No man is an island on ‘Lost’

Originally aired November 17, 2004

Once you’ve named a character on your television show John Locke, and titled an episode “Tabula Rasa,” I suppose it indicates that you’re not going to shy away from making other, possibly more obscure philosophical references. Which is how we find ourselves in this episode, “Solitary,” introduced to someone named Rousseau.

What do I know about Jean-Jacques Rousseau? Surprisingly, very little! (Shocking, I’m sure.) I do know that Rousseau is another Enlightenment thinker and that he was influenced by, but not contemporaneous with, John Locke. But what did Rousseau have to say that seemed relevant enough to the themes of the show to name a character after him?

There are two things that most people associate with our new friend Rousseau (most people = your philosophically uneducated blogger): “The Social Contract” and The Noble Savage. (Technically speaking, Rousseau didn’t create either of these concepts, merely expounded upon them, but WHATEVER. GAH.) The idea here is that people are born neither “good” nor “evil” but they become corrupted by society’s influence. People who live in “nature” are self-sufficient and free of the vices born of the political nature of society. Society creates a situation wherein people are dependent upon each other, which, while convenient, also infringes on the freedoms of the individual. And thus they must create a social contract wherein the group agrees to the general will of everyone. Or something.

Bottom line, man living alone in nature is perfectly free and self-sufficient, but that this lifestyle has certain downsides that encourage man to cooperate with other people to create societies that inevitably lead to corruption. And here, on the island, we meet a character named Rousseau who has deliberately isolated herself from the fledgling societies that have been created on the island.

At least, that’s why I think they named her this.

Let’s take a look at the episode and try to figure it out, yes?

We are well familiar with the fact that Sayid is an old hand at torture. He did quite a number on Sawyer when he believed that Sawyer had Shannon’s inhalers, without a moment of hesitation. So where’d that come from? Extensive training in the Iraqi Republican Guard, it turns out. Sayid was quite skilled at extracting information from prisoners: just turned on that cold stare and asked questions with that calm voice that suggests that he already knows the answers … he just wants you to confirm them for his own amusement.

In fact! That’s exactly what he tells poor Falah, a prisoner that had the misfortune to meet Sayid and his superior Omar. Sayid calmly explains to Falah that his Shiite friends have already given him up, they just want him to confess. Need some incentive, Falah? Confesses now, and we’ll only take your hands! (For seriousity. Sayid and Jack Bauer have a lot to talk about — they could exchange helpful torture hints: for instance, I wonder if Sayid has heard of the fake-the-death-of-your-prisoner’s-child technique. Muy effective!)

After Sayid and Omar have had their fill of torturing poor Falah, they leave, and Sayid tells Omar that Falah knows nothing. But that’s not the point, is it? asks Omar. Hey, Sayid! Omar has good news for ya! He’s put in a recommendation that you be transferred into intelligence, you know if that’s cool with Sayid! THAT’S AWESOME! Sayid doesn’t yell, because that’s not how he rolls, but he is really excited about it in that calm Sayid kinda way. But Sayid can’t get involved in Omar’s mindless chatter about being his boss or something totally stoopid and mindless because he notices this chick being led into the prison by some soldiers. Well, hello!

solitary lost nadia arrest

So who is this be-veiled lovely? Her name is Noor Abed Jazeem, and she has a bunch of ties to Kurds and Shiites and the Iranians and North Korea and they’re pretty sure she’s best friends with Stalin. Sayid enters the holding room and informs Noor that he’s going to ask her some questions, and if she doesn’t answer them, he’s going to hurt her. Nice pick-up line, Sayid! Maybe not what I would go with, but you know, to each his own. And before you judge: don’t hate the player, hate the game.

But this Noor has a trick or two up her sleeve. First of all, nobody calls her Noor, Sayid of all people should know that. Her name is Nadia. See, she knows Sayid. They went to school together as children, and she used to shove Sayid into the mud, because he didn’t pay attention to her. Yeah, well, whatever, Sayid continues. You’re a traitor now, and I want to know about the bombing in Najaf. This isn’t Nadia’s first Republican Guard rodeo, though. She offers to show Sayid the acid burns, or where the soldiers took a drill to her hands. Or maybe Sayid would like to see how his fellow soldiers flayed his feet? Yeah, Sayid’s sorry if she’s innocent and all, but he’s still going to hurt her if she doesn’t start talking. I know, replies Nadia wearily. Let’s get to work.

