Retroview: 1.4 Walkabout

Briefly, what happened?

Locke ventures out as the group’s hunter-gatherer to retrieve a boar for the survivor’s rapidly-dwindling food supplies. He has an encounter with ‘the monster’ but tells no one about it, and returns with a boar. At night, the fuselage and the dead inside are burned following a short ceremony.

In flashback Locke is refused admission on the ‘walkabout’ adventure holiday due to his being in a wheelchair – an affliction miraculously lifted by the Island.

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 expect for legion of LOST fans, Walkabout retains a place in their hearts and memories as one of the show’s finest. People will have their own reasons for this and, indeed, I do too. I think it sticks out most vividly purely because of that most wonderful surprise reveal – that Locke was confined to a wheelchair before the crash of Oceanic 815. LOST would go on to have all kinds of reveals and surprises, ones that would drop a twist into proceedings to knock you sideways, but you’ll always remember the first time as that little bit more special and Locke being in a wheelchair was perhaps the purest, most immediate kind of surprise LOST offered up.

In truth, Walkabout isn’t as good as the sum of its parts. Without the brilliant flashback story and twist it’s a fairly mundane episode, with a lot of b-plots and trivialities punctuated by two major on-Island highlights. This was one of them:

We didn’t know at the time it was Jack’s recently-deceased father, Christian Shephard, making an unexpected appearance on the beach but now we can understand why Jack reacted so shocked but didn’t mention what he saw. All kinds of things must have tumbled through his mind, but most likely, being a man of science (and having just diagnosed Rose as enduring post traumatic stress) he would likely consider himself losing grip on rational sense.

Of course, we’ll come to learn that it wasn’t really Christian Shephard at all. It was actually Nameless in Christian Shephard’s form. If it seems early for Nameless to be taking such form consider that in the ‘mobisode’ So It Begins aired between Season 3 and 4, the actual first instance of Nameless taking possession of Christian’s form occurred before Jack even woke up in the jungle, when he tells Vincent work needs to be done.

The crash had only just happened. Christian Shephard’s body in the coffin had barely touched down near the caves. And already Nameless had assumed the form and had sought Jack out! So what’s going on here? This is pretty heavy-going so early in to the Retroview but events dictate the content so let’s tackle this head on.

First, the matter of Nameless taking the form of a dead person. Considering Christian Shephard’s body will have gone when Jack opens the coffin in the next episode, and likewise Yemi’s body will later disappear when Mr. Eko seeks it out, there’s a temptation to figure that Nameless does something with the dead bodies in order to occupy their form. I don’t believe this is true. We’ll see Nameless take the form of various deceased people, some that he could not possibly have reached the bodies for (Richard Alpert’s wife, for example) so it logically follows the actual physical body is not required.

So we’ll take that as granted. Nameless does not need a body to assume the form. (I think a general rule would be that, given he is sourced from beyond death, the only necessity for him to assume a human form would be if that person were dead.) If that is so, why remove Christian and Yemi’s body? Well, I think the answer is quite simple: It’s so that Jack, and Mr. Eko, will actually believe these apparitions are really the people they knew, are really the dead returning to deliver a message.

In the instance of Alpert, Nameless assumed his wife’s form in order to trick him into doing his bidding. I think the same thing is true here, with his taking Christian’s form and seeking Jack out. What we see in this episode is the first moves in a ploy by Nameless to draw Jack into searching for him in the jungle, but that’s a pursuit followed through in the next episode, White Rabbit, so I’ll pick up the discussion in that post.

The other big event, also featuring Nameless, is when he encounters Locke. Whilst we don’t get to see what Locke see this episode. . .

. . . we’ll get a good idea about what he was looking at in the next season. . .

So Locke got confronted by this enormous, growling Black Smoke and it didn’t kill him. Was that because Nameless was aware that Locke was a man that had been touched by Jacob? (Similarly, was that the reason it was seeking Jack out, too?) I am going to go with yes, primarily because we have written evidence that the names of people Jacob had marked as potential candidates to replace him had been written in the dial of a lighthouse wheel and on the ceiling of a cave.

Over the years names would have been scratched out, removing them from Jacob’s consideration, but at the time of the crash there would have been many more viable possibilities and Nameless was surely aware of them. Neatly enough, we hear this episode that Jack’s seat number was 23, which is one of the 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers. Last episode Kate mentioned her Australian ransom was $16,000, and we find out that Locke has been in a wheelchair for 4 years. Jack is assigned as number 23 on the cave ceiling, like his seat number, just as Locke is designated as number 4, like the number of years he has been in a wheelchair – pretty cool, right? Kate isn’t number 16, however. She’s 51. I guess that would have just been too perfect.

