Saturday, February 27, 2010


"I, your glass,
Will modestly discover to yourself
That of yourself which you yet know not of."
- Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
The mirror does not lie. It may play a few tricks here and there, but it cannot hide the truth. The mirror forces us to look at ourselves, all our warts and zits and wrinkles and scars.

It was very odd that OtherJack didn't seem to recognize his own appendectomy scar, the one his Mom told him he'd gotten when he was 7 or 8. Not remembering a 30 year old scar seems downright inexplicable. I suppose it's possible that he only just noticed it after a fresh chest wax.

Or maybe he didn't remember that scar because he didn't used to have it. Maybe when he looked at himself in the mirror, his parallel mind tilted just a little and was reflecting back that time on the Island when Dr. Juliet yanked his appendix out by flashlight on Craphole Beach. You may remember that scene, how he tried to micromanage his own surgery by watching it in ... a mirror! It was the apex of Jack's lifetime achievement as crazy ass control freak.

So did the scar in the mirror trip Jack's consciousness upside down? Was he having one of those bleedthrough incidents, like he seemed to have on the plane with Desmond?

One of those weird brain farty feelings where his parallel Jackness was sending a secret coded message to his OtherJackness?

Mirrors have been used throughout history as a way to send messages.

When Jacob wanted to signal Jack about the next course correction he needed to take on his Hero's Journey, he sent him to the top of a Lighthouse.

There Jack and Hurley found the mirrors and firepit that a primitive lighthouse would have used to make a beacon. There was also a dial to position the mirrors, with each degree carefully printed with the name of one of the 360 potential Candidates.

Lighthouses are used as navigational aids, to help sailors find the harbor, or to warn them away from deadly hazards. But the mirrors in this Lighthouse, as befits a magical Island, did more than just reflect firelight. Just as OtherJack felt an Island memory when he saw his scar, the Lighthouse mirrors gave him a reflected vision of his childhood home.

The same home we saw him visiting in OtherLOST.

The mirrors in the parallel universes almost seem to be sending semaphore across the great interdimensional divide.

This 108th episode of LOST, happening in the fifth hour of the grand finale season, was a Jackback, just like the fifth hour of the pilot season of LOST. But it wasn't just one Jackback. It was like a kaleidoscope of Jackbackery. Mirrors were more than props. The symmetry of mirrors kept creating little jagged edges of memory, with parallel storylines reflecting onto past storylines in ever more unpredictable patterns.

In Season One's White Rabbit, Jack chased his father through the jungle.

In a cave filled with death he found the water of life. He also found his father's casket - empty.

In Lighthouse, Jack and Hurley rediscover the caves, still lined with rotty skeletons, and the empty grave is still there, still empty. Just the way it was after Jack finished bashing it to pieces.

Meanwhile, over on OtherLOST, Christian's body is still missing. Jack and his mother have a meeting in Christian's rich leather coated, booklined study, searching for the dead man's Will.

In White Rabbit, Mama Shephard confronted Jack in that same study.

She ordered him to Australia to retrieve the body that, ever since, no one has been able to keep track of.

Once upon a time, Christian Shephard was an evil figure in the lore of LOST. When first we met him, he was screwing with his kid's head in a most unforgivable way. I have never quite been able to decipher the looking glass advice that Christian gave to little Jack back in White Rabbit.

This is the same study where Dr. Shephard issued his famously cruel diagnosis of his son. Jack would never forget that, according to Dad, he didn't, and never would, "have what it takes".

Christian's verdict was made cloudy by the jabberwocky he added about Jack not being able to fail because he'd be a total failure at failing. He didn't have what it takes to fail - that was the gist of his very helpful lecture to Jack way back when. I think there's a way to see that as a kind of mirror image pep talk. Maybe Doc Shephard was telling Jack that he was doomed to succeed because he didn't have the ability to fail. Could that be it? Did Jack just need to take his father's advice and look at it upside down and backwards in a mirror to see that it was really a form of motivational encouragement?

In any case, it seems less of an issue in OtherLOST. Christian's bones are still missing, but his spirit lives on - rather happily, it seems. He's not a skeery ghost in OtherLOST. He's just a friendly face shining out from pictures on shelves in the home of his beloved son.

