Meet Kevin Johnson (S4, ep. 8)

Michael: “I’m here to die.”

Welcome back, Michael Dawson, aka “Kevin Johnson.” After rewatching this episode I’m both perplexed and sort-of-angered by Harold Perrineau’s negative comments about his return to the show.  Really, Mr. Perrinaeu? You’re going to play the race card? After the show’s writers gave you a fairly stunning hour of television devoted almost exclusively to your character?

That’s your call, I guess.

Thoughts:

• Locke finally steps up to the leadership plate and claims “No more secrets.” Good for him. Of course, Sawyer immediately calls him on the truth of that claim, pointing out that Locke didn’t mention the money Miles demanded.

• Miles thinks it’s funny that Locke doubts Ben. To my eyes this is played as though Miles knows something about Ben that we don’t, but I don’t know that this is ever elaborated on, so maybe it’s just a case of the writers wanting to amp up the mystery of Ben a little more.

Ben: “This is a map to the Temple. It’s a sanctuary. It may be the last safe place on this Island.”

• Why is the Temple the ‘last safe place’? What is it about the Temple that makes it safe? As I’m re-watching these episodes and the genuine affection that Ben has for his daughter it occurs to me that Ben may have taken Alex to soothe his own grief. According to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the character of Annie, Ben’s female friend from his Island-flashback, is supposed to have “seismic importance” to the narrative. Well, Annie isn’t around in the “present day,” so it’s presumable that whatever importance Annie has to the show’s narrative applies to the Island’s past. If Annie and Ben were a couple, and if Annie and their baby died in childbirth, those deaths would give Ben palpable motivation to steal another child and leave the mother unharmed. Her death during childhood may also have been a sign of the nascent fertility plague that’s struck the Island – it may even have been the event that triggered the problem to begin with.

• I’m really digging the overall-noirish feel of this season – clandestine meetings, reversals in trust and fortune, spies and sabotage; Season 4 feels like a Ludlum novel spiked with LSD.

Mama Cass (singing): “And it’s getting better/Growing stronger warm and wilder/Getting better everyday! Better everyday!”

• We see Michael writing a suicide note in a filthy apartment on Chambers Street in New York City. It’s nice to see a shout-out to my hometown on this show. Seconds later he’s driven himself directly into a steel shipping container, seemingly killing himself. But he doesn’t die. And with that, the mystery of why “the Island” won’t let certain people die takes center stage. We’ll talk more about this a little further along down the column.

• The game show that Michael watches name-checks Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse Five,” in which the character of Billy Pilgrim comes “unstuck in time,” experiencing time in much the same way that we’ve seen Desmond experience it in “The Constant.” And I’m correct in my theorizing, the way in which Pilgrim experiences time may be similar to the way that Jacob, the MiB and/or the force residing in the Island experiences it.

• On a side-note, that’s the second Mama Cass song that Lost has used during its run (the first was “Make your own kind of music,” featured in the Season 2 premiere).

Libby: “I brought you some extra blankets.”

• Libby appears to Michael in a dream, something that spooked me out when I first watched this episode. Is this Michael’s guilty psyche in action? Is this dream similar to the dreams that Charlie was having in Season 2? Has Michael been seeing Libby a lot, ala the way that Hurley has been seeing Charlie? Is that possibly why he’s so desperate to kill himself?

• Michael has looped back to where he was before he arrived on the Island in Season 1. Once again, he’s separated from his son, bitter, angry, and recently hospitalized. This seems to me to be more underlining of what I think is Lost’s increasingly-emergent theme of “reincarnation.” We’re watching as people make the same sorts of mistakes over and over, falling into the same patterns and hurts and addictions as they struggle to be free.

Interestingly, those who achieve freedom through struggle (like, say, Charlie, Eko, and Shannon, to name a few) seem to end up dead.

• The kid that looks out of the window at Michael – that’s not actually Walt, right? He’s like a “stunt-Walt,” cast to make Walt appear younger than the actor was at this point in time?

• Michael sells the watch that Jin gave him at the end of Season 1. You can read this symbolically as Michael attempting to erase the past in his shame over what he’s done.

Tom: “I got some bad news for you, amigo. You can’t kill yourself. The Island won’t let you.”

