• The way in which the Temple Master attempts to manipulate Jack here, and Jack’s subsequent stubborn refusal to be manipulated, recalls for me the way in which Eko admitted his sins, but refused to feel guilt. I think what we’re seeing here is an inner course-correction for Jack, who swung from bullheaded control freak to passive convert and now seems to be swinging back to the midpoint – to a kind of “Doubting Thomas” state.

Ben talked about Doubting Thomas in Season 5 – about how Thomas is most remembered for doubting the resurrection, and how he needed to see the evidence for himself before he would believe. That’s exactly Jack’s state of mind here. Jack’s willing to give Sayid the pill, to take the leap of faith required, but he’s not willing to do so blindly. He wants to know what’s in it.
Interestingly (to me at any rate), if Jack were Abraham on Mount Moriah he wouldn’t have passed God’s test. Lost has made a point of referencing the Sacrifice of Isaac story several times over the course of its run. The notion of sacrifice is a continual thread in this show, most recently popping up in “LA X,” where Hurley was shown holding a copy of Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling,” in which Kierkegaard argues on behalf of Abraham’s loyalty to God and his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. So are we meant to wonder whether Jack’s making a terrible mistake in not going through with the sacrifice of his fellow castaway? Or are we meant to be critical of that philosophical position? The show, much to my pleasure, doesn’t make it clear. I’d love to hear what you think. Did Jack make the ‘right’ choice in “What Kate Does”?

• I’m assuming , since Jacob seems to specifically pick Jack for his mysterious purposes, that this stubborn, Doubting Thomas element of his character is something valuable to Jacob, not a potential threat. But who knows?

Hurley: “You’re not a zombie, right?”
Sayid: “No. I am not a zombie.”

• The question is, what is he? Is he still Sayid inside? Our glimpses of Rousseau’s crew, and the information she’s given us about them, imply that people who are “infected” will act as if they haven’t changed at all when it suits them.

• Hurley’s zombie comment is a cute meta-reference. Lost’s writers have joked in the past about doing a seventh “zombie season” of the show and Hurley’s line references that. But it also potentially references what’s happening to Sayid. In a very real sense, if what the Others say about the infection is true, Sayid is becoming a zombie. More on this below.

• Sayid’s moment by the pool with Jack is a nice one – again, the kind of small character moment that I appreciate in the middle of all this Island madness.

• Here’s something I actually love about this episode: the overarcing plot wants these characters to stay at the Temple and learn about what’s happening, in part because we want to know what’s happening. We want our big confrontation and we want our answers. It’s a uneasily junkie-esque feeling, and I’m jonzeing just as bad as anyone. But these characters aren’t really interested in pushing that plot forward. They’re interested in what’s become important to them as characters, and that doesn’t include Temples or Smoke Monsters. And that’s part of why I’m maybe generous with this episode – because Jin’s character as constructed over five seasons would absolutely drop everything to go find Sun – their renewed connection is what’s most important to him. Kate would absolutely ditch Jack to go be with Sawyer – her maternal, protective instinct was awakened with Aaron, and she’s determined to reunite them. It’s what’s most important to her. Acknowledging that means a less propulsive episode, but it also means that we’re not driven by the plot so much as we’re driven by what these characters want within that plot, and that’s personally much more satisfying to me overall, even when there’s wheel-spinning involved. Does that make sense?

• Claire’s baby decides to try coming early, just as she’s being told that the adoptive mother’s husband has left her (an echo of Claire herself, who’s boyfriend left her far along in the pregnancy). In terms of time, Claire goes into labor here far earlier than she did in Season 1. Aaron’s sudden, early arrival mirrors the births of Locke, Ben, and (I think) Ethan. 

Ethan: “I just…don’t want to stick you with needles if I don’t have to.”

• Ethan makes his off-Island debut as Claire’s attending physician in the hospital. Whether on the Island or off it, Ethan seems destined to be a part of Claire’s pregnancy. He introduces himself as “Ethan Goodspeed” here, and it’s the first time we’ve heard that name used. Previously, we’ve known Ethan as “Ethan Rom,” an anagram for “Other Man” and an apparent alias. Last season it was revealed that Ethan is Horace Goodspeed’s son, and while his interest in babies and fertility remains undiminished, Ethan seems entirely lacking in the homicidal tendencies that characterized him on the Island.

