Retroview: 1.8 Confidence Man


Briefly, what happened?

Shannon suffers serious asthma attacks and it seems that Sawyer has her inhaler and won’t give it up. Driven to extreme measures, Sayid and Jack take Sawyer aside and torture him only for it transpire that he never had the inhaler all along. Sayid, guilty for his extreme actions, takes himself on a self-imposed exile.

Kate learns Sawyer’s history – that he adopted the name ‘Sawyer’ when he became the man he was hunting, the man who was responsible for his parents’ tragedy. In flashback we see him in action and only a crisis of conscience causes him to withdraw from conning a married couple.


Note: Retroview posts are written with full awareness of everything that happens during the entirety of LOST and will contain SPOILERS.

Thoughts and Analysis

Sawyer’s first appearance in his first centric episode sees him emerge out of the ocean naked in full view of Kate. As well as being a thrill for the ladies it’s wholly symbolic; Sawyer is literally baring himself to Kate physically – during the course of the episode he will also bear his soul to her. The confidence man will, in fact, take Kate entirely into his confidence and in doing so earn more than just a kiss – he will earn her understanding and her longterm affection.


Confidence Man is actually a very strong episode. The flashback story is played out nicely against the gradual reveal of Sawyer’s truth. First time around we believe we may be watching Sawyer conduct the con that will ruin the lives of two people and prompt a young boy to write him a letter. The clever twist is delivered towards the end when we learn, through Kate, that Sawyer himself was the small boy that wrote the letter and he is a man with conscience after all. As Kate rightly stated at the beginning, his bad boy fa├žade was an act that covered a real human being.

Sawyer’s pugnacious and repellent attitude, however, was more than just an act to disguise his emotions. His actions here are one of a man seeking persecution for his sins. As a con man his actions are always perpetrated with knowledge a couple of steps ahead of the consequences. He knew that pounding the snot out of Boone when he caught him looking through his stash would have the consequences of raising anger from the likes of Jack. Note how, when Jack was beating him in the cave, Sawyer wasn’t fighting back. He goaded him, asking him if that was all he had got, because Sawyer was a man that wanted to be punished.

Every man has his limit, of course.

 

Sawyer could just about endure Sayid’s excruciating fingernail torture technique, but the threat of losing an eye was his breaking point. Sawyer wanted punishment, but that didn’t extend to permanent and damaging disfigurement. So what was it that was driving this persecution complex? Kate surmised in the previous episode that Sawyer was a man that had nothing to live for, no one to miss him in the world beyond the Island. He used that remark against her and stated he was a man that had nothing to live for so they could do what they wanted to him – but we know that’s not true.

Kate would learn the truth that Sawyer had devoted his life to tracking down the real Sawyer and had become the very thing he was hunting. He had become the very thing he hated more than anything else. So we have self-loathing, right off the bat. Tie that in with the sense that Sawyer must feel that now he is trapped on the Island he has no chance of ever finding the real Sawyer again. His entire life’s purpose is, indeed, lost and then you have despair. Self-loathing and despair are good ingredients to put a man in a mindset where he feels like he has nothing to live for.

Unbeknownst to Sawyer, however, is the future truth that the Island will actually deliver unto him ‘the real Sawyer’, captive and helpless in the Season 3 episode The Brig.


However, the true fuel to Sawyer’s desire to be beaten and punished doesn’t really lie with his self-loathing or his despair; later this season we will discover that shortly before boarding Oceanic 815 he had murdered the man he believed was the real Sawyer. Only he had the wrong man.


The dying shrimp-seller, Frank Duckett, gasped out his last words to a shocked Sawyer as he realised he had the wrong man. “It’ll come back around.” The threat of repercussions for his foul deed. Sawyer is a man of conscience as well as confidence, and this weighs heavy. What he wants is for his punishment to “come back around” as his just desserts for what he has done – but on the Island penitence isn’t found so easily or cheaply. Sawyer faked reasons why Jack and Sayid could dish out their own brand of justice but fundamentally whatever they do to him won’t take away his guilt about what he has done. Sawyer must confess his crimes and seek forgiveness in his soul, and he takes the first steps to finding his confidante for that in Kate.


In the future episode Outlaws Kate and Sawyer will share something of a guarded fireside confession about their previous misdeeds, but here, first of all, he has to open the door and let her see him. A common misuse of English is with the word ‘naked’, generally apportioned to people being unclothed. The correct word for this is actually ‘nude’. Naked actually means vulnerable. To say Sawyer emerged out of the ocean ‘naked’ is still true; he was nude, yes, but moreover he was making himself vulnerable. It is only Kate that gets to see this side of him; more to the point, it is only Kate that Sawyer permits to see that side of him.

Remember Sawyer is the confidence man that thinks many moves ahead. Second-guessing behaviour and predicting responses has been his stock in trade since his first grift when he was nineteen-years-old. When he thrusts the letter into Kate’s hands and demands she reads it he is knowingly giving her the means to figure out that the letter isn’t exactly as it first appears. It’s as much a ruse as the old ‘briefcase full of money’ routine.


Sawyer may droll out the iconic line, “You weren’t exactly supposed to see that”, but he means the exact opposite. Kate, you were supposed to see that letter and you were supposed to figure out the truth of it. It was what Sawyer wanted, and he wanted it from Kate alone. It wasn’t through flippancy had he said they have a connection, and nor was it flippant that he suffered agony for the chance to get a kiss.

And boy, what a kiss.


Sawyer said that all Kate had to do was nothing more than a little kiss to get the truth out of him, but theirs was more than just a little peck on the lips. It was repeated, intense, with a hint of tongue. Sawyer wasn’t lying – Kate did receive the truth from the kiss. The actual truth was that Sawyer didn’t have the inhalers all along. But the real truth Kate learned was that Sawyer was right – they did have a connection. A love triangle begins here and, you know, when you see the passion and power loaded between the two of them it’s hard to deny that they make for a scintillating couple. This one’s for the Skaters.

