Originally aired January 19, 2005
I know it seems that all I ever do is whine, whine, whine about how I didn’t like this episode, or how that episode fell short for me. Boo-freaking-hoo, I know. But, good news! This episode, “Special,” kicks off an unbroken string of wonderful episodes leading up to the finale. At least in my humble estimation. And “Special?” It’s really, really, um, special. (Sincerest apologies.) What’s not to like about this episode? Polar bears! Psychic powers! Daddy issues out the wazoo! Real emotional resonance! It is a mythology-rich episode and sets the stage for so many events that will follow. I ♥ “Special.”
What’s interesting is that I’ve found that it’s the episodes that I remember liking the most that I have the least to say about (of course, that’s all relative, no?) — “Walkabout” and “Raised by Another,” being two examples. But the episodes that I remember not really feeling the first time around? Like “Tabula Rasa” or “House of the Rising Sun?” I appreciate so much more now with some hindsight. So, I can’t promise any sort of revelation in this entry. I fear I’m a little too close to the material, if that makes any sense … Oh, and let’s just get this out of the way right now: I have no idea whether Walt is psychic or not. I honestly don’t know that we are given enough for a concrete answer either way. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.
Michael Dawson is a fictional character. How do I know? No man, no matter how excited for his child’s birth he may be, no man is this enthusiastic about shopping for baby furniture. I assure you, Mr. T wasn’t all “Hey! Let’s spend several thousand dollars on this crib! It’s heavenly!” No, he and every other man in Babies’R’Us were muttering under their collective breath something about how a cardboard box would serve the same purpose, and could later store files once the baby was in a big boy bed.
But not Michael! He’s getting all wound up about some ridiculously expensive crib, and his pregnant girlfriend Susan is the one who brings him back down to earth. They just can’t afford it, what with her being in law school, and Michael an artist. But here’s the thing! Michael is going to take some construction jobs until she gets hired at a fancy-pants law firm and can support him and baby Walt in the manner in which they will become accustomed. Apparently, Michael and Susan have failed to discuss names, because “Walt” takes Susan by surprise, just as the fact that Susan wants to give the baby her last name, “Lloyd.”
Baby Walt? The most adorable baby EVER? Yes. Yes, he may very well be the most adorable baby ever, with apologies to my own offspring and the precious and precocious Miss Hazel Jane. Anyway, he’s busy playing blocks in his family’s improbably gorgeous New York apartment as Michael and Susan argue nearby. It seems that Susan has been offered a job in Amsterdam, and she would like to take it, and the baby with her. Michael does not seem to be invited along. The two have been having problems of late and had been talking about taking a break. Susan would just like to take a break on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Michael, understandably, rejects the idea that she should take his son so far away. But Susan argues that this would be best for Walt, and anyway, what court will leave Walt in Michael’s custody, with his construction job (which has dried up of late), over Susan, a big shot high-falutin’ international attorney?
Lost note: I’ve mentioned it before, but a brief refresher: Michael vs. Thomas, father of Aaron. Michael and Thomas are both artists, neither are married to their girlfriends. One is anxious and excited to become a father, the other refuses the call. One gives up his art to support his child, the other gives up his child to pursue his art. But ultimately, both men are absent in their children’s lives. The difference is, one made a sacrifice for his child, the other was unwilling to sacrifice for his child. Interestingly, one can see Christian in both men. Christian raises Jack but abandons Claire. Like Michael, he sacrifices his relationship with his son for his son’s sake, and like Thomas he walks out on his child because he was unwilling to give up his previous life to be a part of hers.
Oh, and let me take a moment to complain bitterly about two things: the apartment and the law job. Let me just call malarkey on both accounts. Mr. T and I lived in New York on a limited income for a period of time, and I assure you none of our apartments featured 15-foot ceilings or exposed brick walls. Do you have ANY IDEA HOW MUCH AN APARTMENT LIKE THAT COSTS? F’reals, y’all. Real estate in New York is NO JOKE. We lived in the ghetto — next to a half-way house, in fact — and we paid out the nose and other orifices for the privilege. So I find it HIGHLY IMPROBABLE that a freshly-minted lawyer who works at a legal clinic and a sporadically-employed construction worker could afford such a place.
