Lighthouse (S6, ep. 5)

“Come you lost Atoms to your centre draw,
And be the eternal mirror that you saw.”
- The Conference of the Birds, by Farid Ud-Din Attar

Jack: “I came back here because I was broken. And I was stupid enough to think this place could fix me.”

Reflection. If there’s one word that sums up the overall vibe of this week’s episode, it’d be that one. Jack’s image is reflected in the Temple waters, and in the Lighthouse mirrors. We hear him reflect on why he returned to the Island. We watch as he stares out to sea, reflecting on what’s happened to him and “his people.” We see Jack reflected in his son, which causes him to reflect on the relationship between himself and his own father. Even the episode itself is a reflection, a mirror, of the Season 1 episode “White Rabbit,” in which Jack spends the entirety of the episode chasing the “ghost” of his dead father in various literal and figurative ways.

And while all of this is “cute,” I’m going to argue that it’s also more than that. Mirrors and reflection have suffused this show’s storytelling from the get-go, and as the final season slouches its way toward Bethlehem to be born, those thematic underpinnings are rising to the surface and suggesting some fascinating things. Last week I tried tackling Existentialism, which is a little like a 10 year old girl trying to tackle Adrian Peterson. Still, I hope that the essential point I was trying to make came through to you. If you’d like to refresh your memory you can re-read my ramblings here. I’d advise it. Because while “The Substitute” seemed to swim in the murky waters of “Being and Nothingness,” this week’s episode, “Lighthouse,” brings to mind what might be called Existentialism’s “mirror image,” a very fitting name in an episode where mirrors both literal and figurative cast Jack’s face back at himself.

Two things before we start this train a-rollin’:

1) I recently had the opportunity to interview Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Dogen the Temple Master on Lost. It was a pleasure to speak with Mr. Sanada, and he shared some interesting observations and anecdotes about Lost and his (enormously impressive) career. Want to learn about Sanada’s time battling man-eating plants? His discussions with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse regarding joining the show and the portrayal of his character? Interested in knowing something interesting about his character’s name? Then tune in early next week. My thanks to Devin for offering me the interview. It was kind of him, and it was much appreciated.

2) As you’ve already noticed, this week’s column is late. My apologies for that, but I’ve run something of an insane, hellish gauntlet over the past 72 hours, and I’ve had exactly zero minutes to devote to thoughts of Lost. As a result, this column may be a little more scatterbrained than most. You’ve been fairly warned. So, keep your hands and feet inside the Doombuggy at all times, hold on to your hats and glasses, and let’s do this, Brutus.

Thoughts:

• Off-Island, Jack seems uncertain about how he got his appendix scar. His mother tells him that it happened when he was “7 or 8,” that he collapsed on the playground. Christian had wanted to perform the procedure, but was denied. We all remember that Jack’s appendix came out in Season 4, just as he was coming completely unhinged by the effort to get the castaways rescued. What’s the significance of this?

Well, in the past I’ve suggested that detonating the Jughead bomb would result in the castaways’ consciousnesses traveling “back” in time to serve as kind of “past life” memories in a way similar to how Daniel’s rat learned to run her maze easily by having her future consciousness shift back into her “present” body. While Jughead doesn’t appear to have done the job of resetting the timeline, it’s still possible that this general concept is playing itself out in the “sideways” universe. Jack seems to sense that something is off about his scar, and it makes me wonder whether he’s forgotten how he received the scar (which is how it plays to me on-screen), or whether he’s begun to feel like he has two sets of memories – one that he’s always had (where he gets the appendix taken out at 8) and a new sense/memory that it was removed another way.

• So Jack’s a dad in this off-Island universe. Of all the off-Island differences we’ve seen so far, this one makes me happiest. Not only does the episode as a whole seemingly support the Second Snake Theory I’ve been raving about since the premiere, but it also throws Jack’s emotional journey/baggage into new relief, and it provides him with a window of opportunity to become the man he truly wants to be. It allows him, in the words of Aldous Huxley, to achieve “good being,” by realizing what he is not (namely, his father) and so opening the way to discovering who we truly is, or would like to be (a good father).

• Incidentally, the name David has serious Biblical significance. During the course of this episode we never learn who David’s mother is. Is it Sarah, whom Jack married, then divorced, then stalked as if his life depended on it? Is it Ana Lucia, whom Jack seemed to have a potential romantic connection to in Season 2? Is it Juliet, whom Jack might have met in Medical school in this off-Island reality? Who knows! Biblical David’s mother was similarly mysterious. Her identity is never given in the Bible (although she is named in the Talmud). Biblical David was a renowned musician, among other things, and he’s the stone-slinging dude responsible for taking down the giant, Goliath.

Jack: “Is leaving even an option?”
Dogen: “Everything is an option. But I would have to stop you.”

