Thursday, October 1, 2009


House of the Rising Sun, The Moth, Confidence Man

"All stolen kisses require an accomplice." - Anon.

In the very early days of Lost, romance promised to be its most unsurprising element. Not since the glory days of Dawson's Creek had a central couple been shoved in the audience's face with less finesse. After a mere week Island time, Jack and Kate's schmoopfest was well underway. Already there were scenes like this where Jack and Kate giggle over his manly tattoos

... while Kate appears to be doing something entirely unnecessary, if not wildly inappropriate, down below Jack's waistband. (What is she doing down there, btw?) The writers really beat us over the head with the obvious stick here. Never mind the smoking carnage or the terrifying noises in the mysterious jungle. These two were flirting like a couple of college kids on a camping trip. And just in case anyone didn't get it, they had Charlie helpfully announce, like subtitles, that what we were watching was ... uh, "verbal copulation".

I ask you, in the history of romance writing, has there ever been a clunkier line than that? Does too much verbal copulation lead to a whole bunch of little baby verbs?

Why the rush job with Jack and Kate? That question was irking me the whole time I was rewatching House of the Rising Sun and The Moth. Didn't these talented writers realize that there is no such thing as a prefab love story, that romance has to be a slow brew, that they had to tease and charm and woo the audience before we'd slowly start to crave some consummation?

Duh. Of course they did.

The minute Kate strolled down the beach in Confidence Man hauling a load of bulging bananas towards a naked, dripping wet Sawyer, the reason for the earlier rush job was clear.

Lost was not going to force feed us just one predictable love story. They were going to give us a Choice!

And that has made all the difference.

Choice is the idea that hooks these three episodes together.

In House of the Rising Sun, Sun must choose between fleeing or staying with Jin, the husband she has fallen out of love with.

At the same time, the survivors must choose between the wet, buggy womb of the shadowy caves or the macabre ruins on the sunlit beach.

Charlie must choose between making the rest of his life's choices stoned or straight.

Jack must choose between just beating the shit out of Sawyer

or torturing him to within an inch of his life.

Meanwhile Kate, who must have done something good at some time in her godforsaken life, has to choose between just kissing sweaty, bloody Sawyer

... or kissing him like this.

...uh, excuse me if I go off on a few tangents this time around ... but did Kate really have a choice here? When Kate chose to hold the kiss, to open her mouth and melt into it completely, was that Free Will at work there? Can we be sure?

We had been introduced in the very first episode, in bold block letters, to the idea of Fate. But Fate and Free Will don't make a fair fight. Fate is absolute. Either it exists or it doesn't. If it exists, it is unstoppable, irreversible, inescapable. Free Will, at best, is hit or miss. There are definitely limits to what Free Will can do for us. We don't get to choose our parents, for example.

Or where we are born.

We don't get to choose to be born man or woman, rich or poor, big brother or small.

And even when we do make a choice in life, it's not as if we get to choose which consequences we'd prefer.

Just ask all the people who chose to get on Flight 815.

Fate - or Destiny, John Locke's guiding star - is a concept where the future is as fixed and immutable as the past. Because the future can not be changed, it is the future, in essence, that creates the past, forcing the past to be whatever the future needs it to be in order to make Destiny happen as it must. This is a concept that works with what we've seen on Lost, where past, present and future are not fixed points in time, but are always interacting and intersecting. Watching these episodes with the full foreknowledge that we lacked then, we can see Destiny's fingerprints everywhere in the story now, with the unchangeable future switching back to shape and inform the past.

The House of the Rising Sun is the episode that marks the one and only appearance of Lost's famous cave couple, nicknamed (by Locke) Adam and Eve. Darlton hinted in a March 2008 interview that the discovery of Adam and Eve was the first sign that time travel would one day flash into our story.
"And it was sort of those conversations which obviously happened way back in season one when Locke and Boone found the hatch that were the early precursors of time travel. I will say, though, that the first significant event in the show where we were thinking in the back of our minds that this is going to require a story telling element that isn't traditional narrative, is the discovery of Adam and Eve in the caves."

"I don't want to be Eve." - Kate Austen

Time, as many suspected, was an element of the story that was always intended to come into play, and Adam and Eve were the first sign we had of that. Maybe that's the reason why, in the same episode where they made their big cameo, there was this huge beatdown from Jin to Michael

...over a timepiece.

