In my Friday Doc Jensen column, I promised you all a special bonus edition to post on Sunday, devoted to questions and theories inspired by last Tuesday’s Desmond-tastic episode of Lost entitled “Happily Ever After.” And here I am, a man of my word, making good on my promises, as I always do… except for that time when I promised you candy bars in Season 3. And a reading list after Season 5. And that other time when I vowed to… oh, stop hounding me with your recriminations, Doc Jensen Conscience!
Amie Vigneux writes: “I have a question about the significance of Eloise’s pin. Doesn’t it look a lot like the symbol/mark Juliet was branded with by The Others in the season 3 episode ‘Stranger in A Strange Land?’”
It certainly does resemble Juliet’s blistered mark. (For visuals, check out Lostpedia’s shot of the brand here and Doc Arzt’s screencap of Eloise’s pin here.) It makes for an interesting allusion. Juliet got tagged after Ben ordered her death sentence commuted for killing Danny and helping Sawyer and Kate escape from Hydra Island. In waiving her sentence, Ben declared that the “the rules don’t apply” to Juliet. But he also said she had to be marked. Why? That’s open to debate. For now, let’s note that Juliet was someone for whom “the rules don’t apply,” and I would say something similar can be said of Eloise Hawking/Widmore, who seems mysteriously capable of defying the forces of time and space that define the lives of the rest of us mortals.
Juliet’s mark always reminded of a shooting and exploding star. An exploding star breaks into bits of star stuff, or smaller stars (poetically speaking). It’s a nice link to Claire’s fave lullaby for Aaron: “Catch A Falling Star.” By blowing up Jughead, did Juliet create a big bang that birthed a new universe/world? Did the explosion turn her castaway friends into star stuff that scattered across parallel worlds? Is it possible that Juliet’s barnd was foreshadowing for her role as Island Shiva, the destroyer/creator? Probably not… but fun to wonder.
Eloise Widmore was sporting two of these symbols on her lapel. Perhaps it means she’s now playing star catcher, tasked with collecting and recombining the souls that have exploded out of one timeline and fallen into another. Juliet’s mark is different from Eloise’s pins in a couple ways. For starters, Juliet had one mark, while Eloise had to pins. The brand resembles a magic wand, with the star shape at the terminus of the stick. Eloise’s pins form two parallel lines bisected by stars. My theory: Eloise’s pins are a metaphor for the split worlds of Lost. The parallel lines are the parallel timelines. The parallel stars on those lines denote a synchronized event in which the characters in both worlds/timelines will become fully aware of each other. Call it: An outbreak of Instant Enlightenment Now! FUN FACT! Many of you (including reader Chris Burgwald, the first to bring this to my attetion) have pointed out that May 23—the date of Lost’s series finale—is Pentecost, which celebrated 50 days after Easter. According to The Bible, Jesus promised to send The Holy Spirit to assist his followers in their work. On the 10th day after Christ’s ascension into heaven, the disciples were gathered together when suddenly a heavenly noise filled the room and “tongues of fire” fell upon their heads, enabling them to speak various languages. Does Eloise Widmore’s pins anticipate a Pentecost-like event in both worlds? Castaways, prepare to have your foreheads licked by enlightenment.
Clifford Penaflor writes: “When Desmond awakens from his 5-second sleep at the end of the episode, do you think he remembers what happened in the other universe?”
Clifford, I’m agnostic on this issue. Perhaps Island Desmond experienced all of Sideways Desmond’s adventure in “Happily Ever After” and came back to his body with all those memories. Perhaps he’s established some kind of permanent psychic rapport with his Sideways self. Perhaps he merely got a brief peek into his parallel life. What seems certain was that he was transformed. It’s as if Desmond had an encounter with something real that left him convicted that his life is bigger than just his mortal shell. It’ll be interesting to see if he can hold onto that feeling, or if that feeling that will fade and he’ll have to forge ahead in faith of its truth… or if doubt will creep into his mind and convince him the whole thing was some bad IV drip drug trip.
David Hayes writes: “What did you make of the scene with Dez and Charlie driving. There was a long look at someone walking on the sidewalk. A second or so. Thoughts?”
That moment got my theory senses tingling, too. In case this scene doesn’t come quickly to mind for all of you, I refer to the transitional moment right after the scene with Desmond and Charlie in the bar and right before the scene with Desmond and Charlie inside the car. (You can actually see the shot here.) It was nothing more than an establishing shot—the camera began on Desmond’s car, then panned over to the marina and doted on the boats for a second. The intention was to give the audience a sense of place so that it wouldn’t be a surprise when Charlie grabbed the wheel and drove the car into the water. Still, there’s nifty subtext to be mined here. The establishing shot presaged Desmond’s near-death experience–and last season you will recall that Ben tried to kill Desmond at a marina. And then there were all those scenes last year where the Oceanic 6 met at a marina—maybe the same marina where Ben shot Des—to discuss their fate. If you have a memory for this kind of detail, you may recall that those O6 scenes had a yacht in the background with its name visible to camera: “Illusion.” And what was it that Desmond cracked wise about before Charlie grabbed his steering wheel? He joked that his life was an illusion, that “none of this is real.” Charlie then drove Desmond into the water, facilitating Desmond’s epiphany that there really was more to his life than he could perceive with his senses…
Anyway, back to the point of David’s question. When the camera panned around to establish the scene of the harbor, it seemed to dote on the image a half second too long. And because there happened to be a guy in the shot—a tall dude in shorts and a backpack, looking like he was on some kind of urban safari—it seemed to me that Lost wanted us to be wondering about his identity or significance. So I did what Lost detectives should do. I paused. I scrutinized. I wondered. Jacob? Ethan? Frogurt? Then I… gave up. Sometimes, an establishing shot is just an establishing shot. Indeed, I have since learned from a Lost source that the man in question was just an extra. I thought the matter settled…
And then I thought about it some more and realized that the interesting subtext of this moment wasn’t the identity of the dude but what the dude was doing. A day hiker, exploring the city—this is a guy who’s on his own version of… a Walkabout. With that word in mind, consider that the Des/Charlie drinking scene that had immediately preceded this moment took place in an Australian-themed bar called Jax. We recall that John Locke had gone to Australia to go on a “Walkabout” in the outback. How did Locke describe a “Walkabout” in his classic season 1 episode the same name? “[A] Walkabout is a journey of spiritual renewal, where one derives strength from the earth. And becomes inseparable from it.” (In “The Substitute,” Sideways Locke made it sound a little bit more like an action movie: “An adventure in the outback. Man against nature.”)
