''Lost'' theories: EW's Jeff Jensen explains why John Locke = Luke Skywalker. Plus: He peeks inside the polar bear's cave, and gets hints from Carlton Cuse

By Jeff Jensen
January 06, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Lost: Mario Perez/ABC

‘Lost’ (S3): Why John Locke = Luke Skywalker

(In which we whet your appetite for tonight’s new episode of Lost with 10 words worth of cryptic fun, courtesy of the show’s creators)

This week’s tease from executive producer Carlton Cuse is:

”Who are the two most important women in Sawyer’s life?”

Tune in tonight for the answer — and come back to EW.com tomorrow to read our resident Lost watcher Chrstine Fenno’s always-terrific take on the show.


Someone asked me recently to summarize Lost in one sentence. This is what I came up with:

Lost is a show about people with unresolved issues colliding with an island with an unresolved history.

And to think I am paid decent money to come up with stuff like that.

A weekly ranking of Lost‘s watercooler mysteries


ANSWER John Locke.

ANALYSIS Wasn’t it great to see the return of the old hunter/shaman of season 1? Clearly, ABC is keenly aware that you prefer lord-of-the-jungle Locke over last year’s Hatch-trapped button-pusher. In fact, in the script for last week’s episode, there was a scene in which Locke pulled out one of his hunting knives and said, ”God, I’ve missed this.” The knowing bit was cut from the final version of the show, but ABC’s marketing department used it in promotional spots. (Alas, Lost continued its early-season ratings slide, and barely edged out CBS’ Criminal Minds in total viewers last week, which itself seems criminal.) Summing it up for me was the opening sequence, when Mr. Eko’s Jesus Stick tumbled from the heavens and nearly knocked Locke upside the noggin. Shades of The Lion King, when Rafiki, the wise old baboon, whacked Simba upside the head to teach him a lesson about moving on from the past, embracing your destiny, and playing your role in the great Circle of Life. (Sorry: My kids have made me watch The Lion King, like, 50 times. Tune in next week when I prove how Timon and Pumbaa explain the Dharma Initiative.)

But really, the movie that truly illuminates last week’s Locke episode is The Empire Strikes Back. I loved the moment when Locke entered the cave and torched the polar bear — it reminded me of Luke when he used his lightsaber to kill the wampa monster in the ice cave on Hoth. It also reminded me of the part when Luke descended into that mystical root cellar on Dagobah and chopped off the helmeted head of a hallucinatory Darth Vader, only to see that under the mask was his own face.

Could these vague allusions to Empire (often cited by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof as one of his fave movies) have been intentional? Consider this: Like the vision of Vader in the cave, the polar bear represents the hero’s unresolved anger, much of which is rooted in his complicated non-relationship with his awful father.

Locke now seems determined to save his kidnapped friends, just as Luke did in Empire after his Dagobah digression. We all know how that turned out, don’t we? The neophyte knight walked right into a trap…

…and got his hand cut off.


PREDICTION In the next Locke episode, John the Jedi will lead the rescue mission to free Jack & Co., and at long last, we’ll get the backstory that reveals how Locke lost the use of his legs.

HYPOTHESIS Remember last season, when Henry Gale (now Ben) told Locke that the reason he had infiltrated the castaways’ camp was to bring him back to Othersville? Was Ben merely messing with the easily manipulated Locke — or was he actually telling Locke the truth, as much as Ben actually tells the truth? Was Ben’s ”Let myself get kidnapped” plan more complex and far-reaching than just setting up Jack, Kate, and Sawyer for abduction? Could he have been setting up Locke for something, too?

THEORY Like Luke, Locke has a secret sibling — and it’s Ben himself.

BUT LET’S GO BACK TO THE LION KING FOR A SECOND… Like Simba, Locke’s destiny is to take his place as the leader of his people, and become the chief custodian of this enchanted island. In Lost‘s final episode, after a bloody battle with stormtroopers from the Widmore Corporation, seeking to turn the island into a subliminal telepathic marketing mechanism for its array of products, Locke will sacrifice his life to save his friends and the sanctity of the island, but as we see a boat take the castaways away into the sunset, the camera will pull back and reveal a shadowy figure watching from a high cliff — and it’ll be John Locke, Lord of Lost, resurrected from the dead! He’ll beat his chest, give a Tarzan yell, and swing away on a vine to kill a boar, happier than a pig in mud…

…and the vast majority of America won’t give a crap, because by then, most of them will have been brainwashed into watching a very special ”Mandy Patankin Plays the Piano” episode of Criminal Minds.

ESTIMATED CHANCE THAT DOC JENSEN WILL EVER WATCH AN EPISODE OF CRIMINAL MINDS AS LONG AS IT AIRS OPPOSITE LOST I’d sooner face down a psycho polar bear armed only with a torch and a can of hairspray.

But speaking of miraculous resurrections…


(Maddeningly Unresolved Season 2 Cliffhanger of the Week!)

ANALYSIS I don’t know.

But being the good Christian boy that I am, when life leaves me baffled, I turn to the Bible. And so should you, my fellow Lost theorists, for the producers of Lost like to encode their show with Bible passages. If you’re not the type of obsessive fan prone to freezing frames, allow me to point out that Mr. Eko’s Jesus Stick was sporting some new citations. For example:

Genesis 13:14 Part of this verse is actually etched on Eko’s stick: ”Lift up your eyes and look [from the place where you are,] north…”
Application: If the castaways look to the northern part of the island, they will find the place where the Others are holding Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. But as for how the button-pushers survived the implosion, I think another footnote on Eko’s Staff of Clues might provide insight:

John 3:5 ”Jesus answered, ”Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In the full context of this passage, Christ is explaining that one must be spiritually transformed or ”born again” in order to enter Heaven.
Application: For now, let’s just assume that Locke and Eko somehow managed to scramble away from the Hatch and were thrown into the jungle by the concussive energy of the implosion, à la the flying door marked ”quarantine.” So what happened to Desmond?


