LOST 011 - Why Abduct?
Sayid gets captured, Claire gets snatched, Charlie Pace’s Mostly Dead, and — hey, what’s that hatch? Unpacking the TV show LOST — Season 1: Episodes 9-11
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on June 27, 2022.
Hey friendlies, it’s been an absolute nightmare of a week for decent people everywhere, and a really great week for the supremacist dominionist Christian fascists who are taking over our lovely country to satisfy their own bigotries and sense of blamelessness. After consideration, I decided to keep my LOST biweekly schedule while I digest all the news into my current musings on the societal sabotage we see from fascism. Noodling on LOST was a welcome respite for me, and hopefully it will be for you, too. Meanwhile, give to abortion funds and find your local mutual aides, support people who can give birth and other targeted and marginalized people, and fight fascists.
OK, how about a mental health break? Let’s talk about a soap opera that wrapped up over a decade ago.
Recently, on LOST: The Oceanic Survivors crashed on Craphole Friggin’ Island. Many of them were nice, some were not so nice, hence conflict! There’s a monster in the jungle, and it has corrupted their hunter, John Locke—though nobody knows that yet. Compasses act weird. Polar bears lurk. There are miracles and ghosts and mysteries that are only deepened by flashbacks to the survivors’ pre-island life. It’s a real whiz-bang, mommy. And we’re just getting started!
Also, last installment featured an asthma plot and I forgot to make a “sucks to your ass-mar” Lord Of The Flies joke, and that oversight haunts me more than I can ever express.
O B S E R V A T I O N
Three quite important episodes this time. No time to dither, let’s dig right in.
Episode 9: SOLITARY (Sayid): Sayid is on self-imposed exile from the group, having backslid on his torture hobby (in his defense, he tortured Sawyer, who was almost begging to be tortured). He’s been reconnoitering as advertised last episode, walking the perimeter of the beeeatch, but he’s resting telegenically for now, staring at the mysterious picture of the woman he’s been staring at for a while, who we’ll learn in flashback is his Forever Love Number One¹, Nadia.
He notices a cable leading from the jungle. It goes into the water. That’s weird as hell.² He follows the cable into the jungle and soon enough he gets himself caught up in a human trap with a pointed stick broken off in his leg. When he awakens he finds himself in a case of ironic comeuppance; the torturer is himself tortured by his captor—who is none other than the mysterious Frenchwoman that left the distress message Sayid & Co. discovered way back in the pilot episode. She’s looking for “Alex,” and every time Sayid insists he doesn’t know who or where Alex is, it’s electrode time!
Mysterious Frenchwoman is named Danielle; last name Rousseau. We’ll learn “Alex” is Danielle’s daughter, who was kidnapped as an infant. She seems insane in the membrane to Sayid and to us, but we’ll soon learn she’s fairly sane; just isolated and traumatized from a decade and a half of extremely competent solo island survival. The scientific expedition she came with, though … they went crazy. Danielle claims they became “infected” and murderous. She had to kill her lover Robert before he killed her. She claims their “infection” came into her group through “others” on the island, who she has never seen but has heard. She says they’re whispers, which ever-pragmatic Sayid takes as crazypants talk, understandably enough.
In the B plot, Hurley proves he is the true Castaway Mayor, as he makes a golf course for relaxing fun and doctor golf jokes and character moments. It’s not relevant here but it is good clean fun.
Sayid meanwhile establishes trust with Danielle by fixing her music box, then breaks the trust by attempting escape, but in the end Danielle lets him go, warning him to watch his group for signs of “infection.” Sayid heads back as quickly as his injured leg and fever will allow, and is overwhelmed around dusk, when he finds himself surrounded by what Danielle told him about: mysterious, almost (but not quite) intelligible whispers of human voices.
End of Episode 9.
Episode 10: RAISED BY ANOTHER (Claire). Time to find out what Claire’s deal is! Claire has a freaky semi-apocalyptic dream about giving away her baby, and when she wakes up, she freaks out, because she’s been sleepwalking and her hands are bloody. She’s fine—it was just a dream, and her wounds are minor and incidental—but the next night she’s attacked by a stranger.
Jack of Course minimizes her concerns because Jack, hovering in the liminal space between understandably skeptical and condescending, commits fully to condescending, and assumes pregnant ladies be hysterical. Claire is alienated from most of the group by this, but during the ordeal her relationship with Charlie deepens, mostly through Charlie being an actually good dude who provides emotional support like a good friend without turning into an expectation-setting Nice Guy™ as he sometimes can do, and it’s sweet.
But the big stuff in this episode actually happens in the flashback so I’ll unpack it in the flashback section.
