Monday, January 16, 2006

Lost - "The Hunting Party" (plus "What Kate Did" and "The 23rd Psalm" Reactions)

Hello again, it’s been too long.

Yes, once again the evils of “social life” and “work” kept me from updating my Blog in a timely fashion last week, so this week I’ll have to pull double duty to discuss the two most recent episodes, “What Kate Did” and “The 23rd Psalm”. I apologize for my absence and any inconvenience it caused you. Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)…

Kate. What did she do? Well, she murdered “Wayne”, her mother’s abusive boyfriend and her biological father in a sweet house explosion.

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Does this make her a bad person? I guess in the legal sense of the word, yes. But as I predicted, her crime was something that is easy to forgive her for, so in the viewer’s eyes, she’s still a “good guy”. The more interesting part of the murder, as she reveals later in the episode, was why she did it. It wasn’t because Wayne was hitting her mother, it was because every time she looked at him, she was disgusted by the thought that he was a part of her. His murder was her way of “killing” her “dark side”.

This goes a long way in explaining the “love triangle” we’ve seen on the show since the first episode. Let me explain. We have our resident island hottie, Kate – with her dark side uber-repressed, trying to be the good girl on the island, and she’s faced with two potential suitors…

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Suitor Number One – Jack. He’s a doctor, he saves people, he’s the alpha male of the Survivors of Flight 815. Plus, he’s pretty hunky, and was on Party of Five. What’s not to like? Nothing, except that he doesn’t seem that into her, and there isn’t that pure electric attraction between the two of them. If she was thinking with her head, however – this would be the man for her.

The Second Suitor (not so subtle Mallrats reference) – Sawyer. He’s a bad boy with a dark past and long, rebellious hair. He gives people hilarious nicknames and deep down inside, you know he’d have your back if the going got tough. What’s not to like? Nothing, except that he awakens the “bad girl” side of Kate, which she blew up a house to try and rid herself of. But if she’s thinking with her heart, this is the boy that makes her feel all tingly inside.

So the root of Kate’s inner struggle all comes back to the common theme of “head vs. heart”. This episode saw her shift from one end of the spectrum to the other, and finally decide on which boy would become Mr. Kate Austen.

Early in the episode, she is visited by the spirit of Wayne, embodied in the sleeping Sawyer (very similar to how Sawyer was haunted by the spirit of the man he murdered embodied in the island boar that was torturing him). This freaks Kate out, and she runs, as it brings to the forefront the memories of her past and her dark side. In an attempt to say “I choose the light side”, she finds Jack in the forest and this results…

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However, as soon as the moment has passed, she has this freakout expression:

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Now, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t gotten that reaction a few times in my life after a sloppy makeout session – so I know what it means:

Although she tried her best to bury her dark past and side with her head, there’s no sparkage. She suddenly comes to the realization that despite her best efforts, she’s going to choose the “bad girl” side and freaks out.

(Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s a “bad guy” on the show, but just that she’s the female equivalent to Sawyer rather than the female equivalent of Jack.)

Put the love triangle to rest! Kate chooses Sawyer!

This decision is embodied in two things:

1. Cutting Sawyer’s hair in the next episode. Like so many girls who choose the “bad boy”, they think they can change them into a “good guy”. We all know that good guys have clean, conservative haircuts. So, once she realizes that Sawyer is the one for her, she begins to “work” on him.

2. Her embrace of the black horse at the end. Which leads us to…

The Black Horse. Yeah, the whole “horse” deal was pretty weird. First, we have its appearance in her flashback, basically saving her from imprisonment by wrecking the car:

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Then we have Kate seeing what appears to be the same horse on the island (but admittedly, all black horses look pretty alike to me). So is it the same black horse? Initially, I wanted to chalk this up to another Dharma animal experiment on the Island (along with the logo-branded shark and Walt’s polar bear), but after this week’s Eko episode, I’m less inclined to and more inclined to think that everyone on the Island has this “mind’s eye” power and is bringing things from their past to the Island. More on that later though, I need to stay focused on the horse…

When Kate first sees it, she assumes she’s hallucinating, and her conversation with Charlie would seem to confirm it:

Kate: “I saw a horse.”
Charlie: “Saw a horse? Yeah, that’s what happens when you don’t sleep.”
Kate: “Do you think there are horses here?”
Charlie: “Horses? No.”

