Enter 77 (S3, ep. 11)

“What all other men are is of the greatest importance to me. However independent I may imagine myself to be, however far removed I may appear from mundane considerations by my social status, I am enslaved to the misery of the meanest member of society.” – Mikhail Bakunin

The Season 3 train rolls on, and it keeps getting stronger. “Enter 77” is a welcome return to Lost’s typically-terrific, knotty-mythology storylines after the two-episode stopover of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” (though, to be fair, “Stranger” contains some nifty and still unresolved details about the Others). It’s the overarching myth/plotting that really juices my fruit when it comes to this show, and “Enter 77” delves back into the plot-pool with gusto, much to my pleasure.

Thoughts:

• Enter Mikhail Bakunin, played by Andrew Divoff (of Wishmaster fame, though those of us ‘of a certain age’ may also remember him as the lead bad guy in the boarding-school-versus-terrorists thriller Toy Soldiers). Bakunin takes his name from a well-known Russian philosopher, anarchist, atheist and opponent of Marxism. The resemblance is striking:

…Just kidding.

• The choice of Bakunin’s name here is an interesting one. It’s an instance where the name chosen makes a certain amount of thematic sense against the backdrop of the story Lost is telling. How so, you ask?

Sawyer: “Hey, that’s my Guns and Ammo. Where the hell you get it?”
Paulo: “It was in the magazine stack. We share things now.”

Bakunin’s belief system rejected any and all forms of higher governmental control or external authority. His form of socialism involved collectives of equal people dealing amongst each other without interference. That ideal is reflected in the way that the castaways have treated Sawyer’s loot. One can argue that the real Bakunin’s conception of a collectivist society was an unrealistic Utopia, and indeed the fictional Utopias that we’ve examined as we’ve been rewatching have all had quasi-socialist/collectivist leanings.

“The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.” – Mikhail Bakunin

• Here’s another interesting fact about Bakunin: he was an atheist who believed that if God truly existed, humanity would need to destroy Him in order to be truly free (again there’s the slavish devotion to the idea of ‘ultimate freedom’ from all authority). While I’ve been pretty consistent in my belief that Lost is a spiritual show, its sense of spirituality is mostly rooted in individual experiences of the divine, and not in any one faith or religion. In other words, Lost appears to have sincere appreciation for individual spiritual yearning, but a deep distrust toward the perils of organized religion, or of any organization, really.

It’s possible that Lost’s end-game will involve this split between the importance of an individualized spiritual life and the danger of giving oneself up to a quasi-religious system. If, as I’ve theorized, the ‘Island’ represents a dark god, or ‘demiurge,’ than its destruction at the end of the series would uphold the individual’s search for spiritual meaning as well as the show’s consistent warnings not to trust those in power, or those who would control you by dangling mysteries in front of your face. Did that make sense?

• The bet that Sun makes with Sawyer over said-loot gives the writers a great excuse for (a) more relatively-relaxed shenanigans on the beach and (b) further humbling for Sawyer. The idea of taking away Sawyer’s ability to give nicknames out is both funny and smart. It’s smart because those nicknames have functioned as a last-ditch shield for emotional deflection, allowing Sawyer to continue ‘Othering’ his fellow castaways even as he grows closer to them. By making him use real names, Sun is taking away Sawyer’s handiest means of distancing himself from the community.

• Charlie’s response to Sun is classic Charlie (“Nice!”) and it makes me happy to see that the show has largely abandoned the ‘Darth Charlie’ arc they’d built themselves in Season 2. Granted, there are still consequences to come for his actions, but goofy-happy Charlie is so preferred over hooded-scowling Charlie.

• We’re introduced to the Flame Station here, where the Others appear to have pulled most of their off-Island information, pre-Purple-Sky-Event.

• Sayid’s flashback tormenter, Sami, is played by the excellent Shaun Toub (you may recognize him from Iron Man, Crash, or old Seinfeld episodes).