• Lighthouse spends a fair amount of time carefully underlining what seems to be the basic point behind Jacob’s philosophy (assuming, that is, that Jacob and his Others aren’t going to be revealed as Machievellian supervillians in the Eleventh Hour, and I’m fairly sure they won’t be). Dogen’s comment here is the first instance of this. “Everything is an option,” Dogen says. But for every action, to steal from the Scientific parlance, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Jack is free to make his own decisions, but those decisions have consequences, and the people around him are free to make the decision to stop him. I’m enjoying the subtle sense of connection that’s being formed between Dogen and Jack.

• Miles and Hurley’s makeshift game of Tic Tac Toe recalls the apparent “stalemate” status between Jacob and the MiB.

Jacob: “Someone is coming to the Island. I need you to help them find it.”

• Jacob makes another of his ghost-appearances to Hurley and persuades him to take Jack to the Lighthouse. Given what happens at the episode’s end, it seems as though no one new is actually coming to the Island at all, and that Jacob simply needed Jack to perform as expected/hoped/foretold.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the question is: who in the world am I? Ah, THAT’S the great puzzle!” – Alice in Wonderland

• That particular line comes from Season 4, where we watched Jack reading to Aaron. And it has a renewed significance here in the off-Island universe, where we’ve seen the characters having feelings similar to Alice’s – something has changed “overnight.” More generally, the question of who these characters really are is one that the show has been asking from the beginning.

• In addition to the overt shout-out to Alice here, we also get another occurrence of rabbit imagery in this episode, when Jack picks up a stone bunny to retrieve his ex’s house key. One of the bigger thematic questions raised this season is whether Jacob has been leading the castaways along throughout their lives, drawing them to the Island like the White Rabbit drew Alice to Wonderland. In a sense, I think that this is true, but I don’t believe that Jacob has been “pushing” them, as Anti-Locke characterized it (in a moment that seemed very personal to him). If anything, Jacob’s simply set “markers” down along the path, and the castaways have chosen for themselves whether or not to follow those “markers.”

• Jack’s comment that he set the cable up so David could watch the Red Sox illustrates, I think, the sort of blind assumption that a lot of fathers make. Jack’s a Sox fan, and so he assumes that his son will be as well. But David is his own person, making his own choices, and so he’s become a Dodgers fan. Of course, it could also be a hint that things are subtly different from when Jack got up this morning.

• Back on the Island, Jack tells Sayid about the poison pill that Dogen gave him, and I’m wondering whether that honesty – the trust that Sayid and Jack seem to genuinely share after all they’ve been through – will protect Jack once Sayid’s “infection” spreads and “claims” him.

• We cut back to Jin, who’s been severely injured by a bear trap (!) set by the Rousseau-ified Claire. Claire, as we’ve been told, has also been “infected” in a manner similar to Sayid. The effects of this infection seem to include paranoia, the ability to casually murder people, and an inability to take a bath. Claire’s seeming friendliness toward Jin confuses me. Is she still the same basic person, but is no philosophically/emotionally “infected” by the MiB’s words and beliefs? Is the infection essentially a metaphor for falling into a state of doubt and hate? Or is there some kind of physical/spiritual component to this process?

• And on another interesting note: Claire’s been on the Island for three years now – from 2004 to 2007. During that time, she apparently didn’t “skip” through time like the rest of the castaways. Is this because she was already “infected” prior to the turning of the Wheel? It seems that way, and her behavior in “Jacob’s” cabin also seems to back this up. How would Claire have been “infected”? It’s possible that it happened after she was led off into the jungle by Christian. But it’s also possible that it happened when Martin Keamy and his crew of Mercs sent a rocket straight into Claire’s Dharma bungalow. Sayid’s “infection” arose after our favorite Iraqi seemed to come back from the dead. We watched something arguably similar when Sawyer dug Claire from the wreckage. And we’ve seen that Christian’s dead body disappeared once it landed on the Island. Have all three of these characters somehow passed through death and into an “infected” state?

• Hurley uses Jacob’s instructions to locate the secret exit from the Temple. There are a number of hieroglyphs scattered through the Temple hallway, and despite my efforts, they remain untranslated. I enjoyed watching Jacob’s “ghost” instruct Hurley on how to tell Dogen off, and I enjoyed Dogen’s muttered Japanese even more. Roughly (emphasis on “roughly”) translated, it apparently means: “I have to protect you? Great. If I don’t leave now, I’ll probably separate your neck from your body.” Which is hilarious.

• So “candidates” are permitted to walk freely and go where they will? This makes perfect sense for potential Jacob replacements, emphasizing both their complete free will to choose as they want, as well as the attempted determinism of Dogen, in keeping that information from them.

• Do you want to know why I feel an inherent trust toward Jacob, despite his veiled machinations? It’s because Hurley seems to trust Jacob, and I trust Hurley.

