Saturday, February 20, 2010

PLAYING FOR KEEPS

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
- Einstein
I've often wondered whether LOST is a game we are playing, or whether it's a game that's being played on us. Channeling the spirit of OtherJohn's job placement counselor in this episode, maybe the question we should be asking is this: If LOST were a game, just what kind of game would it be?



Considering that this same job counselor has been seen before - as the psychic Hurley's dad hired in Tricia Tanaka Is Dead - sometimes it seems like the game we're playing on LOST is I Spy.



When I'm playing I Spy on LOST, sometimes I run into background clues that look like a kind of Pictionary. Like this one:



Which I believe works out to the phrase "Men tend to think with their ... vas deferens."



But mostly LOST feels to me like a board game, where the luck of the draw pushes the players around the board from space to space.


It's Chutes and Ladders.


But there's history and cultures and cults. Maybe it's more like Settlers from Catan.


LOST can be a rush, but to really appreciate it, you do have to think, quite a lot actually. Maybe the game is Twenty Questions. Or Twenty Thousand Questions.


There's strategy involved, and bluffing. It's Truth or Dare.


Maybe it's a game about a game, a meta-game like LoseTheGame, where the only way to win is to never think about The Game. Or, in this case, quite literally, the polar bear.



Do you see him?


But most of all, and always, LOST is a Puzzle.


The Riddle of the Numbers notched another kink in this episode. It was very cool. The numbers had been scratched all around the inside of a cliffside seacave. Lots of numbers. With each number was a name, and nearly every name had been crossed out.



Oh, the humanity. Just about every name that has passed through this story was written on that ceiling, including many that only flashed before our eyes.


There are dozens of questions you can ask about these names. Like why is Littleton crossed out, when we just saw Claire was very much alive? Or does Littleton mean ... (gulp) ... Aaron? Which Linus do they mean, which Goodspeed, which Kwon? And what's up with all the unknowns with Spanish names - Domingo, Oralingo, Aguella, Aguila? Are they yet to come?
A lot of blogs have put together charts, to try and sort through this new information dump. I like the one at TVOvermind. It's very complete. Just for reference, though, for anyone who wants a quick cheat sheet, here's mine:



Six of the numbers have not been crossed out. It's a stupid question to ask which six numbers of course. What other numbers are there? But which six lucky duckies got paired up with the famous LOSTian digits? That's the fun part. Which six Losties can now also be known as Listies?



The first Listie was Locke, who of course is no longer a living Listie. His number was 4 - to the Japanese, the unluckiest number, the Death Number.



Jack, naturally, had number 23, the same number as his seat on Flight 815, the same number as the 23rd Psalm, the Psalm of David: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."



Kwon was number 42. That's the hard one to figure out. I'm not really that curious to find out whether it means Jin or Sun (I'm guessing Jin), but I do want to know why the Kwons rated such an important number. The number 42 has lots of interesting properties, but most importantly it's the Number with the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.



The above diagram of very specific spheres represents The Answer. The game is to try and figure out The Question. It's Doug Adams's 42 Puzzle. It's like a backwards version of LOST!

But, seriously, why is a Kwon at Number 42? Is it still possible that either one of them, or the two of them together, are more important than we think?



LOST fans have uncovered many fascinating theories and mathematical relationships between our beloved Numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42. It's an impressive body of collective fan intellect and imagination. I guess we all have our favorite fascinating factoid about the Numbers. Mine is this one: All of them are numbers retired by the NY Yankees and all of them sit in Monument Park in the Bronx. Including even Jackie Robinson from Brooklyn, who was so great even his enemy honors him.


The game of baseball is like one of LOST's secret hidden treasures. It's my favorite kind of Easter Egg. It explains a lot about LOST when you consider that it originated in the mind of a Yankee fan who was also a hardcore Trekkie. It almost makes sense when you think about it.



According to NotJohnLocke, the numbers and the names in the cave represented Jacob's List of all the people he'd brought to the Island. We can wait til later to discuss whether NotJohn has a whisker of credibility about anything he says, but whoever is responsible for those numbers and names, it's clear that someone has been playing craps with the lives of these Listies. And that, I think, is where The Game really begins.



A game must have rules. We're starting, finally, to learn the rules of this one. The Island is the playing board. There are two sides to the board. Nothing fancy, just your basic White and Black.



It seems that only one side - White - has the power to bring players in from the outside. But once brought onto the board, Black has the power to recruit them. Players may have different powers as they move through the levels of the game. And at the top level, for those who survive the game that far - they can become Candidates. It's like the way the world chess federation used to select its final contestants by holding a Candidates Tournament.



NotJohn tells Sawyer that the Listies are Candidates - brought there by Jacob to replace him as guardian of the Island. In other words, they are all Candidates to become The Substitute. Ergo the name of this episode. If NotJohn wasn't lying, then it would seem that selecting a Candidate is the Object of The Game. But I'm pretty sure that NotJohn was not telling the truth, so ... basically, we are playing a Game where the Objective is unclear, and the Rules are being parceled out erratically, by rulemakers who all seem to be lying. Maybe the Objective of this Game is to figure out the Objective!


We're not completely in the dark. Some things we do know (provided we adopt a very flexible definition for the word "know"): The temple seems to be a kind of safe haven for the players. Home base.



