LOST 010 - Antisocial Chickens
Charlie kicks, Sawyer wrassles with a tortured past and his present torturer, and Jin and Sun reveal what the bloom looked like before it wilted. Unpacking the TV show LOST—Season 1: Episodes 6-8
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on May 1, 2022.
Recently, on LOST: The survivors of the Oceanic 815 crash discovered that they all had a real bad case of stranded, what with being hundreds of miles off course and hours without radio contact before they crashed. Meanwhile mysterious boar hunter and clean-skulled knife guy John Locke has had his loyalty flipped by an ancient cosmic being trapped on the island in a body of smoke—though we won’t know this fact for years. How secretly has Locke’s loyalty been flipped? So secretly a lot of people actually watching the show never realized!
Also: the castaway’s leader, surgeon Jack, saw the ghost of his dead father, who led him to water, after leading him off a cliff. Yikes.
O B S E R V A T I O N
Fresh catch of flappy flashbacks for you: We’re going to be looking at episodes focusing on, in order: Sun, our resident Korean wife with a fraught marriage; Charlie, our resident impish heroin addict and one-hit wonder musician; and Sawyer, our resident dimpled scoundrel and overdramatic glower aficionado.
Pop the popcorn!
Episode 6: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN (Sun): We open on a brief scene establishing the on-island status quo of the Kwon marriage, to wit: the two of them are not in a good place, mostly because a) Jin is a seriously overbearing and controlling ass; and b) nothing else, that’s really the only reason, and it’s unfortunately the only characterization Jin’s been given so far. They’ll do better by him eventually … but not yet.
Sun thus far has spent her scenes mostly looking sad about her dickish husband, watching Walt for Michael, and knowing useful things about plants that she shares with others. Jin has spent his scenes being overbearing and cold to his wife, and fishing for the community. Despite these overtures, the Korean couple remains isolated from the group, partly due to the language barrier, partly because Jin refuses to let Sun interact with anybody, behavior which isolates them from each other, as well. This is all poignantly juxtaposed against flashback scenes showing how in love they were when it all began, and how it fell apart … but more on that later.
Anyway, this sad tableau is rudely interrupted when Jin—for no apparent reason—attacks Michael and brutally beats him, which leads to Jin being handcuffed to wreckage by self-deputized island sheriff Sayid. Jin’s unable to explain the attack, and as the day goes on, his increasingly sun-baked situation becomes increasingly dire. He is finally freed only because Sun finally defies Jin’s prohibitions, revealing her husband’s motives to Michael—ohdamn! Sun speaks English whaaaat! It’s a fun moment on first watch.
Here’s the scoop: Jin has been charged with delivering a luxury watch as a gift on behalf of his crime-boss (?) automotive executive (?) employer¹, who happens to also be Sun’s father. Michael found the watch in the wreckage, and he was wearing it all tra-la-la and so Jin pounded him vigorously about the chest face head and neck, because honor. Geez, Jin. There are better ways to handle that sort of thing, language barrier or no language barrier. Work on your problem-solving skills.
Michael frees Jin and returns the watch. Because he is Michael, he also brandishes an axe and commands Jin to Stay Away From Me And My Kid®.
In other island business, a contingent goes to the caves to fetch water, and the show gives Jack and Kate a plot pretext (hornets) to strip down to their underwear, chicka-bow-wow. The two also find a mysterious set of skeletons, one female, one male, next to two stones: one white, one black. Locke dubs them “Adam and Eve,” which is a pretty big flashing sign from the writers about the nature of the island in my opinion.
Jack of Course also decides that proximity to water makes more sense than daily fetching excursions, and favors a move to the caves, while Sayid holds that leaving a place of visibility for rescue would be calamitous.² The two alpha dogs have a disagreement on the matter, which will set the stage for the first major split among the survivors; there’s a bunch of politicking as each man tries to recruit others to their side. Eventually a bunch of people go with Jack to the caves, while a bunch of others (including, to Jack’s surprise, Kate) stay with Sayid on the beach. It won’t matter who goes where, honestly. Everyone is going to go between the two camps pretty interchangeably, and the fire doesn’t go out, so while what the two sides do is presented as a split, it’s pretty clearly just the obvious solution.