The whole business of Sawyer’s torture was fundamentally set in motion by Locke. He only got the one scene, but Locke stole the show in Retroview respect. Sayid initially came to him to check his alibi as he tried to discover the identity of his mysterious attacker. Locke perhaps did the smartest thing and covered his lie in truth; considering Sayid is the foremost authority in spotting liars it was a wise move. Locke stated that he had no one to verify his whereabouts because he had been hunting boar, and then quickly deflected Sayid’s attention on Sawyer being the likeliest culprit.


What followed was Locke’s darkest moment so far. I have said it elsewhere but the one thing a Retroview does prove time and again is that, in the early days, Locke was quite a devilish figure. He coolly incriminated Sawyer’s own alibi with the suggestion that anyone could put a delay fuse on the rocket he fired, and also cited that the person who perpetrated the attack on Sayid was only going to be someone that had a good reason to stay on the Island, and Sawyer seemed to be doing well for himself. . . And then Locke went and handed him a shiny knife, casual as you like.

Let’s just examine Locke’s actions here for a moment. Let’s not forget he was the person who attacked Sayid, so he lies to save his own skin. Not only that, he then deliberately leads Sayid to believe it was someone else, someone innocent. Furthermore, Locke then hands Sayid a knife so that he may dispense his own brand of justice. Isn’t that just gasp-inducing? Anyone who likes to think of Locke as the cuddly, wise and unfortunate man could do well to take a long look at this scene and re-appraise their view. He puts another man’s life in the balance to dodge attention from his own misdemeanours. Dark, dark deeds.

Interesting point Locke made about Sawyer being one who had a lot to gain by remaining on the Island. Obviously Locke himself has far more to gain, as he had been gifted the use of his legs once more and, furthermore, been allowed a lease of life to unleash his hunter personality that had remained frustrated and contained. The only other person at this point that has perhaps just a little more to gain by remaining on the Island is Rose, who has had her late stage cancer cured. I say it’s an interesting point because obviously the Island bestows these miraculous healing properties, and yet this episode was fuelled by Shannon suffering from her own asthma ailment that had evidently not been cured.


It’s near-impossible to ascertain what credentials a person must have in order to qualify for the Island-healing treatment. Locke got it. Rose got it. Jin and his low sperm count got it. Shannon, not so much. Why? Don’t know. I suspect a mixture of writing inconsistency (though this episode was written by Damon Lindelof himself!) and that huge grey space of ambiguity LOST provisions for all its unanswered mysteries is where you’re likely to find a reason.

You want a fast and loose explanation? The Island only immediately cures ailments a character has the moment they arrive. Locke’s broken spine, Rose’s cancer, even Jin’s low sperm count. Shannon wasn’t having an asthma attack during the crash (we can actually know this for a near-fact because we’ll see Boone hand over her inhaler during the Exodus flashback montage!) and so it wasn’t an affliction to be cured. Anyone can get ill once they are on the Island (Charlie and his drug withdrawal, for example) so that’s why Shannon still suffered.

Hey, I told you it was fast and loose.

Season One does appear to be a more brutal and gruelling affair than later seasons. Last episode we had Charlie having to pop Jack’s dislocated shoulder back into place (maybe you don’t mind that kind of thing but that’s always been something I’ve found very uncomfortable to watch) and this episode Sawyer had sharpened stalks driven behind his fingernails before Jack was gouging his fingers into a knife wound in an artery. Even if you shut your squeamish eyes you’d still hear Sawyer bitterly retorting to Jack that if their roles were reversed he would let him die. Add in Locke’s previous cold-hearted treachery and, all in all, our Oceanic 815 survivors exist in quite the savage and unpleasant environment all of their own design without the need of Black Smokes, Others and Dharma Station issues.

I suppose Nameless had a point when he once told Jacob about how people come to the Island with their destructive, evil ways. . .


To counter the nastiness there was some  levity. I liked Hurley’s reactions to Charlie’s remarks about how he must be holding out on food supplies since he didn’t appear to be losing much weight (which also served as an in-show retort to audiences posing the same question about why Hurley didn’t appear to be dropping any pounds – thankfully Dharma ration drops would emerge to prevent the issue becoming a fully-fledged plot hole!). Charlie and Claire also had a minor subplot with him getting her to move to the caves if he managed to get her some peanut butter. The scene where they eat the imaginary treat is a little too mawkish for my tastes but there’s a place for such moments during an episode, I feel, and it’s the kind of beat later seasons will be devoid of.


The episode closed out on a music montage which, for the first time, didn’t qualify itself as having the source of the music be from Hurley’s CD player. He is never shown listening to music when the music plays so, in effect, this is actually the first instance of having music on the show that isn’t part of on-screen events or from the incidental score. For the record, it really bugs me. It’s an inconsistent mis-step from a time when LOST was finding its feet, using music with a series of dialogue-free scenes to tie up the episode. All it would have taken was a quick shot of Hurley listening on his headphones for it all to gel together, but there isn’t one. Annoying. Later seasons don’t make that mistake.

Sayid sent himself on an enforced exile as his own penance for what he had done, linking into the theme of Sawyer’s own persecution. It was interesting to see that he required Jack’s permission to torture Sawyer (the soldier in him deferring to a chain of command) but the disquiet in his heart was unleashed when he believed Sawyer was lying to him (fuelled, of course, by the belief that Sawyer had been the one to attack him previously, courtesy of Locke’s hushed suggestion). Sayid used the knife Locke had handed to him and would have surely killed Sawyer had Jack and Kate not stopped him.


