'Lost' (recap) mystery solved! Your missing Jack/Richard/Black Rock analysis!
All day long, I’ve been getting curious emails and tweets from readers of our weekly Lost recaps blasting me with Black Rock dynamite for not discussing a pretty monumental moment in last night’s episode: Jack and Richard’s discussion of Jacob’s magical touching and supernatural gifts in the dark belly of the Black Rock slave ship. Honestly, I ignored the first few dozen of these emails. Whaddya mean? I wrote 1500 words about all this! But after getting another raft of critical emails, I checked out the recap and made a discovery that made me want to blow my own bad self up: Somehow, my Black Rock “analysis” (if you can call what I do “analysis”) wasn’t there! I apologize and blame myself. I write and submit various drafts of the recap during the night, and amid the confusion I create, this section slipped through the cracks. I AM A HORRIBLE PERSON AND I HAVE LET YOU DOWN. Will you still take me into your camp? Please? I’ll even bunk with Ben! I can sleep with danger. Honest!
Anyway: here’s the missing section of my recap. I included some sections that did make it in the recap that was posted for the sake of narrative “clarity,” a word I use lightly, and with a smirk.
This Island Earth!
The Hurt Locker
“It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.”
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
“I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could have been out for tricks or treats. Halloween is over, and I missed it! You blockhead. You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle. I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks or treats. And it was all your fault. I’ll sue! What a fool I was! I could have had candy apples and gum and cookies and money and all sorts of things, but no, I had to listen to you. You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year. And I missed it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead. YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!” — Sally Brown to Linus Van Pelt, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
JACK, HURLEY AND RICHARD
Everything about this arc seemed loaded with meaning. Hurley waking up in the field of flowers reminded me of the poppy sequence in The Wizard of Oz. Jack wanting to get moving toward whatever destiny awaited him while Hurley wanting to eat first—reminders that Hurley is gripped by hunger when he’s anxious and Jack defers food until his deeper yearnings are sated. They then fought over the right path back to The Temple. Hurley was either going to take the long way or the wrong way, while Jack wanted to go directly back the way they came. It was hard to hear the line and not think Lost was saying something about its two-track, parallel world structure. Then Richard showed up and offered a third path. Jack followed. When Hurley asked if Richard could be trusted, Jack said, “At least he’s not stallin’.” It was another wink at the audience in an episode full of them. Combined with the line about Napoleon’s Elba being the place where “everything became clear,” I wondered if Lost was addressing anyone griping about the pace of “answers” and saying, Don’t worry. Trust us. Okay?
Ironically, then, Richard’s path ended with… a lie. He took them to the Black Rock, which was not where he said was taking them, although it was where we’ve been wanting Alpert to go for a couple years now as we’ve wondered if the ageless Others came to The Island via the slave ship. (Another reading of Richard’s third way as a metaphor for Lost’s storytelling: We won’t lead you astray, but we’re not going the way you expect. We’ll be doing this “answer” thing our way. ‘Kay?) [MISSING SECTION BEGINS… NOW!]
Richard stormed into the bowels of the Black Rock and into its proverbial “hurt locker”—the place where military folk keep their explosives. The term “hurt locker” also refers to any place or situation where the soldier feels fundamentally unsafe. Both terms applied to Richard. He was profoundly betrayed by Jacob’s death, scared out of his eyelashes by Smokey, and just a massive existential mess in general. He wanted out—and by “out,” I mean he wanted Jack to blow him up with dynamite because he couldn’t do the deed himself. He explained as he stripped some fuse. He seemed to strongly imply that yes indeedy, came to The Island via the Black Rock (but watch Lost go and later feed us a twist there). Regardless, Richard said he hadn’t visited since the day he arrived. He said Jacob had touched him and given him a gift, a supernaturally long life span. Now, Richard felt it was a curse. He said it was more “complicated” than all that; I look forward to the backstory. Of course, we know that Jacob had also touched his six candidates (plus Ben), and so we must wonder if they, too, have been similarly imbued with long life. Might different people get different gifts? Maybe. But if you’re speculating that Hurley’s ability to see dead people is Jacob’s gift to him, remember: Hurley started seeing dead people before Jacob touched him; that event occurred the same day he boarded Ajira 316, making Hurley the most recent of Jacob’s touches. (Presumably, then, we can’t attribute Hurley’s Numbers’ accursedness to Jacob’s touching, either.)