Anyway, where does all this get us? It basically gets us to the situation where Nameless is already making moves against key players on Jacob’s list of candidates. Locke will later state that he looked into the eye of the Island (meaning this encounter he had in the jungle when he stared into the Black Smoke) and he saw a beautiful white light. It’s curious, but the heart of the Island, the cave of light that Nameless was thrust into and emerged from as the Black Smoke, really fits this description.

We enter the realms of interpretation with such matters. My interpretation was that Nameless showed Locke exactly what he wanted to see. He showed him the beautiful heart of the Island to convince Locke it was a truly miraculous place. The effect would be to forge a willingness for Locke to want to stay and, furthermore, to try and make other people stay. What Nameless does, in fact, is give Locke faith in the Island. He makes an acolyte out of him. Absolute, devoted belief. And Locke will believe so hard, so strongly, he will go to all manner of lengths to derive meaning and purpose for that faith.

(For Locke Season 1 will be about keeping people on the Island, Season 2 will be about pushing the button for a perceived higher purpose, Season 3 about discovering ‘Jacob’, Season 4 about trying to protect the Island and Season 5 about trying to make a believer out of Jack but dying in service of his belief. Locke doesn’t make it to Season 6, not alive at any rate!)

As we saw in this flashback, and others, Locke is prone to pouring his hope and faith into misguided places (it’s this very quality that will cost him a kidney, for one thing!). He has been continuing a relationship with a phone sex worker called Helen (I assume he named her as such after his last girlfriend which only makes it all the sadder) who bursts his delusional notion of what they are once he offers to take her with him on his ‘walkabout’.

One hope balloon popped, he then goes to the tour operator in Australia and is rejected admission on the trip. Another hope balloon popped. Despair, once more, greets Locke in its unfeeling embrace and fate, as he sees it, deposits him on an Island where he regains the use of his legs. Locke’s only capacity to keep on going has been to take the hits life doles out and find something else to focus on – the Island becomes that new thing, with the fulfilment of getting to be the hunter he always believed he was.

We got the first defiant exclamation of “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” this episode. It’s Locke’s mantra, and it’s got him through some seriously tough times. It’s a terrific attitude, but left unchecked such belligerence can be costly.

Kate went along with Locke on the boar hunt as a cover for her mission in helping Sayid try and triangulate the signal of the French distress beacon (already there are secrets in the group!). She failed, and I liked how Sayid’s frustrations bubbled over when she told him before he then composed himself. Michael’s willingness to go along felt more out of place, albeit his motive is purely to try and get to know Locke better on account of him hanging around Walt.

It feels like a stretch for Michael to be included, and more like the writers just getting his character into the mix. Especially considering the hassle of trying to enlist Sun as a babysitter (really, you’d have to ask why Michael didn’t just go and ask someone else who spoke English to look after his son!). Still, at least Sun was on hand to explain how they used leaves to keep their teeth clean! One mystery solved before the question was even raised!

The requirement to hunt is formed through the need to eat. LOST is perhaps guilty of glossing over just how tough it would be for a group as large as the survivors of Oceanic 815 to sustain themselves (the boar that Locke eventually returned with sure won’t last!). It’s really only Season 1 where provisions are a concern as by Season 2 they’ll find the Swan Station and a larder full of food, and then later discover the parachuted ration drop. Food will be plentiful! But for Season 1 it’s like there’s token mention that of a need to get food for themselves during this episode and after that it’s pretty much left up to Locke to keep bringing back the meat!

Let’s not forget that Jin is a dab hand at bringing in the fish, mind, and does his fair share of providing as the show goes on. It’s something Shannon ought to have considered when she recruited Charlie to get a fish for her so she could win an argument with Boone. This ‘plot’ typifies a classic LOST Season 1 trait – a sub-plot of inconsequence shoehorned in to keep characters ticking over and give them a reason to be in the episode. At least this diversion presented us with the first bonding moments between Charlie and Hurley.

I forgot that they became close during Charlie’s time on the Island – probably the closest two male characters came to being actual pals. It was certainly fun to see them trying to catch a fish, and serves as a reminder that, at least in these early days, we’ll actually get to see characters occasionally laughing and having fun. It’s a quality that will surely diminish as LOST ups the intensity!