Nighttime. Hurley listens to his music.
The Cave Clan vibes. The Beach Bunch vibes.
End of Episode 6.
Episode 7: THE MOTH (Charlie). This is the one where Locke helps Charlie kick the junk. The Locke/Charlie dynamic actually began as a C plot in the previous episode, as Locke reveals that a) he is a fan of Charlie’s band, the hilariously-named Driveshaft, to an extent far beyond their one hit (he celebrates their entire catalogue); and b) he knows that Charlie’s using them droogs. Locke shows Charlie where on the island his presumed-destroyed guitar has landed, miraculously still whole. In exchange, a grateful Charlie gives Locke his stash. Locke frames this exchange as the natural order of things: if you give The Island something, Locke claims, it gives you something back.
As this episode begins, Charlie demands his drugs. Locke—who spends most of his time this installment cleaning a boar hanging from a tree—promises to oblige, if Charlie asks him three times total. There’s a whole thing where Locke compares Charlie to a moth who needs to struggle in order to become what he needs to be (hence the episode title), so I suppose the 3x request is his way of creating that struggle. It would have been hilarious if Charlie just asked 3 times right there like a real junkie would have. Oh well.
Beach huddle! Sayid is still planning to set three makeshift antennae and use the transceiver to triangulate and find the source of the Frenchwoman’s distress beacon—so they can send their own. Problem: the batteries for the antennae may only have a minute’s power. So: three people have to get in position and then fire a flare to signal that they’ve flipped it on at a predesignated time. Boone will cover the beach-tenna; Kate will handle the jungle-tenna, and Sayid will climb the terrain and plant his high-tenna. Hut hut hut break!
There’s a bunch more Cave vs. Beach talk, with Jack insisting that the caves are more safe. Jack then proceeds to immediately get trapped in a cave-in, throwing the whole Beach vs. Cave faction conflict out the window as The Gang Stages A Rescue. Michael’s structural knowledge as a building contractor comes in extremely useful, and he leads the dig with fan-favorite randos Scott and Steve.³ However, it’s episode-focus Charlie who saves Jack’s hash, by climbing into the cave to bring Jack aid, and then finding an alternate way out after a second cave-in seemingly worsens the situation.
Plots collide: Boone comes running to help Jack, leaving easily-distracted sister Shannon in charge of the beach-tenna. And Kate comes running as well, leaving untrustworthy Sawyer in charge of the jungle-tenna. However, both of these unsturdy vessels perform their parts, and it’s quarterback Sayid who fails the play, because he is knocked unconscious by a mystery assailant (it’s Locke, who we’ll later learn also smashes the transceiver. RIP transceiver).
That night our hobbity hero—who has already used up his second request—asks Locke for The Precious a third time. Locke, disappointed, coughs up the boodle. Charlie tosses it into the fire and Locke smiles proudly, because smiling as fires burn things is Locke’s personal brand.
End of Episode 7.
Episode 8: CONFIDENCE MAN (Sawyer). Sawyer’s been on the margins of the story up until now, spicing things up by hording goods and calling people names and pulling the pigtails of the girl he likes and starting little pissing matches with Jack and just generally being ostentatiously despicable to amuse himself. He also spends his alone time reading; paperbacks, sometimes, but also a mysterious letter that he keeps in his jeans and reads to himself while glaring out across the water and smoking cigs with his jaw firmly clenched.
In this episode, all those antisocial chickens come home to roost. Shannon has asthma and needs medicine, and everyone assumes Sawyer is hording it. Though Shannon’s need is desperate, Sawyer refuses to be helpful at all (though we’ll learn he doesn’t have the medicine), seeming almost to relish being on the receiving end of the group’s suspicion and hate. He goes so far as to share with Kate the secret of his letter, which he makes her read out loud in typical super-extra Sawyer fashion.
