LaFleur (S5, ep. 8)
James: “Come on. Just give me two weeks – that’s all I’m asking. Two weeks.”
After an episode as dark as Jeremy Bentham, LaFleur is like an hour in the sun. There’s a lot to love in this episode.
• We get our first look at the statue that belongs to the foot Sayid spotted back in Season 2. It’s enormous, facing out to sea, and is apparently the Egyptian God Taweret. Taweret’s name means “great one,” and she was considered to be Egypt’s goddess of maternity, fertility and childbirth – an apt deity to ‘stand watch’ over the Island. Taweret had two aspects – one light and one dark. She was considered a protector of mother and child during childbirth, but at the same time she was also considered to be a “fierce demonic fighter,” and her image – part hippo, part crocodile, part lion – incorporates three “man-killing” animals, which appears to mean that she was also considered to be a “demoness.”
Taweret was called “The guardian of the North,” and its interesting to note that the statue of this deity was placed at the Northern portion of the Island. According to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Taweret was also a guide who helped souls pass from the world of the living to the realm of the dead – another invocation of the concept of Underworld, which has been so important to Lost’s narrative.
Finally, according to Plutarch’s description, Taweret was a concubine of Set – an Egyptian god that became commonly associated with “evil” (after his aspect was merged with that of Apep, the original “god of evil”) and is the god-figure most resembling the MiB/Smokey on the Island. According to Plutarch, Taweret kept Set’s powers in check through the use of a “chain” – a chain that we may have seen represented by a circle of black ash around “Jacob’s” cabin.
Note that according to Egyptian mythology, Set arranged for the killing of Osiris and the scattering of his body (possibly reflected in the way that Anti-Locke arranges the killing of Jacob), but that Set was ultimately defeated by the son of Osiris – Horus – who restores order to the world. Is this ‘son’ Jack Shephard?
• I dig the way that the Dharma Initiative mixes hippie-dippie earnestness and underlying darkness and the introduction of Dharma back into Lost’s narrative offers a great excuse to watch some very talented character actors strut their stuff. Patrick Fischler, used to great effect as the noxious Jimmy Barrett on Madmen, and a veteran of everything from Idiocracy to Swimming with Sharks to Mullholland Drive (the David Lynch version, not the stultifying Nick Nolte-in-a-fedora version), pops up here as Phil, the creepy security subordinate.
• Having Horace wandering around drunkenly throwing dynamite is…an odd choice. It’s very amusing out of context, however. We’ll learn at the end of the episode that Horace claims to have gotten drunk because he’s afraid Amy hasn’t gotten over the death of her first husband, Paul. Why he’s blowing up trees is another question.
• Introducing James “LaFleur” as the head of Dharma security is the sort of after-the-fact-obvious twist that Lost is so good at. I mentioned recently that Sawyer’s/James’ character arc on this show is really impressive to me. Well, this episode continues to shade the reforming con man in different, fascinating colors. He’s still the man he was, in that he’s good with a lie and a gun, but he’s using those things in the service of keeping both he and his group alive. The old Sawyer would have figured out a way to save his hide and screw everyone else over. This new man, James LaFleur, puts his life on the line to help his friends, to reaffirm the truce, and the save the life of a woman and her baby.
• Locke’s turning of the Wheel has stabilized the Island. The flashes stop, and James, Juliet, Daniel, Jin and Miles end up in 1974, a relatively-early point in the Dharma Initiative’s history. Despite this, Dharma seems firmly entrenched on the Island – something that we know the US Military couldn’t accomplish. How is it that a bunch of hippie scientists from Michigan have managed, not only to survive any initial encounters with the Others, but to negotiate a truce allowing them to stay on the Island for over 20 years? To my mind, Dharma is either engaged in something potentially useful to the Island’s Others, or has been invited there by Widmore/Hawking or Jacob.
• We learn that Charlotte’s body disappeared after the last flash, confirming that the dead can’t make the time-trips that the living apparently can.
• Amy tells James, Juliet, and Co. that they need to bury the Others that they’ve shot. As we’ve learned from reading the conditions of the Dharma/Hostiles Truce, this event could easily be perceived as violating the terms, despite the fact that Dharma’s employees didn’t kill the Others (although, if memory serves, Amy and Paul weren’t simply picnicking out there).
• Amy is having a baby, and it’s early. We learn in this episode that Dharma typically sends women back to the mainland to give birth, so it’s not clear what the status of the “baby plague” is on the Island. Given that Amy has a troubled birth, and that the baby arrives early, it seems as though there are hints that the “plague” is coming, but Juliet’s successful delivery of young Ethan (!) seems to confirm that at this point in the Island’s history, women can give (albeit very difficult) birth there. Was the birth of Ethan somehow instrumental in igniting the baby plague?