The first time I watched this episode, to be honest, I had NO idea what Jin was freaking out about. But on a rewatch it all makes complete sense. The fight was all over THE watch, the one that would knit together the stories of Michael and Jin. The watch that Jin had been transporting to L.A. for Mr. Paik, the watch that Michael had found on the beach and started to wear....that was the same watch that Jin later returned to Michael as a tribute for building the raft, the same watch that Michael later pawned for the gun that wouldn't let him kill himself

... until he came back to the Island and helped Sun escape so that Jin's spermtacular miracle baby could be born safe and sound back at home. The watch connects the future to the present. And all this despite the fact that, as Michael said, "Time don't mean nothing on a damn island!"

Of course, time means everything on this damn Island. Charlie and Liam were seen horsing around in a churchyard that reminded me...

... of the place where Daniel and Desmond first tried to bend the time space continuum.

And if you think that wasn't meant to be a clue, then how do you explain the scarves?

Come on. Tell me that's just a coincidence!

It's hard to know which clues were planted in the first season because they would become important later, and which ones became important later just because they were introduced in the first season. For example, was Liam's T shirt a clue that animal headed Egyptian gods were going to show up at some pivotal future moment,

or did the writers decide to go with the Egyptian god motif because they remembered when Liam wore that cool shirt?

At the end of Confidence Man, there is a poignant song about reaching for Mother Mary, as the camera watches Sawyer,

who we later learned was the son of a murdered mother...named Mary.

Did they mean us to make that connection? Maybe not, since it was kind of an easy one to fudge. But maybe this was the connection they were going for?

Charlie steps out of confession (after being lectured by the priest within about the value of choice) and walks past a statue of the Virgin Mary, which wouldn't exactly be unusual, except that a Virgin Mary is never just a Virgin Mary on Lost, especially for Charlie.

We didn't have any reason to notice the Virgin Mary when we watched this episode in 2004. It's only on the rewatch that we even realize Mary was there all along. She is not, however, the only religious icon in the game. Adam and Eve, the cave skeletons, became one of the favorite guessing games of truly fanatical Lost fans. It has to be the fanatics who argue about Adam and Eve's identity, because I'm thinking 99% of the normal people who watch Lost have no memory of them at all. But they could be important! In January 2007, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse gave an interview where they said
"When all is said and done, people are going to point to the skeletons and say, ''That is proof that from the very beginning, they always knew that they were going to do this."
After reading something like that, it's impossible not to try and guess who they might be. The most common guess on Adam and Eve's identity is the obvious one. Jack and Kate, naturally.

They found the skeletons, and Kate was the only one who saw that Jack swiped Adam's nifty black and white stones.

So the quickie answer on this one is that the bones belong to Jack and Kate. Someday those two crazy kids will crawl up on shelves on opposite sides of this cave, die and then rot for half a century until the whole loop spins around again and Jack rediscovers the black and white stones he once put into his own pocket. For fans of time loops, not to mention all the fans of necro-romance, this conclusion is a no-brainer. The stones are the giveaway. It all comes down to who has the right kind of stones.

The thing is we haven't seen Jack's stones ever again since that one scene. We don't know where he put them, or if he even kept them. We know that Locke was a big fan of black and white stones. And Juliet had a couple in her Zen rock garden.

But I'm not seeing either one of those as likely suspects. In the Jan. '07 EW interview, Darlton promised that an anagram in the upcoming Feb. 7, 2007 episode would give a clue to the identity of Adam and Eve. That episode, Not in Portland, had a scene where a woman's voice is heard repeating "only fools are enslaved by time and space." And believe it or not, there are people out there who have managed to de-anagram this phrase to uncover this gem: "Bones of Nadlers may lay deep in lost cave."

By George, I think they've got it! It's become a popular guess recently, especially since we last saw Bernard and Rose living in 1977 about to have an atom bomb go off in their vicinity. Did they crawl into the cave with their skin melting off from the bomb's after effects and were never able to crawl out again? Maybe Bernard had those stones because they'd been playing Locke's left behind backgammon game during all those long days in paradise. Or maybe the stones are just a metaphor. The stones are black and white, which fits nicely with Bernard and Rose,

who are ... well, pink and brown.

But, you know, that's close.

Now Adam and Eve are not famous just for being the first man and woman in the Biblical world. They were also the makers of the First Choice. Because they chose to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge, they were driven from eternal paradise into this shitty world we all live in, where we have to work and suffer and bear children in pain. God may have given Free Will to Adam and Eve but the moral of their story is that no one in their right mind should ever try to actually use it.

