“The 23rd Psalm”
Originally aired January 11, 2006
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
True story: when season two first aired I believed that Mr. Eko wasn’t on 815. Was just certain of it. I had some cockamamie idea that he was on the Nigerian plane, survived that crash, and then rescued folks in 815 and tried to pass himself off as one of them. I don’t know. The point is, this episode came along, and totally blew that theory out of the water, for obvious reasons. And, as anyone who has had anything invested in a theory of this show that was later to be disproved can attest, it’s almost painful when you realize you were WAY WRONG (see: The Benry’s Smokey cave/time-travel incident of season 4). But, in this instance? This episode was so good, so moving, so right, that I didn’t mind being wrong at all. Mr. Eko became one of my favorite characters (if not my favorite — this is my desk at home, note all the Lost junk, including my very own Sawyer Stick. For reals.) [Ed. Note from the Future: Who even knows where this picture disappeared to.] because of this episode. And I still haven’t recovered from his untimely and unexpected (and, I think plot-wise totally wrong) death. R.I.P., Mr. Eko. I still miss you.
We appear to be in Nigeria, where some children are playing soccer. And it could only be more fun for everyone if we had the GOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL!!! guy giving us color commentary, but, alas. Sadly, these happy happy funtimes are interrupted by a bunch of guerillas with guns. As is wont to happen. The thugs hop out of their truck and start rounding up the children, smack people around with their guns — even a priest! — and are making general kinds of mischief. Head Thug Life orders his men to grab a nearby old man, and gives the smallest child, who is clinging to his older (and much larger) brother a gun, and orders the child to shoot the old man. Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, the older brother grabs the gun from his brother’s hand and pulls the trigger himself, killing the old man. Head Thug Life demands to know the child’s name, and he tells him, “Eko.” Head Thug Life then names him “Mr. Eko” (so that’s where the “Mr.” comes from!) and notes that Eko is a “born killer.” Head Thug Life snatches the crucifix off of Eko’s neck, and tosses it into the dust, as he explains that Mr. Eko won’t need it anymore. He loads poor Baby Mr. Eko into the truck and drives him away as his baby brother watches and fishes the necklace out of the dirt.
SADNESS. SUCH SADNESS. UGH.
Lost note: Calling Mr. Eko a “born killer” seems to mirror what Sam Austen says about Kate in “What Kate Did,” implying that she has murder in her heart, and that she would kill Wayne if she knew the truth. Which, you know, she did.
All grown-up now, Mr. Eko has taken over the mantle of Head Thug Life. He and his men head into a bar to buy some drugs from some menacing-looking Moroccans. Eko offers the Moroccans 50-somethings for the heroin as a “favor” to them. But Menacing Moroccans are pretty sure that 50-somethings is a total rip-off, and did Mr. Eko say “favor?” Yes, Mr. Eko did. The Menacing Moroccans have a ton of drugs in a country that has no market for them, and they need to get the drugs out — the only way to do so is on a private plane, and the only private planes allowed to fly are Missionary and UN planes. So, Mr. Eko will do the Menacing Moroccans the favor of taking the drugs off their hands and! as a friendly bonus! pay them 50-somethings. What an awesome deal! The Menacing Moroccans are unhappy and get lippy with Mr. Eko however, and say that it’s true what “they” say about Mr. Eko — that he has no soul. And with that, Mr. Eko in one motion whips out his machete and cuts both Menacing Moroccans’ throats. Thus saving himself 50-somethings. However! The Menacing Moroccans came with a small boy (to a drug deal! at a bar! which just seems like bad parenting, but who am I to judge?), and Mr. Eko’s goons whip out their guns, totally prepared to kill the child. Mr. Eko, however, stops them, and tells the boy to go back and tell his “friends” that Mr. Eko let him live. See? He TOTALLY has a soul. Gah.
Mr. Eko then stops by the old church where he was abducted as a boy. Outside, a woman sells the Virgin Mary statues that we (and Charlie) have come to know and love on the island. For 200 Naira, Mr. Eko can have one of his very own, and the money will go to buying polio vaccines for the children of the village. Before Mr. Eko and his soul can purchase one, however, a young priest exits the church and demands to know what Mr. Eko is doing there. Mr. Eko wants to give his confession. Well, that will take a while. Oh! See! The priest is Mr. Eko’s younger brother Yemi! And they are happy to see one another! How sweet.