Charlie did make one remark to Shannon that really stuck out as poor writing. He conveyed his relaxed attitude on the Island was due to being familiar with such life because “England is an island”. The comparison itself doesn’t bother me (he was trying to be funny – the joke was wasted on Shannon) it’s the factual inaccuracy that really stings. Let’s get this right: England is not an island and absolutely no person from England would ever say it was. England is part of the UK which, in its mainland, comprises three different countries (England, Scotland and Wales).

It’s poor writing, is all, though I am surprised Dominic Monaghan didn’t speak up about it. Maybe to American ears it’s not a big deal but you’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s a really dumb thing to say. On paper and in context you could argue that Charlie was dumbing himself down for Shannon’s benefit, but the scene really didn’t play that way at all. And Charlie isn’t a stupid person – he’s well-educated, Catholic-schooled and, touring with Driveshaft, well-travelled to boot. Such glaring errors shouldn’t have been allowed to slip through the net. Could always blame it on the heroin, I suppose.

On the plus side, LOST scored a win for consistency by allowing Sayid to receive a photograph of Nadia.

That the photograph of Nadia we get to see this early in the show is of the same person that we will see a good few episodes ahead does, in hindsight, really aid LOST’s consistency. In reality it was rather fortuitous that the nature of making the show coincided with the reveal of the photograph.

As you may know, when up and running, production of LOST juggles about 7-8 episodes at one time. From the oldest episodes being edited, scored and having effects added, to the newest episodes being written and cast. It just so happened that the episode Solitary, where Nadia first appears, was being prepared and cast during the time this episode was being finished up. As such, they had the actress for Nadia lined up and thus, brilliantly fortuitously, could include her pretty face here and make LOST look like it had things planned out further in advance than seemed feasible!

Last word has to go to Randy, Locke’s boss. Improbably managing to get himself an appearance in Season 2, 3 and 4, there’s something loathsomely admirably about what a monumental prick this guy is.

Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. You’re the boss of an older man in a wheelchair. It’s your job to make sure he gets things done so, OK, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t push him for things just like you would everyone else. Just because he’s in a wheelchair doesn’t give him special privileges, right? In reality, I think most of us would cut a cripple some slack but that’s not how Randy rolls.

However, who amongst us would then go and see this crippled guy whilst he is minding his own business, on his lunch break, doing nothing more than playing a game and just start laying into him about how stupid his hobby was? You single out this poor bastard and tell him he needs to wake up to his physical limitations about going on the adventure holiday he has planned. You hear he has a woman in his life and don’t disguise your sneering surprise and disbelief.

Seriously. Locke is a cripple and Randy’s giving him nothing but a hard time. What kind of breathtaking piece of shit would do that? Randy. That’s who. What a guy!

Best Part

I don’t expect I’ll say this often, but the best part of this episode was during the flashback and seeing Locke in the ‘walkabout’ office revealed in a wheelchair. First time around it was a great jawdropping surprise that had you manically re-appraising everything you thought you’d seen during the episode.

Second time around the surprise is, naturally, gone but what remains is the vivid bitterness of Locke’s ranting. In retrospect we know this knockback comes after a long and hard life of tough breaks – raised in foster homes, used by his mother, spurned by his lover and then physically broken by his father shoving him out of a window. It’s with pure, impotent defiance does Locke yell, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” and it’s a harder heart than mine that can’t feel the pain etched into every one of those words.

Retroview: 1.3 Tabula Rasa

Briefly, what happened?

Jack’s futile efforts to fix Edward Mars result only in prolonged agony, that Sawyer intervenes with by shooting him. The shot is not fatal, however, and Jack is forced to smother Mars to death.

In flashback Kate has run to Australia, working on a farm for three months before Mars catches up with her.

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

Thoughts and Analysis

You know, if I’d been asked previously for my opinion of Tabula Rasa I wouldn’t have had a whole lot to say beyond, Yeah, it’s that one where Kate works on a farm for a one-armed man. Before seeing it again I couldn’t even 100% recall if Edward Mars died in this episode or the next. And yet watched again, Tabula Rasa really rather impresses.

The episode’s strength is drawn from a quality the first season had at its disposal that, eventually, more characters, complications and familiarity would erode. Tabula Rasa is able to mine drama and a twist out of the fact that we barely know Kate, or Sawyer – we don’t know who they truly are, what they’re after or what they are capable of. The episode very much plays on that, positing the question via Hurley’s discussions with Jack about what it was Kate did. (Already Hurley plays the role of asking questions on the audience’s behalf - a trait the writers will use again and again to good effect.) The drama is formed by the principle we believe Kate is capable of cold-blooded murder and, furthermore, the first chance she gets she’s going to make sure Mars dies.