It’s from a little boy, written to “Mr. Sawyer,” letting him know that because of what “Mr. Sawyer” did, his daddy killed his mommy and then himself. The letter’s author vows to find “Mr. Sawyer” and make him pay for killing his mommy and daddy.
As the Shannon situation devolves, Jack finally agrees to let Sayid (who has become increasingly paranoiac after last episode’s attack) torture Sawyer in order to get the needed medicine. It’s Kate who is able to get Sawyer to play ball, but only by agreeing to his demands she give him a kiss, during which it’s clear she’s simultaneously repulsed and intrigued by him. Not sure why she’d be intrigued; he’s just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules.
Later, Kate guesses Sawyer’s secret even without the help of the flashbacks: he is not “Mr. Sawyer” at all. He’s the hurt little boy who wrote the letter. Busted, Sawyer makes his hurt little boy face.
Meanwhile Sun solves the actual problem by finding a natural herbal remedy for asthma.
Sayid, disturbed by the fact that he has reverted to practices he vowed to never again employ, banishes himself from the group. He departs to map the perimeter of the island, informing only Kate.
End of Episode 8.
Flashbacks. Sun and Jin’s flashback, like Locke’s before it, do some fine work in subverting expectations. We learn that Jin was actually a very kind and gentle man once. He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, who secured Sun’s hand only by agreeing to work for her father—something she warned him not to do, because, as we see, her father is a brutal man who expects Jin to do brutal things for him, and the secrecy and coldness Jin cultivates to maintain his work responsibilities alienates him from the good man he had been. In a LOST-typical ironic twist, we learn that Sun, too, nearly missed Flight 815. After an instance of spousal abuse, she enlisted the help of a secretive service assisting in extractions for abused spouses, who were going to give her a new identity. They secretly taught her English, and gave her a very brief window at the airport to depart, but at the last moment, there in the airport, she saw a hint of Jin’s old kindness, and opted to stay. Now she’s stuck on Craphole Island with Craphole Husband.
Charlie’s flashback tells another poignant tale. He was a straight shooter who wanted to abandon his baser impulses and pursue a spiritual path, until his brother Liam convinced him to take their opportunity to become Rock Gods, then lured him into a life of drugs and sleazery. Having corrupted his little brother, Liam got clean and started a family in Australia, leaving Charlie behind, stranded without hope of a Driveshaft reunion tour or a prayer of losing the monkey on his back.
Finally, Sawyer’s flashback reveals that when he was a boy, a con man named “Sawyer” destroyed his family, and now Sawyer has grown into exactly the same sort of con man—right down to adopting the fellow’s nom de player. He seduces ladies and steals their husband’s money, right before skipping town and leaving carnage behind. However, we also discover that even he has lines he won’t cross; when he discovers his current target has a son just like the kid he was, he doesn’t go through with the deal. It’s all the things that made Sawyer such a fan favorite: he’s a hilariously melodramatic self-loathing snake with a heart, or at least a snake with occasional empathy and a sense of begrudging duty.
B E L I E F
Since this was all some (mostly pretty good) early establishing soap opera character work without much forward progress on the big buried understory, I’ll use this space to call out a few small moments, then use this space to expound on some more general mysteries.
1) Adam and Eve. If you’ve been reading along, you know the skeletons Jack and Kate found are Brother and Mother, and who they are, and why they matter. These are the mortal remains of two humans who were once what I’m calling Type 3 manifestations of The Adversary.
In the last installment, I started to name these manifestations and their attributes, but this might be a good occasion for a more complete taxonomy of island manifestations.
Smoke: The Adversary’s true body. Serpentine. Mostly indestructible. Amorphous. Can read your mind. Can kill you a whole lot, but seemingly only under certain conditions. It can also control people it has corrupted, under certain conditions—or perhaps not ‘control,’ but at least bring out what corruption is there, and perhaps employ some level of supernatural persuasion. I’ll speculate about all these conditions some other time.