As has been the pattern, everything in OtherLOST is just a little bit nicer, a little bit easier, a little bit less mentally ill. OtherJack doesn't seem to have hated his dad at all. His mom is kind and helpful, not shrewish and accusing. She compliments him on not following her down the road to alcoholism.

Aside from the fresh coat of paint, though, it's not all that different in OtherJack's world.

His ride of choice is still a tan Bronco. He's still obviously a very successful spinal surgeon, with super deluxe accommodations overlooking Hollywood's hills.

It's a faithful mirror image of the life Jack had before, just a little bit prettier and cleaner. There is, however, one big difference. Instead of a surly disapproving father, in OtherLOST, Jack's the proud owner of a surly disapproving son!

And instead of chasing the ghost of his runaway father through a tropical jungle, OtherJack is running around looking for the son who doesn't want to be found.

The mirror of OtherLOST has created a symmetry that's so perfectly fitting it's a wonder none of us ever predicted it. OtherJack isn't just a child of a parent. He's at the focal point of the mirror now. He's a parent to a child as well. He gets to experience the fun and games from both sides of the great mirror of human reproduction.

LOST is a story of many themes, but no theme is more central than the great Curse of the Daddy Issue. Father begets Son, who fights - and, on LOST, often kills - the Father, in order to become the man he's meant to be. Jack has always been on the innocent side of that parallel, but in OtherLOST he gets to jump through the glass and try it on the flipside. The Son who resented the Father becomes the Father whose Son thinks he's a pain in the ass.

The son who is a candidate in a different, but no less heroic, challenge than his father.

It's a tale as old as time, and it's the indispensable lynchpin of every manly monomyth that's ever been told. Not every Hero gets to be father as well as son, but in a mirror story like LOST, it wouldn't make sense for Jack to be one and not the other. See? This OtherLOST does have a point to it! In this mirror world, the line of gifted-yet-crabby Shephard men does not stop with Jack. There is an heir to the House of Shephard.

A brand new Shephard coming on the scene has to have an interesting name, something we can riff on a little. And sure enough, he does. He's David. Namesake to the singer of the Song of David, which is the Psalm that just happens to fall at the Official Number of the Shephard Family: Number 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. - Psalm 23
In the Bible, David was the poor young shepherd that everyone remembers as the barefoot boy who slew the great Goliath with just a bag of rocks and a slingshot. Before he ever got around to that great deed, David was already famous in the royal court because he was a musical prodigy who alone had the talent to calm King Saul's tempers by playing his harp.

Naturally then this new Shephard - David - is also a musician.

But he's not just your average high school Gleek. He's Juilliard bound. And OtherJack, it turns out, has become so disconnected from the life of his only kid that he never even knew it!

Take a minute to think just how much indifference and disinvolvement it would take to not realize your 14 year old son could rip off a Chopin sonata allegro agitato in front of a panel of judges.

What has OtherJack been doing all these years that he knows so little about the life of his son?

We can tell that OtherJack is still a control freak. His very neat apartment looks like a place I'd be afraid to eat pizza in. He keeps David's room as cleanly sterile as a monk's cell. He only sees him once a month.

But in his real home, at Number 233 House, David's real self is spread out all over.

He's not a Boston Red Sox fan, like Jack seems to think. He's from L.A., so he follows the Dodgers ... which you think his Dad would realize.

In his real life, David is messy. He's an artist, not a scientist.

The story of David and Jack follows the pattern we've come to expect already from this brave new world called OtherLOST. David confesses that, just like old school Jack, he was afraid to let his father see him fail. Apparently Jack used to obsess over David's musical gifts and it made the kid self conscious.

Jack realizes that he was freakishly controlling, trying to see his own reflection in his son, rather than just standing back and respecting him for who he is. He has an epiphany and vows to love David forever. Magically, that fixes everything.

They go home to live happily ever after and eat pizza and watch Dodger games together. All problems fixed. OtherLOST is almost as neat and tidy as a sitcom.

Whatever happened in OtherLOST happened so differently that the OtherLosties have all become the kind of people who can solve their own problems. It probably helps that their Other-problems are not nearly as tough. Jack doesn't have to deal with a teenager that's taking drugs or flunking school. Even though Jack has just said no to parenting, the kid seems to be doing fantastic. He does his homework, he plays piano, he wears a tie, he even closes up the cookie bag after he takes his one (!) cookie.