Thing is, Sayid cares for Nadia. And that’s why he brings her secret stashes of food, and begs her to cooperate when no one else is looking. Sayid shows her some photographs and pleads with her to identify her fellow insurgents. If she would just cooperate, perhaps Sayid could convince the military to free her.

solitary lost sayid nadia photos

Ahh … but Nadia would miss their little visits. Sayid warns that this isn’t a game, but Nadia wonders why, if that’s the case, Sayid keeps playing it, pretending to be someone he’s not.

Since Nadia’s not talking, and hasn’t talked for a month, Omar’s done with her. Time to execute your girlfriend, Sayid! Sayid balks, he just needs a little more time with her, he pleads. Dude, either you do it, or I will, promises Omar. They’ve got to send a message to the rest of the prisoners. Fine. I’ll do it, sighs Sayid.

So he heads into Nadia’s cell, throws her a black hood, and orders her to put it on. Are you going to hurt me, Sayid? Nadia asks. Wellll … not exactly. Sayid leads Nadia, hooded, down a hallway with two other soldiers, which he then dismisses. Once the door closes behind them, Sayid removes Nadia’s hood and informs her that there is a supply truck right outside. He wants Nadia to do the ol ‘ prison laundry truck trick and hide beneath a big pile of dirty towels until she can jump out and hide. Nadia begs Sayid to come with her but he can’t. The punishment for desertion is the deserter’s family is murdered. Sooo … no. He won’t be joining her. Sayid tries to shove her out the door, but she’s busy scribbling something on a picture, and before she can get out the door, in comes Omar. Well, #%$@. Sayid, lacking an option here, shoots and kills his superior, then shoots himself in the leg, and gives the gun to Nadia. See? It’ll look like she did all of this and escaped. Everyone wins! Well, except for Sayid’s thigh.

Lost note 1: What Sayid does here — setting up Nadia’s escape by killing Omar, shooting himself, releasing Nadia and claiming that she was the shooter — is exactly what Michael does in “Two for the Road,” when he releases Benry from the Swan hatch armory, killing Ana-Lucia and Libby in the process. Additionally, there is a parallel between Sayid and Michael as “moles” working from the inside to release a prisoner. Interesting that Nadia was working with rebel insurgents, and that Benry is something of a rebel leader himself.

solitary lost nadia hood

Lost note 2: Nadia’s hood. This is the first hood that we’ve seen on the series, but not the last. Not by far. The Others are quite fond of hoods: the hood Kate and Michael when they capture them in “The Hunting Party” (Michael is revealed to have been hooded at this time in “Three Minutes”).

the hunting party lost kate hood

Then, later, Sawyer and Charlie hood Sun when they attack her, mimicking the Others’ M.O. to work everyone up in an anti-Other lather.

the long con lost sun hood

Juliet hoods Kate in “I Do” before she brings Kate to talk Jack into performing surgery on Benry.

juliet lost kate hood i do

And Locke hoods Cooper before delivering him to Sawyer.

the brig lost anthony cooper hood

The hood is an interesting symbol on the show. It sometimes represents the executioner’s hood, as it does with Cooper. But it also can weirdly be evocative of a wedding veil. In “I Do,” Kate’s hooding by Juliet is juxtaposed against her wedding veil that she wears as she marries Kevin (of course, in both instances, Kate is deceiving the men she is being presented to).

Nadia, similarly, is hooded, as if for execution in “Solitary,” but in reality she is being delivered into safety by Sayid. Not marriage, per se, but Sayid certainly remains attached to her by a remarkably strong bond over the course of many years. In any event, the hood does something specific: obscures the vision.

lost pilot part 1 jack open eye

In a show filled with “awakening” imagery, the use of the hood is interesting. Characters’ eyes are closed for them — they are veiled from the truth, only to later have the truth be exposed to them. Whether that truth be Sayid’s plan for Nadia or the fact that it wasn’t the Others who attacked Sun, the hoods represent the veil that remains between observer and truth.

And on the island, the truth just became a little bit more convoluted in this episode.

Sayid, upset with himself for torturing Sawyer, has told Kate that he’s off to map the island and spend a little one-on-one time with his guilty conscience. Which is what he’s doing on the beach right about now, staring at his photograph of Nadia and feeling really guilty. Like, really really guilty.

