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!)


Van said...

I thought the episode was pretty good! In terms of establishing plot arcs and major themes, perhaps not - but then again season 1 in general was a bit slower and more detailed.

In terms of character anomolies - I agree that the behaviour of Jack and Jin in this episode is a little off, but they also have recently survived a plane crash! They're out of their comfort zone and maybe that's why they're acting a little strange...that's my justification anyway.

Great post as always.

Acharaisthekey said...

I think only two things could have saved the rewatchability intrigue of this episode:

1. Jack and Kate were adam and eve with Jughead causing all the issues in the 50's and Jack and kate dying together in the cave as the bomb goes off.

2. It was later revealed that Sun and Michael were 'kissing' or 'flirting' and Jin saw it happened without Sun / Michael knowing.

I honestly beleive they were trying to hint of a michael sun scenario, but went a different direction with Jin...and needed him to end up a good guy so he could survive a large boat explosion :)

As far as Adam and Eve....besides Walt story past season 3...huge bummer as far as answers go :) Anyways, if he connected with the notion that he doesn't die alone, even if for a moment with the adam and eve skeleton. I would have given very big 'props' to the writers :)