Lost, television, Wandering Rocks

Lost Forum, Part Two: “The Incident”

Now that we’ve had a little time to let last night’s episode sink in; to consult the sharpest minds in the greater Cincinnati area; to read up on analysis from, among others, Doc Jensen and Vozzek69 (who, like Mike Allen, argues that “the best season of LOST had just ended with the best episode ever”); and to spend hours in silent meditation pondering life’s eternal mysteries; we are finally ready to write this, Part Two of “The Incident” forum. Deep breath. Here goes:

The question has been raised, by John Sherck among others, that Jacob is not God but a false idol. Let’s consider the evidence. Why would a benign deity and Christ figure live in the foot of an Egyptian God who, if not Anubis, may be Sobek ( “a morally ambiguous dark god who oversees dark waters and preys on sinful souls in the afterlife,” according to Doc Jensen) or perhaps Set, a shapeshifting Egyptian god (which would account for the ambiguity of the four-toed statue’s appearance) of chaos and evil? What’s more, some of Jacob’s flashback encounters with the island survivors had a sinister undertone to them, especially Kate’s, Sawyer’s and Sayid’s. He pays for Kate’s lunchbox, but his intervention could merely be cheap grace for little Kate, who doesn’t exactly look like she’s learned her lesson. Jacob gives young James Ford the pencil to continue writing his revenge letter to the real Sawyer. Is he stoking Sawyer’s anger? And most unsettling is Sayid’s flashback. Did Jacob rescue Sayid from the oncoming car? Or spare him only to lead a tragic, embittered life bent on murder and vengeance? Furthermore, why these moments? Jacob visits young and old, in moments of joy and celebration (Sun and Jin) as well as tragedy and despair (Sayid, Locke). The only person Jacob has an extended conversation with is Hurley. That also seems to be the crucial flashback, because Jacob needs Hurley to board Ajira 316 but he also needs Hurley to choose to do it. If getting Hurley back to the island is so pivotal, Jacob doesn’t seem to be sweating it. Does he already know what Hurley will do? Or will Jacob find another way even if Hurley chooses not to go?

One thing we didn’t realize last night was that Jacob touched everyone in the flashbacks. Was this a blessing or a curse? Laying on of hands is usually a blessing, and that’s what it appeared to be with Sun and Jin after their wedding, or with Locke after his fall. Or is physical contact just Jacob’s way of downloading emotions and memories, the way Smokey could “read” someone’s mind and then manifest itself as a loved one? We rather like two of Doc Jensen’s theories, the “Quibbling” Jacob theory and, less so from a practical standpoint than an imaginative one, his Jacob/Horcrux theory, wherein Jacob is stashing himself in other people whom he’ll summon together after his death (hence the seeming triumph behind his line to pseudo-John Locke, “They’re coming”). (Both Jensen theories are on this page.)

So, we hope we’ve done some justice to the Jacob-is-Satan-(or-at-least-very-evil) case. That said, we still don’t buy it for three main reasons. 1) Jacob defended free will. The devil can be just as fruitful turning free will to his advantage, but he doesn’t go on and on espousing free will as some sort of virtue. Of course, if Jacob was the devil, he’d be pretty shrewd to play it cool like he did and say, “Hey, free will! Love it! Can’t get enough of a good thing! Do what you need to do, Hurley, because it’s your choice, not mine.” But that’s not the argument we’re trying to build, so let’s proceed directly to 2) Jacob’s “It can only end once” speech. This was on the beach with his adversary, who lamented the ship in the distance, heading toward the island. “They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” the adversary says. “It always ends the same.” To which Jacob responds, “It can only end once. Everything before that is progress.” In other words, time is moving toward a fixed point rather than endlessly repeating itself. Time (and progress) is linear, not circular. That’s a very Christian concept. And Jacob embraces that concept with an easy assurance. He also looks at us (humans) and sees hope and potential, rather than the worst we might achieve. Finally, that leaves us with 3) Jacob dies too easily. Rewatch the scene when Ben and bad John Locke enter Jacob’s temple. Jacob knows why they’ve come, and he knows how it will end. He knows Ben has a knife, and he still walks right up to him. You could even make the case Jacob wanted to die. We won’t go that far, but we will say that not being afraid of death suggests to us something closer to holiness than devilishness. This isn’t the end for Jacob; it can’t be the end for Jacob. Either because he can’t die, or because he knows he’s created his own loophole which will save him, Jacob stood fearless before death. That’s not something the devil should pull off.