Unlike Sawyer who will, over the course of the first three seasons, find resolve for his demons, Sayid will never truly reconcile his darkness. Even here, at this early stage, he must set himself apart out of awareness that he harbours a nature dangerous to others. Opportunities for redemption will be thwarted: happiness with Nadia will be shortlived with her death; Ben will twist him into his own right-hand assassin and when he retreats to find inner peace Locke will seek him out to return to the Island where he will shoot young Ben and, fundamentally, never recover the necessary piece of his soul required to make him whole.


It’s a subtle triumph of the usual form (characters find their arcs and resolutions, for good or otherwise) that LOST delivers with Sayid – at least whilst he’s alive. Only Ben will remain absolutely unresolved even in the afterlife. . . but that’s a long, long way ahead from here. Here Sayid bids farewell to Kate as though he may be leaving the show for an immeasurable hiatus but he’s really headed for an imminent rendezvous with an extremely lonely French woman who is a dab hand with a booby trap. . .

Best Part


Sawyer and Kate. Their first kiss. It was only a kiss and yet it felt X-rated. Juliet could never compete with this.

Retroview: 1.7 The Moth



Briefly, what happened?

With Locke retaining his drugs as a test of discipline, Charlie finds himself inadequate and despondent until he is called into action by rescuing Jack from a cave collapse. With respect of the group earned, Charlie burns his drugs. Meanwhile Sayid’s efforts to triangulate a signal are thwarted by an unknown assailant.

In flashback Charlie’s plight with the success of Driveshaft set against his brother’s drug addiction sees him as a washed-up, failed musician and drug addict unwilling to accept help from his now-clean brother.


Note: Retroview posts are written with full awareness of everything that happens during the entirety of LOST and will contain SPOILERS.

Thoughts and Analysis

I’ll be honest, I had a very dim opinion of The Moth. My memory had it as the episode that depicted Charlie’s success as a rock star appear unconvincing, the reasoning for his drug addiction lame and the overt symbolism of his struggle being paralleled with a moth in a cocoon so unsubtle it was a joke. If you asked me, quick as a flash, name the worst episode of Season One, the next two words would have been an unflinching response: “The Moth.”

Seen again in retroview, you know what? I’ve changed my mind. It’s not as bad as I thought. It’s got its problems, for sure, but my tainted memories were overlooking the good stuff that occurred. Front and centre, for one thing, ought to be Dominic Monaghan’s performance as Charlie. He shows a wide range here: from threatening anger when demanding his drugs, to a pitiful vulnerability when showing his weakness for the same drugs, and also to the conclusion of his character arc that sees him move from bravery (rescuing Jack) to self-worth (the boyishly stupid grin on his face when Hurley hugs him is worth the admission price of the episode all by itself).

I thought it an interesting and unappreciated aspect to LOST previously, but Dominic Monaghan (at the time of the show first airing he was easily the biggest name star) had been sidelined by the other actors in much the same manner as Charlie himself was on the Island. Charlie, the big rock star ego, expecting recognition and adulation and instead receiving marginalisation perhaps did carry parallels with Monaghan’s treatment in the cast. I should stress I am not suggesting that Monaghan was an egotist expecting recognition, rather the expectation would be that the ‘big’ name star would get a bigger, heroic role to play.


Dominic Monaghan was no more the leading man of LOST than Charlie was the respected leader of the Island survivors, despite any expectations. Credit indeed then the performance; when Monaghan’s and Charlie’s turn to stand in the spotlight came the result was well worth the wait.

The episode began with the surprise that Charlie was once a man of faith, to the extent that he was on the verge of quitting the band altogether in favour of a more pure life. (Loved the dialogue in the confession box, with Charlie confiding having “relations” with various women and then watching them have “relations” with each other.) I must admit that the religious aspect to Charlie was never really one that totally went over with me. Compare with Mr. Eko. Now there was a man that was far removed from a holy man – brutish, murderous and imposing. And yet he was wholly believable as a man of total faith. Charlie, not so much.

If the point was that Charlie lost his faith then it would make sense, but there was never the indication that he lost his faith at all. He didn’t turn his back on God, or choose atheism – instead he made a decision to pursue his passion for music and in doing so lost his way. The very last thing Charlie ever does whilst he lives is to sign off with the sign of the cross before he drowns.


Charlie is not a man that stopped believing, but he was a character that I couldn’t really believe possessed strong belief. Not, as stated, when compared to Mr. Eko as an example. The religious aspect of his character feels like a background forced upon him rather than one he naturally emerged from. There are certainly religious overtones in the nature of his choices dictating his morality. Never more famous an example exists than the matter of Eve making the choice to take a bite out of an apple, only for Charlie it wasn’t a snake that lead him down the path of temptation but his cheeky, grinning, blue-eyed brother, Liam.


Liam first appears slouching in the church, arms outstretched in a crucifix pose, but facing away. A faux image of purity masking sinister intent. He tells Charlie that they have a chance at the big time with a record deal just at the point Charlie was set to quit the music industry altogether. Charlie announces that they will go for it but with the caveat that if things get too crazy then he is willing to pull the plug. It’s here do I find a major sticking point of believability.

I mean, look, if Charlie had been extremely pious and virtuous and just so happened to be musically gifted (it’s expressed here that Charlie is the musician, Liam merely sings the songs, a dynamic that parallels them with the brothers Gallagher, of Oasis, which I shall make more of shortly) then his hardline stance on not wanting to be dragged into the chaos of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle would be acceptable. Yet Charlie has, literally by his own confession, just emerged from a hedonistic night of casual threesome sex (presumably not done sober, either). And for all his talk of turning his back on the band, the fact that the promise of a music deal turns him round in a heartbeat suggests that getting tired of struggling with the band was as much a reason to quit as anything to do with morality issues.