It's very hard to figure out what the message is exactly regarding Fate and Free Will on Lost. I get the feeling fans don't want this to be a story about Fate, like the only acceptable message should be that spunky little Free Will turns out to be the underdog that triumphs Rocky-style over the big bad fickle finger of Fate. But I'm not convinced that fans will get their wish on this. Of course, it would help if the writers weren't so muted and misleading about the message.

In Season Five's "The Incident", Jacob definitely wants Hurley to get on that plane. But he makes it seem like it all makes him no nevermind. He says "All you have to do is get on that plane. It's your choice, Hugo. You don't have to do anything you don't want to."

And then he leaves Hurley with a magical Charlie Guitar. What kind of choice is that? Of course, Hurley is going to jump on the plane with the Charlie Guitar, so he can fall out of the sky and land on the Island of Mystery,

just like Charlie's magical guitar did the first time.

Once the guitar was presented to Hurley he really didn't have any choice because, being Hurley, an all-knowing stranger leaving him a Charlie Guitar in a taxi pretty much sealed the deal. He behaved the only way Hurley possibly could.

Let's concede, for sake of argument, that our choices are what determines our destiny. Free will at work, right? But what determines how we will choose? Our personal identity. And our circumstances. But we don't get to choose either one of those, do we? What does determine our circumstances and our identity? Could that be something we can call Fate?

In these three episodes, the identities of three characters were revealed to us - Sawyer, Charlie and Sun.

Sun appears as a bird in a gilded prison. We are given a glancing overview of her story with Jin, their sweet, furtive romance that blooms into wedded bliss but then quickly dissolves into angry suspicion and resentment. In the years since, layers and layers have been added on to the spare bones of the Kwon story. Now we see the puppy.

Later we'll see how Jin takes the puppy as a bribe from his terrified shakedown victim. We see the telltale signs of Jin's bloody brutality.

Later we'll see that Jin only has to do that job because Sun sold his soul to her father to save him from the shame of knowing his mother was a whore. We see Sun longing to run away from her marriage. Later we'll learn about all the things she so badly needs to flee. But all we really learn about Sun in this first look at her is that she is not who she pretends to be. The circumstances of her life have made her a graceful mistress of deception.

There are revelations about Sun. She speaks English but pretends not to. She knows the science of herbs and healing.

These are all nice decorative brushstrokes to her characterization, but the years have shown that they mean little to her story. Despite the ornamentation added to her character, in the end Sun remains merely the woman who chose to marry Jin and then chose to stay with him and then chose to return to the Island so she could be with him again. In these early episodes, the reason behind her choice is clear. She is the purebred product of a strict culture where honor is everything, and no matter how frustrated she is with who Jin has become, she doesn't hate him enough to expose him to the loss of honor he'd suffer if she left him. Honor binds Sun to Jin, and choice is almost an irrelevance.


Sun and Jin remind me of the dancers in Rousseau's broken down music box, forever joined, twirling towards their Destiny together.

Jacob's visit only confirmed this for us - that their value to the Island is as a couple. Their individual identities matter very little, and the Destiny we are concerned with is the one they create through their choices to be together . Sun's destiny is Jin, and Jin's destiny is Sun, and if that ends up meaning something bigger to the story, I have to admit, I can't figure out what it will ever be.

But I would like to see it.

Charlie's Identity starts with being born the younger, shorter, far less doable brother. He is a religious boy,

a fact that amuses his brother, who christens him The Rock God. That's the right button to push for Charlie. That's the identity he wishes he could choose, that he would choose, if he had any choice in the matter.

But he doesn't. Charlie's an addict, a lifestyle choice where Free Will can only be described as a cruel joke. Trying to grab a fix, he's punished with a plague of bees.

And it's all downhill from there.

He makes excellent boar bait. And he becomes a rock god alright...when he orders the rocks to cave in and bury Jack alive inside the cave.

On top of all that, Locke decides the time is right for Charlie to be given a teachable moment.

Rather than just let his scag run out, as it inevitably will, Locke encourages Charlie to escape it of his own free choice. Because choosing will make him strong, like the moth who has to fight his way out of his cocoon. It was an odd turn for Locke to take, from being the high priest of Destiny to suddenly preaching about the glories of Free Will. Did he really believe in what he was saying, or did he just want Charlie to believe it? Would it make things easier for Charlie if he thought he chose his Fate, rather than thinking he got steamrolled by the Destiny Express?

Either way, Locke's lesson takes hold. The dutiful Catholic remembers that all he ever wanted to be was useful, a humble servant to a higher power. He plays the hero, and watches others get covered in glory instead.

