Doc Jensen on 'Lost': a primer for tonight's episode
Welcome, Lost fans, to a special edition of Doc Jensen, which this week is coming to you from the veritable Bourbon Street of EW.com, Boulevard de Popwatch. This is a riotous, wonderful place, teeming with all sorts of pop-culture revelry — a daily Mardi Gras of media. At this very moment within the larger French Quarter of EW, our Lost team is organizing a way-cool parade of Lost coverage that will be winding its way to your computer — and your local newsstand — this week. So for the sake of expediency and efficiency, Doc Jensen is rocking the Popwatch party this week. Hooray! Strike up the band! Throw beads! Take off your shirt!
Okay, maybe keep your clothes on. Because believe me, I know from personal experience what happens when you cross Lost with ill-considered nudity: curious looks from your friends at church. In case I’m losing you here, I’m referring to the season premiere of Totally Lost — but that’s in the past. We have a new episode of Totally Lost for you this week, in which Dan Snierson and I break down last week’s so-so Lost episode, “What Kate Does,” and offer some teases for tonight’s episode, “The Substitute.” More interesting than our crackpot analysis is the on-set interview we did not long ago with Evangeline Lilly; you get a provocative hit of that this week as we bring you her thoughts on what’s really going on in the Sideways storyline. Like every episode of Totally Lost, it was produced and edited by the exceedingly talented Jason Averett. I encourage you to take the next 3 to 9 minutes to watch some or all of it right now. You will not regret it, and you will not see me naked. Double bonus! (Watch video below.)
DOC JENSEN’S LOST PREP!
12 need-to-knows (maybe) for tonight’s episode: “The Substitute”
Baffled by the Sideways? Please check out our Q&A with Lost exec producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, if you haven’t already. Want to get up to speed for tonight’s episode? I offer these 12 things you need to know about the late, great John Locke, as tonight’s episode focuses on him, as well as the mysteriously menacing Island entity that has assumed his facade. How much of Locke’s established history will be winked at and toyed with in tonight’s peek into his off-kilter Other world? TBD. But at least you’ll be prepared by knowing …
John Locke was born three months early to a teenage mother on May 30, 1956, after she ran into the street and a car struck her. We never saw the driver. While the hit-and-run can’t be deemed an official Lost mystery, I have long suspected that the person behind the wheel was someone we know. My guess: Charles Widmore. Regardless, Emily Locke gave her baby up for adoption, but was ultimately raised by the foster care system.
Special? Not special? Debate.
In 1961, Richard Alpert paid young Locke a visit after meeting the boy’s time traveling older self on The Island. Alpert claimed he ran a school for special kids and wanted to test Locke to see if he qualified. He presented Locke with six different objects — a compass, a baseball mitt, a book called Book of Laws, a vial of ash, a comic book, and a knife — and said that one or all of them belonged to the boy. He asked Locke to pick which one. Locke picked the knife. Alpert was disturbed and left in a huff. P.S.: Alpert saw that Locke had drawn a picture of a whirlwind of black smoke — foreshadowing of Locke’s Smokey fate.
Don’t tell him what he can’t do
Locke doesn’t like to be reminded of his limitations, doesn’t like to entertain the possibility there may be a cap to his potential. In high school, the bully-harassed Locke wanted to be a cool-kid jock. When a teacher encouraged Locke to give up his unrealistic dreams and instead nurture his natural facility with science by attending a summer camp run by Mittelos Biosciences (an off-Island front company for the Others), Locke bellowed: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” To our knowledge, Locke never achieved his alpha male dreams in high school. He grew up dogged by a sense of thwarted destiny, yet possessed with dreamy notions of living a life of adventure. Just like me. Boo-hoo.
The bad father
During his hair-wearing days as a young adult, Locke was sought out by his biological mother Emily (later revealed to have fallen into drug addiction and mental illness; she spent time in Hurley/Libby’s mental hospital) and was told that his biological father, Anthony Cooper, needed him for a kidney transplant. Locke was full of curiosity about his parents and full of yearning for familial connection, especially with his father, and agreed to consider the request. Locke and Cooper bonded through a variety of activities, especially hunting. Yet once Cooper got the kidney, he abandoned Locke all over again. A heartbroken Locke subsequently learned that Cooper was a career con man that didn’t give a whit about having a relationship with his adult son — he was just exploiting him to save his life. (Shades of: Locke being seduced and used up by what Locke deemed “The Island,” but was actually Smokey.) So was born Locke’s unhealthy obsession with seeking answers, apology and, despite everything, a legit relationship with his father.
Locke’s true love, a certifiable soul mate. They met cute — and complicated — at an anger management support group. After a session in which Locke (ironically) blew his stack, Helen chased after him and told him she dug bald men. Romance enused. But Locke’s obsession with his father scared her, and she told Locke that they couldn’t be together if he couldn’t let go of it. Locke was planning to propose to Helen when he got sucked into Cooper’s scheme to fake his death and disappear. Helen discovered Locke’s betrayal and rejected his offer of marriage. (Later, during his bid to bring the Oceanic 6 back to The Island, Locke learned that Helen had died of a brain anuerysm.)
Spiritually destroyed by his father fixation, Locke got a visit from the son of a wealthy widow who had become engaged to Anthony Cooper. The son was concerned that Cooper (who was actually going by another name) might be scamming his mother. Locke didn’t want to get involved, but changed his mind when the son died under suspicious circumstances. Did Cooper kill the young man? Locke was wracked with guilt over the possibility. Yearning for redemption, Locke threatened Cooper with exposure. Cooper responded by pushing Locke from an eighth-floor window. All things considered, Locke should have died from the fall. But he survived, possibly because of the mysterious, supernatural Island entity Jacob, who was present at that moment and gave Locke a (healing?) touch. Not that Locke walked away — not literally, at least. As a result of the fall, Locke lost the use of his legs. For roughly four years prior to the crash of Oceanic 815, he was in a wheelchair. But The Island mysteriously healed him.