He's almost too good to be true. His mother must have been doing an awesome job with him all those years that Jack couldn't be bothered. It wouldn't be LOST if an episode didn't leave us with a tingly little mystery like this one: Who is David's mom? What wise blue eyed woman has raised such an extraordinary blue eyed boy?

It's the guessing game du jour. I have to confess there really is only one possibility that interests me, and I do think they may have given us a fairly pithy clue. When Jack is poking around Number 233 House, he passes by a mirror flanked by big sunhats.

Now check out the picture below of the Othertown weekly book club discussing Juliet's favorite book Carrie. Note the mirror on the wall. Note the hats.

You thinking what I'm thinking? Granted the parameters of possibility in OtherLOST are still unknown, but I think it would be wicked cool if David's blue eyes were a reflection of Juliet's.

Reflection, after all, is the phenomenon that concerns us most these days. While LOST is a story that draws from many of the world's great books, the mother of all great LOST books is still this one, written by one of literature's greatest mirror aficionados.

We know Jack loves this book. It was the one his Dad read to him, the one he read to Aaron back in Something Nice Back Home.

And in OtherLOST apparently it's the book that represents some lost time in David's childhood, when Jack and he were still a family.

When Jack arrives at his old home, Number 233 House, he looks under a rabbit to find the key.

Jack is the character that chased the White Rabbit in Season One. He's the one who went Through the Looking Glass in Season Three. Jack, let's face it, is the Alice of WonderLOST.

Whenever one travels through the looking glass, the first thing that one notices are all the reversals. Jack reminds David about Alice's kittens, black Kitty and white Snowdrop, who the story turns into the wild and crazy Red and White Queens.

As we would expect in a mirror story like this one, we find other interesting reversals. Kate's number has been found! They decided not to keep us in suspense after all. She is Number 51.

She doesn't get to have one of the magic lottery numbers, but at least she's not crossed out. And, it's also curious that, of all the numbers in all the sundials in all the interdimensional parallelling universes, she gets assigned to the mirror image of Ford's Number: 15.

I like it! I'm sure many will say this is a mere meaningless accident, because hey, it could be. I mean there are only 358 other numbers the writers could have chosen for Kate and Sawyer. I'm sure it means absolutely nothing that they are palindrome reflections of each other. Nothing at all.

With a quick eye, you could find reflections everywhere in this episode.

David's audition piece, Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp minor, is the same piece little Daniel Faraday was playing in The Variable before his tender loving mother shot his piano career dead in its tracks.

I hope they don't plan to carry the reflections out too faithfully, because that would certainly not bode well for David Shephard's prospects in life.

Jack's philosophical talk with Dogen at the Temple is reflected later in their Other-meeting at the concert auditions.

Dogen is the better, wiser father. He is further along the path to enlightenment than Jack is.

Meanwhile, back in Christian Shephard's study, a cleverly placed bottle of McCutcheon's whiskey reminds us that we're still playing puzzles.

At the reading of his Will, we find that some things may have changed, but OtherChristian was still a lousy family man. Even though the OtherShephard family seemed a lot tighter and healthier, Christian still managed to spawn and then abandon an unwanted baby girl on the opposite side of the planet, sometime after 1977, the year of "the incident".

The Shephard sibling connection always seemed a little contrived to me, but in this episode I finally began to see the family resemblance.

Both of Christian Shephard's children have been branded.

Both are surgeons of a sort.

Both of them have some serious anger control issues.

Neither one should be trusted with sharp objects.

And now that we've met David, it turns out that both of them are parents!

Scary Claire is keeping her fetish baby in the little blue bassinet where Amy first kept Ethan.

Everything gets recycled on LOST Island.

In the three years since Claire left her by-bee lying around like lost luggage, we find out that she has gone stark raving bonkers.

And she really, really doesn't take any shit from anyone. To say she's hardcore is putting it mildly.

You can see why Jin is feeling so nervous around her.

I don't know if Stephen King's Misery ever played in Korea, but if it did, you know Jin was thinking of this.

