Originally aired November 3, 2004
“The Moth.” Not one of my favorite episodes. It’s not that I don’t like Charlie: I think “Fire + Water,” his flashback episode in season two, is wonderful. And I sobbed all the way through “Greatest Hits,” as you might recall. I think that Charlie is a lovely, complicated character, I love his relationship with Claire and I am sad that he was killed off so soon.
But this episode … meh. My biggest problem with it is that the metaphors in this episode are thrown around with all the subtlety of a shot put. (Kinda like that last metaphor.) Get it? The Moth? Who changes from a lowly caterpillar, to a … moth? Kinda like Charlie? Who changes from a lowly junkie, to a … not junkie? Additionally, I find the juxtapositions between Charlie’s flashback and the island events a little too pat and obvious.
And, ultimately, I suppose, I find stories about people trying to beat their addictions, well, boring. An individual (musician, no less) struggling with addiction is just not an original story. And I guess my biggest beef with the episode is that if you’re going to do a clichéd story, you need to bring something new and interesting to it, instead of using junior-high-level metaphors to signify depth. But, you know, it’s still early in the series, the writers are still getting their bearings, I should cut them a little slack.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we try to find something interesting to say about this episode?
You might not guess it, but Charlie was a religious young man. His first full flashback begins in the dark confined space of a confessional booth, where Charlie is confessing to ménage à trois. Charlie goes on to blame the success of his band Drive Shaft, and the temptations that follow, for his inability to keep his pants on, but the priest calls him on it: “Well, we all have our temptations, but giving in to them, that’s your choice. As we live our lives it’s really nothing but a series of choices, isn’t it?” That’s it, declares Charlie. I’m through with the band.
Not so fast, Charlie. Liam, Charlie’s older brother, is waiting for him in the church, and he doesn’t appear to be nearly as faithful as baby brother. He brings Charlie “good tidings of great joy:” the band has been signed to a recording contract. Charlie’s going to be a bloody rock god! Yay!
But Charlie’s not so easily convinced. After all, he’s just promised to the priest and God that he’s made his choice, and will walk away from the band and temptation. Liam dangles the possibility to become famous in front of him, but Charlie’s not interested in being famous: he only cares about the music. Right, pouts Liam, your music. The problem is, Charlie is Drive Shaft! It’s Charlie’s talent that got them signed to a contract. Liam’s merely the pretty face, the singer, and if Charlie doesn’t sign on, he’s going to be destroying Liam’s one chance. Charlie protests that he gets lost in the temptations that come along with being in the band, but Liam promises to look after him. They’ll look after each other. And Charlie extracts another promise from Liam: that if things get too crazy, they’ll walk away from the band. Sure! swears Liam, you’re the bloody rock god, baby brother! (Don’t believe him, Charlie!)
Ah, but Charlie is suckered by brotherly love, and he agrees, and sure enough Drive Shaft is a hit. Performing the dreadful “You All Everybody” in concert, the relationship begins showing some strains. Charlie glares at his brother as they sing the chorus (“You all, everybody; You all, everybody, Acting like you’re stupid people; Wearing your expensive clothes; You all, everybody …” repeat. Genius.) but it’s unclear what’s wrong. That is, until they leave the stage, and Charlie reminds Liam that he’s supposed to sing the first chorus. Oh well, the crowd wanted Liam, Liam explains, it won’t happen again! Promise! Liam swears while inviting a groupie into the dressing room and cracking open some fresh heroin. Chill, baby brother!
YEAH! CHILL, CHARLIE. Liam’s just having a spot of fun! And you with your moralizing and whining about who sings what when — well, it’s getting lame. Who needs sound checks or rehearsals? Just let Liam know when show time is, he’ll rub a little more heroin into his gums, and he’ll be all set to sing that ridiculous song one more time (and seriously, is it any real wonder why the Pace brothers descend into addiction?).
But Charlie’s had it. He informs Liam that after tonight’s show, the band is over. They’re canceling the rest of the tour and walking away just like Liam promised. But Liam’s not interested. Walk away and go where? Liam IS Drive Shaft. Charlie’s merely the bass player, and without the band, what use is Charlie? And Liam dramatically stomps out of the dressing room, leaving Charlie and a big ol’ pile of heroin baggies behind. It is implied that sad Charlie uses the drugs. And this is how Charlie became a pathetic addict!
