Saturday, March 21, 2009

DHARMATOPIA


Utopia is a little like camp or college or buying into a timeshare.



It always looks so much better in the brochure.



"Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment" - Buckminster Fuller

The blissful oblivion of the utopian Dharma Initiative had a lot going for it. It's easy to see why Sawyer had decided to just ride this con as far as he could take it before it crashed. The DI had a groovy green economy. A very small carbon footprint.



All the cars were cheery blue and probably ran on salad oil. Everybody worked, but nobody worked too hard. The jail even had a nice Mayberry RFD feel to it, where Barney let Opie in to bring the prisoner a sandwich from Aunt Bea.



Just a magically serene and cheerfully safe place to enjoy the paradise of human existence.



But things are seldom as they seem, especially in utopia. All the creepy Stephen Kingly undercurrents are still being concealed, though some just barely. Bit by bit, they are being revealed. We finally met the beautiful mind of Radzinsky.



Some people might not remember Radzinsky. So far, we've only heard him referenced by name. Radzinsky was a Dharma Intitiative acolyte who escaped the Purge and ended up trapped in the 108 Minute squirrel cage with Kelvin, Desmond's old cellmate at the Swan.



He painted the famous Blast Door Map from his photographic memory.



Radzinsky ended up as a grease spot on the Swan's domed ceiling when he blew his brains out inside the tomb he had personally designed for himself.



"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims." - Buckminster Fuller

The post war ideas of Buckminster Fuller experienced a popular renaissance in the 1970s. Bucky didn't think Utopia was a stupid goal. He thought it was an essential one.



Essential or not, true social utopia has always eluded humanity's grasp. There are always problems. For instance, even the shiniest utopia rapidly breeds its own class of snotty, unpleasant bureaucrats.



Conformity is a must.



And the longterm success rate of such social experiments is not all that good.



Aside from the All Fall Down ending, the bright, yellow DI village shared many traits with the famous 1970s utopia known as Jonestown, Guyana.

The remote island location, the troolie cottages,



the welcome signs,



the lone radio tower,



the uniformity of purpose, the sense of community all bound together through the force of the charismatic leader's cult of personality.



But the DI didn't seem to have a charismatic leader. They had this guy.



About whom we still know very little. It seemed Pierre Chang was the spearhead of the Big Dig to unearth the axis of timespace, but how exactly did he convince all these mooks to become drones in his commune, to allow themselves to be brought drugged to a place that was known to be threatened by people called "Hostiles"? With the luxury of hindsight, we know that Dr. Chang's Dharmatopian dream was destroyed by genocide. We know he was eventually undone by the far more charismatic leader who lurked in the magical forests. And we know that cute little bunny loving Ben was already in the process of uncreating Pierre Chang's brave new world when our story picked up in 1977.



And bonus! We got to see where the Others came by their hospitable tradition of delivering custom made sandwiches to prisoners.



Cultists and utopians alike are seeking the kind of absolute security that reality constantly conspires to destroy. One of the first things to crack in our story is likely to be the absolute safety of Juliet's daydream with Sawyer. Juliet has never left her spy life completely behind. She may be the perfect temporary utopian wife, but she also is clearly used to keeping tabs on sweet baby James.



And I can really feel for her. It won't be fun for her in coming weeks. When you've got a guy that's both hot and sweet, and he looks at you like this:



while he's trying to steal your clothes to smuggle his old girlfriend into camp ... and then, while you're inside scrubbing pots and pans, he's out on the porch throwing her longing looks like this:



...Let's be real. There isn't a woman alive who wouldn't be nervous. Kate, whatever one thinks of her, has a power over Sawyer that Juliet knows she can't compete with. And, really, should she try? Jack looked positively giddy to see Juliet and even if he's no Sawyer, he's no Radzinsky either.



Give it some thought, Jules. Maybe you could all get a groovy thing going. It's the Seventies, man. Swing a little.



But seriously, none of this interpersonal stuff is going to be easy for any of them. And it's just as hard for the audience to suss out where the writers are going with it. Like so much of this story, we just have to let it unfold, let it come to us and not try to read too much into anything we see.



"How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else." - Buckminster Fuller



Sawyer has finally found his cosmic niche. Chief of Security. Even though he knows about the purge that's ahead, he's adapted to playing Catcher in the Rye, just trying to keep everyone from falling off the cliff. There's a waterfall of death right around this lazy bend in the river and Sawyer knows he has to jump off at some point. But when and how and who will he be able to bring with him? Not to worry though. The man has a plan. He's going to do something old Bucky Fuller would have greatly approved of. He's got the most un-Jack-assy plan imaginable. He's going to THINK.