Point number 2: the law job. See, the thing is? Susan apparently works for a legal clinic, which means that she’s a do-gooder who is working Legal Aid or somesuch. Which, you know, good for her. But what it also means is that no big firm is seeking her out to offer her a fancy international legal job — those jobs go to the young associates they’ve already hired. Legal clinics are not where large law firms recruit. Now, maybe Susan applies for this job, or maybe the firm wooed her while she was in law school, and she was all “No! I shall defend the poor! Begone with you and your greedy ways!” only to regret her decision when she realized that Legal Aid pays nada (much less enough to pay the rent on fancy apartments with frickin’ 15-foot exposed brick walls). But I am having some logistical problems with this whole scenario. And it is because she tells Michael as an explanation for why she’s taking the job that this is an opportunity and she always wanted to do international law, so it’s not like she would have turned down this job when she was in law school, right?
And that’s ANOTHER thing. She’s pregnant and in law school when they are crib shopping. The baby here is, what, roughly a year old? Maybe less? So she had to be in her third year of law school while they were shopping. By then, if you are going to be working for a big fancy-pants firm, you already know about it. But they act as though it’s still a possibility. The writers either got this whole thing totally wrong … OR! they are pointing to the suggestion that she was deliberately hired by this firm for some reason. Conspiracy? Maybe. But probably just bad writing.
Just needed to get that off my chest. I’m done now.
For some reason, and no good one comes to mind, Michael uses a payphone to call Amsterdam to speak to his son. Susan refuses to let the two speak, using the excuse that the baby is only 21 months old, but come on. Nearly two-year-olds can most certainly use the telephone. She could come up with a better excuse than that: how about, “Well, since it’s 2 a.m. here in Amsterdam, your son is sound asleep. You’d think that you’d figure the time difference one of these days, Michael. No wonder I left you. Doofus.”
In the background, Michael hears a man’s voice and Susan admits that she’s been seeing her boss Brian Porter. Oops! Thoroughly ticked off, Michael announces that he’s coming to Amsterdam to retrieve his son. He slams down the payphone and in a mad dash on foot to JFK, runs out into traffic where he is unsurprisingly hit by a car.
Lost note: The car accident. Lost is riddled with car accidents. A quick list:
Kate’s accident with Farmer Kindly:
The pregnant patient whose surgery is botched by Christian:
Martha and Sam Toomey were in an accident wherein she lost her leg:
Locke is tapped by a car in a parking lot after meeting his mother:
Sarah was in a car accident with Adam Rutherford (Shannon’s father):
Kate and the marshal’s accident with the horse:
Jae Lee’s body falls on Jin’s car (does that count?):
Edmund Burke is killed by a bus:
Claire and her mother are in a car accident:
Kate and Tom’s accident:
Cooper claims he was involved in a car accident before he wakes up on the island:
And Jack causes an accident by trying to hurl himself off a bridge:
In every instance (except for Locke’s in the parking lot — that was just to tease us with the idea that this is how he lost the use of his legs) the accidents are moments when the characters’ fates are forever changed.
In the hospital, Michael amuses himself by sketching pictures of a man in a full-body cast, a birthday cake cruelly placed in his lap. How’s the mummy supposed to eat the cake? Just wrong. Anywhose. Michael’s nurse compliments him on the sketches, and Michael explains that he’s drawing it for his son, but he doesn’t know what to write. The nurse suggests a joke: What’s black and white and red all over? No, not a newspaper, but a penguin with a sunburn. I think she got that from Truly Tasteless Jokes, Part IVt but I can’t be sure.