Let’s step back for a moment and make one final clarification. We said yesterday that “Lost” had officially become a capital letter Religious Allegory. That’s too easy. For us and for the show’s writers. It can’t be that black-and-white, literally. Allegories usually dissolve complexity as characters become types. What we’d argue is that while “Lost” has veered firmly into a cosmic Good vs. Evil direction with a very Christ-like figure and some very spiritual themes of betrayal, redemption and salvation, it’s not going to be that simple. We think (think) that this is the template that the writers will stick to in the final season. They’ll take us off in some unexpected directions and continue to peel back new layers of meaning. But this is about as universal as a story gets, and while we almost expect “Lost” to be smarter than us (and would even be disappointed to fully understand it), we also believe it has to resonate and touch on something concrete in everyone to ultimately matter. We don’t expect a God/Satan or good/evil story to make comprehending the show any easier. We just think “Lost” has ultimately found its voice.

A few other observations/theories/questions:

  • Jacob’s cabin was not Jacob’s cabin, but rather his adversary’s. That’s why Ilana and “the good guys” burned it. The ring of ash was meant to keep Jacob’s nemesis inside, but someone sprung him free. That means that Ben is telling the truth when he says he never met Jacob. Also, the scene in season four’s episode “Cabin Fever” when Ben and Locke enter the cabin was actually their encounter with not-Jacob, whose words to Locke ( “Help me”) now take on a twisted meaning.
  • When Jacob’s nemesis declines the fish on the beach by saying he “just ate,” we think he’s probably referring to a breakfast of human souls. We officially think the Smoke Monster is evil, since it’s probably the only way Mr. Nemesis could transport himself until someone freed him from the cabin. An evil Smoke Monster (and an evil John Locke) would also explain the cruel trick they played on Ben in “Dead is Dead,” pounding submission-to-Locke into him. Plus we were always suspicious about why Locke and the Smoke Monster never appeared at the same time. We may have actually guessed right on that one.
  • Is Latin a dead language? Not for Richard Alpert. Max Fisher saved Latin. What did you ever do?
  • In just over a month we’ll be replacing one obsession over a dense, impenetrable work of art with another. If you’ve not already considered taking part in Wandering Rocks, there’s still time. Why, you might ask, would one willfully subject him or herself to the confounding — nay, terrifying — experience of attempting Joyce’s Ulysses? It’s a good question. The best answer we can give you? Benjamin Linus did.




13 thoughts on “Lost Forum, Part Two: “The Incident”

  1. Truly, “Lost’s” connections and parallels to “Ulysses” are legion. You have a central character unable to get home (who is “lost”) for both internal and external obstacles, who finds redemption in connectedness. You have a polyphony of allusions and ironic uses of that source material (Odysseus-Bloom’s son is dead, his Penelope-wife (Desmond!) is unfaithful, and Dedalus is no Telemachus). And you have a ridiculous amount of detail that still manages to fit. And it’s all about love!

    Don’t you see? It’s a seamless segue to begin reading Ulysses on June 16th!

    For the record….I’m on the Jacob-is-good side, or at least, good enough…but I don’t want to be let down by any simplistic Manicheanism.

  2. I’m just saying…

    Benjamin Linus=B.L.
    Leopold Bloom=L.B.

    Furthermore, Bloom is also lost on an island. And he’s also viciously hunted down by a mysterious black smoke*.

    How can you even begin to understand “Lost” without having read “Ulysses”?

    *total lie

  3. Thanks for posting these recaps all season long and for putting in links to the other sites.

    Your quote was accurate. This has been hands-down the best season ever of lost. Season 1 will always be special, as the creators brought us something unlike anything we’d ever seen on tv. I think they slowly lost their way, though. I agree that LOST definitely found its voice again this season and I’m really looking forward to next season.

    I wonder what someone could watch on TV now that this season is over? Would they want to watch a series that has not one but two (that’s right TWO) actors with cameos (huge parts) in LOST? Maybe one that is set in a dog-eat-dog land on the edge of the wild? Maybe one that was called Deadwood?

    I’m just saying.

  4. Hello Vores. You don’t know me, I’m a friend of Eric Bescak. He pointed me towards your blog since am a fellow Lost fan to the point of being mildly unhealthy. I’m also going to be a part of wandering rocks and am looking forward to putting my brain to use deciphering ‘Ulysses’ instead of a TV show.

    The Beez told me it would be cool to comment so I thought I share a few (ok, maybe a lot) of thoughts.

