“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”
Originally aired December 8, 2004
In Media Res. It’s a literary term that means “into the middle of things,” and it’s a technique by which a story is told from the middle, rather than from the beginning. Seeing as we are halfway through the season, it seems quite appropriate that this episode just jumps right into the middle of the action, both in the flashback and in the island events. Not only that, but this episode also tells us the middle part of Jack and Christian’s story. We are in the thick of it. Dead center. The turning point … the turning point of no return.
This episode changes everything. Too late to go back now — you ready?
We begin the flashback in media res with Jack furiously working on a patient in the operating room. Things are going poorly. So poorly, in fact, that the patient begins coding, and the crash cart is called in. But, alas, that’s not doing the trick. Jack’s determined to save this patient, though, and he begins CPR on her, demanding that the patient come back. She doesn’t, however, and Christian enters the OR, and tells Jack to call the time of death. Instead, Jack gives his father the Jack Shephard Stare of Intensity® and is like, if you’re so interested you call it. Nyah.
The operating room is empty now except for snarling Shephards.
And the patient. Who’s still dead. (Although on this show, that’s not a given.) The Shephards begin to argue, and I could transcribe the dialogue, but is that really necessary? No. Right, so here’s the dealie: A woman was brought in to the emergency room with serious internal injuries stemming from a car crash. “They” (presumably the hospital — but this is not explicitly said) called Christian to come in to operate. Problem is, Christian was enjoying a five-martini lunch at the time. Christian doesn’t see an issue with this, though, and he tromps into the operating room and promptly slices open one of the patient’s arteries (hepatic, to be exact, which is ironic, considering that this is the artery that delivers blood to one’s liver). A nurse notices Christian’s shaking hands, goes upstairs, and finds Jack who barges into the operating room and takes over the surgery from his father. Damage is already done, though, and they lose the patient. Jack’s furious with his father for OUI (operating under the influence), and Christian’s furious with Jack for his presumptuousness. After all, if Jack was upstairs in the hospital and Christian was in a restaurant, why’d they call Christian? Hmm?
Lost note: So Jack was upstairs when the patient was brought in, and Christian, was downstairs operating drunk. Does this sound a little familiar? In “Through the Looking Glass,” when Dr. Hamil confronts Jack about being drunk, Jack yells back: “OK, I’ll tell you what, you do this. You get my father down here, get him down here right now, and if I’m drunker than he is, you can fire me.” Stairs are a symbol of enlightenment — at least ascending stairs is a sign of enlightenment. Jack was upstairs when this event occurred — he was above Christian, but then came down to his level. Later, in “Through the Looking Glass,” Jack has descended further below Christian, even. There are the other obvious heaven/hell suggestions as well: Christian, in “Through the Looking Glass,” has ascended the stairs — has ascended this plane, leaving Jack far below.
So, Jack heads into Christian’s office, where Christian presents his son with a document. Here ya go! Just sign on the dotted line, and don’t worry your pretty little head with what it says — just some mumbo jumbo about internal injuries, patient too far gone, not my fault, you know, details.
But Jack is in a huff and snaps at his father that he fixed everything but the patient … ooh, burn. Jack, again, stresses that his father had no business being in that operating room what with all the drinky-drinky and all (but honestly, Christian probably wouldn’t have needed a surgical mask, seeing as he probably had the most antiseptic mouth in the hospital), but Christian insists that he is able to make decisions about his own impairment, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Jack refuses to sign the document, so Christian reminds Jack that he was the surgeon of record — that he’s a part of the team, too. And besides, come on, accidents happen. If Jack says anything about alcohol, that’s all that will matter. And they’ll take Christian’s license away. Exactly, retorts Jack.
Christian now understands that a different approach is going to be needed to handle his son, and he moves into manipulator mode. Let’s just quote Christian verbatim, shall we?
I know I have been hard on you, but that is how you make a soft metal into steel. That is why you are the most gifted young surgeon in this city. And this, this is a career that is all about the greater good. I’ve had to sacrifice certain aspects of my relationship with you so that hundreds and thousands of patients will live because (places his hand on Jack’s shoulder) …
… of your extraordinary skills. I know it’s a long time coming. What happened yesterday, I promise you, will never happen again. And after all, what I’ve given — this is not just about my career, Jack. It’s my life.
