Because You Left (S5, ep. 1)
Let the time-travel shenanigans begin! Season 5 is a pretty divisive season for Lost’s fans, and for that reason alone I’m looking forward to revisiting it. It’s arguable that the show flat-out drops several figurative balls during course of these episodes; failing, sometimes inexplicably, to connect dots that needed connecting, or giving up narrative opportunities for reasons that are unclear. Much of this seemed minor to me when this season aired last year, and was largely inconsequential to my enjoyment of the season as a whole, but I’m curious as to whether a second viewing will render these mistakes more irritating.
FYI: If you’re interested, I’ve done a Rewatch Column for the Lost: Missing Pieces ‘mobisodes’ that were included on the Season 4 DVD. You can read that by clicking here. In it, I give my theory on what Walt’s abilities might be.
• The alarm clock in Dr Chang’s Dharma bungalow shows the time flipping to 8:15 am, continuing the show’s maddening obsession with ‘significant’ numbers. I’ve half-jokingly suggested that this is the show’s way of inducing Apophenia in its audience.
• Willie Nelson’s “Shotgun Willie” is the song we hear as Chang goes about feeding infant-Miles, showcasing the good Doctor’s fondness for country music, which Miles will scoff at later this season. As far as I’m concerned, the Doc’s got good taste. We’re back in the 1970s, in Dharma’s so-called Heyday.
• As Daniel notes in this episode, the image of a skipping record player functions as metaphor for the way the Island will begin to ‘skip’ for Locke and the rest of the castaways left on it. If you’ll permit me to stretch the metaphor, it’s also interesting that the phrase the record begins skipping on (“you can’t make a record if you can’t make a record if you can’t make a record”) is itself a kind of audible loop, creating a sentence without a beginning or an ending, and echoing the loop that we’ll watch the compass take during this season.
• We watch as “Dr. Marvin Candle” shoots the orientation video for The Arrow station. The Arrow, as you remember, was the station that the tail-enders were using for shelter in Season 2 – it’s where the Bible with the Swan footage inside and the still-unexplained glass eye were located. It’s here that we learn The Arrow’s primary function was “to develop defensive strategies, and gather intelligence, on the Island’s hostile, indigenous” people, making it a kind of “War room” for the Dharma Initiative. Candle mentions the Arrow occupants’ specific areas of expertise, indicating that Dharma brought in military and/or intelligence agents.
• The Dharma Initiative is in the process of creating the Orchid Station, and their construction crew’s come close to drilling into the pocket of “negatively-charged exotic matter” that was mentioned in the Orchid video at the end of last season. Dharma’s drill melts, and the guy working the drill appears to suffer an intense version of the consciousness-shifting that we just watched Desmond and the freighter people dealing with, receiving a truly explosive nosebleed for his efforts.
• Dr. Chang then goes all Mad Scientist on the foreman at the dig, and basically dumps the central conceit for the fifth season directly into our laps without – it must be said – much in the way of grace or subtlety. Paraphrased:
Chang: “You fool! Don’t you realize that this season is all about….TIME TRAVEL?!”
Foreman: “Hahaha! Fuggedaboutit.What, like, killin’ Hitler and whatnot?” (I love that Dharma has arranged for Jersey to be represented on the Island)
Chang: “You fool again! There are RULES! Rules….that can’t be broken! Rules….that I’m ominously and rather gracelessly invoking for the benefit of our television audience!”
It’s a little on-the-nose, really.
• Jack and Ben toss Locke in the back of a van on their way to pick up Hurley – but Hurley’s already been moved by Sayid, as we saw at the end of last season.
• Ben lies (HUGE surprise, I know) and tells Jack that he last saw Locke in the Orchid station, just before the turning of the Wheel.
Jack: “Sawyer, Juliet, everyone from the boat, everyone we left behind – John said that they’d die too if we didn’t come back.”
• Locke didn’t tell Jack any of this. During “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” Locke tells him that “the people I left behind need our help.” So either we’re supposed to take from this that Jack is medicated, self-loathing, and making shit up, or this is one of those places where the dots don’t line up. What’s irritating about this, to me, is that lining these sorts of dots up shouldn’t be all that difficult.
• I love the way Locke cringes all bashfully when the Island lights up. And with that, the Island’s made its first leap through time/space.