Perhaps it’s a factor of hindsight, but I’m not sure even first time around I really believed Kate was the dangerous killer Mars wanted to portray her as. Maybe it’s just her demeanour, or how we’ve seen her frightened in the jungle, or just because she’s been keen to help. . . I just never bought that she could suddenly be revealed as a dark-hearted monster that was skilled at manipulating people. It would have been a heck of a twist, mind, had they gone down that route late in the game.

The love triangle between Jack, Kate and Sawyer that will kind of emerge, and then disappear, and then kind of come back again, really I think it’s better referred to as a relationship triangle. There’s no love between Jack and Sawyer, they are quickly set against one another as dictated by their conversation in the fuselage. Whilst Jack searches for medicine Sawyer is looting for other goods he knows will be valuable and will better his chances and situation.

Likewise Jack and Kate clearly have a closeness developed already but it’s not love. When she returns to camp following the discovery of the French distress call, despite the agreement amongst the group to keep the findings secret, Kate discloses everything to Jack. There’s an immediate bond, but it comes with limits. The episode closes out on Kate wanting to tell Jack what she did – but he doesn’t want to know.

This scene did used to irritate me; I just never really believed that Jack would flat out refuse to hear information that he was surely interested in hearing! Watched again, however, what I was underestimating was the toll killing Edward Mars had taken on Jack.

The episode’s big reveal was to have it that Kate, unable to kill Mars herself, had listened to Sawyer’s words of conviction and handed him the gun with one bullet to put Mars out of his misery. It was a nicely-conveyed twist, but way better was the punchline. Whilst Sawyer defended his actions as one of mercy, then came the splutters and groans from within the tent: Mars, still alive, now choking on a lung full of blood.

For whatever reason I’d forgotten and underestimated just what a smack in the face impact that moment holds. The descending dread packed into those seconds of realisation are really quite something. There’s a sick, twisted quality to the surprise that typifies LOST in its early days as a distinctive animal in comparison to later seasons. It’s true that LOST definitely had a slighter harder edge when it first emerged, and a scene like this crystallises that point.

So Jack goes in and has to euthanise the suffering Edward Mars by physically smothering him since there are no more bullets left in the gun. His earlier defiant statement to Kate, about how he was not a murderer, underlined his stance: as a doctor he has been trained to ‘do no harm’ and so to go against that, to pervert his own natural urge to fix people, absolutely takes a devastating toll on him.

My previous irritation at Jack for not allowing Kate to explain her crimes, then, didn’t properly appreciate Jack’s state of mind. As he said to her, the people they used to be before the crash were not the people they were now on the Island. (He does say that they had “died” when they crashed on the Island; he was speaking in metaphor but a great clamour of LOST theorists would take his words very literally!) Just like Sawyer had previously asserted, Jack hadn’t adapted to this new environment and was still trying to function as he would in regular civilisation. Only after killing Mars does he have to come to terms with the transition.

In order to be able to forgive himself he does, by extension, have to extend that forgiveness to everyone else for their past. This is why he doesn’t want to hear about what Kate did. If he held her up by the morals of her past he would have to judge himself by the same values – and here on the Island, within a matter of days, he has broken his moral compass to do what needed to be done.

What Kate did doesn’t matter. It’s what Kate and everyone else does that matters. All of them have been given a slate wiped clean – the eponymous Tabula Rasa – and this is very much in keeping with the concept of the show. Season 1 will especially be about these characters reconciling the people they were before the crash to what the Island has to offer them in terms of a fresh start – from Sawyer finding ‘the Real Sawyer’ to Mr. Eko being urged to “confess” (I know Mr. Eko is actually Season 2 but he’s a good illustration of my point so shaddap!) – there’s a whole lot of redemption available. Most of them won’t find it and stay alive.

On a lighter note, it’s worth noting that Sawyer referred to Kate as “freckles” for the first time. The affectionately iconic nickname being used this early on is, for me, really cool.

Also worth noting is that this episode marks the first time that Charlie and Claire meet. It's a relatively unremarkable conversation (Charlie establishes that Claire hasn't got a man around!) but it's a scene with a terrific piece of foreshadowing for the next episode as they unwittingly use Locke's wheelchair, believing the person it originally belonged to must have died in the crash.

Kate’s flashback story itself doesn’t offer much of Retroview value. I have wondered previously how it was Kate managed to get to Australia. I mean, if she is so wanted on a federal level you’d have thought that catching a flight would have been tricky and, for her, incredibly risky. I suppose we’re given enough to believe she’s a dab hand with a false identity (she calls herself “Annie” to Ray, the farmer) and so she managed to get fake documents to get herself out of America.

