Monday, June 8, 2009

"Don't Ever Tell Me What I Can't Do! Ever!"

From the beginning, John Locke has been one of the most intriguing characters on LOST, particularly since Walkabout. This single episode establishes so much essential information about the Island's Man of (apparently Misplaced) Faith: he knows his way around the jungle, he's handy with a knife, he and the Island have some sort of understanding, he used to be a belittled cubicle dweller, he was paralyzed when he boarded Flight 815. This last is, of course, the most tantalizing bit of all; for three seasons LOST kept us wondering exactly how he got into the wheelchair, and it's still something of a mystery how he got out of it. The Incident suggests Jacob, but given that Esau has been indirectly manipulating him since he was a baby, I wonder exactly at what point he started to get to John on the Island. Whatever the explanation for his returned mobility, in a show full of massive twists and turns, few moments can beat the wow factor of seeing John Locke wheeling through that office, yammering about "destiny" and bellowing, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

There are hints, now that I watch it knowing what's to come. There's his "secret" admission to Walt that a miracle happened to him. There's the shot of him gazing incredulously at his wriggling toes, which is repeated twice in this episode, but then I just figured he was glad to be alive. Like Michael said, that anyone survived was a miracle. There's the fact that we never see him standing in his flashbacks, but then there was no reason for him to stand in those situations. Randy's obnoxious comments are more fitting now - and more insensitive. When John was flat on his back after the boar charged, it's now apparent that he was afraid the paralysis had returned, was afraid even to test and see whether that was the case. And of course, there was the wheelchair on the beach, the one John stares at as the episode concludes, willing it to burst into flames like the fuselage in front of which it sits. But John, sadly, is not done with wheelchairs yet...

John with a knife in hand is a formidable thing. A canteen was the only thing standing between a fatal blade and Hurley back in season three. Later that season, he knifed Naomi, and he came charging in again in season five to rescue Sawyer and Juliet from the '50s-era Others. In this episode, Sawyer is the one in uncomfortable proximity as the knife plunges into the other side of the two-person seat in which he's sitting; Jack's wry comment about John's aim - either really good or really bad - cracks me up. No wonder Sawyer doesn't think much of John's plan! Interesting, though, that Michael joins in, perhaps to atone for his surliness with John earlier. This allows Sun to be drawn more into the family's confidences as she agrees to babysit Walt, and her asthma remedy and decision to plant a garden are foreshadowed by her invention of toothpaste.

It's a shame that the warm glow of finding Vincent doesn't last very long. The episode basically begins with him barking his head off and annoying everyone - though it turns out he's just being a good guard dog, and all his racket alerts the castaways to two important pieces of information. There are boars on the island (which is blatantly Lord of the Flies), and they could be a source of food. And the rotting bodies in the fuselage are attracting dangerous animals, so it's time to do something about that. I find it interesting that throughout the series, Sayid is extremely concerned with the proper treatment of dead bodies. He objects heartily to the burning of the fuselage, with no regard for the religious beliefs of the victims; Jack, in exasperation, says, "We don't have time to sort out everybody's god," while Charlie quips, "Really? Because the last time I heard we were positively made of time." I think I have to side with Jack on this one, but it seems to reveal a certain lack of regard for religion in general, while Charlie's response, while flippant, may hint that he's more in line with Sayid, who later insists on bringing Naomi's body back to the freighter, who is on the Island in the first place because he needed to ensure that his friend received a proper burial, and who is seen praying on more than one occasion.

Jack also says, "Any bodies we bury are not gonna stay buried long." Oh, how true that seems to be! And it's not long after this that he starts seeing his father... That is, after his nearly episode-long conversation, or lack thereof, with Rose. They mostly just sit there together, quietly gazing out at the ocean, and though Boone sent Jack there to help Rose, I think it's Jack who actually gets the most out of the encounter. He really needs this opportunity for healing after his chaotic few days, really needs to spend some quiet time with someone who isn't looking to him to solve all her problems. I love her wryly letting Jack off the hook, telling him he doesn't have to keep his promise and stay with her until Bernard comes back from the bathroom! Her comment about Bernard's fingers swelling and her "always" wearing his wedding ring around her neck seems to suggest a slight inconsistency with S. O. S., which reveals that they're on their honeymoon; wouldn't this be the first time they've flown together, at least with a wedding ring? But I'd much rather have a minor inconsistency than no Rose and Bernard flashback.

