Originally aired October 13, 2004
If “Tabula Rasa” was an introduction of the format of Lost: island events inter-cut with flashbacks that explain the characters’ motivations, then “Walkabout” is the introduction to the writers’ favorite device: the ironic twist. This is one of the first episodes where the writers explore the old nuggets about how appearances are deceiving, and how people aren’t always who they appear to be. And it is the first time that the writers reveal their mastery of illusion.
We, the audience, are led to believe one thing about who Locke is, built upon our own expectations and stereotypes, so that when the final reveal is made, we are utterly shocked to learn that Locke is not who we believed him to be! And the reason this works instead of just being a cheap trick is that the writers never lie to us, at least not overtly: they gave us hints all along the way. We just chose to not pay any attention to them, so fixated we were on our own presumptions.
This episode, like “Pilot, Part 1,” begins with Locke’s eye opening moments after the plane crash. Screaming, screaming, screaming, and Locke wiggles his big toe. As he sits up, he puts on a shoe and takes a stunned look around …
Lost note: As should be boringly obvious by now, the eye opening is important, representing a physical and spiritual awakening. And if there is a person on this island who has truly “awakened” it would be one John Locke.
So. John Locke. Who is this guy? It would appear from the telephone call he’s taking in the next flashback that Locke is a colonel of some sort. The person on the other end of the line is asking if the line is secure, and then proceeds to tell Colonel Locke that “maneuvers are a go for 13:00 hours.” Wow! Locke must be an important military muckety-muck!
The Colonel’s conversation is interrupted by a goateed doofus named Randy who is demanding that Locke finish his TPS reports by noon, and we realize that Colonel Locke is actually a cubicle drone, and this dork is his boss.
Who is also anti-personal-phone-calls-at-the-office. And a smug jerk. As Locke gets back to work, he begins punching numbers into his calculator, which sounds … familiar. Hey, Locke? Buck up, lil’ soldier! Really, it could be worse. They could require you wear a minimum of 15 pieces of flair.
Lost note: So Locke’s place of employment is the box company that we later learn Hurley owns. And Randy here is Hurley’s former boss from Mr. Cluck’s Chicken Shack. (Hey! Was the “colonel” reference intentional, then?)
Although we don’t know it yet, this is the first of our many crossed paths on this show. The question remains: are these crossed paths coincidences or intentional? Are these people on this island together accidentally, or is there some larger design at play? Frankly, I think this is the question that will be the most difficult to answer in a satisfying way for all viewers. Perhaps because there won’t be and can’t be one clear answer. Fate? Conspiracy? Both?
“Colonel” Locke and GL 12 meet at the “usual rendezvous point” in the break room to play a little “Axis and Allies.” GL 12 urges Colonel Locke that he needs to move: his troops are across enemy lines. Ahh … but ColonelLocke has patience, which is, after all, the hallmark of a great leader. And that’s when Randy, the tool, arrives, demanding snidely that Locke tell him more about being a leader.
See, Randy’s taken a look at Locke’s human resources file, and it turns out that Locke never served in the military. Oh, and hey, Locke? What’s this about a Walkabout? goads Randy. Locke explains that a Walkabout is a spiritual journey, wherein one gains strength from the earth and becomes connected with it. AND I’M GOING. SO THERE.
But Randy’s not done with bullying Locke: when GL 12 asks Locke if Helen knows that he’s going on Walkabout, Randy jeers at the suggestion that Locke would have a woman in his life. He then goes on to tell Locke to wake up, that he can’t ‘t do the Walkabout. Locke retorts that Norman Croucher was a double amputee that climbed Mt. Everest: it was his destiny. (Not actually true, by the way.) And as Randy leaves the room, Locke quietly but urgently tells Randy to not tell him what he can’t do.
Lost note 1: “Patience … is the hallmark of a leader.” So interesting that Locke says this here, and later in the season describes himself as patient. Benry discusses the value of patience a couple of times in season three: Benry urges Jack to be patient, when Jack wants to know why Benry has abducted him. And then, in “The Man Behind the Curtain,” Batmanuel tells Benry that he can run away with the Hostiles, but he’ll have to be patient. Later, when Benry kills his father and the DHARMA Initiative, he tells his father that staying with his father has required a tremendous amount of patience. So if patience = good leader, and Benry = patient, Benry = good leader? Interesting.
