Still Watching: Lost Re-Watch, Tabula Rasa and Walkabout

Still Watching is a weekly examination of old TV shows or films.

Welcome to Week 2 of the Lost Re-Watch. This week I will be coverinng the third and fourth episodes of Season 1, and looking at them in light of any relevant knowledge which was revealed later in the series. The idea of this project is to see what coherent themesand plots structures run through the series, and where it makes us chase ghosts which never go anywhere.

Tabula Rasa- The title of this episode basically means “blank slate”, and as the episode is about Kate’s past, it makes sense. Here is revealed how Kate was betrayed while on the run in Australia by an old man who she thought was helping her. He turned her in to the cop who was the Javert to her Val Jean, and who on the island is busy dying from his crash injuries. We see that, yeah, she’s a convict guilty of who-knows-what at this point, but she has a heart of gold.
What was Locke up to this episode (always a good question)? Carving a whistle to hail Vincent the dog, accomplishing for Walt what Michael couldn’t, but letting Michael take the credit. So, maybe he’s not creepy after all. Here’s one interesting note, though. Kate is about to tell Jack what she did to get arrested, and he tells her, “Three days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over.” Remind you of something? Beautiful. The episode ends with a brilliant use of song and montage, a combination employed at times by the minds behind the show to punctuate whatever theme they are focusing on at the time. The theme highlighted here- newness- a second chance. Tell me it doesn’t melt your heart to see Sayid toss an apple to Sawyer in a gesture of friendship.

Sawyer Nickname Tally (SNT): 11

To Sayid: Abdul
To Kate: Freckles (this is fun because it sticks)
To Boone: Boy
To Sayid: Al Jazeera
To Jack: Doc

Walkabout- The focus of this episode is Locke, and it is a fine piece of work in establishing his character. I will probably spend a lot of time on Locke over the coming weeks, because I still struggle with understanding him, who I find to be the most tragic of the show’s many tragic characters. We are taken back to his awakening after the flight to find his legs work now, when they didn’t pre-crash. Then we are brought back to the present, where a family of boars is wreaking havoc in the plane. Locke is thrilled to see them as they run off, and we wonder, why does the mysterious man have a gleam in his eye? Locke’s flair for the dramatic betrays him when he throws a knife at Sawyer in an effort to let everyone know they should hunt the boar for food. He could have just told them.

In flashback we see what a pitiful state Locke was in before the flight. He was in a wheelchair which he greatly resented, had a dead-end job with a boss who hated and ridiculed him, and was in denial over a walkabout which he never got to experience because of his paralysis. We also see here the first glimpse of an element of Locke’s character which I find fascinating- his seeking and faith, but almost always in the wrong things, the wrong paths, his own glorification. He wanted to go on the walkabout to seek the ways of the aboriginees, their spirituality, drawing power from the earth, paganism. His misplaced faith will be seen over and over during the course of the series in his choices and mistakes, and will eventually be his downfall.

Now, though, on the island, he has a second chance- a chance to be the person he wanted to be on the walkabout…a confident, whole, even special man. One of the things about Locke which made me dislike him the first time I watched the series was the fact that his quest was always primarily about himself. His own motivations almost always came before concern for his fellow survivors, and even when it seemed like he was searching for God, it didn’t take long to see he was really searching for seeking validation for himself. Maybe I’m judging him too harshly, because we all do this to an extent, but Locke drove me crazy with this. The first instance of this is seen when, while out on the hunt for the boar, Michael gets hurt, and Kate the convict wants to help him and take him back, but Locke will have none of it. He wants to kill the boar and prove himself, and that is all he wants. Perhaps it is this which drew the smoke monster to him a few short minutes later, drawn to him like an evil moth seeking a dope willing to believe whatever self-serving lies it feeds him. Locke’s famous line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” is said in this episode for the first time, and my guess is that when he got his first glimpse into the black smoke, it gladly showed him what he could do.

John Locke was an easy target from the beginning, and this episode suggests a coherency to the main elements of the story worthy of some appreciation. My theory, and I believe this will be well-supported as we look closely at other episodes with him in the future, is that he was fooled from the beginning by the monster, making him think it was one with the island, and that it was good, in order to manipulate him in the atrocious was it does throughout the series.

We know from the end that the island is simply power, and that there are two sides battling over it. The good seeks to protect it from the wrong hands, and the bad seeks to use it and dominate it for selfish gains. The monster leads him from the beginning to believe that it is good and he, Locke, is special. To illustrate this point, a following scene shows Jack’s father Christian appearing to Jack from afar, and Jack pursuing him, finding Locke instead, dead boar in hand. We know now that the appearance of Christian on the island was the man in black, or the smoke monster. Having Locke appear in his place is like saying he is his now under Smokie’s control. This episode, the fourth in the series, suggests major cohenrence in the overarching plot of Lost.

SNT: 13

To Hurley: Pork Pie
To Jack: Metro

About Kristi Israel
  • Robin

    Wow! Great stuff! And of course, the famous philosopher John Locke is the one credited with the tabula rasa-blank slate theory. So even though the flashbacks in that episode were mostly about Kate, the title and name are a subtle indicator about Locke’s fresh start, even before the flashbacks reveal just how much of a clean slate the island is giving him. I love the stuff about Smokie’s temptation of Locke and Jack early on, and how he appeared to both of them in different guises, according to their own weaknesses. Just the way temptation happens in real life.

  • Robin

    Oh, and I love the Sawyer nicknames!

  • Kristi Israel

    Good stuff, Robin. Perhaps you should be co-authoring this with me. Seriously, great insights!


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