One Of Them (S2, ep. 14)
My relationship with the Other as neighbor gives meaning to my relations with all others.” – Levinas
“Each consciousness pursues the death of the Other.” – Hegel
“L’enfer, c’est les autres (Hell is the different ones/Others/Other people)” – Sartre
Sayid: “Jack asked me how I knew — knew for sure that this man was lying. How I knew for sure that he was one of them — one of the Others. I know because I feel no guilt for what I did to him.”
Delivered from the desert at long last.
A string of elegiacal episodes offering up tragic turns on past apparent victories has worn me down, but the arrival of one Henry Gale into the lives of the castaways shakes Lost out of its growing depression and gives it a sharp kick in the ass.
“One Of Them” has the full package: jungle adventure (Rousseau’s trapped a man in a net! There is a non-decorative crossbow!), compelling back-story (Sayidisode! Torture and Clancy Brown!), and engaging on-Island dilemmas (Jackface! More torture! An Other among them!). Lost still spends most of its running time in dark places; even the comparably-upbeat Sawyer/Hurley ‘B’ story ends on a gruesome note. That darkness isn’t as oppressive though, when it’s propped up by more compelling elements around it. Plus: Michael Emerson joins the show in what was arguably Lost’s best-ever casting decision.
Not only is the on-screen stuff compelling, so is the apparent subtext of this episode. When people laud Lost as ‘smart’ television, this is part of what they’re referring to. There’s a ton of metaphysical material that’s being mined in the far background of the show; “One Of Them” contains seeds for the discussion of something that’s powerfully important to understanding some of what’s being said by Lost’s writers. I’d argue it’s also pretty important to you and to me.
• This show features torture as a plot point more than any show that isn’t ’24.’ Unlike ’24,’ Lost never came under fire for this. Why? I’ve never really watched ’24,’ so I’m the wrong guy to answer that question.
• It’s a Sayid flashback, and we watch as he’s co-opted by the U.S. Army and used as a torturer to extract information from his former superior. The Army Captain that recruits him is Kate’s father, who we met in “What Kate Did.”
• Sawyer spends the episode being tormented by…a frog? How does he know it’s a frog at the beginning of the hour, anyhow? This whole subplot is kind of…dumb, but I enjoyed Hurley and Sawyer’s interactions and the way in which this ‘B’ story comments on the larger narrative.
• We find out that Dharma Initiative Ranch Dressing keeps at room temperature for seven months after opening. This is disturbing to me.
• I love that Sawyer keeps a hand on his pistol as he’s searching for the frog.
‘Henry’: “Please, just cut me down. My name is Henry Gale. I’m from Minnesota. Please.”
Rousseau: “He’s lying.”
Rousseau leads Sayid into the jungle and to the place where she’s captured “Henry Gale” in one of her nets. The choice of that name is playful on Lost’s part. And it serves the show’s ongoing interest in pointing out the various similarities between the Island and a number of other fictional worlds – something I commented on in the column for “…And Found.” Oz is, after all, an island surrounded by sands instead of water. Like Lost’s Island, its run by an ordinary man that only appears to be all-powerful. See any other connections? Log on to the Message board and let me know!
• Of course, we all know now that ‘Henry Gale’ is really Benjamin Linus, and on re-watch I’m really enjoying the way Michael Emerson plays him here. When “One of Them” first aired I spent the majority of the episode thinking that Sayid and Locke were making an awful mistake, but then…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
• Since he’s calling himself Henry here but my mind insists on calling him Ben, let’s just call him Ben. I was going to suggest ‘BenHenry,’ but that conjures to mind some kind of terrible candy bar.
• Rousseau says that Ben has been in her net since the night before. Why haven’t Ben’s crew come to rescue him? I don’t remember if this was ever addressed, but it makes me wonder now whether Richard saw an opportunity to rid himself of an increasingly troubling leader.
• Rousseau doesn’t appear to recognize Ben as the man who took her daughter years earlier, although as Sayid walks away with him after Rousseau shoots him, there’s something like confused recognition on her face. I don’t think I care, honestly, about whether she should/shouldn’t, or does/doesn’t recognize him.
• Speaking of which…Rousseau SHOOTS BEN WITH A CROSSBOW.
Said crossbow-shooting and subsequent crossbow bolt removal continued Lost’s streak of great, graphic injuries.