Lost note: this is just trivia for the truly obsessed, but the lyrics for “You All Everybody” is an inside joke amongst the writers. Remember The Phil Donohue Show? Apparently, the lyrics of the song are a quotation from a woman on the show, and it stuck with one Lost writer long enough to be the inspiration for this terrible song. Love it.
Several years later, Charlie shows up high on his big brother’s doorstep in Sydney. It seems that Drive Shaft has broken up, Liam has pulled his life together, is married with a daughter, and wears Serious Glasses on his serious face, while Charlie is a drug-addicted wreck.
This time Charlie is the one bearing “good tidings” regarding the band: a promoter wants them to get back together as an opening act for another band. It’s their chance at a comeback! But now it’s Liam’s turn to reject fame — he’s not interested in coming back. Doesn’t Charlie remember how Liam missed his daughter’s birth while out looking for a fix? He can’t go back to that. But! Charlie protests, they won’t sign Drive Shaft without Liam! And it’s only now that Liam notices that Charlie is still using. Liam suggests that Charlie stays in Sydney for a while — they could find a good program to clean Charlie up. But Charlie would rather blame Liam for taking the music away from him, and stomp off to catch his fated plane.
Lost note: In season 2’s “Fire + Water,” Liam does quite literally take the music away from Charlie. As a child Charlie was given a piano by his mother as a gift — because he was musically “gifted,” you see. Later, after his daughter’s birth, Liam decides it’s time to sober up, and he hocks Charlie’s piano to pay for his passage to Australia to be with his family.
So how are Charlie’s drug problems on the island? Meh … not so great. Remember, toward the end of the previous episode, “House of the Rising Sun,” Locke, in exchange for Charlie’s stash of drugs, showed him where his guitar was. He literally gives Charlie his music back, as opposed to Liam who took it away. And that’s all warm and fuzzy, ‘cept that detox is not quite as simple as “here: go play this guitar in that cave over there and you’ll feel all better.”
In fact, Charlie’s so shaky that he’s having difficulty keeping his fingers on the guitar strings. Locke arrives and encourages Charlie to go along on a walk — the fresh air will be good for him (Wait. Aren’t they already outside?). Here’s a piece of advice for you, kind reader: if Locke asks you to go on a walk with him? Don’t do it. There’s a strong chance what he means by “walk” is “we go out to the jungle, where you’ll wander around alone for a while until you aggravate a 200 pound wild boar, at which point you will run toward a rock face, thereby leading the boar into a trap, and then I’ll slit its throat.” Which isn’t exactly the same thing as a “walk.”
Now that Charlie’s been successfully used as bait by Locke, he wants his drugs back, but Locke’s not handing them over, despite Charlie’s protests that he’s SICK! Here’s what we’ll do, Locke informs Charlie. I’ll hang onto your drugs, and then you can ask me for them 3 times. On the third time, I’ll give them back to you. BUT WHY?? whines Charlie. So that you have a choice, Charles. Making decisions rather than acting on pure instinct is what sets us apart from the animals, says
Charlie’s priest Locke. And then Locke slits the squealing boar’s throat, as I mentioned earlier. HARD CORE!
Lost note: Locke’s boar net trap is very reminiscent of Danielle’s multiple traps all over the island. In season two, Danielle’s traps manage to capture a number of people.
In “S.O.S.,” Jack and Kate are caught in one when they attempt to go negotiate with the Others for Michael’s release.
And earlier, in “One of Them,” one of her net traps catches quite a prize: Benry. According to the producers at Comic-Con, (mild spoiler alert) we’ll learn what Benry was after as he trekked across the island: we’ll learn what the bait was …
While Locke and Charlie are busy haggling over drugs and doing a little blood-letting, Jack is working on his move into the caves. He stops by the beach to pick up remaining supplies, and to stare at Kate’ mug shot, which is how she finds him. He tries, unsuccessfully to convince her to come along, but Kate refuses again. She’s not ready to set up home on the island. Instead, she’s interested in Sayid’s plan to try to triangulate the French transmission’s signal location. Jack points out that the signal has been running for 16 years, and no one’s come — why on earth does Kate think that’ll change? Well, Kate just believes it, and Jack wishes he could share her faith. Their conversation is interrupted, however, by Sawyer who heard the doctor was vacating the premises, and thought he’d set up shop in Jack’s old tent. Fix up the place, maybe find someone to share it with, wink wink, Kate. And Jack leaves while Kate wears her sad face.