The fact of the matter is Charlie wasn’t a saint before he signed the record deal and so his ‘fall from grace’ feels a little forced. That Charlie is a religious person feels utterly superfluous to his motivations and choices during his downfall. I feel it would have made more sense for Liam to have been a stronger catalyst for what happened; this episode attempts to make that connections but, for me, doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Let’s consider the template from which Charlie and Liam, and Driveshaft, are drawn from. Quite specifically the inspiration was these two:


Liam and Noel Gallagher from the band Oasis. They are a Manchester band (like Driveshaft), fronted by two brothers (Noel and Liam Gallagher effectively transplanted as Charlie and, hey, Liam Pace) one of which took control musically (Noel/Charlie) and the other taking centre stage frontman duties (the two Liams). Even their hit song ‘(You All) Everybody’ has a traditional, MOR rock sound very much like early Oasis songs (their single ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ feels like the closest musical likeness – itself a derivative song borrowing a riff from an old T-Rex hit!).

I recall first time around this close likeness of Driveshaft with Oasis skirted too close to caricature for me. Possibly it’s because I was a big fan of Oasis back in the day (the first CD single I ever bought was ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, and the first concert I ever went to was to see them, fact fans!) so to see a poor knock off imitation was naturally not going to sit right. Perhaps fans of the show who were oblivious of Oasis and therefore didn’t see the similarities were able to more easily buy in to Driveshaft as a realistic proposition – but all I could see was a near-caricature and it shattered my disbelief.


In Retroview the depiction of the band, onstage and backstage, actually fairs a little better. Indeed, I rather wish the episode could have spared a few more minutes of extra flashback time to letting us see more of the band. There’s a big vacuum in the LOST universe surrounding Driveshaft in their heyday. This episode is the only time we capture them at the height of their success, onstage, and arguably the rot has already begun to set in and their best days are behind them. In future episodes we’ll see Hurley and his friend flicking through records and dismissing them as “suckshaft” and see the band selling themselves out promoting baby products in advertisement endorsements, but we never see them at their peak. We never see them in the good days, when their sales went through the roof and they were happy. What we don’t get, ultimately, is a kind of empirical reference about how successful and seismic Driveshaft were on the musical landscape.

It’s important, I think, in understanding Charlie’s frame of mind. If he was as big a star as, say, Liam Gallagher, then it would be more understandable that he’d feel jilted by a lack of recognition from his fellow survivors. In the very first episode he assumed Kate knew who he was, and even sang his most famous song, and whilst it did jog a memory with her it registered zip with Jack. Same goes for a lot of the other survivors. So since we get no sense of just how famous Charlie once was it’s tricky to establish how far into obscurity he has fallen since.


It should also be taken into account that Charlie’s ego, and his inflated sense of self-importance feeds into his perception of how famous and important people ought to consider him. In the early seasons he is a character that will struggle to get over himself and his sense of entitlement – and it’s really only through Claire and Aaron will he surrender that selfishness and learn to care more about others than he does for himself, resulting in his committing the ultimate sacrifice and cementing himself as a legendary LOST character by having one of the best death scenes in the whole show.

In short, I suspect Charlie’s perception of his fame isn’t quantifiable to how famous he actually was. Never-the-less, he had more than modest success and I feel like LOST didn’t really give us a fair sense of that. I mean, how about some scenes when the Oceanic 6 returned home that might have suggested Charlie, and Driveshaft, had experienced a resurgence following his death? Like Kurt Cobain’s suicide, or Richey James’ disappearance, or Amy Winehouse’s death prompted fanaticism and posthumous infamy – and boosted record sales. I think that would have gone a long way, but LOST just didn’t seem interested – simply wanted a rock star with a religious background and a drug problem to create a conflicted character.


Charlie’s decision to turn to drugs is the big turning point of the episode and the one that still, for me, is seriously weak. Considering it will be a very defining quality for Charlie over the first two seasons especially (no sooner has he burned his drugs and endured the cold turkey does a Virgin Mary statue and plane load of heroin show up!) it’s not convincing enough. It was like they simply wanted to tick the box marked ‘Reason For Becoming A Drug Addict’ and came up with the fact that his brother did it and so Charlie did, too.

Don’t get me wrong, it could have worked. If there had been more scenes showing Liam and Charlie’s relationship breaking, their closeness being riven apart by Liam’s addiction to drugs, then there would have been justification to be mined out of it. If Liam provided more temptation, telling Charlie how wonderful it all was and that he was missing out on the time of his life, and that perhaps even for his musical creativity he needed to open his mind to new experiences and live the dream with him, all of that could have fed into the key moment where Charlie decided to hit the Class A.


But no, it didn’t play out like that. Charlie was in open disgust over his brother and his behaviour, how he had changed from the person he knew into this monstrous man whose ego and appetite for excess was blinding him from the promise they made right at the beginning. Charlie threatened to quit and Liam simply refused to allow it and so what does Charlie do? The natural response would be to just quit the band anyway! But no, a few taunts about Charlie’s inadequacy later, and he’s hitting the heroin.

The Moth took a good try at selling the idea that Charlie’s lack of self-esteem fuelled his need to find something to make him feel confident, but the conversion to hard drugs just felt far too heavy-handed. It might have been better to show Charlie stating he’d never become the man his brother had become and so made the flashback a tragic irony since we know that, by the time of the Island, he will become exactly that kind of man.

Instead the episode chose a different tragic irony, with Charlie turning to his now-clean, family man brother. The devil that had lead him astray had found the path to redemption and left his brother lost in hell..


On this horrible twist The Moth flashback was a success, and Charlie certainly cut a desolate figure, spurned from his own brother and locked into addiction before he boarded that fateful flight on Oceanic 815. If you can overlook, or seriously suspend your disbelief, the reason why Charlie became a drug addict then the episode, and Charlie’s terrible rise and fall from stardom makes for a meaty and compelling story. Of all the characters introduced in flashback form so far into Season One, his is easily the most complex and perhaps that’s why such short running times and snippets of backstory aren’t sophisticated enough to properly convey the full scope.

