‘Lost’: Leaves you answered with a question mark

Lost
“?”
Originally aired May 10, 2006

The density of this episode is staggering and daunting. Add to this the pressure to finish this season in a handful of days (and I’m so close, SO CLOSE!), and the fact that there are some things that happen in the first two episodes of the new season that are related to this episode…well, what you get is a heady brew of writer’s block. What can I say? What can’t I say? Where do I begin?

And because I’m stuck, perhaps it will be helpful to go back.

we have to go back jack lost

Maybe it’s always best to go back.

I think it might be useful to begin with a timeline of Mr. Eko’s life: As a child, Eko and his younger brother, Yemi, were orphans at a Catholic church in Nigeria somewhere. One day, some bad guerrillas left the set of 24 and decided to raid their church, looking to recruit child soldiers. Their first choice was Yemi, whom they asked to shoot an old man, but Eko stepped in, shot the man, and saved his brother. He was then taken by the guerrillas, because, no duh. Yemi remained at the church and grows up to become a priest. But Mr. Eko becomes a warlord himself, dealing drugs and cutting people’s heads off with machetes. He’s a very bad man.

One day, Mr. Eko has a drug shipment that he needs to get out of the country, but due to Nigeria’s rather strict aviation laws, he can’t just load up a plane and fly them away. So he comes up with Plan B: use his brother to give him paperwork which would claim Mr. Eko and his men are priests. Yemi does so, mostly to prevent Mr. Eko’s goons from burning down his church, but then rats Mr. Eko out as he and his men are loading up their plane. Yemi is accidentally shot and killed on the tarmac, and Mr. Eko’s men load him into the plane but kick Mr. Eko out because they are bad. The plane takes off, and Mr. Eko, left behind on the tarmac, is mistaken for a priest by the soldiers.

He returns to Yemi’s church, where he takes up his brother’s position, but he has every intention of leaving. There are some shenanigans involving a shipment of vaccines that Mr. Eko plans to sell on the black market because he’s still kinda bad. But then some other, new warlords (this time really led by the 24 guy, no joke) appear and demand the medicine, not realizing that Mr. Eko is THAT Mr. Eko. Mr. Eko kills them inside the church, which, while understandable, is uncool. He tries to justify his actions to a parishioner who remains unimpressed and explains that regardless of his reasons, killing a bunch of people inside the church desecrates it. SO THANKS FOR THAT. She also informs Mr. Eko that he owes his brother a church now, already.

In the meantime, the plane that has Mr. Eko’s brother’s body in it has, improbably, crashed on this wackadoodle island out in the Pacific (?) somewhere, where Locke discovers it after having a vision of it. Locke, whose leg is injured, sends Boone up to explore the plane, which landed/crashed precariously on the edge of a cliff. This, however, doesn’t end well for Boone, as he and the plane fall of the cliff, mortally wounding Boone. Once Mr. Eko arrives on the island and discovers that Charlie has a Virgin Mary statue that was from his original drug shipment, he demands that Charlie take him to where he found it. Charlie does, Mr. Eko takes the cross from Yemi that Yemi had taken from him as a child, and Mr. Eko buries (read: sets on fire the plane that his brother’s body is in) his brother at long last.

WHEW. OK.

So, Mr. Eko apparently left Nigeria at some point after the viciously-murdering-a-bunch-of-dudes incident in his brother’s church but kept up the priest business. He was stationed (? what do they call it when priests are assigned to particular parishes? I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know) in Australia. Sydney, in fact. At his church, he hears the confession of some guy who seems rather flip about the whole confessional thing, and Mr. Eko instructs him that for confession to work, the confessor has to actually feel bad about the sins he’s committed. O RLY? Like using a forged passport?

As it turns out, the confessor is a shady character named Caldwell who has procured a fake passport for Mr. Eko who intends to go to Los Angeles. Caldwell informs Mr. Eko that he has friends in L.A., in case Mr. Eko might be looking for something to do, and I have to say, it’s difficult to read Mr. Eko here: is he genuinely interested, or disgusted by Caldwell’s suggestion? Very nuanced, Mr. Eko. Very nuanced.

Lost note: There are a few parallels here with Eko’s fake passport:

1. the papers that Yemi signed falsely designating Mr. Eko and his men as priests

the 23rd psalm lost yem eko papers

2. Benry’s vast collection of false passports discovered by Sayid in “The Economist,”

the economist lost ben passport

and 3. Joanna’s (the woman who drowned that Boone tried to save, only to nearly drown himself) passport that Kate stole in the attempts to use herself in the event of rescue.

It also ties into the larger themes of false identity, as we’ve seen with so many characters: Sawyer’s use of a pseudonym; Ana and Christian’s false names for each other; the Others’ costumes and fake beards; Benry/Fenry/Henry Gale; Anthony Cooper’s fake names; etc. and so forth.

Just then, the Monsignor arrives, and Mr. Eko explains that Caldwell is helping Mr. Eko arrange his trip to California, which isn’t strictly untrue, I suppose. But, um, yeah, about your trip, Father Tunde (wait, who? Tunde?). It’s going to have to be delayed. There’s a miracle in da house!

Lost note: Up to this point, the only name we had for Mr. Eko, was, well, Eko. Is Tunde his real last name or is this merely another alias? Dunno. And I suppose we never will. What is interesting? Tunde is a Nigerian name that means “return.”