Jack returns to the caves with several suitcases that are quite heavy, according to Hurley. Charlie jumps up, offering to help — he used to help load the band’s equipment before they had roadies, cause he’s in a band? A band famous enough to have roadies? Hint hint? Anyone? And before Jack can finish his warning to Charlie that the zipper is broken on a particular suitcase, Charlie has lifted it and spilled its contents all over the jungle floor. Um, oops?
Charlie attempts to pick up the items, discovering many many pill bottles and his little junkie synapses start firing at full blast. But before he can do anything, Jack reemerges on the scene, and asks what Charlie is looking for. Charlie lies about a headache, and Jack notes that Charlie doesn’t look so good. When Charlie tries to help pick up the spilled contents, Jack insists that Charlie leave it and to get some water. Go take care of yourself, we don’t need you right now, says
So, it’s just salt in the wound when Hurley shows up with Charlie’s guitar case, asking Charlie if it’s his. Why yes! Says a pleased Charlie. As a matter of fact, I am the bassist from Drive Shaft! But before Charlie can continue blabbing about how famous he is, Hurley cuts him off: Jack asked that you move it, it’s in the way.
This? This sets our little junkie off. Charlie storms into the cave where Jack is working, and starts yelling at him that some people respect him, some people admire him, and Jack shouldn’t treat him like he’s useless. But, of course since Jack has no idea that Charlie is transferring his issues with his brother to him, he has no idea what Charlie is screaming about. But Charlie continues: we were going to look after each other, yell, yell, yell, and Jack tells him to take it easy — Charlie’s clearly not himself. YOU DON’T KNOW ME! I’m a bloody rock god! But the rocks in the cave beg to differ, and there’s a cave-in, trapping Jack but not Charlie. Um, oops?
WHERE’S JACK? Hurley bellows. And Charlie just points … he sputters that he doesn’t know what happened, and Hurley sends him down to the beach to get help, and to tell Kate what happened.
Charlie heads off, finding Michael and Boone who order Scott, no Steve, no Scott … let’s call them Sceve, to come help. Everyone goes running back to the caves when Charlie remembers that he has to tell Kate. But Sawyer informs Charlie that she’s left — he’ll go find her. Charlie just needs to keep doing whatever it is that he does around here.
When the beach group arrives at the caves, they find the cavers frantically removing stones when Michael stops them. He has 8 years of construction work under his belt, and he wants to make sure of the cave’s structural integrity before they remove any more rocks, lest they worsen the cave-in. Walt, however, suggests that they find Mr. Locke. But Hurley informs them that Locke’s out in the jungle killing stuff. Michael directs them to remove rocks from a specific area very slowly.
While they trudge along very slowly at the rock removal, Charlie finds Locke in the jungle to tell him about the cave-in and would Locke please give him his drugs now please. Now. But nope! Locke’s got a long speech about metamorphosis he needs to deliver first. He shows Charlie a cocoon — a moth cocoon precisely (butterflies get all the attention, but the moth is much more impressive: useful stronger, faster), and explains that the moth is struggling within.
Locke shows Charlie a tiny hole at the top of the cocoon, a hole Locke could widen to help the moth out, but the moth would die later because withdrawal is what strengthens the little junkie to get past addiction. Wait. I mean, the struggle to escape the cocoon is what strengthens the moth to survive outside of the cocoon. This is the second time Charlie’s asked for his drugs. The next time he asks, Locke will give it to him. Something to chew on, Charlie.
Digging, digging, digging, and the group has managed to create a hole. Jack responds from within the cave, groaning and explaining that he’s pinned down and can’t climb out. Michael volunteers to go in after Jack, but Charlie stops him. Who’ll watch after his son if something were to happen? In fact, everyone assembled has someone else on the island to worry about; everyone but Charlie. Therefore, he’ll go in. So the group arms Charlie with a flashlight and wishes him good luck and send him into the narrow passage. Charlie scoots his way through the passage, only to have it collapse again once he reaches the inner sanctum where Jack lies trapped. I’m here to rescue you! Charlie cheerfully exclaims.