And with a smidge of physical affection and a dash of affirmation, Jack is convinced to sign the document for Christian. Well, played, Dr. Shephard!
Jack heads down a hospital corridor when he sees his father talking to an angry man. From a distance, Jack watches and stops a nurse to ask who the man is. Yeah, that’s the husband of the woman y’all killed. He’s totally going to sue. And Angry Husband looks like he’s preparing to lawyer up, getting all yelly in Christian’s face.
But, not so fast all you ambulance chasers out there! As Jack watches, Christian says something to the man, while placing a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder — just like he did to Jack! — and the man breaks down in tears.
Well played, again, Dr. Shephard!
So now all Christian has to do is his little song and dance for the hospital panel, and he’s home free. He explains to the group that he tried his darndest and all, but the injuries were too severe, and by the time he arrived, in his professional opinion, the damage was irreversible. Cool! says the hospital panel. Sounds good to us! But, just to be clear, you did know that the patient was pregnant, right. Of course! says Christian. Whazzat? says Jack — with his eyes.
And as the lead doctor of the panel is closing up the case, Jack announces that he needs to revise his account because the truth of the matter was that his dad was totally tanked, completely snookered, utterly plastered.
YO! UNCOOL! says Christian — with his eyes.
And that’s the terrible thing that Jack did that made his daddy go on the bender in Sydney!
SO WHAT! WHAT ABOUT CLAIRE! AND THE ETHAN! AND THE BABY! I DON’T CARE ABOUT AN OLD DRUNK LOSING HIS JOB!! No need to scream. We were just headed to the island. And if you recall, in “Raised by Another,” the episode ended with the survivors learning that Ethan wasn’t on the manifest, but that he was leering at Charlie and Claire all creepily.
Like the flashback, the events on the island begin in media res. The survivors at the caves are understandably FREAKING OUT right about now. Jack asks if anyone has seen Ethan, or Charlie and Michael pipes up that he saw Ethan on the path toward the beach. And Charlie? He went after Claire (who was also headed to the beach out of her frustration that Jack didn’t believe that she was being attacked in the caves), according to Locke.
Jack and Locke RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING toward the beach path. Locke spots an item of clothing and Jack identifies it as Claire’s. Locke then points out three different sets of footprints, and some drag marks, and he hypothesizes that they’ve been abducted. Jack, who’s already WIGGING, begins screaming Charlie and Claire’s names. Locke, however, stops him, by placing his finger to his lips and shushing him.
Lost note: Locke shushes Jack and my first thought was that it reminded me of all the hallucinations/Smokey appearances that shushed folks:
Walt to Shannon:
Yemi to Eko:
Little Daniel to Eko:
I was all prepared to go on about how this was the only time that I had seen a real person shush someone else, and the implications that had for Locke’s connection to the island and BLAH BLAH BLAH, but after about 30 seconds of research, it appears that people are constantly shushing each other on this show. In that vein, I’ll shut up now.
So the two of them keep heading into the woods, and Jack’s incredulous that one person could drag two people away. But Locke’s all Wise Man of the Jungle and drops this koan on Jack: You’re asking the wrong question. The question is not how one man dragged two people into the jungle, the question is why did one man drag two people into the jungle. Whoaaa. Duuuuuuuuude.
And Jack, still not on the same page with Locke, is like — you think it was Ethan? Locke, to his credit, manages to not just say DUH! And Jack’s still hung up on the “how” — how did he do it alone? But Locke reminds Jack that they can’t account for all their people — they don’t even know who “their” people are. And additionally, Sayid did say there are other people on the island. Jack corrects him: Sayid said they’re not alone. SEMANTICS! yells Locke and the entire viewing audience! GEEZ LOUISE.
Jack continues to dismiss what Locke is saying, but Locke assures him that he’s just telling Jack what the ground is telling him. Locke suggests that they go back to the caves, regroup and make a plan, but Jack is all JUST TELL ME WHICH WAY TO GO. Locke points him in the right direction and Jack begins RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING again, while Locke just shakes his head and heads back to the caves.