Monsignor introduces Mr. Eko to a woman, Joyce, who claims that her daughter, Charlotte (*COUGH*) drowned in a river and died, but then the next day she came back to life. PRAISE BE! Mr. Eko looks at her askance and asks her what her husband thinks of all this. But Joyce brushes the question away and insists that a miracle has taken place and the WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW! Monsignor kindly explains to Mrs. Malkin (WAIT–WHAT?!) that they can’t just go around announcing miracles, that they have to investigate the circumstances first. And this will be Father Tunde’s job. Mr. Eko is like, “exsqueeze me?” and Monsignor explains that it is precisely because Mr. Eko is a skeptic that he has assigned him to investigate Charlotte’s case.

Lost note #1: Lost loves nothing more than reusing names, and here we are with Charlotte. Obviously, we have this Charlotte. Charlotte is the feminized Charles, which means “free man.” And, of course, we have Charles Widmore and Charlie Pace. But! There’s another Charles running around: Father Chuck is the name of the priest that “buries” Anthony Cooper in “Lockdown!” True story!

Lost note #2: Wait. Did the Monsignor call this woman Mrs. Malkin? As in Richard Malkin? (Yes.)

Lost note #3: I was surprised to watch this episode again and to note the striking similarity in the looks of Monsignor here, and Desmond’s Brother Campbell from “Catch-22.” There are plenty of other priests on the show, including the aforementioned Father Chuck; Charlie’s priest in “The Moth”; and Hurley mentions Father Aguilar as the priest that presided over his grandfather’s funeral in “Numbers.”

Mr. Eko’s first stop is at the medical examiner’s office, where he has a chat with Dr. Ian McVay. (Note: that link has nothing to do with Lost. However, I had just finished typing this paragraph, had gone to play on the web and this was LITERALLY THE FIRST THING I READ. oooo-WEEEEE-oooo! Also, nice, Sallie Mae. Nice.)

Dr. McVay explains that Charlotte was brought in late that night — she had drowned and had been in the water for two hours. So she was really quite good and dead. Mr. Eko asks when Dr. McVay discovered that she wasn’t dead, and Dr. McVay explains it was during the autopsy. WHA? And he has an audiotape to prove it. McVay brings out a tape player (remember those?) and plays a recording for Mr. Eko. Which IS REALLY FREAKING CREEPY AND UPSETTING, on which McVay agrees with me, and he tells Mr. Eko to keep the tape, because shudder.

lost ? audiotape

Lost note: The Whispers folks over on The Fuselage found the following in the audio:

Doctor: This is a Caucasian female. She’s 161 cm, 51.3 kilos, body prepped and washed by the very lovely Valerie McTavish

Assistant: Ian, stop it

Doctor: Commencing with the post

Whisper: That’s her (or) That’s enough

Doctor: This is a clear case of drowning. I’ll begin with a thoracic…

Charlotte Malkin: John! (screaming)

Whisper: She’s alive

Whisper: How will we know

Assistant: Oh my God!

Doctor: Valerie!

Assistant: She’s Alive!

Doctor: I think she’s trying…

Charlotte Malkin: Let John Locke go (on)!

Whisper: She’s not dead

Whisper: I found it

Doctor: Try and calm down

(Assistant screaming stop, stop)

Doctor: Valerie get… she’s crying, don’t just stand there do something!

Whisper: We’re sending them in (or) Let’s hear what she says

…um, what?

Stop #2: The Malkin home. Mr. Eko arrives to find a really weird looking young woman on the front porch who stares into him in a really weird way. (Charlotte, honey, the smokey-eyed look is hot and all, but try not to go overboard.)

lost ? charlotte malkin dead eyes

But before Mr. Eko can speak to her, Joyce hurries out of the house and tells Mr. Eko that it isn’t a good time. And that’s because her husband, CLAIRE’S PSYCHIC, Richard Malkin is home and in no mood to talk about his daughter’s “miracle.” Mr. Eko informs Malkin that the doctor that treated Charlotte thinks something miraculous happened to her, but Malkin argues that McVay is just trying to cover up his own negligence. According to Malkin, Charlotte never died, she just was hypothermic, which made her appear dead. O.K., but why is Joyce all hot and bothered that this is a miracle? Malkin then explains this away: his wife is doing all this to spite him. See, he’s a fraud. He pretends to be a psychic, but in reality, all he’s doing is gathering intelligence on people which he uses to exploit them. Malkin explains that there are a lot of people looking for a miracle, but there aren’t any to be had. Not in this world, he adds. Good enough for Mr. Eko! Case closed!

Lost note: And Malkin’s line here about “gathering intelligence” on people to manipulate them? Has Benry Linus ALL OVER IT, as we’ll come to learn in the next season.

Off to Los Angeles for Mr. Eko! He’s at the airport, presumably somewhere near Jack laying into poor, stressed Chrissy the ticket agent, when who should arrive but Charlotte. She explains to Mr. Eko that she has a message for him: “he says you were a good priest.” And Mr. Eko is like “O YA? SEZ WHO?” And Charlotte tells him the message is from Yemi. This? Does not go over well with Mr. Eko who thinks IT’S TOTALLY UNCOOL FOR THIS WOMAN TO BE TALKING ABOUT HIS BROTHER. Charlotte goes on to explain that she saw Yemi when she was “between places” and that Yemi told her that Mr. Eko would come to see her. Yemi also told her that even though Mr. Eko was pretending, he is a good man. And that Yemi will see him soon. Oh, and also, that even though Mr. Eko doesn’t have faith in himself, Yemi has faith in him. Mr. Eko FREAKS OUT and starts yelling at her, which is when Libby walks over and asks if everything is OK. Charlotte tells Mr. Eko once again that Yemi has faith in him, and that one day, Mr. Eko will believe her.