And that will happen to him again, when his greatest sacrifice barely merits a tear from his "friends" in Season Four.

That is Charlie's Destiny, to be a permanent second fiddle, never the flashy butterfly, always the utilitarian moth. All his choices have only brought him back around to the place he's been ever since he was born as Liam's uncool baby brother.

Sawyer, on the other hand, is all flash.

At least on the glittering surface. Which is all we had seen of him before his fantastic coming out episode, Confidence Man. If the revelation of Locke's cured paralysis was the moment that hooked my brain on Lost, this episode, with its revelation of the shattered child inside the redneck asshole, was the one that stole my heart.

Like everyone else, I had totally bought into the mask of Sawyer.

It made perfect sense that this arrogant, sexist douchebag would have seduced a woman and ruined a family just so he could make off with a few bucks. When he made Kate read the letter aloud, describing the pain that evil Sawyer had inflicted on the innocent child letter writer, I think most of the audience just took it at face value. It sounded exactly like the kind of thing this worthless slimeball probably would have done.

But there was a hitch to it all. Sawyer wasn't just a bad guy, he was apparently a total masochist.

He wanted to be punished. He let Jack beat him without fighting back, and when he thought he was going to stop, he pretty much begged Jack to hit him again.

He was a tortured soul long before the actual torture started.

Rather than just tell Jack he didn't have the medicine, Sawyer submitted to bloodcurdling torture. How sick was Sawyer to let this happen to himself? We may have been lulled into thinking Sawyer was just the pretty boy sideshow, but halfway through this episode, I think everyone had to sit up and take a second look at this dude. He was one seriously disturbed individual. The torture scene in Confidence Man was primal, unforgettable. And it marked the entrance of Josh Holloway as a player in this cast, someone who was going to bring a hell of a lot more to this story than just another pretty face.

There is no character on Lost that is more human than Sawyer. This year it seemed a lot of the audience took a shine to Sawyer, parts of the audience that had never felt the power of Teh Soya before. I think it took fanboys so long to "get" Sawyer because they missed all the cues. He wasn't a mysterious vessel of the Island's power, like Locke, or the obvious alpha dude with the white rabbit daddy, like Jack. He's us. He speaks for the audience and he makes us feel for him. As many have only noticed for the first time this year, Sawyer is the heart of Lost. But it's not like this should be considered news.

We watched the defenses and disguises of the slick con man stripped away. We saw a man deeply shamed and corrosive with self loathing, someone who appeared to be longing, as his crime partner described it, for the blissful relief of sweet death.

But we didn't learn right away the reason for his shame. The evil bad thing we thought he had done was instead an evil bad thing that had been done to him. In one of Lost's greatest shock endings, we realized we'd been the pigeon in a most cleverly constructed con job. We were going to have to care about this guy whether we wanted to or not, because we had seen his heart and his soul laid bare in front of us, in scene after scene in this great episode.

He started as a walking metaphor, part of that black and white distraction the writers were waving in front of us at the beginning of the series. He was the bad one. It looked like Jack was All That Is Good. Jack ran the hero's gamut in these episodes. He directed his own shoulder relocation.

He got hugged by the worshipful young girl.

He healed Sayid's head bump.

He tenderly cradled Boone's face and dressed his pretty wounds.

He talked Shannon off of an air deficit ledge and bought her some breathing room.

He smacked Sawyer around like a peanut bag. With the dislocated shoulder, obviously.

He was pretty much a god by this point in the story.

Sawyer was just there as a foil, the fulfillment of a fanboy's fantasy, where the sexy bad boy gets put in his place every episode, to keep shining up the gleam on the hero's halo. In this episode, that fantasy got popped. Damon Lindelof's commentary on the Season One dvd set shows how deeply he'd worked these characters out.

The lines of Calvinist morality began to blur really fast. I mean, if the bad guy isn't so bad, and the good guy isn't so good, then what was the point of those friggin black and white stones? Those stones they kept waving in our face were the first sleight of hand in this magic show.

Maybe they had a different trick up their sleeve: Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel.

Abel was All That Is Good. But he got killed. By Cain. Who went on to have lots of kids, who multiplied and begat through the eons to become....the human race. I almost wonder if Adam and Eve weren't another mislead, pointing us not to some tricky dicky puzzle answer, but to this drama of brothers instead.

This ancient fable has been nuanced into something totally different in modern interpretations of it. In the movie version of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, All-Good Abel is portrayed as a self righteous tightass, while Cain is

....James Dean. Le Bad Boy Originale. (I hope you're seeing where this is headed.)

