Dave (S2, ep. 18)
Hurley: “No, man. I’m just not coming. Look, you don’t want me to get better. You don’t want me to change.”
Dave: “You don’t need to change, man. You are fine. You’re great.”
Hurley: “No, I’m not. You just want me to stay fat. You don’t want me to get better. You wouldn’t care if I ate myself to death.”
Libby: Pretty weird, huh? So the Island won’t let you lose weight — you destroy your stash, then bang — more food falls from the sky.
• Hurley’s food stash is another example of how the Swan station is figuratively exerting a negative effect on everyone. Temptation and relapse are everywhere, and while Occam’s Razor dictates we interpret this stuff as simple misfortune and personal weakness, the presence of Dave in this episode makes things more complicated.
• Dave is a tempter in the grand tradition. He’s the snake in the garden, urging Adam to come to Forbidden Fruit Night in the cafeteria. He’s everything destructive, everything impulsive and selfish in Hurley and by extension, humanity. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Dave can be seen as sin and solipsism personified, at least as I define them.
• The way I see it, there are three potential explanations for the eponymous Dave:
1) He’s a spectral ‘avatar’ just like Christian, Alex, Yemi, Locke (s5) and the MiB.
Dave certainly acts a lot like the other ‘ghosts’ we’ve seen on the Island. All of them have attempted to separate the castaways from the larger group and draw them into the figurative and literal isolation of the jungle. All of them have attempted to push the characters into acting or not acting in particular ways. All of them appear and disappear without a trace. And all of them seem to share the same vaguely-inhuman/menacing demeanor.
Before re-watching ‘Dave’ for the first time since its initial airing I thought that the title character would potentially blow a hole in one of my Wildly Delusional Theories. It’s been my contention for a while now that the MiB can only assume the forms of the dead that reside on the Island. Dave was the apparent exception that shattered the theory, but I’d forgotten this episode’s ‘twist’ – Dave wasn’t ‘real.’ So there’s nothing in this episode that conflicts with my speculation. For all we know, the man we know as Dave did die on the Island at some point in the past. This might seem more Wildly Delusional than usual but as I’ll discuss in more detail below, there’s good reason to suspect that Dave represents another form of the MiB.
2) He’s a hallucination in the same way that Locke’s mother and Charlie’s mother were hallucinations.
Neither mom died on the Island but both appear in visions that influence the characters. And since Charlie’s vision was a sleepwalking/dreaming awake affair, during which he took Aaron and walked him clear to the surf, it would seem that the MiB’s influence can compel a person to act while in the grasp of delusion. If I’m correct that the MiB/the Island is responsible for all of these visions then it would seem that he/It can create other forms from the subconscious – and separate rules apply. Notice how Hurley becomes a part of Charlie’s waking dream in ‘Fire + Water.’
3) He’s a figment of Hurley’s imagination.
With this show, it’s sometimes best not to lean too hard on an overly-fantastic explanation. Sometimes a horse is just a horse. The show clearly wanted to explore Hurley’s hinted-at mental problems, and we know that in the real world people hallucinate other people. Thinking rationally and psychologically, Dave is simply a projection of the self-loathing that Hurley feels and a representation of the mental issues Hurley has dealt with. Keep it simple stupid, as the saying goes.
But why would I do that?
• I’m not sure why it’s cool that Hurley dumps all that food out in the jungle when they could be sharing it with the others, but whatever. Who am I to begrudge Hurley his ‘throwing the heroin in the fire’ moment?
• And speaking of which: I love that as soon as Hurley gives up his temptation it returns, from right out of the sky. It echoes Charlie’s second round of temptation (also delivered from out of the sky), and it highlights just how differently Charlie and Hurley are treated when they have their respective freak-outs. I’d like to think that this contrast is intentional, but if it’s not its still interesting to see how empathy and understanding lead to a spurt of growth and self-worth for Hurley; how suspicion and fear lead to alienation and anger for Charlie.
• Charlie talks about how the lockdown may have occurred to prevent anyone from seeing who drops the food. Why do this? Is the identity of the dropper or the way in which it’s dropped worth hiding? Is it a Skinner Box-style reinforcement of some kind? I welcome theories.