And he’s all mopey and guilty and pouty until he sees something sticking out of the sand. WHAT THE HEY HEY? Sayid wanders over to investigate, and sure enough, it’s a big metal cable. One end leads out into the ocean, the other into the jungle. Might be the power source to the transmitter! thinks Sayid, totally ignoring the fact that the other end GOES INTO THE OCEAN, and he follows the cable into the jungle.

solitary lost sayid the cable

But what does he find there? A hidden tripwire. But Sayid, being all clever, steps very carefully over the tripwire, evading the trap. Hooray! Or, wait, maybe not. Before Sayid knows it, his ankle has been snaked by a rope, and he’s not only dangling upside down, but he’s being swung violently toward a tree, where a very pointy stick is just waiting to embed itself into his thigh (OUCH!) Sayid yanks the stick out and then passes out from the pain. No doubt. Sayid’s just lucky he’s not one of those people who get their arm stuck under a tractor or something, and then has to cut off their hand at the wrist with the butter knife they just happened to have on their person, because he barely stayed awake long enough to pull out his overgrown splinter, much less saw through his own bone. But who am I to talk. I’d have passed out the moment I was yoinked upside down by a trap in a haunted jungle, except that’s not true either, because I’d be hanging out on the beach curled in a fetal position, still crying about the plane crash that happened 12 days earlier.

crying sad black-ish anthony sob
Me, still.

Sayid’s been hanging upside down passed out for some time, because it’s now dark. Something walking around in the jungle wakes him up (but not for long), cuts him down from the tree, and then he passes out again.

Oh, it’s going to be a looooong night, Sayid. He wakes up this time to a very bright light shining in his face, his hands tied above his head to an ouchy-looking metal bed frame, and someone saying “Ou est Alex?” “Donde esta Alex?” “Where is Alex?” “Wo ist Alex?” “Dove Alex?” (That’d be “Where is Alex?” in French, Spanish, English, German, and Italian) Sayid, groggy and wondering why he bothered waking up, protests that he doesn’t know what the voice is talking about. BZZZT! and Sayid is zapped for his trouble. Wrong answer. Let’s try this again. Where is Alex? I don’t know any Alex, answers Sayid. BZZZZT! Rinse and repeat.

So after a few hours of bonding time with Le Anonymous Zapper, Sayid attempts a new approach with his faceless captor. He explains that he’s a survivor of a plane crash with a bunch of other people, that he found this wire on the beach, and he followed it hoping to find the source of a distress signal he overheard that’s been playing on a loop for 16 years.

Ahh … clever, Sayid: it’s a risky move, but it pays off. A woman emerges from the shadows, disbelieving that the message has been playing that long. Aha! It’s her message! But Sayid’s respite doesn’t last long, because the woman’s all, you just happened to hear my distress call. WHATEVS. And she thwacks him on the head with the butt of her rifle, and out he goes again. Dude. Sayid hasn’t been conscious for more than about 30 seconds at a time all day.

When Sayid wakes up for like the 23rd time today, he looks around and notices a jacket with the name “Rousseau” on it, and so he tries that out: Rousseau? How’d you know my name? Rousseau asks. Uh … it’s on your jacket. Duh. Sayid goes on to ask if Rousseau is powering the transmission from here in her bunker. Nope. It’s broadcast from somewhere else, but they control it now. Wait a minute, Sayid begins to understand. You mean there are more people on this island? Are they all as unhinged as you? YOU’D KNOW, BUSTER, Rousseau responds — you’re one of them. But instead of braining him again, or zapping him, Rousseau calls him by his name, which she’d found on his photographs. By the way, who’s the woman in the photos? Nadia, Sayid says sadly. Her name is Nadia.

solitary lost nadia's file

Danielle notices the bullet scar on Sayid’s leg, and Sayid explains that he was a soldier, which, as one of my friends would say: true, true, unrelated. Meaning, that bullet wound on his leg had little to do with his soldiering, and more to do with helping one girlfriend escape Saddam Hussein. But, whatever.

Rousseau would like to hear more about Nadia, but Sayid, being the good interrogator, instead asks her about Alex. Who is he? Rousseau’s not talking, at least not about Alex. She’s more curious about Sayid: if you crashed on an island with 40 other people, where are they? Yeah, about that. I maybe did something kind of awful, and needed to, you know, not be around people for a little while. Even Nadia? Rousseau asks. No, Nadia’s not on the island. She’s dead, Sayid lies. She’s dead because of me. And this is EXACTLY what Sayid needed to say, because Rousseau gets all sad (but, you know, still crazy-lookin’) and sympathizes with him. She then announces that she has something she wants to show him. Lord, what now? A shovel to the head this time?