He was born again.

The stated purpose of the Hatch, according to the (possibly bogus) Station Three Orientation Film, was to study the ”unique” electromagnetic energy that fluctuated from the southern section of the island. But we also know that Dharma was conducting experiments in parapsychology, or ”mind over matter.” Now, quantum physics says that all matter is made up of electromagnetic energy. And remember, Desmond seemed to believe in a form of reincarnation, as per his catchphrase, ”See you in another life, brother.” I’m thinking that Desmond essentially willed himself into living again. Mind over matter.

In other words, Desmond literally saved himself. Which could explain Boone’s cryptic reference to Desmond in Locke’s dream when he said, ”He’s helping himself.”

And, of course, it also explains Desmond showing up in his birthday suit.

ESTIMATED CHANCE THAT DESMOND USED ELECTROMAGNETIC ENERGY TO REINCARNATE HIMSELF 0%. Please. What happened was this: The Hatch never exploded or imploded or whatever on its own. When Desmond turned the key, he was doused with knock-out gas, and approximately 100 Dharma Initiative Oompa-Loompas scurried out from their underground hiding places and dragged Locke, Eko, and Desmond clear of the wreckage. Then they blew up the Hatch, catapulted the hatch door into the sky and triggered some loud and flashy special effects for the benefit of the rest of the island. Then they implanted hypnotic suggestions into Locke’s head (”Make a big speech about going to save Jack…”), Eko’s head (”When you hear Locke apologize, mumble some stuff about saving his friends…”), and Desmond’s head (”You’re going to have visions of the future, beginning with John’s big speech…”). Then, they put Eko in the polar bear cave, stripped Desmond naked, flung the Jesus Stick into the sky, and woke up them all up as they ran back into hiding.

See, it’s all part of a Dharma mind game designed to brainwash people into believing in the supernatural.

Oh, and Charlie’s in on it.



ANALYSIS Apparently, the grumpy beast likes to feast on Dharma stooges, judging from the skeleton in the cave with the Pearl Station T-shirt (I TOTALLY WANT ONE OF THOSE.) (The T-shirt?not the skeleton.)

If you’re new to this column and still scratching your head over the whole idea of a polar bear on a tropical island, here’s your crucial info: According to the annotations on the Map that Locke found in the Hatch, polar bears were brought to the island by Dharma as part of their investigations into radical scientific means to save the human species from impending doom. Maybe.

Anyway, I was very intrigued by Charlie’s seemingly random side comment that polar bears are known for their intelligence — that they are the ”Einsteins of the bear community.” I was also intrigued by Locke’s discovery of a dirty old yellow dump truck in PB2’s bone-strewn cave. The toy seems to imply that the polar bear had once snacked on a small child. Of course, in the context of the episode, the yellow dump truck could have been just a metaphor for Locke, who, according to his backstories, used to drive a truck, got dumped on a lot, and was yellow in the cowardly sense, especially in his inability to shoot and kill defenseless undercover cops trying to bring down his hippie pot-growing commune.

Okay, maybe that was a reach. Perhaps there’s a slightly less crazy alternate explanation for the presence of a kid’s toy in the polar bear’s cave…

THEORY Got it! The polar bear didn’t eat a kid who played with a toy truck — he IS a kid who played with a toy truck. And maybe he still plays with it, too. It’s the Animal Magic theory, boys and girls. Remember, my contention was that Dharma was using animals noted for their intelligence as test subjects in consciousness-transfer experiments. I think PB2 shares a brain with a little boy. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we ultimately learned that those skeletons in the cave didn’t die as a result of becoming polar bear food. After all, why was that skeleton still wearing a Dharma shirt? Wouldn’t it have been torn to shreds? Maybe PB2 is just a thigh and leg man — or maybe the real reason he drags people into his cave is that the bear-boy just wants someone to play with.

ESTIMATED CHANCE THAT PB2 SHARES BRAIN SPACE WITH A SMALL TRUCK-PLAYING CHILD Actually, PB2 shares brain space with the part of my mind that I used to have before losing it to this show.


(Doc Jensen’s Reach of the Week!)

ANALYSIS Remember in Locke’s flashback, when he took a big bite of peach while fruit-picking at the commune with the undercover cop? Well, according to our good friends over at Wikipedia, ”the peach often plays an important part in Chinese tradition and is symbolic of long life.”

And then, there’s the Japanese myth of Momotaro, which apparently means ”Peach Boy.” According to this myth, Peach Boy was a mighty hero who went to a magical island and teamed up with a bunch of animals to liberate the island from a bad bunch of demonic Others known as the Oni.



Next week, we’re going to deviate from our usual format so I can bring you a bold new super-string theory that I like to call THE REDEMPTION OF TELEVISION THEORY OF LOST. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s rooted in an explanation of the true purpose of Dharma’s Pearl Station, which I understand the castaways will be visiting again in next week’s episode. I’m going to tease my theory by quoting from this rather curious passage from the Lost tie-in book Bad Twin:

”To get a single pearl, you basically have to perform surgery on an oyster, put this tiny pellet in just the right place in the ovary. Don’t get it exactly right, the oyster dies and you’ve got to start over. Even if it works, you’ve got to babysit the oyster for a couple years, checking its progress and health. So many things can go wrong?”

Friends, I think all the secrets of Lost lie within that paragraph.

But that’s next week. See you then.

Doc J