But later when she sees it, Sawyer sees it as well – and she goes so far as to touch it. It’s very real, and not a product of sleep deprivation.

Symbolically, a black horse indicates impending death, destruction, Satan, and evil influences. Traitors, murderers, and the devil in disguise all ride black horses in mythology. (PS – also, in researching this, one Christian website claimed that “magicians” ride black horses, keeping with the “Harry Potter is the Devil” motif that the church likes to keep. Hilarious. Gob Bluth is the devil!)

While I can’t really explain where the black horse in her past came from, that saved her from prison, if you look at the symbolism involved, her seeing and embracing the horse falls right in line with her struggle with her dark side, and eventual embrace of it:

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The fact that Sawyer sees the horse as well indicates a bond between the two of them, very similar to how Sayid saw Walt once he allegedly “loved” Shannon. More on this later as well…

I think that Jack senses Kate’s decision as well. First, there was this exchange between Jack and Hurley in the woods:

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Hurley notes that Jack is cutting wood – like Sawyer used to do when he was angry. Does this represent Jack trying to “be like Sawyer” to try and win her back? Then, there’s the scene with Jack and Ana-Lucia at the end:

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Where he shows up with the drinks he promised her before Flight 815 took off. Poor Jack, he’s basically settling for the next best thing on the Island since he knows Kate is taken.

Okay, enough psycho-analyzing of Kate Austen, her lovers, and her horse. On to the rest of the points:

Michael. There were some very interesting little scenes involving Michael, which intrigue me greatly. When he first sees the video, he is extremely skeptical of it, to the point where he’s like “Are you kidding me? You guys are continuing to push a button every 108 minutes because some old video told you so? Hello! I feel like everyone is taking crazy pills!” This paints Michael as a realist. With Jack now fully buying into the pushing of the button (and having “faith”), we need someone to question the system and bring a dose of reality to the situation.

However, as soon as I was ready to proclaim Michael the one to end the crazy button-pushing-experiment, he starts to see Walt talking to him through the computer:

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Is Walt at some “Other Computer” elsewhere on the Island? When Jack looks at the screen during “The 23rd Psalm”, it’s blank. Is Michael imagining all of this, or do Walt / The Others have the ability to erase the screen on command? I’m leaning towards him going a little crazy, but it looks like these imaginary conversations have set him over the edge, and he’s going on a full fledged Walt hunt next episode.

Blast Doors. Before IMing with Walt, Michael also notes the blast doors inside the bunker. The real question, are they there to prevent something inside the Hatch from getting out, or prevent something from outside the Hatch from getting in? This kinda falls into the same category as the “Quarantine” sign that was on the inside of the Hatch, but given the Dr. Marvin Candle video talking of “the incident”, I almost wonder if the blast doors were put in place to prevent something from getting out. After the first incident, were the blast doors added in the event that if another incident ever happened, it would be contained? What is this “incident” he speaks of? I want answers!

Eko. Lastly, we have the very intriguing exchange between Locke and Eko where the story of Josiah is told. Now, if you’re anything like me, you had never heard this particular Bible story before, and had a very difficult time following it. Here’s a quick summary:

King Josiah was the last good thing that happened to the Israelites before their kingdom was destroyed.

Josiah became king as a child of only eight, and soon took an interest in the LORD, contrary to his father. Early in life he instituted reforms and took steps against idol worship.

At 25 years of age, Josiah decided to rebuild the LORD's temple, which had deteriorated with age. As the workers were cleaning, they found an obscure book that no one had ever heard of — the Bible, forgotten by previous generations. As the king listened to his secretary read the Bible, he was struck with grief and terror, certain the LORD was furious with Josiah and his people for their disobedience.

Immediately, Josiah set upon a sweeping program to eliminate pagan worship and renew the ancient covenant of the LORD. He toured the land, destroying pagan shrines, and celebrated the Passover for the first time in decades.

The revival was wonderful. But as soon as Josiah died, the people returned to their evil ways, and before his sons reached middle age, the LORD's judgment for centuries of evil practices came, and the kingdom was destroyed.

Heady stuff, right?