And that’s when Susan appears. Well, great. She explains that she came to see Michael after she heard what happened to him from one of his friends, and no, she didn’t bring Walt with her. Well played, Ice Queen. Susan comes bearing good news! She’s going to pick up all of Michael’s medical bills (which will be hefty, seeing as he’s looking at a year’s worth of physical therapy). Oh andbythewayI’mmarryingBrianandhe’sgoingtoadoptWalt. Kthxbye.
So, yeah, Susan and Brian essentially bought off Michael, and they subsequently moved to Rome and then Sydney (with maybe some other locations in between — Walt does tell Locke that they “move a lot”). In Australia, Brian and Susan discuss boring law junk as Walt, now about 10, listens nearby. Walt is working on his homework, and feeling a little ignored. He asks for help with his project on birds of Australia, which he thinks is stupid, and he’d rather work on the birds of Egypt. Walt prattles on about how he’s doing his project on the Bronze Cuckoo and do they want to see a picture? as the adults discuss how Susan hadn’t been feeling well lately, and ignore Walt. Again, he tries to show his parents the picture, but they’re not listening. You’re not looking! You’re not looking! And thwack, that’s when the bird hits the window and dies, thoroughly FREAKING BRIAN OUT.
Lost note: The bronze cuckoo is a strange bird: it, like many cuckoos, is a “brood parasite.” “Brood parasites are organisms that use the strategy of brood-parasitism, a kind of kleptoparasitism found among birds, fish or insects, involving the manipulation and use of host individuals either of the same (intraspecific brood-parasitism) or different species (inter-specific brood-parasitism) to raise the young of the brood-parasite. This relieves the parasitic parent from the investment of rearing young or building nests, enabling them to spend more time foraging, producing offspring, etc.” Susan, by having Brian raise her son, is acting a little like a brood parasite. And considering all the other people that were raised by someone other than their actual parent (Locke and Alex notably, but Kate, Sawyer, Boone, and Shannon as well), it’s an interesting symbol on the show.
Michael, in the meantime, has been living in his thoroughly amazing New York apartment on his unreliable construction income (WHAT. EVER.). Which is where Brian finds him one night with the news that Susan had died the day before. She had a blood disorder, and was only sick for a week or so, but that’s not why Brian’s here. He wants to dump Walt back onto Michael. Brian claims that Susan told him before she died that she wanted Michael to have custody, but Michael totally doesn’t believe it because it’s totally a lie.
Furious with Brian for being such a Jerkenheimer as to try to unload the child he raised as his own for the past 8 years, Michael gets a little rough with him. And Brian admits that 1. he never wanted to adopt Walt in the first place — that was all Susan’s idea, and 2. Walt’s, um, different. Scary different. Things “happen” when Walt’s around. Things that FREAK BRIAN OUT, MAN. Brian gives Michael two airplane tickets to Sydney, one round-trip and one one-way and some cash money so that Michael can go get his freaky kid out of Brian’s house.
Which Michael does. The nanny shows Michael into the house, and gives him a box that she thought Walt should have. In the box? All the letters Michael had written to his son in the past 8 years. Sad.
The nanny retrieves Walt, and Michael heads in to introduce himself to his son. He explains that he is, indeed Walt’s father, and that he’s terribly sorry about Susan’s death — he and Susan loved each other very much when they had Walt. Walt, suspicious, asks about Brian, and Michael explains that well, he’s there to bring Walt home with him. And Walt’s like I don’t think so, Stranger Dude. Michael then lets Brian off the hook, and lies to Walt, explaining that Brian wants to keep Walt, but it’s not his choice. Michael is Walt’s legal guardian now. But hey! It’s not all awful! Walt’s still got his dog. Vincent is Brian’s dog, explains Walt. Well guess what? Brian said you could have him, lies Michael. Yay!
Lost note: The DHARMA ceiling! Does it mean something? Maybe!