Jack informs Charlie that his arm is dislocated, and he’s going to require Charlie to pop it back in for him. Yeah, I can’t do that, says Charlie. But Jack assures him that he can do this, he needs him to do this. So on the count of three, Charlie yanks Jack’s arm right back into its socket. Ewww.
Lost note: In “Left Behind,” Juliet also dislocated her shoulder, and had Kate pop it back into place. Interestingly, in that episode, there is the tense, distrustful interaction between Juliet and Kate who are both attracted to the same man: Jack. And in the flashback, Kate and Cassidy befriend each other even though they are unwittingly connected to the same man (albeit through the past and future: more time issues): Sawyer. In both episodes the major character transfers their feelings from someone in their past to someone on the island: someone who needs their shoulder popped back into place. Also, there’s the whole thing where Jack and Juliet are both doctors. However, other than noting the similarities, I’m unsure of the significance. Thoughts?
Trapped in the cave, Jack asks Charlie how long it’s been since he had his last fix, and after a little coy, who, me? business, Charlie admits it’s been a day and a half. Jack asks why he didn’t ask Jack for help and Charlie tells him that Jack already thinks that he’s useless, he couldn’t also let him know that he a junkie. But Jack is confused: you’re not useless! You came to rescue me!
Charlie notes that the cave reminds him of a confessional booth, and asks to give Jack his confession, but Jack assures him that he’s no saint. And that’s when Charlie sees the moth fluttering overhead. He frantically begins digging above them, and then, finally, from the outside his hand pops out of the ground a la Carrie (or Raising Arizona which is what I always think of first. But since the writers are huge King fans, it’s probably a Carrie reference, especially since Juliet’s book group reads the novel in “A Tale of Two Cities.”).
Walt is the first to notice them, and he calls to everyone that the doctor has gotten out! Yay!
After everyone has celebrated Jack’s big rescue, and Jack has protected Charlie from pesky questions about how bad he looks, Charlie seeks out Locke, asks for the drugs (uh-oh! It’s the third time!) and throws them into the fire. Bye drugs! Guess we won’t have to worry about you anymore!
But what about Sayid’s plan? The one where he triangulates the signal? Sayid organizes Kate and Boone, explaining that Boone is to stay on the beach with the main antenna, he and Kate will go to two other locations on the island with the second antenna and the transmitter. Because they have zero battery power, they have to coordinate when to turn their antennas on using some fireworks that he supposedly found in the wreckage. (Sure he did, writers. Please.) There’s one more small problem: the transceiver’s battery is completely dead, and Sayid can’t find anything to replace it. That’s OK, Kate knows where to look!
And she heads straight to Sawyer, who tries to claim that he doesn’t have a laptop. However, all it takes is a little banter and for Kate to tell Sawyer that she pities him, and presto: he hands over a battery.
Kate and Sayid head into the jungle together. While walking along, Kate asks what Sayid thinks the chances are of this plan working. No worse than surviving the plane crash, offers Sayid. Kate’s all, whatever, people survive plane crashes all the time. Not like that one, counters Sayid. We shouldn’t have survived. How do you explain our survival, he asks. Blind, dumb luck, responds Kate.
Hey, remember when Charlie showed up on the beach looking for help? And Sawyer told Charlie that he’d be sure to go tell Kate? Well, Sawyer somehow manages to find Sayid and Kate (which I find HIGHLY improbable, but whatevs) but before he can tell Kate what has happened, she’s getting all snotty with him. What makes you think I want to hear anything YOU have to say, and so on. So Sawyer swallows the news about Jack and instead tells Sayid and Kate that he’s there to help.
Sayid takes him up on his offer, and sends Sawyer to climb a nearby tree and attach the antenna. While up in the tree, Sayid tells Sawyer that he doesn’t trust Sawyer, particularly with Kate. But she assures Sayid that she can handle him. BOY CAN SHE.