A circle of ash protects White from being destroyed by Black.



A player may be conquered, but under certain circumstances he may be brought back onto the board. Is this what the Temple bathtub is for? Is this what is known as being "claimed"? Or is claiming an unpredictable side effect that only happens to some players who are brought back? Was Ben claimed and is that what gave him the power to kill Jacob? Or did something different happen to Ben, maybe because the water wasn't dirty? In any case, what special powers will Sayid have, now that he is claimed?



Along with bringing players to the board, it also seems like White is the only side that is allowed to travel to areas outside of the game board. But White is always White, wherever he goes in the world.



Black, on the other hand, is a changeling. He can transmogrify into the form of any of the bodies - Alex, Christian, Yemi, John - who were left to rot on Craphole Island.



He also has the option to morph into his black smoky essence at any time, in which form he can Evil Dead his way across the Island, chains clanking and gears growling like the Cyclone rattling down the wooden tracks at Coney Island. (That's what it sounds like to me.)



He is capable of mass destruction. He has consciousness and can look into people's minds, and into their windows.



Somewhere in this game there is a No Kill rule. The mechanics of this rule are still mysterious, but it's one of the first rules we learned. Way back in The Shape of Things to Come, Ben Linus and Charles Widmore had a showdown in a London penthouse.



Ben had come to avenge his daughter's death, a death that he believed Widmore was responsible for. In a classic scene filmed with a sharp dark/light split, the two men used much of the same dialogue that White Jacob and his Black Twin had used in their scene on the beach. Because Widmore had broken the rules, Ben wanted to kill him, but he could not ... because of the rules. Direct murder mano a mano was prohibited between the two adversaries, but everyone near and dear to either of them was fair game. So the rules are old, they don't apply only to Jacob and his Twin, and Ben, it would seem, understands them. At least one of them.



Strangely, it seems like Ilana does not know this rule. She knows about other things, about candidates and recruiting, but she doesn't know that the Smoke Monster could not have killed Jacob. She accepts Ben's lie about it. Clearly, Ilana's education in Island protocol has been neglected. Unless of course she's bluffing as well. But it didn't look to me like she was.



At this point in the game, Black has killed White. He found his loophole, his Substitute, and the White God died at the hands of a mere mortal. But The Game continues. Jacob can't be like the King in a chess game, because the King is dead but The Game goes on.

However, Jacob's death has brought a new Rule into play. White has lost his power to bring new players onto the board, and probably as a result, Black has lost his power to change form. Black still gets to play, but he is now locked into one fixed position. From now on Black is locked into being Locke.



I'm still not sure what to call this creature, Mr. He Who Has No Name. I've seen some great nicknames out there. Esau, the twin to Jacob. Smoke + Locke = Smocke. Mock Locke = Mocke. Man in Black + Locke = BLocke. I've seen him called UnLocke, Dead Locke, DreadLocke. I like Doc Jensen's nickname of the Locke-ness Monster. Get it? Locke's like-ness? Good one ... There's no shortage of clever names for this dude, but I still wonder, why is he nameless?



Not knowing the Objective of the Game, all interpretations are up for grabs. Do we believe NotJohn when he says he wants to go home? Where is home? He says he is trapped. Are we wrong to assume that it is the Island that entraps him? Has he been Jacob's prisoner all these years? And if so, WHY?

Being a prisoner in another man's body is an experience all versions of Locke can understand. In this week's installment of OtherLOST, we revisited the life and times of the very human version of John Locke, the way we first met him - a man trapped in a body he can't use, and struggling to survive within the seventh circle of American lower mid-management.



OtherJohn's existence is much the same as it was when we first met him in Walkabout. He keeps secrets, and he lies, escaping the shackles of his wheelchair by building a fantasy life of adventure in his head. His ordinary everyday life isn't adventure enough for him.



Off the Island, Locke risks humiliation with every mundane task - even just getting out of and into his car. He feels fear and anger and shame. He refuses to use a handicapped parking space. Just like the original John Locke, he is raging against the reality of his fate. He does not accept the world as it is.



On the surface OtherLocke is as we remember him, but looking just a little bit closer, we can see that he's really so, so much different. For one thing, this Locke manages to laugh at his adversity.



And this Locke has an actual Helen. She isn't just a substitute he pays for from a sexline. She's real, and she loves him.



She accepts him as he is - and she's not the only one. Everyone he meets in OtherLOST is good to him. Except for Randy, of course, who's a douche in any reality.



OtherLOST is a kinder, gentler place. Locke is rude to the company CEO Hugo Reyes, as he's leaving the premises after being fired, but the jolly Hurley Claus stops and gives him a present anyway.



It's not a big deal for Hurley to be so magnanimous. Life is good for him. When John tries to ram his wheelchair ramp into his car, the ramp refuses to so much as nick Hurley's car. It stops a millimeter short. OtherHurley wasn't kidding when he called himself the luckiest man alive.



We meet OtherRose as well, and she pulls a little tough love on John, but she's only being cruel to be kind.



She helps open his eyes to reality. Rose still has cancer, but she reminds John that there is still life to be lived. It's time to give up on miracles.



And live for the now.



OtherJohn and IslandJohn end up sharing the same fate. Both of them end up as Substitutes. We watch OtherJohn learn to embrace his destiny without bitterness. This version of John can't walk, but he can enjoy the irony of a day spent surrounded by strong young legs.