• Sayid tries to stop Rousseau from shooting Ben – a mirrored reflection of Season 5, where Sayid will be the one shooting Ben. This entire episode mirrors the Season 5 episode “He’s Our You” in ways that seem fully intentional. Which is totally fucking awesome. To wit:
In Season 2, Ben is imprisoned in Rousseau’s net and Sayid frees him. In Season 5, Sayid is the one in prison, and Ben frees him. In Season 2, Ben is an Other, pretending to be a castaway. In Season 5, Sayid is a castaway pretending to be an Other. In Season 2, Sayid is the interrogator. In Season 5, Sayid is interrogated. Both deal with the established community of that episode (in Season 2, the beach camp; in Season 5, Dharmaville) dealing with a sudden, apparently-threatening Other. This mirroring ties in, nice and neat, with Hegel’s conception of ‘mirror-selves’ and the idea of ‘Others’ generally. If you’ll indulge me for a minute:
On a show that wears its basic metaphysical ambitions on its sleeve, the use of the word “Other” to describe Ben and his Merry (Wo)Men is not the sort of choice that’s random. The concept of ‘The Other’ features in philosophy and psychology, and it has significant bearing on the drama that we’re watching play out on Lost.
I’ll let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for us on this one. While it’s not the most reliable of reference sources, it is remarkably useful for talking about basic concepts. Here’s what the site has to say about ‘The Other’:
“A person’s definition of the ‘Other’ is part of what defines or even constitutes the self and other phenomena and cultural units. It has been used in social science to understand the processes by which societies and groups exclude ‘Others’ whom they want to subordinate or who do not fit into their society. The concept of ‘otherness’ is also integral to the comprehending of a person, as people construct roles for themselves in relation to an ‘other’ as part of a process of reaction that is not necessarily related to stigmatization or condemnation. Othering is imperative to national identities, where practices of admittance and segregation can form and sustain boundaries and national character. Othering helps distinguish between home and away, the uncertain or certain. It often involves the demonization and dehumanization of groups, which further justifies attempts to civilize and exploit these ‘inferior’ others.”
See what I mean? To a Christian Fundamentalist, homosexuals are Others. To an Atheist, Fundamentalists are Others. To an American citizen, Iraqis are Others. To an Island castaway, Ben and company are Others. To Ben and company, the castaways are Others. This dynamic suffuses the show and whenever we talk about characters ‘twinning’ each other, or events and/or episodes mirroring each other, we’re in part talking about this concept of the Other. I encourage you to read through the Wikipedia page I’ve linked to on the subject. We’ll be coming back to this idea throughout the rewatch and I’ll expand a little further on it just below.
• Clancy Brown pops up here as an unnamed Army official and it’s good to see him. Brown is an on-the-whole underrated actor who’s beloved by certain factions in fandom, Chud.com definitely included. Lost continually lines up quality guest stars for its seasons, and Brown will come to have greater significance at the end of this season when he’s revealed to be Kelvin Inman, Desmond’s former partner at the Swan.
• Inman has ‘liberated’ Sayid’s personnel file, and knows a fair amount about him. This echoes, probably unintentionally, the dossiers of the Others.
Sayid: “Jack – do not untie him.”
What makes Sayid change his mind? With Rousseau he seems set on helping the man, distressed when Rousseau shoots Ben. Now, he’s suspicious and alert. We know Sayid has a way of reading people – we’ve seen him do it with Locke and others – but there’s really nothing to read as yet since Ben’s been mostly passed out.
• Castaway trust continues to erode as Locke and Sayid plot behind Jack’s back to torture Ben. This all occurs in the Hatch again, reinforcing my growing suspicion that the Swan is literally or figuratively meant as a ‘bad’ place.
LOCKE: You’re raising an army.
LOCKE: And why you didn’t ask me to help — well, that’s your business — but there’s only one reason to raise an army, Jack. And that’s because we’re at war. And like it or not, whatever Sayid has to do behind that door — that’s a part of it, too.
John makes a neo-conservative’s argument to Jack regarding torture. And he makes what I think is a good point generally, even if I don’t agree with it. Jack’s the one trying to start an army on the Island – a task he hasn’t recruited Locke or Sayid for despite their backgrounds and training. Like it or not, if you start down the road to war, the issue of torture is going to arise. Philosophical differences on how to go about ‘winning’ are inevitable. Jack should have at least been prepared for this turn of events, but he clearly isn’t.
• This episode uses the first Iraq war to comment on war and human behavior generally, but I don’t think its any coincidence that the United States was in Iraq again dealing with these same issues of torture when this episode ran.
• Ben doesn’t appear to recognize the man who shot him as a boy. This could be subterfuge on his part (one of the things I love about Emerson’s performance is that he makes Ben’s essential unknowability into an asset), it could be genuine (trauma, after all, does have a way of rewiring the memory), or it could be that the writers hadn’t known in Season 2 that they’d want Sayid to try and shoot young Ben in Season 5. I could care less, honestly. The drama remains effective regardless.