Lost note 2: I’m struck again with the use of the war game imagery. This recalls “Enter 77” and Locke’s showdown with the computer, and all the War Game stuff that’s going on in that episode. All of this, combined with Locke noting the two sides in the game of backgammon, the numerous soldiers running around on the island and in the characters’ pasts (Sayid, Desmond, Sam Austen, Kevin (sorta), Mikhail, and so on), and the 20-year-old Army knife that Goodwin is carrying around, and I can’t help but believe there is some sort of war game going on in the larger backstory of the island. Did the military help fund the DHARMA Initiative, but unbeknownst to them used the DI and their interactions with the hostiles as a military simulation? One that perhaps got out of hand? I don’t know, probably not, but I can’t help but believe there’s more to the story with the military’s relationship with the island.
Lost note 3: Did you notice Randy telling Locke to “wake up” in there? It’s interesting, especially in light of the opening shot, of Locke literally “waking up” on the island.
Locke is at home, lying on his sad little single bed, talking animatedly on the phone to Helen all about how he told Randy off, and how great it felt and BLAH BLAH BLAH LYINGCAKES. Locke feels free! Locke can fulfill his destiny! Like, for instance, he’s finally going on that Walkabout he’s been talking up for weeks, and guess what, lucky girl? Locke’s bought two tickets! Yippee! Oh, but … the thing is? Helen can’t meet customers. Sorry! Gotta go, or the sex phone line Helen works for will have to charge you another $89.95! Later! So sad! Helen’s a sex operator. Oh, poor poor, pathetic Locke in his single bed and imaginary relationship with a woman …
Lost note: Of course, we learn in season two that prior to this episode, Locke really was involved with a woman named Helen, whom he almost married. Unfortunately, Helen left Locke when she realized that he was never going to get over the issues with his father. Pity Helen will never know that Locke finally got around to handling that little problem of his. I mean, it’ll take roughly 5 or 6 years, a few near-death experiences, a magic box, an evil commune leader, and a touch of murder, but he’ll get around to it. Que Freudian.
And the moment of the big reveal: Locke sits in a tour agent’s office, where he is being informed by the very sincere Australian tour guide that Locke will not be allowed to join the Walkabout. See, the thing is, the Walkabout is really treacherous for someone in peak physical condition, much less … well … Locke argues that he never lied about his condition, but the tour guide counters that Locke lied by omission. But! Locke just knows he can do this! He’s lived with this condition for four years! Don’t tell him what he can’t do!
Sorry, Locke! We’ve got a bus full of people who are ready to Walkabout. See ya later! And as the tour guide exits, the camera pulls back far enough to reveal that Locke is in a wheelchair. It’s his destiny! Destiny! Don’t tell Locke what he can’t do! DON’T TELL LOCKE WHAT HE CAN’T DO!!
WELL, I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! No! Seriously! The first time I saw this? Totally blown away. Don’t lie. You didn’t see it coming either. And don’t bother trying to tell me in the comments that you knew all along, because I’m not going to believe you. Sorry.
What’s fun is this little exchange between Locke and the tour guide:
AGENT: You misrepresented yourself. . .
LOCKE: I never lied.
AGENT: By omission, Mr. Locke. You neglected to tell us about your condition.
Which, if one were so inclined, could view as a synopsis of the entire flashback. The writers never lied about Locke’s condition. They just never explicitly told us everything, is all …
However! This is not technically the end of the flashback. The flashback actually ends with the moments immediately following the crash:
Locke lies flat on his back, lifts his head and looks at his toe. It wiggles!
He puts his shoe on (and notice the lack of wear on the tread) and as everyone else runs around on fire and screaming and stuff, Locke slowly stands up, takes a look around, and smiles. It’s a miracle! In fact, this is the very miracle he told Walt about. So I guess he wasn’t lying, either to Walt or to the tour guide … this was his destiny.
What has Locke done with this blessing on the island? He’s making himself useful, that’s what!
The survivors are woken up in the middle of the fourth night on the island by Vincent’s incessant barking. And while that’s irritating, it’s the weird growling coming from inside the fuselage that’s truly alarming. Something is in there, and it’s knocking stuff over and generally making a racket.
Is it Sawyer? Nope. He’s standing right here. The monster, then? Maybe a polar bear? Jack and Sawyer approach the fuselage with their flashlights, approaching all nervously, until Sawyer gets bored and shines his flashlight directly on the interior of the plane, illuminating two red eyes! Oh no! Run everybodies! Something comes charging out of the fuselage, knocking Charlie to the ground, and scattering the survivors. But what was it? Anybody know?
