As Locke leads Ben and Hurley on a quest to find Jacob, we learn that since his childhood, people have been trying to draw him to the Island
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''
Last night was for us. The cultists. The obsessives. The crazies who have committed to this long, strange trip and gotten lost in it. Like the candy bar Hurley generously shared with Ben while Locke was chatting with the spectral squatters inside Jacob's shack (a nod to the Neo-Oracle-cookie scene in The Matrix?), ''Cabin Fever'' was an episode packed with a chunky abundance of brain-fattening cryptonuggets to nourish our fevered theory making and message-board blustering. Comic-book references. Biblical allusions. Mythological connections. Double meanings to scores of lines. I loved Hurley's ''theory'' that he, Ben, and Locke were chosen for this vision quest because they were the craziest ones on the Island. This in an episode whose '50s-set flashbacks evoked, fittingly, AMC's Mad Men and whose thematic concern with fate mirrors that of No Country for Old Men, a narrative about three men dangling on sanity's thread, though at different points. Amid the clues, red herrings, and tomfoolery, I saw in the episode a fiendishly clever love letter to those of us who've become so locked up inside Lost that they've been somewhat deliriously messed up by it. That's really why they called it ''Cabin Fever.'' Just my theory, but who knows? Maybe I'm just seeing things again.
''Can history then be said to have an architecture? The notion is most glorious and most horrible.'' — From Hell
Should John Locke be lucky enough to see the year 2008, he would be 50. That would make him as old as the central figure in the aforementioned text, one Sir William Gull, a 19th-century English physician. Some interesting overlaps between these characters. In From Hell, Gull is a middle-aged man uncertain of his purpose, but he is convinced he is special and senses that the architecture of his life is building to a point. Or, in the sweet, hiccupy phrasing of Buddy Holly that was quoted by Lost last night, ''Every day it gets a little closer/Rolling faster than a roller coaster/A love like yours will surely come my way.'' At 50, though, Gull suddenly finds his calling in the form of a mystical mission to defend his country — an island, don't you know — from an insidious conspiracy. You know, just like Locke. Gull is also, probably, totally crackers; he's Alan Moore's speculative pick for being Jack the Ripper. And while Locke is not yet a mass-murdering maniac, I have the strangest feeling, based on what we saw last night, that the architecture of his life is building exactly to that horrifying point.
''Cabin Fever'' began by showing us the foundation for such a life: Locke's birth. We've previously been given reason to believe Locke was born in May of 1956. But in the opening scene, we saw his mother, a rebellious 16-year-old Emily, secretly six months pregnant with John, dancing to that Buddy Holly song and primping for a date with an older man — presumably, John's con-man biological pop, Anthony Cooper. ''Everyday'' was released on vinyl in July 1957. This sounds picky, but timing is crucial in light of future events. I got that whiff of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men when Emily ran out in the rain and got hit by a car. No Country also featured an out-of-the-blue automobile accident, one that involved Anton Chigurh, one of three debatably unhinged dudes who drive McCarthy's plot and the one who serves as the author's embodiment of terrifying inevitability, a mass-murdering monster formed in the William Gull-From Hell mold.
Struck down by...well, we never saw who was behind the wheel, did we? Maybe that's important, maybe not, or maybe not yet, but anyway, Emily was rushed to the hospital, and with that, John Locke entered the world three months ahead of time. ''He's okay,'' said the nurse. ''He's just a little early.'' As Preemie John was wheeled away in a toasty incubator that looked like a microwave oven (talk about cabin fever!), Emily cried out her wish that the boy be named John. Now, all of that should have sounded familiar to you. Flashback one year ago this week, in which Lost gave us another cheery Mother's Day edition, ''The Man Behind the Curtain.'' That episode told the origin story of Benjamin Linus, who, if you recall, was also born prematurely, and also born to a woman named Emily who cried out his name, although she did so as she died. Some points of difference: Ben was raised by his biological father (oops), while Locke was given up for adoption and raised in foster care. Also, Ben was born about five years after Locke; call it 1963. But as it so happens, Locke's fifth year was a key marker in his fate-whipped trajectory, for it brought Richard Alpert into his life.
We had seen the forever young Other No. 2 earlier in the episode, checking in on Preemie Locke and beaming like some admiring magus from the east. Or west. Or wherever in Christendom the Island is/was/will be positioned in the space-time continuum. Returning five years later, the wise man unexpectedly dropped in on Locke as the boy was playing backgammon, much to the consternation of his sister. Alpert claimed to be with a school that catered to ''extremely special'' children. He said that Locke could be a candidate for his institution and wanted to assess his aptitude. And then, after puzzling over one of John's drawings — a stick-figure man bowled over by a cyclone of black scribble (Smokey?) — Alpert gave Locke a test, and with that, Lost gave us a scene so dense with (potential) subtext it just might take all of the forthcoming eight-month hiatus to unravel it.