He ends up making the same friends in OtherLOST. It's much easier to warm up to his fated friend, when the little nerd doesn't have any worries stronger than a wet coffee filter.



OtherJohn is blessed. He doesn't need to look any further than his lover's bosom to find the meaning of his life - literally.



Peace and Karma. Joy and Transcendent Love. OtherLOST is not just a variation on LOST as we knew it. It's an entirely different world. A kind of window into normalcy. What would the lives of our characters be like if they were well adjusted and emotionally healthy? If they learned to cope with life's adversities instead of being warped by them?



It's the little changes in OtherLOST that make it so much more livable. For one thing, OtherJohn doesn't seem to have the Bio-Dad from Hell, the way the original John Locke did. Helen mentions that they should invite John's dad to their wedding, and we see a happy picture of the two in his cubicle cell. So, in OtherLOST, I guess we can assume that Anthony Cooper is not an outrageous dick, and we really have to assume, considering OtherJohn's lack of animosity, however he came to be paralyzed, it wasn't because his OtherDad pushed him out of a highrise window.


The circumstances in OtherLOST are similar, but they are definitely not the same. OtherJohn has been treated far more gently by the winds of chance.



He's not as bitter because he has less to be bitter about ... and yet, he's still a paraplegic. I see a pattern developing. The OtherLosties get where they are going by different chains of cause and effect, and so far it seems that they are milder versions of the Losties we knew, but when it comes to the big bullet points - Rose's cancer, Kate's handcuffs, Locke's wheelchair - nothing has changed. How they got there is different, how they cope with it is different, but where they are is the same.


The Locke we met in Walkabout was angry and prideful. Everyone remembers his motto: "Don't tell me what I can't do!" Back on the Island, the Monster within, inhabiting the clone he made of Locke's body, uses that same phrase to shout down the ghost-boy he chases through the jungle.



That was odd. Does NotJohn retain a kind of inner Locke that now governs his emotions in this human shell? Does Locke live on in this beast who knew his dying thought?



He also shares Locke's love of a good sharp edge. Has more than just John's physical shell been stolen? Is Locke's old embittered spirit trapped inside his borrowed form as well?



The NotJohn Monster remains an enigma. But one thing's for sure - Richard is scared to death of him. He looks like a mouse that just spent an hour getting mauled by an alley cat.



Richard knows the history of this creature, and it's obvious that his powers are fearsome. But who is the Monster? Is he meant to be the personification of Evil? Are we being asked, finally, to make that judgment? After all this time, is the story going to start to shrink into a simple, bold presentation of Good defeating Evil? Is Jacob Good and is this Monster Evil? Whatever happened to all the shades of gray?



I've spent a lot of time wondering where and when LOST is going to come down on this issue. It has always seemed to me that conventional morality is more or less irrelevant within the parameters of this absurdist Island. There isn't a single character who can be described as simply good or simply evil. We've had the harsh duality of black and white repeatedly thrown in our faces, sometimes bluntly and crudely.



But I've always felt it was going to be synthesized in the end into something approaching the Eastern belief in the co-dependence of opposing forces, rather than in the Western idea that good and evil exist in constant competition.



Now I'm not so sure. It all goes back to the origin of the argument between our two sides. What is the beef between Black and White? The first boy that Locke sees in the jungle is young, and his arms are covered in blood, a gruesome apparition.



When he reappears moments later, he is years older and his hands are clean.



Is it the same boy at different ages? Or is it two different boys? Is this a story of two children, brothers maybe, who - judging by their dress - first lived on this Island in the distant past? Did some tragic event disturb their childhood idyll in paradise? Did some blood feud between them create this endless loop of conflict and gamesmanship in which both are now trapped?



And if so, is the Monster locked inside Locke the Bad Twin we've been looking for all these years?



When NotJohn takes the white stone and throws it into the ocean, it's as if Satan feels he has finally conquered God and earned his dominion.

Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp.
- John Milton,
Paradise Lost
John Milton's Paradise Lost is the poetic template for Western views of a segregated celestial hierarchy - where God and the Devil may contest one another, but the outcome is never seriously in doubt. God always wins. It's interesting though that even an old style Puritan like Milton couldn't help but feel some sympathy for the Devil.



Satan isn't just a purely evil being. In the beginning, he's God's most perfect angel, but it ate him up that Heaven was so lacking in democracy. He was an early advocate for Majority Rules. He was also quite the outrageous egotist, who came to think so highly of his wonderful self that he could no longer bear the tyranny of "Heav'ns awful Monarch".


He challenged God by taking it upon himself to undo the paradise that had been created for Adam and Eve. And the way he did it echoes loudly into this story that we've all been watching. God makes it plain that "necessity and chance /Approach me not and what I will is Fate." In other words, there is no Free Will that can supersede the Will of God, of Fate. Yet, "free will", or some mirage of it, is what God has given to Adam and Eve. And wouldn't you know it? They use that free will to make the choice that loses everything for them. They are tempted by Satan to eat of the tree of knowledge, to know good and evil, and because they are as God made them, they choose freely and are expelled from paradise forever. Free Will, as given by God to man, and by Jacob to his Listies, is a total gyp.