Locke does: boars.
Boars! Why, they’re just big, hairy wild pigs. Here are two things I know about pigs: 1. They are delicious. 2. They think we’re delicious (as anyone who has read The Grapes of Wrath will vividly recall). And the second point is the problem. Jack seems to think that the boars are making their way into camp to eat up all the delicious corpses the survivors have just left lying around. If they want their fellow passengers to not be eaten by wild beasts, and also prevent said beasts from wandering into camp, then they’re going to have to do something about the bodies; namely, burn them.
Sayid is upset at the notion, and notes that the victims deserve better than being immolated. Jack counters that the bodies won’t remain buried on this island, and they don’t have time to sort through everybody’s gods to ensure they are buried according to their religious traditions. Charlie counters (interestingly, I think, in light of future events) that he thought they were “positively made of time.” No deal, says Jack. They’re going to set the fuselage on fire tomorrow night. See, that way, it’ll helpfully serve as a signal fire, too! That Jack, what a multi-tasker.
Lost note 1: Sayid’s concern about properly burying the victims is very interesting, for a couple of reasons. Later in the season, in “The Greater Good,” Sayid delays his trip to Los Angeles (and thus dooms himself to being on flight 815) because he wants to ensure the proper burial of his friend Essam.
But then you also have this interesting dichotomy with what Benry did to the DHARMA Initiative: dump them into an open grave compared to what he does with his own people: an elaborate ceremony involving rafts and the burning and the white robes and the Brenda Lee.
The importance of funerary rites, both with the survivors and with the Others, is clearly being stressed here. But why? Personally, I think the funerals on the island represent a connection to the civilized world: that the survivors haven’t lost their connection to humanity and the outside, and that they still honor their dead as fellow humans. That it goes along with some sense of a moral and ethical code that prevents us from falling into savagery.
Lost note 2: Jack says a whole slew of interesting things, doesn’t he? First of all, he notes that the bodies aren’t going to stay buried on the island, which is reminiscent to what Locke tells Paulo in “Exposé'”:
LOCKE: It looks like you’re digging a hole. Every man’s entitled to his secrets Paulo, but can I give you a piece of advice?
PAULO: Please, John.
LOCKE: You should put the shovel away and save yourself some trouble.
PAULO: Why is that?
LOCKE: Things don’t stay buried on this island. The beach is eroding. Winter’s coming, high tide. Whatever it is you’re hiding, make sure you pick a spot that won’t wash away. See ya back at camp.
And then there’s the business regarding not having time to sort out everyone’s gods. Which is an interesting inversion of the “Kill them all, and let God sort them out,” business that Benry alluded to in “Greatest Hits:” They’re all dead, we can’t sort out their gods …
The next morning, Kate finds Sayid fiddling with some sort of thingamajiggy, and he tells her that he’s trying to rig up a few antennas as an attempt to triangulate the French transmission so as to pinpoint the location of the transmitter, and Kate offers to help however she can.
Hurley and Sawyer start fighting over airplane peanuts, with Hurley accusing Sawyer of hoarding them. Which is kinda a problem because there’s no more airplane food left. And I’d interject some stale joke about how bad airplane food is, but it’s so trite and overdone, and besides what airline even provides airplane food anymore? And all these stories about people being trapped on planes for seven, eight, eleventy hours without being given anything to eat! Heck, the flight 815 survivors were lucky to have enough food to get them through 4 days, who cares what it tasted like, am I right?
Anyway. The point is, no food. No food = panicking Red Shirts. And no one is buying Sayid’s suggestion that they can find sustenance in the haunted jungle. Then for drama, Locke throws a huge honkin’ knife near Sawyer’s head and suggests that they hunt the walking proscuitti that populate the island.
From what Locke saw, the two boars that were rooting in the fuselage were baby razorbacks, which means that their 250-pound momma is out there somewhere. Locke is going to need two more people to go with him and circle around the momma ham, so that he can kill it. Oh yeah? With that one knife? snarks Sawyer. And that’s when Locke reveals his ridonkulous box o’ cutlery.
Lost note: This is just the first of many boxes filled with weapons. The marshal’s Haliburton case containing a stash of guns becomes a major plot later in this season:
… and then there’s the armory inside the swan hatch:
… you could argue that the swan hatch itself is a box that contains a dangerous weapon. So, does Benry’s “magic box” have the potential to create or contain a weapon of some sort?