There are some obvious symbolically parallels that we can draw from this. Eko found the Bible in the Arrow Hatch, which looked to have been left and forgotten about long ago. Likewise, Eko himself represents the re-introduction of religion to our castaways that none have seen since the plane crash. If we assume that everyone on the Island has some sort of grave “sin” in their past, perhaps the only way that they can find redemption is through Eko… although seemingly John Locke was doing the exact same during the first season.

The only thing I can’t place is if there is any “idol worship” going on. I suppose you could relate this to them “worshipping” the timer by blindly pressing the combination every 108 minutes, but it seems to be a bit of stretch. I wonder if there isn’t some sort of idol worship going on with the Others somewhere else on the Island, perhaps even of the “monster”. We’ve seen the black smoke rising from the island, which makes these Others seem ritualistic – we’ll have to wait and see.

The way that Eko tells the story, he notes that the book is “the book of Law”, and “it was with that ancient book, not with the gold, that the temple was rebuilt”. Since a splice of the film was found inside the book that gives more knowledge about the Island itself, I wonder if in time we’ll find other Hatches, each with another piece of the film, and when they are all put together, we’ll finally have an understanding of what is going on with the Island. Perhaps it isn’t until you understand what’s happening that you can begin to rebuild civilization on the Island?

Okay, I think that’s all for “What Kate Did”. Now we move on to “The 23rd Psalm”. Want to hear something really ironic? I started writing my post for this episode last week, and the conclusion I came to, after doing my typical “preview analysis” was that Eko was a drug lord who turned religious after some sort of tragedy involving his family. I am the smartest man alive! Or I could by lying to you right now when I say that, how would you know? At any rate, let’s rock and roll on this, and then we’ll be all caught up!

The 23rd Psalm. Well, before we start, let’s make sure we all know the Psalm in question:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Some of that should sound familiar to you Coolio fans out there. But what does it mean?

Good vs. Evil. The main theme of the episode seemed to be the difference between good and evil, and how there often isn’t a clear distinction between the two. Rather than everything being black and white, right and wrong, in reality there is a lot of gray and maybe. Eko faced a tough decision at a very early age, basically sacrificing himself so that his brother could have a better life. But it seems that although he accepted his situation, he still had an aim of doing good on even his worse actions. He even justified transporting the drugs by saying he was “taking them out of Nigeria”. Were these justifications honest, or just something he told himself to clear his conscience?

Remember when we all thought that the Others were trying to steal Eko, since he was one of the “good ones”? Well, now that’s seeming less likely – he seems to be just like everyone else on the Island – his soul has a tortured past, he’s done some serious bad (perhaps the worst of anyone on the Island), yet he’s looking for redemption – and in his heart he is a good person.

So back to the Psalm.

At the end of the episode, as Charlie and Eko recite the words, you really feel like they both mean it. Both have had a rough go at some points in their life, but they both were religious at the start, and although both headed down a dark path, God stayed with them throughout. You can see the message of the Psalm applying to both, stressing the importance of having faith during the rough times.

Lastly, Eko carries a stick (or “rod”, or “staff”), and fears no evil - even big scary smokey monsters…

Smokey. Behold the Monster. Or at least part of it. Here are the facts, before I start hypothesizing on what they mean:
  • The Monster comes up from the ground, and returns to the ground. In the process it uproots and knocks down trees.
  • The Monster makes a “cicada-like” sound, as well as mechanical noises.
  • The Monster is semi-transparent, appearing to be smoke, or made up of a multitude of small things – such as a swarm of bugs.
  • The Monster is solid, at least some of the time, as it grabbed Locke last season.

I’ve re-watched the scene of the encounter with Eko about ten times, freeze framing the images where the camera swung through the cloud of the Monster. Here’s what I see:

  • Flashes of light inside the smoke, like lightning inside a storm cloud.
  • A flash of an image of a Virgin Mary statue

So what does this all mean?

To the best of our knowledge as a viewer, the Monster killed the Pilot in the first episode, and encountered both Locke and Eko without harming them. Locke seemed changed by his encounter, but Eko appears to remain the same. So is the Monster good or evil? What is it anyways?!