Actually, no! Rousseau shows him a broken music box that was a gift from her “love” on their anniversary. You mean Alex? Sayid probes. No, Robert. Sayid offers to fix it for her, but she’ll need to free his hands. Instead, Rousseau suddenly realizes that Sayid has been conscious for like 6 or 7 minutes now, and he’s due for a nap. So Rousseau fixes up a syringe full of Sleepy Time, while asking Sayid what’s written on the back of his photograph. Sayid, more concerned with whatever it is that she’s doing with that very nasty-looking needle, assures Rousseau that she doesn’t need to do this. But, too late, and she jams the needle right in him. G’Night, Sayid! Again!

Sayid wakes up this time to find himself chained to a chair, but hey! At least he’s not propped up on those bed springs any longer. The music box and some tools are on a table in front of him, and Rousseau apologizes for the sedative, but it was the only way she could safely move him. Really, Sayid asks, because I was beginning to think you just enjoyed knocking me unconscious. Well, maybe he didn’t say that, but I would have and probably earned another thwack to the back of the head. Which makes Sayid much smarter than me, but I knew that already. He gets to work on the music box as promised, and Rousseau wonders why he is willing to help her after all the terrible things she’s done to him, but Sayid simply asks her for her first name instead of going into the whole thing where he explains that he recently tortured an innocent man himself (even though he was totally asking for it), and therefore sympathizes with MadameCrazyPants here.

Rousseau tells him her name is Danielle, and when asked how she arrived on the island, Danielle explains that she was part of a science expedition. The team was 3 days out from Tahiti when their equipment began to malfunction. There was a storm, it was night, rocks, and so her group made temporary shelter, where they lived for 2 months, before … Sayid interrupts her to ask what it was that she claimed “killed them all” on her message.

DUDE. LET HER FINISH. Seriously. She was getting to it. AS I WAS SAYING, we were returning from the black rock, continues Danielle (wha?), they must have been the carriers (whozzat?). Wait, Sayid stops her, who? The Others, Danielle explains. WHAT OTHERS? WHAT’S THE BLACK ROCK? Have you seen other people on this island? Sayid asks all at once. No, but I hear them in the jungle … they whisper, Danielle cryptically explains. So. Imaginary people run around black rocks in the jungle, whispering. And that’s when Sayid realizes that Danielle is certifiable. But he’s kind enough to tell her that she’s just lonely.

solitary lost danielle's music box

Anyways, he finishes up fixing the box, palming the tool he used in the process, adding that some things are meant to be fixed. That mission accomplished, Sayid asks Danielle to release him so that he may go back to the people he told her about.

Sorry, Danielle says. It’s not safe. What isn’t? CUE THE GROWLING. Danielle grabs her rifle and tells Sayid that if they’re lucky, it’s merely the bears. LUCKY?!? As Danielle makes her way out of the Electro-shock Therapy Bunker, Sayid asks if it could be the monster. Pshaw, Sayid. There is no such thing as monsters. And she leaves Sayid alone with an unattended firearm.

solitary lost danielle's maps

It doesn’t take Sayid long to free himself with that tool he hid, grab the rifle and Danielle’s maps (interestingly, leaving Nadia’s photo behind) and get outta Dodge.

Once in the jungle, Sayid sneaks up behind Danielle, and they share a nice little Mexican standoff, or perhaps more appropriately, an Iraqi-French standoff, each leveling their guns at one another. Sayid urges Danielle to drop her weapon — he doesn’t want to hurt her. Ahh, but you already have, she tells him. Sayid pulls the trigger, but … CLICK, nothing. Yeah, about that. Danielle removed the firing pin, which Robert didn’t notice either when she shot him. Umm … I’m sorry, you did what now?

It’s a funny story: Danielle’s crew became very sick after they arrived on the island, so Danielle killed them all. Ha ha! After all, what would have happened if they’d been rescued! Sayid, very concerned now, drops his weapon and assures Danielle that he, in fact, is not sick. So, you know, no need to kill him.

But poor Danielle, she can’t let him go. She finally has someone to hang out with, and she’s not interested in losing him. So Sayid tries one more tactic: “You will find me in the next life if not in this one.” Which is what Nadia wrote on the back of that photo, apparently. Sayid invites Danielle to come with him back to the rest of the survivors; she doesn’t have to be alone. But Danielle, demurring, lowers her weapon, and warns Sayid to keep an eye on his people. As Danielle heads back to her Bunker o’ Alternating Currents, Sayid asks her once more who Alex is. And Danielle sadly tells him that Alex was her child.