Is there anything significant about the fact that Ray Mullen only has one arm? In light of, say, the likes of Pierre Chang having a mysterious one-armed affliction?

Quick answer is: No. There’s nothing significant in it. But it is one of those thematic reverberations that resound about the LOST universe, a bit like how Star Wars shares a similar motif of arms getting lopped off throughout its saga. It’s not significant in meaning, but it does help unify even minor characters and events as all part of the same world.

Just don’t go mistaking coincidence for fate, OK?

Back on the Island, whilst Sawyer has been loot truffling, and Jack has been on doctor duties, it’s interesting that in these early formations of group dynamics it’s actually Sayid that assumes the role of leader. He is the one that instructs the small expedition group to keep quiet the French distress signal. When he returns to camp it is he who stands higher than the rest and issues instructions and selections for what they need to do.

As we know, Jack will eventually accede to the role of leader, encouraged very much by Locke in White Rabbit. Sayid does make for a decent stand in, but we know that he’s really more of a lone wolf. He’s on a personal quest to reunite with Nadia, having been globally searching for years. His history as a torturer weighs on his conscience enough to foster a persecution complex that will, a few episodes from now, see him leave the group on self-enforced exile (in Solitary).

Yeah, Sayid’s a good stand-in. He’s practical, tolerant and handy in a tight spot but he’s not quite the ‘live together, die alone’ kind of guy you need for these situations!

Two last pieces of business to address. The first, and what’s perhaps most startling on a Retroview if you haven’t revisited these early episodes in many a year, is the use of the music montage at the close. It’s a convention that gets phased out midway through Season 1. Ordinarily the only soundtrack music we hear is courtesy of Michael Giacchino’s score, which is why hearing a pop tune feels out of place. LOST ‘gets away with it’ by asserting that the music is what Hurley is listening to on his CD player (and thus it eventually gets phased out when the batteries run out!).

Whilst the montage sequence at the end, with the music, doesn’t feel very LOST I still kind of liked it. There’s a borderline cheesy quality to it (Boone handing Shannon some makeshift sunglasses to bring a smile to her face) but there’s a much-needed lightness of touch as well. It’s OK to have some levity; later seasons will very much lack a drop in intensity (to my memory, the last ‘proper’ lighthearted episode was in Season 3, Tricia Tanaka Is Dead although Season 5 did have the relatively well-humoured Some Like It Hoth).

Whilst fans constantly craved serious, meaty episodes there’s worth to the truth that switching tones every now and then can really help. Put short: the serious stuff can play a lot more sterner when it comes off the back of lighthearted relief. Which brings me neatly onto Locke.

Tabula Rasa exemplified the power of juxtaposing lighthearted with unsettling when the music montage closed out on a curious circular pan around Locke, sitting staring at Michael and Walt. Michael had already questioned Walt about Locke, subtly trying to work out what this man was doing talking to his kid. It’s understandable. If I saw some strange man talking to my kid I’d want to know what was being said and try to establish what his intentions were.

During the episode Locke had apparently been kind enough to make a dog whistle and use it to retrieve Vincent. Then he had generously allowed Michael to be the one to return Vincent to camp, to his boy, to take the glory. It all painted Locke as a thoughtful, benevolent man – up until this sinister ending laid down the suggestion that he had purely got Michael on side and offguard for ulterior motives. Making it the last scene of the episode loaned the moment even more tension. So what are we to make of it?

We know Locke isn’t a paedophile, so that’s not what he’s about. Truth is, in retrospect, this moment feels unnecessarily suggestive and heavy-handed, but it does hold a truth in that Locke is a threat within the group. He will go through this season thwarting rescue attempts and trying to convert people into believing the Island is special. He is actually a darker character than you perhaps remember. He will go on to do bad things that have terrible consequences, but because we also see him as a victim (and, let’s face it, one involved in really cool mystery stuff like ‘the hatch’) we let that slide and see him in a positive light.

Last but not least, and purely because I’m a total sucker for Sun, I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I got to take a sweet old look at what Michael inadvertently blundered into.

The normal thing to do is quickly avert your gaze, apologise and leave. Michael, instead, stands around, jabbers a lot and then hands Sun her top to cover herself with. Whatever, man. I know what you were doing!