CHILLS.

Lost note: I have many many times mentioned Charlotte’s line about being “between places,” because I think it’s very very important. As such, I know you’ve heard it all before. But! A refresher: Charlotte is referring to being in the place between life and death, some unknown realm, a liminal place. Hotels and airports, like the one Mr. Eko is in when he is confronted by Charlotte, are liminal spaces. The island is liminal. Mr. Eko, in this episode, is emotionally liminal: he is neither the murderous warlord he once was, but he is not quite the good man he pretends to be. Not yet. I, of course, also think that this “between places” that Charlotte speaks of somehow applies to Claire in season four; that she is neither alive nor dead, but somewhere in between. (But we can talk more about that once the new season starts. Ahem.)

So. On the island, Mr. Eko is busy building his brother’s replacement church when Ana Lucia shows up and is all, “What’cha doin’?” Mr. Eko tells her that he is building a church. So, I guess the way you get Mr. Eko to be forthcoming is to get yourself killed? Huh. Anyway, she asks why he’s doing such a thing, and he explains that he was told to, maybe in a dream. And she’s like, “O? Like this one?” and then blood starts coming out of her chest and mouth and eww, and I guess this is how Mr. Eko learns that Ana died. She then tells Mr. Eko that he has to help Locke.

There are suddenly a bunch of flashes from Mr. Eko’s life, including from Nigeria, finding Goldie’s body on the island, the Jesus Stick, Zack the little boy he saved from drowning, Marvin Candle, Jin when he was captured by the Tailies … a bunch of stuff. And then he’s in the Swan hatch. With Yemi! Hi, Yemi! Mr. Eko is busy asking his brother for forgiveness, but Yemi is like, “NO TIME. The work being done here with this weird computer? TOTALLY IMPORTANT. And it’s in danger. Go help Locke, who has lost his way. VERY VERY IMPORTANT. Find the question mark!” The timer starts going off, and everything gets shaky, and the timer flips to a bunch of questions marks, and the computer keys turn into question marks and question mark question mark question mark. Yemi goes on to explain that Locke is going to be reluctant, so Mr. Eko must make him. Oh, and by the way, there are going to be some distractions? Just push your way through. And bring an ax. Question mark.

Mr. Eko wakes up, having cuddled up with Charlie, and heads off to find Locke.

Locke is with Kate, Jack, and Sawyer who are making their way back to the Swan, having realized that Ana Lucia not only swiped Sawyer’s gun, but also has a score to settle with Fenry. Bicker bicker bicker until they get to the hatch, where Michael comes stumbling out, shot, and frantic.

Michael’s story is that he was sleeping when he suddenly heard gunshots, when he got out of the bunk, Fenry shot him, and then fled the hatch. However, anyone who has seen like one episode of C.S.I. or Law & Order could tell you the blood-splatter evidence for this particular scenario? Probably won’t hold up. But whatever, because everyone is SO FREAKED OUT when they come into the hatch and find Ana and Libby shot, they aren’t thinking too hard about inconsistencies in Michael’s story. Ana’s dead, but Libby’s not! Quick! Get her to the bunk!

Mr. Eko, who arrived at the hatch shortly after everyone else, prays over Ana’s body, and SAD. Then, as Jack goes into a tizzy about wanting to go after Fenry, Sawyer reminds him that he’s more needed here in the hatch to help Libby. Who, if he hadn’t noticed, has two bullets in her chest. So, Mr. Eko jumps in and volunteers to go after Fenry, and volunteers Locke to come along.

In the hatch, Jack has a freakout, because why wouldn’t he? Libby’s bleeding stopped, which isn’t good, and the only thing that Jack can really do at this point is try to make her more comfortable. Which would be a lot easier if he had the heroin, SAWYER. Sawyer agrees to retrieve the drugs, but Jack insists that Kate go with him, so as to find Sawyer’s stash. And Sawyer, because deep down he’s a decent human being, agrees to take Kate along rather than let Libby suffer.

Hey! Guess what? Sawyer’s stash? In his tent all along. Huh! Who knew! And it’s when they emerge from the tent with the drugs that Hurley appears, wondering if they have seen Libby recently. SAD SADNESS.

So, Sawyer and Kate bring Hurley back to the hatch, where Hurley tells Michael that he and Libby were about to go on their first date. FEELING GUILTY MICHAEL? Hurley’s glad that Michael’s O.K., though. HOW ABOUT NOW? Jack gives Libby the heroin, and Hurley asks if he can talk to her. As Jack backs away, Hurley tells Libby that he’s sorry he forgot the blankets (CRYING) and that’s when Libby’s eyes fly open, and she struggles to say something … as Jack nears, she finally is able to gasp out, “Michael!” and Jack assures her that Michael is fine. ACCCK! And then Libby dies, out of frustration.

Everybody cries. Cries and cries and cries. Except for Michael who lurks in the armory near Ana Lucia’s body looking all evil and stuff.