• Michael goes into the sort of darkened, ooky-spooky NYC alley that only seems to exist in films and television, intending to shoot himself. He’s interrupted by our favorite gregarious Other, Tom Friendly (now deceased as of the Season 3 finale). That means that this conversation took place somewhere in the middle of Season 3, chronologically-speaking. Tom tells Michael that the Others have been “keeping tabs” on him, though its not clear how they’d do this. This appearance echoes the way that Tom appears to Michael at the end of Season 1.

• Let’s talk about this idea that “the Island” won’t let Michael die. If there’s truth to this (and there seems to be), then we’re left wondering how the Island’s influence can extend to preventing a man from dying in a car crash, or how it can stop the necessary combustion inherent in the firing of a bullet. It’s possible that “Whatever happened, happened” plays a part in this mystery. If Michael’s fate has already been sealed further down the timeline then efforts to kill himself before that point would, out of necessity, fail to work. He can’t kill himself before the point at which he’s “scheduled” to die. This is backed-up by the mention of Slaughterhouse Five in this episode. In that novel, both Billy Pilgrim and the aliens known as “Tralfamadorians” are aware of exactly when and how they will die (since they experience time in a non-linear/non-sequential manner). It’s very possible that Michael’s date of death has already been set, but since Michael doesn’t experience time the way that Billy Pilgrim/Desmond/(possibly) Jacob does, he wouldn’t know that his death was “scheduled” for a later time, and his failed attempts at suicide would look almost like mystical intervention from his perspective.

But there’s another possibility. Charlie was fated to die several times, in several different ways, but Desmond changed things (or seemed to), and prolonged Charlie’s death long enough to ensure that Charlie could die for a specific purpose. It may be the case that this storyline was introduced in order to make a larger point about what may be happening to certain other characters on the show. It’s possible to look at Michael’s failed suicide attempts as interventions (by the Others? Jacob? Someone else?) that are similar to the interventions that Desmond performed on Charlie’s behalf. It’s possible, in other words, that Michael’s death is actually being delayed/put off so that he can perform a necessary task in much the same way that Charlie survived long enough to turn off the jammer in the Looking Glass.

Tom: “You got more work to do, Mike.”

• There’s a pattern here. When Walt appears to Locke at the Dharma grave he tells Locke to get up because he has “more work to do.” Locke repeats this phrase the next time he appears. We’ll see in the Season 4 mobisodes that Christian also uses this phrase, saying that Jack has “work to do.” Maybe that’s coincidence. Maybe not. Can you think of any other instances where that particular phrase has been used?

• We hear from a television newscaster that investigators are skeptical about retrieving the Oceanic 815 Black Box – but we’ve seen what’s supposed to be that very Black Box onboard the freighter.

• We get confirmation that “some” of the Others can come and go from the Island. It’s not clear to me whether this scene comes before or after Locke destroys the sub in Season 3. If it’s before, then we can assume that Tom took the sub. If it’s after, then we can assume that certain Others have another way to get off the Island. We’ve seen Harper appear and vanish like a ghost – is their technology in the Temple that allows the Others to send themselves to other places?

• Tom’s comment that Kate isn’t his type (see: the beginning of Season 3) is clarified to humorous effect in this episode as we learn that Tom’s a gay man. I love that Tom has a younger, jheri-curled lover named “Arturo.”

• Does Tom get Michael’s fake passport from the same folks who made Ben’s copious fake IDs?

• One of you folks pointed out that Widmore will eventually admit to staging the Oceanic wreck. This means that Tom’s telling the truth when he gives Michael information on Widmore. Digging up graves in Thailand to fake the bodies of dead passengers? That’s impressively creepy stuff.

• The Others are offering Michael a twisted sort of redemption in this episode: Save the lives of the people he’s betrayed by killing both Widmore’s crew and himself. Michael is essentially turned into a suicide bomber by Ben.

Libby: “Don’t do it, Michael.”

• As Michael prepares to detonate the bomb he hears Mama Cass again singing “Better every day,” and Libby appears to him suddenly, urging him not to push the button (and notice the echoed symbolism of pushing the Button from Season 2: “Don’t push the button! The button is bad!”). This is intriguing. If Libby is a creation of Michael’s mind, a hallucination of sorts, then her urging not to push the button makes sense. Michael himself is conflicted about destroying the freighter and this could simply be his conscience making a Jiminy-Cricket-esque appeal to his decency.