Back at the caves, Kate is all grouchy with Locke for letting Jack go off by himself, and Locke’s like not my brother’s keeper, yo. Kate has decided to come with Locke (which he assumed she would), and Boone offers to come along over Shannon’s protests, which Locke accepts. However, when Michael offers to come along, Locke turns him down, which isn’t going to help these two in their relationship. Michael, irritated at this rejection, announces that he’s going to start his own search party. Fine, says Locke. We’re going north, you should go south.
Lost note: Interesting that Locke was heading north this early in the game. Remember, Eko’s stick instructed: “Lift up your eyes and look north, John 315.” And this directed Locke toward the Others.
Also interesting, later in this season, Sayid notices that true north and magnetic north don’t align on the island, hinting at a strong magnetic force — which we know to be inside the Swan hatch.
Michael, thoroughly ticked off about being rejected by Locke, goes on his own expedition, leaving Walt in Hurley’s care.
Walt and Hurley spend their time playing games of backgammon, which Walt consistently and uncannily wins. “My dad said I was the luckiest person he ever knew,” explains Walt. “Not Michael, Brian. My other dad.” (Or should I say “My Other dad?”) Having lost enough games, Hurley storms off owing Walt $20,000, which he promises he’ll get to him. He is good for it, after all.
Sawyer, in the meantime, only learns of Claire’s abduction from Walt. Sawyer is skeptical of the “Ethan took Claire and Charlie” hypothesis and challenges Walt on where Ethan came from. Walt reasonably (and correctly) guesses that Ethan might have been on the island before the crash. Sawyer, sarcastic as always, responds “So a tribe of evil natives planted a ringer in the camp to kidnap a pregnant girl and a reject from VH-1 has-beens. Yeah, fiendishly clever. And why am I getting the evening news from a 6-year-old?” Which, in fact, is exactly correct. Except for the 6-year-old part. Walt, as he points out, is 10. Walt is also the bearer of the news that Sayid is back, which surprises Sawyer.
So Sawyer hightails it over to Sayid’s cave and wakes the injured man by making a crack about karma and the island delivering a bit of payback to Sayid for torturing Sawyer. Sayid’s like yeah yeah, punch me and get it over with already, but dig: I’m really embarrassed for what I did and didn’t mean to come back here. So why did you? asks Sawyer. And Sayid goes into exposition about the crazy French lady and bladdedy blah blah we’re not alone blah. And Sawyer’s like do you believe her? Dunno, answers Sayid. But, I did hear some total weirdness out in the jungle so WHO KNOWS AND DO YOU MIND LEAVING ME ALONE THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Sawyer’s like, fine. Oh, and P.S., the hull is almost in the water.
Lost note: Karma? Dharma? It’s all about cycles, circles, loops. “Loop, dude. Loop.” Also, it’s interesting that Walt correctly guesses that Ethan was already on the island, and that later he goes on that remarkable winning streak in the backgammon game. Hints that Walt has extraordinary abilities, or just plain luck?
It doesn’t take long for Locke to find Jack — he’s been wandering around in a circle (loops! again!). Locke tries to encourage Jack to go back to the caves, but Jack isn’t having it. Locke, in the meantime, explains that he feels responsible for Claire and Charlie’s abduction. After all, he was the one who had spent the most time with Ethan, he should have noticed that there was something going on. And as much as Locke knows about hunting and tracking, this Ethan character knows more. So, it’s best that nothing happens to the one doctor on the island, and Jack should go back to being the doctor and let Locke be the hunter. Nice speech, but no go says Jack because he totally feels guilty about Claire’s abduction — as he totally should.
Lost note: Interesting that Locke notes that Jack is the only doctor on the island — which is ironic because Ethan is also a doctor. Ethan is both a doctor like Jack and a hunter and tracker like Locke. Also interesting to note that whereas Locke is concerned about the doctor’s safety, Benry explicitly chooses to use the one doctor on his team to infiltrate the survivors, with terrible consequences for both Ethan and himself.