Best Part

Without a doubt the superb reveal that Sawyer’s one-shot at ending Mars’ suffering hadn’t at all ended it. From the initial misdirection that Kate had been the one to do it, up to Jack confronting Sawyer who aggressively defended his actions only to have his insides turn to dishwater upon realising what he had done (great performance from Josh Holloway). Trying to push Kate as a potential cold-blooded killer never quite hit the bullseye but the payoff (for want of a better word) that Jack had to physically kill Mars himself was gruelling yet tremendously effective drama. Best part about it for me was I totally forgot how bloody good that scene was.

Retroview: 1.2 Pilot – Part 2

Briefly, what happened?

Following the retrieval of the transceiver, it won’t work unless used from higher ground. A small expedition sets out to make it work, encountering and killing a polar bear on the way. However, the transceiver is unable to broadcast due to a strange French distress signal emanating from the Island, one that has been repeating unanswered for 16 years.

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

Thoughts and Analysis

Like the previous episode, I acknowledge that Pilot – Part 2 wasn’t really designed to be viewed in isolation. The two Pilot episodes together formed what ought to be considered the proper ‘Pilot’ episode and, combined, provide a fuller basis from which the show stands. So whilst Pilot – Part 1 was a relatively stripped-down narrative (crash site, journey to cockpit, monster attack) this second part does the heavy-lifting in trying to give time and space to bring the ensemble characters into the mix.

It’s sort of cluttered, and that kind of hobbles the dynamism. Indeed the first few seasons of the show really wrestle, sometimes unsuccessfully, in trying to cater for the many characters whereas later seasons get a little freer about leaving characters absent to narrow the focus for an episode or two. So whilst the narrative here is still pretty simple (take transceiver to higher ground, find out it doesn’t work) it feels more complicated and, as stated, cluttered.

There’s snapshot moments and scenes. Jin and Sun, wordless and tense, preparing seafood on the beach, when Michael interrupts them. Sun almost replies, too, before deferring to feigning ignorance with her English. It’s curious that Michael and Sun will eventually forge a friendship – just one of many interesting relationships that will crop up and briefly flourish – whilst the show, and its characters, feel their way around one another to figure out their place in things.

Jin still appears as an oppressive tyrant towards Sun (love how she defiantly undoes her top button having been commanded to fasten it, inspired by seeing Kate near-naked and liberated on the shore) but is then giving an enjoyable moment when Claire finally feels her baby kick and she grabs his hand to feel it. It’s fun to see, and comes off the back of the amusing moment where Hurley point blank refuses the seafood Jin offers despite his hunger (really great improvised feel for that scene).

Despite Jin appearing aloof and mean it’s worth noting that he has taken the trouble to make and prepare food for everyone, proof positive that there’s a heart of gold behind his intelligible fa├žade. It's also nice in that Jin, and Sun, will come to be like an on-Island auntie and uncle to little Aaron, so him being here before the child is born feels right and proper.

(Aside: We should remember that Claire was onboard Oceanic 815 for a rendezvous with people she believed would take her baby. Considering her concern for not having felt the baby kick, and her joy at feeling it once more and deciding for herself that it was a boy, it’s almost like surviving the crash has instantly created a desire to keep her baby after all.)

Sawyer is another character we know possesses a good heart despite his actions to the contrary, but he is very much a character that will undergo a significant degree of softening as LOST continues. The Sawyer of Season 1 and 2 in particular is, in many ways, a genuine son of a bitch. This works, fine, mind. Here we see him reading his letter for the first time.

Again, this is nice foreshadowing, as we know this is the letter a young James Ford wrote to a man he knew as ‘Sawyer’; the man that ruined his life. It’ll take until Season 3 before we learn who ‘the real Sawyer’ is and for our Sawyer to find him and exact revenge. Once he’s had his vengeance his heart is able to release the hate and so begins the softening up process. Here, in these early days, Sawyer is a man fuelled by murderous inner demons that he’s some way from coming to terms with.

In a retroview Sawyer definitely loses his edge, though, since we know he shapes up to be a thoroughly decent good guy with a nice line in wisecracks and nicknames. The sense of menace he generates is significantly lessened second time around. Also significantly lessened is his hair – here in the first episodes it’s rather short compared to the massive jump in length that will occur in the next episode!

The difference is, of course, purely a production aesthetic. In between making the Pilot episodes and the main season Sawyer’s hair got longer and it just looked better that way, so it stayed. We can’t blame every strange event on the Island, even with this show!

Kate is another character whom this episode is used to deliver the big surprise and intrigue, as it is revealed she was the handcuffed captive of the US Marshall. No sooner has that been revealed when Edward Mars wakes on the beach – despite the head injury and large shard of shrapnel embedded in his torso his first question is to ask where she is. Clearly he is a man obsessed, as we’ll see he’s hunted Kate for a long time (though it’s never very well explained why it is he considers her so dangerous when the nature of her crimes reveal she’s hardly a psychopath).

