”Lost” recap: Jack and Kate
I’ll get to why I think Claire is actually a ghost in a minute — but first, a word about Alice.
Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame, of course. You’d think Lost was trying to tell us something the way it keeps pointing toward Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s book on its bookshelf. In last night’s episode, ”Something Nice Back Home,” flash-forward Jack — enjoying domestic bliss with flash-forward Kate — read a whole stinkin’ passage from the thing as he put flash-forward Aaron to bed. Perhaps by Lost‘s last episode, if not sooner, we will realize that Carroll’s topsy-turvy underworld was a clue to the show’s essential metaphysical enigma; perhaps, for example, the castaways have literally tumbled into a hidden, beyond-microscopic dimension tucked into the seams of reality, as described by current superstring physicists. (For those of you who insist on a ”hard science” explanation of Lost, check out The Elegant Universe, which makes such a scenario plausible.) But the specific Alice in Wonderland reference cited in last night’s episode (taken from the book’s second chapter, ”The Pool of Tears”) reminded us anew that Lost is first and foremost about its characters, and more deeply, the tough, often impenetrable mystery of ourselves:
”Alice took up the fan…and, as the hall was very hot, she kept fanning herself all the time she went on talking: ‘Dear, dear, how queer everything is today. And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: Was I the same when I got up this morning?…If I’m not the same, the next question is, who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.’ ”
”The Pool of Tears” is a transitional chapter in Alice’s adventure. She’s just fallen out of her world but finds herself stuck in a stuffy corridor on the other side of a door leading into Wonderland proper. As she ponders the riddle of herself and the problem of opening the door — a problem because the door is rather tiny and she has grown very large thanks to a piece of magic cake — she cools herself with a fan left behind by the White Rabbit, oblivious of the fact that the very act of fanning is magically making her smaller. The dilemma is making her weep: Poor Alice can’t figure out how she fits — literally — in her new world. (I swear to you, this is relevant.) Similarly, ”Something Nice Back Home” was partly a transitional passage in the Lost saga, a busywork episode designed to put all the characters in position for the year’s big finale, a three-part affair that starts in two weeks. Jin cut a secret deal with Charlotte, Claire went MIA, Christian Shepherd bonded with his grandson, flash-forward Hurley went nutty, and flash-forward Kate did secret favors for left-behind Sawyer. But mostly, it was about Jack.
For those with long, telescoping memories, the tenth episode of the show’s fourth season provocatively communed with the fifth episode of the first season, ”White Rabbit.” This was the episode where Jack — pushed hard by Locke to become a leader and distraught over failing to save a drowning castaway named Joanna — began seeing visions of his father on the Island. Chasing after Ghost Dad, Jack found the Caves of Mystery: Adam and Eve skeletons, black and white rocks, and Christian Shepherd’s empty coffin. In the flashback, we were introduced to Jack’s deeply rooted daddy issues. In one scene, Christian ridiculed his young son for trying to save another kid from a playground beating: ”Don’t play the hero, Jack. You don’t have what it takes.”
NEXT: The return of the iconic eyeball
And so it went that ”Something Nice Back Home” began with Jack’s iconic eyeball flittering awake, an ironic wink at the first scene of Lost‘s very first episode, in which the good doctor, having just fallen from the sky, pops awake and springs into life-saving Hero of the Beach mode. He staggered out of his tent and into a squabble between his castaway friends and Faraday and Charlotte; apparently, the sat-phone-turned-telegraph wasn’t working as it did last episode, when Camp Jack came to grips with the hard truth that the freighter folk have exactly zero interest in taking them off the Island. Despite being sick as a dog (”Food poisoning,” he said), Jack tried to play his elected part of commander in chief: He vowed to vanquish those freighter evildoers should they attack, and he renewed his pledge to formulate an exit strategy out of their tropical, possibly quantum quagmire. ”I’ve gotten us this far,” he said, groggy and pale. ”I said I was gonna get us off the Island, all of us. I promised that I would….” Then he fell flat on his face.