And so whilst I’m in a critical mode, let’s hit The Moth with charges of gross un-sophistication in its use of metaphor. Only the very hard-of-thinking would fail to appreciate that Charlie is being paralleled to a moth in this episode, and it’s not subtle and it’s not pretty.


Locke gets the metaphor ball rolling when showing Charlie the moth in its cocoon and stating he could help the moth out but then it would be too weak to survive by itself. Do you see? It’s the struggle that makes the moth fit for survival. And hey! I’ll be damned! Isn’t that the lesson that Charlie is being taught here, that he has to have the strength and resolve to turn down the drugs that are available to him if he is going to be able to kick the habit.

Wow. That’s, like, totally paralleled. And you know, if that scene had been the end of it then it would have been OK. Locke and the episode had made its point and we could let Charlie go ahead and struggle with his addiction and eventually overcome it and appreciate that, as a consequence, he would emerge stronger as a result. Only The Moth has other ideas. . .

A moth appears in the cave where Charlie and Jack are trapped and then shows them a potential way out. It’s curious that the moment Charlie notices the moth he figures that it means there’s a gap somewhere they can escape from, whereas the reasonably logical assumption would be that the moth had been trapped in the cave with them the whole time! But OK, whatever. Next we see Charlie struggling up through the rocks and busting improbably up out of the ground and, you know, doesn’t that strike you very much like a little baby moth breaking out of its cocoon?


OK, LOST. We get it. Charlie is like the moth. It was an OK parallel at first but, yeah, now you’re starting to push it. But LOST isn’t done. The end of the episode sees Charlie burn his drugs and then, in that revelatory moment of liberation, what does he see? The moth flying into the dark night, free! (Presumably this is the moth that was in the cocoon, and not the one that was in the cave. Or maybe they were one and the same. Personally I think cave moth was a different moth and the moth at the end was a newly-freed, fresh from its cocoon moth because if its not then the strained metaphor doesn’t even make any sense.)

As stated, the parallel metaphor is fine, but the sickly-sweet unsubtly of it is pitched a level of sophistication several leagues below the standard LOST ought to have been aiming for. It makes me cringe and want to hurriedly brush the whole episode under the carpet and forget about it.

Ah, but to sweep it all aside and forget about it would be to ignore the many positives the episode provides elsewhere. Michael is a character that fares well here. When the cave collapses he is able to use his engineering expertise to direct the survivors into digging a rescue tunnel.

In itself it’s not a big deal, but the act is made more special when viewed through Walt’s eyes. Moments after the tunnel collapses Walt suggests they should go and get “Mr. Locke” only for him to see his father spring into action and suddenly perceive him with a new sense of respect. It’s a really sweet moment and marks the turning point in their relationship. A small beat that makes a long lasting impact.


There is a stranger beat towards the end of the episode involving Michael, though. Walt is starting to like his life on the Island (a feeling that will ally him closer to Locke and also see him thwart the first attempts at building a raft) and he makes a remark about how the place is cool and asks Michael if they could live there. Michael’s response is strange: he says nothing and looks over at Sun for a lingering, meaningful moment.

I have to assume that from the very beginning (Michael running in and seeing Sun undressed, to discovering she can speak English) that there were serious plans to have a relationship emerge between Michael and Sun. All of the pieces have been slowly put in place to start working towards such an outcome. What is interesting in Retroview is picking up on all of these and, for future episodes, keeping an eye on how that develops.

I certainly don’t remember there being anything close to a romantic connection, although I do remember when Sun was pregnant I did wonder if the baby would turn out to be Michael’s and some flashbacks to this early period on the Island may reveal a burst of sexual passion had occurred between them. My feeling is that the show writers were leaning towards making something out of Michael and Sun and they ultimately veered away from it either because they wanted to maintain Jin and Sun’s relationship (which worked out to be a really smart move) and/or because they already had one love triangle with Jack, Kate and Sawyer and another one would have just been clutter. Again, I’d agree that was a smart decision.


Sawyer revealed a jealous and malicious streak in the love triangle this episode. He told Kate, after much delay and outright dismissing the idea that Sawyer could even think about comparing himself to Jack, that he was most likely dead in the caves. Instantly she was off to his rescue, very clearly defining where her allegiances are in the love triangle at this point. Sawyer is very much not in the frame and Jack very much is. She’ll change her mind a few times before the end!


With Sawyer left minding the rocket the episode could generate its best scene. Sayid required Sawyer to fire his rocket and the wouldn’t-trust-her-as-far-as-you-could-throw-her Shannon to fire hers. What I really liked here was that the tension and drama that ensued was generated out of familiarity with the characters that had been established. Seeing Sayid fire his rocket we watched with the dread feeling that one or possibly both of the people who were supposed to do their part wouldn’t follow through.


Shannon came through, albeit that she was idly chatting and had totally forgotten her duties. I liked that. Making her responsible for such a crucial failing would have felt like too cruel a blow. Meanwhile we know that Sawyer also lit his firework, although at the time Sayid believed it was Kate. To generate some mystery we didn’t see Sawyer actually light the fuse so creating the remote possibility that he was the unseen assailant that decked Sayid just when he was trying to triangulate the signal.

We know now that it was in fact Locke that delivered the blow to Sayid, in the first of various acts of sabotage to prevent any of our survivors from getting off the Island. There’s no getting around the fact that Locke is straddling the line between hero and villain during the first season. In this episode he tests Charlie’s mettle with drugs and, whilst it seems like tough love for Charlie’s betterment it should also be noted that he has earned Charlie’s trust in his judgement and become someone he can defer to.


