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Countdown to 'Lost': Illuminating the 'Lighthouse' and revisiting 'The Substitute'

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Image Credit: Mario Perez/ABCTonight’s Lost is entitled “Lighthouse.” If you’ve read this week’s Entertainment Weekly cover story, in which Dan Snierson and I traveled to the Hawaii set of Lost to get some insight and answers about the new season, then you know that the episode we’re about to see builds upon last week’s revelation that each of The Numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) pertains to a castaway (or at least we presume so; check out our gallery for further exploration) and that Jacob brought/lured these select, Numbered souls to The Island in hopes of grooming one of them to be his replacement as Island protector. (Then again, all of this could be bunk. After all, it was Jacob’s arch-enemy the Lockeness Monster telling the story.) Will Jacob offer a rebuttal to these charges? Or might he actually say, “Nope. Smokey pretty much got it right!” And can he say much of anything in his defense, given that he’s dead, and that the closest thing he has for a lawyer is (gulp) Hurley. We shall see in just a few hours.

I’m getting some emails from some readers wondering why today’s Doc Jensen didn’t include the usual prep guide for the night’s episode. Here’s the deal: Some of you have complained that my prep guides have spoiled a key aspect of each episode — the story’s featured Sideways character. Because I am anti-spoiler, and because I don’t want to lose any of you as readers, I have decided to cut the prep guide from the Doc Jensen column… and move them here, to the weekly “Countdown to Lost” PopWatch item, accompanied by a big old SPOILER ALERT! However, we shall initiate this new protocol next week, because in many ways, I’ve already written the prep guide for “Lighthouse’s” marquee player, who happens to be — SPOILER ALERT! — Jack Shephard. If you want to brush up on everyone’s favorite fixer-addict physician, check out this essay I wrote last month. And I think if you stick to just the “Physician, Heal Thyself!” portion, you’ll be okay. But if you’d rather prepare by quickly watching some past episodes of Lost (or at least perusing the episode guide section of ABC.com), I would recommend that you investigate “White Rabbit” (season 1) and “Something Nice Back Home” (season 4). I would also recommend that after you watch tonight’s episode, you come back here to EW.com to share your snap judgment reaction, then come back tomorrow morning for my recap.


Three Sets of Three Questions about Three Things

Of the various things that I neglected to cover in last week’s recap of the killer John Locke ep, the one I grieve the most was failing to recognize the lady who worked at Hurley’s temp agency as the same woman who was the fortune-teller in the season 3 Hurley-centric episode “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead.” And here I thought I actually watched the show closely! Today’s edition of “What Doc Missed” offers some additional exploration of three aspects of the episode I felt I gave short shrift to, beginning with…

Three questions about… Ilana’s pouch of Jacob Ash

Ben happened upon Cult of Jacob honchoette Ilana inside the Four Toed beach house grieving the deaths of her team and Jacob himself. After Ben half-truthfully described the circumstances of Jacob’s murder (he kinda omitted the part where he stabbed him), Ilana scooped up some of Jacob’s incinerated body and poured it into a pouch. My questions:

What would happen if Ilana poured the ash into the dirty hot tub inside the Other’s House of Healing Day Spa?

Just wondering more than anything. Maybe Jacob’s magical essence can restore the rejuvenating jacuzzi’s potency. Maybe by introducing Jacob’s physical remains into an enchanted Island water source it activates some Island process of Jacob-reincarnation. Actually, I doubt the plausibility of either scenario. Still, I can’t shake the image of Ilana dumping the ashes into the gurgling churn of the spring. It feels almost like a Desmond-esque flash of the future…

Is there a connection between the protective ash that keeps Smokey at bay and Jacob’s ash?

Here’s how that might even work. The “Jacob” entity has died and been reincarnated over and over again for who knows how long. The incinerated remains of his previous mortal coils are toxic to the “Smokey” entity and therefore are useful to Jacob’s followers. There’s more to this theory of mine, which I’ll continue in my response to my next question:

Is there a connection between Jacob’s ash and the vial of granules that Locke was shown when Richard Alpert tested him as a child?

Richard had previously encountered the adult John Locke on The Island when time-traveling Locke walked into his camp back in the 1950s and claimed that Richard had sent him. Richard then left The Island and bore witness to Locke’s birth, and then later visited him as a child and presented him with six objects — a compass; a baseball glove; an old book entitled Book of Law; a vial of granules; a comic book; and a wood-handled knife — and asked him to pick the one that belonged to him. Locke chose a wood-handled knife, and Richard freaked out and ran away. I don’t know about you, but last week, when Smokey-Locke picked up that wood-handled machete and cut down Locke, I wondered if the show was forging a link to that ominous moment when Young Locke chose the knife. I also now wonder if Richard was testing Young Locke to see if he would pick the vial of granules, which I now think contained the remains of a previous incarnation of Jacob. Perhaps Richard suspected that Time-Traveling Locke was the next incarnation of the “Jacob” entity, and if so, then Young Locke would have been able to intuitively recognize a connection to the remnants of Jacob’s previous incarnation. Does any of this make sense? Sure it does!

Three Questions About… “Jacob’s Ladder”

The Lockeness Monster took Sawyer to a cave in the cliff face of The Island. To get there, they had to descend a pair of rickety, parallel ladders. We were encouraged to assume that The Cave belonged to Jacob (that might not be correct), and so the combined ladder has been dubbed “Jacob’s Ladder,” which has some potential connections…

Is the Huey Lewis and the News song “Jacob’s Ladder” relevant?