Ghosts: Not The Adversary, but worth mentioning. We’ll soon learn that there are actual spirits of dead people on the island, and elsewhere, who can appear to people attuned to seeing them, but who usually manifest as whispers. I’ll speculate about them some other time, too.
Type 1: The Adversary appears intangibly, always as somebody who has died, usually (always?) as somebody very close to (though not always known to) the person to whom the Adversary manifests. This seems to be frequently preceded by a ‘scan’ of the target while The Adversary is in smoke form. We’ll see this happen frequently, and in fact we already saw this happen when we discussed Ricardo and Brother’s initial encounters with The Adversary. We saw this face-to-face scan done to Locke recently (or implied by the smoke’s-view movement of the camera toward him), so we can presume he recently encountered a Type 1 manifestation, too.
Type 2: The Adversary appears as somebody who has died and whose mortal remains exist on the island. This manifestation is still intangible, but can appear to anybody, whether the target knew the subject or not. It also seems The Adversary can Type 2 manifest at any point in the island’s history, provided the body rests on the island at some point in its timeline. Christian Shephard will be the most prominent of the Type 2 manifestations.
Type 3: The Adversary appears consistently and tangibly. The subject needs to be a person whose body resides on the island, who had in life become enthralled/possessed by The Adversary, and, crucially, who has been exposed directly to the light at the heart of the Island. The Type 3 manifestation appears to be impervious to harm and extremely strong—which appears to be related to some sort of direct connection to The Island’s light. The Type 3 manifestation also appears to be an actual incarnation; that is, while the Type 3 manifestation is very much controlled by The Adversary’s intelligence, The Adversary is also still very much the person It inhabits. Interestingly, we will see that this manifestation even takes the shape of a physical body completely separate from the corpse, so if a Type 3 manifestation of The Adversary is killed, there will be two identical corpses on the island. There is reason to believe that as the corpse of the Type 3 subject starts to crumble, The Adversary’s ability to appear as that person diminishes, until it can only achieve a wraithlike Type 3 appearance.
The “Adam and Eve” skeletons, I believe, are the original corpse of Brother, and the Type 3 body of Mother.
This is just a wild-ass guess, but I think the presence of Egyptians suggests that The Adversary had Mother’s original corpse mummified—allowing It to Type 3 manifest as Mother indefinitely.
2) What The Adversary is up to. A reminder, now, about a few things we have already established we know about The Adversary.
It is actively trying to prove that humans are unworthy. This is The Adversary’s side of the great cosmic argument playing out between It and The Island. As such, It is going to try to corrupt them, and get them to divide and kill and destroy—which will prove Its point. So, it is going to divide people as much as possible, and try to get them to kill each other as much as possible. We will in the future see that It has the ability to corrupt people and turn them to their darker impulses, and I think this is a good thing to remember in light of Locke’s actions … and more on this very shortly.
It wants to leave the island, but can’t, because It is prevented by Jacob’s rules. I would guess that for The Adversary the desire is to end It’s present situation, which I think goes considerably deeper than just being imprisoned on the physical island. My read on this is that it is in the human character of Brother that this desire presents itself as wanting to leave the island. Either way, It is trapped by a more powerful entity, and it desperately want to escape.
It has been looking for a loophole.
John Locke is the loophole.
There’s plenty of time to get into how and why, and what Jacob’s rules are, and all the problems The Adversary is trying to overcome, but for now let’s just say that central to The Adversary’s plan is creating a new Type 3 manifestation, one that can do everything The Adversary needs to do, and It thinks John Locke is the tool suitable to the task.
3) What Locke’s up to. This is a bit more complicated, because Locke has clearly been told many truths and many lies, and believed them all entirely, and we will never directly see what any of them are.