Kate, of course, is all over the hunting trip, because there isn’t an expedition she won’t go on. Jack wonders for the audience why Kate’s always the first to sign up for trips into the “Heart of Darkness,” although I should italicize that, I suppose: Heart of Darkness, seeing that it’s a reference to the Conrad novella. When Jack suggests that Kate has difficulty in staying in one place, she reveals the antenna to him, and explains that Sayid is trying to locate the signal. So this isn’t about delicious smokey bacon? Nope, Kate’s a vegetarian.
(O rly? Because I’m pretty sure she had herself a plate of bacon and eggs at Farmer Kindly’s. Confused.)
You know who else is going on the hunting trip? Michael. Apparently, he wants to get to know his son’s creepy older friend. Through a convoluted game of charades, Michael asks Sun to keep an eye on Walt, who resents needing a babysitter. And off into the jungle Locke, Kate and Michael go!
While deep in the haunted jungle, Locke reveals some fancy hunting skills: he notes the tusk marks on a tree, indicating that the pork loins have been nearby. Kate and Michael, in the meantime, chit-chat. Kate asks Michael about Walt, and Michael tells her about Walt’s mother’s death, and explains that this is why he was in Sydney. Hey? Why were you in Sydney, Kate?
But before she can answer that, Locke shushes them: dinner’s nearby. Locke makes a bunch of complicated hand signals trying to direct Kate and Michael to circle around the salami, but the chorizo comes barrelling right out of the grasses directly into Michael’s leg, knocking everyone down in the process. And Locke is once again flat on his back, just as he was moments after the plane crash.
Kate is helping Michael, and when she calls to Locke there’s no response, as he stares blankly above him. When he begins to come to, he first looks at that big toe again, but it moves, and he assures “Helen” that’s he’s O.K. Kate’s busy fashioning a tourniquet out of Michael’s shirt and telling Locke that he called her Helen which surprises him a little. Locke hops up, and Kate informs him that Michael is wounded and they need to take him back to camp. Have fun! says Locke. I’ve got some ham hock to kill. Kate tells him that he can’t, and Locke stomps off, growling at her to not tell him what he can’t do.
So Kate and Michael hobble off back to camp, with a pit stop along the way: Kate scrambles up to the top of a tree to attach Sayid’s antenna. (And man, she really scoots right up that tree! I’m impressed!) From this perspective, she sees the trees around the same area that Locke is wandering start falling down, all monster-style. Oh no! Then Miss Butterfingers drops Sayid’s antenna.
Lost note: Kate climbs a tree, and sees Locke’s encounter with the monster from a distance.
Curiously, in “The 23rd Psalm,” Charlie scampers up a tree moments before Eko encounters the monster.
Also, it’s interesting that the characters often retreat to the interior of the banyan trees to escape the monster. Kate does so in “Pilot, Part 1,” a scene that is repeated in “Left Behind,” when Kate and Juliet both hide inside the tree.
But what about Locke? He follows that pork roast farther into the jungle, when that weird taxi cab receipt machine noise starts up. Locke stops, looks up and faces the MONSTER-CAM. Which, in turn, regards Locke. (He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorism 146, Beyond Good and Evil)
Kate and Michael limp back into camp, and everyone’s all excited to see them, and worried about Michael’s leg. But then Walt’s all: Hey? Where’s Mr. Locke? And everyone’s all, hmm? What’s that? HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!
Sawyer tries to be cute with Kate and call her the “Mighty Huntress,” and ask what’s for dinner, but Kate cuts him off at the knees.
Lost note: Alrighty — the Mighty Huntress in ancient Mythology is Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Roman). It’s an interesting allusion, for a couple of reasons. Kate suggests to Jack that she’s an old hand at hunting earlier in the episode, and indeed, we learn that she has tracking experience from going out with her Army Ranger father in the woods of Washington State. So, she definitely has the hunting experience. Kate’s mother’s name? Diane. Diana/Artemis, the mythological huntress, was a prickly sort. She is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, and interestingly fertility and pregnancy even though she herself is a virgin (and quite protective of it). She is the protector of pregnant women, babies, and small creatures in general. This proves an interesting correlation to Kate in later episodes regarding Claire …
Kate returns the broken antenna to Sayid: sorry, dude. My bad. SAYID ANGRY.