And now Walt and Michael are stuck on this crazy island together, where they’re forced to work on their issues when they have some free time from running away from polar bears. Which, really, sums up what happens in this episode. There! I’m done!
Fine. We start with another close-up shot of an eyeball, this time Michael’s. And he’s looking for Walt. Have you seen Walt? What about you? Seen Walt? Walt, Walt, Walt. He asks Charlie. He asks Jack. He asks Hurley. None of them have seen him, and as Michael stalks off into the jungle, Hurley comments to Jack that Michael seems to hate being a dad. Which isn’t an unfair observation.
Walt, it turns out, has been hanging out with Locke and his minion Boone, throwing knives at trees. And it’s like, what did the trees ever do them, right? Locke urges Walt to imagine the path of the knife, from his hand to the tree, to use his “mind’s eye.” With these instructions, Walt is successful and the knife hits the tree in exactly the right location. Like, whoa. Walt is as amazed as anyone, claiming that it was weird, he saw it in his head like it was real. Who’s to say it wasn’t? asks Locke.
This philosophical discussion is interrupted by one VERY ANGRY MICHAEL who comes on the scene of a creepy old man arming his son with giant hunting knives. UNCOOL. Michael sends Walt back to camp and then lights into Locke. How DARE Locke give his child a knife! Encourage him to sneak away from his father! On and on, until Boone, feeling that Locke is being threatened, knocks Michael to the ground. This is short-lived, though as Michael throws wee Boone right back off of him.
Locke intervenes, and explains that he understands: Michael is having a hard time bonding with his son. But the reason Walt is so drawn to Locke is that Locke treats Walt like an adult, not a child. Walt’s been through a lot in his life. He’s different. This last bit makes Michael go even more bug-eyed, and Locke urges Michael to allow Walt to realize his potential as long as they aren’t at home. But Michael disagrees and orders Locke to stay away from his kid. Yeah, good luck with that.
Later, Sun approaches Michael to check on him, and he explains that he just can’t allow Walt to grow up on the island. So he comes up with a plan and goes to find Jack, Sayid, and Shannon who are discussing the maps. Sayid explains that he thought the equations were coordinates for where the island is located, at first. But then, when he aligned three documents along this triangle thingy, he realized that perhaps they were coordinates for something on the island. Like maybe the radio tower …
And this is when Michael arrives on the scene and gripes that everyone seems to be determined to get themselves eaten by the monster in the jungle. He has a better plan: let’s build a raft! Sayid and Jack are like, yeah, I don’t think that’ll work, yo. The water is rough, and the chances of finding a shipping lane? Not great. Fine! pouts Michael. Don’t help me then. I don’t care. (And interestingly, the exact quote is “Great. Stay here. Grow old. Good luck to you, but I’m doing this.” A clue?)
Armed with his new raft plan, but no one to help him build it, Michael seeks out Walt, who has occupied himself with the comic book. Walt explains that while he doesn’t read Spanish or understand the story, he enjoys looking at the pictures. Michael senses an opening! Why, he was an artist! When he was a little older than Walt, he taught himself about perspective! But Walt? Could care less. So Michael snatches the comic book away, and demands Walt’s help. Tsk, Michael. Looks like you could use a little bit of that perspective right about now.
Michael and Walt scavenge through the wreckage looking for materials with which to make a raft. Or, as Michael puts it, as a means to take control of their destinies, a job that Walt is really not into because he’s a ten-year-old boy. So when Walt sees Locke and Boone head into the jungle, he’s like, I’m outta here, and follows them, lying to his father about going for some water. Which is going to go over really well with Michael.
A side event: Boone is stopped by Shannon who tells him about Michael’s raft idea, an idea that she is eager to help with. Won’t Boone come help her? Nope, says Boone and that’s that, because he’s done with Shannon and always helping/rescuing her, per his vision quest in “Hearts and Minds.” Mission complete, Mr. Locke.