It was no accident that in flashback Charlie’s priest, in the confession box, stated that the choices Charlie made would define him and then Locke would be the one to state the same sentiment. Locke is once more becoming a religious leader figure, practically goading Charlie into confession to earn his repentance. It started last episode, with the gift of the guitar, now this episode Locke has given Charlie strength and a clear conscience.

First time round, of course, we don’t know that Locke was the person who attacked Sayid, so LOST is rather cleverly shaping the audience into believing in him, too. Courtesy of his flashback story we see him as victim and object of pity, and now see him apparently benevolently hunting food for the group and weaning Charlie off his drug addiction. In retrospect people may remember that Locke and forget about the Locke that also in this same episode used Charlie as bait so he could hunt and trap a boar. That ruthlessness, that manipulative deviousness, tends to be overlooked.

The irony that Locke’s form will be utilised by Nameless and become the epitome of devious manipulation is all nicely seeded here; events now echoing into future seasons.

Last point of discussion, and it’s a small moment of dialogue that carries a lot of weight in Retroview. When Sayid and Kate were walking together they discussed the plane crash. Sayid made the very ‘Locke-like’ point that by every conceivable rationale there was no way they should have survived, least of all with little more than cuts and bruises.


Sayid’s comments do somewhat casually disregard the sizeable proportion of passengers that did die in the crash, though perhaps that only reinforces his incredulity. That so many people died, people that could have been sitting next to and around the survivors, it only exacerbates the miracle of their survival even more. Sayid doesn’t go on to make the conclusion aloud that there could be a higher power or reason to explain their survival but it’s evidently something that’s kicking around Sayid’s thoughts.

I don’t recall Sayid ever speaking out again about this matter, but that doesn’t necessarily make it feel false. I think most people having survived such a plane crash would naturally try and rationalise their survival and, when rationale is found wanting, find their minds wandering to grander ideas. I simply liked the fact that it wasn’t just Locke – that Sayid is also voicing his wonder. It’s important in the sense that, unlike Locke, Sayid hasn’t prevented this profound experience to deter him from the matter of taking every practical measure he can think of to try and find rescue. God himself could have held Sayid in the palm of his hand and safely deposited him on the beach and Sayid would still be marching into the jungle with an electrical gadget he has fashioned to try and triangulate the distress signal!

In conclusion then, I enjoyed The Moth more than I thought I would. What is evident is that the show was finding its feet after the introductory phase. The cave collapse and rescue betrayed a formulaic structure that LOST would, in later seasons, move away from but there’s a clear confidence in knowing who these characters are and where they are from – in this principle does the show find its strengths and lay its foundations.

Best Part


Whilst I got a warm and fuzzy out of seeing Charlie and Jack return to the group having escaped from the cave, the most intense moment was when Sayid lit his firework and waited to see if the others would follow suit so he could triangulate his signal. The drama played out on the apparent untrustworthiness of Shannon and Sawyer, making us fear the best laid plan would come unstuck, only for it to turn out to be an unpredictable attack that derailed the endeavour. It was a nicely executed build and pay off that was arguably more compelling than all that happened in the main storyline of the episode.

Retroview: 1.6 House Of The Rising Sun

Briefly, what happened?
 
The skeleton cave couple were discovered, with Locke dubbing them ‘Adam and Eve’. Locke also discovered Charlie’s drug problem and asked him to hand over the drugs now rather than need them when they had ran out. On the beach, Jin attacks Michael after he sees the watch he is wearing and only Sun revealing she can speak English to ask Michael’s help resolves the situation.

In flashback Jin and Sun’s illicit romance is made official with marriage only with Jin working for Sun’s father. The time-consuming and violent nature of the work forces Sun to concoct a plot to leave Jin and only a last-second decision at the airport changes her mind.












Note: Retroview posts are written with full awareness of everything that happens during the entirety of LOST and will contain SPOILERS.

Thoughts and Analysis
 
Ah, the episode where the skeleton cave couple were first introduced. That’s what House Of The Rising Sun was forever referred to for by keen LOST theorisers  over the many years it would take before this skeleton cave couple were ever referred to again and had their identities revealed. Of course we now know that the male, ‘Adam’, was in fact Nameless and that ‘Eve’ was his mother, Mother, who wasn’t really his mother. We also know that it was Jacob that laid them to rest there, and placed a pouch with black and white stones inside with a skeleton, pieces of the game Senet in fact, that Nameless and he used to play when they were boys.












In retroview there’s little to be gained from knowing who the skeleton cave couple are and seeing them introduced here. Unlike other scenes, like Locke with the black and white backgammon pieces telling Walt that one side is black, the other white, this is not a scene that feels powerfully loaded with hindsight goodness. Although it was only upon writing this paragraph do I appreciate that Locke holding backgammon pieces and the black and white stones being game pieces is a nice parallel that I had never previously realised.

It was Jack that pocketed the black and white pieces, by the way. I remember once upon a time thinking it was potentially important that he had been the one to take the stones away but now. . . Ah, now it just, well, isn’t. I think the scene doesn’t feel particularly loaded with power mainly because I don’t for one moment believe that the show creators at this time had it in their heads who ‘Adam and Eve’ really were. I just don’t. Oh, I can believe they expected them to be some of the first people that were on the Island an extremely long time ago. And I believe they had their black and white, good versus evil theme laid out, too, so sticking the black and white stones in there would all tie in nicely. But I suspect that was just about as much as they had figured out and they knew they had written in something powerful, symbolic, but vague enough to be later worked in. And so it was.












It’s only now writing this do I remember that the episode Across The Sea, when it shows Jacob laying the bodies to rest in the cave, flashes back to this episode, these scenes where Jack found the bodies. I remember it really irritated me, that LOST felt the need to include such a concession to underline and emphasise the connection. Proper longterm LOST fans didn’t need that flashback to telegraph the point, and any short-term memory new LOST fans who may have missed the relevance. . . well. . . so what? 