"I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe." - Buckminster Fuller



Jack strolled into Sawyer's living room and tried to out-alpha his old adversary ... and he got SERVED. But good.

"I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, 'cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.... But here you are... right back where you started. So I'm gonna go back to reading my book, and I'm gonna think, 'cause that's how I saved your ass today. And that's how I'm gonna save Sayid's tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night's rest. Let me do what I do. ...Now, ain't that a relief?"




Yo, Jack, you chump. Walked right into that one, didn't you? For awhile there it looked like Jack had a lid on things. He took it with good grace that Sawyer had managed a passive aggressive coup by getting Jack assigned to the Mop & Toilet Brigade.



He was doing a piss poor job of keeping it downlow by marching through the village and demanding to speak to the great LaFleur, but it was somewhat understandable. He craved information. He was cool turning down the beer from Neighbor Jim. But he blew it with the condescending remark about bookreading. That gave Sawyer just the opening he needed to pounce. Lest anyone feel sorry for Doctor Daddyissue, there are a few things to keep in mind. Let's remember that Jack abandoned these people. He never tried to get back to them or to uncover their true fate. He didn't even take care of the group that he brought back to Earth, all of whom fell into lives of misery and pain. He only deigned to return, as all the O-sucks did, when their own lives in The Real World fell apart.



Over the same three years, Sawyer did the opposite. He worked tirelessly, methodically, day after day, to seek the return of his friends. And in the meantime, he kept the people who depended on him safe, secure and pretty goddamned happy. So get back, Jack. Sawyer may not have this covered, but only an idiot would bet on you against him right now.



"It is essential to release humanity from the false fixations of yesterday, which seem now to bind it to a rationale of action leading only to extinction."-Buckminster Fuller

None of this is going to be easy. Think of how hard it is for us to just understand this time spazzery, let alone try and find a way to escape it. It raises so many questions. If Charlotte was born in 1979, why was she four years old in 1974?



And if Ethan was born in 1977, why was he 45 in 2001?



If the Purge happened, as has been calculated, in 1992, does that mean Ben already had four year old Alex in his care on the day he killed his father? Speaking of which, why didn't Rousseau ever get run over by any of the cheery blue VW busses and jeeps rumbling all over the Island? And why didn't she ever mention any such weird occurrences when she was freaking out the Season One Losties?

"The Universe consists of non-simultaneously apprehended events." - Buckminster Fuller



Of course time isn't just simultaneous and nonlinear and self referential on Craphole Island. It's also got a bunch of stress fractures in it. When Frank, Ace Pilot, was bringing his bird in for a deft emergency landing, he said "Maybe he thinks lightning won't strike twice". And right at that moment, something struck twice, and the plane passed through a frightening disturbance, not dissimilar to the one Frank's chopper passed through bringing Desmond to the freighter in The Constant.



The island isn't just cruising around in the metaphysical South Pacific. It's also surrounded by some shield of electromagnetic quantum sorcery that sucked four of our happy campers out onto The North Slope, to be rescued by Utopia's very own Sheriff LaFleur, while the rest of them were allowed to slide on through into the Oblivion that the Island has become in present day 2007.



And the King of Oblivia is none other than the great and powerful wizard, Ghost Christian. The scene of Sun and Frank tiptoeing into Christian's tumbleweed town was a little vignette of scary movie tricks. The creaking sign hanging on one hinge.



The sudden light in the window. The mysterious figure silhouetted in the doorway.



The wisp of smoke seen escaping into the wilderness, like a watchdog going out on night patrol.



As always, Christian was creepy but oddly non-frightening. All this time scrabble may be confusing the hell out of us, but he's not ruffled by it at all.



"There are no solids. There are no things. There are only interfering and noninterfering patterns operative in pure principle, and principles are eternal." - Buckminster Fuller



The Processing signs and the pictures on the wall told us that we were in the exact same building where Jack and Kate had just been watching Pierre Chang's Greatest Hits on TV.



But what happened in the meantime? When Richard's Hostiles decimated the DI hippies, Ben became the Lord of the Others, and the Dharma Initiative ceased to exist. Or so one would think. What's up with the signs then? And the pictures on the wall? Were they just there so we dummies in the audience could make the connection, so we could have that The Shining shoutout, where we're shocked to see a familiar face trapped back in time?