Meanwhile, out in the jungle, Mr. Eko and Locke are tromping around in the jungle, half lost, when Locke finally speaks up and notes that he hasn’t seen any tracks. He finally gets wise that they aren’t following Fenry, and Mr. Eko’s like, “that’s right. We’re going to the question mark. Now, where is it?” But Locke’s not only not talking, he’s also threatening to go back to the Swan hatch, so Mr. Eko head butts him, which seems extreme, but is also teh funny.

When Locke awakens, Mr. Eko explains that Ana told him to help Locke find the question mark. Locke is all grouchypants, and pulls out the map he drew, with the question mark in the center. But he’s dismissive and explains that, “it’s a memory. It’s 10 seconds of nothing.” But that’s enough for Mr. Eko, who orients himself according to the map. Locke is still Mr. Mopey and notes that Fenry would still be in the hatch, and Ana would still be alive if he had just told Jack that Fenry had attacked her. But Mr. Eko’s like, “well, maybe, but Ana wants us to do this now. She said so in my dream.” Locke is all, “DREAMS, SCHREAMS.” And then Mr. Eko asks if Locke hasn’t ever followed a dream.

As they proceed through the jungle, and Locke grouses, Mr. Eko finally steps on something, and it’s? A Virgin Mary statue! Must be close to the plane! And sure enough, there it is, flipped upside down and burned to a crisp. Mr. Eko confirms that Locke was the one that found the plane, and Locke explains that it was Boone that made the plane fall — that Boone was the sacrifice that the island demanded. But he says this all cynically and snottily because he’s in a 13-year-old kinda place. But Mr. Eko just ignores him and announces that they are going to make camp, get some sleep, and await further instructions.

Lost note: Which is what Locke explains to Charlie that he’s going to do following the hatch implosion in the season three episode, aptly titled “Further Instructions.” Later, Locke and Benry both will seek out instructions from Jacob.

So. While Mr. Eko tends the fire, and Locke sleeps, who should pop out of the jungle to say hi, but Yemi! Hi Yemi! Yemi motions for Mr. Eko to follow him (and not wake up Locke). Mr. Eko, who seems to have a limp here, follows Yemi through the brush and then up the cliff wall, where the plane had been previously. When he reaches the top, Mr. Eko finds Yemi sitting in a wheelchair, and he orders, “Wake up, John.” At which point Mr. Eko falls backwards off the cliff, and John Locke wakes up, BECAUSE IT WAS ALL LOCKE’S DREAM, NOT EKO’s, see?

Lost note #1: This dream is similar to the dream Locke has in “Cabin Fever”, when Locke, Hurley, and Benry go into the jungle looking for Jacob’s cabin. Horace Goodspeed appears to him, and like Yemi, instructs Locke to do something in order to find something. In that case, he has to find the mass grave to find Jacob’s cabin.

Lost note #2: The circumstances surrounding this trip to the Beechcraft is quite similar to Locke and Boone’s previous journey to the plane. In both circumstances, the men travel to the plane’s location after being urged on by a dream/vision; Locke has an injury to his leg (which is the giveaway that it’s his dream, and not Mr. Eko’s — Mr. Eko is limping as he follows Yemi up the cliff); and finally, Locke is witness to both men he is with falling from the cliff, albeit only in a dream in this circumstance.

And when Locke wakes up, he’s got “I’ve had a prophetic dream” written all over his face, and Mr. Eko’s like, “ZOMG!! You had a dream! TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT. There was a priest, right? YEAH, THAT WAS MY BROTHER! COOL!” Locke explains that Yemi wanted Mr. Eko to follow him up the cliff, and Mr. Eko’s like, ALRIGHTY THEN! and grabs his ax and immediately scampers up the cliffside. Once Mr. Eko reaches the top, he stops and looks towards the jungle … and … nothing. It’s not until Mr. Eko turns back towards Locke that he sees it: The plane makes the dot in what sure looks like a question mark in the ground.

Mr. Eko apparently descends from the cliff to examine and determines that the circle in the dirt was made with salt to mark something, someplace. They move the plane and what do you know, but there’s a hatch under there! Ooh! And the door is an octagon! And it goes very very deep into the ground. Mr. Eko and Locke head downstairs, turn on some lights and discover a smaller hatch, this one furnished with two recliners, two desks, and nine television sets. Well, now, this is very odd.

Locke turns on the televisions, and one of them! Is broadcasting from the Swan hatch! In REAL TIME, BECAUSE ZOMG, THERE’S JACK WALKING BY. Locke notices a computer terminal which displays “Print log? Y/N” and he hits “Y,” of course. A dot matrix printer fires up and begins printing rows and rows of numbers with “accepted” written next to them. What the? Mr. Eko, in the meantime, finds a pile of dusty composition notebooks, and, WHAT’S THIS? a videotape! An Orientation videotape. Watch it! WATCH IT!

And so they do!

Title Screen: The DHARMA Initiative/5 of 6/Orientation. Next we see a screen with the white circle DHARMA logo and under it is written: Orientation – Station 5 – The Pearl. As the film starts we see “Marvin Candle” minus the white lab coat. He’s dressed in a turtleneck and sport coat, standing in the Pearl hatch.