• The symbol on the Temple wall here appears to be a modified “Omega” symbol – one with no apparent Egyptian Hieroglyph counterpart. “Omega” is a Greek letter that, Biblically-speaking, symbolizes “The End” (as in “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”). That seems appropriate, given the sense we’re getting that this is the last iteration of Jacob and the MiB’s Cosmic Backgammon Game.

• That said, for all I know, it’s actually an Egyptian hieroglyph with a completely different meaning (“Property of ABC”?). Note that, unlike the traditional “Omega” symbol, this one has a solid middle. Anyone else have ideas/information on what this baby means?

Great Hurley Line: “You ever try to get Jack to do something? It’s, like, impossible.”

• That’s the kind of chuckle-inducing insight that makes me love the Island’s resident Buddha figure. There’s an old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” As applied to Jack, that saying might be “You can try to lead a horse to water, but you’ll most likely end up watching the horse stubbornly dying of thirst.”

Hurley: “You have what it takes.”

• Is it coincidence that the Island’s resident “God” figure – the “Father” of the Island – uses the mirror-reversal of Christian’s comment to Jack in Season 1’s “White Rabbit” in order to get Jack to go to the Lighthouse? I don’t believe it is. Jack’s actual father didn’t believe that Jack had “what it takes.” Jacob, apparently, does. In White Rabbit, Jack chases the “ghost” of his dead father through the jungle, but arrives at an empty coffin, which he smashes. In Lighthouse, Jack chases the “ghost” of dead Jacob, the Island’s “father,” but arrives instead at an empty Lighthouse, where he smashes the glass.

At the least, Jacob knows that hearing these words will motivate Jack. And I’m left wondering whether Jacob’s “future knowledge” (the knowledge that seems to account for the Others having constructed a runway for the Ajira flight) is involved in guiding these characters to certain places. Is he playing Daniel Faraday, and arranging things to reflect “whatever happened, happened”? I don’t think so. Rather, I think that Jacob is arranging the end-game here. He may even be consciously going against what he “knows” will happen in the future. We’ve seen that “whatever happened, happened” is the functional equivalent of the Man in Black’s comment that “it always ends the same.” Is Jacob’s goal to change time’s course? To act as Cosmic Desmond, and save “Charlie” (ie the castaways/the Island/the world) despite the universe’s determination to end them?

Claire: “If there’s one thing that’ll kill you around here, it’s infection.”

• Returning to Jin, we find that he’s come awake in a filthy tent – despite their technological advances, Dharma apparently didn’t have the equivalent of Purell/Febreeze/a vacuum – which Claire’s been living in for some time. The state of the place emphasizes that something has gone seriously wrong with her. Rousseau’s hideaway was cluttered and eerie, but I don’t remember it being this…decrepit. Also, Rousseau didn’t have freaky faux-babies made from animal bones, sticks and moss lying around.

• I mean, cripes. Lost has no shortage of eerie/creepy moments, but Claire’s bone-baby shoots to the top of that list effortlessly.

• Despite the presence of the bone-baby, and Claire’s increasing comfort with the act of homicide, I’m left thinking about how relatively “natural” much of her behavior is. She believes that the Others have taken her baby, so as a mother it’s actually understandable to see her treat Justin the Other this way. In many ways, Claire and Rousseau now echo each other, which begs the question: was Rousseau the “infected” one? It doesn’t seem that way. So what’s the deal? I’m hoping we get some answers on the infected soon, because it’s starting to bother me.

• I enjoyed this episode, and I’m more or less a Lost apologist when it comes to ignoring/excusing/creating a reason for some of the show’s decisions. But even I rolled my eyes after Jack’s mother found Christian’s will. If it’s like finding “a needle in a haystack,” then I guess the stack is about a foot high, and the needle’s about a foot long.

• Christian shares Widmore’s appreciation for MacCutcheon scotch.

• Proving that you can find meaning in anything, the law firm name on the outside of Christian’s will is an anagram for “Dad Off Horizon. Wow, rut!”

• Here in the off-Island universe, Christian appears to remain the father of Claire Littleton, and his Will gives some kind of direction regarding her. Are we going to discover that Christian’s last wishes include a union between his son and his daughter? Signs point to “yes.”

• The tension mounts back in Claire’s spooky lean-to, and we learn that “her father” and “her friend” have both told her that the Others are keeping her baby. Does this imply that the Christian we saw in Season 4 was a manifestation of the Man in Black, who manipulated Claire into joining him? I’ve been on the “Christian is the MiB” train for a while now (see the Rewatch Columns), and the revelation that both Christian and the MiB have told Claire the same thing seems to further cement the connection. But it’s also possible that Christian and the MiB are separate and distinct, but want Claire to believe the same thing for different reasons.

• Hurley and Jack return to the Caves – a location that I keep forgetting exists. Hurley’s question (“What if these skeletons are us?”) seems to kill that particular theory. It’s still possible that the skeletons are castaway-related (we haven’t seen Rose or Bernard since the Jughead Incident).

MORE LOST-Y GOODNESS AFTER THE PAGE BREAK!