Locke begins tearing up a red shirt, tying strips of it around trees to help mark their progress; a job that Boone takes over for him.
Jack is all antsy in the pantsy though, and anxious that Locke has apparently lost the trail. Locke urges Jack to remain calm, rest for a moment, and take a break so that they may regain their clarity. Kate takes Jack aside is all CHILL but Jack’s all Wah-wah, it’s my fault, I should have believed her, wah.
And that’s when Locke finds the “L” finger tape that Charlie was wearing. They’re leaving them a trail! Hooray!
Or maybe not. Locke tells Jack that the trail seems to diverge: the tapes lead in one direction, but footprints go in another. Kate suggests that perhaps it’s a dummy trail that Ethan is leaving for them. The group agrees to split up in two: Locke and Boone; Jack and Kate, since Kate apparently has a few tracking skills of her own.
Let’s follow Jack and Kate, yes? Jack is all rushy-rushy and Kate snaps at him that they need to slow down — she’s not as good a tracker as Locke. And then for no discernible reason, other than that he’s being a jerky-pants Jack demands to know when she learned her tracking skills — before or after she was on the run? UNCOOL, JACK. And then he demands honesty from her. Where does he get off? Kate doesn’t owe him a thing, but for whatever reason she tells Jack that her father was an Army Ranger at Ft. Lewis and that they used to go hiking in the woods — being in the woods was her father’s “religion.” Is there anything Jack would like to share? Nope! Nothing here! Move along!
So, it starts POURING, right? And Jack and Kate are deep in the jungle when Jack finds another finger tape. Jack then hears a woman screaming, and he frantically begins scaling this cliff wall trying to get to her, but Kate’s all, Hey, crazy? What are you doing? Because she doesn’t hear the screaming, even though that’s a little hard to believe, but whatever, right? ANYWAY. Jack climbs up this muddy cliff wall, totally loses his grip and falls onto the rocks below. And if that isn’t enough head-injury fun for him, along comes Ethan who stands on Jack’s chest and informs the good doctor that if he continues to follow him, Ethan’ll kill one of them — Charlie and Claire. Ethan then just kicks the snot out of poor Jack, who really didn’t have much of a chance.
Lost note: All right. A couple things here to discuss. For starters, the screaming. Did Jack really hear it, or was this a hallucination? Well, personally I think he did: after all, Ethan shows up on the scene pretty quickly, suggesting that Claire must be nearby. Perhaps even underground. Could it be that they were near the Caduceus Hatch in that scene? But if the screaming was real, why doesn’t Kate hear it? Dunno. Guess the rain was so loud, that she missed it somehow.
Now, some have suggested that Ethan demonstrates some sort of super-strength in this scene in his total beat-down of poor Jack. I disagree. Jack has been running around the jungle like a madman all day (albeit, not while carrying two people) and has just fallen off the side of a rock-face of some sort, banging up his pretty pretty head in the process. Ethan certainly has the upper hand here. (Of course how did Ethan manage to spirit away two people by himself is a fair question — we can only assume that he received some help from other Others at some point.)
Kate somehow MISSES THE ENTIRE FIGHT (what? how? it’s not like it was off-screen a la Kid Rock and Tommy Lee …) and arrives on the scene long after Ethan has left. Jack’s groggy and talking about how Ethan has been there, but Kate thinks that Jack’s talking crazy from his head injury, and tells Jack that he needs to stop … that even if Ethan had been there, Jack’s been going too hard and the rain has washed away the trail. This doesn’t stop our Jack, though, and he hops up. “I’m not going to let him do this. Not again.” he announces, and heads deeper into the jungle …
… Where they find poor Charlie hanging high from a large Banyan tree and it doesn’t look so good for the poor little hobbit. Kate scrambles up the tree to cut Charlie down, as Jack lifts him up to relieve the pressure around his throat. Once cut down, Jack frantically and furiously begins CPR, but, sadly, nothin’ doin’.
Kate, sobbing, tells Jack to stop, and after a while Jack does. And indulges in a good mancry. But then! Jack decides to keep pounding on the little guy! And he’s punching the hobbit in the chest! And yelling! So much yelling! And whaddya know? But Charlie starts breathing again! HOORAY! Enjoy the breathing while it lasts, Charlie, but HOORAY FOR NOW!