The test involved Alpert setting six objects in front of John. They were a baseball mitt; an old tome titled Book of Laws; a corked vial containing a granular substance (sand?); a compass; a Mystery Tales comic book (''What was the secret of the mysterious 'Hidden Land'?'' asked the cover; other stories in the issue were ''The Travelers'' and ''Crossroads of Destiny''); and a knife. ''I want you to look at these things, and think about them,'' said Alpert. ''Now...which of these belong to you...already?'' There will surely be a great debate on how to interpret that ''already.'' To me, it seemed that Alpert was asking Locke to consider looking forward into his life for these objects — as if for people like Alpert and perhaps Locke, past, present, and future happen all at once. That's just my take, and anyway, Locke seemed to fail the test. He slid the vial toward him and off to the side. Then he picked up the compass and set it down. Both of these actions seemed to please Alpert. But then Locke chose the knife and held on to it, and even seemed to enjoy holding on to it, like a knight getting the feel of his sword. Alpert was not only crestfallen but vaguely pissed. ''I'm afraid John isn't ready for our school,'' he said as he left in a huff, and raced out to...catch the next time machine back to the Island?
This is where Lost nutjobs like me lose our minds, or at least much sleep — deconstructing scenes like these. As it turns out, these six objects are portals that, if opened, can flood your mind with possibilities on how to ''read'' the show. Taken individually and separately — and further reinforced by other winks and nods throughout the episode — these embedded clues can link provocatively to The Uncanny X-Men (may I recommend Giant Size X-Men #1, in which ''new'' X-Men must save ''old'' X-Men from ''Krakoa, The Living Island''); Jewish and Mormon history; Egyptian mythology; Freemason conspiracy theory; and, yes, even that From Hell business. The underlying connection: ''special people'' and ''chosen people,'' tapped by fate, biology, or higher powers to execute great work in the world, often in secret. In a word: ''Others.''
But the Book of Law reference is worth focusing on for a few sentences, because it strikes me as proof positive that the writers of Lost not only are keenly aware of how its cultists scrutinize their work but mischievously play to this crowd too. After all, Book of Law evokes a bona fide cult text — or should I say occult text? It's called The Book of the Law, written in 1904 by ''the wickedest man on the planet,'' Aleister Crowley. The book extols the philosophy of Thelema, which is summed up thusly: ''Do what thou wilt.'' Or, in the words of Lost-cited Mama Cass, ''Make your own kind of music/Make your own special song.'' Or, as 16-year-old John Locke raged in the character's third flashback scene, ''Don't tell me what I can't do!'' This came after a bunch of bullies locked Locke in a locker — continuing a recurring theme of a boxed-in confinement throughout the episode — and a kindly teacher encouraged John to attend a summer science camp run by Mittelos, which we know is the off-Island outfit run by the Others. But the brainy Locke refused. He didn't want to be a man of science — he wanted to be a boy of action. Play sports. Go on adventures. Play with knives and hunt some boar, presumably. His teacher responded, ''You can't be the prom king. You can't be the quarterback. You can't be a superhero.''
I guess that's some pretty good advice to get from a teacher, though I think a very sharp point was being made by keeping the name of the school's athletic teams in constant view during the whole scene: the Knights. Locke might be a geek by nature, but he lives in a culture that idolizes the stud. Toss in the female issues in his life — abandoned by his mother, only conditionally loved by his foster mother and sister — and factor in the daddy anger and desperate-for-purpose disposition, and you have the portrait of a conflicted, impotent man yearning for clarity and empowerment. Such men are known to make very stupid choices — and sometimes, deadly ones. See: Benjamin Linus.
Which brings me to the provocative Big Idea that I strongly believe ''Cabin Fever'' was jerking its head toward, hoping that we would ''get it'' without spelling it out. There was a moment last night when Ben accused Locke of manipulating Hurley into going with them to Jacob's cabin by using Ben-patented reverse psychology. Locke denied doing so, saying, ''I'm not you.'' Ben jumped on this, saying, ''You're certainly not.''
Now, do the timeline math.