The box company
Locke worked for a Tustin, Calif.-based box company prior to the crash of Oceanic 815. The company was one of the many investments of Lotto winner Hurley. Locke’s boss was a power-trippy young punk named Randy. As this sneak peek of tonight’s episode reveals, Randy will pop up in John Locke’s flash-sideways story — and he’s still every bit a knob.
Locke loves playing them. Operation. Chess. Backgammon. During his days at the box company, he played the military strategy game Axis and Allies during his lunchbreak with his colleague/friend Warren, who called him “the colonel.” At an earlier point in his life, Locke worked at a toy store and expressed his love since childhood for Mouse Trap. The way he described the game now plays like foreshadowing of his fate as victim-pawn of Island entity the Man In Black. “Well, you start with all these parts off the board. And then, one by one, you build the trap — shoe, bucket, tub — piece by piece, it all comes together. And then you wait ’til your opponent lands here on the old cheese wheel. And then if you set it up just right, you spring the trap.”
Wheelchair or no wheelchair, Locke became determined to take an adventure vacation in the Australian outback modeled after an Aborigine rite of passage known as a “walkabout.” Note how Locke described it in the episode of the same name: “A Walkabout is a journey of spiritual renewal, where one derives strength from the earth. And becomes inseparable from it.” Still, it was hard not to see Locke’s Walkabout has an unhealthy inability to make peace with his limitations. His inspiration was Norman Croucher, a double amputee who climbed the Matterhorn (although in the episode “Walkabout,” Locke said Croucher climbed Mt. Everest). Locke attributed Croucher’s success to destiny. When Jerk Boss Randy tried to dump cold water on his dreams, Locke responded with his loaded retort: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Locke found himself bellowing the phrase when he finally got to Australia — and the walkabout tour operators refused to let him go because of his disability.
Upon crashing on The Island, Locke realized he could miraculously walk again. After an encounter with The Monster, which he actually described as “beautiful” (so ironic, given how the Monster ultimately assumed his visage), Locke believed it was his destiny was to be on The Island, doing … something. He came to believe that his purpose was to replace Ben Linus as the leader of The Others, but he failed their initial test: killing his father, whom the Others had abducted and brought to The Island. Locke couldn’t bring himself to commit patricide. However, after learning that Cooper was the same con man who had swindled Sawyer’s parents, precipitating their murder-suicide and setting Sawyer on his lifelong vengeance quest, Locke fetched Sawyer from the beach and led him through the jungle to the Black Rock and locked him in the ship’s brig with Cooper. Sawyer was initially perplexed and irate, but eventually figured out Cooper’s significance and killed him.
Jacob and the Man In Black
Having proven himself to The Others, Locke demanded that he be able to meet their only-mentioned, never-seen leader Jacob. Ben took Locke to a derelict cabin in the woods where Locke encountered a flickering ghost whispering “Help me….” From that moment forward, Locke became convinced that he was supposed to glean Jacob’s wishes and carry out his will. Doing so led Locke to two different encounters with the ghost of Jack’s father, Christian Shephard, who instructed Locke (allegedly at Jacob’s behest?) to save The Island and his friends from peril by turning a mystical “donkey wheel.” The first time, Ben asked to do the deed instead and Locke agreed. The second time, Locke cranked the wheel and was teleported off The Island. Back in “the real world,” Locke was once again a man whose legs didn’t work, and his bid to bring various Island escapees back, supported by former Others leader Charles Widmore, ended in failure. Despairing over the apparent pointlessness of his Jacob-given destiny, Locke decided to kill himself, but was interrupted by Ben … who then killed him after learning some crucial intel. Given that Locke’s murder set in motion the chain of events that would allow Jacob’s bitter rival, the Man In Black, a.k.a. The Monster, to fake Locke’s resurrection and assume his identity, it is pretty safe to conclude that Smokey had been manipulating Locke’s Island adventure since their eye-to-“beautiful” eye meeting in season 1. Moreover, we must also wonder if perhaps Ghost Christian has been Smokey or Smokey-controlled all along.
Throughout Lost, Locke has been positioned as the “man of faith.” All his life, he believed — or wanted to believe — that he had a special purpose that he had either missed or not yet recognized. He came to believe that he was brought to The Island for a reason — to enjoy it; to protect it; to achieve some cosmic destiny upon it. So many viewers have been deeply moved by his journey, especially those who recognize their own struggles with faith in his story. For those same people, though, Locke’s story took a dark, even unsatisfying turn last season when Locke was murdered and his faith in The Island proven to be either downright foolish or grossly manipulated by a seemingly evil supernatural force. Many of those same fans cling to the hope that we haven’t seen the last of this John Locke, that perhaps The Island has two more miracles left for him: resurrection and redemption. Time will tell.
And so concludes my maybe-relevant, maybe-not primer on John Locke for tonight’s episode. But today’s Lost coverage is far from over. Join me later this afternoon for another meaty Doc Jensen Popwatch, in which I’ll also bring you an interview with the Fine brothers, the makers of those very clever Lost action figure parody videos. You might remember that a couple weeks ago, I trashed their most recent work, a snarky musical rant about Lost’s many unanswered questions — and the brothers’ apparent lack of faith in the show’s ability to answer them. Well, the boys asked for a chance to offer their perspective on the matter, and I realized that would be the fair thing to do. I e-mailed them some questions, they e-mailed me some responses, and I think you might be interested in what they have to say. To be continued…