Though in the beginning of season two, Hurley will tell Jack he has a crummy bedside manner, Rose compliments him now, but their reverie ends, once again, with Jack asserting his stubborn unwillingness to believe that anything unlikely could possibly be true. Rose is convinced that her husband is still alive; Jack says it's impossible. "They're probably thinking the same thing about us," is Rose's serene response, and that's our first strong hint that there may be other survivors we haven't encountered yet. Though Jack's take was more practical, I was inclined to believe Rose. Besides, this is immediately followed by Christian turning up in the jungle. Is Jack just cracking up? I'd say not, given that his appearance heralds John's arrival. But is it really Christian? Well, that's a very different matter...

Hurley plowing into Sawyer in Dave seemed so out of character that I completely forgot he and Sawyer had scuffled before, this time over the latter hoarding airplane peanuts. Hurley objects to Sawyer's selfishness, especially now that it's the last of the food. His annoyance with Sawyer continues, as he confides to Charlie on their fishing expedition that he's just glad to get away from that redneck. Oh, yeah, and the fuselage full of bodies. I love this scene because it allows Hurley and Charlie a chance to have a great time together as well as brush up on their survival skills. Their friendship is beginning to blossom. Meanwhile, there's just enough ill will between Hurley and Sawyer now to make the depth of their later friendship all the more powerful.

Shannon is pretty irritating in this episode once again, and I can't blame Boone for being frustrated with her. She sweet-talks Charlie into catching a fish for her, and he in turn gets Hurley to help, because he really doesn't know what he's doing. He devotes his day to catching that fish, and then once he presents it to her he comes to the realization that he has been used. I think this is the point at which he starts to lose romantic interest in Shannon - who showed no more interest in DriveShaft than anybody else has. It's a little pathetic the way he keeps bringing it up, but since that's the one thing in life he feels like he can be proud of, I guess it's pretty understandable. I do like the fact that he mentioned his grandfather to Shannon, and that he said, "God rest his soul," another indication of Charlie's Catholicism.

Although we don't see Claire for that much of the episode, in terms of defining her character, it's one of my favorites. She's the one who heads up the effort to glean as much information as possible about the deceased so she can give them a proper send-off; Jack doesn't want anything to do with it. As he will later state, he hates funerals. Claire is especially taken with Steve and Kristen, the couple who were planning their wedding. This convergence of a wedding and a funeral is significant for a show whose main musical theme is Life and Death, a show where bliss and tragedy always seem to accompany each other. In the midst of her recovery efforts, she finds Sayid's photos of Nadia and gives them to him, setting us up for his grand, tragic love story, and more immediately for Solitary.

While we don't see Hurley saying anything at the memorial service, my guess is that he does; I love that he is standing up there with her, apparently having planned the ceremony right alongside her, which makes perfect sense since he speaks at almost every funeral among the castaways that follows. Claire and Hurley have such a nice rapport, especially in these early episodes; I could almost see them getting together in the final season (assuming Charlie isn't zapped back into existence). I also love Sawyer showing his softer side by very awkwardly giving Claire some wallets he found while raiding the fuselage, much like he will later, on the advice of Hurley, give her a blanket, even more awkwardly.

Walkabout is one of the most significant episodes in all of LOST, mostly because of what it tells us about John, and in turn, the Island. And as much as I was disappointed to learn that John has been manipulated into thinking he is special for most of his life, the fact remains that when he landed on the Island, he could walk again. That's pretty special. How did it happen? Is Jacob responsible, or is it his nemesis? And do we really have to go through the last season without John Locke (and Terry O'Quinn as pseudo-Locke doesn't quite count) or is there any chance of seeing this incredibly intriguing character again?

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