• Sayid goes by the name ‘Najeev’/’Najeeb’ in his flashback, and I’m fairly certain that Ben gives him this name to use off-Island in Season 4’s “The Economist”, a weirdly-specific and small instance of mirroring.

• Let’s deal with the entirety of Sayid’s flashback in one fell swoop, shall we? We don’t learn anything particularly new, the events are fairly static, and the end result/lesson of the whole thing seems to be that forgiveness is the only way to move past harbored anger and pain. Most important to Lost’s overall themes seems to be the notion of sacrifice embedded in Sayid’s tale. It’s never certain whether Sayid really tortured this woman, but his bewilderment and protestations seem genuine throughout. If they are, then his admission and apology to her represent a kind of sacrifice on his part – the sacrifice of his own truth and/or life in order to grant her peace.

On the other hand, when Sayid finally breaks down (after what is a fairly admirable piece of allegorical dialogue for his former victim) his regret seems genuine there as well. If he did torture her, then his admission and apology represent a different kind of sacrifice, and her decision to free him represents sacrifice on her part as well – the sacrifice of her vengeance in favor of embracing compassion. Either way, it works, and the ideal of true forgiveness remains at the forefront of the show’s concerns.

• This is (somewhat surprisingly, given the other candidates) probably my least-favorite flashback of the season so far, and I’m not inclined to talk much more about it. If I’m missing something major by shrugging my shoulders over it please let me know.

Mikhail: “I grew up in Kiev and joined the Soviet Army. I was stationed at a listening post at Vladivostok. After the Cold War, after we lost the Cold War, my unit was decommissioned. I was dismissed from my life in the military. And after years of conducting unpleasant actions against our enemies, I found myself wanting to do something good. So I replied to a newspaper advertisement.”
Sayid: “An advertisement?”
Mikhail: “‘Would you like to save the world?’ it read. That’s how I met them, the Initiative. They’re very secretive, very rich, very smart.”

• Let’s take a moment to unravel some of this. Was Mikhail ever actually a member of Dharma? He’ll tell us that he wasn’t by the end of this episode, but it’s possible that he was, given the biographical details he cites. According to Mikhail, he spent ‘some time in Afghanistan’ during the Cold War. The Russian war in Afghanistan was a 10-year affair, beginning in 1979 and ending in 1989. We don’t know when Mikhail was there, but we do know that the Purge of the Dharma Initiative occurred in the late 80’s-early 90’s, so it may be that he left the army in ’89, and joined up with Dharma between then and ’92, when the Purge supposedly went down. We’ve seen that the Others’ Room 23 tech allows them to shape behavior and psychology, and we’ve seen that some aspect of the Monster and/or the Temple can function in the same way, so there’s a chance that before, during, or after the purge, the Others ‘converted’ Mikhail. After all, if he’s native to the Island, what’s up with his theeck Rooskie ahhkscent?

But there’s just as much of a chance that his story is unmitigated BS, as his admission at the end of the episode seems to confirm. The red-inked Russian writing in the transcript pictured above translates as “I have forgotten so much about Afghanistan,” as well as “My name is also Andrey.” When last I checked, ‘Mikhail’ and ‘Andrey’ weren’t even close to being the same name.

• Mikhail claims that Dharma initiated a war against ‘the Hostiles,’ which we don’t know to be true. What we do know is that Ben was responsible for the Purge. He also claims that the ‘Hostiles’ have been on the Island for ‘a very long time,’ something we’ll see confirmed in the seasons ahead.

Sayid: “What did you just say?”
Mikhail: “I told Nadia to be polite because you are my guests.”
Sayid: “Nadia?”
Mikhail: “Mm hmm. After Nadia Comaneci, the greatest athlete the world has ever known. We have the same birthday.”