Once back at the caves, Charlie appears to be in shock, and is unable to remember anything except that all “they” wanted was Claire. Who “they” still have. Sad.
At the caves, Kate is approached by Shannon, who wonders where Boone and Locke are. And Kate assures Shannon that if there is one person on the island Boone is safe with, it’s Locke. Not enough irony for ya? Well, then, let’s go check in with Locke and Boone, shall we?
Locke and Boone separate from Jack and Kate, and keep tying the red strips around the trees, prompting Boone to explain to Locke what a “red shirt” is: the poor crew members of the Starship Enterprise who go along with Captain Kirk on the missions, only to get themselves killed. Locke notes that the captain sounds like he’s lousy at his job. AND THE IRONY IS AS THICK AS THE HUMIDITY ON LABOR DAY. Boone, intrigued by mystical Mr. Locke, asks what Locke did in the “real” world. Locke answers quite honestly: he was a regional collections officer for a box company. Boone doesn’t believe him. Heh.
Lost note: Couple little things here: the red shirt reference is an obvious red flag (ba-dum-dum) about Boone’s fate. The episode is rife with them: Locke being the safest person for Boone to be with, the “red shirt” that Boone handles, Locke’s comment about Captain Kirk not doing a very good job … it’s all there. Interestingly, according to Lostpedia.com, Terry O’Quinn, the actor who portrays Locke, was in an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation in which he played an admiral whose crew mutinies on him for his bad leadership.
As they continue, Boone begins to grow grumpy and tired. They’ve gone for fifteen minutes without seeing any signs, and Boone is beginning to lose faith in Locke’s “gut.” Locke distracts Boone by asking what he did in the “real world,” and Boone explains that he worked for his mother in her wedding empire. Locke assures Boone that he’s sure someone can manage it temporarily and then adds that it’s going to start raining in one minute. He then urges Boone to turn back before it gets dark. Boone refuses, and it starts raining just as Locke predicted. How’s that for a sign?
Lost note: Locke predicting the rain is sort of repeated in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” Desmond, having traveled back in time, finds Charlie busking on the street which makes Desmond realize that he’s experienced this moment before. Desmond remembers that it began to rain, and as he says it, it does. Do I think it’s significant? Maybe. But as I’ve noticed before, those of us who live in the tropics, a la Houston, know that, honestly, if it’s not raining right now? It will be in exactly one minute. Seriously. Look out your window and count to 60.
As nighttime arrives, Boone has finally decided that he’s had just about enough, and decides he wants to return to the caves. Locke is a little surprised that Boone doesn’t feel “it,” but tosses Boone his flashlight to help him find his way back. Boone fumbles the light which lands on the ground with a surprising metal thwack. What the hey-hey is THAT? Steel, Locke answers calmly. Yeah, but what is it? Boone asks as they dig the foliage away from a very large metal panel of some sort. That is what we’re going to find out, pronounces Locke.
Gentlemen, meet The Hatch.
And everything changes.
Isn’t it interesting how Locke and Boone find the hatch? Crimson Rabbit, a very insightful contributor on The Fuselage, points out that a series of very unlikely events have to align in just the right way for Locke to find the hatch: Locke has to decide to go back to the caves to prepare for the search party; Boone has to decide to come along on the expedition; Boone and Locke have to decide to take a divergent path from Jack and Kate — following Locke’s decision that the island is leading him in this direction; Boone has to decide to remain with Locke until just the right moment — if it changes, no hatch. No hatch, no finding Desmond. No finding Desmond, no saving the world.
Similarly, the events in the flashback also lead to a conclusion that is unforeseeable, but inevitable. A patient is called into the ER and the hospital chooses to call Christian who is not in the hospital rather than bring sober Jack downstairs to operate; Jack, hearing that his father is drunk, chooses to intervene in the procedure wherein he loses the patient; upon learning that the patient was pregnant (a fact that Christian chooses to keep from Jack) Jack chooses to rat out his father to the hospital board; Christian loses his license, and out of shame for what he did he chooses to go to Australia (much like Sayid’s self-imposed exile after torturing Sawyer); Jack chooses to bring his father home and as a result, ends up on the plane and ultimately on the island.