• Hurley’s psychiatrist is Bruce Davison, a character actor with films like “X-Men,” “Spies Like Us” and “Willard” to his credit. Incidentally, “Ben,” the hit Michael Jackson ballad featured in “Willard” has got to be the strangest combination of a movie and a pop song ever, no?
“‘It is related in the annals of Clairvaux that St. Bernard asked our Lord which was His greatest unrecorded suffering, and Our Lord answered: “I had on My Shoulder, while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound, which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men.’”
There’s a significant Catholic influence on Lost generally – this season has brought us Caravaggio, hallucinatory doves, the Virgin Mary, Dead Priests and now Christ and his supposedly-unrecorded wound.
• Ben tells Sayid and Ana Lucia that he was part of a search party that found Henry Gale already dead in his balloon, but Sayid squashes that lie. The Others killed him. So why would they bury him? Let’s assume that I’m right about the MiB/Island only mimicking the dead. Who have we seen him mimic? Christian, Yemi, Alex, Claire, Locke. All of them are dead, but maybe more significantly none of them were given burials.
Shannon, Nikki and Paolo haven’t ‘resurrected’ since they were buried with crosses planted into the dirt above them. Granted, we’ve since seen Boone in dreams, but never out in the jungle as an apparition. Does burying/consecrating a body prevent the MiB from assuming a form?
• Eko continues to build mysteriously, and now Charlie’s helping him the way that Boone helped Locke. Locke uncovered something hidden. Eko is constructing something new. You have to wonder if Eko has been dreaming lately, or if this project is further evidence of his efforts to purify himself.
• There’s a physicality to Dave during the episode that seems to suggest he’s ‘real,’ in the sense that he nails Hurley with a coconut, loses a shoe that Hurley picks up, and slaps Hurley twice in the face. At the end of the episode we learn that Libby never saw Hurley with a shoe, implying that all of that physicality was in Hurley’s head. But was it? We’ve seen “Christian” hold a lantern and use a rocking chair, we’ve seen “Alex” pin Ben against a column.
Hurley: Did either of you see a guy run through here — in a bathrobe, with a coconut?
Cute Charlie Line: No. Saw a polar bear on roller blades with a mango.
• We see Hurley playing connect four with Leonard in the hospital, who we know gave Hurley The Numbers. Interestingly, Dave calls them ‘bad juju.’ It’s because of The Numbers that Hurley winds up on flight 815, and throughout the episode Dave is all about keeping/getting Hurley off the Island.
• Hurley beats the bejeezus out of Sawyer and it’s glorious. I especially love the way that Sawyer’s dragged back into the collapsed tent. A great moment for both characters.
Great Kate Line (not at all worried): “I’m worried! You look like you got your ass kicked!”
• Hurley’s therapist shows Hurley that Dave isn’t ‘real.’ But that doesn’t mean that Dave isn’t there. Consider that Hurley has had plenty of run-ins with people that are supposed to be dead while off the Island (Charlie, Mr. Eko, Ana Lucia). Is Dave another instance of this? Did Dave die at some point in the Island’s past?
The Season 5 finale clued us in to Jacob’s involvement in the pre-Island lives of the Oceanic 6.Whose to say that the MiB/Island has not been doing something similar (we’ve certainly seen it working its will on the O6 post-crash – see Claire and Christian’s appearances). The Island could have begun influencing Hurley before he ever set foot on its sands, using his guilt and weaknesses against him – giving him all the bad advice necessary to keep good ol’ Hugo in that hospital, unrecovered, and away from the Island.
• Above and beyond issues of sanity, this episode also deals in solipsism – the perception that one’s own mind is all that exists, that life is happening to you, for you, and that other people in life are in some sense not as ‘real,’ not as ‘valid,’ as you are. That kind of isolation is part of what this Island offers its visitors. Dave tries to convince Hurley that life on the Island is a creation of his own mind. He’s very convincing. And he’s very sinister. This isn’t an ambiguous ‘ghost.’ It wants Hurley dead or incapacitated, and it wants this very badly. Dave isn’t really human in his behavior – notice that you see Dave blink just once during the entire ‘escape scene.’