Narration: Hello, I’m Dr. Mark Wickman, and this is the orientation film for Station 5 of DHARMA Initiative. Station 5, or the Pearl, is a monitoring station where the activities of participants in DHARMA Initiative projects can be observed and recorded — not only for posterity, but for the ongoing refinement of the Initiative as a whole. As Karen DeGroot herself has written, “Careful observation in the only key to true and complete awareness.” Your tour of duty will last 3 weeks and during this time you and your partner will observe a psychological experiment in progress. Your duty is to observe team members at another station on the Island. These team members are not aware that they are under surveillance, or that they are the subjects of an experiment. Working in 8 hour shifts, you and your partner will record everything you observe in the notebooks we provided. What is the nature of the experiment, you might ask? What do these subjects believe they are accomplishing as they struggle to fulfill their tasks? You, as the observer, don’t need to know. All you need to know is the subjects believe their job is of the utmost importance. Remember, everything that occurs, no matter how minute or seemingly unimportant, must be recorded. Each time a notebook is filled with the fruits of your diligent observation, roll it up

containers provided. Then, simply place the container in the pneumatic tube, and presto, it will be transported directly to us. At the end of your 8 hour shift, proceed to the Pala ferry which will take you back to the barracks

prepare for your next shift [/audio/video warp problem]. On behalf of the DeGroots, Alvar Hanso, and all of us here at the DHARMA Initiative, thank you. Namaste and good luck.

End Screen: The Hanso Foundation,/1980 All Rights Reserved.

WELL, NOW, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! And Locke? Most certainly DOES NOT want to watch that again, thank you very much.

Lost note #1: Oooh! Our second Orientation film! FASCINATING! The first Orientation film instructed the Swan hatch inhabitants on their job inside the hatch, and obviously this film contradicts pretty much EVERYTHING in the first Orientation film.

Lost note #2: Including Marvin Candle’s NAME. Here he’s going by Mark Wickman, and his arm, which looked lame in the previous film, appears to be just fine. What the heck? This is later complicated by the Orchid Orientation film, where he introduces himself as Edgar Haliwax. (Note that all of the names seem to relate to candles: Candle, Wickman, Haliwax. He also appears in a film in the Flame station, and in the barracks video as people arrive to the island. In a film released at Comic-Con this summer, we learned that his actual name is Pierre Chang, he was recruited to the island to work on the Kerr metric solutions to Einstein’s Field Equations, and that he knows about the coming purge. He asserts that he knows there is no way to prevent the purge from happening, but that it is imperative that DHARMA’s work be continued.

Lost note #3: Well, for poor Locke, this is all a blow to his sense of reality and purpose, as we’ll see below. When Mr. Eko asks if he wants to watch the video again, Locke answers that he’s seen enough. In “Orientation”, after watching the Swan orientation film, asserts to Jack that they need to watch that again.

Lost note #4: In this film, Candle/Chang notes that Karen DeGroot once wrote: “Careful observation is the only key to true and complete awareness.” Karen DeGroot and her husband, Gerald, founded the DHARMA Initiative with Alvar Hanso’s financial backing. At the time, this quote about observation was interesting in terms of the idea of the Swan hatch volunteers being unwittingly observed by these other volunteers in the Pearl, and the issue of, to quote The Watchmen, “Who’s watching the watchers?” But what’s even more interesting in terms of this statement now that we have a couple more seasons under our belt, is to contemplate how DeGroot’s statement might actually relate to quantum mechanics, and the old thought experiment regarding Schrodinger’s Cat, and the power of observation.

Mr. Eko begins gathering up papers to take back with them, and Locke is all, “Dude, you’re wasting your time. Didn’t you watch the video?” But Mr. Eko has a kinda crazy glint in his eye as he explains that he now believes that the work that Locke has been doing, the pushing the button, is more important now than ever. When Locke insists that it’s all a joke, meaningless, Mr. Eko responds that they are being tested. Mr. Eko goes on to explain that the reason they push the button is not because a film told them to, it’s because they were meant to. It’s their purpose.

Locke, however, is wearing his industrial-strength crankypants (the same brand I wear when I blog Heroes, for realz.), and is not buying what Mr. Eko is selling. He begins yelling at Mr. Eko that he wasn’t meant to do anything, that his life is as useless as the button. It’s all meaningless! A big fat nothing! And then Locke storms off to go put on some black eyeliner and update his LiveJournal while listening to some Panic! at the Disco.

Mr. Eko, in response, shows Locke Yemi’s crucifix and explains that it belonged to his brother, who was a priest, and a great man. And, well, let’s just quote Mr. Eko, because he explains this so much more elegantly than I can:

And because I betrayed him he was shot and died. He was placed on a plane which took off from an airstrip in Nigeria half a world from here. Then, the plane that I was on crashed on this island. And somehow, here, I found my brother again. I found him in the same plane that took off from Nigeria. In the same plane that lies above us now — that has concealed this place. And I took this cross from around Yemi’s neck and put it back on mine, just as it was on the day I first took another man’s life. So let me ask you — how can you say this is meaningless? I believe the work being done in the Hatch is more important than anything. If you will not continue to push the button, John, I will.

So there.

And then they head back to the Swan hatch, where everyone is having a good cry. Except Michael. He’s still looking evil.

Lost note: This speech is actually very similar to what Benry says to Jack in “The Cost of Living,” when Jack expresses amazement that Benry kidnapped him so as to operate on him. “Two days after I found out I had a fatal tumor on my spine, a spinal surgeon fell out of the sky. And if that’s not proof of God, I don’t know what is.”