• Ethan’s appearance raises the question of when he left the Island. We’ve seen that in these off-Island flashes, Dharmaville was built. We know that Ethan was born to Horace and Amy Goodspeed, who were important Dharma figures. It stands to reason then that Ethan was probably born on the Island, but that he left at some point afterward instead of becoming an Other.

• Did Ethan’s mother, Amy, die in childbirth? We’ve seen that the Island is underwater in 2004, the year the off-Island castaways occupy. With the Island underwater, then either Juliet was presumably never recruited (she came to the Island just three years earlier, in 2001), or was recruited but left the Island when it sank. If she’s off of the Island, and the castaways never crash on the Island, then neither she nor they will go back in time. If neither Juliet nor the castaways ever went back in time, then Juliet could not have been present for the birth of Amy’s baby. With Dharma’s doctor assigned to the Looking Glass, that would mean big trouble for Amy Goodspeed.

• Kate’s now attended to Claire twice during labor, first on the Island in Season 1 where she delivered Aaron into the world, and again here, at the “Angle of Mercy” hospital where Claire opts to delay Aaron’s birth. If I’m right about the “second snake in the mailbox” (see the link at the top of the column), then she’s been given a second opportunity to be there for Claire, and to see mother and baby safely united. Claire seems to summon the name Aaron out of thin air during the contractions, interestingly enough. Is this evidence of my “Constant” theory? Something else entirely?

Sawyer: “I think some of us are meant to be alone.”

• Kate and Sawyer’s scene on the Galaga dock is deeply affecting stuff to me. It’s maybe John Holloway’s finest work to date and again, I’m kind of impressed by Evangeline Lily here as well.

• The engagement ring that Sawyer planned to give to Juliet looks quite a bit like the ring that Desmond purchased for Penny from Ms. Hawking, no? The image of Sawyer pitching the ring into the Island’s waters also recalls Desmond’s ditching of the ring in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” Will Sawyer find Juliet again, ala Des and Penny? I suspect the answer is yes, and that when they meet in the world of the “second snake,” they’ll go for coffee.

Jack: “What’s that?
Dogen: “It’s a baseball.”

• Hilarious. If you’re wondering, that’s the question we get an answer to in this episode.

• We learn Temple Master’s name – it’s Dogen. His namesake was a Japanese Buddhist Monk Philosopher(!) who emphasized the spiritual and the temporal were one and the same. The name Dogen derives from a combination of “do” (way/road) and “gen” (strict/solemn).

• Incidentally, Dogen is played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who, unbeknownst to me, is apparently a huge star in his native Japan. This is awesome, though I’m not sure I can articulate why.

• Jack’s conversation with Dogen here brings up something potentially interesting. The Temple Master’s explanation for using a translator involves maintaining an intentional distance between himself and the rest of the Others, allowing him to make difficult decisions. This calls to mind the now-infamous Season 3 episode “Stranger in a Strange Land,” where Jack was told that “he walks among them, but is not of them,” as well as the difficult decisions that Jack has made, like, say, the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. Will Jack become the Temple Master? Are the ‘candidates’ meant, not just to fill Jacob’s position, but to fill a number of positions?

• Dogen claims that he was brought to the Island “like everyone else,” seemingly confirming that Jacob and/or the MiB have directly or indirectly drawn castaways, Dharma and Others alike to the Island.

• This is the Jack I love: wild-eyed, chuckling, popping strange pills because fuck you, Others, that’s why. While we’ve spent a good portion of this episode spinning our wheels in terms of the plot, moments like this still make the episode feel as though its “moving forward” for me. If the castaways are “pawns” in some Great Game then they’ve begun refusing to move as ordered. They’ve begun acting as variables, each in their own ways, forcing the Others to begin divulging their secrets.

• The name of Claire’s hospital is “Angel of Mercy,” recalling the angelic and saint-based names of the locations that Locke visited in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham.”

• The Detective who visits Claire in her hospital room is named Rasmussen. Professor Rasmussen was awarded the Fermi Award in the field of nuclear energy in the “development of probabilistic risk assessment techniques.” Rasmussen’s also a polling service and weirdly fun name to say, but that’s got nothing to do with Lost.

Dogen: “There is a darkness growing in him, and once it reaches his heart, everything your friend once was will be gone.”
Jack: “How can you be sure of that?”
Dogen: “Because it happened to your sister.”

