Overthinking Lost: Episodes 3.1-3.8

Overthinking Lost: Episodes 3.1-3.8

You asked me for my Grand Unified Theory of Lost, and I give you one. I have three words for you: aliens, and time travel.

Lost-FishBiscuitI was planning on writing some long article about some Lost-related topic of my choosing, but your comments re: last week’s article were so good and so full of ripe questions that I couldn’t pass up doing another Q & A week.  This week we’ll tackle the mythology of Lost, the possible whereabouts of Michael and WAAALT!, the paradoxical character of Mr. John Locke and the less-paradoxical character of Mr. Eko, and issues of literary form.  Plus did you know Kate tastes like strawberries?  The things you learn from Lost, season three.

As usual, before we get to the nitty gritty—yeah, I don’t really know what that term means, either—let me remind you all of what happened in these eight episodes.

Episode 3.1 (“A Tale of Two Cities”): In the past, Jack thought his dad was boning his ex-wife.  It’s unclear if he was or he wasn’t.  In the present, Jack is trapped in an aquarium and watched over by Juliet.  Kate gets a sexy dress, and Sawyer gets himself a fish biscuit. How’d he do that?

Episode 3.2 (“The Glass Ballerina”): In the past, Sun did bone Jae!  And then her dad sent Jin to kill him!  But he didn’t.  Then Jae jumped out a window and died.  In the present, Sun kills Colleen.  Yeah, Sun!  I was waiting for you to become a badass.

Episode 3.3 (“Further Instructions”):
In the past, Locke belonged to a pot-growing commune but was found out by an undercover cop.  In the present, Locke has gone back to being an Island version of a Bible thumper—I’ll call him an “Island thumper”—and saves Mr. Eko from a polar bear.

Episode 3.4 (“Every Man for Himself”):
In the past, Sawyer helped the government by conning some white-collar criminal out of $10 million.  Also Sawyer knocked up his old girlfriend-slash-dupe, so he’s got a daughter.  In the present, Sawyer is led to believe that he has a ticking time bomb in his chest, but unsurprisingly he’s been conned.  On the other side of the island, Desmond apparently can see the future.

Episode 3.5 (“The Cost of Living”): In the past, Mr. Eko the priest killed three Bad Guys in his church.  In the present, Mr. Eko refuses to apologize for any of his actions, because he did what he did in order to survive.  The Island does not approve.  The Monster kills Mr. Eko.  Man, so now Bernard is the only back-of-the-plane guy left?  Weak.  Other things: some eyepatch-wearing guy is using a computer in one of the hatches, Ben Linus (nee Henry Gale) has a tumor that needs operating, and Juliet asks Jack to kill Ben.

Episode 3.6 (“I Do”): Nathan Fillion!  Nathan Fillion!  Nathan!  Fillion!  …And some other stuff happened.

Episode 3.7 (“Not in Portland”): In the past, Juliet the fertility scientist stole medical stuffs from her lab to get her sick sister preggers the same day the “Not Dharma Initiative” asked her to join the team in “Not Portland.”  But the only way she could join them would be if her ex-husband—really, writers, you named him Edmund Burke?—got run over by a bus.  So of course the Not Dharma Initiative arranged for that very thing to happen.  In the present, Jack holds Ben hostage by nicking his kidneys and arranges for Kate and Sawyer to escape from the Mini Island.  Or maybe we should call them “The Big Island” and “Other-ahu”?

Episode 3.8 (“Flashes Before Your Eyes”): In the present, watching this episode simultaneously got me interested in Lost again and made me trade in my Sayid and Sawyer Fan Club cards for a Desmond Fan Club card.  Yeah!  Desmond!  Here’s what happened in the episode: In either the distant past OR the near past right after the failsafe key incident, Desmond either went back in time to right before he broke up with Penny OR had some wacky vision of what would happen if he tried to change the past but couldn’t.  In the present, Desmond the Grey wakes up naked to find he has come back as Desmond the White.  Desmond the White can see the future.  More specifically, the future that has already happened.  So the future-past.  I dunno, go read Slaughterhouse-Five if you’re confused.  Desmond the White was apparently sent back to save a hobbit.  Uh, I mean, to save Charlie.  If he can.  But he probably can’t.  And there go my Lord of the Rings parallels.

And so, in one fell swoop, Lost completely invalidated my post from last week.  You know, the one where I said, “I don’t really see any evidence that Lost is run by a ‘fate principle’ blah blah blah determinism can suck it.”  In the words of Mr. John Locke, “I was wrong.”  With episode 3.8, there is now some evidence that the show is set in a deterministic universe.  But I’m not going to go all out and say that the characters have no free will just yet.  That would be crazy.  First, we’ll have to wait and see if (cue scary voice) Charlie dies.  Even Charlie dies, it doesn’t necessarily prove there’s no free will; it only tips the scales in that direction.  But even if somehow it’s proven that fate is real in this universe, I’m going to bet Jack is going to go all John Connor and say, “no fate but what we make,” and try to alter the space-time continuum or something so he gets his free will back.  “Hey, Fate!  Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  It’s going to happen.  I have foreseen it.