Interestingly, it is also a direct contradiction to a conversation between Mr. Eko and Locke in “What Kate Did:”

LOCKE: Voila. What are the odds?

EKO: The odds?

LOCKE: Here, hold this down on the table there nice and flat. I mean, think about it. Somebody made this film. Someone else cut this piece out. We crash — 2 halves of the same plane fall in different parts of the island — you’re over there, I’m over here. And now, here’s the missing piece right back where it belongs. What are the odds?

EKO: Don’t mistake coincidence for fate.

Looks like someone’s come around!

Oy. I have no idea where to begin with this one. It’s as if the writers have jammed every single theme and issue on this show into these 42 minutes. So, you know, that makes for an awesome episode to watch, but a difficult recap to write. And I’m struggling to find a way to get my hands around it.

[deep breath]

This is easily the most enigmatically titled episode in Lost history. It’s not even a word, it’s a symbol. A mark. And while, obviously, it references the hatch, and the mysterious center of the hatch map, it’s so much more than that. The ? symbolizes the lingering doubts that Locke shares with the audience regarding the island, the Swan hatch, the button and the computer and whether any of this means anything. The discovery of the Pearl Hatch, the huge blinking ? that the haunted the previous inhabitants of the Swan hatch, does nothing to answer these questions. It only fills Locke and the audience with a sickening doubt. Why is the Swan hatch being observed? Is the button and the computer hooked up to anything at all? Are the button-pushers the ones who are having their buttons pushed? Are they just big marks themselves?

Or are the observers in the Pearl Station the actual marks? Are they the ones that are slaving away at meaningless work, thinking that they are participating in a serious psychological study, when in fact they’re the subjects of said study?

So many questions.

The ? of this title is about more than just the seemingly endless questions the show throws at us, however. It’s also a symbol, a mark. A sign. The question mark is literally a mark in the ground, a sign made up by the salted earth that demarcated the Pearl Hatch combined with the crashed plane represents a message from the island to Locke and Mr. Eko. And what lies beneath that mark, that sign? A test of Mr. Eko’s and Locke’s faith. But where Locke sees a con, a lie, Mr. Eko recognizes truth, and submits to the will of the island. He submits, like Christian in the previous episode, to Fate. And accepts the work that he has to do.

This fits neatly in with Mr. Eko’s flashback story in this episode. Mr. Eko, Father Tunde, doesn’t believe in miracles. He is a cynic of the highest order — even more than his Monsignor knows, perhaps, what with the fake priest thing and all. And therefore, as a cynic, he’s the best prepared, the most suited to gauge the veracity of a miracle. If he believes it’s a miracle, then it must be. Which, incidentally, is what one David Hume once wrote:

The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

In the foregoing reasoning we have supposed, that the testimony, upon which a miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire proof, and that the falsehood of that testimony would be a real prodigy: But it is easy to shew, that we have been a great deal too liberal in our concession, and that there never was a miraculous event established on so full an evidence.

And Mr. Eko is given a whole mess of contradictory information regarding Charlotte Malkin’s “miracle.” The autopsy tape sure sounds real, but her father has a reasonable explanation for what happened that takes it right out of the realm of the miraculous. And so, presented with two possibilities, Mr. Eko chooses to believe the rational, and forego the miraculous. That is until he is presented with a sign of his own, the message Charlotte delivers to him, his own personal miracle.

And, in the same way that the question mark that Mr. Eko spies from atop the cliff is comprised of two parts: the salted earth, and the burned hull of the plane, Mr. Eko’s sign from the island, or God, or the universe, or Fate, whatever you want to call it, is comprised of two parts: Charlotte and her message, and the dream he has of Ana and Yemi. For the sign, the message to be communicated, both parts must come together. And the message is that this is Mr. Eko’s work, his destiny. Not because the instructions came from a film, but because it is Fate. The cynic accepts the miracle, therefore it must be a miracle.

And Charlotte Malkin, and her miracle? And her father? When this episode first aired, I was kinda crushed. The news that Malkin was a fraud changed everything that I believed about the show and Claire’s destiny. My confusion wasn’t helped by a deleted scene in the season two DVD connections area, in which Richard Malkin explains to Mr. Eko that he was recently paid $16,000 by a Los Angeles couple to convince a pregnant girl to give up her baby for adoption. I rambled on and on about it in the “Raised by Another” recap, wringing my hands over the implications:

Scenario 1: The psychic is for reals. He wants to prevent Claire from giving the baby up for adoption, and he knows the plane will crash and she will survive. He is manipulating Claire to go to the island for some reason. Why? There are two possible answers: he sincerely believes that Claire needs to raise the baby by herself or he is sending the baby to the Others. (“They’re already scheduled to meet you when you arrive.”) Perhaps the Others were behind this all along? (Something that I won’t go on too long about, but interesting to consider: if the psychic is for real, it suggests that he can foresee the consequences of two different futures; one in which Claire gives her child up and another in which she doesn’t. Does this contradict Ms. Hawking’s speech to Desmond regarding course correcting, and fate? That the Fates have already predetermined when our thread will be snipped, there’s no way to change it?)