So Sayid heads back to camp through the heart of the jungle, where he is surrounded by some really creepy whisperings. Guess FouFou LaNutty may not have been so crazy after all!

Lost note: On The Fuselage, two talented audio folks, Penyours and RVTurnage, have isolated every instance of whispers on the show, and made transcripts of what they think they hear. Their translations for this episode differ slightly, but essentially they read as follows:

Lucky the man can’t run; He’s coming here; Guess he’s a crash survivor; (Inaudible whisper); Why only isolate him; Standing orders; I said we do; He’s coming; Security Issue; You have no idea how he got here?; Skip it; (Beeping sound – could be alarm, Morse code, computer, etc.)

I’ve shortened this; there are three separate channels of audio but they all essentially say the same thing. You can read it (as well as other episodes) in its entirety here. [Ed. Note from the Future: Sadly, The Fuselage is no longer online.]

So what are the whispers? Based on the transcripts, what we do know is that they must somehow be related to The Others. How are they making them? Not sure. We know the island is outfitted with speakers and cameras, but that’s still not a comprehensive answer. The whispers don’t sound like they are people communicating via speakers or even walkie-talkies. It’s not that they are quiet, it’s that they are buried beneath noise, as our transcribers can attest. So? What’s going on here? Thoughts?

And what about the other survivors who weren’t being tortured by a crazy French chick?

Doctor Jack checks on Sawyer’s arm, but Sawyer being Sawyer can’t help but make trouble, and he asks Jack if he’s there to ease his conscience. Jack takes exception to the idea that he has anything to feel guilty about, but Sawyer keeps on, saying that Jack thinks that patching Sawyer up buys him a ticket to heaven. This continues until Sawyer drags Kate into the discussion and Jack storms away, suggesting that Sawyer change his own bandages.

Jack runs into Kate on the beach, busy worrying about Sayid. But Jack assures her that Sayid will come back once he’s found what he’s looking for. Way to pummel us with the message of the episode, Jack.

Back at the caves now, Doctor Jack is busy at the island clinic, applying what appears to be bandages to a Red Shirt (his name is Sullivan, according to the credits) who’s very concerned about a rash. Sullivan is very concerned that it’s some sort of awful tropical illness (I will fight back my urge to link to some hideous picture here. You can thank me in the comments.), but Jack assures him it’s merely hives. OR IS IT? COULD IT BE TEH SICKNESS? (No. Just hives.) Jack urges Sullivan to stop stressing out about his hives, it will only make them worse. Hurley, observing all this, scoffs. What else does Sullivan have to do with his time, after all? Jack snips that things could be worse. HOW? An incredulous Hurley asks. Oh, sweet, innocent Hugo. Just wait, my dear.

Although, really, you don’t have to wait long because here he is: Hurley wakes up to Locke and Some-Creepy-Guy-Who-Looks-A-Little-Like-Tom-Cruise-If-You-Close-One-Eye-And-Squint-With-The-Other, but that’s a really long name, so let’s just call him Ethan for brevity’s sake. ANYWAY. Ethan and Locke dump a few suitcases off with Hurley, claiming they found them in the jungle while they were out hunting rabbits and rodents that night. Ethan, it seems, has a lot of hunting experience. No doubt he does. Hurley goes through the bags to find anything useful; Walt begs Locke to take him hunting until Michael snaps at him.

Lost note 1: How great is it that the writers introduce the idea of The Others and Ethan in the same episode?! Pretty great! I know!

Lost note 2: Locke and Ethan say that they were out hunting rabbits; this is repeated in “The Other 48 Days,” Bernard goes rabbit hunting with Nathan. What’s fun here, is that Ana-Lucia accuses poor Nathan of being an Other (he’s not), but poor Ethan slips right through until later when he’s discovered by Hurley’s census.

solitary lost bamboo aquaduct michael

But what is Michael doing that’s helpful? Designing a bamboo aqueduct! Apparently he was an artist, in addition to being in construction, in a “previous life.” But what Michael wasn’t was a fun dad. He sends a very bored Walt off to find something to do.

Hurley, in the meantime, has been scurrying around the island, grabbing odds and ends and giggling a lot. When he is finally done with his project, he sends Charlie to retrieve Jack. Jack and Michael follow Charlie to what appears to be a golf course. See, Hurley understands that everyone is so stressed out, and running away from polar bears or boars or monsters and waiting for whatever terrible thing is going to happen next, and that they need fun. So they play some golf!

lost golf charlie hurley

Lost note: Hurley designates himself early in the series as the go-to “fun” guy by building the golf course. But you’ll remember, of course, in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead,” that Hurley is adamant about restarting the van, merely so that they can have a little fun. Fun = hope. Or something.