Hurley takes the B plot for a second straight episode, proving again that he is the true Castaway Mayor, as he realizes that they don’t really have a list of everybody in their community. Go-getter that he is, Hurley makes a census, and when he compares it to the airline manifest, he learns … they have been infiltrated. There’s somebody among them who wasn’t on the plane! Sayid returns just at that moment, also claiming there are others on the island! Mystery! It could be anybody! It could be Boone!
Nah, it’s just Ethan Rom: the character only introduced last episode, whose name is an anagram of “Other Man” and who also is played by well-known character actor and Tom Cruise cousin William Mapother . But damn he looks creepy. And he’s about to kidnap Claire real good.
End of Episode 10.
Episode 11: ALL THE BEST COWBOYS HAVE DADDY ISSUES (Jack). This is an exciting episode, in part because it has one of the worst titles in the show’s entire run, and that’s always fun to see. But also it’s got a ton of action, as Jack Of Course and Kate Of Course pursue Ethan Rom, who has kidnapped Claire and Charlie, and they have fights in the rain and say Action Guy stuff at each other with seething faces and etcetera.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Claire is kidnapped! Charlie is charlienapped! There’s no time to lose! The Gang Arranges A Search Party, with Jack, Locke, Kate, and Boone heading out to find their missing tribemates. Well, no—Locke sets up the searching party with Boone and Kate, but Jack Of Course has immediately made this about himself and run out alone, sans plans. He’s eating his liver for not believing Claire when she claimed she was being attacked at night. Unfortunately he’s no woodsman (junglesman?) and goes in ineffectual circles for a bit, but despite Locke’s reservations about risking the community’s only doctor (and probably his reservations about Jack’s general lack of competence in this area), Jack still insists on coming along.
Soon the tracks diverge into two possible paths, and they have to split up, with Locke and Boone heading one way and Jack and Kate (who is given a nice bit of characterization to explain why she has tracking skills) going the other.
There’s a cool scene with Sayid and Sawyer. They bond a bit with macho threats. It’s cool. Not super plot relevant but Sawyer reveals he’s been keeping the signal fire burning, which is the first helpful thing he’s ever done. There’s a cool scene where Walt and Hurley bond over backgammon, and Walt claims to have had a dad before Michael.
Jack and Kate choose the hot trail. A great big fight in the rain happens, and Ethan whoops Jack, then warns him to back off or he’ll leave a corpse behind. When they pursue anyway, Ethan leaves Charlie behind, hanged from a tree. Charlie’s as dead as a hobbit in hell. Jack and Kate cut him down, and Jack pounds on Charlie’s chest … which doesn’t work until Jack tries it some more and … it works?
It turns out Charlie was only Mostly Dead! Mostly Dead is still Partly Alive, so they don’t have to go through his pockets and look for loose change. But they do lose Claire to Ethan. She’s been snatched along with her baby, who now seems likely to be raised by An Other.
Back at camp, Charlie finds a fun new hobby: staring into the fire with murder eyes.
Locke and Boone, meanwhile, having chosen the cold trail, have no fights in the rain, but they do bond, and Locke does predict when the rain will stop and start, which is interesting, and very impressive to Boone, a natural follower who has at last found his Island Dad.
After sundown, heading back, they find something very strange and very interesting.
A hatch in the middle of the jungle.
End of Episode 11.
Flashbacks. Sayid’s flashback doesn’t give us a lot that we haven’t already been told—he was in the Republican Guard, he was a torturer, he learned that this was a very bad thing to be and stopped—but Naveen Andrews is marvelous as usual, so it’s a pretty good episode. Also, we learn that Nadia is a childhood crush who as an adult has become a political prisoner and probably a dissident. Somewhat shockingly, we learn that Sayid tortured even her, but at the last moment his conscience won out; he saved Nadia from execution by literally taking a bullet; now he spends his life searching for her, the personification of his moral failure. Nice character stuff.
Claire’s flashback tells us something rather uninteresting and something very interesting. The uninteresting thing is that her baby’s father was a feckless asshole who scarpered when he couldn’t handle the responsibility. The interesting thing is she went to a psychic, who freaked out and stopped the reading. Then she went back to the psychic, who explained that he had “seen something blurry, and blurry is bad.” The psychic agreed to resume the reading, at which point he seriously freaked out, insisted that it was hugely important—the implication is the matter is globally important—that the baby be raised by Claire and nobody else. The psychic could not or would not elaborate, but found this matter so important he began harassing Claire, who had no desire to raise a child by herself. Eventually the psychic changed tactics, finding a couple who he claims is both willing to adopt and suitable to fate, and offering Claire a cash payout for taking that option. And airfare, of course. The couple is in Los Angeles, claimed the psychic, who purchased a ticket for Claire … on Oceanic 815. On the island, Claire comes to a realization many viewers probably already achieved: that there was almost certainly no couple in Los Angeles. The psychic—who insisted that Claire must travel on Flight 815 and no other—intended for Claire to arrive on the island.