Claire has been taken to the temple and given the torture test treatment. We still don't know what happened to her. Was she hemorrhaging and soon to die the day that Sawyer saved her from the burning house?

Was she saved in the Temple bathwater, the way Sayid was? Did she get claimed? Is she infected?

It's obvious the girl has been through an ordeal. She's regressed into a feral idiot, albeit one who still knows how to sterilize her suturing tools.

And one who remembers the little boy she wanted to read stories to and sing lullabies to about falling stars and wishes.

She is a blond wigged out reflection of the frizzy haired French brunette who used to wander around LOST Island doing creepy things because someone had stolen her baby.

But it's not exactly the same. Rousseau was a true hermit. She seemed to speak to no one. Claire, on the other hand, has A Friend.

The Monster, who probably first appeared to Claire in Christian's form, has become her father figure now. These two, who we saw long ago as a kind of father and daughter - when John made a cradle for Claire's soon to be born baby

- have reconfigured into an unlikely family unit here in the bizarro world of endgame LOST.

Claire, the mother who lost her child, the child who lost her father, is now being led through her final paces by a Monster masquerading as her big ole sugar daddy. It's super creepy.

Meanwhile, her big brother is in some other hidden quadrant of LOST Island being guided by the invisible hand of his unearthly father. While the Man in Locke is tending to his daughter Claire, it looks like Jacob is getting his claws pretty deep into his new favorite son Jack.

Both of the Island's twin gods are manipulative monsters. Just like his brother, Jacob is skilled in the art of using proxies to do his work for him.

Hurley, as we'd expect, has adjusted seamlessly to having suddenly become the uninvited guest of the Freak People.

He is doing what a dude does in such a situation. Play games in the courtyard and make the best of Temple Camp.

But when he goes to find some bug juice in the chow hall, who should be waiting there but Jacob, pondering his pale reflection in the dirtywater pool.

Jacob feigns that he's been disturbed unexpectedly in his prayers.

But we all know Jacob was expecting Hurley. He's been plotting ten moves ahead, like any other chessmaster would do. It turns out that in the moldy catacombs of Jacob's temple home there is a secret hidden door.

Marked with the symbol of the Stargate!

Very clever! One thing LOST was definitely missing was a Stargate. And it explains a lot.

Like how did the Lighthouse from ancient Alexandria suddenly appear on LOST Island?


There needed to be some portal through which the Losties could adventure into a plot generating machine where things like Lighthouses can spring up out of thin air.

Being able to make superstructures suddenly appear on this tiny Island is the only way this puzzle game can keep moving fast enough to get us to the end by May 23.

The Myst comparison works on a couple of levels. I made a guess last week that what we may be watching is a time transcending battle between two brothers trapped on an enchanted Island, dually cursed by the murder of their father, trying to escape by teaching a Stranger to decode the hidden Island secrets. It's as good an explanation as any for the way Jacob was pulling Jack and Hurley's strings throughout this episode.

First he guides Hugo through an ego boosting encounter with Dogen.

"Why don't you go back to the Courtyard?"

Following Jacob's cues, Hurley manages to pwn the Zen master at his own game. Jacob is so skilled a puppeteer that his dolls never even feel him pulling their strings.

Next Jacob feeds Hurley the line that Jack needs to hear. Unlike his mean old Earth Daddy who told Jack he didn't have what it takes, Jack's Heavenly Father has the opposite opinion of him. Being told he does have what it takes works like magic on Jack, and he and his Sancho Panza set out to find some windmills. Or to do whatever Jacob's invisible puppet strings are pulling on them to do.

Whoever's controlling him, Jack's Hero's Journey seems to be right on track. He's pretty much wrapped up the whole Kate thing, or to be more specific about it, he's resisted the Lure of the Temptress.

"The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond the woman, surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond." - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
I guess it's easier to resist the Temptress when she's lost all interest in tempting you. A few stray fans seem not to have noticed this, but Kate isn't Jack's adoring little girlfriend anymore. In any case, it's all obvious to Jack.

Kate has a story of her own. Finally. About damn time.

Having moved beyond the Temptress, the hero's journey next proceeds to the inescapable task of Atonement with the Father. And really, when you come right down to it, what else has Jack's story ever been about?