Fate? Or coincidence? (Or, option #3 conspiracy?) Did the island lead Locke to the hatch, or did he find it by accident (or a series of accidents)? Is Christian responsible for his own downfall for making Jack into the kind of man who would turn in his own father? He seems to say so himself: “I know I have been hard on you, but that is how you make a soft metal into steel. That is why you are the most gifted young surgeon in this city. And this, this is a career that is all about the greater good. I’ve had to sacrifice certain aspects of my relationship with you so that hundreds and thousands of patients will live because of your extraordinary skills.”
Much like Laius sets into motion his own downfall by abandoning his son Oedipus, Christian sets into motion his own fate/downfall by being emotionally distant from Jack his entire life. Of course, this moment leads not only to Christian’s downfall, but Jack’s as well — just as Laius’s decision leads Oedipus to a life of blind misery. The sins of the father are visited upon the children. Each choice made by Locke and Boone and Christian and Jack leads to this moment: the moment of steel, we could call it — the steel hatch that Locke discovers, and Jack’s steely spine that Christian forged.
And I bet with that mention of Oedipus slipped in there you can guess what we’re going to talk about next … that’s right, the Hero’s Journey! It’s been so long! As I’ve noted before, the Hero’s Journey is all about the journey from adolescence to adulthood, finding one’s place in the larger society. In psychological terms, it’s a journey through the unconscious, grappling with one’s inner demons, and emerging whole, with a brand spanking new superego to show for it. Both interpretations lead in a similar place: the journey is all about learning one’s place in the world, understanding personal limits and responsibilities.
And this episode? It’s all about the Hero’s Journey: Jack’s island scenes are about Jack dealing with his subconscious issues so that he may be the leader he is destined to be. Jack’s flashback scenes are about Jack becoming the man and surgeon that he is destined to be, separate from his father.
One of the major moments in the Hero’s Journey is the Atonement with the Father. Think Luke Skywalker taking off Darth Vader’s helmet and forgiving him at the end of Return of the Jedi. Reuniting with the father, making amends with the father, is not the end goal of the Hero’s Journey, but it is one of the most significant moments along one’s path to becoming an adult: facing one’s parent as an adult, an equal and making peace.
What this implies, of course, is that there has to be a moment of separation from the father, right? You can’t atone unless you’ve been separated. Think about that climatic battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, wherein Luke learns that he is Vader’s son, and he chooses to hurl himself into the void, rather than join forces with his father.
This has to come before the Hero can reunite with Daddy. And this episode is about that moment of separation. It’s the moment when Jack realizes that he is a better doctor and a better man than his father. And he can finally step out from his father’s formidable shadow.
It’s useful to think of the Oedipal story (but when isn’t it?) when Oedipus confronts his father at the crossroads and kills him. There can be only one. The son must replace the father. As it is in society: the younger generation must take over for the older generation. The turning point. Problem is, sometimes the older generation doesn’t want to go down without a fight. Similarly, Christian fights back against his son’s efforts to do the right thing — and he almost gets away with it; that is until Jack experiences his Apotheosis.
The Apotheosis (which literally means “glorification” or to become a deity) is the moment in which the hero’s consciousness is changed and he has a breakthrough. Often, the Apotheosis leads the hero to sacrifice himself in some fashion. Returning to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back for a moment: that instant when Luke lets go of the thingy that he’s holding onto, rather than join his father — that’s his Apotheosis. That’s the moment when Luke understands that it’s better to sacrifice himself rather than turn to the dark side.
Similarly, Jack has his own Apotheosis sitting there in the conference room. When he learns that the patient was pregnant, a fact that his father kept from him, he suddenly understands what must be done. By turning in his father, he is making a number of sacrifices: he sacrifices his relationship with his father, and he sacrifices his father’s career. He sacrifices a part of himself. But he also proves that he is capable of making painful terrible decisions, and lead in the face of adversity.
