Cabin Fever (S4, ep. 11)

Alpert: “You sure the knife belongs to you, John? You sure about that?”

Thoughts:

• Once again there’s the image of a record player starting up –a potential metaphor for the show/the Island/. We’ll see the Island “skipping” in Season 5, for instance.

• We’re watching Locke’s mother as she goes out on a date with a man who’s twice her age – a man that we know is Anthony Cooper, King of Lost’s “Bad Dads.” On her way out of the house to meet him, she’s hit by an unseen driver in a way that recalls Nadia’s death in Season 5. Are we meant to wonder who the driver of that car was? The same driver that sent a bus straight into Edmund Burke?

• Emily gives birth to Locke prematurely just as Ben’s mother, also named Emily, gave birth to him prematurely. Locke’s mother leaves him to be adopted, and Ben’s mother dies, leaving him to be raised by his father. Both are ‘chosen’ by the Island in ways we don’t really understand. In the same way that Locke and Jack mirrored one another during Season 2, Ben and Locke have begun to mirror each other in this season.

• Keamy tries to kill Michael, but he can’t. His gun misfires several times, again underlining the idea that “the Island” won’t let Michael die. I’ve theorized that the reason for this most likely comes from the idea that “whatever happened, happened,” and that Michael isn’t ‘scheduled’ to die yet in the grand scheme of things. However, I’ve also suggested that Michael’s inability to die might be analogous to the way in which Desmond continually saved Charlie’s life during Season 3, and that Michael may be protected by the same force that’s engineering the loophole that the MiB requires.

Horace: “I’m not makin’ any sense am I.”
Locke: “Nope.”
Horace: “That’s probably because I’ve been dead for twelve years.”

• Locke has a dream and sees Horace Goodspeed, dead Dharma Initiative leader, building “Jacob’s” cabin, which was apparently meant to be a getaway for Horace and his wife. “Horace” (if it’s actually him) appears to be looping like a recording, repeating phrases and actions (skipping like a record, if you will), again suggesting a larger loop that the castaways are a part of. Horace’s nose bleeds in the same way that we’ll see Miles and Charlotte’s noses bleeding in Season 5.

• Horace tells John that he needs to find him in order to find Jacob, and that Jacob’s been waiting a long time for John. On rewatch it’s possible to view this message as instead coming from the Man In Black, who has also, presumably, been waiting a long time for Locke – the man who will make his still-foggy loophole possible (and doesn’t the concept of castaway reincarnation, a kind of time-cycling loop, sound like the sort of thing that would by necessity have a hole in it?  A loophole for the loop?). It’s as though the MiB is slowly drawing Locke to him.

Ben: “I used to have dreams.”

• Locke awakens from his Horace dream to find Ben already awake. He’s received a vision, and it’s told him how to find the cabin. This is highly reminiscent of the vision Locke received which guided him to the beechcraft and got Boone killed.

• That one sentence above says so much about the man Ben was and the man he’s become. It also says something about the longevity of leadership in this place. Widmore was deposed by Ben, who’s been deposed by Locke, who’ll die over his self-perceived failure to lead. What happened to Ben’s dreams? Were they taken away once Ben was no longer useful/following orders? Were they withheld in the way that the Island’s healing powers were withheld? Why? And how?

• We learn that preemie-Locke has survived countless infections and has been called a ‘miracle baby’ by the other nurses (that’s the first time that the word ‘miracle’ will be used during this episode, but not the last). In this way he’s a reverse image of the babies that die on the Island, and his resilience here is arguably symbolic of his overall tenacity in life.

• Richard Alpert appears in the hospital, watching John Locke. This was a monumentally cool moment when it first aired, and on rewatch we now know that Locke himself will send Richard to see him in Season 5, which means that even on rewatch, with the element of surprise removed, it’s still monumentally cool.

Locke: “You ever wonder what happened to the Dharma Initiative, Hugo?”