The Monster explains to Sawyer that Jacob has manipulated all of them, Losties and Listies alike, to become stranded in this paradise. He has pretended that their own choices have brought them there, but is there any way that can be true? All of them are on the Island because of the Will of Jacob. He only lets them think they're choosing. The Monster has a point. How can Jacob be Good if he has so abused the free will of all the people he has brought to the Island? In Milton's moral universe, that wouldn't be a sticking point. God's Will is an absolute. Whether we approve of it or not is immaterial. So is Jacob the God of the Island? And if so, is God now dead?



Has Jacob trapped the Monster on this enchanted Island in order to keep his Evil force contained away from the world at large? Is Jacob a kind of Dr. Frankenstein who created a monster that turned around and made him his slave? Did Jacob have to then concoct a plan to bring a Saviour to the Island to somehow destroy the creature that he could not?


I'm sure the history of this family feud will unfold in the next few weeks. The mystery of the Ghost Boy(s) won't be solved until the end of the tale. I've heard a few different guesses as to who the blond changeling might be, but the most likely guess seems to be that the older one at least is a young Jacob. But who is the younger one, the bloody one? I am picturing a story where the young Monster committed a murder. I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb, and guess that the person he killed was their father. Thus was begotten the Curse of the Daddy Issues and the all around general theme of patricide we've seen throughout the story. Deprived of any parents, the boys might have done what boys so like to do - invent Games, preferably Games with lots of arcane Rules. I can picture the two brothers locked in an eternal grudge match made magical by the Island's spell, but I'm not understanding yet how it ever turned into the death-transcending Game that it has obviously become.


That's not the only thing that can't be understood yet. Why is it that Sawyer is able to see the ghost boy? And why can't Richard see him? I guess the logical answer is that Sawyer can see magical things, the way he saw Kate's black horse, because he's a Candidate and Richard is not. The thing is, that doesn't really explain much, given that we haven't got the foggiest clue yet as to what makes Sawyer a Candidate. Why is there a Rule that Candidates can not be killed, at least not directly, by Black or White? Was Shannon a Candidate back when babbling Walt appeared to her in Abandoned?



One thing's for certain. The Island is a palace of illusions, a hall of mirrors. For the third straight week, there is a prominent moment in OtherLOST where the featured character is caught in the reflection of a mirror.



Mirrors have always been an important motif on LOST. Season Six so far is mirroring Season One in the sequence and structure of the character centrics, with Kate coming first after the two hour premiere, and Locke's episode following next. The Locke who saw the Monster in Walkabout has become the Locke who is the Monster in The Substitute.



The mirror is the way that Alice entered Wonderland, and a big part of LOST has always been about going Through the Looking Glass.

But the reflection in a mirror is an illusion. It doesn't show us the truth, it shows us a phantom reversal of what we believe to be true. In this episode, as always, Sawyer is the one who cuts through the illusion most effortlessly and gets right to the heart of the matter.



When we last saw Sawyer, he was headed into hibernation in the house that he had shared with Juliet. It's hard to tell how much time has passed until the next time we see him. Time seems very much scrambled in the ghost of Dharma Town. Presumably the house was last inhabited in 2004, well into the CD era, yet The Stooges are blasting from a dusty turntable that looks like it's been sitting there untouched since 1977.



In any case, Sawyer seems to have been there for quite some time, sucking up the Dharma booze and pretty much wallowing in his own filth.

I'm a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb
I am the world's forgotten boy
- The Stooges,
Search and Destroy
Sawyer sees instantly through the facade of the Monster and knows immediately this creature isn't who he looks like. But he agrees to go along with him anyway, because he's promised the one thing no one ever gets on this Island: Answers.



The trip that Sawyer takes with NotJohnLocke is full of memories and echoes.



He follows him through the jungle the same way Sawyer followed Locke in Season Three's The Brig., as he was being manipulated into one of the Island's most dramatic patricides.



They stand on the cliff above the sea the same way Ben and Sawyer did in Every Man for Himself.



And Sawyer even brings up his own Official Book, Of Mice and Men, which Ben used to teach him something about himself back in Season Three. Sawyer may be hurting right now, big time, but he's wrong to think he's meant to be alone. In fact, the Monster is offering him a chance to be part of a team. Among the things this Monster can't do for himself, is leave the Island. He needs another Substitute, and he's offering Sawyer the job.


There is a moment, right after Locke returns from chasing the apparition of the boy, when it becomes clear that Sawyer has grokked onto the true nature of the beast he's following. He lies to NotJohn that he was talking to no one, and NotJohn lies right back about the ghost boy they've both just seen. The long con is on, and both sides appear to be playing with admirable game face. It's still hard to see how Sawyer can succeed in conning an ancient, evil, trapped Island Monster, but I'm pulling for him. Every game has to have a winner eventually.



In the Cave of Numbers, the story becomes unusually literal in its metaphor. Black and White are laid out cleanly on a scale of justice, like big honking symbols telling us what to think. It's a beautiful scene between LOST's two most powerful actors.



It's a moment of clarity, where we get a glimpse for just a second of how high the stakes are in this game. it reminds me of that moment in The Seventh Seal where the knight, named Block (ha!), plays the White pieces against Death in a metaphysical chess match where the stakes are Life itself.