My theory? Getting touched by Jacob bestows you with a purpose, or at least some kind of Jacob-determined utility, and you can’t die of natural causes or by your own hand until you’ve fulfilled your designated function. You can be killed—but suicide is a no-no. There’s no easy out, no giving up in Jacob metaphysics. There may not be any self-damnation, either. Perhaps that’s the compensation for getting your free will taken away in exchange for getting drafted into Jacob’s toolbox: you’re pre-redeemed, absolved of any sins committed under Jacob’s influence. I’m going to put a big asterisk next to that idea; I’m not sure I agree with that, morally or as theory for this fiction. Regardless, let us note that The Island’s denial of self-termination should remind us of: suicidal season 3 Jack, about to jump off a bridge but called away by heroic duty; suicidal season 4 Michael, who couldn’t crash his car because The Island wasn’t through with him yet. (Does this mean that Michael was touched, too? Does that mean that all the candidates that have been touched are now as impervious to natural causes or harm by their own hand as Alpert?)
Listening to Richard’s Jacob lament, I heard some of Sally Brown griping about Linus’ Great Pumpkin: “I’ve devoted my life longer than you can possibly can imagine in service of a man who told me that everything happened for a reason that he had a plan a plan that I was apart of and when the time was right he would share it with me… and now that man is gone. So why do I want to die? Because I just found out my life has no purpose!” DEBATE: Did Richard lose some of mystique by exposing himself as frail and vulnerable—or did he become more complex and interesting? I say the latter. You?
Anyway, Richard needed Doc Shephard to become his Dr. Kevorkian. Jack obliged and lit the fuse on the dynamite—but then sat down and announced he was going to wait out the non-explosion, because he was convinced neither of them would die. I thought: No, Richard could die, but Jack’s presence will protect both of them. It reminded me of season 2, when Jack dared Ben not to press The Button. But it really reminded me of the recent episode in which Jack swallowed the poison pill and said, “Let’s see how far trust gets us.”
Pretty far, it turned out. Jack was right. The fuse fizzled. Was he also right in his conviction that Jacob had brought both of them to The Island to fulfill a purpose? Was he right to assume that while Jacob was gone and his meaning still hard to glean, his grand purposes are still playing out? Regardless, Alpert bought it. Jack’s words brought comfort to him, and I wonder if he saw even more in Jack—like, say, the very purpose they are on The Island. It’s Jerry Maguire theory: they all complete each other, heal each other.
But I remain suspicious of Jack. When we last saw him, he was furious over the Lighthouse revelations. Now, after a long gaze out over the beach, it seemed Jack had thought over a few things and was totally activated to chase after all of the Island’s magic white rabbits — whether they look like his father or wear eyeliner — and see where they lead. Does Jack want to know Jacob’s purpose so he can faithfully fulfill it… or so he can angrily subvert it? He crackles with so much crazy mania, it’s hard to know if he’s a true believer or a great deceiver. Is it possible the title of the episode hints at an even more provocative possibility: that Ben, a.k.a. ”Dr. Linus,” has replaced Dr. Shephard as the story’s hero, while Jack has replaced Ben as its villain? Consider that sentimental slow-mo reunion sequence that ended the episode. We saw everyone in their huts and tents — including Miles, inspecting the diamonds he purloined from Nikki and Paulo’s grave (all $8 million of it? No going dutch on coffee with him!) — as Jack, Hurley and Richard approached. This moment was staged to deliberately echo the scene from the season 3 episode ”One Of Us,” when Jack, Kate, and Sayid returned from New Otherton, bringing Juliet with them. When the beach crew saw her, the happy-huggy moment abruptly ended, and everyone gave her the stink-eye (especially, ironically, Sawyer) — just like Jack and Ben traded suspicious looks in last night’s episode. We learned at the very end of ”One Of Us” that newbie Juliet was indeed shady; she had been sent by Ben to spy on the camp. (The moment was mirrored, I think, by having ”Dr. Linus” end with Widmore’s submarine spying on the castaways.)
Why might Jack be so angry? Oh, I don’t know. The same reason Sally Brown was so angry after spending all night in a pumpkin patch with Linus Van Pelt waiting for transcendent revelation to arrive. This Island thing — Jacob, Ben, everything — has made a big mess of his life, and he wants someone to take responsibility for it. He wants payback. Sally’s cry is his cry: ”YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!”
Of course, back in season 3, Juliet and Jack were nurturing heroic double-crosses. Still, at this point in the season, I’m looking inside Jack’s heart, and wondering which way his scales are tilting. Will he be replacing Jacob by season’s end… or Smokey?
BONG! I’m forgetting bunches I’m sure. More thoughts and theories to come over the next few days on Twitter (@ewdocjensen) and next week in my Doc Jensen column. Email? Why yes I do! firstname.lastname@example.org The floor is now yours.