Jack enters the scene and Kate tells him that Locke was totally eaten by the monster. There was no time to save him … and Jack’s all, that’s a bummer, when all of a sudden, Jack sees his dead dad again and chases him into the jungle where he finds Locke dragging some baby back ribs behind him. Guess he didn’t get eaten after all!
Jack’s dead dad? Oh, right.
See, while the other three were out hunting, Boone noticed that Rose, the woman that he tried to trache after the crash, has been sitting off by herself for some time now. He points her out to Shannon, who calls him “Captain America” and tells him to go talk to her. This somehow leads to Boone challenging Shannon to feed herself, and she promises him that she’ll get some fish. Which, in turn, leads to a whole minor story with Shannon conning Charlie into fishing for her. When Charlie, with Hurley’s help, catches a fish for her, Boone is mortified that Shannon has used yet another man for her purposes.
But that’s not the point! The point is, Boone is concerned about Lonely Rose. So he seeks out Jack and tells him that Rose has been hanging out by herself, and urges Jack to go speak to her. Jack balks — he’s a surgeon, not a psychiatrist. But Boone reminds him that he saved her life, and thought that he’d want to be the one to help her. SIGH HEAVILY.
Jack makes his way over to the woman, urges her to drink some water, but then assures her that they don’t have to talk until she’s ready. And she doesn’t. It’s much later when Rose finally opens up to Jack and tells him that her husband’s fingers swell when they fly, so he’s taken to giving her his wedding ring to wear on a chain. Rose then tells Jack that she isn’t going to hold him to his promise to keep her company until her husband returns, that she’s letting him off the hook. Jack tells her that she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Aren’t we all?” Rose jokes-but-not-really. She notes that Jack has a nice way about him: patient, caring. And Rose adds that this must be why he became a doctor. Not really, Rose!
Lost note: Did you catch that Rose referred to Jack as “patient,” which we learned from Locke is the hallmark of a leader. It’s interesting these first few episodes; there seems to be this struggle between three potential leaders — Locke, Jack, and Sayid. Of course, the one who eventually becomes the leader (Jack) is the most reluctant, but folks can’t help but keep applying the label to him, even when he most certainly doesn’t want it.
So, they keep sitting there, and Jack finally tells her that they are about to have a service for the dead from the fuselage. Rose says she’d like to attend. Good! says Jack. Perhaps you’d like to say something about your husband? Why’d I do that? counters Rose. My husband’s not dead. But Rose! Your husband was in the tail section of the plane! They’re all dead! says Jack not foreshadowing season two at all. That’s what they probably think about us, wisely notes Rose.
Jack glances up and sees something … but what is it? O HAI, JACK’S DAD!
In ur bushes … haunting.
So, yeah, it’s not much later that Kate arrives from the hunt, tells Jack that Locke’s dead, and then Jack sees his dead daddy, and chases him into the jungle only to find the not-dead Locke.
Dead, not-dead, maybe-dead … the only people on this island who are most certainly dead are the rotting corpses in the fuselage. Everyone has finally gotten on board for Jack’s fuselage fire plan, and there are many shots of folks collecting firewood for the big bonfire. It’s Claire, however, who approaches Jack and suggests that they have a makeshift memorial service for the victims and that he lead it. No way, says Jack. But feel free to do whatever y’all want. So Claire takes it upon herself to run the service.
And that night, they set the fuselage aflame, as Claire reads the names of the victims, and what little information they have on each of them. As they stand near the flames, Michael asks Locke if he saw anything in the jungle: Nope! Not a thing! Just boars! lies Locke. You know what Locke does see? His wheelchair and it’s in the fire. Burn, baby, burn!
These very early episodes, while certainly concerned with the same thematic issues as we have in seasons two and three, are interesting to watch in retrospect. There is a strong emphasis on the struggle between civilization and savagery, and the anxiety that once plucked from the safety of the civilized world, we will quickly become barbarians. There are two novels that are alluded to in this episode: Lord of the Flies, and Heart of Darkness. Now, I’m not suggesting that this is the only episode in which these novels are referenced; obviously they are both extremely influential works of the grander themes of the show. But, they are interesting choices here.
Heart of Darkness is directly referenced when Jack asks why Kate is always willing to venture into the jungle. Heart of Darkness is a highly allegorical novella about the darkness that exists within all men, both so-called savages, and “civilized” alike. What you need to know is that our protagonist Marlow travels from “civilized” England into the heart of the Congo, where (eventually) he meets Kurtz, a brilliant, if now corrupted man.