Sayid leaves, and Sawyer and Kate wait together for the appointed time to light the bottle rocket. Waiting waiting waiting, and Sawyer then begins badgering Kate about what it is that she finds so appealing about Jack? Is it that he’s a doctor? Sawyer could be the island doctor. Kate bristles at Sawyer comparing himself to Jack, and that’s when Sawyer lets it slip: if Jack had survived a little longer, maybe Kate would see there isn’t that much of a difference after all. By the way — Saint Jack’s buried in a cave-in, so now Kate has someone else to pity.
Lost note: And this conversation, of course, sets up the revelation that Kate’s childhood friend (first love?), Tom, was a doctor. For what it’s worth.
Right, so, Kate, predictably goes running off to the caves, leaving Sawyer to man the antenna. When she arrives at the caves, the woman who refused to “dig in” begins yelling at people asking why they aren’t digging! Furiously, she pulls rocks away, prompting Michael to warn that she’s going to kill herself if she keeps up at this pace. And once Jack emerges safely, Kate is the first one there, treating his wounded arm with a sling.
But she just left the antenna with Sawyer! What about that? Interestingly, Boone, who was supposed to man the beach antenna has also left his post to help with the Jack rescue, leaving Shannon in charge. At 5 p.m., the designated time, Sayid sends off his flare; Shannon nearly misses it, but manages to send hers off, too; and Sawyer shoots his into the air. They all turn on their devices, and on his transceiver, Sayid’s got bars! Hooray! And he’s really happy about it! That is until he’s whacked in the back of the head with a stick.
Well, that can’t be good.
Lost note: Of course, we learn that Locke is the “whacker” in “The Greater Good,” an episode that takes place roughly a month later. Locke reveals to Sayid that he hit him in an attempt to win Sayid’s trust, following Boone’s accident. His explanation for why he did so bears certain similarities to what happens at the end of “Through the Looking Glass:”
LOCKE: I did what was in everyone’s best interest.
SAYID: You ruined my chance to find the source.
LOCKE: The source of a distress call that kept saying they’re dead, it killed them all, over and over? Is that a place you really want to lead people to?
SAYID: Why wait all this time? Why not tell me then?
LOCKE: Because back then you wouldn’t have engaged in reasonable debate, and nobody else would have. You were all so focused on getting off the island that you weren’t seeing things clearly.
Which, of course, brings us to the question of why is Locke as certain then as he is at the end of season three that the signal must not be found? What does Locke know?
Locke clearly believes in the island’s transformative, healing powers, and believes that they apply to everyone, not just himself. He shares this belief with Charlie in this episode, functioning as Charlie’s priest in The Church of the Island. (It’s not incidental that it is Locke that is performing the blood sacrifice of the boar throughout this episode.) Locke takes Charlie’s confession, he accepts Charlie’s sacrifice, and he helps Charlie achieve a physical and spiritual cleansing.
Charlie’s ailment is not merely physical; it’s emotional and spiritual as well, which is why he didn’t turn to the physician for help. When Charlie chose the band and chose to use heroin, he turned his back not only on his own well-being, but on his religion as well.
Note the repeated use of the word “fix” in this episode (and throughout the series); used both as a noun meaning a dose of drugs, but also as a verb, as in to repair something. Charlie needs his fix, Charlie needs to be fixed. And Locke believes that the island can do just that, as long as Charlie chooses it. Like the priest in the flashback, Locke insists that Charlie choose to be fixed, choose to be redeemed. As the priest in the flashback tried to help Charlie turn his back on sin and commit to his religion, Locke helps him turn his back on drugs and discover a new religion, a new foundation of belief.
And as Locke = Charlie’s priest, Jack, as I mentioned in passing in the recap, stands in for Charlie’s brother, Liam. Charlie’s relationship with Liam is a complicated one, and it’s fascinating to me that the writers chose Jack to be the person on the island on whom Charlie transfers his feeling toward Liam: especially because it finally pays off so beautifully in “Through the Looking Glass.”
In “The Moth” flashback, the brothers share a reversal of fates: Charlie begins by choosing to leave the band: the temptations are simply too numerous. It’s Liam who needs Charlie and the band, and out of brotherly love, Charlie agrees. Familial obligation trumps Charlie’s responsibility to take care of himself. Then, the moment of reversal: Liam sings Charlie’s part of “You All Everybody.” And suddenly the balance has been tipped. Liam has achieved fame and notoriety and has become the most important member of the band, he no longer needs his brother, and he sends his brother into the hell of his own addiction (note all those mirrors in the dressing room, representing mirror images, reversals).