We learned a lot about Jack in this episode. For one thing, we learned why he came back to the Island. It's been a topic of debate on message boards throughout the run of LOST. What motivates Jack? What makes him act like such a .. Jack?

About midpoint in this episode, he told us. Jack does what he does because no matter what, he is always thinking about Jack. He can't get himself out of his head. The kind of reflection that most interests Jack is self reflection. I don't mean this as a criticism. It's a diagnosis. Jack didn't come back to the Island to save anyone, to help anyone, to get anyone home. He didn't come back to find his sister and reunite her with her long lost son. He didn't come to save the Island. He came to get fixed. He was broken and he wanted the Island to make him well. In one sense, it's a breathtakingly selfish motivation. But it makes perfect sense when you look at how he behaved in the Lighthouse cabin.

Hurley had instructions on his arm ... which, no, you can't read even if you hold a mirror up to it. (Not that I tried or anything.)

Somewhere in there you can see that Jacob has instructed Hurley to turn the compass dial to 1o8 degrees. The ancient smoked mirrors begin to swing past Jack. The temple where the Kwons were married floats by him.

Then the church where James Ford buried his mom and dad.

But it's not until his own family home lurches by that Jack suddenly finds this whole exercise intriguing. He looks down and sees his name on the dial at Number 23.

He doesn't stop to look for the names of his friends. He doesn't wonder what images the mirrors might project for each of them. And it's not like he cares that WE all wanted to see what those pictures might be! Thanks a lot, Jack! It's not like you broke a totally unexplored visual metaphor before we even got a chance to appreciate just how cool it might have been.

Seriously, I've been trying to be a little less hard on old Jack these days, but that was old school Jackassery. Right up until that moment, he was doing so well. He's been so mellow this season, I can hardly recognize him sometimes.

But when he got up in the Lighthouse and saw his magic number roll by, when he realized that whoever created this machine had been controlling his Fate since he lived at home with Christian and Margo, something snapped. Nice Jack disappeared. And like a storm blowing towards a quiet beach from across the open water, out came his rageface. Ah, it's been so long since we had a Jackface party!

"If you wish to avoid seeing a fool you must first break your looking glass"
- Francois Rabelais

When Jack smashes the lighthouse mirrors, it is the rebellious act of a defiant son. He may be a recovering control freak, but he still can't tolerate being controlled by someone else.

Afterwards, his heavenly Father watches over Jack as he hikes up to a cliffside to meditate on this new travail he's being made to endure.

Or maybe he's just posing to be the next great Island monument.

While Jack sits and contemplates the great burden of being Someone Very Important in the Battle of the Island Gods, Hurley and Jacob do a postgame wrapup. Hurley at one point in the episode refers to Jacob as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and it fits him well.

"Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can imagine..."
Jacob may be "dead", but it has only caused him to step up his game. What that game is remains a mystery, and whether or not Jacob is the Good Guy in this game is more in doubt than ever. He's a manipulative, scheming bastard, that much is clear. But at least his recruits aren't putting axes into people's guts. At least not yet.

So I guess for the time being at least, he seems a little bit less of a villain than his extra monstrous Bad Twin.

The episode leaves Jack perched on the mountaintop, searching the horizon for his Destiny Ship. Maybe he's wondering why he broke the Lighthouse that could have signalled his position. Maybe he just doesn't want to come down because he feels stupid for smashing the thing that might have fixed him. Because, uh, seriously, why did he do that?

Jacob doesn't seem disturbed that Jack broke his cool machine. He's still babbling about this big important Someone who is Coming, which is a phrase that Jacob may have used one time too many. I'm trying hard to be intrigued about who is coming, and why Jack breaking the beacon is going to help the Island to be found ... but my curiosity is weakening. Koans tire me. Jacob is like a zazen who never tries to teach his pupil anything, only gives him the chance to work it all out for himself.

Jacob is employing the time honored techniques of Buddhism, to seek the Mirrorlike Wisdom of pure Enlightenment by never actively seeking it. Whatever his destiny is, Jack is going to have to figure it out on his own. Especially now that he broke the mirrors.

"If you really want to know who I am,
you will have to be absolutely empty as I am.
Then two mirrors will be facing each other,

and only emptiness will be mirrored."
- Osho