As it turned out, Jack didn’t have a stomach bug but appendicitis — the kind of hardcore castaway survival plotline we haven’t really seen since season 1. Combined with a strong character-driven ”flash” story, it was very old school Lost. (Cut to the chase: Juliet performed surgery; Jack’s okay, though that sloppy stitch looks like it could easily bust open in any freighter skirmishing to come.) The appendix is a weird thing. It’s an utterly useless organ that, paradoxically, turns deadly when inflamed. If I were smart enough, I might be able to explicate a theory that suggests Jack’s toxic appendix was a symbol of his seemingly dormant psychological baggage, which catastrophically ruptured in his flash-forward story. So I’ll just leave it at that. We learned that shortly after Kate’s trial, Jack got over his aversion to Aaron (though it wasn’t explained how or why he was so anti-Aaron to begin with) and shacked up with the former fugitive. ”Something Nice at Home” sure offered a lot of nice things for all the Jate ‘shippers out there — rumpled sheets and red panties, a sexy post-shower smooch, and even a marriage proposal. But the omens of relationship collapse — caused by Jack’s backslide into old, self-destructive patterns (jealousy, paranoia, insecurity) — were planted early. There was Jack stepping on a toy Millennium Falcon and grumbling ”son of a bitch!” (Not a fatherly thing to say, and certainly not a nice way to talk about your half sister.) There was also the sports news of the day: Jack’s beloved Red Sox had just been swept by those damn Yankees. So much for reversing the curse…
…and so much for Jack reversing the destructive influence of his accursed father issues. Initially, he appeared to have made peace with his past. He actually spoke nice of Christian, warmly recalling to Kate that he had been a great storyteller. But he was also nagged by doubts that he could ever be a decent dad himself, much in the same way that he was nagged by doubts that he could be a good husband to Sarah. Alas, he was given reason to indulge these anxieties after being summoned to the Santa Rosa Mental Health Facility for an emergency meeting with Hurley. Talk about Alice in Wonderland links: We learned Hurley had become as mad as the Hatter — a character, intriguingly enough, who believed he had literally murdered time. More to the point of the episode’s cited passage, Hurley had become like Alice: despairing over how he fit into the post-Island world, puzzling over the man he was — or wasn’t. Off his meds, Hurley had come to believe that he was dead, that his after-Island life was actually the afterlife, that his doctor wasn’t real, and that Ghost Charlie was visiting him and imparting important intel intended for Jack. The messages: (1) that Jack ”wasn’t meant to raise him” (presumably, ” him” means Aaron) and (2) that Jack himself was about to get haunted. Jack — not courageous enough to engage in Hurley’s kind of self-reflection (and all the worse for it) — tersely told his friend to get back on his meds and left, trying hard not be spooked. But he was.
NEXT: Cause for alarm
And so it went that during a late night at the hospital, Jack was lured by the bleatings of a malfunctioning fire alarm to the lobby, where his father was waiting. ”Jack,” he said sharply, causing his son to almost jump out of his tattooed skin. Actually, it played more like the instinctive flinch of a battered dog, reacting to his master’s raised hand. Christian quickly vanished after that, but it was enough to make an impact on Jack. He asked a colleague for some anti-anxiety meds, then went home and washed the pills down with beer. Jack’s transformation into a pill-popping, booze-guzzling, airplane-crash-yearning, bridge-jumping-wannabe grizzly bear had begun.
Sealing the deal was his mounting paranoia that Kate was pulling a Sarah and stepping out on him. And as it turned out, Kate did have another man on her mind: Apparently, she had been secretly fulfilling a promise she made to Sawyer before leaving the Island. (My guess: The shaggy con man asked her to look in on Clementine, the daughter he had with con gal Cassidy.) Furious over learning he was still competing with Sawyer for Kate’s mind, heart, and time, Jack raged: ”I’m the one who saved you!” Does he actually love this woman, or does he view her as some reward for being a good boy? Connecting that back to Jack’s statements to his fellow castaways earlier in this episode (”I’ve gotten us this far. I said I was gonna get us off the Island, all of us. I promised that I would ”) and even further to the hurtful, defining comments of his father in ”White Rabbit” (”Don’t play the hero, Jack. You don’t have what it takes”), and what you have is one really complicated guy whose savior complex not only is an expression of his damage but gets in the way of his own redemption. Jack might be a good man, but he’s a control freak (see: insisting on observing and guiding his own surgery) who hates himself and will sabotage any chance at happiness that he gets (see: driving Kate away). For Jack, there will never be ”something nice back home” — both literally and spiritually — until he gets over himself.