Horace: “Look, we have certain defense protocols. There are hostile indigenous people on this island, and we don’t get along with them. So… why don’t you tell me who the hell you are?”
• The word indigenous is interesting. Indigenous means “having originated in, and living naturally in a particular region or environment.” Richard’s people are certainly at home on the Island – but the majority of them haven’t been indigenous. They’ve been imports. So far, only two people have been confirmed to have been born on the Island: Ethan and Aaron.
• James claims he’s the captain of a salvage vessel that was looking for the Black Rock. Is Horace telling the truth when he says that he’s never heard of the ship? No idea, and it doesn’t really matter. But it does make me think about just how isolated and hermetic the Dharma compound really is, and how it sort of resembles luxury hotels which are constructed in places like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Cancun. Inside the gates its all good, outside of the gates it’s a jungle out there. Literally.
Richard: “That fence may keep other things out, but not us. The only thing that does keep us out, Horace, is our truce… which you’ve now broken.”
• Richard’s dramatic entrance makes me appreciate the subtle pleasures of Nestor Carbonell’s performance. He’s so inscrutable that it’s fascinating, but he could easily be a walking cipher of a character since there’s nothing defined about him over than his age and his fondness for the men’s department of Banana Republic. But Carbonell brings a wry charm and a quiet menace to the role, and his often-quizzical expressions make a person out of a walking question mark. If you’d like to read over the details of the truce between Dharma and the Others, you can do so right here.
• The relationship between Horace and Alpert is one of strained formality, and again I’m wondering how this arrangement arose. Someone, potentially Jacob or even Widmore and/or Hawking, seems to want Dharma to be allowed to stay, subject to strict conditions. Otherwise, as Richard pointedly implies, his people would likely steal into the barracks at night and eliminate everyone in the same way they took care of the Army.
• James tells Richard that he’s waiting for John Locke, the man who appeared to him back in 1954. Is the fact that it’s now 1974, exactly 20 years later, significant in any way? Have the castaways been jumping in unseen patterns?
Horace: “Hey, Ames. Listen: we’ve been friends for a long time, yeah? So this is completely your choice. If you don’t want to give him to them, then we will suffer the consequences.”
• This is our first hint that Horace isn’t simply the feel-good brainiac leader of the Dharma group. He manipulates Amy with the threat of harm to the larger group, and if you watch the background you’ll see Sawyer subtly noticing this. This is potentially another echo in Lost’s narrative, this time between Horace and Ben, and it makes me wonder whether Horace purposefully sent Paul out to be killed, or in the hope that something would happen to him, in much the same way that Ben sent Goodwin to observe the tail-enders in the hopes that he’d be removing an obstacle to his affection for Juliet.
• Richard’s truce-affirming demand involves taking the body of Amy’s husband, Paul, back with him to his people. Have Alpert and Horace arranged a kind of con? Is Richard going to tell the Others that Paul was the man who killed their two men, using his body as proof that Richard has secured justice for them?
Or is Richard’s claim to Paul’s dead body instead linked to the curious habit of the dead becoming ‘ghosts’ on this Island?
Juliet: “Is that for me?”
James: “You were amazing today.”
• The revelation that James and Juliet are a couple (and a damned good one) may be my favorite character-related development of the season; hell, it may be one of my favorite developments in the series. I’m still not certain that eliminating Juliet at the end of the season (which is what appears to happen, though we’ll know for sure in just over a week’s time) was the ‘right’ thing for the show’s writers to do. I don’t typically comment on Lost’s bizarre love-quadrangle, but I’m so charmed by the life James and Juliet have built for themselves that I feel the need to say Kate and James have never had as much chemistry between them as we see on display here.
• The item that caused Horace to think that his wife wasn’t over the death of her first husband is an ankh necklace. The Ankh is an Egyptian symbol and hieroglyphic that is typically interpreted to mean “life.” Why is this Ankh potentially significant? Well, for one thing, it’s of a piece with the rest of the apparently-Egyptian hieroglyphs (and Giant Motherfunkin’ Statues) on the Island. For another, the last poster released in conjunction with the Lost Alternate Reality Game (you can see it HERE) conspicuously features an ankh, emblazoned on what look to be a flowing banner. Finally, the shape of the ankh may be significant. It’s a looping cross, and that loop may reference or somehow be symbolic of the looping that we’ve seen the castaways doing in Season 5 (and which we may see them do again in Season 6). Note that Taweret, the apparent ‘guardian’ of the Island in Egyptian myth, is typically depicted holding an ankh, and that the statue of Taweret on the Island is also holding an ankh.
• Welcome back to the Island, Jack, Kate and Hurley. Your return will destroy the life that James and Juliet have built for themselves among the Initiative, and it’s a testament to the strength of the show’s characters that I genuinely view this as a tragic development.
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