But, if Libby is a ‘ghost’ in the same sense that Yemi and Christian are ‘ghosts,’ then this implies something interesting: the ‘ghost’ of Libby isn’t aware that the bomb is a fake. ‘Libby’ thinks that the bomb is real, and she doesn’t want it to go off. Why not?

Well, if the ‘ghost’ of Libby is actually Libby then she could simply be urging Michael not to add more deaths to his already-heavy conscience. But if ‘Libby’ is a manifestation of the Island/the MiB, in the way that I suspect Christian and Yemi are? Then we can assume that the MiB wants the freighter to reach the Island. This makes sense, and it connects directly back to Desmond and Charlie and what I’ve suggested about prolonging Charlie’s death to accomplish something specific. It seems that a force (probably the MiB, though I’m not ruling Jacob out) has been moving people into place in order to effect a long-term confidence game. That force (let’s call it the MiB for simiplicity’s sake) could have sent Desmond warnings about Charlie’s death in order to get Charlie to un-jam the Looking Glass – a task that, as a musician, Charlie was uniquely suited for. That action allows the freighter to find the Island, and Michael, like Charlie, seems like he is also being moved into place – set up to destroy the freighter only AFTER the mercenaries have reached the Island (which sets in motion the events that necessitate the turning of the wheel and Locke’s exit from the Island) and the Oceanic 6 have boarded the helicopter (which sets in motion the events we’ve been watching off-Island during this season). Both these things needed to happen in order to ensure that Locke’s dead body could be returned to the Island – something that the MiB apparently needed to happen in order to arrange for the killing of Jacob.

Is the MiB using ‘his’ non-linear perspective on time in order to align things perfectly for his loophole?

Ben: “When I’m at war I’ll do what I need to win – but I will not kill innocent people.”

• That’s a lovely sentiment, if entirely untrue. Ben may want to believe this about himself, but we’ve already seen him order Tom and the Others to kill anyone who gets in their way during the events of the Season 3 finale. More importantly (in the thematic sense), Michael questions Ben on this too, but he uses Ana Lucia and Libby to make his point. He implies that Ben ‘made’ Michael kill both of them. But Ben corrects Michael on this, and in doing so, he further underlines what I’ve long argued is a central idea underlying the show: human beings make their own misery and decide their own fates. As Ben says: “You killed them, Michael. No one asked you to.”

He’s right. No one asked Michael to shoot either woman. Michael made that decision all by himself – just as Locke made the decision to follow his Evil Father around like a dumb puppy and Sawyer made the decision to become a con man. We are responsible for our fates, in other words. To protest otherwise is to remain willfully un-evolved.

• On an unrelated note, I love Michael’s shouted delivery of the line “It’s not a bomb!” Way to be a stealthy saboteur, buddy.

• Ben tells Michael to make a list of everyone on the boat – we can assume that this is how Ben learns the names and histories of those on-board.

Sayid: “So you’re telling me that you’re working for Benjamin Linus.”

• For the high-crime of working for a slippery bastard, Sayid takes Michael to Captain Gault and exposes him for who he truly is. This is bitterly, bitterly ironic, as we’ve already seen Sayid willingly working for Ben off-Island (and we’ll see Sayid’s relative eagerness to do so in the next episode).

Rousseau: “I love you. I love you very much.”

• Finally, we cut back to Rousseau, Alex and Karl as they move through the jungle on their way to the Temple. In one of Lost’s more shocking episode enders, both Karl and Rousseau are cut down by unseen snipers leaving Alex alone. Raising her arms to the sky she cries out “I’m Ben’s daughter! I’m his daughter!”

*****

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Missed a column? Catch up here:

Season 4

• The Other Woman/Je Yeong (S4 ep. 6 &7)
• The Constant (S4 ep. 5)
• Eggtown (S4 ep. 4)
• The Economist (S4 ep. 3)
• Confirmed Dead (S4 ep. 2)
• The Beginning of The End (S4 ep. 1)

Season 3

• Through The Looking Glass (S3 ep. 22 & 23)
• Greatest Hits (S3 ep. 21)
• 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

• 
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)