When Walt shows up ready to go knife-throwing again, Locke tells him that they can’t hang out together anymore — they need to respect Michael’s wishes. Too little, too late, however, as Michael discovers the two of them together again. Screaming screaming screaming, a whispered death threat directed at Locke, and Michael has made it fairly clear to everyone in the caves how he feels about the whole situation.
Walt and Michael then get to yell at each other for a while: Walt accuses Michael of never caring about him and not being there when he was growing up. And furthermore, Michael isn’t even his father. Michael REALLY snaps, tosses Walt’s comic book into the fire, and demands that Walt go sit and stay in the caves. Which, of course, Walt isn’t going to do.
Nope, as soon as Michael’s back is turned, Walt takes off with Vincent, and Michael assumes he knows where he went: straight to Locke. Not this time, though. No, Walt’s decided to go out by himself and become polar bear bait, but Locke agrees to help Michael find him: “Let’s go find your boy.”
Lost note: In “Deus Ex Machina,” Cooper takes Locke out hunting as a means to build Locke’s trust and set up the kidney bait. What does Cooper say to Locke as they head out? “Let’s find your bird.” Similar and interesting. Two men head out on an expedition to find something, and the hunt itself brings them together. In both instances, we have fathers and sons who have been estranged and are trying to reconnect. Make of this what you will.
Walt is chased by a polar bear. He hides in a tree.
Which is where Locke and Michael find him, screaming desperately as a giant CGI polar bear frantically claws at the banyan tree. Michael is all ready to throw himself on top of the animatronics, but Locke pulls him back because Locke’s a better person than I am.
Michael and Locke climb a different tree, tightrope their way across a conveniently placed and fortunately-sized branch, and make their way over the polar bear to get to the tree that Walt is hiding in (this? this is really hard to describe, by the way). Locke tosses a knife to Michael, who tosses it down to Walt, who promptly gets stabby with the polar bear’s claw. RWAR! Michael gets down into the tree with Walt, as Locke fashions a rope (?) with some vines (?) that Michael ties around Walt’s waist so as to hoist him out of the tree safely. Michael then stabs the polar bear right on his giant robot snout, RAWWWRRR!!, and the polar bear runs away.
Locke, Michael and Walt, are all safe, and Walt’s very very sorry for running off. But where’s Vincent? Don’t worry, assures Locke. He found his way to you once, he’ll find you again. Because, you see, he’s talking about Michael, and not the dog. Subtle, writers. Que subtle.
At camp, Michael finally gives Walt all the letters he wrote him over the years, and Walt can’t understand why his mother kept them from him all this time. But Michael? Plays the good guy again, and points out that Susan must have wanted Walt to have them one day, because she kept them INSTEAD OF THROWING THEM INTO A BIG FIRE JUST TO MAKE A POINT. MICHAEL.
Only one tiny little subplot in this episode: Claire’s diary and Charlie. Charlie looks for Claire’s belongings. Charlie can’t find Claire’s belongings. Oh! Here are Claire’s belongings! But where is Claire’s diary? Surprise! Sawyer has it. They fight! Charlie takes the diary. Charlie struggles to not read the diary. Charlie can’t help but read the diary. Charlie sees that Claire wrote sweet things about him in the diary. Charlie sees that Claire wrote about having dreams of being taken to the “black rock” where she’s held against her will! Charlie tells Jack and Sayid about the “black rock,” and Jack’s all “whatevs, Junkie.” But Sayid thinks it might be the location of the triangle on the map. But we won’t find Claire by going out to the jungle at night, argues Dr. Smugly McWrongson.