• Locke follows his vision back to the mass grave where Ben buried the members of the Dharma Initiative. Was this act of overt, mass murder responsible for creating the ‘baby plague’? Did the killing of so many people somehow damage the atmosphere of the Island? Did it give too much power to whatever force on the Island seems to have the ability to create ‘ghosts’ of the dead? Ben tells Hurley that someone else ordered The Purge, but he doesn’t say who. We know now that Ms. Hawking and Widmore were leading the Others before Ben – did they order the Purge? Is Ben lying? Did he organize the Purge to seize control of the Others? We may never know (but I hope it’s made clearer).

• Locke is visited again by Richard Alpert, this time as a young boy in a foster home (Alpert will view and/or contact Locke three times in this episode, something that, along with Hurley’s warning to Jack that someone would be visiting him in the last episode, makes me think of A Christmas Carol). Locke is playing Backgammon (Richard comments that he seems to have an affinity for the game, which seems like an ironic comment now in retrospect), and he’s drawn what looks like a crude Smoke Monster – something that has an eerie resonance in the wake of Locke’s fate.

• As you’ve probably already read, the test that Alpert gives to Locke in this episode is substantially the same test traditionally given to prospective Dali Lamas by the Pachen Lama (essentially the ‘second in command’ lama after the Dali Lama – a role that Richard appears to fill), reinforcing again the theme of reincarnation. In the traditional Pachen Lama test, the candidate is given an array of objects to choose from, one of which belonged to the former Dali Lama. If the candidate chooses the correct object it is inferred that he is the reincarnation of the Dali Lama.

Here, Richard is doing the same thing, in spirit. He’s asking Locke to identify objects that already “belong” to him, a test that substantively echoes the Pachen Lama test. One of the objects that Richard lays out – the compass – was passed between an adult-Locke and Richard before young Locke was born, making it a ‘past’ object that already belongs to him, as well as a ‘future’ object that will belong to him.

It seems to me that what Richard is asking Locke to do here may be to ‘expand his consciousness’ in such a way as to ‘sense’ his future and his past (fitting, then, that Alpert’s namesake was a pioneer in psychotropic drugs and consciousness-expansion). On Lost all time is happening at once, with the past the present and the future coexisting. Given that ‘fact,’ it’s as though Richard is asking Locke to imitate Dr. Manhattan in a way and perceive both what he possessed in the ‘past’ as well as the ‘future.’.

But Locke appears to fail Richard’s test. Why? He seems, if not pleased, then cautiously optimistic about Locke’s choice of the sand and especially of the compass (for reasons that are now clear to us). Richard doesn’t specify that only one of the objects is the correct choice – he seems to imply that there are several possible correct choice. He asks John “which of these things belong to you,” not “which one of these things belongs to you.” It’s the knife that seems to upset him – John’s choice of the knife convinces him that John ‘isn’t ready.’

But what’s (potentially) interesting about this to me on rewatch is that Locke arguably chooses correctly. He passes the test – if that test is meant to identify the objects with which he’s fated to be associated. He chooses sand, presumably sand from the Island. Richard seems to approve of this. He chooses the compass – a compass that he will one day give to Richard Alpert. Again, Richard seems to approve. Finally, he chooses the knife – an implement he’ll identify with throughout his life, and which Faux-Locke will hand to Ben Linus in the Season 5 finale. Is it the same knife? No. But it’s symbolically important to the life of Locke in a way that the “Book of Laws” and the comic book arguably haven’t been. Personally, I’d guess that Locke was supposed to choose the Book of Laws, as that’s potentially indicative of a ‘wise’ and ‘just’ leader.

• I love that Hurley moves out of the spot Ben was standing on when he shot Locke.

• Back on the freighter, Keamy pulls out a bright red folder with a ‘secondary protocol” contained inside. It tells him where Ben would head in the event that Keamy and his men “torched the Island.” I’m not sure why Widmore would want the Island torched – is Keamy just off the reservation at this point?

Ben: “He actually thinks staying was his idea. Not bad, John. Not bad at all.”
Locke: “I’m not you.”

