Doc Jensen learned two very important lessons this week. The first? Limit yourself to just one sentence per column that refers to yourself in the third person, because it’s super-annoying. The second? Perhaps I should spend less time looking outside of Lost for insight and more time looking within the show for insight. Take my recap of “Recon” from Wednesday. It’s filled with references to The Fisher King, The Book of Judges, and Jean-Paul Sartre. If I had more time, I would have larded it up further by arguing that the mythic one-eyed monster Cyclops (Homer edition) and the comic book characters Swamp Thing and Man Thing help explain UnLocke the Smoke Thing. I did the research. I really did. It’s a sickness.
Here’s what’s worse. If I had only used the time to research past Lost episodes, I would have found a reference that’s far more interesting and perhaps actually helpful for viewers to know. Because now that I have thought about it, the more “Recon” has revealed itself to be a twin to “The Other Woman,” the season 4 episode devoted to Juliet. It’s a clever association. In “Recon,” we saw Sideways James Ford (don’t call him Sawyer!) blunder his way through a doomed date with Sideways Charlotte Lewis. Fans were outraged. We had been hoping/expecting to see Sideways James live happily ever after with Sideways Juliet. How dare the show hook him up with anyone else! To our eyes, it was like watching Sawyer having a fling with… another woman. The irony: “The Other Woman” was the episode in which Lost tried to forge a romance between Jack and Juliet, giving them The Smooch That Didn’t Work. In the eyes of all who saw Kate as Jack’s true love, Juliet was “the other woman.” Indeed, a few episodes later, in “Something Nice Back Home,” Juliet herself came to that conclusion as she operated on Jack’s appendix: she correctly diagnosed Jack’s kiss as an attempt to see if he could feel for anyone else but Kate — a romantic recon mission, if you will. The answer: No. (Ironically, in retrospect, “The Other Woman” now makes Jack look like “the other man,” given how so many people feel Juliet and Sawyer belong together. Ditto Daniel Faraday: I felt he got cuckolded by Sideways Charlotte in “Recon,” poor dead twitchy egghead!)
But there are other parallels between “Recon” and “The Other Woman” that have nothing to do with romance. Consider:
The “Recon” Con
“The Other Woman”
In Juliet’s flashback story, Ben sent Juliet’s beau Goodwin to spy on The Tailies. His ulterior motive: to get Goodwin out of the way so he could make the moves on Juliet. We were even led to believe that Ben had set up Goodwin to be killed by L.A. cop Ana Lucia.
On The Island, Fake Locke sent Sawyer to spy on the Ajira castaways. His ulterior motive, if not primary motivation: To get Sawyer out of the way so he could bond with Kate. I speculated in my recap that Fake Locke was trying to give Kate reason to murder Claire by enticing her to think that Aaron might be damaged if reunited with his crazy mom. Why would Fake Locke want Kate to do that? Because he needs all the castaways dead and he’s not permitted to do the deed himself per “the rules.” Similarly, I now wonder if that’s why FLocke sent Sawyer to Hydra Island. He wanted him Goodwinned; he was setting him up to be murdered by Charles Widmore. Also: L.A. cop questing for vengeance = L.A. cop questing for vengeance Ana Lucia. “Recon” was basically Sawyer’s version of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
“The Other Woman”
Jack and Juliet discussed the files that The Others had on all the castaways. Jack wanted to know more about Juliet. Juliet said, “Trust me, Jack. You don’t want to know what’s in my file.” Separately, this was the episode where Ben talked Locke into releasing him from his cell by showing him the dossier he had assembled on his nemesis, Charles Widmore. He also told Locke that he had a spy on Widmore’s freighter: ex-castaway/Island escapee Michael.
James Ford had been keeping a dossier on his nemesis, “Sawyer,” a.k.a. Anthony Cooper. And we also saw a locked room on Widmore’s boat, and many are speculating that someone we know could be inside. Like, say, ex-castaway/Island escapee Desmond Hume? I think “Recon” could have been making another implied “file” reference and another reference to locked-up castaways… but more on that in a minute.
Locke Doesn’t Like Being Questioned
“The Other Woman”
Claire questioned Locke’s judgment about not pressing Miles harder about the intentions of the freighter folk. He got frustrated. Later, Ben teased Locke about the difficulty of being a leader, and how frustrating it can be when people second-guess your decisions.
While marching to the beach, Sawyer publicly questioned Fake Locke about when and how he plans to get them off The Island. Frustrated, FLocke took Sawyer aside and expressed disappointment that Sawyer challenged his authority in front of the group. Curious: last year in “LaFleur,” Sawyer was en route to the beach with his band of time flashers and had a conversation with a certain ex-girlfriend about the propriety of publicly questioning his leadership. Hmmm…
What Chef Locke Cooks For Dinner
“The Other Woman”
At “New Otherton,” Locke BBQ’d rabbit for dinner.
When Sawyer returned from Hydra Island, Kate said they had eaten rabbit for dinner.
Now, why did “Recon” “re-connect” so ironically with “The Other Woman”? There could be many reasons. One of those reasons could have been to teach us the lesson I learned this week: You won’t find the answers in a book. You’ll find the answers inside the show itself. “The Other Woman” hammers this lesson home with a most ironic visual aid: a literary reference! In that episode, we saw Ben reading Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel VALIS. Forget about the plot of book. (For now.) Here’s what was so significant about the reference: It was the pay-off to a set-up; the punchline to a joke. A few episodes earlier, Locke had brought prisoner Ben some eggs and the book. Ben said he had already read it. Locke replied he should read it again because “you might catch something you missed the first time around.” “The Other Woman” completed the circuit by showing Ben reading Dick’s curious opus. Mental note No. 1: Read VALIS, and possibly its sequels, too: The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. (Transmigration, by the way, is a fancy word for reincarnation.) Mental note No. 2: Brush up on my Lost before I read any book. As Locke said: You might catch something you missed the first time around.