Early in the episode, a perplexed Rose made the observation that the Island is a place ”where people get better,” not worse, which raises a question: Why did the Island allow Jack to get sick? If this question is indeed relevant — if the Island is truly a place that giveth and taketh away both sickness and health like some almighty, all-knowing God — my answer is this: The Island is punishing Jack for failing to learn the fundamental lessons it has been trying to teach him all along. The lesson? Let go of the past; stop trying to play the hero; cultivate the capacity to trust. I think Locke was dead wrong when he pushed Jack to become castaway commander in chief in ”White Rabbit,” because it set him on a course that put him in profound conflict with what the Island wanted Jack to learn. Maybe that’s why the Island is calling him back in the flash-forward future — to complete the finishing-school education that he flunked the first time.
NEXT: What about Juliet? And Claire? And Jin? And the Sox?
On the timing of Jack’s flash-forward The headline of Jack’s newspaper read, ”Yankees bludgeon Red Sox in series sweep.” The Yankees swept a series with the Red Sox late in the 2006 season (a historic five-game wipeout) and the 2007 season (a traditional three-game set). If you pause the picture (on a high-def DVR), you can make out the score 5-0, which is how the 2007 series ended. So I’m going to call it: Jack’s flash-forward took place in late summer of 2007.
On Claire If you were baffled by Claire’s statement ”at least I’m not seeing things anymore,” I’ll repeat the intel I reported last week: Apparently, there was a scene in ”The Shape of Things to Come” in which Claire had a hallucination after the freighter mercs blew up her New Otherton cabin, but it was cut for time. My hunch is that her hallucination foreshadowed the moment last night in which she saw Ghost Dad (now Ghost Grandpa) cradling Aaron by the campfire. ”Dad?” she exclaimed — echoing Jack’s very same exclamation back in ”White Rabbit” when he spied (and chased after) White Rabbit Christian for the first time. When Sawyer awoke and found her missing, Ghosthustler Miles reported that she took off with Christian in the middle of the night. Sawyer subsequently found Aaron abandoned in the bushes. Where did Claire go? Spoilery images released to the Web indicate we’ll learn the answer next week, so I won’t pretend to guess. But this thought occurred to me last night as I tried to make sense of Miles’ fixation with Claire: What if she actually didn’t survive the obliteration of her home in last week’s episode? What if she died? What if the Claire we’ve seen since then is some kind of spectral but physically tangible manifestation of Claire generated by Island magic, just like Eko’s brother Yemi, Kate’s horse, and now, apparently, Christian? Could that be why Miles is so intrigued by her — because he can sense that she’s no longer human?
On the Millennium Falcon Sure the toy was chosen for a reason. My theory? The ship’s notoriously erratic hyperdrive = the Island’s unpredictable time-space-bending properties.
On Hurley I found that the name of Hurley’s doctor — the one who he thinks isn’t really real — was ”Stillman.” The name links provocatively to Paul Auster’s trippy existential mystery novella City of Glass and a character named Peter Stillman, who has a mother lode of father issues, was the subject of a bizarre pseudoscience experiment straight out of the Dharma playbook, and who may or may not be real.
On Jin’s deal with Charlotte After discovering that the freighter lady can speak Korean — and intuiting a possible romantic rapport between her and Faraday — Jin threatened her, strongly intimating that if she didn’t make sure Sun was on the first chopper off the Island, he was going to mess up her buddy Faraday. It was a little shocking to see Jin’s underworld-heavy past reasserting itself, and it made me wonder what additional lengths he’d be willing to go to to save his wife. Would he be willing to hurt his friends? As for Charlotte’s Korean, the crazy thought occurred to me that perhaps this Dharma-hunting anthropologist uses it to converse with one of her secret masters, someone I suspect has more to do with the larger Lost mythology than we’ve been led to believe — Sun’s father, Mr. Paik.
Finally, on Jack and Juliet I liked how the episode neatly neutralized one of my least favorite season 4 moments, the Jack-Juliet smooch, with Juliet’s expressed theory that Jack was merely taste-testing which Island honey he preferred. Or Juliet may have been graciously giving Jack a way out of committing to her. Either way works for me!
One more Jack thing… In case you guys end up debating on the message boards the possibility that Jack’s mind might have been literally toggling back and forth through time, especially during those agony-induced blackouts, my vote is no.