Scenario 2: The psychic is a fraud. When Claire first visited him, he already knew she was pregnant (thanks to her friend, perhaps?), and he dramatically sends her away, because it’s all part of his shtick. He generates a sense of mystery by refusing to do her reading, leaving her wondering what it was that was so terrible that he would behave that when. THEN, when she does have something terrible happen to her, and at some point in her life something will (Thomas leaving her), she remembers the psychic’s reaction, believes that perhaps that is what he saw, and she will return. Now he’s got her on the hook. He knows that she’s had an event in her life that has shaken her up and she is looking for answers. And so perhaps he keeps her on the line, calling her, harassing her, until he can find a way to make a profit off of her. Merely taking Claire for her meager wages isn’t enough, and Malkin hangs onto her until he finds a payday: the couple in Los Angeles who pay him $16,000 to get her on the plane. After he’s paid Claire $6,000, he takes home a healthy $10,000 which is presumably more than he would have made off of Claire. Now, I think this is almost more improbable than Malkin being psychic, but I guess they don’t call it The Long Con for nothin’.

Of course, we don’t know who that couple in Los Angeles is: could it be that the manipulator was being manipulated? Could Claire be right, and there is no couple waiting for her baby? Someone, perhaps the Others, perhaps someone else, wanted her on that island, and used Malkin to get her there? Is there some sort of conspiracy? A plan?

OK! BUT! When I wrote that, we hadn’t seen Season Four of Lost yet. We hadn’t seen, specifically, “The Other Woman.” In that episode, Benry promises to explain to Locke who is on the freighter, in exchange for a little bit of freedom from his basement holding cell. He instructs Locke to play a videotape that he has in a safe and gives Locke a file on Charles Widmore. Benry then explains the following:

John, three months ago in Gainesville, Florida, the Virgin Mary seemed to appear in a patch of mold on the side of an old housing complex. When the word got out, over 5,000 people came to see her face for themselves. You’ve survived an airline crash on this island. One minute, you’re in a wheelchair. The next minute, you’re doing jumping jacks. If 5,000 people came out to see a piece of mold, how many people do you think would come here to see you? Charles Widmore wants to exploit this island, and he’ll do everything in his power to possess it.

Benry wants to protect the island because it’s a miracle. He wants to prevent it from being exploited and used up. What if this is Richard Malkin’s motivation? What if Malkin understands that if the Vatican gives its seal of approval to Charlotte’s “miracle,” she’ll draw crowds, people will want to use her, abuse her, get a little closer to her? As opposed to his wife’s belief that they need to tell the world about this, Richard seems to want to protect Charlotte, hide her power. Like Benry and the island. And so, if Malkin does know that Charlotte is a miracle, where does his lie end? Is he actually a psychic? More questions than answers.

But what seems so blatantly evident now is that Richard Malkin is desperate to protect his daughter, in an episode that touches upon (albeit briefly) Michael’s guilt over what he has done for his son, and both of these are metaphors for a much larger issue: the need to protect the island.

Speaking of family (this is more of a side note, a digression from a digression, so forgive) but something to keep in mind, especially as we approach the new season: this episode is yet another family reunion/reconciliation. The island appears to be a place where alienated family members are reunited (for good or ill): Eko and Yemi; Walt and Michael; Jack and Christian and Claire and Aaron; Locke and Cooper; Jin and Sun; and then there are those who were separated but reunited on the island: Bernard and Rose; Danielle and Alex. Where is this headed? What does it mean? I think it ultimately it will be part of an overarching metaphor about the O6 needing to return to the island and the island family, if you will, that they left behind.

Speaking of metaphors, let’s briefly talk about the symbols of this episode. In this episode, we have a slew of them. In fact, as we’ve discussed, the title of the episode itself is a symbol. The Pearl, the confessional booth, the cliff that Mr. Eko scales … these are all potent symbols for this episode. The flashback begins with Mr. Eko in a confessional booth, hearing the confession of a man who is pretending to be a confessor. (Interestingly, confessionals are (sometimes?) marked with a rose to symbolize truthfulness — certainly an ironic note in this episode.) There is a certain similarity to the confession booth in the tight confines of the armory, which is where we last see Michael, with Ana’s body. What is particularly interesting about this, is that these small confined rooms mimic the tight, secure space of the womb. After confessing and being absolved of one’s sins, one leaves the confessional anew. Sin-free. (Although, not for long.) And when Mr. Eko exits this confession booth, he begins his journey into a new world. Similarly, Michael, in the armory, is hiding the truth. And after he leaves that space, as we’ll see in the next few episodes, he will be embarking on a journey to another world, as well.

What about the Pearl Station? This has puzzled me for a while, as has the reason for using the swan as the symbol of the Swan hatch, and an arrow for the Arrow hatch (although, I will say SPOILER: the Arrow station becomes a little less mysterious soon. Just a little.). Pearls are a symbol of a few things: light, the moon, femininity, fertility, birth, and rebirth, and, most famously, due to its hidden nature, wisdom, spiritual enlightenment.

And according to my boy Jack Tresidder, “as a form of celestial light, the pearl is the third eye (spiritual illumination) of Shiva and the Buddha. It is the Islamic word of God, the Daoist mystic centre, the Christian ‘pearl of great price’ from the waters of baptism. It is a metaphor for Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Spiritual symbolism persisted even after the Chinese found a non-celestial explanation for the production of pearls. They formed nacreous Buddhas by placing small metal images inside the freshwater mollusks used to produce cultured blister pearls.”

This is the most obvious explanation for use of the pearl in this episode: after all, Mr. Eko certainly receives enlightenment in this place. Locke thinks that he does. The hatch, like a pearl nestled in an oyster, is hidden, and difficult to access. And like the Chinese who transfigure matter into a spiritual jewel via the pearl, Mr. Eko takes the physical material he finds within the pearl and turns it into spiritual work. Meaning. Purpose.