Walt shows up on the course, mad that his father just left him alone at the caves, and Michael is all, yeah, sorry about that, oh look! It’s my turn to play! Smell ya later, little guy! I’m sure that won’t come back to bite you, Mike.

Everyone on the beach hears about the golf course and starts heading up there to see what all the fuss is about. All except Sawyer, who pouts that he and the crowd aren’t too fond of each other. And Kate suggests that he needs to try making more of an effort, and off to the golf course she goes.

Where she finds Jack and Michael playing a tournament against Charlie and Hurley. Kate notes that she almost didn’t recognize Jack with all the smiling and, you know, no crying. Jack marvels that he has spent all his time worrying about keeping people safe, and Hurley makes a golf course and presto, makes people feel safe.

Hurley, in the meantime, duffs his shot, and wants to do a “do-over.” It’s called a mulligan, corrects Charlie. Anyway, eventually, Charlie misses a shot, and it comes down to Jack making his shot to win it all. Folks start making wagers, betting that Jack will make it … all except Sawyer who shows up to bet against Jack. So who wins? We’ll never know, because they cut away before Jack takes his shot. Just yet another Lost mystery.

Walt, now a golf orphan (I feel your pain, lil’ buddy), finds a replacement daddy: Locke, who spends his time hurling knives at trees. Walt asks Locke to teach him how to hurl a knife at a tree, and so Locke gives Walt a knife the size of the child’s forearm. Good decision there, Locke. Michael is going to be very pleased, I’m sure.

Wow! So much information shoved into one episode! As though the polar bears, the monster, the skeletons, and the dead daddies wandering around the island wasn’t enough, Danielle reveals that there are other people on the island who may be carriers of some mystery illness and they maybe all hang out at a black rock. Oh, and they whisper for some reason.

Like poor Sayid, who is unable to remain conscious in this episode for more than about 10 minutes, the audience is more in the dark about what is going on here than ever before. Given that this is episode 9 of 72 (so far) we have fortunately learned a little more about these mysteries:

the black rock exodus part 1 lost

The Black Rock is a nineteenth-century ship; and there are, indeed, other people on the island who are fond of making trouble for new arrivals.

But what about the sickness? Danielle is absolutely certain her team came down with something dangerous, and she is equally certain that the plane survivors will eventually contract it. Later, we receive information that the sickness is maybe something of a fabrication designed to keep people inside the Swan hatch.

man of science man of faith lost quarantine hatch door

So what’s down with the sickness? Is it: A. There is a sickness that we haven’t yet seen manifested on the island? B. Danielle is actually working with the Others? or C. The Others lied to Danielle and her team about the sickness, a lie that she so believed that she killed her entire team?

Which brings us to one of the big issues on this (and, well, every) episode: identity. Who is Danielle? How can we be sure she’s telling the truth? Why should we trust her or her story? Maybe because she seemed to be just as frightened of Sayid as he was of her? She was certain that she knew who Sayid was, knew his identity: that he was an Other.

But Sayid uses his experience as an interrogator to his advantage here. He personalizes their exchanges, calling her by her last name, asking for her first, all the while easing information out of Danielle. But Sayid exposes to Danielle his own loss (although, curiously, he lies to her about Nadia’s death, perhaps sensing correctly that this would gain her sympathies), and tells her to a limited degree who he is: Sayid, former soldier, plane crash survivor, mourner of Nadia. By humanizing himself, Sayid makes it easier for Danielle to identify with him. Sayid is no longer a scary “Other,” but another soul who has lost the love of his life because of his own actions. (And is it a coincidence that the name Sayid is pronounced like Edward Said’s, the literary theorist who popularized the idea of Orientalism, of “Otherness?”)

Additionally, you have a nice parallel between the flashback and the island events: Sayid may be the interrogator, but Nadia is the one who knows who he is well enough to assert that he isn’t really a torturer. She touches the human part of him, by understanding him, just as Sayid touches the human part of Danielle by sympathizing with her and making himself sympathetic.