    I’m really interested in the “Omega Point” theory that Doc Jensen puts forward, reflected in the title of the Flannery O’Connor novel, ‘Everything that Rises Must Converge’. I think the dialogue in the first scene and the tapestry (which is explained well here: http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Tapestry) support that.

    To me, the mystery man in that first scene sounded a lot like the priest from The Grand Inquisitor chapter from ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. If I remember correctly (it’s been a while) that was essentially the argument the G.I. was making, that humans always jack it up with freewill and that the only way to have some semblance of order and (albeit shallow) happiness is to control them through fear.

    Which leads me to some thoughts on smokey…is it me or does he feed on fear? Sure he causes fear but the times I can remember him going away before killing someone (Kate counting to 5, Echo staring him down) was when someone calmed their fears. I could be completely wrong about that but it just popped into my head because it seems to me that the bad things people do, as mentioned by the mystery man, find their root in fear – fear of loss of control, loss of life…. It seems as if Rose and Bernard have checked out of the fear zone and it’s working pretty well for them.

    Now, while I do believe that Jacob seems pretty Christ-y in this episode (fishing, literally and figuratively, answering questions with questions, letting himself be killed) I’m kind of getting more of a smorgasbord vibe from him. There’s obviously an Egyptian thing happening, Greek Mythology (there’s a quote from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ on the tapestry) and literature (Flannery O’Connor). Perhaps in the way that the show reveals itself on many levels, Jacob, or the agent that Jacob is working for, has been revealing itself on many levels, religion, mythology, literature, science, personal interactions etc…

    I too think that the good v. evil thing is not going to be that simple. But that makes sense because in a fallen world it can be hard to define what is for the ultimate good and what isn’t. Sometimes what is for the ultimate good seems bad, which might explain why some of what Jacob did looked nearly sinister. Plus, everyone’s perception of good can differ slightly or greatly. We’ve seen a lot of those perceptions conflicting throughout the show. One of the things I’ve really liked about Lost is that there has never been a clearly identifiable good v. evil. I’d hate to have them boil it down to something that simple now, though I don’t think they will.

    I’m also kind of intrigued as to whether those Jacob flashback scenes mean that those characters will be going back to that time and chose a different, less self-destructive path. That would be a lot to tackle in the final season but it’s one plausible theory for why he chose those specific moments. By the way, where does that guy shop? He’s one sharp dresser off-island.

    I think the most important statements in this episode, and maybe the whole show, come from Jacob at the beginning and end of the episode, “It can only end once. Everything before that is just progress.” and “It takes a very long time when you’re making the thread but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?” I think the latter statement, delivered to bad-Locke/mystery guy, finishes the statement he made earlier. The ‘thread’ possibly being a metaphor for the thread of time and the ‘point’ being that the only way you can achieve enlightenment/nirvana/whatever you’d like to call it, is through appealing to people to progress through free will which could potentially take a very long time. But it’s the journey to getting there is the point.

    And I think that Jacob has a plan that has been in the works for a while. Just look at bad-Locke’s face after he says, “They’re coming”. He’s seriously t.o.ed and scared.

    Sorry for taking up so much of your blog with my jibber-jabber. Hopefully I saved some brain power for ‘Ulysses’.

  5. Katie,

    Thanks for reading and chiming in. We hadn’t considered the Grand Inquisitor comparison, but we like it. We were just getting around to rereading The Brothers Karamazov as it was one of the five Dostoevsky books the Beez recommended reading before our Ulysses project gets underway.

    Speaking of The Beez, have you ever seen him sporting the tighty-whities? It’s a sight.

  6. How dare voreblog speak to Katie that way. Is that how you treat celebrities? (Act 1.)

    And in any case, “the Beez” as a sobriquet was, along with the whities, retired in ’04…at my own personal omega point.

  7. Calm down, Beez. It’s a valid question.

    And no, I have not. But if you have any photos would you mind posting them on your favorite social networking site? That would be great.

  8. Regrettably (fortunately?), these photos, if they ever existed, were certainly destroyed prior to the Beez’s Senate campaign in ’04. But we’ll go digging through the photo album to see what else we can find.

  9. Btw, I just looked up “The Brothers Karamazov” on lostpedia.com (my job is really boring if you haven’t figured that out by now) and it has already made an appearance in the show. Locke gave it to Ben to read when they were holding him prisoner in the hatch and he was pretending to be Henry Gale.

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