However. Yemi is not going to hear Mr. Eko’s confession as that requires a penitent heart, which, along with his soul, Mr. Eko is lacking. Mr. Eko’s all: I just did what I had to do. THUG LIFE. And then he takes the cross that he wore as a boy out of Yemi’s shirt, and reminds Yemi how he came to have it, and asks if what Mr. Eko did that day was a sin, or if it has been forgiven since it was Yemi’s life that was saved. POINT: MR. EKO. And then Mr. Eko gets on with the business at hand: see, he has some drugs? And he was wondering if it would be cool to borrow one of Yemi’s charitable flights to get the drugs out of the country? He’ll totally pay Yemi and everything, and then Yemi can buy his vaccine! What a sweet deal! But Yemi’s not having it and sends Mr. Eko away. For now.
But Mr. Eko is nothing if not persistent, and he returns to the church, this time with goons. Mr. Eko literally yanks Yemi out of the confession booth and demands to know whether his little brother has reconsidered his offer. Yemi still thinks the church isn’t really the ideal organization for drug-running and is going to have to pass this time. Mr. Eko then suggests that Yemi just sign some ordination documents designating Mr. Eko and his goons priests, and they’ll do it themselves? But Yemi is still unmoved. Mr. Eko understands that Yemi lives in a world where good and evil are very far apart, but this is not the real world. So, my goons are totally going to burn down your church if you don’t do this. Faced without much of a choice, Yemi assures Mr. Eko that he could never be a priest, but signs the papers. Mr. Eko buys all the Virgin Mary statues and places the blood money on the table next to Yemi’s Bible. Guess this makes us both sinners now, little brother! Mr. Eko sneers. Yes, but God will forgive Yemi. OOH! IN YOUR FACE, MR. EKO.
Right, so, Mr. Eko and Goldie are in their fauxther collars, loading the drugs into the Beechcraft, when who should drive up but Yemi. Yemi is there to stop Mr. Eko, to save his life, as Mr. Eko once did for him. And Mr. Eko is all WHAAA? Yemi tells Mr. Eko that if he gets on the plane bad badness will happen, and Mr. Eko asks if Yemi has become a prophet, which is not nearly as good a diss as Yemi got in earlier. But Yemi persists, asking to take Mr. Eko’s confession — whatever it will take to keep Mr. Eko off that plane. And that’s when the military dudes show up and start spraying bullets everywhere. Goon #1 is shot, Yemi turns around to yell at the soldiers to cut it out and gets himself shot. Great. So, Mr. Eko and Goldie load Yemi’s body into the plane, but then at the last moment, Goldie kicks Mr. Eko off the plane — literally, with a foot to his chest. OH NOES! and then the plane flies away to a magical island.
Mr. Eko, left behind, is mistaken for a real priest by the soldiers. Which is how he comes to take over Yemi’s church in “Cost of Living”
On the island, Locke changes the combination to the armory’s lock. Michael scowls.
Understanding that Michael was looking for a gun, Locke takes Michael out for a little DHARMA Rhanch dressing target practice. Locke offers that his father used to take him bird hunting, but that birds don’t shoot back. Michael acknowledges that people are talking about how he’s going to go after Walt again, but Locke’s all: I’m above idle gossip, but still, stupid idea, man. KA-BLAM!
On the beach, Kate cuts Sawyer’s hair and informs him that everybody loves him now. Sawyer doesn’t believe it: cue Hurley to walk by and tell Sawyer that he’s glad he’s back. Michael is next, telling Sawyer that he’s glad that Sawyer’s ok, and asks Kate if he can take her shift in the hatch. Heck, yeah! says Kate. Sawyer, in the meantime, makes plans to smoosh some frogs.
In the hatch, Michael goes to check his email, and is interrupted by another IM:
MICHAEL: Are you OK?
>: Yes. Are you alone?
>: Can’t talk long. They’re coming back soon.
MICHAEL: Where are you?
>: You need to com…
Oh, Michael, don’t you know that you shouldn’t chat with strangers online? You may think that you’re talking to a 10-year-old boy, but in reality, it’s some 40-something dude who is going to lure you out to the jungle to knock you unconscious and have his way with you. Don’t you watch Dateline?
Anyway, Jack comes into the computer room, and Michael is all >: JOS (Jack Over Shoulder). Jack starts going on and on and on about how he hasn’t forgotten about Walt and he is going to go get him just as soon as he can, for reals. But Michael can’t focus, because he’s all worried that Jack will see that he’s playing on the computer and be angry. And then Jack does, literally, go around to look over Michael’s shoulder, the computer screen is blank. Good trick, Michael! Howd’ja do that?