Daniel: “Your camp isn’t gone. It hasn’t been built yet.”
• As Daniel describes it, Lost’s time-skipping is analogous to the skipping record we saw in the opening scene. If we imagine that the Island is like a record slowly spinning around in spacetime, and the history of the Island as the grooves in that record, then the castaways and the freighter folk would be the needle, skipping from section to section. I’m not clear on why it’s only the castaways and freighter folk who experience this. Richard and the Others don’t seem to be affected by the skipping. Since it’s the Others who aren’t affected, it’s possible that there’s an Island-based reason for their immunity to the time-jumps. It’s also possible that this is just a narratively-convenient choice for the writers to make.
Kate: “He goes in that tunnel he’s never coming back out.”
• Weirdest line of the season? “Choo-choo trains” go in and out of tunnels all the time. Is this supposed to mean something? It’s just a weird line, man.
• Ben’s creepy lawyers show up to threaten Kate with blood tests to determine her relationship to Aaron. This is Kate, so of course she decides to run.
• Sawyer’s barefoot again. And shirtless. You’re welcome, ladies.
• Locke witnesses the crash of the beechcraft plane carrying Yemi, some Nigerian drug thugs, and a whole lotta heroin.
• Once again, Locke’s leg is injured, and the fall he takes is reminiscent of the fall that paralyzed him. He’s been shot by Ethan, who holds him at gunpoint. When Locke tells Ethan that he knows who he is, that his name is John Locke, and that Ben Linus appointed him as the leader of the Others, Ethan responds that it’s the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. Is this because Ben isn’t yet in power? Because Ben has only recently claimed leadership?
• This season devotes a fair amount of time to The Legend of John Locke – a storyline that’s only really been hinted at during Seasons 1-4. Other than the fact of Richard and the Others’ interest in him, and the fact that they seemed to hope for his leadership, Locke’s legend has remained undefined. Til now. One of this season’s strongest elements is the way in which it mostly shows, without telling, the story of how Locke became important to Richard and to the Others. In doing this, Lost offers us ringside seats to watch the construction of a myth in progress.
• It’s interesting that Locke’s ‘destiny’ seems somehow tied into the location of the beechcraft, and it’s another instance of Season 5 and Season 2 mirroring each other. In both seasons, Locke is drawn to that location. In both seasons, he injures his leg and we see the fear that he may lose the ability to walk again.
• So, Widmore’s been hanging around in the airport, waiting for Sun? Does the ‘alert’ status on her passport indicate that Widmore owns an interest in Oceanic Airlines? Or has he simply paid off a few people?
• Here’s another place where the dots don’t seem to connect: Sun wants to kill Ben in revenge for the death of Jin. Only, there’s no way that Sun could know Ben was responsible for the freighter explosion. The only person to see Ben kill Keamy and set off the dead-man’s trigger was Locke – who never told Sun about it. That’s two Locke-centric conversations that should have happened, but didn’t. Is this sloppiness? Is it something else?
Great Hurley Line: “I need a cool code name.”
• How much fun is the Bourne-style fight in the kitchen, complete with death-by-upraised-knives-in-a-dishwasher?
• Maybe it’s just me, but having Hurley drag an unconscious Sayid around, ala Weekend At Bernies, is a stroke of genius. I’m looking forward to “The Lie” just for that.
Daniel: “Whatever happened, happened.”
• The basic rules of Lost time-travel according to Daniel Faraday are laid out for us here (and then repeated, rather unnecessarily, many times over the course of the season). The basics: Time is a string. You can travel forward or backward along that string, but you cannot create a new string. This episode, however, seems to disprove that theory almost immediately – though because of the overall-wonkiness of time travel, it’s tough to say with certainty that the “whatever happened, happened” rule gets broken.
Richard: “Well, what comes around, goes around.”
• The second time-leap has brought Locke, Sawyer and Co. forward in time to what’s perhaps the pivotal moment of the entire series so far for Locke. Their entire group is now co-existing in the same time with the survivors of the Ajira crash that will come later this season – Sun, Ben, Anti-Locke, Ilyana, etc, etc.