Now, aside from being a Commie hater who wouldn't share, Sawyer really hadn't been such a bad boy in the days leading up to the torture. He gave up the laptop battery when asked, for just the price of a "Please". He climbed the tree and set off the signal rocket, even after Kate ditched him. Truth is he was always a pretty civic minded citizen. Sure, he'd taken a page from Ayn Rand's guidebooks and done the hard work of stealing all the natural resources for his own personal profit, but it don't seem right to judge a guy for something as all American as that.

Especially if we're not going to judge a guy for enabling something as reprehensible as this.

When this episode aired, stories of the torture at Abu Ghraib Prison were still surfacing in the American media. The US had opened its own tropical torture chamber at Guantanamo Bay, but the American public had conditioned itself, almost overnight, to accept that torture in the hands of the righteous was somehow magically transformed from something evil to something good. On the TV show 24, torture was almost a feel good thing for audiences. It was entertaining and everybody enjoyed it!

So maybe it's not a surprise that fans greeted Lost's big torture scene as apathetically as they have, even though it was a perfect miniature of the whole moral quandary. We watched as unfounded suspicions were allowed to breed

and violence was encouraged.

Extraordinary rendition of the subject.

The abdication of all moral authority.

And finally the act of inflicting unbearable pain on another human being in order to get them to tell you what you want to hear,

whether they can give you the answers you want or not.

Personally I think that the ethical issues of having a doctor assist in torture, of an innocent man no less, are rather profound. Certainly they were topical at the time Confidence Man aired. However, it's rarely discussed. It's accepted that both Jack and Sayid tortured Sawyer, yet somehow only Sayid had anything to repent. Apparently the Sayid part of the torture was spiritually devastating, but the Jack part was just a stress reaction from the overworked doc.

Not even human torture could dent Jack's halo. At least not in Season One.

By now we're years removed from the facile interpretations of Season One. We know that this isn't a story about the great White Jack and the nasty Black Sawyer. We accept that Lost's moral universe is permanently gray. But what is the importance of the rivalry between Sawyer and Jack? How meaningful was Sawyer's line in The Moth that "we ain't that different"?

By now we've seen Sawyer become a hero a couple of times over, and we've seen Jack hit a couple of bottoms on the rocky road to his destiny. They're not exactly changing places on the moral seesaw.

They're hanging in a kind of balance.

I tried to see what other symbolic clues might have been buried in these episodes about Free Will and the value of making choices. As always, eyes were important.

Sun got the one eye opener of The House of the Rising Sun and Charlie got the slightly less typical two eye opener. When Charlie visited clean and sober Liam in Australia, the brothers were seeing the world through opposite colored glasses.

Drug addicted Charlie was still in the dark, but Liam's vision had been made clear.

There was a minor Bug theme in the first two episodes, but I don't think we can make anything of it.

Bees did appear in Egyptian tombs, and were known as the "tears of Ra", but I think that's a stretch. In Christian allegory a queen bee sometimes represents our old friend the Virgin Mary. And, at the risk of drifting into apophenia, it could be suggested that the bees were a reminder that when Adam and Eve did the bad deed, one of their many, many punishments was to have to inhabit a world where among their many afflictions, obnoxious itchy, stinging bugs would eat them alive for the rest of their lives.

But one of the cleverest, and subtlest, clues in this series of episodes was the number Three.

Charlie confesses to three sins of the flesh.

Locke gives Charlie three chances to quit his drugs.

Each of the three episodes features a major song: Willie Nelson's "Are You Sure" plays over the separation scene at the end of House of the Rising Sun, The Blind Boys of Alabama's "I Shall Not Walk Alone" plays over the closing montage of Confidence Man and of course in The Moth, we heard the Rock God's one hit wonder, that immortal, unsingable classic "You All Everybody".

You all, everybody
Acting like you're stupid people
Wearing your 'spensive clothes
You all, everybody - Drive Shaft
(Just in case you needed a memory refresh.)

There are three Star Wars shoutouts:

In The House of the Rising Sun, Han Sawyer repeats Han Solo's line from the cantina scene, "well, that's the real trick, isn't it?"

In The Moth, Charlie Not-Quite-Skywalker repeats the line from A New Hope when he comes to save Princess Jack, "I'm here to rescue you.".

And in Confidence Man, Hurley fluffs up one of Jack's many heroic mini-feats by calling it a "Jedi moment".