Finally, Jack’s flashback fills in a recent somewhat interesting mystery, to wit: what exactly he did to his father that made his never-again-seen mother put such a massive guilt trip on him. Turns out what he did was refuse to cover for Christian during a legal inquest, after Christian scrubbed into a surgery while drunk, then screwed up and killed the patient on the table. So, um, good job actually, Jack. Well done there. Cheers, mate. Anyway, Christian lost his medical license and fell all the way into the bottle after that, and drank himself to death in Australia, and Jack, being Jack, still blames himself for Christian’s entirely self-destructive demise, which helps underscore how Jack’s heroism is fed by his sense of inadequacy and failure, and why he feels so annoyingly and relentlessly driven to ensure that it’s he and only he who must solve problems like the Claire/Charlie kidnapping.
That’s right; it’s the amazing origin story of Jack Of Course!
B E L I E F
OK, a lot of stuff got set up in here. Luckily most of it is going to get unpacked over time, so it won’t be necessary to explain every last little thing right now. Hopefully we can still get this entry wrapped up before lunchtime.
1) Locke and the rain. Let’s start with a minor moment that I believe has some important implications: Locke reveals he’s attuned with the weather on the island, predicting rain down to the second. The surface explanation is that this simply reestablishes Locke as somebody who is spiritually attuned to nature and the island, and maybe so … but we will see many indications in the future that The Adversary can control weather, and particularly that it can create storms. This isn’t something that is overtly confirmed … it’s just there to see, in my opinion.
I believe Locke’s strange attunement can be read as a subtle indication that his consciousness has become to some degree commingled with that of The Adversary … and I believe it is this supernatural influence that seized the rest of Danielle Rousseau’s science expedition. I think this influence—which can have a wide spectrum of manifestations from “connected” to “murderous” depending on what The Adversary needs—is what Rousseau refers to when she speaks of “infection.”
“Infection” is an idea that was introduced in “Solitary,” and then (I thought) completely abandoned until far later, when it came back again in ways that didn’t make much sense. I thought the writers would explain it eventually. They don’t.
But I think, if we think of it in terms of a supernatural influence over others, with a sort of murderous paranoiac “infection” only being the specific manifestation of this influence that Danielle experienced, we might find other examples of it soon enough among our heroes.
2) Charlie’s resurrection. I don’t have much more to say here, except that it’s not particularly realistic for somebody hanging by their neck for minutes to be resurrected by chest-pounding, so this might be an annoying case of the “magical CPR” TV trope.
But, I find it much more interesting to point out that this can be read as an early example of The Island “not letting” somebody die—a concept that will come up much later, and which I take to be a manipulation of probability and possibility. Charlie hasn’t yet fulfilled his purpose, and once he has, The Island will indeed let him die, at which point he will—until such time as his spirit is able to enter the light—presumably join the ghostly whispers.
3) Whispers. Yes, ghosts. But ghosts shouldn’t be a surprise; the island is a spiritual nexus, after all. These are spirits of people who have departed but not moved on. Much later we’ll learn that this is very literally the case, as one of our dearly departed main character Losties appears as a ghost and flat out says it. We’ll also have it strongly implied that the whispers prefigure the arrival of The Adversary and follow in its wake—which is what leads me to believe that The Adversary was once The Advocate for human spirits. It also suggests that those closest to death may be closest to potential influence by The Adversary … so maybe let’s watch Charlie closely, insofar as “infection” goes.
We’ll have plenty of time to talk about these spirits and what their deal is, but the thing to note at the outset is that in the world of LOST, spirits exist, they appear to exist most powerfully on the island, and some people are more attuned to seeing and hearing them than others.³
So, sometimes when there is an apparition of a person we know to be dead, it is The Adversary. Sometimes it is actually the spirit of the person. Knowing which is which is going to require sharp eyes and attention paid to context clues.
3) Psychics. Once we accept that spirits exist, and that people can be attuned to them, it’s not too difficult to believe that in this world psychics can be real. Again, there’s a bit of difficulty, as we’ll see people who claim to be attuned but are running a scam, and people who claim to be running a scam but are actually attuned, and people who are attuned but assume that apparitions of dead people means that they’re mentally ill—but I think it’s reasonable (and certainly makes a more interesting story) to assume that Claire’s psychic was truly attuned, and really saw something that really freaked him out. Given that the story he gave her never really made sense, I also believe he had ulterior motives, and was very likely lying about any number of things, but it’s safe to say that he wanted Claire to come to the island.