The questions of identity go deeper than are you or aren’t you an “Other,” however. Sayid’s self-exile is brought on by Sayid’s own concern about who he is as a person. He tells Kate at the end of “Confidence Man:” “What I did today, what I almost did, I swore to do never again. If I can’t keep that promise, I have no right to be here.” He leaves the camp because he needs to reassess the person that he is, and make penance for what he has done. It’s a self-sacrifice of sorts. He understands that venturing away from the rest of the survivors to make this trek makes him very vulnerable and exposes him to certain dangers. But, like Sawyer and Juliet in “Through the Looking Glass,” he feels that he, more than anyone else on the island, should be the one that makes this sacrifice, as an act of contrition. There are a number of sacrifices in the episode: Sayid jokes that he’d be willing to sacrifice his job for a position in Intelligence, Later Sayid sacrifices Omar for Naida’s freedom, and Danielle sacrifices her team out of the fear of what would happen if sickness were allowed off the island.

But it’s Sayid’s act of self-sacrifice that leads us to Sayid’s reversal of fortunes, another common theme of the show. Just as Sawyer became the conman he spent his life looking for, and Charlie and Jack seem to have reversed fates: hero/junkie, Sayid, the torturer, becomes the tortured.

The reversal of fortunes is an ancient concept, dating back to the Roman goddess of fortune, Fortuna. According to Wikipedia: “In Roman mythology, Fortuna (equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche) goddess of fortune, was the personification of luck, hopefully of good luck, but she could be represented veiled and blind, as modern depictions of Justice are seen, and came to represent the capriciousness of life. She is also a goddess of fate.”

Interesting that this was the first episode that we had a hood used, no? Fortuna was sometimes depicted as having a wheel — the wheel of fortune — which determines people’s fates, somewhat capriciously. The idea was that even though you may be up one day, Fortuna could spin that wheel and you’d be down the next, regardless of your station in life.

wheel of fortune

Which is, of course, what has happened to Sayid. Up one day, shoving bamboo reeds under Sawyer’s fingers; down the next, being electrocuted on a metal bed frame by a crazy French woman.

But he accepts this torture, going so far as to extend help to Danielle, because he understands that this is how he can fix things, this is his punishment for torturing Sawyer. Sayid and Jack both feel the need to “fix things” following what they did to Sawyer. Jack attempts to fix the situation by helping Sawyer and tending to his wound. Sawyer is 100% correct when he accuses Jack of helping him to ease his own conscience. By helping heal Sawyer, Jack helps heal the situation he assisted in causing in the first place. Sayid and his attempt to repair the damage done to Sawyer is a little more obtuse. When he offers to fix Danielle’s music box after she just spent the better part of two days torturing him, he is, in effect, completing his penance for hurting Sawyer (as well, of course, of freeing his hands to ease the possibility for escape). Interestingly, he also absolves Danielle for her part in torturing him. When he shows her the repaired music box and tells her “you see, some things can be fixed,” it is an act of forgiveness; he breaks the cycle.

Interestingly, there is one more, smaller, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to “fixing things” in this episode: Hurley’s mulligan. A do-over. Perhaps I shouldn’t belabor the point too much, but I keep coming back to the fact that Desmond got a do-over in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” when he returned to the past. He was unable to change events that time, but perhaps at some point in the future, Desmond will have another do-over in which he can alter events in order to fix them. Perhaps prevent Jack from making that call somehow?

Speaking of Desmond, I hadn’t noticed until rewatching this episode how similar it is to “Catch-22.” Sayid discovers a cable on the beach; Desmond sets out to find the cable on the beach. Sayid discovers and avoids Danielle’s traps; Desmond already knows about and chooses to avoid Danielle’s traps. Sayid gets caught hanging in a tree where he is discovered by a strange woman; Desmond, et al, discover a strange woman hanging in a tree. The woman speaks a variety of languages to Sayid; Naomi speaks a variety of languages to Desmond.

And this last point I find the most intriguing. The similarities between Naomi and Danielle are interesting, and I’m surprised that I had never noticed them before. You know, in all our discussions regarding who Naomi’s people are: DHARMA coming for revenge? The Hanso Foundation? Someone related to Paik or Widmore or WHOEVER? it never occurred to me until I rewatched this episode that perhaps … perhaps Danielle and Naomi work for the same group.

Let me clarify: Danielle and Naomi don’t know each other, and have no idea that they are from the same group; after all, Danielle crashed 16 years ago. But what if whoever it was that was financing Danielle’s science expedition is still looking for whatever it was that Danielle and her team were looking for 16 years ago?