See, but then because Boone and Locke do just that, except they’re looking for Vincent and using that dog whistle that Locke fashioned earlier (remember that whistle? yeah, I barely do, too). Boone’s all, I can’t hear anything. And Locke assures Boone that not all things are meant to be heard. But that rustling in the bushes is audible. Is it Vincent? A polar bear? The monster? Jacob? Nope! It’s Claire! Hi Claire! Long time, no see! You’ve got some … stuff, you know, branches and stuff in your hair …
I have mentioned before in the comment section that I have the best readers and commenters around. This week I’d like to give a little standing ovation to one commenter in particular, Eric, who brought up “liminality” a couple weeks ago. (And to Victor, who made a similar observation in the comments on “The Moth.”) Bravo, Eric! You gave me some really great food for thought that I will now go on and on and ON about.
Two things: 1. I am not too proud to admit that I’d never heard the term before and 2. Nor am I too proud to admit that I was an idiot for not discussing it at greater length last week, because, just, D’OH.
A refresher: the liminal state is a transitory state. The word “liminal” comes from a Latin word that means “threshold.” From Wikipedia.org:
Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of the second stage of a ritual in the theories of Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, and others. In these theories, a ritual, especially a rite of passage, involves some change to the participants, especially their social status.
The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.
People, places, or things may not complete a transition, or a transition between two states may not be fully possible. Those who remain in a state between two other states may become permanently liminal.
The liminal state is the condition of betwixt and between. And it applies to sooooo much on Lost. Consider: the island itself is liminal — the survivors are trapped on this island that is nowhere, really. It is not home, and it’s not a destination. It’s just … in between. The show often uses hotels and airports, again geographical locations that people pass through, but do not live permanently in. “The Seoul (Soul) Gateway Hotel?” Or how about “Not in Portland?” And in this episode, note that Brian’s last name is Porter, a person who carries luggage, often at hotels, train stations, airports, the like. It can also mean “gatekeeper.” Also, look at this screencap of the baby store when Michael and Susan go crib shopping.
Pay close attention to the signage on the walls: Carriers; Travel. This? Not an accident or coincidence. Again, they are suggesting this liminal, transitory state.
Liminality also applies to rituals and periods of one’s life where you are not one thing or another. A graduation ceremony for example. During the ceremony itself, the participant is in the liminal state: they are neither student any longer, but they aren’t a graduate. Similarly, during the actual rites of passage, the young participant is neither a child or a man yet. Take Boone’s vision quest: a perfect example of the liminal state (and why I’m so mad at myself for not discussing it earlier). Not only is Boone changed by the experience, but while he was in the vision quest itself, he was in a total liminal state. The drugged consciousness was neither a dream or waking state, he was in between places.
(And by the way, that phrase “between places,” is used by Charlotte when she tells Eko that she spoke to his dead brother, Yemi. Charlotte, according to her mother, died and was resurrected, of course. And where does she give Eko this information? In an airport.)
Walt, similarly, as an adolescent, is neither a child nor a man. He is on the cusp of puberty and desperate to be included as an adult, even if he’s not quite ready for that just yet. Which, of course, is the central conflict between Michael and Walt, and Michael and Locke. The conflict is because Walt exists in this liminal state, and Michael wants to pull him back toward childhood, whereas Locke is determined to lead him toward adulthood. Locke attempts to guide Walt toward his “path,” as he did with Boone.
Which brings us to Locke as the mentor. Locke seems to take particular interest in aiding young men in finding their paths. He helped Charlie overcome his addiction, he helped Boone overcome Shannon’s distractions, and he wants to help Walt exploit his talents as he is “different.” And in some ways, he serves as a mentor to Michael in how to parent Walt, even if Michael isn’t exactly appreciative of his mentoring.
In the Hero’s Journey (yes, we’re heading back there again), the mentor plays a significant role and gives the hero something that helps the hero along his journey. Think Obi-Won, Gandolf, Dumbledore and Remus Lupin, Merlin. HERE’S WHAT’S COOL! Get this: often mentors in folklore are what are called (ready?) liminal beings. The mentors often exist in two worlds. Merlin was half-man, half-incubus, for example. Or Remus Lupin, who is a werewolf: half-man, half-wolf. Tiresias is another great example: half-man, half-woman. And Locke? Well, in some ways, Locke also exists in two worlds: he is at once paralyzed and not. He has the experience of living in two different worlds and is in some ways as supernatural as any of the creatures listed above.