Outside of the hatch, Mr. Eko is busy carving his Jesus Stick, when Claire and Aaron stop by to say hello. Claire asks what it is that Mr. Eko is writing, and he responds that it is things he needs to remember. (Interesting.) Claire introduces herself and Turnip Head, and Mr. Eko’s all Oh! Turnip Head! Did you know that’s what they called the brother of Moses? And Claire’s like, yeah, must have been hard to live up to Moses, huh? And here Claire tells Mr. Eko that she chose the name Aaron simply because she liked it, BUT I COULD HAVE SWORN ON A STACK OF BIBLES THAT SHE TOLD SOMEONE IN SEASON ONE THAT IT WAS THE NAME OF HER GRANDFATHER. Never mind that extensive and time-consuming searches of all the transcripts have given me no evidence that this happened, I THINK, NAY, I KNOW THIS HAPPENED AND THEY TOOK IT OUT JUST LIKE THEY DID WITH DANIELLE TELLING SAYID THAT SHE WAS STUDYING TIME AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME OTHERWISE. /rant
That off my chest, Mr. Eko tells Claire that Moses had difficulty speaking and that it was Aaron who communicated for him. And Claire’s like, you know your Bible stories? You should talk with Charlie, seeing he’s some kind of religious nut, what with the carrying around this Virgin Mary statue with him all the time and everything. Weirdo. Mr. Eko perks up and asks to see this statue, and Claire is all, Sure!
She takes him back to her tent and gives him the statue, at which point, Mr. Eko gets all wiggy and shouty and demands to know where Charlie found it. I dunno? the jungle? answers Claire who doesn’t quite understand why Mr. Eko is going bezerker, and so he smashes the statue, and shows her the heroin inside and she’s like Oooohhhh … Yeah. I think you and your Jesus Stick should have a chat with Charlie.
Charlie is helping Jin fish, or, rather, singing The Kink’s “He’s Evil” at Jin as Jin fishes. Mr. Eko STOMP STOMP STOMPS towards them, shows Charlie the shard of the Virgin Mary statue, and demands to know where Charlie found it, and that Charlie take him there. Charlie promises to take him in the morning — no deal. Now. Fine, agrees Charlie, but he should talk to Claire first, lest she get the wrong idea. Oh, Charlie. I think the idea that Claire has at the moment is anything but wrong.
Claire, in fact, utters these same statements to Charlie when he stops by the tent, and Charlie claims he had no idea the heroin was in the statue. How could he? They were all sealed up. Nice try, Hobbit, but Claire ain’t buying it. Run along with the large man and the club, now. Claire’s done with you.
Pouting the entire time, Charlie walks Mr. Eko a little ways out into the jungle to some random spot and is like, well, here’s where I found the statue, but Mr. Eko knows Charlie’s lying because Charlie’s a terrible liar, and he demands to know where the plane is. See, because Mr. Eko suffers no fools. And he certainly doesn’t suffer them gladly. Charlie’s like, Ah. You know about the plane. Huh. Mr. Eko is like, hells yeah I know about the plane, and speaking of lies, why did you lie to Claire?
And Charlie STILL ISN’T GETTING IT, as he tries to lie to Mr. Eko AGAIN, but Mr. Eko reminds Charlie that he mentioned Claire not getting the wrong impression long before he saw the drugs. ERGO: Charlie knew there were drugs in the Virgin Mary and he’s a big lying liarpants liar. And a terrible one to boot. But as Charlie begins sputtering his way out of the conversation, Mr. Eko spots Smokey zip through the trees. Charlie’s all WOT? WOT? but Mr. Eko just orders that they keep on moving. Charlie, in response, pouts.
After a bit more walking, Charlie stops for a water break and insists to Mr. Eko that he’s not who Mr. Eko thinks he is — it’s all his brother’s fault. Charlie was a good person, an altar boy, that is, until his brother started using. SO YEAH, MAYBE HE KNEW WHAT WAS INSIDE THE STATUE. SO. WOT. It’s not like Charlie needed it or anything.