And then there's the whole business that starts in House of the Rising Sun and runs all the way through the reason Sayid wants to torture Sawyer in Confidence Man - the failure to triangulate the signal.

This was the kind of Sayid McGyver moment that abounded in the first season. I certainly never analyzed what the hell he was doing. I just figured it made sense to whoever understands that kind of thing. But it turns out it doesn't actually take three signal points to do what Sayid was trying to do here. It takes two.

Angles are measured from points A and B, to determine the distance d to the target. There's no third measuring point. But, hey, come on. It's not as if this show is being written by rocket scientists.

Seriously, I'm pretty sure someone on the writing staff realized they were using the wrong terminology for what Sayid was trying to do, but they chose to write it like that anyway. There was a reason Sayid's project needed to have Three signal points. Three is a common literary device in Western literature - three wishes, three witches, three Gods in the Trinity. But why was Three so important in this story, at this time?

Duh. It's because Triangulation is how you make a Triangle!

And no matter how much the romance hating nerds in the audience may grumble in the nerd corners of the Lost fandom, the Triangle is a story point as big and as baffling and as much a fixture in this story as is the Smoke Monster or the Temple or the big broken foot. You don't go to all the trouble these writers did just to set up an irrelevant diversion. The problem is that we still don't have any idea what importance the triangle could be serving. Even now, after we've watched the triangle become the basis for the most contrived finale plot twist in Lost's illustrious history, the question begs an answer. Why did they do this to us?

Maybe the clues were there back then and we missed them, along with all that Three stuff. Maybe we have to go take another look at Adam and Eve's tale of woe.

In Genesis when Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise, they realized for the first time that they were naked, and it was not a pretty sight.

Genesis 3: 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

But the thing is, you see, before The Fall, when Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden, before they'd screwed the whole thing up, they weren't ashamed to be naked at all. Until Eve ate the forbidden fruit, sex was a good thing!

Genesis 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

From the beginning, Sawyer and Kate's story had an entirely different tone from Jack and Kate's. Where Jack and Kate's story was more like a tv dinner than a tv romance, Sawyer and Kate was a recipe that started from scratch. Theirs was the classic romantic setup - they couldn't stand each other. He was a crude, lewd redneck and she wouldn't give him the time of day.

(Pay no attention to all those penis shaped bananas.)

Jack and Kate were portrayed as longing for one another, when they'd known each other a few days.

We saw him mooning over her mugshot.

We watched Kate dig for Jack like her husband of 20 years was buried beneath the rocks.

We watched them sit shyly at the fireside like an overgrown Kevin and Winnie.

But the one thing we never watched was them getting to know one another. We were just told to accept that they met a few days ago and they just love each other now, mkay?

With Sawyer and Kate all the exploration and discovery happened right in front of us. Kate wanted to know more about Sawyer. What book was he reading? She finds out Sawyer's reading a book ...

... About Bunnies! And not the white rabbit kind either. We all know what bunnies like to do!

Sex was always a part of Sawyer and Kate's story. Jack and Kate were so chaste that Jack couldn't admit to checking out Kate's ass even when she was practically begging him to.

And even though he totally was.

But Sawyer was direct with Kate. He told her flat out what he wanted. He wanted a kiss.

And he wasn't kidding. He wanted it so bad he'd damn near die to get it.

Kate's discoveries about Sawyer are paced throughout the episode.

First she encounters him naked. Completely exposed to her. And she doesn't look away.

Later, she tries to get him to confess to stealing the inhalers. She's convinced herself she understands him. But she insults him when he asks for the kiss, thinking it's a joke, and finds out more about him than she had ever bargained for.

There is intimacy in the angry way Sawyer forces his life story into her hand.

Intimacy in the way she reads his own childish scrawl out loud to him.

And there is intimacy in their kiss some hours later.

No one on the Island is more lost than Sawyer is at the moment Kate finally kneels to kiss him. It's a beautifully shot scene - Lost's first, and still greatest, kiss. The jungle sounds add to the bizarre sultriness of the circumstances. Just as they are about to kiss, a jungle bird calls out, and it's almost like the way a saxophone wails at sexy moments in movies. It's shocking when Sawyer pushes his tongue into her mouth, so carnal.

But it's even more shocking when instead of pulling back horrified and wiping her mouth off, Kate pauses and then dives in for as much as she can get.

Why does she do that? It's not like they're drunk in the backseat of a car. She's soul kissing the creep who won't give up the asthma medicine, even though he is tied to a tree in the jungle of mystery getting tortured by a gen-u-wine Eye-raqi. It's not what you'd call ideal circumstances for a make out session. So why does Kate kiss Sawyer like that?