We learn later in “Fire + Water” that it is, ironically, Liam’s family that is the great motivation that compels him to leave the band, abandoning his brother to the problems that he led Charlie to by forcing him to stay with the band. Ultimately, Charlie, who once was the necessary element in the band, the one that was talented and clean, is the one who is reduced to begging his brother to rejoin the band — he needs Liam as much as Liam had needed Charlie. But Liam has a family to whom he is obligated, and he is able to say no. See how they reversed fates? (It’s also interesting to note that in “Greatest Hits” Liam gives Charlie his family gift — the Drive Shaft ring, and in “Fire + Water,” as noted earlier, Liam takes Charlie’s family gift — the piano. More Jacob and Esau action, there.)
So, when Jack makes some innocent comments about not needing Charlie’s help at the moment, Charlie only hears Liam’s voice telling him that he’s no longer needed in the band. In Charlie’s muddled head, Jack is Liam. And therefore, when Jack is trapped in the cave-in, Charlie is given the opportunity to save his “brother” that he missed in his past.
As I said earlier, I think it’s fascinating that it’s Jack whom Charlie associates with Liam, because the two of them swap fates as well: Jack later saves Charlie’s life when he is hung by Ethan in “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues,” and then there’s the big dramatic reversal that takes place in “Greatest Hits/Through the Looking Glass” that I’ve touched upon. As Jack was the one that dove into the ocean to save Boone at Charlie’s behest in “White Rabbit,” it’s Charlie who dives into the ocean at Jack’s behest in “Greatest Hits.” As Charlie finally gets to be the hero by sacrificing himself in the Looking Glass station, after having been the junkie in his previous life, it’s Jack who apparently does something at the radio tower that strips him of his heroic stature, leaving him a pathetic junkie in the future. Of course, Charlie is enabled to make the great sacrifice in “Through the Looking Glass,” because he believes it is for the benefit of his makeshift family — Claire and Aaron. Charlie finds on the island what he was previously lacking in the past: faith and family. And isn’t it interesting that the family he made on the island, Claire and Aaron, is also Jack’s biological family? I suppose, in a way, they were brothers after all.
The title of the episode is “The Moth” of course, and the heavy-handed use of said symbol throughout the episode is one of the reasons that I don’t love it, as I complained loudly in the introduction. But let’s talk about it even though it’s fairly obvious. The moth, of course, is Charlie: he begins as one person, a junkie; undergoes a metamorphosis, his withdrawal/detox; which takes place inside a small dark place, the cave; and comes out the other side a new person, clean and sober, if still a bit shaky. There is another metamorphosis that takes place, though, and that’s in his flashback. Charlie goes from a needed, clean musician into a useless, miserable junkie, after spending a little time in a small dark place (the confessional booth/the band — although, curiously, the band’s cocoon is represented by the large white bright space of the dressing room, the complete opposite of a dark confessional booth).
Moths and butterflies are obvious symbols of change and rebirth, but I think it’s interesting that Locke chooses the moth for his metaphor, and his reasons are important, particularly to the episode: “That’s a moth cocoon. It’s ironic, butterflies get all the attention; but moths — they spin silk, they’re stronger, they’re faster.” The spinning silk comment, I think, is key. Moths have a purpose, a usefulness. The comparison extends to Charlie and Liam: Charlie is the talented, useful musician — the moth. But his brother, Liam, as he says himself: “I’m just a clown with a pretty face.” He’s the butterfly. It’s interesting that what sends Charlie over the edge, both with Liam and Jack, is the questioning of his purposefulness. That Charlie needs to feel needed, useful. He needs to know what his purpose is, why he is here.
Sayid has some of the same questions. In his conversation with Kate, he wonders how they survived the plane crash. Why are we here? How are we alive? What does it all mean? His questions regarding how they improbably survived such a horrific crash are very religious, and Kate’s cynicism: “some things just happen, no rhyme, no reason,” is very agnostic, if not right out atheistic in nature.
