Catch-22 (S3, ep. 17)

“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” – 2 Chronicles 3:1

“Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” – Genesis 28: 11-19

Thoughts:

• Catch-22 has one of the best cold openings of any episode of Lost. The way that the show casually kills Charlie – only to reveal that it’s one of Desmond’s flashes – works like gangbusters. I love the Flash vs. Superman discussion that Charlie and Hurley are engaged in just before our favorite recovering addict bites the dust.

• The force behind Desmond’s future-flashes remains frustratingly undefined. We know that the flashes began after the Swan implosion, but we don’t know how or why, exactly, and we don’t know what potential purpose they’re meant to serve. More on this below.

Desmond: “Listen to me, there’s a wire, a cable buried in the sand. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Great Hurley Line: “This is future crap isn’t it?”

• The love-square that’s now in place between Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Juliet is tiresome to me. Some folks apparently can’t get enough of this stuff, but I’m just waiting for these characters to figure out who they want to be with. The love-square makes for some great lines of dialogue (see below) but on the whole I just don’t….uhh…

….what was I saying again?

Great Sawyer/Kate exchange:

Sawyer: “Well now that, that’s out the way, maybe a little afternoon delight. ….It means sex.”
Kate: “I know.”
Sawyer: “Come on, Freckles. Wait – now look – you need me to make ya a mix tape?”

• I love that Jin’s lured into coming along on Desmond’s trip with the promise of ‘camping’ – something that they’ve already been doing for the ENTIRE TIME THEY’VE BEEN ON THE ISLAND.

Desmond: “Moriah. I find the name the brothers have chosen for the wine made here, interesting.”
Brother Campbell: “And why is that brother?”
Desmond: “Well, Moriah’s the mountain where Abraham was asked to kill Isaac. Its not exactly the most, festive locale is it.”
Brother Campbell: “And yet God spared Isaac.”
Desmond: “Well one might argue then, God may not have asked Abraham to sacrifice his son in the first place.”
Brother Campbell: “Well then it wouldn’t have been much of a test, would it brother? Perhaps you underestimate the value of sacrifice.”

• There’s that word again: sacrifice. Lost has a beguiling habit of leaning hard on the Old Testament, and the above conversation is a nice illustration of this (as is the entire episode, really). Moriah is indeed the supposed location of Abraham’s test, and the reference is apt in this episode where, as Desmond will note, he is ‘tested’ (whether by God, by fate, by the Island, by Jacob/the MiB or by himself) in the exact same way as Abraham with regard to Charlie’s fate.

But the story of Abraham and Isaac isn’t the only religious tale that’s connected with the Moriah mountain range. In the Book of Chronicles, Mount Moriah is said to be the location of the Temple of Solomon. The Temple of Solomon is also known as ‘the first temple’ of the ancient Israelites. It was supposedly designed to store the Ark of the Covenant as well as to provide the Jewish people with a central place of worship where they could, yes, sacrifice to God. This calls to mind the still-unseen Temple on the Island, where the Smoke Monster apparently resides.

• On top of this, Mount Moriah is also the location of ‘the Foundation Stone,’ a holy site to Jewish and Muslim people alike (if you’re getting a strong ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ vibe here, good on you – a good deal of this info/imagery was repurposed for Indiana Jones’ first adventure – including the room directly below the real-life Foundation Stone, commonly known as ‘the Well of Souls’). It was on this Foundation Stone that the Biblical Jacob dreamed about his namesake Ladder, which we discussed (along with its potential relevance to Lost) RIGHT HERE.

• Jin’s campfire ghost story is flat-out hilarious. I don’t typically use Lostpedia as I’m rewatching these – I’d rather come to my own conclusions and make my own observations about the show without checking to see what others have noticed – but I wanted to know what Jin said here. The translation of it is “And the girl turned to the man who saved her and said, ‘Thank God. I was afraid you were the Hook Man.’ And the man looked at the girl with a smile and said, ‘Don’t worry, little girl. My hook is……STILL IN YOUR FATHER’S HEAD!’”

• With the arrival of a mysterious helicopter, Season 3 officially kicks its own ass into high gear. I can’t remember the show explicitly explaining why it is that this particular ‘copter craps out over the Island, while Frank Lapidus’ helicopter experiences no such problems. I assume that it’s because of those ‘time corridors’ we’ll be learning about soon enough.

• Desmond’s ex is named Ruth, another Old Testament shoutout in an episode that’s pretty loaded with them.

Juliet: “What your dad never taught you to use a hammer?”
Great Jack Line: “No, my dad taught me how to drink.”