• The further along I get in this rewatch the more it feels like the Island is a kind of dark god, a force that’s not entirely (if at all) benevolent. After all, the Island is as much a trap or prison as it is a source of possible liberation. I’m going to start drilling down on this idea going forward in order to see if it holds water (and because I think it’s a neat idea).
• Dave’s argument that Hurley’s still in the institution flirts with the idea of a ‘St. Elsewhere ending.’ That show was revealed to be the creation of an autistic child’s mind, and some folks theorized that Lost would end up having a similar coda. This episode feels like a response to that, as if the show is simultaneously acknowledging that possibility and dismissing it (if you want to see geek fandom in full flower, check out this chart which illustrates the many shows connected to St. Elsewhere and which are, by implication, other shows that are in some sense a creation of Tommy Westphall’s autistic mind).
Locke: “You and your people have been here for God knows how long, and you get caught in a net?”
Ben: “God doesn’t know how long we’ve been here, John. He can’t see this Island any better than the rest of the world can.”
That’s a fascinating exchange. Like everything that Ben says, there’s no way to tell if he’s being sincere or just playing to John. But I’d like to think there’s some significance to that line given this notion of the Island as dark deity, as well as the fact that we now know Ben has always felt unloved by Jacob.
There’s an undercurrent of Gnosticism in this exchange, and in the series as a whole. In the Gnostic belief system humanity is considered ‘fallen,’ but through the intervention of ‘Sophia’ (‘wisdom’) humanity can achieve salvation. Gnosticism posits a remote prime Deity as well as a ‘false’ creator god – two sides, black and white. In Plato’s ‘Republic’ this false god, or demiurge, is described as ‘a lion-faced serpent,’ and the word demiurge can be translated to mean ‘energy.’ All of this should set off a few bells in the mind of a Lost fan, given that the Island’s ‘unique electromagnetic energy’ is the apparent source of its power, and that the Smoke Monster (which I’ve suggested is another manifestation of the Island/MiB) has been portrayed as a serpent in the hieroglyphics under the Temple.
Here’s another factoid about the Gnostic belief that the material universe is flawed:
The explanation of this state through the use of a complex mythological-cosmological drama in which a divine element ‘falls’ into the material realm and lodges itself within certain human beings; from here, it may be returned to the divine realm through a process of awakening (leading towards salvation). The salvation of the individual thus mirrors a concurrent restoration of the divine nature; a central Gnostic innovation was to elevate individual redemption to the level of a cosmically significant event.
In other words: Everything That Rises Must Converge.
I’m wondering whether the ‘divine element’ referred to here could apply to the Island itself, or whether it could refer instead to the unnamed something that Jacob may have passed along to each castaway he touches. Certainly the notion of individual redemption as cosmically significant is an idea that Lost holds near and dear.
One final, rambling note on all of this: I’ve discussed how Lost has played with Manichean themes before, and Manichaeism has been described as the Persian school of Syrian-Egyptian Gnosticism (Egypt!).
• Ben lies to Locke – he tells him that he didn’t push The Button; that nothing happened when he failed to press it. Is Ben trying to use John? Does he want John to be responsible for not pushing it? What matters: that John loses begins to lose faith in the whole process at this moment. Ben worms his way through the cracks in his psyche, and plants doubt.
• Hurley and Libby’s kiss is very sweet, and his confession to her reinforces the idea that to beat back the Island’s apparitions you need to tend to yourself and confess your past while moving forward.
• The episode ends with one of Lost’s most infamous stingers – the reveal of Libby as a fellow mental hospital patient. BOOM! Expect no follow up on this, as the producers have announced they have no plans to revisit the storyline at this time. We can assume that she ends up in the hospital as a result of her husband dying.
• Unlike almost every episode this season, “Dave” ends on a relative high note – a positive, hopeful note, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s a Hurley episode. Hurley, I’d wager, has a big part to play in the final season of the show – one that likely centers around his ability to see ‘the dead.’ We’ve seen the MiB/Island try to stall him, kill him, and send him away. And we’ve seen Jacob suggest that Hurley’s ability is a gift. Perhaps it is.
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Missed a column? Catch up here:
• Lockdown (S2 ep. 17)
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
• One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
• The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
• Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
• The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
• The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
• What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
• Collision (S2, ep. 8)
• The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)