Now this is where things gets really deep and really cool. To appreciate this bit of overthinking, recall what happened inside the car immediately after the shot of Walkabout Marina Guy. We saw—and heard—Charlie and Desmond listening to the radio. The tune: “You All Everybody,” written and recorded by Charlie’s band Drive Shaft. “Our first single,” Charlie said with a smile. “The beginning of everything great.” All of this plays right into the meaning of “Walkabout” as practiced by Australia’s indigenous people. For them, a “Walkabout” is about taking a journey that retraces technically uncharted, invisible paths blazed by their ancestors as well creator spirits. These paths are called “songlines,” as the paths are described by the words of a song that must be sung during the Walkabout. Indeed, Australia’s Aboriginal people believe that these songs, first sung by creator spirits or their ancestors, actually created their world, and that retracing/repeating these “songlines” “[keeps] the land alive,” according to Wikipedia. In short: a Walkabout is a ritualistic affirmation of “the beginning of everything great.”
With all this as context, “Happily Ever After” now stands revealed as the story of the Walkabout that John Locke never took. We have Desmond going “down under” (i.e., plunging into the depths of the harbor) and then going on “a journey of spiritual renewal” in which his personal mythology is revealed to him, a mythology that connects him not only to his own past but his shared destiny with the other castaway lives. Think: “You All Everybody.” Desmond’s “Happily Ever After” story was a “songline” that revealed the true nature of his reality. Now, he seems determined to teach the other members of his castaway tribe the words of the song, too.
We close this special Sunday edition with a mini-essay and theory. The mini essay comes to us from Terry Panton, who shares my belief that the name “Penelope Milton” was a reference to poet John Milton, who write Paradise Lost. But as Terry points out, “John Milton not only wrote Paradise Lost, but also Paradise Regained.” Terry elaborates:
“Paradise Regained is Milton’s retelling of the temptation of Christ in the desert by Satan. [In “Ab Aeterno,” we saw Richard’s Bible open to Luke Chapter 4, which chronicles that story.] The temptation of Christ is also the subject of “The Grand Inquisitor” chapter in The Brothers Karamazov, which to me is the be-all/end-all in Science vs. Faith/Free will vs. Destiny literature. In “The Grand Inquisitor,” the ultimate Man of Science, Ivan, tries to convince his Man of Faith brother, Aloysha, that his faith in God is misplaced. (It doesn’t hurt that The Brothers Karamazov, a fratricide whodunit, is the last word in daddy issue literature.)
“At any rate, this is from Wikipedia’s Paradise Regained entry: “One of the major concepts emphasized throughout Paradise Regained is the play on reversals. As implied by its title, Milton sets out to reverse the ‘loss’ of Paradise. Thus, antonyms are often found next to each other throughout the poem, reinforcing the idea that everything that was lost in the first epic is going to be regained by the end of the mini-epic.” When one regains everything they lost, isn’t that just another way to express living “happily ever after?” (Discuss with 4000-word essay. Bonus points if you include how Aloysha was played by William Shatner in The Brothers Karamazov from 1958.)”
I think in the Sideways world, Terry Panton is actually “Doc Jensen.” My only suggestion: check out my Friday column, in which reader Hector connected the idea of sacrifice and getting-everything-back to Soren Kierkegaard and the Knight of Faith. (Also see: The Book of Job.) More and more, the evidence mounts that Desmond will be playing sacrifical lamb for the castaways–and will get rewarded for his suffering and loss.
Finally, the theory. It comes to us from Chris, who writes: “Doc, Desmond and Penelope decided to meet for coffee. Juliet told Sawyer she would meet him for coffee. I would not be surprised if these two coffee meetings held something in common. What if Desmond rounds up all the passengers from 815 and they meet at the coffee shop?”
This is my new favorite theory! I totally want the coffee shop ending ending of Lost! Call it: The Restaurant At The End of The Island! (Which means, of course, that the answer to the fundamental mystery of The Island is… 42.) Team Darlton, Make it So!
Please, enjoy the rest of the weekend. Will you be spending it with loved ones… or watching Tiger Woods? It’s a tough choice, I know. Please keep your Lost emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @ewdocjensen. Come back on Tuesday for a new episode of Totally Lost and our “Countdown To Lost.”
Until then: Fore!