• YOWZA! Tonight, the whole “sickness” mystery became just a little clearer, and much, much spookier. As discussed above, waaaay back in Season One Rousseau mentioned a “sickness” to the then-and-now-bewildered castaways, and other than the brief scenes with Rousseau and crew in “This Place Is Death” we’ve never heard about it again. Some people, myself included, suggested that the nosebleeds and murderous consciousness-jumps of Season 4 might provide a possible explanation for the sickness, but it looks like this til-now-mysterious word has another explanation altogether.

In the Back To The Island column for LA X, I spoke about the similarities between the submersion of Sayid in the Temple waters and the burying of a cat behind a certain Pet Semetary. That comparison got a little stronger tonight as Dogen and Lennon explained (oh-so-obtusely) what was happening to Sayid.  Somehow he’s become “infected.” And now, apparently, he’s being ‘claimed.’

What does this mean? And how is this different from the loss of “innocence” that Richard described in Season 5 when referring to young Ben Linus? Is there a difference? If not, why are the Others going around “infecting” people? This isn’t the 70’s anymore, people. Think before you go dipping yourself in a dirty pool.

If we accept that Dogen is now telling the truth it sounds a lot like Sayid’s going zombie on us in a sense. Wade Davis, Harvard Ethnobiologist, claimed in his book “The Serpent and the Rainbow” that people have created zombies by drugging, burying, and destroying the minds of intended slaves. When these unfortunate souls are unearthed, they are ‘hollowed out’ inside – mindless servants of whoever made them. Davis’ claims have been hotly contested, and from what I gather, real evidence of these practices is scarce.

The process Davis described sounds not unlike what Dogen talks about here, in a spiritual/biological sense. Sayid’s been “infected,” he’s been killed instead of buried, and now he’s risen again, with something unexplained spreading inside of him that will somehow wipe away the man that Jack has come to know and assumedly make him a servant of the MiB, or simply too dangerous to be allowed to live.

• We’ve seen that the spring has potential power to physically heal a person, and we saw that it did not work on Sayid. Did the spring itself, discolored as it now is, infect Sayid? If so, why would they put him in there? To test it? Was Sayid somehow “infected” at some other point? It seems so, since Dogen drops a shocker on us and tells us that “Jack’s sister,” aka Claire, was also infected.

That’s iiiiinteresting. It potentially explains Claire’s weirdo/creepy appearance in Jacob’s cabin, alongside Christian. It also helps to explain why no one could find Claire – maybe she didn’t want to be found, or was off doing something zombie-esque.

Justin: “Aldo, no. We can’t. He’s one of them.”
Aldo: “He may be one of them.”

• Just before joining the ranks of the dead on this Island, Aldo’s arguing with Justin over shooting Jin. Justin wants to keep him alive because he’s “one of them,” (an echo of a phrase we’ve heard many times before) but Aldo corrects him, saying “he may be one of them.” I’m still pretty convinced that they’re referring to the candidates we’ve heard Bram and Ilana talk about, and that one of those candidates is meant to be Jacob’s potential replacement. Lost ends with Aldo and Justin getting shot by a very feral Claire Littleton, looking an awful lot like a certain crazy-eyed Frenchlady from oh-so-long-ago.

So, what’s happened to Claire? Has she truly been “infected”? If so, why did the Others let her live? Is she a danger to Jin? Will Jin join the ranks of potential proto-zombies?

Next week, on Lost:

Each week, I’ll talk briefly about the scenes shown to tease next week’s episode. If you want to remain “spoiler-free,” just skip this paragraph.

It looks as though things are going to start heating up, as Anti-Locke approaches Sawyer and informs our favorite burgeoning-nihilist that Locke is dead, Richard warns the castaways that Anti-Locke wants “everyone dead,” including everyone they care about, Sawyer appears to descend to a mysterious cave located in a sheer sandy cliff face, but falls (echoing Season 1, and Boone’s fall from the Beechcraft at the behest of Locke). We hear him ask “what is this place,” and we hear Anti-Locke promise to tell someone who looks like Richard “everything.”

It looks amazing. Is Anti-Locke luring Sawyer into the depths of the Island? Will we learn more about the nature of the Island itself? Or is this more slight-of-hand misdirection?


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