''Lost'': Cabin Boy

''Cabin Fever'' began by showing us the foundation for such a life: Locke's birth. We've previously been given reason to believe Locke was born in May of 1956. But in the opening scene, we saw his mother, a rebellious 16-year-old Emily, secretly six months pregnant with John, dancing to that Buddy Holly song and primping for a date with an older man — presumably, John's con-man biological pop, Anthony Cooper. ''Everyday'' was released on vinyl in July 1957. This sounds picky, but timing is crucial in light of future events. I got that whiff of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men when Emily ran out in the rain and got hit by a car. No Country also featured an out-of-the-blue automobile accident, one that involved Anton Chigurh, one of three debatably unhinged dudes who drive McCarthy's plot and the one who serves as the author's embodiment of terrifying inevitability, a mass-murdering monster formed in the William Gull-From Hell mold.

Struck down by...well, we never saw who was behind the wheel, did we? Maybe that's important, maybe not, or maybe not yet, but anyway, Emily was rushed to the hospital, and with that, John Locke entered the world three months ahead of time. ''He's okay,'' said the nurse. ''He's just a little early.'' As Preemie John was wheeled away in a toasty incubator that looked like a microwave oven (talk about cabin fever!), Emily cried out her wish that the boy be named John. Now, all of that should have sounded familiar to you. Flashback one year ago this week, in which Lost gave us another cheery Mother's Day edition, ''The Man Behind the Curtain.'' That episode told the origin story of Benjamin Linus, who, if you recall, was also born prematurely, and also born to a woman named Emily who cried out his name, although she did so as she died. Some points of difference: Ben was raised by his biological father (oops), while Locke was given up for adoption and raised in foster care. Also, Ben was born about five years after Locke; call it 1963. But as it so happens, Locke's fifth year was a key marker in his fate-whipped trajectory, for it brought Richard Alpert into his life.

We had seen the forever young Other No. 2 earlier in the episode, checking in on Preemie Locke and beaming like some admiring magus from the east. Or west. Or wherever in Christendom the Island is/was/will be positioned in the space-time continuum. Returning five years later, the wise man unexpectedly dropped in on Locke as the boy was playing backgammon, much to the consternation of his sister. Alpert claimed to be with a school that catered to ''extremely special'' children. He said that Locke could be a candidate for his institution and wanted to assess his aptitude. And then, after puzzling over one of John's drawings — a stick-figure man bowled over by a cyclone of black scribble (Smokey?) — Alpert gave Locke a test, and with that, Lost gave us a scene so dense with (potential) subtext it just might take all of the forthcoming eight-month hiatus to unravel it.

NEXT: Little John's Island aptitude test


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