I also think there’s very strong evidence that Locke is being occasionally controlled/persuaded toward corruption. As a recent example: he conked Sayid on the head, destroyed the transceiver, and later smoothly directed Sayid’s suspicion toward Sawyer while handing Sayid one of his favorite hog-skinning knives—whose blade sure enough did find its way into one of Sawyer’s arteries.⁴
But as for the truths and lies:
Here’s a truth that I think Locke was told: the island is a very special place, and that everyone was brought here for a reason, and the island wants each of them to achieve their particular destinies. I think it’s a truth in service of a lie, though, insofar as Locke hasn’t been told that the reason they have been brought is as candidates to replace Jacob, and he seems to have been led to believe that the “achieve their particular destinies” part of the truth only applies to people who have found themselves on the island, rather than all people—an island elect, if you will. (Yes, John Locke is an Island Calvinist.) Locke also reveals to Charlie his belief that the nature of the island’s gifts are transactional—you have to give to get—which to me sounds like some bullshit from The Adversary, but let’s see. Anyway, this would explain why we see Locke spend much of his time trying to help people (Charlie, in this case) find their true path.
Here’s a half-truth that I think Locke was told: he is the destined leader of all people on the island. This is true, but it is a truth that has already largely been achieved through The Adversary’s time-travel machinations, which Locke certainly doesn’t know about, and which won’t be revealed for a very long time. I think this is why Locke has a habit of cultivating acolytes.
Here’s a lie that I think Locke was told: leaving the island is forbidden. That’s a rule that has been placed on The Adversary; there is no evidence that it’s an edict that extends to humans, and there’s ample evidence to show that it’s doesn’t. It seems entirely in character for The Adversary to tell those It has enthralled that the rule applies to everybody. In any case, we’re going to see John Locke do a number of violent things over the course of this story, always seemingly motivated by preventing people from leaving the island.
Somebody sure gave him that idea.
4) Sun’s very strange situation I’d like to coin a term now, and here it is: Island-Aware. This refers to people and entities who are aware that the island exists, and know a decent amount about what it is, and have either established operations upon it, or are trying to find it in order to do so, and have otherwise arranged much of their lives around this fact.
I bring it up now because we’re going to learn that Sun’s father has business dealings with two very island-aware institutions: The Hanso Foundation (which funds The Dharma Initiative) and Widmore Corporation—which suggests that he is among the island-aware.
We’ll also learn that there seem to be at least two competing and shadowy island-aware factions—one of which seems to operate more as a network of corporate interests, and the other of which seems to operate more as an extremely well-organized, well-funded, militarized underground resistance of splinter cells integrated into civilian life. There will never be any corroboration of this one, but I believe the all-too-plot-convenient organization⁵ that is helping Sun escape Jin is a part of the latter group, trying to extract a high-value asset from the clutches of the former group.
We’re going to see more of these island-aware groups very soon.
So let’s talk about that next time.
L OS T
Next Time: Ethan Done A Bad Bad Thing
¹ Sun’s dad doesn’t make much sense, to be honest. Is he an auto exec? Is he an international gangster? He appears to be both, and if they’re trying to make a point about how corporations are ruthless, they might have sharpened it. It seems like they just mushed together two East Asian stereotypes (car companies! organized crime!) and called it a day. Either way, Jin works as an enforcer. I wonder if he gets a 401(k).
² I don’t think he says ‘calamitous’ but it would be a very Sayid word to use there. The writers do a wonderful thing with Sayid, whereby someone who has learned English as a second language rather casually utilizes it with greater proficiency than the vast majority of native speakers, and I love it every time it happens.
³ Or is it Steve and Scott?
⁴ Oh yeah, Sawyer gets free and he and Sayid fight and then finally Sawyer gets stabbed and nearly dies, but Jack Of Course saves him. I couldn’t find a way to put it into the recap without re-writing it and I didn’t wanna do that.
⁵ Are there groups that send operatives to pose as hired help to infiltrate the home life of abused spouses for months and months, in order to teach them English and arrange for timed-to-the-second transcontinental escapes? Seems a bit well-organized and well-funded and splinter cell for a women’s rescue operation, but this may just be my ignorance speaking.
A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places. He is tied to a tree in a jungle of mystery, darlin’.