(And, just for extra crazy, there’s this folktale about a pearl, but I have no idea where it comes from. It is about a princess who uses a black pearl to take her to a strange land of anti-matter where black is white and white is black. There she is able to summon the means to defeat an evil sorcerer or something. It’s worth a looksee.)

Then there’s the cliff. The cliff is interesting because it plays a major role both in the events on the island, and in Locke’s dream. The cliff is a more obvious symbol — it’s similar to a mountain, which represents a spiritual peak, the place where the heavens meet the earth, and where transcendence can occur. Mountains are often associated with Gods, heroes, and immortals. Moses and Christ both had Big Moments on top of mountains: Moses received the 10 commandments, and Christ experienced the transfiguration. But a cliff is not a mountain, not exactly. It also serves as a wall, almost. And walls represent protection and separation. So, taken all together, by scaling the cliff, which is precarious to say the very least, Mr. Eko achieves spiritual enlightenment, accessing the spot where the heavens and earth can communicate, an axis mundi. His perspective is quite literally changed. And from there he eliminates the protective space, the separating element between himself and the subterranean wisdom within the pearl.

Finally, (I know, finally, finally) it’s important to discuss the use of dreams in this episode. It’s not the first time that someone has had a prophetic dream on the island: Locke, in fact, originally finds the Beechcraft because of a waking dream he has while working on opening the hatch. Claire dreamed of the creepy Oceanic mobile hanging over a crib filled with blood, before being abducted by Ethan. Hurley dreams of speaking to Jin in Korean, and seeing Walt’s face on a milk carton before he knew he had gone missing. Later, Locke has the dream of Horace Goodspeed, giving him instructions to Jacob’s cabin. Some believe that dreams are the subconscious speaking in a highly symbolic visual language — Jung argued that this symbolic language was a common one, the collective unconscious. But these dreams are prophetic, not merely symbolic (although, obviously heavily laden with symbols – see above).

Prophetic dreams are rife throughout literature, history, religion, and mythology. Both the Old and New Testament contain stories of prophetic dreams, most notably Joseph who not only had prophetic dreams himself, but was able to interpret others’ dreams, winning him favor in the Pharaoh’s court; Daniel, who similarly was able to interpret dreams, winning him favor in the Babylonian courts; Joseph, a.k.a. Jesus’ step-dad, is told in a dream to marry Mary because she was carrying a really special baby. Mohammad received his prophecy in dreams and visions. The notion is, of course, that God is speaking to these people via their dreams, sending them messages, assigning them work. (It’s also worth noting that everyone form George Washington and Mary Shelley to the inventor of the sewing machine have claimed to have prophetic dreams.)

And it seems fairly clear that something is communicating with Mr. Eko and Locke via their dreams, showing them the future, and instructing them. But. A thought to leave you with: what if these dreams, these visions are less instructive from some external source, and more about the dreamer’s own consciousness (or unconsciousness) speaking to them through time?

It’s a thought that occurred to me last year when we were discussing “Deus Ex Machina,” that, perhaps in Locke’s vision of the Beechcraft crashing, and Boone covered in blood, was not so much a prophetic vision from the island or God or whatever, but rather, like Desmond’s flashes, he was remembering the future. Consciousness is messed with on the island, that much we know thanks to MansonLamps and Desmond’s Adventures Through Time. (And speaking of, that ? in the ground corresponds to the ? on the hatch map, of course. On the hatch map, which is covered with information, that ? dominates. The author of the map knows so much, and yet … at the heart of it all, he has no answers. Something to consider: did the author of the hatch map intend for the ? to signify that he didn’t know what that particular DHARMA station was at that location? Or did he, somehow, see the question mark in the earth that Locke would later create and Mr. Eko and Locke would later find? Did the author of the hatch map, who lived day-in and day-out in such close proximity to a powerful electromagnetic force that has extreme effects on people’s consciousness remember the ?)

Locke is clearly special in some way; he has some unique communion with the island that other passengers on 815 simply don’t seem to have. What if this is because his consciousness is able to slip through time more easily, to receive visions of the future and past, without needing the catalyst of electromagnetism or radiation, like Desmond or MansonLamps? What if Mr. Eko has this same ability, and thus why he (like Locke) was destined to come to the island, one way, or another? And these dreams, these visions that they receive, aren’t being received at all, but instead, have been with them, locked in their memories, all along? Locke and Mr. Eko are simply remembering the future.

ALRIGHT! WOW! Since I’ve babbled on for 40 days give or take, I’m going to make this last bit brief. Here’s an interesting article from the L.A. Times that helps shed a little light on what to expect this season (Mr. T will be glad to hear that Claire will, in fact, make an appearance this season, despite not being a regular — he was threatening to boycott the season. Srsly.) Here’s an interview with Michael Emerson, which is fairly interesting. Also, (no longer available) this piece says that Damon and Carlton are referring to this season as the “Year of Sawyer,” for all you Sawyer fans (*cough*jensanaggie*cough*). We have another episode title: 5×11 will be “Whatever Happened, Happened.” (Oh, wait. Was I not going to give episode titles in this blog? Sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone out there.)

SO CLOSE TO FINISHING! 2 EPISODES TO GO!

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

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