(Interesting side note: Also, in Apocalypse Now, which is simply Heart of Darkness re-imagined in Vietnam, Kurtz is now Colonel Kurtz. Perhaps this is why Locke was a Colonel in his little military game?) It’s all about the evils of colonialism, and the hypocrisy of the West, but it’s also a journey into the subconscious and the dualism of good and evil that exists in everyone. Tons of light and dark imagery. For fun, here’s an assignment: compare and contrast Kurtz and Benry … (Would it interest you to know that Kurtz has a Russian disciple? It’s true!) )
Right: and then there’s Lord of the Flies, which, too, is an allegorical novel about how quickly a so-called civilized person can become quite savage. The allusion to Lord of the Flies in the episode is a little more subtle, but if you know your Lord of the Flies, then you can see the parallels of Locke’s boar hunt to Jack’s sow hunt (Jack of Lord of the Flies, that is). Ralph is invested in remaining civilized and seeking rescue, but Jack … Jack is in touch with the more savage elements of his soul, and he leads the other young boys into becoming hunters, and ultimately murderers. The boys go on a hunt, and kill a mother sow. Note that Locke says that the rooting boars are juveniles — and that means there’s a mother boar nearby. She is the one that Locke hunts down and kills.
What’s fascinating is that both novels promote the idea that one can quickly descend into savagery given half a chance, it’s merely a matter of geography. The veneer of civilization is a thin one; all it takes is being in the wrong place for a little too long for it to be stripped away.
An image that stuck out in my mind in this episode was Kate creating a tourniquet out of Michael’s shirt sleeve in the aftermath of the boar goring his leg. Earlier in the hunt, Michael is woefully out of place in the jungle, wearing a long-sleeved button-down shirt. It is when he is faced with the brutality of the jungle — that momma boar — that the clothing that represents his civilized self is literally ripped away from him. Clothing = civilization is also used as a symbol in “Pilot, Part 1” with Jack’s suit: Jack literally strips away the uniform of the civilized world. Not only does the suit have no meaning on the island, it’s a hindrance. They must tear away the vestiges of their former lives.
But what of Locke? It’s an interesting thing. Locke doesn’t become the brutal savage that Kurtz or Jack from Lord of the Flies become. Rather, in contrast to everyone else on the island, Locke quite literally discovers who he is in the wilderness. Miserable in the “real” world, Locke comes to his own on the island, discovering his true self, his “destiny.” While Michael is rendered lame on the island, Locke literally finds his legs there.
The role of geography is of paramount importance in the Aboriginal Walkabout. In Aboriginal mythology, the land was literally shaped by their ancestors. The Walkabout, which is basically a hunt or search for food, also serves as a means of reconnecting to their history, their creation, through the earth.
Aborigines wandered for food, hunting and gathering. These wanderings are called “walkabouts.” Beyond the need for gathering food, the walkabout has a spiritual meaning. When the Aborigine is on a walkabout, the land reflects a sacred geography, and the trip becomes a Dream Journey, connecting the travelers to the Dreamtime. Because the Dreamtime creatures became features of the landscape themselves, the land is a sacred dimension in Aboriginal life. To get a spiritual message, the people regularly traverse tribal territory on sacred pathways. Because the Aborigines have no written language, these pathways are passed down from one generation to the next in songs, called songlines. While on a walkabout, or Dream Journey, the Aborigine is connected to the eternal moment of creation in the present, which is more a state of mind than any particular place. The Dream Journey is the Aboriginal path to spiritual renewal because the people and the land are inseparable. These are a people in deep harmony with nature.
From Locke’s own words: “A Walkabout is a journey of spiritual renewal, where one derives strength from the earth. And becomes inseparable from it.”
Locke believed that his destiny, his strength was going to come from a specific location: the Australian Outback, not unlike Rose in “S.O.S.” In that episode, Isaac of Uluru tells Rose, “There are certain places with great energy — spots on the Earth like the one we’re above now. Perhaps this energy is geological — magnetic. Or perhaps it’s something else. And when possible I harness this energy and give it to others.” And then later, Isaac tells her, “It’s not that you can’t be healed. Like I said, there’s different energies. This is not the right place for you.” As it turns out, the island is the place for both Locke and Rose. So what of these places and their “energies?”