• Like Kate’s horse, there’s an equal chance that ‘Nadia’ the cat is either (a) a spooky and unexplained manifestation of Sayid’s past, or (b) just a cat. I’m leaning hard in the direction of ‘just a cat,’ and I’ll tell you why: We know that the Others have studied up on the castaways and have detailed dossiers on at least some of them – dossiers that, one assumes, were compiled in part with Mikhail’s help. We also know that the Others looooooove to fuck with people’s heads. I think it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that as soon as Mikhail saw Sayid he’d recognized him, and is using Nadia’s name as a means to gain a psychological edge over our favorite Iraqi. Or, y’know, it could be a ‘ghost’ cat.

Sayid: “I noticed a series of thick wires as I walked around the station.”
Mikhail: “This is the hub. But they go around to various stations on the island.”
Sayid: “And these cables, do any of them run into the ocean?”
Mikhail: “Yes. There is an underwater beacon that emits solar pings to help guide in the vessels.”
Sayid: “By vessels, you mean submarines.”
Mikhail: “Yes. The Initiative used it to bring us to the island. But I can only imagine that The Hostiles have either destroyed it or decommissioned it by now.”

 
• It’s interesting to see in retrospect just how honest Mikhail was being with Kate and Sayid overall. All of the above turns out to have been true, and it’s the first time we learn anything about the underwater beacon, the submarine, the fact that the Initiative used it to bring people to the Island, or the fact that the Flame is ‘the hub,’ and that the cables are wired to go to all the various stations around the Island.

• This is the episode that, the first time around, had me kind of angry at the way Locke was portrayed. ‘Come on,’ my former-self fumed, ‘there’s no way that JOHN Mu’Fu’in LOCKE would act this stupidly.’ The second time around, Locke’s attitude feels much more in keeping with the sum total of his character.

• Sayid is such a badass. He knows that they aren’t alone in the Flame Station due to the fact that a horse’s stirrups were fitted too high for a man of Bakunin’s size.

DR. CANDLE: Manual override complete. For pallet drop enter 24. For station uplink enter 32. for mainland communication enter 38.
DR. CANDLE: The satellite dish is inoperable. Communications are down. For sonar access enter 56.
DR. CANDLE: Sonar is inoperable. Has there been an incursion of this station by The Hostiles? If so, enter 77.

• Welcome back, Dr. Marvin Candle! We learn that some of Dharma’s systems are automated here, indicating that the food pallet drop that appeared at the beginning of the Season 2 episode “Dave” was automated. We also get a hint of the paranoid reality of Dharma (witnessed in Season 5) with the introduction of the c4 explosives.

• You have to love a Mexican standoff where no one speaks English, and yet the whole thing is still tense as heck. Basically, when translated into English, what we have here is Ms. Klugh (last seen on the Pala Ferry dock) ordering Mikhail to shoot her, Mikhail refusing and claiming ‘there is another way,’ Ms. Klugh insisting that the castaways not be allowed to ‘get into the territory,’ Mikhail insisting that there is another way, Ms. Klugh insisting right back, then gunfire. Exciting!

• Hurley’s attempt to reach out to Sawyer, and the way in which he effortlessly psychoanalyzes our favorite redneck conman, is both sweet and impressive. Sawyer’s response (“Get bent, Hugo”) is vintage Sawyer, but the figurative walls are starting to crumble around him.

The episode comes to a close with several exciting developments – the books which Sayid has taken from the Flame Station contain maps of which will lead their group to an area marked as “Barracks,” and which we know as “Otherville.” On top of this, they’ve taken Mikhail hostage, and will be traveling now with a devious and deadly Other in their company. Finally, Locke gets around to entering ’77,’ and the Flame Station goes up like a roman candle on the 4th of July, blown sky-high by the c-4 packed into its basement. This marks the beginning of Locke’s Season-long Saboteur arc, and I’m looking forward to revisiting that.

*****

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Season 3

• Tricia Tanaka is Dead (S3 ep. 10)
• 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)