Locke is born early. At age 5, he takes a test that most likely would have taken him to the Island if he had passed. He didn't. That same year, Benjamin Linus is born. At age 16, Locke is invited to go to a science camp that again would have taken him to the Island. He refused. About that same time, Benjamin Linus and his father joined the Dharma Initiative. The implication, it seems, is that Ben has been walking the path that was originally meant for Locke. Ben was the contingency plan — the course correction — for Locke's altered destiny. But Ben is his own person, of course, and he has done things differently from what Locke would have done, and this, in turn, has created further changes in the original order of things — changes that I think a certain ticked-off, Island-deprived billionaire named Charles Widmore is trying to reverse. The scene at the rehab center between paralyzed adult Locke and his wheelchair pusher, the creepy Matthew Abbaddon — who accepted the description of ''orderly'' with knowing irony — was meant to suggest one way Widmore is scheming to restore the original order: by getting Locke on that Island and taking back the birthright that was supposed to be his.
(Unless I’m getting this reversed: What if Ben was the man of destiny, but for decades, various forces — including Alpert and Widmore-Abbaddon — have been vainly trying to change destiny by getting Locke to the Island to supplant the über-Other?)
Regardless, here's the twist — the twist that could turn Locke into a mass murderer of sorts. As we saw at the end of the episode, Locke's plan for saving the Island is moving the Island. Now, I have no idea how he intends to do that. But if I'm tracking correctly the weird science Lost has been laying down this season, I wonder if where we're headed is a catastrophic gambit in which Locke will move the Island not only in space but also in time, which I'm guessing will cause some kind of massive retroactive course correction — or, rather, already has enacted a course correction. In fact, I wonder if the secret to many of the metaphysical mysteries of Lost is that all of the show's drama is playing out against the backdrop of a timeline that's in flux — where old history is giving way to new history as the consequences of Locke's future Island-saving actions trickle down through time. And so that wreckage of Oceanic 815 at the bottom of the ocean? That isn't a hoax — at least, not in the new timeline taking hold. That's real. And it will be John the Quantum Ripper's fault.
Locke's dreamy encounter with dead Dharma dude Horace Goodspeed We learned that ''Jacob's cabin'' was actually built by the Dharma mathematician as a getaway pad for himself and his wife, Olivia. But other than tip Locke off to the whereabouts of the map that could help him find his now on-the-loose lodge, Goodspeed didn't give up any more factual info. Other details may be symbolic or foreshadowing of events to come. Did the nosebleed mean that Horace was a Dharma time traveler? Was the looping nature of the dream a clue that the castaways are caught in a time loop? And where was Olivia?
Ben's big Purge spill In between griping about not being the Island's chosen boy anymore (you buying that?) and how fate can be a ''fickle bitch'' (great line — and possibly yet another punch at Locke's issue buttons; I don't totally believe Ben isn't in complete control of what's currently going down), Ben revealed that he hasn't always been the leader of the Others — and that he didn't order the Purge. So who preceded him in leadership? And who ordered the gassing of the Dharma barracks? Michael Emerson's line reading — as always, perfectly intoned to suggest a multiplicity of possibilities — seemed to hint that it might be someone we know. So maybe Charles Widmore? Time-looped John Locke? Who?
The death of the freighter doctor First, let me say that I think Kevin Durand, the actor who plays Keamy, is emerging as a real find this season; he plays that mercenary part with a scene-stealing mix of menace and damaged vulnerability. Profoundly angry — and profoundly spooked — by his ill-fated Island excursion to extract Ben, Keamy rallied his merc squad with a ''torch the Island'' mandate. To that end, he pulled out a secret Dharma file that revealed to him where Ben will probably go next (what was that — the script for the season finale?) (just kidding — Ben's destination is probably the Orchid station), then he shot the captain and slit the freighter doc's throat to motivate Lapidus to fly him back to the Island. Keamy's sarcastic line after dumping the doc overboard was interesting: ''Did that change anything?'' It changed more than Keamy could imagine. As we saw in ''The Shape of Things to Come,'' the doc's corpse traveled through the offshore anomaly and washed up on the beach in the past. As a result, Jack and company confronted Faraday and Charlotte and finally confirmed that the freighter folk aren't there to save them. This is all to say that, thanks to the doc's death, Jack's camp knows to either avoid that helicopter or, if they follow after it, do so cautiously, and with a battle plan in their back pocket, just in case.
Finally, where was Jacob? When Locke went into Jacob's shack, he found the grumpy old specter was still out to lunch. But a spry Ghost Christian Shephard played his representative, and his daughter/sidekick/death friend (?) Claire sat nearby flashing an array of coy smiles, implying some kind of enlightenment or some kind of evil. What do you think? Is she dead? I think so. And where did Jacob go? Was it just me, or did anyone else think that Locke in the wheelchair at the hospital looked similar to the Jacob we've seen, if he had a little more hair. Finally: Are you thinking that Locke spent more time inside Jacob's shack than we saw? Do you think there was more to his meeting than just ''Move the Island, dude''?