Not In Portland (S3, ep. 7)

Richard Alpert: Thank you for taking the time to let us make our pitch, Dr. Burke. Mittelos Bioscience is based in Oregon. We’re just outside of Portland.

In which Juliet’s past is unveiled, Apollo smites her enemy, and Ram Dass invites her to join the party. 

Thoughts:

• Ethan pops up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him moment at the beginning of the episode. We don’t know what he’s doing hanging around Juliet’s labs at this point, but we can make a few guesses: (1) he’s been snooping around before approaching her later in the episode, (2) he’s been stealing medical supplies and equipment to bring back to the Island, (3) he maintains a fictional identity as a doctor off-Island.

• Juliet’s sister Rachel is played by Robin Weigert, who did such an exquisite job portraying Calamity Jane in David Milch’s Deadwood. Lost loves casting former Deadwood alumnae and they aren’t done drawing talent from that show’s deep pool. John Hawkes, so organic and funny and grounded as Sol Star (and not to be confused with the other John Hawkes, star of ‘Zombie Strippers’), will be appearing in some capacity during Lost’s final season.

• Watching Sawyer ram Pickett’s head into the Bear Cage’s food pellet button until it shocks him is a deeply satisfying experience.

• Juliet’s steely, amoral side shows up for the first time in this episode, as she takes control of the Operating Room and orders the Others to go after and capture Kate and Sawyer despite Jack’s threats.

Diana, apparently: “This is Diana from Mittelos Bioscience. I’m calling to confirm your appointment tomorrow.”

• At this point, the only people who don’t know that the word “Mittelos” is an anagram for Lost Time are those folks who don’t watch Lost. But according to the internets, the word Mittelos is also German for “indigent.” Or “without means/material wealth.” I’ve speculated before that the Others have renounced material wealth and personal gain in the process of joining the other Monk-Ninja-Hillbilly-Scientists that Ben supervises, and I’m sticking by that theory. You can read more about it by clicking HERE.

• Juliet’s ex-husband is named Edmund Burke, continuing Lost’s tradition of naming their characters after historical figures. I’m not sure that Burke’s name has any great significance to Lost’s story, but I do think that the show’s habit of doing this is an overall good – something I’ll get into a little further down in the column. Worth noting is how Juliet’s relationship with Edmund and her relationship with Ben mirror each other – both are controlling, manipulative men who want to use Juliet’s research for their own purposes. Both are men that Juliet would like to see dead.

Sawyer: Nice to meet you, Sheena.

• Sawyer’s nicknames are gifts that keep on giving. I’d forgotten how instrumental Alex was in helping Sawyer and Kate get back to the main Island, and how determined she seemed to be to screw with all of Ben’s well-laid plans.

• And speaking of Ben, his return to consciousness on the Operating table is a thing of beauty. His slurred-out speech and mushed facial features give him a farcical demeanor, but despite the anesthesia he seems as sharp as ever.

• It’s a pleasure to see Richard Alpert make his first appearance on the show, and his presentation to Juliet is wonderfully funny stuff seen in retrospect. Hearing the apparently-ageless Alpert talk about how ‘awesome’ the nature hikes are around the Mittelos facility made me chuckle.

• Naming a character after a prominent spiritual guru and LSD pioneer seems par for the course with a show like Lost, where folks are named for philosophers, writers and Biblical figures with the sort of regularity that can, depending on your inclination, feel either precious and surface-y or playful and intelligent.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I fall squarely into the latter category. The show’s tendency to name their characters ‘Edmund Burke’ or ‘Anthony Cooper,’ or, in this case, ‘Richard Alpert,’ seems to me to be a kind of game on the part of the show’s writers. Sometimes, there’s an arguable connection between the name chosen and the character on the show, and that connection can sometimes deepen the experience of Lost in a way that I’d argue is intelligent and admirable. Other times, there’s the sense that the writers have thrown a name into the ring just because they thought it’d be fun, or weird, or ironic. That Anthony Cooper the con man has the opposite relationship with his son that Sir Anthony Cooper, the Earle of Shaftsbury had with the philosopher John Locke seems like a clever lark that a writer with access to Wikipedia threw into the conversation.

I like that. I like that Lost encourages me to read up a little on science, philosophy, religion, history. I like discovering that the real Richard Alpert was a colleague of Timothy Leary, that the two of them were the first recorded Americans to experiment with LSD in a laboratory environment. I like that the countercultural vibe I get from the real Alpert’s life fits so well with the countercultural vibe that this show has had from the beginning. I like learning that the real Alpert eventually turned to Hinduism and became a spiritual advisor, which nicely echoes the way in which Lost’s Richard Alpert is shown as a kind of spiritual advisor among the Others. More on Alpert as he pops his head up through the next two seasons.

Richard Alpert: What do you see?
Juliet: Well, that’s a human womb, obviously. Judging from the decomposition of the endometrium I would say that the woman was somewhere in her seventies.
Alpert: Well, actually, she’s 26.
Juliet: What happened to her?

• That’s a good question. The issues with fertility on the Island are starting to surge into the foreground of the show, and while we’ve received a number of opaque hints regarding this, there’s been no real indication of the reasons why women can’t conceive and give birth on the Island. I point this part of the conversation out, however, because it seems as though the difficulty may be time-related. A 26 year-old with a 70 year-old’s womb? A side-effect of prolonged exposure to Island electromagnetism?