It’s easy to relax around Kate, as with Sawyer, in a retroview. First time around Kate does come across as ambiguous and potentially deadly. She lies, pretending not to know how a gun works, but it’s understandable: she wants to keep her fugitive status secret. Yet despite the suggestive dark shadings the episode tries to impose it’ll transpire Kate doesn’t really have a bad bone in her body.

The episode does take a little time to show us what a fabulous body she does have, mind.

No complaints from me about that. This was the Pilot episode and LOST needed to employ all the tricks at its disposal to get viewers hooked (and get a season commissioned!). If Kate’s sleek, nubile form was a reason some people tuned in next week then LOST will take those viewing figures just as happily as any others! The rest of us, meanwhile, by the end of this episode, were left wondering how the flipping flip a bloody great polar bear ended up on a tropical island!

I have to admit when watched again the sight of a polar bear storming through long grass and then being shot to death by a hard-as-nails, never-flinching Sawyer only for the crowd to gather and gawp at the sight of it felt funny, in a stupid way. Perhaps it would have been better had the polar bear just been seen, charging past, rather than being shot and killed upon attack. It just feels too unsubtle and dumb.

Still, polar bears are a part of LOST (and they do get used better further down the line, dodgy special effects aside) and we know how they got to the Island. Dharma had them, training them for experimentation in genetic modification, intelligence and testing and, sure, as guinea pigs to be zapped into the middle of a desert through electromagnetic space-time. (Sheesh, that’s a sentence I didn’t anticipate I’d write when I woke up this morning!)

Polar bears were kept by Dharma over on Hydra Island, in cages as we’d become familiar with in the much-maligned first six episodes of season 3 (I rather liked them, actually!) but must surely have also been on the main Island, too, as part of the activity that went on at The Orchid Station. (And no, for the record, I am not one of those people who thinks polar bears were used to turn the frozen donkey wheel!)

A woman called Charlotte would discover polar bear remains in the desert, after all, deposited there via the same mechanism that would see Ben, and then Locke, dropped through space and time. It’s not essential that we trouble ourselves too much with the specifics, we know enough to get by. I mean, maybe the polar bears on the Island are purely the ones that were released from the cages on Hydra Island and then swam across to the main Island, but really it doesn’t matter. We know Dharma brought them and kept them and that’s how they came to be there: mystery solved!

If the episode has a prevalent them, it’s to do with characters not being entirely truthful. We’ve already discussed Sawyer and Kate and their deceptions, but Charlie was also involved. We discovered here that he was in the toilets on Oceanic 815 due to clucking for a fix. He lies to Kate about what he was doing in the toilet when they went to the cockpit (happy to pretend to be a gutless coward just as Kate is happy to pretend to be ignorant using a gun).

Worth mentioning again an apparent inconsistency many LOST fanatics are aware of. During Charlie’s flashback we see him run to the front of the plane, to the toilet, and when he’s just about to flush his drugs he gets slammed around the place before exiting the toilet and finding a seat. Cindy the air hostess gives chase, and bangs on the toilet door. Moments later Oceanic 815 begins to crash. Cindy will later emerge as part of the tail-end survivors, meaning she had to make a hell of a dash to the rear of the plane.

You know what, though? Whilst previously this felt like a major error on the show, watching again there’s just about enough time for Cindy to have feasibly made that distance. When Charlie blunders out of the toilet and scrambles to a seat Cindy is nowhere around. And since there’s actual a cut between Charlie in the bathroom and him finding a seat that allows for a little more time unaccounted for. If Cindy’s emergency position was in the rear of the aircraft then it would make sense for her to rush there the moment the extreme turbulence (as she would have figured it was) hit.

I know it’s not a big deal whichever way you slice it, but still, it’s nice to have these niggles work themselves out.

It’s quite a sight for sore LOST eyes to see Shannon and Boone again. I’m not just tediously talking about how Shannon is hot, either. I’m sure many of the fairer sex consider Boone to be more than easy on the eye also. No, I’m talking about how seeing those two again really makes the show feel like old times – major characters that would matter so much during these first seasons that will mostly disappear from memory beyond that. Their presence really marks out the contrast.

Credit also Maggie Grace; her performance as Shannon is really rather good, possessing vulnerability and spite and giving good shriek (when the polar bear rocks up) to totally inject a sense of overloading panic. The pair of them make for a conflicting and quietly messed up couple (it’s not quite incest but, by God, it’s not quite right either!) that are more complex and challenging characters than you probably remember them as.