Not that I don’t have a crazy theory inspired by the Vast Active Living Intelligence System that is Lost. Of course I do! Beginning with that last sentence: Yep, that’s the acronym for VALIS. More simply, Lost is literally a body of knowledge, a living, breathing, self-aware mass of facts, figures, and reference points. Now, I’m hoping you read that last sentence and thought: “Hey! That kinda sounds like Smokey! He used to roam around The Island, psychically probing people’s minds and collecting information from their brains! He may have collected other kinds of information, too, like, say, the souls of people who’ve lived on The Island! And now, that cloud of info has become a living, breathing, self-aware mass: John Locke! So waitasec! Doc Jensen, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
Yes: I am saying that Lost itself is a metaphor for Smokey. In some ways, you could say that Lost IS Smokey.
Think about this. Or rather, watch John Locke/Smokey think about this. Have you been noticing that? Have you been noticing that every time Fake Locke shares information with people, tried to bend them to his will, he stops and thinks? His eyes shift in the sockets, like he’s trying to trying to remember something — like he’s flipping through his mental files of memory. (Or maybe just the files that The Others had on the castaways, committed to memory by… Oh but I’m getting ahead of myself.) Or put another way: he’s clocking through past episodes of Lost, trying to find the scene/flashback story that can be of help to him in the moment…
Now, here’s something I didn’t tell you about “The Other Woman.” The episode had an interesting narrative structure. It was all about couplings. Juliet and Goodwin. Juliet and Ben. Juliet and Jack. But it was also about… Charlotte and Daniel Faraday. In their story, everyone thought they were heading to The Tempest — the Dharma power station, which also produced poison gas — to blow it up and gas The Island. But they weren’t trying to kill people — they were trying to disable the station and save people from it. Sidenote: In the episode, Juliet’s ex-lover, Goodwin, got a chemical burn while working in The Tempest. In “Recon,” Juliet’s ex-lover Sawyer burned himself on a steaming teapot. Tempest. Teapot. Tempest in a Teapot. A Jughead/hydrogen bomb reference, for sure… but also a Smokey reference, too. He’s a storm of consciousness inside a vessel.
So: Fake Locke is a vast active living intelligence system. He may contain the minds of every single person that has ever died on The Island. But every community needs a leader, so my guess is that one or possibly two human intelligences in particular are driving the FLocke car. I say human because I do think there’s a third party involved here — a supernatural entity that has long lived on and served The Island, an entity that can collect human souls/minds that come to The Island. Today, let’s not speculate about this entity, whom The Dharma Initiative called Cerberus — a three-headed dog. Instead, let’s focus on the two human drivers. A couple days ago, I suggested that the Smoke Monster was Daniel Faraday, the “Other Man” in the illicit Sawyer/Charlotte hook-up. His partner? It’s “The Other Woman,” of course: Juliet.
Faraday and Juliet are leading Fake Locke — two souls among a legion of dead Island souls that reside within Fake Locke. Maybe that’s why Locke always looks so shifty right before he tells someone something about himself — it’s like he’s trying to figure out which brain to use, or which set of memory files he possesses to draw from in order to say exactly the right thing to push people down the path he wants them to take. And what path is that? Why, death, of course! FLocke wants all the castaways to die or kill each other because then he can absorb their souls into him. And when he leaves The Island, something magical will happen: all those souls will be released and they’ll flow into their Sideways bodies, where they can all live happily ever after in Weird World Los Angeles, where they all know each other and they can all be one big happy family. (Except for Sayid. Poor Sayid: I’m thinking that when he stabbed FLocke in the heart, the magic that occurred there was that Sayid got his soul BACK. And he’s feeling the pain of reunion — and perhaps eternal guilt.)
Think of Smokey as Noah’s Ark. Think of Smokey as… Being John Malkovich. Remember when Sawyer told Kate they were going to get off The Island on the sub? He was right! They are going to take “the sub” — as in Substitute John Locke!
But does that make Smokey the good guy? I think it really depends. If Lost is a story about regeneration, both physically and spiritually, and if we agree that death is a necessary part of that process, then it all depends on if Smokey is a metaphor for embracing the natural “circle of life,” or trying to escape it and subvert it. Interesting: in “Recon,” there was some banter between FLocke and Sawyer that played with the words “do no harm.” “Do No Harm” was the Season 1 episode where Boone died — and Aaron was born…
Something to think about over the weekend, I hope. I’ll be back on Tuesday with some more thoughts in advance of the episode. And reset your calendars: the new weekly Doc Jensen columns will now post every Friday. Consider this the official launch!
PS: If Smokey is a collection of dead Island souls, then who is Jacob? Simple! He, too, is the embodiment of dead souls. But whereas Smokey gets the adults, Jacob gets the children. And within his person, Jacob is also guided by two intelligences — two souls that never really got a chance to live, because they were still inside the womb when their mothers died on The Island. Those souls? They are bad fraternal twins, whose mothers died the same day Jughead was detonated:
Daniel Faraday, embryonic son of Eloise Hawking (so yes: TWO Faraday souls, or perhaps one split in half and shared between Smokey and his nemesis)…
And a boy named Jacob, who was the embryonic son of…
Juliet and Sawyer.
Or Jack and Kate.
I don’t know. The VALIS of my mind is still deciding.