"Is it so cruelly inconceivable to grasp God with the senses? Why should he hide himself in a mist of half-spoken promises and unseen miracles?" - Antonious Block, The Seventh Seal

Whatever meaning we are intended to take from the stark duality, there is something ritualistic about the presentation of the objects in the cave. On the altar, there is a carpenter's compass, a lyre, a mallet and a scale.



The scale could be a reference to the Tibetan Book of the Dead where, at the moment of death, "The Good Spirit, who was born simultaneously with you, will come now and count out your good deeds with the white pebbles, and the Evil Spirit, who was born simultaneously with you, will come and count out your evil deeds with the black pebbles." But this isn't Western style judgment. The soul after death begins a journey that returns it to the endless cycle of birth and death, to the infinite incarnations of illusion that make up human existence.


"Then the Lord of Death will say "I will consult the Mirror of Karma." He will look in the Mirror, wherein every good and evil act is vividly reflected. Lying will be of no avail." - Bardo Thodol Tibetan Book of the Dead
Lying continued to be the standard operating procedure for most of the characters in this episode. Sawyer lies to NotJohn about talking to Richard. NotJohn lies to Sawyer about seeing the boy. Ben lies to Ilana. OtherJohn lies to Randy. And at first he lies to Helen. But there was a moment of epiphany for OtherJohn when he breaks down and admits to Helen the truth. He had lied about going to Australia on business, because he had been lying to himself about being able to go on a walkabout adventure.



At the moment when John admits the truth, the doorbell rings, like an angel getting his wings. And at that moment, his "lost" property is returned to him. Together he and Helen tear up the spinal doctor's card and resolve to accept life as it is. When John accepts the truth, it is his moment of enlightenment. He's no longer lost; he's been found.

“Seeing, hearing and feeling are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.” -Walt Whitman
Some have noted that the Cave of the Numbers might be an allusion to Plato's Metaphor of The Cave. I can see that. It's like it was screaming "metaphor" at us. Plato's cave hypothesized a world where human beings were jailed in a prison of illusion, never seeing anything real, but only being shown the images or reflections of a truth that had been manufactured for them by a higher power. It's a very deep topic, and I won't offend anyone by mangling it, but suffice to say that with this metaphor, Plato had somehow predicted the modern American multiplex.



He had also, perhaps, imagined the situation as it exists on LOST Island. The reality the Island's captives experience is the illusion that has been manufactured for them by Jacob. One by one, he's brought prisoners to his home. Some thought they came of their own free will. Some, like Sawyer, realize they've always been the pawns of fate. But either way, they are powerless over their own lives at this point. They are all being forced to play their parts in Jacob's game, but they can only experience its reality indirectly, because they are all still trapped, all still lost.



Like them, we still don't understand most of what's going on. We don't know who to trust. Both Jacob and the Monster appear to be master manipulators, liars, bluffers and cheats. We don't know for sure whose cave the Numbers have been written on or who exactly is ticking them off.



Do the Jacob's Ladders lead to Jacob's Cave, like the Monster says? Are the names those of the people Jacob wanted to bring to the Island? Or are they just the Monster's list of each of Jacob's players that he's managed somehow to capture? I think it must be the Monster's cave, because Juliet's name is crossed out, and Jacob was quite dead before she finally kicked it. Or maybe it was until just recently a shared space, a free zone where both had equal rights.



Either way, one thing is obvious. One of the Candidates is no longer a Candidate. Locke is really and truly dead. For real this time.



And there's one last question, one that I'm sure was on the mind of even the most virulent Kate hater: Where the hell was her name? Of all the major players in our story, only hers was missing. I am thinking back to Par Avion when Mikhail told Kate that she was not on The List because she was "flawed". But he told Locke and Sayid they were not on The List at that same time, and we see now that this has since changed. Could it be that Kate was not on The List ... yet? Maybe she wasn't ready to be a Candidate then but now she is. Maybe just as Locke became less "angry" and Sayid less "weak and afraid", Kate has become less flawed. Maybe she finally qualifies. Because it's hard to miss that there's a vacancy on The List at the moment.



Is it possible that Kate is The Substitute? If so, then the six Listies would be Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Sawyer, Jack and Jin (I'm guessing). These are the same six we just saw transported via A-Bomb from 1977. It's probably not going to be a popular theory in a fandom where Kate always seems to be persona non grata, but I like it. I'm going to keep it for awhile, or at least until someone can prove it wrong.


After all, it's not like any of us know much about the nature of The Game yet. It's not easy to play a game when you only know some of the Rules. And you still can't be sure what the Goal is. Or who's playing. Or which side they're on. But it's not like any of us are going to quit now, right? And besides, how much more fun can this get? We can do this. We just have to think it through. I think the best tip on how to play this Game is this one:


“95% of this game is half mental” - Yogi Berra


32 comments:

Mike said...

besides Kate the other name that jumps out that is missing is Hume! Where is Desmond in all this?? He was surly brought to the island for a purpose and supposedly the island isnt done with him yet. Could Kate along with Desmond be some sort of wild card in all of this that the rules don't apply to??

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Fish!! I actually tried *not* to think about this ep too much until your review came out, because I knew I would just confuse myself. It all seems to mean so much more now. Love the games analogy - I hadn't noticed the extent to which that applies to everything that's going on now. With every episode, it becomes more relevant.