But, once again, Mr. Eko isn’t paying much attention to Charlie’s BLAH BLAH BLAH, because he spies something much more interesting — this time a parachute in the trees. Soon after, Mr. Eko discovers the skeleton that Locke and Boone had found back in “Deus Ex Machina”. Mr. Eko rips open the skeleton’s shirt (EWWW.), and then notices the skeleton’s gold tooth. Hey! It’s Goldie! This is the man that saved my life, Mr. Eko explains to Charlie. Well, sure. That makes sense.
Which is exactly what Charlie says, as Mr. Eko prays over Goldie’s body. Amen. Hey! Mr. Eko! Are you a priest?
Back to the jungle. Charlie admits that he’s lost (oh, in more ways than one, little Hobbit), and has no idea where the plane is. Mr. Eko, in response, orders him to climb a tree — maybe he’ll spot the tree from there. Charlie CONTINUES TO ARGUE with the large man with the large Jesus Stick, which is equal parts scripture and blood. As Charlie climbs up the tree, wondering just what kind of priest Mr. Eko is, exactly, Mr. Eko surveys their surroundings.
And it isn’t long before CLICKETY CLICKETY CLICK, it’s Smokey! The ground starts exploding all over the place, then suddenly it’s Smokey-cam as we rush towards Mr. Eko from Smokey’s perspective and RING RING! RING RING! Can someone get that? It’s Sam Raimi, he wants his cinematography back. KTHNXBAI. Anyway, Smokey stares down Mr. Eko and Mr. Eko stares right back, and as we move around their “heads” or whatever, we see flashes of light and images from Mr. Eko’s memory inside Smokey. Things Mr. Eko needs to remember, indeed. And then Smokey retreats back into the jungle. Bye Smokey! Mr. Eko will check back in with you in a few weeks!
Charlie scurries down the tree, and Mr. Eko asks him if he saw “it.” Charlie assures him that he did, and wants to know what, exactly, Mr. Eko did, after all, most people run the opposite direction when confronted by Smokey, not engage it in a staring contest. Yes, well, Mr. Eko was not afraid. So, did Charlie see the plane, or what? In fact, he did. Let’s go!
Lost note: Again, we have two people who share an experience seeing something that is improbable — and Mr. Eko almost is seeking assurance that Charlie saw it. Just like Kate and Sawyer, and Shannon and Sayid.
After some more tromping through the jungle, there’s the Beechcraft.
Mr. Eko enters the plane, sees his own handprint in Yemi’s blood on the inside door panel, he finds the Virgin Mary statues, and then the body. Mr. Eko carefully approaches the body, gently opens the shirt, and there it is … Mr. Eko’s cross that he lost so long ago, and that his brother saved.
Mr. Eko takes his brother’s body into his arms and begins to weep, and asks his brother to forgive him. SAD SADNESS.
After explaining to Charlie that the body is that of his brother, he places a Virgin Mary statue on his brother’s chest and pulls the fuel line. Mr. Eko leaves the plane, and hands Charlie a Virgin Mary statue, to replace the one of Charlie’s that he broke earlier. MISTAKE, MR. EKO.
Mr. Eko then sets the plane ablaze, and as he places his brother’s cross around his neck, Charlie asks him if he is a priest or not. Yes, Mr. Eko affirms. He is. And as the plane burns, he recites the 23rd Psalm and I cry and cry.
Lost note: This is yet another funeral pyre, much like the funeral the Fuselagers held soon after the crash. The Fuselagers burned the plane as a practical measure: too many dead bodies rotting in the sun and attracting predators. But here, Yemi’s body is so decomposed that there is no practical reason for the funeral, it’s merely symbolic and religious. Fire, like water, is a symbol of transformation and rebirth – think the Phoenix which rises from the ashes to be born again.
MONTAGE TIME! Jin and Sun bring Ana a fish; Hurley helps Libby with her tent; Jack hands Sawyer some antibiotics as Kate looks on.
Charlie, having returned from his expedition with Mr. Eko, approaches Claire who is busy tossing all of his stuff out of her tent. He tries to explain that it made him feel safer to have the Virgin Mary around, but Claire? Not interested. She wants him away from her and the baby.
So Charlie skulks off into the jungle and takes his new Virgin Mary statue to his hidden stash of Virgin Marys. Where there are many statues. Many many.
This episode is so powerful and moving because at heart it is about the complicated and enduring fraternal love between Mr. Eko and Yemi, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for each other, it’s simply heart-rending. Sibling relationships and rivalries are common stories in mythology and folklore: Romulus and Remus, Balin and Balan from the Arthurian legends, Cain and Abel.