At the same time that the real Locke is cinching his leg wound by the side of the beechcraft, Anti-Locke is giving Richard a compass, and telling Richard to take it to the real Locke. This act, along with the instructions that Richard gives to Locke (again at Anti-Locke’s prompting), is the origin point of Locke’s Legend. The compass will enable Locke to appear special to Richard when they meet in the 50’s, which will get Richard to visit Locke as a baby and a boy in the hopes that Locke is ‘special.’ That specialness will be reinforced when Locke then crash-lands on the Island with Oceanic 815, and has his legs healed. Richard will then work to have Ben unseated from power, installing Locke in his place, and apparently spreading stories about Locke among the Others. These stories will give help to give Locke the inflated sense of purpose and destiny that will lead him to move the Wheel, leave the Island, and die. At which point, his body will be returned to the Island, the MiB will take his place as Anti-Locke, and will give Richard a compass, telling Richard to take it to the real Locke.
It’s a circle – a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will. An ouroboros, one might say. And it’s outstandingly cool. The passing of the compass turns Locke into a tragic figure as of the end of Season 5. He’s been duped on a nigh-cosmic level – the victim of the ultimate long-con. Will Locke’s journey continue in Season 6? I hope so, if only because I hope redemption and spiritual/emotional evolution is within the reach of all the Oceanic castaways.
• Richard appears to have some skill with a first-aid kit. Is this a hint about his past? Is it a hint about Jack’s potential future? Will Jack take Richard’s place as the ‘consigliore’ of the Island?
• Richard tells John that he has to die – something that Anti-Locke has told Richard to say. When Locke informs “Christian” that Richard has told him this, Christian replies “that’s why they call it sacrifice,” and doesn’t appear surprised (in my memory at least). This indicates that either (a) Anti-Locke and Christian have similar/the same agendas, or (b) Anti-Locke’s agenda is something that Christian wants to see fulfilled – but for his own still-hidden purposes.
• They’ve leapt forward, now they leap back yet again, to a time when Desmond is manning the Swan station. As Sawyer hammers uselessly on the back door to the Swan, Daniel again lays out the basic mantra for the season: whatever happened, happened. If Sawyer never interacted with Desmond this far back in the past then he can’t start doing it now – and it appears that time/the universe itself will work to keep him from doing so (because, realistically, Desmond should have heard him). This makes perfect sense if there is only one ‘string’ of time, and the notion of Quantum parallel universes does not apply. But, there’ve been some hints that there may be parallel universes involved in Season 6 and if that’s the case, then Daniel is very, very wrong about “whatever happened, happened.” And he’s about to do something that suggests he is indeed very, very wrong.
• Charlotte’s got a nosebleed, and she apparently used to get them when she was little – when she lived on the Island. As I understand it, the more time you’ve spent on the Island, the faster you get a nosebleed, hemorrhage, and then messily expire. By this logic, Charlotte’s spent the most cumulative time on the Island (as a girl). We’ll see this confirmed later on in the season.
• I’m confused. Sawyer couldn’t interact with Desmond because “Whatever happened, happened.” Despite this, Daniel and Desmond can interact, implying that they have always interacted at that moment. Daniel and Desmond have already interacted in the past, at Oxford, where Desmond went to get help with his time-skipping flashes in The Constant. But the Desmond that interacted with Daniel at Oxford had (I think) his pre-Island consciousness at the time, and that pre-Island consciousness was jumping forward in time into ‘present-day Desmond’ during that episode. Prior to landing on the Island then, Desmond should have that memory of meeting Faraday, right? So why doesn’t Desmond remember him? He indicates that Daniel looks familiar…maybe the consciousness-jumps he experienced didn’t leave a permanent memory? Anyone want to help me out on this?
• According to Daniel, Desmond is “uniquely and miraculously special.”
• After Daniel tells Des to find his mother in the past, we cut to present-day Desmond in bed with Penny. Des tells Penny about the encounter with Daniel and she suggests that he was dreaming, but he claims he thinks it was a memory. Does this mean that Daniel just broke the “whatever happened, happened” rule, creating a new memory in Desmond at the moment he interacted with him, and proving that time operates in the Quantum sense, with billions of divergent possible timelines? Or does it just mean that Desmond suddenly remembered this meeting for some unexplained reason?
• This episode hurts my head, but it’s an overall-good one, and despite the loose/unconnected threads (which actually kind of do irritate me, but not in any significant way yet), a very entertaining one.
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