Tricia Tanaka Is Dead (S3, ep. 10)

“Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain from Shambala
Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala (2xs)
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my sister by the flower in her ear
On the road to Shambala”

- 3 Dog Night, “Shambala”

Tricia Tanaka isn’t just a good episode of Lost, it’s a great one. There’s not a ton of overt mythology to this installment, and it’s fairly basic at its core; in fact, many folks complain that nothing much happens here and they aren’t wrong – but they’re sort of missing the point from where I’m standing.

Thoughts:

• “Road to Shambala,” the classic rock song written B.W. Stevenson and covered by 3 Dog Night, is played three times during this episode – twice in its original song format and once as an instrumental which plays over the ending. Not only does the song do an admirable job of evoking the hippie-ish, lost era of the Dharma Initiative and of grounding Hurley’s first flashback in a specific time, the song’s title and subject matter are arguably Lost or, more specifically, Island-related: There’s the recurrent theme of being reborn on a spiritual path, the notion of being cleansed of past wrongs by traveling a road to a mystical place. And that spiritual place, Shambala, shares a few things in common with Lost’s Island:

The name ‘Shambhala’ is Sanskrit meaning ‘self-benefited’ or ‘self-powered,’ which fits nicely with the show’s Sartre-ian focus on personal betterment as a road to enlightenment/happiness. The mythical kingdom of Shambala was considered to be a place of peace, goodness and tranquility – a Utopia, not unlike the island of Pala (referenced by Lost at the “Pala Ferry). Shambala was also considered by Buddhists (there’s the Dharma connection) to be a ‘Pure Land,’ where enlightened beings resided. A few more tidbits worth noting about the land of Shambala:

“As with many concepts in the Kalachakra Tantra, the idea of Shambhala is said to have ‘outer,’ ‘inner,’ and ‘alternative’ meanings. The outer meaning understands Shambhala to exist as a physical place, although only individuals with the appropriate karma can reach it and experience it as such. As the 14th Dalai Lama noted during the 1985 Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya, Shambhala is not an ordinary country: ‘Although those with special affiliation may actually be able to go there through their karmic connection, nevertheless it is not a physical place that we can actually find. We can only say that it is a pure land, a pure land in the human realm. And unless one has the merit and the actual karmic association, one cannot actually arrive there.’”

Sounds applicable to me. And so does this:

“Later esoteric writers further emphasized and elaborated on the concept of a hidden land inhabited by a hidden mystic brotherhood whose members labor for the good of humanity.”

I’ve written previously about my conception of the Others as a sort of mystical knight-monk-jungle guerilla-hybrid, that I believe the Others are working with Jacob (in some fashion) in order to assist in humanity’s gradual elevation. What do you think? Am I grasping at straws?

David: “Having hope is never stupid. You’ve got to believe good things will happen and then they will. You understand what I’m saying? [Hurley nods] In this world, son, you’ve got to make your own luck.”

• Lost continues it’s obsession with absent fathers, introducing a terrific Cheech Marin as Hurley’s apparent deadbeat dad David (I say ‘apparent’ because it’s never made clear why Reyes Sr. leaves in the first place, nor why he’s welcomed back so unreservedly by Hugo’s mother). David emphasizes the importance of ‘making your own luck,’ and the power of positive thinking (the secret of the Island is….The Secret?).  

• Hurley’s scene by Libby’s grave is touching, and the actor does a fine job with it.

• Vincent, Canine Harbinger of Doom, reappears with an appropriate chew toy, given his habit of hanging around whenever death and destruction walk the Island. Seriously, what’s up with this dog? The vast majority of his appearances link him to characters who are slated to die, characters who have died, premonitions of death….I’m suddenly wishing that we’d gotten a Vincent-centric episode of the show at some point.

• The destruction of Mr. Cluck’s via meteor (or maybe an asteroid…) has the feeling of a ‘can-you-top-this’ session among Lost’s writers. I’ve got no idea whatsoever as to whether this has anything to do with Lost’s larger plot, but man is it fun to watch. And for the most part, that’s what this episode boils down to – a really fun hour of television. 

• Note that Randy Nations, who has been both Hurley and Locke’s boss at different points in the show’s flashbacks, shows up again here. We also learn that Hurley’s former best friend — Johnny has apparently run off with Hurley’s girlfriend, the record store chick Starla. The idea of actors DJ Qualls and Marguerite Moreau in bed together is deeply, deeply, deeply (deeply) wrong to me. It’s a sign of apocalypse, I’m convinced.