But now I’m quibbling about episodes a long way ahead and there’s stuff here to be discussing. In truth, though, House Of The Rising Sun was really best served as being referred to as the one where the skeleton cave couple featured because there’s really not a lot else here that’s particularly good. In fact, it’s the worst episode of Season One so far (although I am fully expecting we’re going to hit worse). Case in point: the bit where Charlie stood on a beehive.












These really are innocent times when a beehive represents great danger that has Jack, Kate, Locke and Charlie all panicky and jittery. Give it a season or two and these people will long for the time when all that they had to worry about was running away from some atrociously unconvincing bee special effects! 

Charlie had wound up stood atop the aforementioned hive of doom by being preoccupied with a sudden need to take himself away from the group to score a hit. He didn’t bank on wily old Locke lurking with an eagle eye, looking out for a weak member of the group he could exploit and recruit into his church. Locke makes his moves here to morph Charlie into his first acolyte, a gambit that will ultimately see to it that not much love is lost between them. 

Locke’s ploy was simple but effective. I expect he spotted the guitar in the debris above on their way into the caves, but he kept quiet. Figuring that Charlie might like it, he then discovered that Charlie liked heroin and had a stash he was quietly working through. So he spotted a weakness (drug addiction), and a desire (the guitar) – the two key ingredients for manipulation – and he exploited them. He also made Charlie begin to form a belief in the mystic power of the Island. He suggested that if Charlie were to give up his drugs then the Island would provide for him. It’s a bit like a minister asking you to pay sums of money into the church so that the lord can provide. 

It’s important that Locke deferred to the Island being the provider. In one fell swoop he proposed the Island held a level of sentience that, really, any right-minded person ought to have been raising an eyebrow at. And he also provided the Island with a bargaining power of sacrifice and reward, very much like a God. Make no mistake, Locke is forging the beginnings of a religion here.












Of course, if you were devout, you would claim that Locke did not know that the guitar was where it was. That the Island did indeed provide. It’s curious, but Ben would go on to pull a similar stunt with his talk of a ‘magic box’ in the The Man From Tallahassee, where he claimed the Island could provide anything your heart desires. Who did he pull this trick on? Why, Locke, naturally! The scam artist became the scammed using his own con. Ah, irony. Bottom line is, whilst the Island is capable of some weird and wonderful things, I don’t believe we’ve ever been given enough to suggest it is sentient and God-like with benevolent and malevolent tendencies. 

Man brings man to the Island. The Island allows man to show himself to be what he is, good or bad. The game that Jacob and Nameless is playing is based on that principle and, up until the point that Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island, the black pieces have generally been winning. 

So Locke is now in possession of Charlie’s drugs. Whilst Charlie seemed all too happy to hand them over in return for his guitar it won’t be too long before he’s clucking for a fix and demanding he get his drugs back. But that’s for another episode. For here and now Locke has his first apostle. 












For what it’s worth I don’t believe that Locke is manipulating Charlie out of evil or selfish intent. I believe that Locke believes and he simply wants others to appreciate the wonder he has found. Why wouldn’t he feel so blessed? He was a cripple that can now walk. He was confronted by a black smoke that showed him a white light, the most beautiful thing he ever saw. Anyone who has survived a near-miss with death often finds their perspective on life imbued with a newfound sense of purpose and meaning.  It’s not like Locke’s faith is entirely misplaced. If he had found Jacob early, a true Jesus Christ-like figure to follow with unwavering obedience, things might have turned out differently. If anything, Locke is a man of too much faith and too much willingness to believe in meaning. Furthermore, his dire need to make others see how he sees will have dreadful consequences. 

Charlie’s ready conversion however is understandable. We will discover that he was given a strict Catholic upbringing, and he also has a belief that music will be what can save him from the life of misery he was enduring before the crash. Yeah, Locke spotted a good candidate in Charlie and pushed exactly the right button (and those are concepts that will get plenty of mileage in LOST!). 

Jack threw plenty of LOST theorists a curveball in determining the age of the skeleton cave couple. Due to the decomposition of the clothing he figured they couldn’t be much older than sixty years, perhaps. Turns out he was way off. Way off. Why didn’t the corpses of Nameless and Mother decompose, or their clothes wither away to fragments of nothing? There’s not really a good reason is there? File it under the same brand of magic that stopped Richard Alpert from ageing. It’s a more canon-like explanation than the one that suggests the writer of this particular episode didn’t get the memo that stated ‘Adam and Eve’ were a messed up mother and son relationship that probably took place on the Island a thousand years ago or more. 

Jack was weird this episode, too. He was incredibly flirty with Kate. If it didn’t feel odd at the time it was because we didn’t really know Jack’s character too well. In retroview, and knowing that Jack generally does intensely serious and little else, this frivolous, playful quality is out of kilter. The purpose of it was to suggest that Jack had taken Kate’s loyalty to him for granted. She was his Eve, in his mind. Thing was Kate is still born to run at this moment, and not quite prepared to give up on the notion of rescue (read: escape).












A schism would be forged in the group between those that wanted to live in the caves and those that wanted to remain on the beach. The ideology is stark: one group is preparing for longterm life on the Island whilst the other is hankering after a quick rescue to whisk them out of there. To be honest, I think Jack would have done better to have not made such a big deal out of the decision. Demanding people either live at one place or the other, all just for the sake of water transportation, wasn’t a particularly smart leadership decision. If the people that wanted to live on the beach were OK with organising their own water supplies then what was the problem? Better to have the beach people still on the same side should a boat or a plane appear so they could come running and let the cave people know! 