Or are we missing the much more salient clue? Is it possible that everything in the Processing Center has been left as is, in a state of arrested decay, from Purge Day until this one? Is it possible that the Others never inhabited Yellow Town after the Purge? I mean, that did happen. We saw it happen. But maybe the point of that scene was to imply that maybe whatever happened....didn't happen. Maybe something happened that changed what happened! Is that what Christian is here to correct? Did whatever happened not happen yet because Sun has yet to make the journey into her consequential past and sequential future? Into her Future-Past?



We need to know how precise they want us to be here. Are we meant to dismiss the pictures on the wall as inconsequential - just assume the Others left them there, along with the Processing signs, for old times sake? Or is it a clue that we should add to our incantations and calibrations? They should realize that we Lost geeks take this stuff seriously! Look here.



It has not escaped the eagle eyes of Lostanauts that a shadowy female figure, possibly blond, possibly Claire, is sitting in a chair over Sun's left shoulder during Christian's meet and greet. I'm on the side that thinks this was a careless production assistant myself, but that's why they have to be so very careful! They should know by now that we are not normal ordinary fans. We need to know the difference between a clue and a screw up. For instance, the Swan insignia on Chang's labcoat at a point in time when Radzinsky had yet to invent it. Clue? Or screwup?



Are we meant to read anything into Radzinsky being a Muppets fan?



Does Jack wearing a lampshade on his head mean he's about to fall off the wagon? Or is that supposed to be a halo?



And I don't think we've even begun to uncover the true mystery of Ethan Rom's origins. Look at him. He's not even human!



Obsessive compulsive attention to detail has its rewards. Having seen Sayid's last (or is it first?) visit to the Flame, when it lived up to its fiery name,



we could understand his total state of dumbfoundery at being held interrogated in the Flame by Jim Sawyer James LaFleur Ford.



And seeing prisoner Sayid being observed by the precociously odd Little Ben



reminded us that in the Future-Past, these two have already gotten to know each other a lot better.



It is hard to believe that Sayid's mind isn't already paddling through one of Time Travel's most classic conundrums. If you went back in Time, and met Hitler as a boy



would it be OK to kill him? The answer, I'm going to jump ahead and guess, would be no. The title of this episode was Namaste, a word that has no translation into Western language or Western thought. In the literal sense, it means "I bow to you" or "The divinity in me honors the divinity in you". It is a statement of harmony, perhaps even of the synergy that Buckminster Fuller spoke of so often. To oversimplify, maybe we could say that this was NAMASTE:



And this was NOT NAMASTE:



NAMASTE.



NOT NAMASTE.



NAMASTE.



NOT NAMASTE.



But words are not needed to express Namaste. It is best spoken with this hand gesture.



The meeting of the two palms represents the union of Spirit with Matter. Of our divine nature with our worldly nature. Of our short life here on Earth with our eternal life in the cosmos. It's heavy, man. The mirage of duality disappears. And with it the concept of Time itself. The Past doesn't always have to march forward into the Future. It's just as intuitive to believe that the Future is creating the Past. Think back to the idea of the Well above the Orchid, when Sawyer was left holding a rope in ancient times...a rope that created the need for a well, rather than the well creating the need for a rope. Another good example is Locke's compass, that Richard gave him for the first time in a Future Past before Locke gave Richard the compass for the first time. The compass with no original owner.



It's becoming clearer how the names ended up on Michael's List. Future Ben was only looking to meet the people he originally met in his Past, which is their Future-Past.



Is there more to this? How about the Numbers? They were heard again being transmitted into Franks cabin on Flight 316, moments before the crash. We've seen where Hurley came to the Island as a lottery winner, only to discover to his horror that those unluckiest lottery numbers were programmed into the Island's technological subconscious. So WHO first entered the Numbers into the system? Now that we know Hurley is another visitor to Future-Past, isn't it entirely possible that Hurley freaked himself out by finding the Numbers that he himself had hidden all over the place like Easter Eggs?



And there's the dossiers that the Others had on our 815 friends. Juliet seemed to know the most intimate details of Jack's marriage and Richard knew that Anthony Cooper was not only Locke's bad dad, but the very person that Sawyer had been looking for when he killed the innocent man...in an unwitnessed crime. It's always been a mystery to me how all these secrets ended up in Ben's files. Is it possible that Juliet learned them from Ben and now, back in the Future-Past, it will be Juliet herself who provides this information, whether willfully or accidentally, to Ben or Richard. In other words, Juliet will be teaching Ben the secret information that Ben will later teach Juliet so that she can jump back into Future-Past and teach Ben. The information originates nowhere.



"Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it."-Buckminster Fuller

If this is where the story is headed, to a series of loops repeatedly cycling through Time, then how will any of our characters ever escape? It's hard to see how any of our fragile players can ever have an impact on something as mighty and metaphysical as the merciless Timespace Continuum. But it's interesting to see what the poet of this piece chose to have engraved on his tombstone.



Trimtab? Why did Buckminster Fuller want to be remembered as a diet pill? He explained:

"Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary -- the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.... Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go."


For Bucky, the difference between Utopia and Oblivion all rested on the shoulders of one little person. Any one little person. So, maybe we should be looking for the Trimtab. The little piece of humanity that's going to right the sinking ship of Time. Is it the old standby, typical hero man?



Many would probably vote for time-wonking wild card, Desmond.



The Chief of Security has shown himself willing to do whatever it takes.



Locke would have been my guess, but I'm not sure if being Undead is a disqualifier for Trimtab status.



Maybe it makes sense that something as humble as a Trimtab would come disguised looking like this.



But it's not time for the real Trimtab to stand up yet.



It's still anybody's game.

14 comments:

Kyle From Kentucky said...

It's scary how closely our thoughts/feelings/ideas are aligned about this show. I thought of Michaels list too.

If Sayid's character story is flaming out now, I will be pissed off to no end. Brilliant on island, trying to get off it all the time, finally gets off it, Nadia murdered, Insane back on island...dead??

Horrible story. He needs to be redeemed completely.

Kia said...

LOVE THIS POST!

I have anxiety about Sun getting back to Jin, and now Sayid in danger!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

Didn't someone (Pickett?) say in Season 3 that Jack wasn't originally on Jacob's list?

JGray said...

Great Post! I always look forward to the wait as I have recently found your post and enjoy reading it. I'm glad to see that someone else is bothered by Ethan's age.

I never thought of the Jonestown/Dharmaville connections, but as far as we know...Ben didn't drink the koolaid.

Should Sayid kill little Ben or not? Deep moral question.

I was also glad to see Jack eat some humble pie.

Anonymous said...

When Sawyer bent Jack over and promptly kicked him to the curb I was the happiest I have ever been watching this show!!

Georgia said...

I'm so freaking glad I stumbled upon your blog. Such well thought out theories. I'm really impressed! I go to a Lost Pot Luck every week (dorky, I know), and I'm going to forward this on to everyone. Great stuff!

Melkay said...

xI'm sorry Fish, I know of your constant and undying dislike for Doc. Shepherd, but Sawyer's agressive remarks were too much and you know it, you just don't want to asknowledge it. When you say:

"Lest anyone feel sorry for Doctor Daddyissue, there are a few things to keep in mind. Let's remember that Jack abandoned these people. He never tried to get back to them or to uncover their true fate. He didn't even take care of the group that he brought back to Earth, all of whom fell into lives of misery and pain. He only deigned to return, as all the O-sucks did, when their own lives in The Real World fell apart."

"Over the same three years, Sawyer did the opposite. He worked tirelessly, methodically, day after day, to seek the return of his friends. And in the meantime, he kept the people who depended on him safe, secure and pretty goddamned happy. So get back, Jack. Sawyer may not have this covered, but only an idiot would bet on you against him right now."

But that's not very objective, isn't it? I get where you're coming from, I'm an anti-Jaters myself, but when people died on Jack's watch, they didn't died because of him. None. In fact, it was Sawyer once who was threatening Shannon's life with his unwillingness to say the truth. Ever more... Jack not only managed to save Sawyer's life (one of them from the bullet wound he took in the raft, which James himself admitted to be an exercise on death wishing) but also stayed behind in the Hydra station to secure Kate and Sawyer's flight. Was that a reaction? Wasn't he thinking?

I get that Sawyer is uneasy now that his perfect little life in crumbling down, but come on, ain't he being just a little too hypocritical now? Was he thinking when he didn't plan out for the return of the O6? This time around, who came up with the recruits sub idea? He? Wrong, Juliet did. Unlike Jack's, nobody died on his watch, but were the same situations? No, the security itself was mostly provided for the DI. Sayer didn't invent the DI, he didn't build the sonic fence, he didn't establish the Truce. Sawyer may have been good at survival game, but he only had to look after four people, and most of the infrastructure was created. Jack, on the other hand... well, we all know the story.

I'm sorry, but in that conversation, Jack was the bigger man. The one who said it was a relief, with a look of "want to be the leader? my condolences". And Sawyer was completely shaken.

Crystal said...

Dude, awesome recap! The Dharmaville/Jonestown comparisons really had me in a Duh! moment. That never even occured to me until you mentioned it. Good job!

