Greatest Hits (S3, ep. 21)
Naomi: “You’re the dead rock star. They made a big deal out of you when they found the plane–huge memorial service, new album.”
Charlie: “There’s a new album?”
Naomi: “Yeah. God, it was everywhere… a greatest hits thing.”
Lost clearly loves Charlie. At the very least, they clearly love the actor who plays him. We know this because the show’s writers have given our favorite Mancunian Rockstar/Junkie/Catholic/Surrogate-father one hell of a send-off. “Greatest Hits” ranks up there with some of Lost’s best episodes. “Greatest Hits” doesn’t offer much for the careful rewatcher in terms of high-falutin’ theories and interconnections. What it offers is catharsis – a great purging of the fear we have for Charlie’s fate through the simple power of invented memories. Charlie’s fate, as we already know, is sealed. But his Greatest Hits remain in all of their humble, moving glory.
It’s Chock full o’Heart, just like Charlie.
Jack: “So tomorrow night we stop hiding, we stop running, we stop living in fear of them, because when they show up, we’re gonna blow ’em all to hell.”
• Now we know why Rousseau went to the Black Rock. Jack’s behavior prior to his revelation of ‘The Plan’ still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – it seems as though the writers were trying a little too hard to make him suspicious to the other castaways – but I love the plan, and I’m looking forward to some pyrotechnics. And speaking of pyrotechnics, I love that Jack has Rousseau blow up a random tree before he says anything. It’s utterly useless and over-the-top, but it’s gloriously over the top; fun and funny.
Charlie: “That’s us. We’re on the radio.”
Liam: “That we are.”
Charlie: “We’re on the bloody radio!”
• The scene where an unknown band/singer hears their song on the radio for the first time is a big ol’ hoary cliché at this point, but I am a total sucker for this particular cliché. The entirely-underrated film “That Thing You Do” contains my favorite version of this particular scene, and what I love about it (and about Charlie’s #5 Greatest Moment) is the sheer joy that accompanies it:
If you’re lucky then, like me, you’ve had the chance to have your own “hearing yourself on the radio” moment (however small) and you’ll know exactly how good it feels. If you haven’t experienced that, the next best thing is a scene like this one.
Juliet: “Ben is using one of the DHARMA stations to block all of the signals off of the Island except for ours.”
Sayid: “What station?
Juliet: “They call it The Looking Glass.”
• And now we know why no one has heard Rousseau’s transmission – Ben is blocking all outgoing communication. As for the name of this particular Dharma Station, it’s got several potentially significant meanings apparent to me off the top of my head: (1) A “looking glass” can refer to a portal allowing someone on one side to look at someone on the other side – indicating that the Looking Glass may function in part to observe things off-Island; (2) a “looking glass” is also a mirror – and mirrors have been a consistent thematic preoccupation for this show. Characters, themes and events tend to mirror each other, and the show’s sub-textual interest in Sartre-ian ideas and “No Exit” has brought up the idea that, philosophically, the show is advocating for ideas of self-definition; (3) “Through the Looking Glass” is the title of a book by Lewis Carroll, and the title continues this season’s small obsession with Alice in Wonderland (see: all of the bunnies, Juliet’s trip ‘up the rabbit hole’ to the Island, and her consumption of a drink that, like Alice’s “Drink Me” bottle, changes her perceptions to allow her to ‘fit through’ the figurative door to Wonderland; (4) Finally, the castaways are about to literally and figuratively head through the Looking Glass – the fourth season begins with the Oceanic 6 off-Island, a looking-glass-reversal of the episode structures of Seasons 1-3 and a reversal of perspective for both the characters and the audience.
Desmond: “What I saw, Charlie, was Claire and her baby getting into a helicopter. A helicopter that lifts off–leaves this Island.”
• Desmond’s vision here makes no sense – unless that vision extended all the way to an event in Season 6 which we haven’t seen yet. If it does, then Charlie died for something he believed in. But if it isn’t the case then Charlie’s death has essentially activated whatever the MiB’s end-game is – allowing Widmore’s men to invade the Island, setting in motion the events that cause the turning of the Island’s wheel. If the flashes are being transmitted by the MiB/Island in order to engineer its desired loophole, then the fact that the vision doesn’t come true makes sense. Whatever intelligence lies behind the MiB could be using Charlie’s concern for the safety of Claire and Aaron in order to get him to sacrifice himself (there’s that word again – sacrifice) and ensure that the Widmore crew land on the Island. Either way, if we don’t get some form of explanation for why Desmond’s vision didn’t come true I’m going to be disappointed.