You thought I was joking about that, didn’t you? Well… I kinda was. But consider this: the song is about a man rejecting the message of a dubious preacher/televangelist. The hero of the song would rather stick with his own brand of DIY salvation. Who do you trust with your soul — and can you trust anyone who is offering salvation for your soul at a price? All very UnLocke/Sawyer, if you ask me. The song’s theme of untrustworthy authority figures is echoed by another possible reference:

Is the film Jacob’s Ladder starring Tim Robbins relevant?

It would be criminal of me to spoil this underrated, twist-ending psychological thriller if you haven’t seen it. But the movie is a great example of a narrative device known as “the unreliable narrator,” i.e., can you really trust that the storyteller (be it the main character or the author) is playing straight with the audience/reader? Lost has played these games with us before — most notably, in season 2, when it invited a season-long debate over the validity of The Button. Could the castaways trust Marvin Candle’s choppy orientation film? Or was it all a psychological experiment/mind game? To embellish this theme, Lost filled The Hatch with books that were classic examples of unreliable narrator fiction: The Third Policeman, The Turn of the Screw, and An Incident At Own Creek Bridge. Looking back on “The Substitute,” I have to wonder if The Cave = The Hatch, with Fake Locke playing the role of Marvin Candle and Sawyer playing the role of the prospective button pusher, trying to decide if he should buy into the orientation or reject it. He decided to buy in; we’ll see if he chose wisely or poorly. P.S.: Jacob’s Ladder has one other thing in common with the aforementioned season 2 literary references (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!): Each in their own way is a ghost story, in which the question of “Who’s really alive and who’s really dead?” is a central mystery. I’m beginning to suspect that season 6 of Lost is trying to get us to mull the same question, too. See: Hurley asking Sayid if he’s a zombie. See: Sawyer seeing the Ghost Kid but Richard not seeing him. See: Sawyer’s coy toast: “Here’s to being dead.” It’ll be interesting to see if tonight’s episode continues to tease/bait us with this theme…

Is the Biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder relevant?

This one will appeal to those who believe that Jacob and the Man In Black have something to do with Bible brothers Jacob and Esau. In Genesis, we read that Jacob tricked his blind father, Isaac, into giving him the family inheritance instead of his older-by-a-second fraternal twin, Esau. When Esau learned of the deception, and failed to get his father to change his mind or give him a separate blessing, he became filled with homicidal rage. This scared Jacob, natch, so he fled. (We now stop briefly to consider: Is the Smokey/Man In Black analogous with Esau? Was he betrayed/robbed by Jacob?) While on the run, Jacob had a vision of a staircase or ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels both ascending and descending. Now, this vision has invited a wide range of interpretations. For the Jewish people, Jacob’s vision is/was (among many possibilities) a prediction of suffering (falling down the ladder) before messianic salvation (rising up the ladder). Christians, on the other hand, believe Jacob’s ladder pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ. Outside of its Biblical context, though, Jacob’s ladder has become a colloquial metaphor for the tortured process of spiritual growth, marked by trial and error, stumbles and recoveries, but always somehow pushing forward. It is a symbol, then, of progress — and that word should immediately link us to the Jacob/Man In Black conversation on the beach in “The Incident.” It’s interesting, then, that in “The Substitute,” the energy on the ladder flowed downward. Descent; regression; falling. It’s also interesting that the portion of the ladder that connected to the top (i.e., heaven) broke off. Interpretation: if The Island is truly some kind of bridge to heaven, some kind of mechanism for redemption, then it is now broken as a consequence of Jacob’s death. Which would require us to conclude that Smokey/Man In Black/Fake Locke/”Esau” truly is some kind of devil, a bitter bastard on a scorched earth campaign to tear down anything and everything good to vent his anger and get what he wants, justified or not. But we shall see…

Three Questions About… The Names

The Lockeness Monster took Sawyer into The Cave and showed him dozens of names written on the ceiling in chalk. All except five are now crossed out. The five: Reyes, Ford, Jarrah, Shephard, Kwon.

When were the names written?

More specifically, I’m curious to know: Did all those names go up on the ceiling at once, or were they added in batches over time? Are the remaining names basically the Last Candidates Standing from a larger group of prospective candidates, or were they added to the ceiling after the other candidates were crossed out? Again, I file these questions under mere “curiosity”; I’m asking them even as I find myself unsure if the answers are pertinent to the story we’re being told.

Should we assume the names are who we think they are?

Might “Shephard” actually refer to Christian instead of Jack? “Kwon” could be Jin or Sun — but might their daughter Ji-Yeon be a possibility, too? Could the names refer to people not yet born? Indeed, much has been made of the fact that Kate’s last name (Austen) wasn’t on the ceiling even though we know that Jacob visited her and touched her when she was a child. Yet perhaps Kate really is reflected in this constellation of names — in the form of being the mother of a future “Ford” or “Shephard” child.

Do the names on the ceiling have anything to do with what we’ve been previously told about Jacob’s “list”?

Over the past several seasons, we’ve occasionally heard of a list Jacob had compiled of select castaway names. In season 3, we heard two Others tell us who wasn’t on the list. In “I Do,” Danny angrily said that Jack wasn’t on Jacob’s list. And in “Par Avion,” Patchy, aka Mikhail Bakunin, told Locke, Sayid and Kate that they were “not on the list” because they were “flawed,” because they were “angry, and weak, and frightened.” So we have a discrepancy: the names on the ceiling don’t square with what the Others have said about Jacob’s list. My theory to explain this: the Others were misled by Smokey about Jacob’s true list of candidates in order to manipulate them into doing what “the rules” prevent him from doing — killing the candidates.

See you at the “Lighthouse”—Doc Jensen