''Lost'': Cabin Boy

The test involved Alpert setting six objects in front of John. They were a baseball mitt; an old tome titled Book of Laws; a corked vial containing a granular substance (sand?); a compass; a Mystery Tales comic book (''What was the secret of the mysterious 'Hidden Land'?'' asked the cover; other stories in the issue were ''The Travelers'' and ''Crossroads of Destiny''); and a knife. ''I want you to look at these things, and think about them,'' said Alpert. ''Now...which of these belong to you...already?'' There will surely be a great debate on how to interpret that ''already.'' To me, it seemed that Alpert was asking Locke to consider looking forward into his life for these objects — as if for people like Alpert and perhaps Locke, past, present, and future happen all at once. That's just my take, and anyway, Locke seemed to fail the test. He slid the vial toward him and off to the side. Then he picked up the compass and set it down. Both of these actions seemed to please Alpert. But then Locke chose the knife and held on to it, and even seemed to enjoy holding on to it, like a knight getting the feel of his sword. Alpert was not only crestfallen but vaguely pissed. ''I'm afraid John isn't ready for our school,'' he said as he left in a huff, and raced out to...catch the next time machine back to the Island?

This is where Lost nutjobs like me lose our minds, or at least much sleep — deconstructing scenes like these. As it turns out, these six objects are portals that, if opened, can flood your mind with possibilities on how to ''read'' the show. Taken individually and separately — and further reinforced by other winks and nods throughout the episode — these embedded clues can link provocatively to The Uncanny X-Men (may I recommend Giant Size X-Men #1, in which ''new'' X-Men must save ''old'' X-Men from ''Krakoa, The Living Island''); Jewish and Mormon history; Egyptian mythology; Freemason conspiracy theory; and, yes, even that From Hell business. The underlying connection: ''special people'' and ''chosen people,'' tapped by fate, biology, or higher powers to execute great work in the world, often in secret. In a word: ''Others.''

But the Book of Law reference is worth focusing on for a few sentences, because it strikes me as proof positive that the writers of Lost not only are keenly aware of how its cultists scrutinize their work but mischievously play to this crowd too. After all, Book of Law evokes a bona fide cult text — or should I say occult text? It's called The Book of the Law, written in 1904 by ''the wickedest man on the planet,'' Aleister Crowley. The book extols the philosophy of Thelema, which is summed up thusly: ''Do what thou wilt.'' Or, in the words of Lost-cited Mama Cass, ''Make your own kind of music/Make your own special song.'' Or, as 16-year-old John Locke raged in the character's third flashback scene, ''Don't tell me what I can't do!'' This came after a bunch of bullies locked Locke in a locker — continuing a recurring theme of a boxed-in confinement throughout the episode — and a kindly teacher encouraged John to attend a summer science camp run by Mittelos, which we know is the off-Island outfit run by the Others. But the brainy Locke refused. He didn't want to be a man of science — he wanted to be a boy of action. Play sports. Go on adventures. Play with knives and hunt some boar, presumably. His teacher responded, ''You can't be the prom king. You can't be the quarterback. You can't be a superhero.''

NEXT: Is John Ben, or vice versa?


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