There are two ways I could understand this Monster, the scientific or the spiritual way:

Scientific. The monster is some sort of cloud of nanobots. Here’s a refresher for your nanobot neophytes:

Nanorobotics is the technology of creating machines or at or close to the scale of a millionth of a millimetre. More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the still largely theoretical nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanobots. Since nanorobots would be microscopic in size, it may be necessary for very large numbers of them to work together to perform macroscopic tasks. As no nanobots have so far been created, they remain a hypothetical concept at this time.

Since the creators of Lost have said the show would always be based on science or “pseudo-science”, this seems like the most logical answer. Really, really small robots that the good people at Dharma were working on that somehow got released on the Island. Millions of them working together would have the power to uproot trees, tear apart a person, or drag Locke by the leg.

But what logic are they working under? Typically, a machine is built with specific instructions of what tasks it is supposed to be accomplishing. Why would they kill the Pilot but merely look at Eko? It doesn’t quite add up.

Spiritual. You could go a number of ways the spiritual route, seeing the Monster as…

  • A collection of spirits of people the Survivors killed in their lives, reminding them of their sins, torturing them, etc.
  • A “grim reaper” of sorts that takes people away from the Island once their sins have been repented, playing the “purgatory theory”.
  • A magical cloud that is a living, thinking organism – judging good and evil, killing and sparing people as it sees fit.

You could make convincing arguments for any of these, but they wouldn’t be based in science or pseudo-science, and seem a little too “out there” for the show, don’t you think?

So what is the Monster? Here’s what I think:

Given the way that the Monster seemed to be “reading” Eko, and the flash of the Virgin Mary inside, it seems like the Monster is either different for each person, or that it has the ability to read the mind of the person it encounters and show them scenes from their past. Locke said he looked into the eye of the Island and it was beautiful. He also made the comment to Boone about “is that what the Monster showed you?”, as if knowing it would be different things for different people. But what did Locke see that was beautiful? His past is pretty tragic.

Perhaps the Monster isn’t showing you things from your past, but rather showing you things from the future.

Remember the Hanso Accelerated Remote Viewing Training Facility referenced in the video? It seemed to focus on the ability to see things in the future. Walt seemed to have this power, but what if the Hanso Scientists created some sort of mechanical device (say, out of Nanobots anyone?) that had the same ability and could “display” what it saw? The future looks bright for Locke (and let’s face it, he’s pretty much living out his dream on the Island), it showed Boone Shannon’s death (which happened shortly after), and it showed Eko the Virgin Mary statues (which he would come across in the crashed plane).

The only missing piece of the puzzle is why it killed the Pilot. Did he react violently to the images he saw and freak the Monster out, causing it to take him? Did he see his own death (he did have substantial wounds from the crash)? CFL referred to the Monster as a “Security System”. If we view the Monster as a machine, I guess it could be programmed to attack anyone who got too close to its core facility – such as the pilot in the nose of the plane – but if you’re a safe distance away, it just looks at you (Eko and Locke)? Perhaps this is simply a feature to protect its own existence. If you got to the core computer running the machine, maybe you could “turn it off”? Maybe the Monster was part of an experiment gone wrong (an “incident”, perhaps?) and now functions properly some of the time (Eko / Locke) and goes berserk some of the time (Pilot), and it’s just coincidence the two spiritual people survived their encounters?

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I know there are some holes in this explanation, but it’s the one that makes the most sense to me right now.

Charlie. The really puzzling thing about the end of this episode was that Charlie had been stashing away Virgin Mary statues in the woods. Didn’t you really think that he was earnest when he told Claire that he was over his addiction? And after his spiritual journey with Eko, didn’t he seem to be above it? Is he keeping them around as a temptation, to prove that he doesn’t need them anymore? For medicinal purposes in case someone gets seriously hurt? Or does it just goes to show, that he is still weak, and not really over it?

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Plane. Okay, seriously – how did the plane end up on the Island? There is no way that a plane that was just supposed to “cross the border” of Nigeria would end up in the South Pacific. They weren’t intending on going anywhere near there, the plane didn’t have the fuel to make it there, and the odds of that plane crashing on that Island are impossibly small. So what gives?

Well, if you think about it, more and more Survivors are seeing things from their past on the Island. The interesting thing is, you can’t chalk them up to hallucinations since there are other people involved in seeing them as well.