Something else seen as more controversial, that time and familiarity have eased, is Sayid. His remarks here to Hurley, about fighting in the Gulf War on the ‘enemies’ side, landed heavier back in 2004 when LOST first aired. The equivalent now would be to have a character that was, say, in the Taliban. Just a few years after 9/11, Sayid’s presence on the flight invokes suspicion and violence from Sawyer about how the crash was surely his fault. Time away from that real world event, and the show nurturing and fostering Sayid into one of LOST’s more complex characters, has dodged the initial concerns that he was just a bit of token novelty casting. It’s to the show’s credit they handled Sayid well, and kept him for the long haul.

He was the man that fixed the transceiver, that took charge with the expedition up the mountain to try and get a signal. He also did some wicked maths in his head when working out that the thousands of iterations of a 30-second broadcast repeating equalled 16 years! You’ve got to hand it to him; right from the off Sayid was all kinds of awesome.

The emergency broadcast that Shannon translated was, of course, left by Danielle Rousseau, some time during 1988. You can hear the full transcripts of the message and then compare and contrast with the account that Rousseau herself will relay to Sayid in the episode Solitary and hit discrepancies and apparent contradictions.

Like, in the message Rousseau remarks that “Brennan took the keys” yet Brennan (a member of the science team she was a part of) was shot and killed before she recorded the message. But if you sweep aside conspiracy theories about Rousseau, all of which no longer apply, and appreciate that the messages are being recorded by a woman in distress (she’s already killed her science team under the belief they were taken by some ‘sickness’, and seen Jin appear and disappear into thin air) it would actually beggar belief if her recounting of something that happened over a decade ago in extreme circumstances was absolutely perfect.

At the time of making the recording she is either heavily pregnant or has had her child stolen. Again, either situation is going to exert mental pressure. Throw in the fact that 16 years pass, of her being alone in the jungle hearing strange whispers, and I think it’s OK to cut her some slack when she comes to tell Sayid how things happened. Her memory is going to have shifted a few things around or lost some of the details. The important point is that we fundamentally know the true story, and Rousseau’s is a rather desperate and ultimately tragic one.

We’ll save that one for another time. For now, there’s just the small matter of one of LOST’s most iconic scenes – one that gathered greater significance the more the show went on.

I’ve got to say, seeing this scene again knowing what LOST is all about really, really loads it up with powerful foreshadowing. In fact, I’d rate this scene as more indicative than the skeleton cave couple that LOST and its creators had a grand plan well worked out. What you’ll remember best is Locke remarking about how their were two sides, and how this came to perfectly symbolise the opposing forces of Jacob and Nameless.

That alone is pretty good foreshadowing. But better is that Locke actually sets his symbolic remarks in the context of a game – backgammon – that has been in existence longer than any other game. He states that backgammon is the oldest game in the world, with sets discovered from 5,000 BC. He adds, to Walt, that this makes it older than Jesus Christ.

So here’s Locke discussing the oldest game in the world, one that pre-dates Christian concepts of good and evil, as a matter of two opposing forces battling against one another. He even namechecks Mesopotamia which, in a broad summary, is an ancient land regarded as the cradle of civilisation. With the benefit of retroview it’s impossible not to hear all this sounding less like a discussion about backgammon and more about the entire meaning of LOST.

They gave us the meaning of the show in the Pilot episode all along! Ain’t that just fantastic!?

Last point: the scene ends with Locke asking Walt a question: “Do you want to know a secret?” We never receive a hard and fast explanation but the best guess is that Locke just obliquely told Walt that a miracle had happened (Walt remarks as much further down the line, to Michael). Whether Locke explained that the “miracle” was that he had regained the use of his legs, or he left it ambiguous is unknown. Pick whichever you like best. I like to think that Locke kept his secret.

Best Part

For sheer ‘wow’, the crash sequence from Kate’s point of view holds up even now as a terrific, and terrifying, occurrence. The effects still amaze, and are comparable with movie-standard, and there’s no question that seeing Kate hurriedly unlock her cuffs before the back of the plane is torn away just a few rows behind her, spewing out people and materials, ranks as one of the most awesome visuals the show ever displays.

However, for meaning and reverence, the short dialogue between Locke and Walt, with the backgammon pieces and the oh-so-meaningfully foreshadowing remarks of one side is black, one side is white, is hard to beat. It’ll take many seasons for the full impact of these words to be felt, but in a retroview, especially coming from Locke, there’s a real momentous feel to that speech that resonates to the core of what LOST is all about.