Now. There is a long-standing rumor that has been floating around since the first season that in the original script for “Solitary,” Danielle tells Sayid that her team was studying “time.” But the producers felt that it gave too much away too soon. Again. It’s a rumor. Still … it’s an intriguing rumor in light of Desmond’s experience. Perhaps Danielle’s group realized that she got close to whatever it was that she was studying and they’ve been looking for it ever since … Or, you know, maybe not. But what if all the similarities between this episode wherein Sayid discovers Danielle, and “Catch-22” wherein Desmond discovers Naomi is a big fat clue that the two women related, and that Danielle has a connection to the folks on the boat?

Then there are the similarities between Desmond and Sayid in regards to the women in their lives: both men carry photographs of them with them to the island, and they are both desperate for just a little more time with them, which Sayid actually says to Omar in this episode: he just needs a little more time with her … They are both desperate to get off the island to get back specifically to these women.

And Desmond is similar to one other person on the island: Danielle. They both were shipwrecked on the island after their equipment malfunctioned during a nighttime storm. After a period of time spent in the company of other people (her team/Kelvin), they kill their only companions, leaving themselves all alone on the island. It’s interesting that neither seeks solitude, but when given an opportunity to be with other people again, they both initially refuse it: Desmond runs off to his ship, and Danielle retreats to the jungle.

This is contrary to the two people on the island who deliberately isolate themselves from the get-go: Sayid who imposes self-exile as discussed, and Sawyer, who, though he lives amongst the survivors, is deliberately not part of the group. (He walks among us, but he is not one of us.) Interesting, then, that both men at the end of the episode choose to rejoin the survivors: Sayid heads home through the Jungle of Creepy Whispers, and Sawyer joins the observers of the golf tournament, all the while being a smart-aleck, of course.

Which brings me back to Rousseau and his concern for the compromise of individual freedoms for membership in a society. I suppose it applies to this episode, what with folks making decisions about whether they are going to continue living in solitude or compromise with the survivor society. But honestly? I think there’s something else going on here with the Enlightenment references.

Could it be that these references are intended to point to the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, in general? Meaning, taken as a whole, when we consider the different philosophers whose names are used for characters, could they actually be pointing us to consider the period in general? Before the Enlightenment, religion and The Church controlled every aspect of life, including government and the realm of science. The world’s understanding of the universe was dictated directly by The Church. Of course Galileo and Newton changed all that, and their revolutionary discoveries prompted thinkers to wonder how scientific rationalism could be applied to other aspects of life. Especially government. The end result of the Enlightenment was a dichotomy we continue to struggle with: science versus religion, secularism versus faith.

This dichotomy obviously plays a role on the show: juxtaposing rationalists like Jack, Sayid, and Kate, with characters who are more willing to believe: Locke, Claire, Benry. There’s also the DHARMA Initiative itself, which intends to save the world through science: Alvar Hanso says as much in the Sri Lanka Orientation video from The Lost Experience. “When, through your research, you manage to change the numerical value of any one of these factors, when you have created through science the [inaudible] … We will know that the one true way has been found.” Of course, believing that one can save the world, literally bring salvation, using science, well, that’s an act of faith, isn’t it?

Of course, there’s another definition of “enlightenment.” From Wikipedia: “Enlightenment (or brightening) broadly means the acquisition of new wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception. However, the English word covers two concepts which can be quite distinct: religious or spiritual enlightenment (German: Erleuchtung) and secular or intellectual enlightenment (German: Aufklärung). This can cause confusion, since those who claim intellectual enlightenment often reject spiritual concepts altogether.”

walkabout lost lock eye opening

Perhaps the reason why we have all these references on the show to the Enlightenment is symbolic of the island as serving as a place where the characters become enlightened, or illuminated. Enlightened about their lives, the world, mostly themselves and who they are and what they are capable of doing. They are enlightened here on the island; they finally open their eyes.

Well, Mr. T fans, bad news. Mr. T, like Nadia, is being uncooperative. Something about not wanting to watch reruns of a three-year-old show that he’s already seen again and again. And believe it or not, when he passes through the room as I’m freeze-framing scenes, or watching them in slow-motion for the 30th time, he sometimes has NO IDEA even what episode it is that I’m watching. And then when I try to jog his memory: “Remember? This is the one where Sayid tortures his girlfriend? And then he gets caught by Danielle? And the sickness? And the golf course? And the whispers? COME ON YOU REMEMBER THIS.” he just looks at me like I’m a crazy person and mutters something about wanting the woman he married back and then claims to have absolutely nothing to say about the episode. Weird? I KNOW.

To make up for his reluctance to play along, and in the spirit of Hurley’s “fun project,” I have a fun video for y’alls. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Carry-on! Carry-on!

Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.

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