Also, this -

"After all this time, is the story going to start to shrink into a simple, bold presentation of Good defeating Evil? Is Jacob Good and is this Monster Evil? Whatever happened to all the shades of gray?"

I sincerely hope this isn't what's going on. I'd hate to come so far with this show only for it to turn into a simplistic good vs. evil fairy tale. I want these writers to be more subtle and sophisticated than that.

I hope you're right about Kate. Though even being the "substitute" would seem to negate her importance, like she can only be thrown into the mix if someone else dies. At least I think that's what you meant?

I read a theory today (I brought it over to FBL, in the spoiler thread) that suggested the triangle itself is something that's been repeating on the island for a very long time, and that Jacob and MiB may even have been involved in their own type of triangle. It posited that Kate could be the current embodiment of what needs "protected" on the island, rather than a candidate for the protector herself. As important as that would make her, it would also seem fairly misogynist. I'm not sure which scenario I'd prefer.

Leah Kate

SockeRock said...

It's probably just a coincidence but the number episodes for Sawyer's flashbacks in season one were: 8, 16 and 23. Jack and Locke's episodes matching to the numbers are 23 and 4, respectively. Hurley, Jin and Sayid's centrics don't match any of the numbers. Also Sawyer was visited by Jacob when he was 8.

I think Smokey's con is to make sure Sawyer doesn't want to replace Jacob, when he's the only candidate for the job. To make Sawyer think he has a choice to not take it. But how many times has he been stopped from leaving the island?

Also, do we know the Burke on the cave walls is Juliet? Burke was also her husband's name. The husband that died in that freak accident that allowed Juliet to come to the island. Do we know that he's not the Burke that name represents.

Another thing, most of the names are very lightly written in chalk, while the 6 names were written heavily in chalk. They also look newer than the other names, so its possible Smokey just added those before he lured Sawyer to the cave.

I also seem to recall Foxy said that by episode 8 the two timelines would mesh, and 8 just happens to be Sawyer's centric. What if Sawyer was on the plane as the new Jacob. He gave advice to Hurley about telling people he was rich and helped Kate out of a jam with the cops the same way Jacob did when she stole the lunch box.

SockeRock said...

Leah Kate, it's viewers who are saying on is black and one is white. If you look at the things Jacob did, it would be hard to say he was white. Look at him ordering children kidnappped from the Tailies when they first got there. It was Jacob who decided the names of the people to take.

I also think Jacob has use Jin, Sayid and Hurley to deliver his not to Dogen. Hurley was the messenger, Sayid was the lure to get Hurley to go to The Temple and Jin was the one who knew where it was.

Anonymous said...

Great recap, Fish! This episode was so rich on so many levels. I'm glad you mentioned the imagery because that scene on the cliff top has me in awe of how beautiful that island is. The setting for this game really looks like paradise. And the shot you featured with the black and white stones, with Locke and Sawyer featured in the light was fantastic.

I've always thought this show is like a video game. Characters find things, learn things, and meet people that can only be of use to them later in the game. I'm hoping that at this point they are savy enough not to fall into too many deadly traps.

I say this because it gives me the heebie-jeebies to see Sawyer going toe to toe with the Monster now, with each trying to out con the other. Needless to say, I'm on Team Sawyer since our beloved crazy Island-Locke is well and truly dead and there is no way I can believe that Smokey is a good guy. It was poignant to see Locke V2.0 happy with Helen in the same episode we saw Locke V1.0 laid to rest on the island.

This season is shaping up to be amazing. Love the quote you ended with because 95% of this show is half mental!

Dezdemona

Anonymous said...

Mike, I forgot about Desmond until you mentioned his name not being on the list. However, although there are others on the list that didn't arrive on Flight 815, we saw them arrive on the island and their method of transport to it ...Danielle on the boat, Ben/probably his dad (Linus) on the sub, Juliet (I think she is the Burke mentioned) on the sub as well. Did we ever see Des' arrival? I think we just heard it mentioned. Anyways, I may be way overthinking it as to why Desmond isn't listed. The reason for it is probably a more obvious one ... he isn't dead yet for one thing. And he wasn't an original Lostie either. Unlike Kate. Love your theory on why Kate isn't on the list yet Fishbiscuit. I can't think of any other reason as to why she isn't anyways. I'll have to think of her as being important enough to be the only one suitable to "substitute" if it's the case, instead of wondering why she couldn't be considered a candidate in the first place.

Thanks Fish, another very entertaining recap. Might comment more tomorrow when I re-read and have more time to digest it.

- Midnight

TM Lawrence said...

Appreciate the detail, as always. Especially appreciate the Milton references, and I share with you the belief (hope?) that TPTB will not settle into a simplistic dualism: I have long held Jacob to be more consistent with Lucifer of gnostic faith. He is the bringer of light figuratively, advocate of free-will, and the adversary of an imperfect father/creator/demiurge that can't be bothered with the pain and suffering of humanity. MIB/NotLocke
fits nicely into this old-testament, judgmental deity role. Jacob's pattern is to nudge mankind, but always allowing for freewill, not even flinching from the ultimate test at the point of Ben's blade. NotLocke's inner monster has always been quick to seal man's fate and seems to see only black. Jacob's scales in the seaside cave were balanced black and white, and his own actions are imbued with the same gray scale and ambiguity of the Losties.