Shannon saw Walt, as did Sayid.
Kate saw the Black Horse, as did Sawyer.
Eko saw the Plane, as did Locke, Boone, Sayid, and Charlie.

These things are real.

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So there’s two options here:

  1. The Hanso Scientists have this experiment really planned out, it’s complex to the point where they have researched their test subjects lives and brought items to the Island that would make the Survivors have a reaction to, all for the purposes of their experiment. Not likely. How could they know about the Black Horse that wrecked the car Kate was in? Would they really go so far as to create a body that resembled Eko’s brother? Seems a little far fetched.
  2. Everyone on the Island has a bit of this “mind’s eye” power, and are subconsciously bringing things from their past to the reality on the Island. Walt has demonstrated this ability with the polar bear, and seems to have the most control of the power – but what if everyone is actually doing it as we speak, without knowing it? The results could be catastrophic!

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw each Survivor come into contact with something from their past that shouldn’t possibly be on the Island, or something from their thoughts that manifests itself as reality.

So there you have it. Two weeks worth of analysis in one super-sized post. But we’re not quite done yet. There’s a new episode this week! Here’s a brief analysis, because my fingers are exhausted.

Episode Title: “The Hunting Party”

Brian’s Deeper Meaning Guess: First the obvious. Last week, we saw Michael taking target practice. This week, it looks like he’s arming himself up and heading out to find his son. Likewise, we have another group of Survivors heading out to find Michael (and Walt, perhaps). Michael is “hunting” for Walt. Everyone else is “hunting” for Michael.

But remember the last scene of the preview last week? Ominous torches surrounding the Survivors, with a voice saying “This is our Island”? Could it be that these “Others” are hunting all of them as they trek through the jungle? The hunter becomes the hunted!

TV Guide Description: Jack, Locke and Sawyer pursue a determined Michael after he heads into the jungle toward the dreaded "Others" in search of Walt. Meanwhile, Sun has a surprising reaction to Jin's desire to join the search party, and Hurley and Charlie commiserate over the age-old conundrum of "what women want."

TV Guide Breakdown: First sentence… got it. My money is that we see the full sentence that Walt typed to Michael last week and he gives him a specific location to come. Hello, trap? This is Michael, I'm on my way. Second sentence – what would Sun’s reaction be? Surprise that Jin has a desire to save Michael? Perhaps she doesn’t understand the bonding they had when they were captured by Ana-Lucia and during the trek through the jungle. Perhaps now that she has her Jinny-poo safe and sound with her, she doesn’t want to let him out of her sight again? Last sentence… I think Hurley has a thing for Libby. Remember this little throwaway scene?

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There was some chemistry there. Hurley needs some lovin’ too, after all. Plus, once Libby finds out he’s rich, she’ll like him. There’s no such thing an ugly rich guy (or girl). Hurley probably views Charlie as the biggest “ladies man” in the group, since he used to be a rock star.

I’m pretty excited for this week, it looks like the full out “Others vs. Survivors” war I talked about incessantly last year might finally be starting up!

So that’s it. Four and a half hours of analysis, research, and typing. I give and I give to you, loyal reader. Now I’m exhausted. Leave some love in the Comments section.

(PS - I never even discussed this, but here is a picture to discuss (check out the TV in the background):

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Big Al said...

Good stuff Brian. It only took 3 hours to read it out loud to Kyle. What is on the TV? Is it Sawyer - my blind eyes can't tell.

Brian said...

That is correct. Sayid is on the TV in the background. It probably doesn't mean anything, or may be a scene from an upcoming Sayid-flashback episode, but it's pretty cool, no?

bengalsfan said...

Rex, you brought up some good points. I think it is time to get away from establishing the new characters and back to huntin "Others". I definately think people can somehow "bring" things to the island, hence the horse and Michael's vision on the computer screen.

Do we still have the Mario Brothers warp zone theory out there. I think it makes sense to how the plane and the Black Rock are on the island.

Brian said...

The Super Mario Bros. warp zone theory is still out there (I think we last talked about it in the massive "Season Recap" post), and if you remember, there were "Bermuda Triangles" in a few places - the South Pacific, around Nigeria, etc. - so that would all add up.

But what about the Horse? How did that end up on the Island? I guess it could be coincidence...

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