Will this most-rewound-scene in-Lost-history mean anything in the future of the story? We don't know, but we do know that this is the kiss that woke the sleeping frog, or whatever the fairy tale metaphor would be - the kiss that woke Sawyer out of his spiralling spell and put him back on the road to being human again. And it was Kate who woke him.

She got the truth out of him, in more ways than she'd ever expected.

When the kiss is over, and Sawyer survives the stabbing he takes next (this episode also marked the beginning of one of Lost's most hallowed traditions - Sawyer getting the shit beat out of him), Kate doesn't hate him. In fact, after realizing that he is so fucked up that he just let himself get tortured over something he didn't have, Kate spent time working out more clues about him, discovering all by herself his deepest, darkest secret.

At first Sawyer confesses to Kate, opens up. He's honest and vulnerable.

You can almost see the little boy in him, the one who saw his parents' brains blown out right before his eyes. Then something terrible happens. He sees that Kate feels sorry for him.

Her pity enrages him. He shuts her out again, as quickly as he let her in.

As much as Kate has learned about Sawyer, and it seems like quite a lot at this point, she has barely touched the surface.

The bond they feel as an instinct in this episode won't be processed by either of them for a long time. It's a slow brew we'll get to enjoy throughout the first and second season, because the pacing of Sawyer and Kate's story is done magnificently in these first years.

Sawyer and Kate shared another connection at this point in the story. We saw how John Locke was later inhabited by an alien persona. But Sawyer and Kate had him beat. Long before the story started, they were both old pros at being someone else. Interchangeable identities were nothing new to them.

And talking about interchangeable identities, remember Scott and Steve? They're essential Lost trivia for the true fanatic. This was it - their moment of glory!

Which was Scott and which was Steve? I know some of you out there probably know the answer to that question, but really, does it matter? We can choose whichever we want and it makes no difference at all. Nonetheless, as the survivors adapted, choices continued to be made. Some chose to make the best of a bad situation.

Sun chose to stand up to Jin and finally wear some comfortable clothes.

Sayid chose to take responsibility for his heinous acts, because unlike Jack, he understood that the torture hadn't been Sawyer's choice. It had been theirs.

This was the moment that won over the audience to Sayid, I think. Long before we knew anything much about him, we respected him. He was a little bit evil, but at least he had integrity.

Sawyer chose not to burn his letter.

It might have made a difference if he'd burned it, but then again, probably not. The letter that Jacob made him write couldn't be destroyed with a cigarette lighter. Just the fact that Sawyer was considering burning it was a sign of hope. But the letter still had work to do. The 2009 finale returned to this letter, and its significance has since soared much.

This letter wasn't just the device being used to work out Sawyer's redemptive arc; it was the source of Sawyer's whole vicious circle, the Fateful unchosen act that had landed him, like all the others, on this Island of ever deepening Mystery. The Island where his nemesis would suddenly appear before him, brought there by ... a wishing box. Sawyer made a lot of bad choices to twist his life into the mess he was in, but knowing all that we do now, it's hard to see how Free Will was anything more than a peripheral player in his story.

So that battle continues, and in my opinion it's a toss up where the writers plan to come out on it. Are our characters all puppets being driven uncontrollably, uncomprehendingly, down a path that's been fated and determined for them from the start? Or will this be a quixotic victory for that scrappy and unpredictable little underdog, Free Will, to tumble Fate on its ass and create its own freely chosen outcome?

I'm not putting up any bets on this one.


shar said...

I don't know how you find the time to recap these episodes so well and with screen caps, video, other references, etc.... But I'm glad you do. I really enjoy reading them.

BecauseYouLeft said...

Thanks fish I really enjoyed this one.

The only purpose I can see Jin and Sun's relationship having is the creation of Ji Yeon. After all the island was the one who made sure his sperm finally got their shit together. I think we'll see her and Aaron play a big role in the end.

Anonymous said...

You really are a master. Wonderful job.

Anonymous said...

My favorite review of S1 so far! :)

Anonymous said...

"All stolen kisses require an accomplice" - and wasn't it great to see Kate as a fast learner type of accomplice too! Wouldn't have been a difficult lesson for her since it was magic from the moment their lips met! One reason why Kate kissed Sawyer like that too. I think Fate and subsequently Choice may have had a good hand in it...this kiss certainly led to a bigger story between Sawyer and Kate.