The common denominator with these stories is that one of the brothers kills the other (if not each other, as in the Balin and Balan story) in a fit of jealousy, or for power. Now, while Mr. Eko didn’t kill Yemi in a jealous snit, he does, literally, have Yemi’s blood on his hands. (Of course, the biblical brothers that are actually mentioned by name in this episode are Aaron and Moses, who have a relatively strong bond, and manage to not kill one another.)
The Biblical story that is most relevant to this episode is the Jacob and Esau story, however. A refresher (although if you’re reading this blog, I seriously doubt you need it): So, Isaac and Rebekah have these twins, Esau and Jacob, who before they were born fought within the womb. In fact, when they were born, Jacob was hanging onto Esau’s heel, trying to prevent his big brother from being born first — thus Jacob means “heel” or “grasping at the heel.” Right, so, Esau was a brute, and not very bright, but he was his dad’s favorite, whereas Jacob was smaller, more of a thinker, and a momma’s boy.
One day, Esau came back from a big day of hunting wolves from a helicopter and was FAMISHED, so Jacob was like, well, what do you know, but would you look at all this red soup I have? Tell you what, you sell me your birthright as the first-born son, and I’ll totally load you up with delicious red soup. DEAL, says Esau. But it’s not that easy to steal your dimwitted brother’s birthright — it doesn’t exactly work that way, because Isaac still has a say in the matter, being the owner of said birthright. So, sometime later, Isaac was old and blind and thinking about death as the aged are wont to do, and he’s like, I better bless Esau before I kick it. So he sends Esau out hunting so that Esau can prepare a meal for the blessing. Rebekah, however, overhears this and tells Jacob to go pretend to be Esau to steal the blessing. Jacob is like, yeah see, Esau is a hirsute, and dad might catch onto me. So Rebekah, who gets off rather easy in this whole story considering just how schemey she is here, covers Jacob in goat skins and sends him into Isaac’s tent with some food.
Isaac asks who’s there, since Esau shouldn’t be back yet, as he just left like 5 minutes ago, and Jacob is all “I am Esau, your firstborn.” But Isaac’s not buying it and demands to feel his son’s hands. So Jacob allows his father to feel his goat pelt (I mean, SERIOUSLY? Just how hairy was Esau? Robin Williams hairy?) and Isaac’s all, alright, I guess I have to bless you then, and he does, and Jacob’s all “SCORE!” But then Esau comes home and is HELLAMAD. But Isaac’s all “whaddya gonna do?” And Esau is all, oh I’ll tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to kill my pencil-necked twerp of a brother is what I’m going to do. Fast-forward to some time later: Jacob’s married to two chicks and has had a mess of kids, and Esau shows up with 400 men to kick some baby brother tail. Jacob sends his brother a bunch of goats or something, and then wrestles with the angel (or maybe it’s God, who can say) and receives his new name: “Israel.” And just as he’s preparing for a smackdown courtesy of his brother, Esau apparently is moved by the goats, changes his mind about the whole killing his kid brother thing, the two are reunited and it’s all cool.
RIGHT, SO. Mr. Eko and Yemi swap birthrights, but out of an act of love, not jealousy. Mr. Eko, back when he was Young Eko, steps in and takes his brother’s place when the Very Bad Thugs arrive at the church, thereby changing Eko and Yemi’s fates forever. Mr. Eko takes Yemi’s destiny from him, and in exchange, Yemi literally takes up the cross, and what might have been Eko’s fate. Mr. Eko becomes the thug that Yemi presumably would have become had he been the one to kill the old man, and Yemi becomes the priest that Mr. Eko presumably might have become had he not protected his younger brother.
This is very similar to the dynamic between Charlie and his brother Liam. Charlie is the religious “good boy” and “family man” according to his brother, but when Liam sings Charlie’s lines in concert, it begins a downward spiral for Charlie, leading to his drug abuse. Liam, however, ends up putting his life back together and becomes the family man that he once suggested Charlie was meant to be. Fascinatingly, it is on the island that both Charlie and Mr. Eko reclaim their original identities: Mr. Eko asserts that he is a priest, and Charlie becomes a family man, taking care of Claire and Aaron. (Well, off and on.)