According to Campbell, the mentor comes along during the hero’s departure: “After the hero has accepted the call, he encounters a protective figure (often elderly) who provides special tools and advice for the adventure ahead, such as an amulet or a weapon.” Which is what Locke does when he arms Walt (and Michael) with the knife.
But it’s important that it is Michael to whom Locke gives the knife, to give to Walt. Michael bestows this knife (which is, of course, a big phallic symbol) upon his son, signifying his willingness to allow Walt to become an adult, to act on his own. As I said, Locke is acting as a mentor to Walt in his journey into adulthood, and to Michael in his journey as a father. This episode, and specifically the entire sequence with the polar bear and the tree, fits neatly into the first part of the monomyth: The Departure.
The Crossing of the First Threshold
The hero must cross the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. Often this involves facing a “threshold guardian”, an entity that works to keep all within the protective confines of the world but must be encountered in order to enter the new zone of experience.
The hero, rather than passing a threshold, passes into the new zone by means of rebirth. Appearing to have died by being swallowed or having their flesh scattered, the hero is transformed and becomes ready for the adventure ahead.
So, crossing the first threshold from the familiar to the unfamiliar (which, of course, is a liminal state): Walt, Michael, and Locke journey into the jungle — the unfamiliar, where they come face to face with the “threshold guardian” — the polar bear. Both Walt and Michael actively confront this creature using the supernatural aid that Locke bestows upon them, allowing them to move forward, both physically and emotionally.
Interestingly, Walt hides inside the tree, which in its confinement is something of a symbolic womb. Note that Locke fashions the rope out of vines, which Michael ties around Walt’s waist. Locke then removes Walt from the tree/womb via the vine-rope/umbilical cord (not that one yanks an umbilical cord to birth a baby, but you get the imagery). Walt is reborn.
Michael also emerges from the trees after facing down the beast: he, too, experiences a rebirth. It is through this shared experience that father and son are able to be reconciled, that Michael proves to Walt that he does indeed care about him. They are given a new start together, a brand new life. It’s the atonement with the father (“The hero reconciles the tyrant and merciful aspects of the father-like authority figure to understand himself as well as this figure.”) yet again.
Michael and Locke’s problems stem from a familiar problem around this blog: transference issues. Michael is transferring his feelings toward Brian Porter, Walt’s adoptive father, to Locke, believing that Locke wants to replace him as a father figure for Walt. What’s interesting is that Brian appears to be just the opposite of Locke. He wants nothing to do with Walt, and finds Walt’s “difference” terrifying, rather than something that should be further developed, as Locke does. (Interesting side note: not once is the term “special” used in this episode. Walt is described by both Locke and Brian as “different.” Which is one of those transference trigger words that sets Michael off.) Far from a mentor figure, Brian actually serves as the “herald” figure in monomyth terminology: he sets both Michael and Walt upon their journey by giving Michael the airline tickets, and instructing him that he is to be Walt’s father.
But here’s the thing, why was Susan Lloyd so opposed to Michael raising Walt? This is something that I’ve never had a satisfactory answer for, and of course this, combined with her sudden death, and Brian’s refusal to raise Walt taken together are seeds for so many conspiracy theories, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. In just practical, story-telling terms, I suppose what happened was that Michael and Walt needed to be separated so as to have this strained relationship that they have to work on while on the island. But, you can’t have Michael be an unsympathetic or unwilling father. Therefore, the only way to work all the pieces is to make Susan out to be a heartless wench who has no compunction about tearing a child away from his father. But still. Something smells fishy to me.