Now to your questions.

19 Comments on “Overthinking Lost: Episodes 3.1-3.8”

  1. TheMagician #

    Eko was killed, because the actor, AAA, didn’t want to live in Hawaii anymore (the same reason applies to a dozen other killed characters as well). Darlton had however planned a central 4 season story arc for him, but unfortunately they had to kill him and change their plans.


  2. Tom P #

    I really hated when Eko died because it rendered the entire tail section arc from the previous season as a complicated way to kill Shannon. You’re almost through the low-point. Ep 14 is the end.


  3. Matt #

    God, I was so pissed when Eko died. The man proves himself to be the baddest man on the Island, stares down the monster, and then when it shows up again? He just goes down. I wanted him to go down fighting. Better yet, I wanted some kind of divine implication that Eko knew exactly what the monster was. Although shape-changer monster Yemi scared the poo out of me.


  4. NeilH #

    I’m consistently impressed on your overthinking. These posts seriously keep me entertained on otherwise dreary Mondays!

    I really like your bringing up the good and evil aspect found in this show; I’ve always thought it was one of the central elements, ever since that scene in Season 1 where Locke plays Backgammon with Walt.

    Anyway, I don’t want to post too much because the last thing I want to do is spoil this amazing show for you, but I’m counting down the weeks until you’re caught up and the theorizing about season 6 can begin!


  5. Gab #

    See why Des is one of my favorite now? And he only gets better.

    And yeah, Eko was killed because the actor wanted off- the rushed need to get rid of him, I think, as I have said before, had a big influence on how dissatisfying his demise was. Yes, we got lots of character insight through the flashbacks in the episode, but there could- and should- have been more; and the way the Monster suddenly grabs him and stuff… Le sigh.

    Sayid is an intersting nut to crack now, too. He saw the ghost-ee Walt with Shannon, right? So why is he so skeptical when Locke tells him about Smokey?

    What do you think of Juliet?


  6. Prest #

    The change in quality of the show that people have been alluding to (which takes place about two thirds of the way through season 3) is directly related to the unprecedented deal the producers struck with the network, locking in the show’s 2010 end date.

    Oh, and you can just call the mini-island “Hydra Island.” Which is an awesome name for an island.


  7. Jss #

    Lost’s most solid and well constructed story line is that of John Locke. What you’re seeing now is a bit of rattling of faith. Contrast the Locke from S1 to what you see now.

    As far as your take on the mythology, you are thinking in the right terms. The show leans heavier on the mysteries in the later seasons so its good to think about it now.


  8. Jess #

    I’m gonna have to start making a list of all the “hit the nail on the head” parts of these blogs. I’ve never read a lost blog of someone viewing it for the first time, it’s weird, it seems like the overall themes or motifs/parallels are easier to spot or more obvious when people watch it on DVD or when the eps are watched straight through instead of once a week. Some of the themes that took me ages to see, you’ve picked up seemingly straight away! I’ve noticed this with a few people I’ve shown the series to (on DVD) as well.


  9. Jayemel #

    I think I just fell in love with you. Not only did you refute compatibilism in some swift blow, but you referenced a line from the South Park movie that constantly runs through my head.

    I disagree with you on one point though. I don’t think Eko believed in fate. He believed in, as you said, doing the best in the situation you are given. In relevance to the button, the best he could do was push the button. It had a purpose. He wanted a purposeful life. Logic dictated he should push the button. (That syllogism assumes the premise of the button had a purpose is true).

    The key Eko quote is “Do not mistake coincidence for fate.” For the first time, I think the writers tipped their hands as to how they feel about religion.


  10. igge #

    Wow.. A theory combining my all-time favorite TV show with my all-time favorite movie! I find it hard to believe that this 2001 theory of yours is correct, but nevertheless, I like it!

    And now that you mention it, your answer to the first question made me think about another great story. This time a book – well, a series of books, really.

    “Does Ben Linus have some evil scheme up his sleeves? Maybe a scheme to bring down my imaginary aliens…”, “And don’t ask me why Locke’s legs started working again, and why Rose’s cancer went away. I have no freaking idea.”

    These lines made me think about the Riverworld series written by Philip José Farmer. Without spoiling too much, in case you haven’t read it, the book is about purgatory (huh?), and a man’s quest to find out who’s behind it. I had previously seen many parallells between Lost and the Riverworld series, but these two lines of yours are quite spot-on! If you haven’t read it, you really must do so!

    Thanks again for brilliant overthinking! Like many others have said I can’t wait to see your theories on season 5!


  11. Eric #

    The writers did not kill Eko because of the actor’s wishes. They just sped up his demise and compacted his story into a few centrics. And most people agree it was only the “mini-season” of the first 6 episodes that seemed to drag a bit. I think it gets moving very fast with episode 7 and episode 8 (Flashes Before Your Eyes) is one of my favorites from the season. I don’t know what some people are talking about with it only getting good at 14.