• During Charlie’s Greatest Hit #4 you can clearly hear a voice say “Desmond, come on,” implying that a young Desmond swam in the same pool as Charlie.
Charlie: “I was junior swim champion in Northern England. I can hold my breath for four minutes.”
• In Season One we clearly heard Charlie claim that he “doesn’t swim.” Some people took that line, along with the events of this episode, and theorized that the castaways were somehow literally changing their pasts through their time on the Island. I don’t really buy that now. Instead, I think the shift represents a change in Charlie’s priorities and personality. We see that he has always been able to swim but that junkie-Charlie essentially refused to do so. Now, however, after struggling free of his prison, Moth-Charlie has embraced his past and his present and self-defined – choosing who he’ll be in the moment. It’s a triumph for him on a personal, character level, and it illustrates Lost’s larger thematic concern with that principle of self-definition and personal redemption.
Bernard: “Rose, that’s a sailor’s hitch. It’s not gonna hold. You wanna do a sheet bend like mine.”
Rose: “Oh, so now you’re knot expert.”
• Rose reappears for the first time in Season 3, and it’s nice to see her again. The actress was off doing a play for most of this run of episodes, and while she’s never been overly ‘important’ to the storyline she’s a good character to have back. The way that she and Bernard bicker makes me smile as well as dread this potential evolution in my own married relationship!
• I love the image of Alex with blood on her hands, skinning the white rabbit that’s been such a weird connective thread throughout Season 3. I’ve got no idea what, if anything, the writers are attempting to say from a larger thematic perspective, but the image feels viscerally meaningful nonetheless.
Karl: “If I get caught, your father’s gonna kill me this time.”
Alex: “Is he my father?”
• Lost’s brave tradition of Bad Dads continues as Alex questions the legitimacy of her own Terrible Father. I’ll have a new Too Much Information column up on Back To The Island about Lost’s love of bad dads in the near future – as soon as the work week slows down!
• As the episode goes on we can literally see Charlie coming to place of peace and certainty. It’s rare that people are given the chance to choose the time and place of their demise, and the fact that Charlie is dying for something larger than himself – for Claire and Aaron, for the castaway community, for the idea of rescue – seems to have given him the kind of zen calm that I hope to have when I face my inevitable reckoning.
• The origins of Charlie’s ring are revealed – the “DS” doesn’t stand for “DriveShaft” after all. It stands for “Dexter Stratton,” the name of Charlie and Liam’s great-grandfather (and here there’s another echo of Numbers 20:5 – the children of the iniquitous will be punished unto the 3rd and 4th generation, meaning that, symbolically-speaking, the punishment spoken of in that verse may be coming to a close with the generation to follow Charlie’s).
• I teared up at the sight of Charlie telling Aaron that he loves him, and kissing Claire goodbye. I’m a big softie after all, and I reserve the right to notify you of my baby-tears as I see fit.
• One of Charlie’s “Greatest Hits” takes place just minutes after Desmond’s sighting of him in the episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” He’s in the park, finishing up his rendition of Wonderwall, when the rain begins and he runs into….Nadia? That’s at least two other castaways that Sayid’s elusive lover has interacted with in flashbacks.
Desmond: “So how long can you really hold your breath for?”
Charlie: “Does it matter?”
Aww god – Charlie hugging Hugo gets my baby-tears pumping full-force. Dammit. And let’s not even talk about the sorry sight of Charlie’s “DS” ring in Aaron’s crib – unknowingly left behind by Claire as she and Aaron prepare to walk to the radio tower:
We won’t see this ring again until Season 5 and its rediscovery hopefully means that, at some point, little Aaron will receive this heirloom along with some knowledge of the sacrifice that Charlie made for him, once upon a time.
Charlie: “You and I both know you’re not supposed to take my place, brother.”
Desmond’s willingness to sacrifice himself for a friend, and Charlie’s stolid determination to make his death meaningful, to give a heroic gift to the child he considers a son and the woman he considers the great love of his life, is beyond moving. It is phenomenal television – uplifting and sorrowful and funny and humane. I watch television for experiences like “Greatest Hits” – for opportunities to be truly moved by a medium that, at its best, really is a form of art.
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Missed a column? Catch up here:
• The Man behind The Curtain (S3 ep. 20)
• The Brig (S3 ep. 19)
• D.O.C. (S3 ep. 18)
• Catch 22 (S3 ep. 17)
• 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 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)