The idea that certain places, certain geographical areas have extraordinary powers is not unusual. In fact, it’s something of a universal concept expressed in the idea of the Axis Mundi. The Axis Mundi is a sacred location that serves as a conduit between the earth and the heavens. Shamans, through rituals, are able to traverse the Axis Mundi and bring back wisdom from the “other side.” (Interestingly, in Pacific Islander cultures, the banyan tree, the same tree that Kate often hides in from the monster, serves as an axis mundi. Also interestingly, the caduceus is a symbol of the Axis Mundi … and I don’t believe that it is merely a coincidence that there are so many doctors on the island.)
ANYWAY. To be a shaman, one must have experienced a transformative life event:
A shaman may be initiated via a serious illness, by being struck by lightning, or by a near-death experience (e.g. the shaman Black Elk), and there usually is a set of cultural imagery expected to be experienced during shamanic initiation regardless of method.
According to Mircea Eliade, such imagery often includes being transported to the spirit world and interacting with beings inhabiting it, meeting a spiritual guide, being devoured by some being and emerging transformed, and/or being “dismantled” and “reassembled” again, often with implanted amulets such as magical crystals. The imagery of initiation generally speaks of transformation and granting powers, and often entails themes of death and rebirth.
Shamanic illness is key to one becoming an enlightened Shaman. One has to have experienced a life-changing event and have come through the other side to be able to access the Axis Mundi and the wisdom therein. Could Locke’s paralysis have served as his Shamanic illness?
Consider: we learn in this episode that Locke was paralyzed for only four years, i.e., he wasn’t born a paraplegic. Locke was, for all intents and purposes, physically “dismantled” by his fall, and “reassembled” on the island. (And I can’t help but be struck by the notion that Locke’s feet haven’t truly touched the ground since his accident four years ago. Could his fall, and subsequent paralysis have been a means of purifying Locke for his trip to the Island where he could set his now “clean” feet/self down on “holy ground?” Does that make a lick of sense?)
And let’s just very quickly talk about Locke’s paralysis and Michael’s boar wound on his leg: both men are made temporarily lame. In lore and mythology, lameness often represents the lasting effects of coming too close to divinity. There are two notable instances. Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmithing, technology, and fire was Hera’s son (and there’s some ambiguity about whether or not Zeus was his father). At any rate, in the Iliad, Zeus and Hera have yet another argument, and as punishment, Zeus suspends her from a golden strand between Heaven and Earth. Hephaestus frees his mother, enraging Zeus who throws him from Mt. Olympus. Hephateus falls for 9 days and 9 nights finally landing on the island Lemnos, where he is left lame. On Lemnos, Hephaestus develops his blacksmithing skills and is eventually invited back to Olympus where he becomes the master blacksmith of the Gods.
The second reference to lameness that is intriguing is from Genesis in the Old Testament: and it involves our favorite patriarch, Jacob. The night before Jacob enters into battle with his brother Esau, a man appears to him, and the two for some unexplained reason, get into a wrestling match. When this nameless man realizes that Jacob isn’t giving in, he touches Jacob’s hip and wrenches it. Jacob still doesn’t give in. The man demands that Jacob let him go, but Jacob refuses until the man blesses him. So, the man declares that Jacob will from here on out be called Israel, because he struggled with God and man, and overcame. It’s a weird passage, but the gist is, Jacob does indeed struggle with divinity, lives to tell about it, but is left limping for the rest of his life.
The bottom line: both characters struggle with divinity, survive it, but are marked by their experience by lameness. They are transformed. And transformation is ultimately what this episode is all about. Fire is a transformative element: the fuselage funeral is a transformative event, moving the survivors forward, and helping to free some of them, most notably Locke, from the past.
And Locke’s entire story is one of transformation: he changes from a paraplegic to a free and walking man. And through the use of dramatic irony, Locke’s transformation is even more impressive for the audience: our perception of Locke changes from being a military leader to an office drone to a sad sack to a paraplegic to finally a great hunter and keeper of the island’s secrets. Locke was not who he appeared to be to us initially, and he certainly is not who he appears to be to the rest of the survivors. However, perhaps the greatest irony is that we know from subsequent episodes that Locke still isn’t who he believes he is. This transformation of his from powerless man to shaman is far from complete: Locke is both of these people at once and continues to struggle in his relationship with his sacred space, his Axis Mundi — the island.
Mr T! Are you back from vacation, too?
Mr. T’s Lost Blog
Well. I am certain your fans will think that was worth the wait.
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.