(Excuse me as I adjust my tin-foil hat.) I’ve tossed around the idea that perhaps Susan, like Claire, was given some sort of warning that danger would come to her child were he to be raised by his father. Determined to protect Walt, she made sure that another man adopted her son, so that Michael would have no role in her son’s life. Of course, things have a funny way of working out, don’t they? I could be wrong, but it would certainly help to explain Susan’s strange behavior and it would fit neatly into the pattern of bad things happening to Walt when he’s with Michael. Or it could simply be a means of creating this narrative pattern where Walt is constantly being taken from Michael, and Michael constantly being desperate to retrieve him. This entire episode is, of course, foreshadowing for “Exodus II,” wherein, yet again, Walt is ripped out of Michael’s arms. Again.
Who knows, perhaps Walt and Michael aren’t supposed to be together. Maybe this is all the universe course-correcting itself over and over again, trying to keep the two of them apart. Isn’t it interesting that Michael describes building the raft as taking control of their destinies when Walt asks them what they are doing. Michael, by building that raft, sets into motion the abduction of his son. Which couldn’t possibly be what he meant by taking control of his destiny. Right?
This idea of “making something happen” or “taking control” of one’s destiny is further explored with Walt and his supposed abilities. We don’t know much, but according to Brian, things “happen” around Walt, and we are given the very ambiguous scene wherein the bird crashes into the window when Walt grows angry. Some have suggested that perhaps Walt inadvertently drew the bird to its death, and perhaps mentally drew the polar bear to him, and some have gone even further and suggested that Walt may have had something to do with his mother’s death. We have no evidence for any of these, but! All three instances do have something in common, and that is, while Walt may have made them happen, it was inadvertent. The consequences of his emotions, or whatever it is, were unintentional. He did not mean for the bird to crash into the window, nor for the polar bear to attack, nor for his mother to die — that is if he had anything to do with any of these events. Similarly, Michael has no intention when building the raft for Walt to be taken away by a bunch of scary, bushy fishermen with Molotov cocktails. Unintended consequences. And hardly taking control of one’s destiny … but perhaps that’s what Locke is attempting to hone in Walt, the ability to control this power, and thus actually be able to control his life, his path a little bit better. Make his own kind of music.
(And speaking of suspicious: Susan died yesterday in Australia (presumably) and Brian got on a plane to New York City and managed to arrive the next day? Think about this: his wife dies and the first thing he does is get onto a 20-23 hour-long flight to see the father of his adopted son. How does he manage this? Why does he do this? Did she really die when he said she did? Is she really dead? [Probably.] SUSPICIOUS.)
Two very quick, final thoughts about Claire’s return: in an episode entirely about the return, about reunions, it really shouldn’t have been surprising that Claire would return (but it was). Fitting, though that Claire would return in an episode all about returns. Also, did you catch what Claire had written in her diary?
I call your attention to the “I HATE HIM” in the bottom right corner. Now, my first thought was that this was in reference to Thomas. Which would be relevant in this episode, seeing as Thomas and Michael are being played against each other here. But it only occurred to me later that it could be (but probably isn’t) in reference to her father, Christian. Again, in the context of this episode? It would make perfect sense: a child raging against the father that abandoned him/her.
Now, I know that this episode is high on some fans’ lists, and as such, I’m sure I left out some things that are important to you. Tell me all about it in the comments. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next commenter to get big props!
So, do your eyes and brain need a good scrubbing after having seen Penny Widmore’s “wid” a little “more” than you’d like on Tell Me You Love Me? Well, then a “special” treat for y’all this week! Below is the brainwashing video in its entirety. Apparently, it’s a little goodie that will be included on the Season Three DVDs this December. Watch it and become “The Awakened One.” Or at least cleanse some of those unpure thoughts of Penny from your tainted brain.
(“The Awakened One?” Seriously? As in all those eye-opening shots we’ve had all over this series, including in this episode? Awe. Some.)
And yes, I saw the cheeky Lost shout-out on Chuck this week (note to our editor: we aren’t covering Chuck on Tubular?!). So, you tell me: who shot down Flight 815?
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.