• Vincent leads Hurley to an abandoned Volkswagen Dharma van, overturned and rusting in the jungle. Inside they find the body of “Roger, workman,” who we now know as ‘Ben’s alcoholic, emotionally-abusive father.’ Time and humidity have not been kind to Roger Linus.

• What this episode has in spades is joy. There are moments in this episode where the characters burn with it to the extent that, a few times, I was sure that I was watching them break character out of sheer enthusiasm. It’s most evident in the performances of Hurley and Sawyer. “Tricia Tanaka” feels like a genuine release – a dip into cooler, more contented emotional climes. Sure, there’s pater-angst on Hurley’s end, and yes, Charlie is worried about dying, and those plot-balls are kept nicely up in the air, but the majority of the episode feels like these characters simply hanging out, enjoying one another’s company, and the feeling of warmth is infectious.

While some folks might be irritated by the lack of mystery or suspense in “Tricia Tanaka,” I think that joy reinforces a major theme of the show as a whole – our lives are what we make of them, our happiness is self-powered, and its through the union to be found in community that we find our fullest expression of that happiness, and perhaps, a kind of enlightenment.

• Sawyer steps on a dart in the middle of the jungle, one that I assume went flying when the Swan Station imploded. Neither he nor Kate seem to care much.

• Castaway beach sure does see a lot of teary, smiley-happy reunions set to stirring music. How many times have we seen people hug it out like this so far? 3-4? More?

• Mmmmm….Dharma Beer. It’s flat, and it stinks, but that won’t keep Sawyer from drinking Roger-the-alcoholic-murdered-father’s generic brews. “BEER LIGHT” is a nice touch. I’d like to get my hands on some Dharma suds, preferably the not-flat, not-stinking kind.

• Hurley’s scenes with his mother in this episode are a riot. I love that Hurley found butlers at Bennigans. Hurley’s mother choosing to cover the ears of a solid gold statue of Jesus Christ so that she can talk about her ‘needs’ is hilarious. And Hurley’s reaction, pictured above, is the perfect capper.

• In a show filled with absent/terrible fathers, I think it’s worth pointing out that Hurley’s dad seems to be a decent man when he returns. He admits his selfishness, attempts to help Hurley with his ‘curse,’ and ultimately advises Hurley to give the lottery money away if it will help him find peace.

• Sawyer finds a blueprint for the construction of a dirt road in the Dharma van – was this the road to and from the Swan that we’ll see in Season 5?

• I’m a fan of the way that the show deflates the female psychic that Hurley and his father go to see, with Hurley offering the woman 10 grand if she’ll admit that his father has set the whole thing up.

Had she been the real deal, she’d have read Hurley’s cards differently. The Death card, as example, doesn’t signify that a person is going to literally die – it signifies the coming of a transformation in life, of an increase in self-awareness, and is considered to be “the quintessential example of ‘letting go.’” All of this makes it the perfect card to have been chosen on a show where disembodied voices urge trapped surgeons to “let it go, Jack.”

Great Hurley Line: “Let’s look death in the face and say ‘whatever, man.’”

• The scene of Sawyer teaching Jin all the English he needs in order to please a woman (‘you were right,’ ‘those pants don’t make you look fat’) is priceless.

• That’s a great face. But Hurley’s moment of truth in the van, with Dead-Man-Charlie riding shotgun beside him, brings up the question of the Quantum Box that Ben will refer to later on this season. Does Hurley literally will the van to life here? Does he, with the help of the Island’s mysterious abilities, shatter his own ‘curse’? It sure seems that way.

• Speaking of great faces, check out Jin here (way to look at the camera, Jin-bo). The way that the show chose to film the actors as they tear around in the Dharma van is naturalistic, documentary-esque, organic. It conveys that same sense of joy.

• Sayid’s skepticism toward Locke and his mystic visions is pretty great.

• The episode ends with Kate seeking and finding the reclusive Rousseau in order to enlist her help in retrieving Jack from the Others. To get Rousseau to join her, Kate tells about the 16 year old girl who helped her and Sawyer escape – a girl named Alex.


*****

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Season 3

• Stranger in a Strange Land (S3 ep. 09)
• Flashes before your Eyes (S3 ep. 08)
• Not In Portland (S3 ep. 07)
• 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)