    And yes, it really is an historic event to lock in the end date of a TV show regardless of ratings. Stuff gets so much more focused after they locked it in about 2/3 of the way through season 3.


  12. TheMagician #

    @Eric, “The writers did not kill Eko because of the actor’s wishes.”

    Well Damon Lindelof would disagree, he specifically said on ComicsOnComics interview (beware, he explains what the Numbers mean in that interview, it’s the same explanation as in the ARG, he also says that the Numbers won’t be explained in Season 6 so it should be safe to watch it, but it might contain other spoilers too) that they had planned a 4 season story arc for Eko (he was supposed to play the part that Locke is playing now at Season 5 end according to some people), but they had do kill him the way they did, because AAA didn’t want to live in Hawaii anymore. And they had to kill other people on the show as well for the same reason. Watch it and then come back.


  13. Tom P #

    > I think it gets moving very fast with episode 7 and episode 8 (Flashes Before Your Eyes) is one of my favorites from the season. I don’t know what some people are talking about with it only getting good at 14.

    If you had to pick an absolute low-point for the series as a whole, it’s the last 1/4th of season 2 (minus the finale) through the “Expose” episode in season 3. And the six-episode “mini-season” was the worst idea they ever had.


  14. Kevin #

    “And the six-episode “mini-season” was the worst idea they ever had.”

    I have to say, in their defense, that LOST fans are some of the pickiest SOBs in fandom. (I should know — I’m one of them!) The “mini-season” wasn’t just something they did because they thought it would be fun, or make for better storytelling — there were so many viewer complaints about ABC’s scheduling in Seasons 1 and 2 (a few new episodes, followed by a few repeats, so they had time to shoot a complete season over the year) that they thought they’d do the next best thing: show a chunk of episodes uninterrupted, take a hiatus while they continued shooting, then show the rest of the season uninterrupted. And then the fans complained about THAT… which is why we get the show from February-May now rather than over the full TV season. No one wanted the repeats.

    Same for Nikki and Paulo — fans whined that there were more passengers who survived the crash than just the leads, so why weren’t they getting any screen time on the beach? So they bring in those two, and the fans whine that they’re introducing new survivors “out of nowhere.” When in reality, the rest of the passengers were never supposed to be all that relevant to the storyline in the first place, and they should have just kept doing what they’d been doing well and not listened.

    (I happen to really like “Expose” as a standalone episode, and it’s a great way of answering the critics of those characters)


  15. Tom P #

    Kevin — I meant “they” more as the whole producers/network/whomever combined. As soon as 24 took the cue from HBO and started running uninterrupted seasons, it changed the way serial shows operate. With the six episode mini-season, fans had nothing to do but pick those episodes apart for 3 MONTHS. The episodes weren’t strong enough on their own to hold up to that kind of review.

    And I agree that Expose is a fantastic stand-alone episode outside the storyline.


  16. Kevin #

    Agreed, Tom. From my understanding, the producers were caught between a rock and a hard place — ABC wanted a full season (i.e., 22 episodes over nine months) since it was one of their most popular shows, so the creatives came up with a compromise… which made no one happy.

    All in all, uninterrupted seasons are great… as long as there’s something just as good in the off-months. With HBO that hasn’t been a problem; not so much with ABC…


  17. Gab #

    @Tom and Kevin: Not arguing with either, just elaborating. I think one of the reasons why the “team” didn’t succeed at the mini-season is how it was so out of their normal format. Specifically the writers. They’re great at writing overarching plots, but when they got out of their comfort zone and into stand-alone format, it showed. This made it easier for the episodes to be picked apart during those three months, etc., tie in the other reasons.


  18. the other dave #


    Long time reader, first time poster etc etc.
    I just felt I had to pipe in here (without getting too spoilerish) to say you’ve re-ignited my interest in the show. I have watched it all, but from about late season 3/mid season 4 got the feeling they were marking time and making it up as they go along, but looking at some of your more recent speculations I’m surprised to see that there are through-lines that I hadn’t picked up on and can only see with hindsight and your comments how far back some of them went.

    When you catch up I’d love to read your own thoughs on where you can see things working though, and I’d also like your opinion of the “wheels within wheels” way some of the series works. (That’s not intended to be a spoiler and, as far as I know had no reference to the show – just a term I’ve used for discussing it with friends about how things “layer up” for want of a better expression.)


  19. James T. #

    I think the mini-season worked well in that it allowed the writers to focus on the Sawyer-Jack-Kate love triangle, which doesn’t seem to fit in very well with a lot of the other plots/themes. I do remember that waiting so long for more lost was agonizing, though.

    @ Eric: I totally agree that locking in the end date was a historic event. The open-ended television format tends to hamper good writing; the producers made the right choice here.


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