• These vials look familiar, don’t they? They’re identical to the Swan Station inoculation vials we’ve already seen but, as far as I can tell, they aren’t sporting the Numbers.

• The man guarding the building which houses Room 23 is named Aldo. Aldo is played by Rob McElhenney, who you may know from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If you aren’t spoiler-averse (and this isn’t really much of a spoiler), you can click here, and discover something kinda interesting about our friend Aldo.

• Aldo is reading “A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking’s attempt to explain concepts of space/time to a wide, layperson audience. I haven’t read Hawking’s book, but I understand that much of it involves electromagnetism. On rewatch, this feels like a sly joke on the part of Lost’s writers, cluing us into what’s in store for the audience and the castaways.

• Aldo is the first to confirm for us that Ben is Alex’s (forcefully-adoptive) father.

Great Sawyer Line: “Don’t get mad at me just because you were dumb enough to fall for the old Wookiee prisoner gag.”

• Room 23! I’ve been looking forward to revisiting the Others’ behavior-modification chamber since I began rewatching, and I wasn’t disappointed by it. Can we all agree that this is what Room 23 is for? That, like A Clockwork Orange’s Alex, Karl has been strapped into Room 23’s chair in order to rid him of unwanted behavior and to instill ‘good’ behavior?

If not, can we at least agree that Room 23 is one of the best and trippiest moments in the show’s history so far? It’s like an evil rave. The following messages appear onscreen during our brief time in Room 23:

“Plant a good seed and you will joyfully gather fruit”
“Everything Changes”
“We are the causes of our own suffering”
“God loves you as He loved Jacob”
“Think about your life”

All of this stuff is wonderfully sinister and utopian all at once, and the fact that, when played backward, you can hear a woman’s voice repeating “only fools are enslaved by time and space” puts the whole thing over the top for me as a fan. This is weird stuff, exceedingly well-done. More than that, some of it has direct bearing on the themes and allusions that Lost has been playing with. “We are the causes of our own suffering” is a very Sartre-esque slogan, and it reinforces the idea that the people on this Island are responsible for their well-being and their pain.

Of course, that’s just the stuff that we see onscreen during the show itself. I’ve determined that I’ll only examine what’s presented to us within the context of the show, but for those of you who want more in their diets I’d suggest clicking over to the full-length version of the Room 23 video, available on YouTube.

It seems pretty clear that the video Karl is watching was created by the Dharma Initiative. We catch a glimpse of Gerald DeGroot during it, after all. It’s interesting that the Others have continued to use it, and it makes me wonder what the initial Dharma-sanctioned purpose of Room 23 was. The Room is also, I think, the same room that Bea Klugh threatens Walt with at the end of Season 2. And, hey – if Karl’s in room 23, what are Rooms 1-22 used for?

• Edmund Burke getting hit by a bus after Juliet essentially asks for him to be hit is probably one of Lost’s best little WTF moments. Note the advertisement for “Apollo Bars” on the side of the bus. I’ve discussed Apollo in the Rewatch column for “Adrift,” and there are some interesting connections to be drawn between Apollonian myth and Lost. You can read my ramblings right here.
 
Jack: So, if you really can get off the island why didn’t you just take him to a facility? Why all this?
Tom: Because ever since the sky turned purple…

What? What about the sky? Don’t stop there, Tom! Damn you, Lost! ….Except that the show has already given us more of an answer than Tom gives us here. In fact, it’s Tom that we overhear earlier in Season 3 talking about how communications have been down since the purple-sky event.

• The way that Juliet kills Danny does an excellent job of confirming her ability to summon the kind of amoral dispassion that she hinted at earlier in the episode.

• I’m not able to remember if or when we learn who Karl’s parents are/were.

Alpert: I saw what happened on the news and your office said you were down here. I just wanted to express my condolences in person before I went back up to Portland. This is Ethan. He’s one of my colleagues.
Ethan: It’s a pleasure to meet you.

• I’ll bet it is – it’s rare that you get to meet the Doctor that helped bring you into the world before she’s had the experience of doing so.

• It’s still not clear whether the Others arranged to have that bus smack Edmund Burke straight out of the picture, but it sure seems that way. I really enjoy the creepiness of this scene, and the way in which both Alpert and Ethan come across as simultaneously sympathetic and potentially dangerous.

• Alpert is aware that Juliet’s sister is pregnant. There’s very little chance he could know this, outside of the following possibilities: (1) Ethan really was snooping around her office (and the simplest explanation is probably the right one here), (2) they’ve used the time/space abilities of the Island to do reconnaissance work.

• Finally, we learn that Juliet is a prisoner on the Island just as Jack is. It began voluntarily, but somewhere along the way that changed. She’s been on the Island since September 7, 2001, and like Jack, she simply wants to go home.

Great episode.

*****

If you enjoyed this column, please Digg it using the button provided below!

To view the complete, pre-Chud Rewatch archive, please visit Back To The Island

To talk about/join the rewatch, jump onto the Message Boards

Season 3

• I Do (S3 ep. 06)
• The Cost of Living (S3 ep. 05)
• Every Man for himself (S3 ep. 04)
• Further Instructions (S3 ep. 03)
• The Glass Ballerina (S3 ep. 02)
• Season 3 Premiere

Season 2

• 
Season 2 finale
• Three Minutes (S2 ep. 22)
• ? (S2 ep. 21)
• Two for The Road (S2 ep. 20)
• S.O.S. (S2 ep. 19)
• Dave (S2 ep. 18)
• 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)