That doesn’t mean that Jack has really internalized this or dealt with it entirely. The scenes in the jungle are all about Jack processing this moment in his past. As we’ve discussed before, the jungle represents the unconscious mind, and Jack just goes tearing into it. He’s got a lot to deal with: the pregnant patient he lost, the severing of his relationship with his father, accepting his responsibility as a leader … it’s all there. There’s a lot of transference (what? I’m bringing up transference again? GO FIGURE.) going on here. Jack transfers his feelings about the pregnant patient he lost on the operating table to pregnant Claire who he lost because he didn’t believe her; and he transfers his feelings for his father onto anyone nearby, including Locke and Ethan (and even Kate a little bit in some of his crankier moments).
Which isn’t surprising: the title is pretty upfront about the fact that Jack’s going to be dealing with Daddy problems in this episode. Interestingly, “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues,” is taken from the name of a Pete Townshend album: “All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.” I’m not a Townshend fan — or a fan of The Who despite Mr. T’s persistent attempts to convert me — so I don’t really know much about this album. From what it says in Lostpedia.com, the album has a story on the album jacket which reads, in part: “A natural leader emerged … the most remarkable thing about him was his eyes … Somehow they arrived alive. Somehow they found the broken bottle trail without help. All stars, great and small, shine under God … All the best cowboys have Chinese eyes.” Or, you know, unresolved issues with their fathers that they take out on those around him.
Right, so it’s fairly obvious that Jack is feeling rillllly guilty about not believing Claire now that she’s been abducted, and that these feelings overlap with the guilt he feels for losing the pregnant patient earlier. But what is interesting is the way in which the island helps him find redemption for these losses. The episode begins with Jack struggling to save a dying (if not dead already) patient, his father telling him to stop, Jack (reluctantly) listening and the patient dying. The episode ends with Jack struggling to save a dying (if not dead already) Charlie, Kate telling him to stop, Jack (reluctantly) listening, but then going back to Charlie despite what appears to be a hopeless situation, and saving him.
Jack has made the transition to leader and does what he thinks is right, not what others tell him to do. He won’t be manipulated by his father, or by anyone else for that matter — not again. This may have some interesting implications when you think about it. Perhaps it’s this moment, when he is rewarded for making a decision to not listen to Christian or to Kate, that makes Jack so rigid in his certitude that he doesn’t listen to Locke or Benry at the end of season three. He’s not going to be manipulated into not saving someone, dagnabit, and he’s going to call that boat no matter what anyone else says. Interesting that calling the boat, listening to what he thinks is right, has such apparently dire consequences. But who knows? Maybe he’ll get a do-over.
Which brings me to a small, but interesting point: after Jack has been beaten silly by Ethan, and he jumps to his feet to go find Charlie and Claire, he says “I’m not going to let him do this. Not again.” Now. I know and understand that this is intended to show how Jack’s feelings about his father have blurred into his feelings about the abduction. He’s not going to let Ethan/Daddy let him lose Claire & Charlie/The Patient. Not again. And that this is the moment of decisiveness for Jack — he speaks out against his father in the flashback, he chooses to save Charlie on the island.
But. Could the little “not again” that Jack slips in there … could it be another small clue regarding time loopiness? Maybe? Could Jack mean, he’s not going to let Ethan abduct Charlie and Claire again? It’s something of a subliminal slip — some part of his unconscious mind that knows that he’s done all this before? After all, this is the other episode in which Sawyer has a 4-year discrepancy, suggesting that Walt is 6 when he is actually 10, which could just be suggesting that Sawyer doesn’t know anything about kids. Or, it could be that something is going on here in some sort of 4-year loop. (The other instance is in “White Rabbit,” when Sawyer makes the “birthday wish 4 years ago” comment to Kate. Interesting that they both occur in Jack flashback episodes … hmmm …) And who knows? Maybe Locke’s comment about it raining in one minute is significant — he knows it’s going to rain because he’s done this before.