Jesus H Twatbomb esq. said...

thanks for your continued excellence fish, i am a truly dedicated fan. write a book. i'll buy it.

I wondered, since you're so thorough, if you'd be interested in following up on the Winston Churchill props dished out by Sawyer this episode. He is usually regarded as a great man, and he may indeed have read a book a day, and been sober in the morning while others woke up ugly. It's not often reported that in his old age he was quite a famous racist, complaining of the damage done to Britain as it was then by multiculturalism, how he didn't want to see the country ruined by immigration.

I can't support these views, or many others he expounded. The world was different then and tolerance certainly wasn't a trait we demanded in our public figures.

Churchill also had some very interesting points of view on what ought to be done with the "uncivilised savages" of the world, particularly when they got in the way of progress. Well, our progress anyway.

Could it be that Sawyer is going to come the good ol' boy on us and start trying to civilise the savages with the trumpety end of a blunderbuss? They kill babies you know.

keep up the good work.
Jesus H Twatbomb

Anonymous said...

Wow, Fish, that was stellar! I honestly feel that I haven't comprehended an ep until I read your take on it. It's like the last step to watching the episode. Only then do I feel ready for the next one.

The stuff about Buckminster Fuller was fascinating - I wasn't even sure who the guy was. And I loved the Jonestown/Dharma parallels. (I was reading about the Shakers the other night and they also sort of put me in mind of Dharma. Particularly with their chastity issues - they chose not to procreate and thus died out, while the people in Otherville later became incapable of having babies.)

I loved your thoughts on Sawyer/Juliet's relationship and Kate's impact on it. It's so nice to have an unabashedly Skater recapper who is still taken seriously by non-shippers.

And so many parts of this recap made me laugh out loud... in partcular the manips of Hitler Ben and the Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice manip... sheer genius! But the four of them look oddly appropriate in that bed together, so please try not to give TPTB any ideas. I was also LMAO at the doll pic and your commentary that Ethan's "not even human."

It's true that they're either geniuses who hide clues everywhere, or have gotten quite lazy with some stuff (like the doll, for instance.) I'd like to know how much of it is intended and how much is just accidental. Thanks for pointing some of that out.

And my favorite part of all... your take on the Jack/Sawyer scene. You're certainly not the only blogger who loved it (almost everyone did), but you summed it up in the best way, I think. Dr. Daddyissues got his ass handed to him, and everyone knows it.


Leah Kate

Anonymous said...

Your recaps are always a blast to read, even though I don't agree with everything you write. You raise so many points and issues that I always miss, and for that I thank you!

And you're the only reviewer/recapper so far that I've seen that actually acknowledges that Sawyer is partially, if not mostly, to blame for Juliet's insecurities and any possible future problems with Suliet, what with his shameless flirting with Kate at the reception area and making mooney eyes at her on the porch, and I commend you for it. Too many people simply go with the rest of the herd and put all the blame on Kate, and so far she's behaved herself.

flaknitter01 said...

Hadn't looked at the recap again since Monday morning, and mainly because I didn't like the picture of Sawyer in Juliet's closet? Why? Because it spoke one horrid, salient phrase: "I'm busted." Damn. I really don't want Sawyer to still be after Kate. I am really happy being a Julawyer...

But then I thought about the next point you made, Fish, when you quoted BF: "How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else." And then I was happy again. And I didn't think of Sawyer as busted stealing his girlfriend's clothes for the ingrate...

Perplexed about this recap, and the more I think about it, the more I can feel the gray hairs growing in...

Buy Viagra online said...

I'm always wondering why the universe keeps creating spheres in every creation, been a supernova, galaxy, planet, star, an atom, etc. It is always a sphere, maybe we should pay attention to the sacred geometry that the ancient cultures use.

The Rush Blog said...

"I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, 'cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.... But here you are... right back where you started. So I'm gonna go back to reading my book, and I'm gonna think, 'cause that's how I saved your ass today. And that's how I'm gonna save Sayid's tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night's rest. Let me do what I do. ...Now, ain't that a relief?"


I realize that you disliked Jack a lot. But, my God! Couldn't you sense the bullshit coming from Sawyer's mouth? I can't believe he actually had the nerve to compare himself to Churchill. He didn't save Jack, Hurley and Kate. He merely drew them into the lie he had been generating for three years in order to maintain his Dharmaland fantasy. Mind you, they are guilty of accepting his suggestion that they become part of DHARMA.

Still, Sawyer's speech only reminded me that after three years, he still harbored insecurities when it came to Jack . . . to the point that he had to compare their leadership styles.

And by the way, he didn't save Sayid's ass.