the stage for other stuff. The radio has potential. What about Kate's mom showing up in Sawyer's flashback? I still say something is up with Vincent. I think he was trying to warn her that Charlie was coming. It wasn't a GREAT episode, just one of those episodes neccisary to set the stage. Instead of a home run, it was like a base hit to set the stage for a big inning. I also had my wrestling like moment where someone turns into the heel, I was just wrong on who it was.

jenn said...

this is all blowing my mind. sawyer is bonkers. I can't handle locke being a bad guy. you may be on to something though...

Jared said...

i think they've got to do something big here pretty soon. the show seems to be dragging a little bit. here's to hoping for something awesome next week...

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

Told you that Locke kept the statues in case Charlie went ape-shit. Of course, he could have been lying when he said "theraputic." Did I spell that right? Anyway, Brian, last 4 episodes of Arrested Development tonight. It is a sad, sad day. I'd rather see it end than go on Showtime because I don't know anyone that actually has that channel. How can we get people to watch this show?