And Sawyer does mention karma in this episode. Karma is the idea that until we’ve learned a lesson from our past, we are doomed to keep repeating it — it comes back around. Dharma, in contrast, is the path we are set to follow in our life: by learning the lessons from our past, and clearing our karma, we are able to unlock our dharma. Karma = the past; Dharma = the present/future. This concept has a certain resonance for Jack and his flashback — he has to learn the lessons from his past to be able to deal with his present on the island (they all do, don’t they?) but what if this idea of karma and repeating the past is literal on the island, and Jack is finally breaking the cycle? He’s not going to specifically let Ethan do this — not again. Maybe.
Which sorta brings me to one last point (which is a bit of a stretch, but I think you’ve probably come to expect that from me by now, no?): notice all the Hansel and Gretel references in this episode? Charlie and Claire are our very own Hansel and Gretel, having gone off into the scary woods all alone after The Father (Jack) had rejected them, only to be abducted by the Scary Witch (Ethan). They (and Locke) leave behind trails as they make their way deeper and deeper into the unknown. Why? So that they can find their way home again.
The Hansel and Gretel story is about these children separating from the father, learning what they are capable of on their own (self-preservation; baking of witches) and then returning to the home and the father, who notably begs for their forgiveness. As such, this episode fits in with “Through the Looking Glass” in that Jack is desperate to get his people home. He is running ragged trying to be the hero, focused only on going home, and getting his people to safety.
What’s interesting is that in this episode there are two paths, of course. The one that Jack takes leads him to save one of his people, and bring him back “home.” And the path that Locke chooses? That path, away from home, leads him to the hatch, and ultimately to the salvation of the world in the grander scheme of things. Locke turns into the island, Jack away from it. Just as in “Through the Looking Glass,” Jack is only focused on saving his people, getting them home, whereas Locke seems to understand that there is a greater plan, there is something larger within the island. New episodes are soooo far away, but perhaps there is a hint of what’s to come in the fact that in this episode, Jack is indeed successful: he saves Charlie, he brings Charlie home. But to what end? Ultimately Charlie dies. Is this the fate that lies ahead for those Jack manages to take home? Just who was in that coffin, anyway?
So! You may have heard that Lost has made some casting additions for season four. They’ve added Jeff Fahey, a.k.a. “The Lawnmower Man;” Jeremy Davies, a.k.a. “That Kid in Spanking the Monkey, a Film That I Don’t Recommend Unless You Know Exactly What You’re Walking Into;” Lance Reddick, a.k.a. “Yet Another Dude from Oz;” Rebecca Mader, a.k.a. “She Was in The Devil Wears Prada? For reals? Who Was She?” and Ken Leung, a.k.a “That Awesome Asian Kid Who Befriended Junior Soprano in the Institution.”
Sadly, one person won’t be joining the cast is Kristen Bell, a.k.a. “Veronica Mars.” She was courted by the producers, but in the end she didn’t want to have to move to Hawaii (if only I had such problems … ) and opted to join the Heroes’ cast instead. Which is Heroes’ gain and Lost‘s, well, loss.
That said, be warned, that was the most spoilery thing I’m going to post. Lost is filming right now, and by the time the first episode airs, most of the episodes will be in the can. What this means is that spoilers will be EVERYWHERE this fall and during the season. If you want to be spoiled, it doesn’t take much to find what you want on the Internet. However, I am in the anti-spoiler camp: I think any episode of Lost is best experienced when one has no idea what’s coming. I can’t avoid spoilers sometimes, but I promise that I won’t share what I see. And I ask you all to kindly keep this a spoiler-free place. I’m happy to point anyone who is interested to some forums where they can read and speculate about spoilers, but I’d rather it not take place around here, if that’s cool with y’all.
Anyway, I’m back from vacation, obvs, and I promise to not leave you kids again for a while. Mr. T and I journeyed into America’s very own dark scary jungle — Las Vegas. We were confronted with frightening natives, dangerous monsters, and great white beasts (Fine. They’re not polar bears. Close enough.). Oh! And we saw the Justin Timberlake concert at the Mandalay Bay casino. That’s right. Justin Timberlake. Am I ashamed of liking Justin Timberlake? Maybe a little. Am I going to apologize for it? No. No, I’m not. Because I love me some JT. And because y’all were so good and patient with me while I was gone, I brought you guys some souvenirs. Enjoy!
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.