Thus, identity is fluid, but destiny is not. Charlie is both the drug addict and the family man. And Mr. Eko is the world he describes to his brother Yemi: equal parts righteousness and evil. He is a murderer and a man of God, he is a loving brother and a dangerous threat, Mr. Eko’s soul (and he does indeed have one, contrary to popular belief amongst certain sketchy Moroccans) is both black and white.
And his staff is such a lovely symbol of that duality: it is covered in the word of God, and blood. We’ve discussed staves before, but particularly in this episode, the imagery of Mr. Eko’s Jesus Stick can’t be overstated. Staves are symbols of power — namely male power, as they are phallic. But they are also the symbol of the shepherd. We are most familiar with the metaphor of Jesus as the kindly shepherd of our souls. But interestingly, this image can be traced back to Ancient Egypt to Osiris, whose emblems were the crook and flail, and he was known as the “Good Shepherd,” as he was the shepherd and judge of Egyptian souls. Thus, the shepherd’s crook is an ancient power symbol of a leader who can commune between this world and the next. And it’s no coincidence that the first words of the eponymous prayer of this episode are “The Lord is my Shepherd …” and goes on to say “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The staff, the rod, the Jesus Stick is a powerful symbol of this show, and I believe, this Island.
Eko’s staff is not the only staff or rod on the show. You could go so far as to suggest that Benry’s Sawyer Stick is a staff of sorts — a symbol of Benry’s authority and dominance (at least over poor Sawyer, and those Bedouins), and then there is the Caduceus, which we’ll see a lot more of in later episodes, but we have already seen.
The Caduceus is used as a symbol of medicine — although many believe that the proper medical symbol is the Rod of Asclepius. Asclepius was the Greek God of healing, and was the son of Apollo and a nymph. Asclepius was so skilled as a healer that he brought a patient back from the dead. This, however, ticked off Zeus (but what didn’t, for serious) and so he killed Asclepius. However, for reasons that are sorta unclear, the Caduceus became the default symbol of most medical organizations. The Caduceus is a Hermetic symbol — in fact, it is Hermes’ symbol. And guess what Hermes was the God of? Wisdom, boundaries and borders, travelers, and shepherds. Hermes was given the staff from Tiresias, the blind seer who revealed to Oedipus his fate: apparently, Tiresias found two snakes copulating on the road, and he drove his staff between them. But the joke was on Tiresias, who promptly turned into a woman. Which he remained for 7 years until he found two more snakes going at it, drove his staff between them, and became a man again. Thus, the staff is a symbol of tremendous transformative powers.
ANYWAY. To make a long story short, the Caduceus, the Jesus Stick, they are both symbols of healers, of transformers. The Caduceus is the symbol of the person who can physically heal. And the shepherd’s staff is a symbol of a person who can spiritually heal. But on this island, the Caduceus, as we will later learn, is also a symbol of death, just as Mr. Eko’s Jesus Stick is … Thus, the staff is a very loaded symbol: a symbol of power, and dominance, protection, and healing, as well as a symbol of a connection between the afterworld and this life. Kind of like the island itself.
Speaking of the island and duality: this is the closest up that we’ve ever seen Smokey, and what a fascinating encounter it was! Mr. Eko’s memories flash within Smokey — the question is why? How? What is going on here? When the episode originally aired, I was certain that Smokey was somehow downloading Mr. Eko’s memories. Now? Not so sure. With what we know about the time elements on the show, I’m beginning to wonder if Smokey isn’t something … else.
What if when Mr. Eko stares into the abyss that is Smokey, when he stares into the Shadow of the Valley of Death (calm down, I know I got that wrong*), he’s staring into himself? What if, and I’m kinda confusing myself here, but what if Smokey is some sort of mass of spiritual energy or consciousness, and it can slip through time, so that it is Dead Mr. Eko staring into Alive Mr. Eko? What Mr. Eko is staring into is his own soul? It doesn’t make much sense, I know, but I’ve always been haunted by Mr. Eko and Locke’s conversation in “The Cost of Living:”
LOCKE: So, what exactly did you see back there? I saw it once, you know.
MR. EKO: And what did you see?
LOCKE: I saw a very bright light. It was beautiful.
MR. EKO: That is not what I saw.
… and I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Eko is referring to his own soul.
*Interestingly, this is how Mr. Eko repeats it during the Beechcraft fire. Darlton admitted that it was a mistake, but kept it because it demonstrates that Mr. Eko isn’t actually a priest. I like it because Smokey just might be the Shadow of the Valley of Death.