I look forward to seeing how this develops, but I suspect Jacob's touches and words are as important in the LA X reality as they were in establishing the Jughead reset conditions. His visits to the Losties constitute a series of "Pay It Forward" touches (complete with a stabbing of the originator).

Kate's admonishment to not steal, is unheeded when she picks Jack's pocket. Charlie nearly pays the ultimate price but Jack's long fingers prevail. She reflects on herself and her actions in the garage and returns Claire's luggage and is rewarded by avoiding capture and a shiny credit card.

Hurley receives a blessing and certificate of sanity together with his touch (and guitar case) in the cab. Now even his Hummer has a shield of fortune and invincibility, and he is paying it forward.

Less cynical Jack gives a little push of hope and a business card to one John Locke for whom it does appear "it's going to be OK"

How Sawyer and our favorite Korean couple's pay it forward scenarios will work out remains to be seen.

As does the entity that wil bring balance to the force as Jacob's "substitute."

Anonymous said...

Great recap, love your analysis!

there is however one more thing which kind of stood out for me, when Blocke points out three choices for sawyer to make.
It kind of mirrored the scene in exodus when Danielle came into the beach camp and said "Run", "Hide" or "die".
Run would be leave the island then?! "Hide2 correlates to "doing nothing" and "die" means taking Jacobs job.

and yeah, i'm totally in in doubting Jacob as a total good guy.
I catches a rerun of "He's our you" last days and there was this conversation on the plane between Ilana and Sayid and He asked her:
"do you work for Ben Linus? He is a liar and maipulator and responsible for the death of many people"
and Ilana answers "Why would i work for someone like this?"
and knowing what we know now, Sayids characterisation totally fits Jacobs bill too!

Carry on with the awesome work your are doing, Fish, It's always a pleasure to read your recaps.

goober

Anonymous said...

Where's that nasty fanboy who said you only write pop up books? LMAO. Great review, Fish, awe inspiring. You really get this show.

Kim said...

This is fantastic....I really enjoyed reading this and thinking about your ideas. I just cannot accept Kate as anything that important, and I hope she's not....but you're right on about Sawyer and Locke being played by the two most powerful actors of the series....

I'd like to think Sawyer's conning the NotLocke...that would be GREAT....but possible? Not sure....time will tell.

Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Fish, do you hold a grudge against men, in general? Are you a lesbian? Did you suffer some kind of physical abuse when you were younger?

SAMDOGFilms said...

I think your Lost blog is one of the best written, most insightful out there! I love reading them every week! Keep up the great work!

I too agree with some of the other comments that the dualistic-Good/Evil story line on Lost would be too simplistic for wonderful writers of lost to follow. . . I don't think they're going in that direction because of all the eastern religious motifs in the show. The concept of Good and Evil is really a "Spiritual Mind Trap". After all Good and Evil, Light and Dark are really just two sides of the SAME COIN. Once our favorite characters realize this- the idea that Jacob and Smokey are two separate characters will dissolve and "The Game" will end. . .perhaps as it is already being played out in the flash sideways Alt 2004 timeline.

I also agree with other comments that Jacob although always wearing white, looking up and residing in bright light filled locations actually represents Lucifer (Latin for Light Bringer) Jacob's motto is "Freewill" and although seems like he wants mankind to evolve/progress from "Destroying, killing and deceiving" He's the one tempting the characters to do these things on the island because that really is the source of his power.

If this were true then the island is really a dark place more like hell. . .and the others are more like Luciferians. . .hmmm

Smokey would then represents a more Old Testament version of God who is a judge and executer killing only the sinners who refuse to repent. If Smokey is actually good then John Locke is actually Jesus or an avatar - God incarnate. . .hmmmm Something to think about for all those John Locke Fans out there.

If this line of thought were true then the alt 2004 time-line is a universe where Jacob(Lucifer) and the island have no influence over mankind and as you said, have "learned to cope with life’s adversities instead of being warped by" them(Jacob). . .

tobordab said...

Great recap! I only started reading your posts this season and I'm very impressed with your literary and film references. I'll be subscribing now. I love your Kate-Substitute theory because that's all I've been able to think about since Tuesday.

4+8+15+16+23+42=Kate(108) Maybe.


Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

Fish, do you hold a grudge against men, in general? Are you a lesbian? Did you suffer some kind of physical abuse when you were younger?

Anonymous, is your penis very very small?

Anonymous said...

I have read, and listened (via podcasts), to many commentators re: Lost, but Fishbiscuitland's insight, is one of the most outstanding in the ever-growing crowd.

Keep up your most adept, and skilful interpretations Fish! It's refreshing to see new insight into what is happening to our Listies/Losties.

I wish you had a podcast! Perhaps, you will consider doing a few??? Please!!! :) k8

Maram said...

wow, reading your lost recap is like reading a rich amazing book, loved it

Kyle from Kentucky said...

Fuck the Yankees.

2 brothers. Dark brother kills father. Brilliant! Exactly how the story sould play out or already has anyway.

Kate is important. Even though she has been unbearable for about a season and a half.