• Locke’s right, but he’s also not right. He isn’t Ben, but they’re mirrored images of one another. On a metaphorical/subtextual level, you could argue that Locke’s denial here represents the ‘denial of/confrontation with the Other’ that we’ve discussed before in this column, along with ideas of Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic. As Huxley argues in his novel “Island,” the discovery of who we are not can help us to discover who we really are, and therefore discover “good being.” It’s arguable that this exchange is meant to subtly comment on this.

• John has a nose bleed when he’s pulled out of his locker in the flashback, which probably just indicates he’s been beaten up, but which also makes for some nice foreshadowing of all the nosebleeds yet to come.

• The name “Mittelos” pops up again on the show as “Mittelos Laboratories” offers Locke a scholarship to science camp, but Locke resists the opportunity. He resists the Joseph Campell-esque “Hero’s call” in order to ‘fit in.’

Ben: “Those things had to happen to me. That was my destiny. But you’ll understand soon that there are consequences to being chosen. Because destiny, John? Destiny is a fickle bitch.”

• Great line. And one with serious resonance. It does seem as though those who are ‘chosen’ are used up, discarded, or become embittered by the idea that these usefulness is limited in the ‘grand scheme of things.’

Abaddon: “Oh, I’m a lot more than just an orderly, John.”

• Matthew Abaddon is revealed to be Locke’s orderly during his recovery from the fall that took his legs. He plants the seed in Locke’s head to go on a Walkabout. He mentions a knife again, and suggests that Locke needs to discover who he truly is – echoing again the Sartre-ian notions of confronting “the Other” within and discovering, as Huxley writes in “The Island,” Locke’s own sense of “good being,” knowing who he is not, and therefore, who he truly is. We never do learn about the miracle that Abaddon claims to have experienced.

• Keamy kills Dr. Ray (at least 10-12 hours after he washes up on shore) and Captain Gault in order to get Frank to take him back. Is he acting per Widmore’s orders? Or is he again showing that he’s left the sanity-ramp and headed into crazytown? Gault suggests that the ‘sickness’ that affected Regina may be affecting Keamy as well, but we don’t get any real indications of that.

Locke: “Are you Jacob?”
Christian: “No. But I can speak on his behalf.”

• Once it’s found, Locke enters the cabin alone. Ben waits outside, having admitted that he’s been deposed – that Locke is the new ‘king’ of the Island. Hurley waits with him because, well, Hurley’s ultimately a very reasonable dude, and very reasonable people don’t tend to want to enter teleporting, dilapidated cabins that have haunted them.

The scene in “Jacob’s” cabin takes us right back to David Lynch territory again. It struck me the first time this episode aired that there was something not-right about Christian’s appearance to Locke. For the first portion of the scene his face is draped in shadow. For the rest of the scene that face looks as though it’s barely containing a smirk. If you rewatch this episode after reading this column I’d like you to pay special attention to this portion of the conversation between Locke and “Christian”:

Locke: “You know why I’m here?”
Christian: “Yeah, sure. Do you?”
Locke: “I’m here… because I was chosen to be.”
Christian: (pauses, then) “That’s absolutely right.”

Is that absolutely right? Really? Look at Christian’s face. Listen to how he says those words. I remain convinced that “Christian” is in some way working toward the death and fake resurrection of John Locke, and as such, that he is working for/with the Man In Black, and may even be the MiB.

• The whole scene goes from creepy to REALLY creepy when Claire appears. Maybe Claire’s alive, and maybe she’s not. But whoever that was in the cabin, I don’t think it was Claire. Again, take a moment to rewatch the look that’s exchanged between “Claire” and “Christian” after Locke asks “the only question that does matter.” That’s the look of shifty co-conspirators, of con men, and not (or so I’d argue) of benevolent entities. Those of you who think that Christian is a paternal/benevolent ‘ghost,’ I invite you to explain how that characterization fits with what we see here.

• The silent scene between Ben and Hurley is lovely work by both actors.

• And this episode ends with seven words that will alter the course (or complete the course, really) of John Locke’s life forever: “He wants us to move the Island.”

Next: The two-part finale!

*****

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Missed a column? Catch up here:

Season 4

• The Shape of things to come (S4 ep. 9)
• Meet Kevin Johnson (S4 ep. 8)
• 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)