As for having seen “something blurry” and “blurry is bad,” I’ve previously established my belief that The Island can manipulate not only time and space but possibility and probability. It would seem that Claire’s son Aaron (spoilers) sits at a major inflection point of possibility, where things could go very badly if the wrong person raises him, and this is what the psychic sees.
It’s also worth noting that whatever the implications of Claire’s son being raised correctly or incorrectly are, they are not explored in the series, so if anybody wanted to bring LOST back, this would be a very fruitful plot from which to hang stories. Hint.
4) Children. There is a lot of business starting up now about Very Special Children and children being captured. There’s Rousseau’s daughter Alex, of course, who we’ll much later find was kidnapped by current Others leader Ben Linus to spare her from death.
There’s also Claire’s baby, who is obviously of great interest to Ethan Rom, and of the Others, and is the reason he targeted her specifically for abduction.
There’ve also been early rumblings (which will start rumbling in earnest soon) that Walt is a child of strange skills and great importance to The Island.
What is worth calling out here is something we won’t learn for a long time in the series: no on-island pregnancies have succeeded on the island for a very long time, and given that the group who currently controls much of the island’s territory is trying to keep themselves and the island hidden from other competing interests, this is a big problem, population-collapse-wise. When new groups come, the children among them become the primary targets for capture and assimilation.
This creates a lot of the sort of dramatic strife that is pretty good for a dramatic TV show. So that’s lucky for us.
6) The Others. We can talk about this for a long time, and we’ll have a chance to do so by and by. For now, let’s just say this: there are several factions—some of them allied with one another, others adversarial to one another; some of them on-island, others off it—that are what I’d call “island-aware.” They know the island exists, and something about what makes it special. Some of them have spent time on it before. They all have their intentions toward it and their plans and plots to affect those plans. Most of them seem to believe that they are acting in the island’s interests, though some seem to be more mercenary than that. Some of them seem to worship Jacob, or at least serve him. Most of them have significant resources and power, which (it’s suggested) stem primarily from the advantages their knowledge of the island lends them.
These factions aren’t ever well defined. We never get an org chart or a history of their various leadership changes and goals.⁴
We’ll have to observe and make our best guesses as we go, but here’s a quick primer of a few important ones.
There is Ricardus, Jacob’s intermediary, who is the only person we know of permitted direct access to Jacob on the island.
There is a group in a temple we won’t see for a very long time, and there is evidence that people in this group may have actually come into knowing contact with Jacob at least at some point of recruitment, so I call them “Jacobians.” We’ll learn that Ricardus is trusted enough by this group to come and go freely among them.
Ethan Rom comes from a group that it’s easiest to refer to as “The Others,” and who are going to be the most plot relevant group. They appear to be a rogue group of Jacobians, who live on the abandoned facilities left behind by a corporate scientific initiative known as Dharma. This cabal trusts Ricardus and has some connection with the temple Jacobians, even though there seems to be some distrust there—likely because this cabal appears to be continuing the Dharma Initiative’s scientific work to some extent, and controlling methods for coming and going to and from the island.
I believe Claire’s psychic was a member of one of those factions—probably the Jacobians.
I believe there may have been some passengers aboard Oceanic 815 who were part of island-aware factions, and boarded expecting at least some chance they would come to the island.
I believe almost all passengers aboard Oceanic 815—the survivors at least—were manipulated onto the flight by island-aware factions.
We’re going to see more of these island-aware groups.
Let’s maybe talk about that as they reappear.
But now we have a hatch to think about.
L OS T
Next Time: Control Walt Delete
¹ Forever Love Number Two is going to be French-speaking socialite Shannon, who is … not the best character. I’ve always seen the Sayid/Shannon pairing as a big mistake, given that Nadia is already set up as a far more credible “one true love” for Sayid … but this time through I’m actually appreciating Maggie Grace’s performance despite the very little she’s ever given to do, and noticing the ways Nadia’s character is actually set up more as a symbol to Sayid of his guilt at his failings. Anyway, I’m sure there’ll be more space to discuss the shabby story treatment of Sayid’s love interests later. There Will Be Fridgeings.
² My very favorite long-hanging plot point, the cable into the ocean. It will come back a looooong time later. Thought the writers had forgotten about it? They had not. Did they know what was under the water when they wrote it in here? I actually think they did.
³ It’s also probably a good guess that a natural attunement to spirits may be a major factor in who The Island draws to itself.
⁴ This might annoy you if you find these questions interesting, but the fact that those questions aren’t answered suggest that they simply aren’t important to the story. From this stems my belief that none of the factions are aware enough of the actual struggle to avoid being manipulated by powerful entities, and thus most what they believe about the nature of the mysteries we see would confuse matters more than explicate them.
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.