The rift in the group won’t be a particularly damaging one, however, but it is a nice illustration about the types of people there are. Sawyer, naturally, isn’t prepared to hunker down and make nice in the caves. It’ll be quite some time before this rogue settled into being LaFleur, playing house with Juliet in the barrack houses. . .












. . . because here he’s still the lovable rascal, and he’s spotted a kindred spirit in Kate, too. At this stage I have found their relationship perhaps the most believable out of all the characters. I immediately believe that these two would find a commonality, and I like how they have struck up a near-unspoken friendship that comes with the dressing of guarded distancing and pithy remarks. Another relationship that’s more unlikely develops more this episode: Sun and Michael.












Michael is the first to learn that Sun can speak English. Curiously, Sayid in the previous episode was absolutely convinced that Sun could understand what he was saying when he was accusing Jin of stealing water. This episode he’s no longer quite so certain and dismisses Sun when communication attempts fail. I prefer the Sayid that saw right through her as a liar from the previous episode than the Sayid we saw here! So it’s just Michael that’s in the loop for now. 

It has to be said that Jin’s character doesn’t quite track here. His brutal attack of Michael over a watch, sure, does get an explanation further down the line. It was one of the watches that Mr. Paik charged Jin with delivering and thus it’s his duty and his honour on the line to see that it is done. However, you’d like to think that even Mr. Paik might understand if Jin had failed to complete his task following an aeroplane crash on a desert island! But more than that, Jin’s assault of Michael was absolutely savage – with him pounding the living snot out of the guy in the surf whilst his young son watched on. 

It’s just not Jin, is it? I know his is a character that does undergo a mellow transformation, but even in a future flashback this season we will see Jin duck out of murdering a man, defying Mr. Paik’s orders, and instead delivering a mercy beating. Point is, Jin is initially made out to be a killer but the truth of the matter is he hasn’t the heart for it. Only there on the beach, when he was relentlessly turning Michael’s face into putty, that didn’t seem to be the case. If the likes of Sayid hadn’t intervened then there’s every reason to believe Jin would have gone right ahead and beaten Michael to death.
No, that’s just not the Jin we’ll get to know. 

As a consequence of his actions Jin got himself handcuffed to a piece of wreckage. It’s a nice touch that Jin will have the bracelet handcuff for the rest of this season, and a short way into the second (until, if I remember rightly, Locke gets to use tools found in the Swan Station to break off the cuff). As a side plot, though, such a level of drama over something as insignificant as a watch just feels like overkill. It might have tracked better had the watch turned out to be massively significant (remember that theory where it was proposed Mr. Paik had installed trackers in the watches so he would know where Oceanic 815 had crashed and be able to find the Island!?) but, in the end, it’s just a watch, a trinket, something to take from one place to another, a reason to travel – nothing more.













The flashback was more successful, showing in brief snippets how it was Jin and Sun came to be together.  She was the rich girl daughter of a tyrannical businessman, and he was her bit of rough on the side that pulled out all the stops to punch above his weight and get the girl of his dreams. This is also the first flashback of season one that breaks tradition with previous flashbacks and shows more of the character history before the crash. All the other flashback stories shown so far (Kate, Locke, Jack) all showed what was happening just a few days before the crash of Oceanic 815 – the Jin and Sun story goes back years before we catch up with them at the airport. 












This is mostly Sun’s flashback. Whilst Jin features, we see the events from Sun’s perspective. The flipside story, Jin’s side of the story, will come in a later episode (. . . In Translation). Sun doesn’t generally emerge as a sympathetic character during her flashback stories, and this is perhaps the only one that gives her an air of pity. The basic story suggests that she was a dutiful wife that was neglected by her husband who lost track of why they fell in love and was lured in to a material world of dark deeds for her father. As a result she decided she could not stand it anymore and was intent on eloping. 

Further developments will go on to paint Sun as a woman that is also unable to be a mother because Jin cannot impregnate her, which is a further tale of woe. But, lest we forget, Sun was also having an affair with the man that taught her how to speak English (Jae Lee) and the very notion of going to America was very much inspired by some of the things he told her. Mr. Paik knew of the affair of course, so Sun was living under a great cloud of shame over what she had done – not to mention the fact that Jae Lee apparently committed suicide for her – there’s a lot more than just being a downtrodden wife motivating her to run away.

All of this extra backstory actually explains her last minute change of heart decision to stay at the airport. If her reason for eloping was purely because she could no longer stand being around Jin then him just holding a little flower, a reminder of better days, surely wouldn’t have been enough to win her back round. Instead it will transpire that Sun had a whole wealth of reasons for wanting to make a break yet Jin, the actual man she was in love with, remained. Just about.












Their marriage will be tested in the next few weeks on the Island, because whilst Sun did relent and return to her husband’s side she has ultimately been given the break away from the suffocating life. Sun is currently going through a minor awakening of independence, and whilst Jin is stifling her at present, she’ll once more feel the pull to wriggle loose and gain her freedom. The change Jin will undergo is in accepting Sun as a woman of free choice in her own right. The title of the episode is therefore explained in a literal sense, as one where there is a ‘rising Sun’, climbing out of the oppression to find liberation

Best Part
 
I have to plump for the skeleton cave couple scene. As stated, the episode wasn’t a very strong one but this scene, this revelation, would be remembered and discussed and referred to for years. And it’ll only be in one of the very last episodes of the very final season where we discover who these skeletons were. I do wish they hadn’t bothered to put them in clothes, though, with Jack lessening the impact of the find by dating them as around sixty years old. 












Just imagine how much cooler it would have been had the skeletons not been clothed, leading Jack and the rest to wonder if they could be centuries old. . . Sure, it turned out they were, but the fact is the scene and the cave could have been imbued with a greater sense of awe if LOST had bothered to milk it. (If they’d really known everything in advance then sticking a few hieroglyphs in that cave, or maybe even a mysterious weaving, would have been absolutely amazing!)