And why doesn’t Smokey kill Mr. Eko right then and there? It’s an interesting question, especially in light of the fact that Smokey will kill Mr. Eko three short weeks later. So what’s different here? The scene is similar to the moment in the bar when Mr. Eko spares the boy. Mr. Eko could kill the child, but he chooses not to. Smokey could kill Mr. Eko, but he chooses not to.
Honestly, I think the answer has more to do with the fact that the writers had a different path for Mr. Eko that was diverted by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s departure, which we’ll discuss later. Or it could be that Smokey, as some have suggested, functions as a sort of course-corrector and that it wasn’t Mr. Eko’s time yet, he still had work to do, like Michael or Locke. Or it could be that it was downloading Mr. Eko’s consciousness and memories, as a means to collect material to use against him to make him do its bidding, disposing of him once he’s fulfilled his or the Island’s purpose. Who can say?
Speaking of “The Cost of Living,” it was only upon rewatching this episode that I noticed the emphasis on confession in this particular episode. Yemi refuses to take Mr. Eko’s confession because he does not have a penitent heart. And later, Yemi offers to take his brother’s confession if it will keep Mr. Eko off the plane.
In “The Cost of Living,” Mr. Eko meets both Smokey and his brother again, and Yemi demands that Mr. Eko confess his sins. When Mr. Eko refuses to confess, arguing that he did the best with the destiny he was given — an argument that he makes in this episode as well. Yemi, who then responds “You speak to me as if I were your brother.” which suggests that he isn’t, then becomes (?) summons (?) Smokey, who proceeds to kill Mr. Eko. Interestingly, we have one other instance of a formal confession take place on the show: Charlie’s flashback in “The Moth” begins with Charlie in a confessional when his brother arrives to inform him that they landed a record deal.
It’s not just formal, Catholic confession that is a theme on the show (although the imagery of the confessional booth — the small dark space that one enters and sheds one’s sins — is certainly symbolic), as we’ve discussed a little this season with Ana Lucia and Sayid. Sayid, the man who in Iraq tortured confessions out of prisoners, encourages both Ana Lucia and Charlie to not isolate themselves, to share their burdens with others. And Kate, in “What Kate Did,” is finally (sorta) freed of her own burden when she confesses her sins to SawyerWayne in the hatch (again, a small, dark enclosure that Kate leaves soon after, a little freer of her sins). It’s a spiritual cleansing, starting refreshed, washing one’s soul of sin. Like the snakes that curl around the Caduceus, and shed their skin, confession is an act of transformation — transformation of the self.
But here’s where I struggle, and why I mentioned in the introduction that I thought Mr. Eko’s death in the next season is so problematic: in this episode, there is this recurring motif that people are pretending to be something that they are not. Goldie and Mr. Eko don priestly collars, but they are no priests. Mr. Eko seeks out the cross on both Goldie’s and his brother’s bodies, looking for that true identifier of goodness, of truth. The “pretending” theme, which is carried out later with the Others (and to a lesser extent is also played out with Sawyer in this episode, as he realizes that people like him, that he has become someone else in a way) is a major one on the show, as we’ve discussed many many times. Kate pretends to be marriage material. Sawyer pretends to be someone else in all of his cons. (As does Benry.) Hurley pretends that he’s not worth millions of dollars. And on and on and on … And so, one could argue that Mr. Eko is merely pretending to be a priest. Which is entirely true.
EXCEPT. The point of this episode, as far as I can tell, is that it was Mr. Eko’s destiny to be on this island. As it was his brother’s. When Young Eko steps into his brother’s place and kills the old man, he assumes his brother’s responsibilities, his destiny. But he doesn’t avert it. Yemi is still killed in the process of a drug deal, and Mr. Eko still becomes a spiritual leader, albeit only truly on the island. They both come to be on the island via plane crashes — they were meant to be there. It’s the fulfillment of their destinies. (Question: Now that we know the island can “move,” did the Beechcraft crash onto the island, or did the island crash onto the Beechcraft? Does it matter?)