Lots to think about from these eps, as you've demonstrated Fish. Thanks for the witty, fun and educating analysis, it's given me so much more to ponder over when I re-watch this week too.

Anonymous said...

"All stolen kisses require an accomplice"


Great review, Fish, as always. :)

Kyle from Kentucky said...

"But I'm glad you do. I really enjoy reading them. Thanks."

I second that.

HerDoctor said...

You made a mistake. Actually, yo DO need three points to make a triangulation. They do not measure angles at all. Their devices could just measure distances. They need three diferent distances to calculate where the signals come from. Check this picture out:

Anne said...

Thanks Fish for another insightful and enjoyable recap. I am a huge fan of Confidence Man. I think it was an awesome character study. Not just of Sawyer, but also of Jack and Sayid. Locke's manipulation of Sayid was masterful, what a magnificent bastard. The cracks in Jack's 'great upstanding guy' were appearing. And Sayid was looking for a scapegoat for having been brutalized himself.

Sawyer choosing to allow himself to be that was intense.
I always thought it was amazing that Kate stayed so stubborn, really needed to figure this guy out. I loved that she alone realized that he was hiding the tragic truth from her of his story. This guy was drenched so deep in self-loathing they could have made a cologne from it.

The kiss was sizzling, and so naked. I remember thinking this was such a raw, emotionally powerful moment, Sawyer's face there -- anguished, longing for some kind of connection. And in the end they both had one, whether they both bargained for it or not.

The House of the Rising Sun was interesting, I loved gaining more insight into Sun, and her marriage with Jin. Of course, we wouldn't know until much later how Sun herself was responsible for much of what lead to the problems in their marriage. Gotta love the way the writers continually stripped down our first impressions and assumptions and made us reevaluation our perspectives. It's what made and still makes Lost such a compelling show.

The Moth was probably the weakest episode for me of the bunch, but then again I am not a huge fan of Charlie's back stories. I do think it was ironic now, looking back, that he was the unsung hero then and always would be.

I loved that the writers threw in that line about how Sawyer and Jack weren't all that different when it comes down to it. It was rather prophetic in terms of Jack showing his much darker, more douchey side over the seasons, and Sawyer showing that he not only had a heart and could care about people other than himself but could become a real bonafide hero when the need called for it. Great character evolution on both sides, IMO and it was awesome to hear Damon's talk about the writers' intentions there in the DVD commentary clip you linked to.

Anonymous said...

My favorite line: "We watched them sit shyly at the fireside like an overgrown Kevin and Winnie." Awesome job, once again. Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down and arrange them so perfectly.

Bri said...

Amazing, hilarious, and awesome recap, as always. Thank you so much for all the work you do :).

Sabe said...

i love how picked these episodes apart! definitely my favorite review from you yet. i never really noticed just how fast Jate formed an attachment for each other before. you are so right- we never even got to see them become friends! perhaps it is because of that that I dislike the paring so much. I never saw any truth in their foundations, so how could I get on board with their relationship in the later seasons?

SockeRock said...

I agree that Sawyer is the heart of the show.

In a previous post on season one you stated this was Jack's story, but somewhere along the line it seems to have stopped being Jack's story and has become Sawyer's story. Sawyer is really the only character they've consistently developed throughout the last five seasons.

An interesting point to make in your Jack/Locke hypothesis of them ending the show as the new man in black and man in white, it was Sawyer and Locke who were staring at the island in season five, not Jack and Locke.

Sawyer and Locke's connection goes far deeper than Jack and Locke's surface connection.

It was Locke's father who conned Sawyer's mother out of his father's money that lead to the murder/suicide and years later it was Locke who conned Sawyer into killing Cooper for him. It also should be noted the bizarre similarity in the way Cooper and Locke died.

I also found it interesting that Sawyer was going to leave the island because of Juliet and Juliet conveniently gets a chain that wrapped around her ankles and she gets dragged down in a hole where she can detonate the bomb that wouldn't have gone off without her banging on it. Also, it was interesting that Phil was about to kill Sawyer and suddenly got killed by flying debris.

If Jack has managed to reset things, will the island really let Sawyer go? He's tried to leave three times and he's been stopped.

Kyle from Kentucky said...

come on fish give me another recap! I'm gettin on here 4x a day lookin for it. I'm sure your busy and its hard but I miss em.

Anonymous said...

Good point about how some viewers seem to desperately want free will to prevail. It explains why there's been so many heated discussions over "Whatever Happened, Happened."

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