Terry and Josh are the best actors IMO which is impressive since Josh came from nowhere.

snapzrax said...

it will be so amazing if kate is the hero. haha, it would be so great to watch everyone's reaction.

i simply never got the kate hate. because its not just the triangle, people will bitch about every single thing that she does. even when she is being heroic... like, say, trying to help claire reconnect with her son. if it were a guy doing everything that kate does, people would LOOOOVE him.

anyway, great recap fish. you brought so many new and interesting perspectives as always. you make so many great connections with books and movies and culture in general!

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

Good point about the parallels between this season and season one! If you're interested, I'd suggest checking out the titles for the next couple episodes and seeing how they relate to the titles from season one. I'm not going to spoil...but check it out! (especially two episodes from now)

Quirky Character said...

>> At the moment when John admits the truth, the doorbell rings, like an angel getting his wings.

What a brilliant illusion to "It's a Wonderful Life"! And on the whole, a great writeup, as usual. Keep up the good job, you're absolutely wonderful!

Mindy said...

Fish.. I just found your site and I am addicted! Amazing detail! I will need to read ALL past posts to re-evaluate everything! My dh is going to hate me, LOL! I can't wait for the next review!

Pintas nos Olhos said...

Great review! One of the best ever.I loved this episode. I'm usually not a huge fan of the latest Lock centric episodes. I was not not much in to that hole moral, faith, battle of the gods thing... Until now!! Unlist it catch much more of my attention.

Although, I don't agree in one little thing. When you say that there isn't a single character that is purely good or bad, well I think that we can truly say that Hurley always and will ever been a really good guy, with noting but pure love and tenderness in his heart.
I find fare to point it out lol

Keep on the great job you're doing, and always did.

Valerie said...

The next best thing after Lost, itself, is your recaps. I love reading and rereading them. I've always been a fan of Kate and Skate, and wonder if they still have a chance. It looks a little bleak right now. Are you a professional writer? Thanks for all the time you dedicate to our enjoyment.

SockeRock said...

16 - Whitey Ford is the most interesting one, because the emphasis on black and white. Which could indicate Sawyer is on the white side. It is quite a coincidence that his last name is Ford.

Another strange coincidence is Sawyer has had more episodes that match the numbers than any of the other candidates:

s1 - 8, 16, 23
s3 - 4
s5 - 8
s6 - 8

In regards to the names on the cave, they're in sequence, but Jack throws them out of

4
8
15 at the apex
16
42
23

And the pattern forms a triangle or an upside down V

It also appears the names were written by two different people. The four by Locke's name is different from the 4 by Jin's name and there's not a dash after the number by Locke's name. It looks like the 4 by Locke's name matches the 4 by some of the other crossed out names. So the cave of candidates make be one giant con.

Gypsy Crow said...

Fuck. I just Lost the Game.
Fish, I love your recaps, but can we not talk about The Game anymore? That'd be sweet.

Devera said...

Another great recap...loved some of the things you brought up, as usual.

Viagra Online said...

what a stupid movie! I hate it so much! I wonder why you post this stuff! fail..

Flying Tiger Comics said...

The judgment vision may come: the Third Bardo blame game. "Your good genius will count up your good deeds with white pebbles, the evil genius the evil deeds with black pebbles." A judgment scene is a central part of many religious systems, and the vision can assume various forms. Westerners are most likely to see it in the well-known Christian version. The Tibetans give a psychological interpretation to this as to all the other visions. The Judge, or Lord of Death, symbolizes conscience itself in its stern aspect of impartiality and love of righteousness. The "Mirror of Karma" (the Christian Judgment Book), consulted by the Judge, is memory. Different parts of the ego will come forward, some offering lame excuses to meet accusations, others ascribing baser motives to various deeds, counting apparently neutral deeds among the black ones; still others offering justifications or requests for pardon. The mirror of memory reflects clearly; lying and subterfuge will be of no avail. Be not frightened, tell no lies, face truch fearlessly.

No you may imagine yourself surrounded by figures who wish to torment, torture or ridicule you (the "Executive Furies of the Robot Lord of Death"). These merciless figures may be internal or they may involve the people around you, seen as pitiless, mocking, superior. Remember that fear and guilt and persecuting, mocking figures are your own hallucinations. Your own guilt machine. Your personality is a collection of thought-patterns and void. It cannot be harmed or injured. "Swords cannot pierce it, fire cannot burn it." Free yourself from your own hallucinations. In reality there is no such thing as the Lord of Death, or a justice-dispensing god or demon or spirit. Act so as to recognize this.

Recognize that you are in the Third Bardo. Meditate upon your ideal symbol. If you do not know how to meditate, then merely analyze with great care the real nature of that which is frightening you: "Reality" is nothing but a voidness (Dharma-Kaya). That voidness is not of the voidness of nothingness, but a voidness at the true nature of which you feel awed, and before which your consciousness shines more clearly and lucidly. [That is the state of mind known as "Sambhoga-Kaya." In that state, you experience, with unbearable intensity, Voidness and Brightness inseparable - the Voidness bright by nature and the Brightness inseparable from the Voidness - a state of the primordial or unmodified consciousness, which is the Adi-Kaya. And the power of this, shining unobstructedly, will radiate everywhere; it is the Nirmana-Kaya.

I thought LOST was all about the Bardo in episode 1 of season 1, saw nothing to change my mind, just saw tv show makers trying to play with forces beyond comprehension to make money.

namaste

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