Just as Charlie was able to fulfill his destiny to be a family man and hero on the island, Mr. Eko is supposed to be a spiritual leader, a guide, a priest. And yet, he is killed by Smokey a few weeks later because he refuses to confess, to repent his sins, sins for which he begs his brother for forgiveness in this episode. And considering this episode is about forgiveness to some degree: Jin and Sun bring that fish to Ana Lucia as an act of welcome and forgiveness; Jack gives Sawyer meds, no questions asked; and Hurley and Michael both assure Sawyer that they’re happy he’s OK, he’s forgiven, so it’s not a stretch to believe that Mr. Eko is sincere when he pleads with his brother to forgive him. Mr. Eko, I believe, wanted to be forgiven and leave his sin behind. I truly believe that Mr. Eko, much like Locke, was supposed to find his faith on the island, and be a significant player in the island’s destiny. Mr. Eko was meant to be on the island — it was his fate. But, unfortunately for all of us, and the story the creators originally had intended for the island, Hawaii wasn’t Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s fate.
And it just leaves me sad and wondering what might have been.
Alright. ARG news: On September 2, the following video was placed on dharmawantsyou.com:
So, what I find interesting here for a reason we can discuss in bit, is that we are still discussing an individual who is trying to infiltrate and expose The DHARMA Initiative. Hmmm ….
On September 3, Test 3 was released, in which one has to manipulate a little DHARMA symbol to avoid collision with some balls that are bouncing around. The cheat this time lies in the language of the test description: the use of the words “adroit” and “dexterity” in the description of the test are your clues. “Adroit” comes from the French, meaning “to the right” and “dexterity” comes from the Latin root for right. If you right-click your mouse while playing the game, and then left-click, you can bump up the timer, or move the DHARMA logo out of the way and essentially get a perfect score. Also, there is a clue in the video that spells out BPM 40-60, which in music terms corresponds to “lento” or “slow.” By typing lento over and over again, you can slow down the balls.
I, however, am a tool, and I don’t cheat. As a result, I have 0 DHARMA points so far, and in this last outing found myself placed in the Otus group. Otus was a mythological giant. AND SO RELEVANT TO THIS EPISODE! Check it out: Otus and his brother Ephialtes, who is another group on this test, end up killing each other while trying to throw spears at Artemis. Brothers who kill one another … The other groups are Tityos, another giant who was killed by Apollo and Artemis after he tried to kidnap their momma Letos, and was condemned to Hades for all eternity where an eagle eats his liver every day. Eesh. The last giant that is used as a group is Antaeus, who Heracles defeated in a wrestling match. In The Divine Comedy, Antaeus guards the ninth circle of Hell.
Now! the reason I thought the video is interesting, and is the underlying story that is going on with the DHARMA project: that someone, “Black Swan,” is investigating and attempting to expose the truth about the DHARMA Initiative. This is similar to the previous two ARGs. Both The Lost Experience, and Find 815 focus on a central figure who doesn’t believe the story that is being told, about the disappearance of Alvar Hanso, and Flight 815 respectively, and they actively seek out the truth. Apparently, at Comic-Con, there was a video played before the Lost panel that DarkUFO just found and posted:
[Ed. Note from the Future: This video is lost to time, and I have no idea what was even in it, so searching for it is next to impossible.]
(Note: I’m only really interested in this first part of the video, not that the part about the Freighties isn’t interesting. I suspect that both clips will be on the season 4 DVDs …)
NOW! This is intriguing! And it reminds me of the scene in “Eggtown” where a stranger yells “WE HATE YOU!” but backwards at Kate. And it makes me wonder if there isn’t going to be a group, much like Lawnmower Man, who question the truth of Flight 815, and the Oceanic 6’s story, that will be a part of the plot for the remainder of the series. Guess we have to wait another 5 months (UGH) to find out.
And before we leave, Mr. T’s Lost Blog. Sorta.
So, Mr. T and I were discussing this episode, particularly in relation to the confrontation between Mr. Eko and Smokey, and how it relates to the concept of Grace, the idea that God loves us and grants us forgiveness even when we don’t deserve it, because these are honestly the kinds of things we chat about because we’re just so very cool and not huge dorks. ANYWAY. We started discussing the 23rd Psalm as a prayer, and Mr. T, who is much more educated in religion than I am, mentioned how powerful the prayer is for him. How it is both comforting, but also scary, like “whistling through a graveyard,” which I thought was spot-on. The prayer is about how while you have reason to be afraid, you aren’t because you know that you are protected by God — kinda like Mr. Eko and his calm and unafraid show-down with Smokey. Though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, Mr. Eko fears no evil. And Mr. T went on to say that the prayer always makes him think of Hank William’s “I Saw the Light:”
Nice, Mr. T! Very apt! Maybe I should have just embedded that video as the entire entry and saved everyone about 7,000 words.
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.