Sayid: I was 23 years old when the Americans came to my country. I was a good man. I was a soldier. And when they left, I was something different. For the next 6 years I did things I wish I could erase from my memory — things which I never thought myself to be capable of. But I did come to learn this — there was a part of me which was always capable. You want to know who I am? My name is Sayid Jarrah, and I am a torturer.
Sayid comes to this realization again in Season 5, but it’s an even darker conclusion on his character’s part. Ironically, it’s Ben that pushes him to realize it about himself.
• Hurley and Sawyer find their stupid frog, and we get a nifty illustration of this episode’s larger themes rendered in semi-comedic (emphasis on the ‘semi’) miniature. Hurley has a firm ‘live and let live’ policy with regard to seemingly everything and everyone. He wants to take the offending frog (really, Lost?) and move it to a different sector of the jungle to live in peace. Sawyer tells him that he has another idea, and simply crushes the frog in his hand. Why? Maybe because, if they let the frog live it’ll come back and bother them again. Or maybe he wants to crush it because, frankly, sometimes we get an urge up in us to crush the Other – the life we can’t, or won’t, relate to. It is easier than making the effort to ‘live together.’ It is primally satisfying in a way that détente is not.
The basic conflict between accepting/sparing the Other and desiring to destroy the Other is all over “One of Them.” Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic is worth a look-see after you watch this episode, dealing as it does with confronting the Other and the concept of mirror-selves. I invite you to pop in to Chud’s Lost:Rewatch thread and talk about your impressions. Do you agree that Lost is attempting to incorporate this stuff into the narrative? Do you think they’re successful? Jump in and let me know!
• Sayid’s on-Island interrogation gives us our first insight into Ben’s character – his frankly astonishing ability to take any situation and flip it to his longer-term advantage. He learns more about Sayid and what makes him tick than Sayid learns about him.
• “Jackface” makes its triumphant return to the show in this episode as Jack uses the threat of an unpressed Button to get Locke to open the gun-closet door and pull Sayid out. What’s Jackface, you ask? Basically, it refers to any time where Jack’s rage/frustration comes across comically on Matthew Fox’s face.
Allow me to illustrate:
Matthew Fox has some of the craziest eyes on television, right? This never gets old, so I’ll be including instances of blatant Jackface as they pop up.
• The Button counts down all the way for the first time and we get a glimpse at the set of ominous hieroglyphics that begin to click into place before Locke manages to start the timer over again:
We’ll see them clearly and fully further down the season. According to Lostpedia, these translate to mean ‘Underworld.’ The question for me is: if Dharma built the Swan, why did it include hieroglyphs? And why would they choose to obliquely refer to the concept of ‘Underworld’ as the timer runs out?
• As Jack drags Sayid from the gun-closet (they’re calling it the armory), we get a glimpse of Ben’s ‘real’ face – contempt, calculation and cold intelligence. I’ll make a totally unfounded guess and say that this moment sold Lost’s creators on the notion of Ben being the leader of the Others. According to interviews with Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, they introduced the character of ‘Henry Gale’ with the knowledge that he could end up being the Others’ leader, or could end up being something else depending on how the actor worked out. Clearly the actor worked out.
Locke: “He is ‘one of them.’ To Rousseau, we’re all ‘Others.’ I guess it’s all relative, huh?”
Locke’s line drives the episode’s point home again. We’re all ‘Others’ to the people that we’re confronted with in life. That’s ‘relativism,’ pretty much. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that relativism, a philosophical stance that’s deeply despised by the kinds of conservative minds who advocated for Iraq War II, is featured in an episode that deals directly with the mindsets of war and the question of dealing with the Other.
Kate’s dad reappears at the episode’s end, holding a picture of a young Evangeline Lily wearing a ridiculous hat. I have no observations about this. I just think that hat is hilarious.
Sayid is abandoned by the U.S. Army after he’s used for violent ends – mirroring the way in which Ben will use and discard Sayid in Season 5.
• The episode ends with Sayid and Charlie on the beach. Charlie’s been ostracized due to his wacky religious dreams and his penchant for sleepwalking with small children, but Sayid sees in him a kindred soul. He tells Charlie that he is sure Ben is an Other because he felt ‘no guilt’ for what he did to him. Refer again to the Master-slave dialectic and the concept of ‘The Other.’ Does Sayid feel no guilt because Ben is an Other in the literal sense? Or does he feel no guilt because, in the figurative sense, Ben is an Other to him? The answer is a little bit of both – black and white, dark and light, yin and yang.
You can catch up on what you’ve missed and waste time reading utter speculation by visiting www.LostTheRewatch.blogspot.com
You can also visit the Lost: Rewatch thread here at Chud, where a phenomenal group of people dissects and expands upon these rambling thoughts in a fun and enlightening way every day.
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