Of course, this is an interesting reversal from her earlier conversation with Jack concerning why she thought Sayid’s plan would work: “I believe it.” Pure faith. The discussion is actually something of a philosophical debate between teleology and philosophical naturalism: the debate between the idea that there is a grand purpose in nature, a design versus a natural order that is design-less, and accidental, happenstance. (You might recognize this debate in Intelligent Design v. Evolution.)
Sayid’s thoughts seem to belie a faith that they survived the crash for a reason, a purpose. Kate, however, thinks it was all just an accident. Charlie, being a religious man, is seeking his purpose, why he is here. What it is that he’s supposed to become, transform into, and he can’t stomach the idea that his existence is ultimately meaningless or useless.
But back to symbolism. As the moth is a symbol of transformation and rebirth, so are caves, as we’ve discussed in the previous episode, “House of the Rising Sun.” There’s the obvious imagery of being enclosed in a small dark womb-like space, with a (particularly in this episode) narrow opening to the outside world.
It’s no surprise that caves have come to represent change, and serve as spaces for sacred rites and initiations. There are a couple of interesting religious/mythological references associated with the caves that I was reminded of in this episode, and while I’m not entirely sure of their relevance, I think they’re worth mentioning at least.
First, “Saint Jack.” Sawyer calls Jack this in one of his fits of jealousy, and later, when Charlie asks Jack in the cave if he would like to hear Charlie’s confession, Jack assures him “I’m no saint, either.” There is no Saint Jack (That I’m aware of — Aunt Katie? Am I right?), but of course there are a couple of Saint Johns. The one that is particularly relevant is Saint John the Divine, who sometimes is also known as Saint John of Patmos. Saint John wrote the strange, confusing and endlessly controversial Book of Revelation, or Book of the Apocalypse. You know where he wrote it? In a cave on the Greek island of Patmos while living in exile. Now, what the Book of Revelation has to do with Jack? *Shrug* Something to consider for another entry, I suppose.
The other cave reference that I find intriguing is related to a Roman God about whom not much is known: Mithras. Because his cult was a mystery religion, and therefore revealed to initiates in very secret ceremonies and not dependent upon texts, there’s not much information out there about him. What we do know is that the cult began in ancient Persia, where he was originally a sun god, and associated with justice, contracts, and war. The relationship to war made him appealing to Roman soldiers who brought his religion back to the Roman Empire in roughly the 1st century B.C., and it was quite popular until the reign of Constantine or so.
Because it was the most popular cult in Rome during the early days of Christianity, there are some interesting similarities between the two religions, creating all sorts of controversy about which one influenced the other. Here are the basics that apply to our discussion: Only men were allowed as worshippers who would participate in ceremonies in Mithareums, which were either adapted caves, or artificial caverns. The worshippers were divided in ranks that would ascend according to introspection and personal growth.
Some depictions show Mithras carrying a rock on his back, much as Atlas did, and/or wearing a cape that had the starry sky as its inside lining. A bronze image of Mithras, emerging from an egg-shaped zodiac ring, found associated with a mithraeum along Hadrian’s Wall (now at the University of Newcastle), and an inscription from the city of Rome suggest that Mithras may have been seen as the Orphic creator-god Phanes who emerged from the cosmic egg at the beginning of time, bringing the universe into existence. This view is reinforced by a bas-relief at the Estense Museum in Modena, Italy, which shows Phanes coming from an egg, surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, in an image very similar to that at Newcastle.
He is sometimes depicted as a man being born or reborn from a rock (the ‘petra genetrix), typically with the snake Ouroboros wrapped around it. It is commonly believed that the cave in Mithraism imagery represents the cosmos, and the rock is the cosmos seen from the outside; hence the description of this god as ‘rising from the dead’. According to some accounts, Mithras died, was buried in a cavernous rock tomb, and was resurrected.
(Side note: Ouroboros! Yay!) But back to my original point: Mithras supposedly died, was buried in a cavern, and was resurrected? Yes, it sounds a bit like Christ, but it also reminds me of the transformation that Charlie undergoes in this particular episode: the old, drug-addicted Charlie dies, climbs into a cave, and is resurrected. His miraculous rebirth makes Charlie, like Mithras, a “bloody rock god!”
Mr. T’s Lost Blog:
Attention: this is a metaphor.
Mr. T, you managed to say in 5 words what took me 5,000. Maybe you should write this thing.
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.