• Lost’s Book Club gains another entry with the introduction of Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22.’ The term ‘Catch-22’ refers to an unwinnable situation. I haven’t read Heller’s book (shame on me, I know), but its plot involves a bombadier who is told that he can only avoid his bombing mission by pleading insanity, but that pleading insanity is something that only a sane man would do under the circumstances and is therefore proof of sanity – essentially locking the man in place and putting him in an unwinnable situation. The same thing happens to Desmond in this episode – if he follows his vision exactly, he’s convinced he’ll get to see Penny again. The trouble is, his vision includes the death of Charlie – something Desmond has been actively working to prevent. Either he saves Charlie, or he sees Penny. An unwinnable situation if ever there was one.

• Desmond discovers that the same photo he’s carrying around has been placed between the book’s pages. We know that Penny didn’t send Widmore’s freighter, that she in fact doesn’t know anything about it. Widmore himself must have taken a copy of the picture to give to his team – which means that he either learned that Desmond had landed on the Island, or that he was aware before Desmond set out on his boat race, that the Scottish Scaredy-cat would crash there.

Brother Campbell: “I’m sure you did hear the call, but the abbey clearly isn’t where you were meant to end up. I have little doubt that God has different plans than you being a monk, Desmond. Bigger plans.”
Desmond: “Oh aye, I’m sure he does.”
Brother Campbell: “He does! You’ve just spent too much time running away to realize what you may be running toward.”

 
• The photo on Brother Campbell’s desk is one hell of an easter egg, regardless of its sloppily-photoshopped appearance. This Monk is an Other – I just know it. If Hawking and Widmore left the Island there’s no reason that this particular gentleman didn’t leave as well. For all we know, he’s the man who built the Lamp Post – Dharma’s off-Island, secret underground lair. It is in a church, after all. But speculation aside, Brother Campbell’s words echo those of Ms. Hawking – that Desmond has a destiny awaiting him. And as Penny points out, had Brother Campbell not ‘fired’ Desmond, he and Penny would never have met. It’s this meeting that sets all the events in motion that are necessary to get Desmond to the Island.

Desmond: “It means it’s bloody pointless. I keep saving your life, and what good has it done? Its just gonna keep happening again and again, maybe that’s the point eh? Maybe it’s a test.”
Charlie: “Test?”
Desmond: “Like God, testing Abraham, except I failed, because I changed what I saw.”

• Abraham passed his test because he obeyed the instructions of God and only abandoned his resolve to kill Isaac when God stayed Abraham’s hand. In this sense, then, Desmond ‘fails’ the test. But this assumes that (a) the visions Desmond is receiving are from a benign source, (b) that Desmond is ‘supposed’ to let Charlie die (as opposed to keeping Charlie from dying, as he’s done throughout the season), and (c) that the exercise of Desmond’s free will was the wrong choice, as opposed to the right choice. Morally, saving Charlie’s life would seem to be a ‘good.’ Likewise, letting Charlie die so that Desmond can (maybe) see Penny again would seem to be a selfish, amoral act.

So much of the interpretation required for Des’ visions depends on their source and their potential concrete ‘meaning.’ If his visions are similar to Locke’s visions, then can they be trusted?

• The image of the helicopter pilot hanging from the trees recalls a similar image from William Goldman’s ‘Lord of the Flies,’ in which a group of stranded schoolchildren find a dead pilot on their island.

Here, of course, the pilot isn’t dead – just unconscious. And, most importantly, it isn’t Penny. It’s Naomi, a member of Widmore’s Freighter crew, and a harbinger of suffering yet to come. Has Desmond altered the present with his decision to save Charlie? Would Penny have been the one to arrive, had he let Charlie die? It’s unclear. We’ve been told by several characters that typically, people can alter small details in the fabric of time and space but that ultimately, ‘whatever happened happened.’ If that’s the case, then the likelihood of one person becoming an entirely different person because of Desmond’s choice seems small at best (and how, exactly, would Desmond’s choice to save Charlie have created a reality in which Penny is the one who lands in Naomi’s stead?). Rather, by choosing to save Charlie’s life it appears as though Desmond is ensuring that he and the Oceanic 6 will successfully leave the Island – bringing baby Aaron with them when they go. That, it seems to me, is the ‘goal’ of delaying Charlie’s death – to keep him alive long enough to play his necessary part in allowing the Freighter to find the Island.

Keep in mind that Charlie needs to stay alive long enough to do this in order to ensure that the Island will eventually time-hop (without the arrival of the Freighter, Locke would never have turned the wheel) and thus deliver Daniel Faraday to his bloody fate at his mother’s hands.

The question then becomes:  Who benefits from this? Is this gamesmanship a part of the Man In Black’s loophole/plan? Is it part of Jacob’s opaque plans? Or something else entirely?

*****

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Season 3

• One of Us (S3 ep. 16)
• Left Behind (S3 ep. 15)
• Exposé (S3 ep. 14)
• The Man from Tallahasse (S3 ep. 13)
• Par Avion (S3 ep. 12)
• Enter 77 (S3 ep. 11)
• 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)