R.I.P., JULIET BURKE She may be gone (emphasis on the may) but as this week's Doc Jensen column shows, she won't soon be forgotten
By Jeff Jensen
'THE BURNER OF SHIPS
Mourning Juliet, Nausicaa-Isis. PLUS! Meet the secret father-killing, mother-humping Oedipus of Lost!
In the aftermath of last week's season finale, ''The Incident,'' there has been much gnashing of teeth and shredding of hairshirts over the death of Juliet Burke, who tumbled down a Swan hole and may have incinerated post-September 2004 history. I, too, am sad to see her go, and much more sad to see the departure of Elizabeth Mitchell, whose simultaneously sad and steely performance — assayed with cool and witty understatement — was a great gift to the series. I hear Mitchell — who has been tapped to headline ABC's reboot of the cheez-o-riffic sci-fi series V — may appear next season in cameo spots. I hope so: Juliet's romance with Sawyer was one of season 5's biggest surprises and creative successes, and I have to think that if Mitchell were available, Lost would want to explore this storyline, or give it just one more beat of closure. Here's how I think they would do it:
Last week, I speculated that in the new Lost timeline that will flow out of Juliet's detonation of Jughead, the characters that angelic Jacob visited and conspicuously touched during the flashbacks — definitely Sawyer, Kate, Sun, Jin, Jack, Locke, and Hurley — will retain their memories of the previous, now-deleted timeline. (Similar yet slightly different to what happened to Desmond after he was physically obliterated by the Swan's implosion — his consciousness migrated to the fateful week in which he broke up with Penny.) If that conjecture proves true, I can easily see a poignant moment in which James Ford seeks out Juliet in her pre-Island life, finds her, and realizes that, unlike him, she has no past-life memory of the Island or their life together. She'll look at him as if he's crazy; he'll look at her with forlorn eyes. Goodbye, my Dharma lady. I'll always have your back. And then he'll walk away. I'm already investing in the Kleenex!
DOC JENSEN'S LOST HIATUS READING LIST
Selection No. 1: Replay
A number of you have been asking me to do this — and so we shall! Your first assignment is Replay by Ken Grimwood. It's not so much a science-fiction novel as it is a really wonderful human story built around a sci-fi conceit: The hero is stuck in a circuit: Every time he hits the age of 43, his consciousness automatically zip-lines backward in time to a point in his early 20s and gets the chance to live the next 20 years over. There's more to this premise, including a couple of twists. The story's beauty lies in its emphasis on character and how each richly imagined cycle through the hero's life affects him and builds upon the others. It gives you moments like the aforementioned James-Juliet scenario that I sketched — but with much, much better dialogue — and much more. It's a book that will move your heart and expand your mind without hurting your head. If season 6 of Lost can possess the emotional texture of Replay, we will be very, very happy. Or at least I will be.
Back to grieving Juliet. In retrospect, cryptic bits of business now pop as foreshadowing. Remember the opening sequence of season 3? We met Juliet as she woke up in her Dharma cabin. She was in tears; she had just learned that Ben had been diagnosed with a tumor on his spine, which was upsetting to her because it made her doubt Ben's promise that all-powerful, never-seen Jacob could heal her sister's cancer. We saw her listen to a song — Petula Clark's rendition of ''Downtown'' (''When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go/Downtown!''), though the Clark disc had been inside a different jewel case: Talking Heads' Remain In Light (which includes the Lost-ironic track ''Once In A Lifetime.'' She got her home ready to host book club. Her choice: Stephen King's Carrie, a character who, like her, literally went down in blazes, burning down her house and the downtown portion of her town in the process, too. During book club, Juliet made an angry point about free will (or the lack thereof) on the Island — or at least, she tried to, but she was rudely interrupted by the crash of Oceanic 815. We now know from the finale that free will is very important to Jacob, and what's more, could be the philosophical bone of contention between the seemingly benign, Christ-like entity and his mopey, nameless adversary, the Man In Black.
Like King's Carrie, Juliet was a victim of deception — she had been brought to the Island under any number of false pretenses, including the unspoken assumption that she had the freedom to leave at any time. But in the season finale, we saw her finally get the chance to escape her weird prison — and we also got to see her choose to go back. I think this is significant: It is the model, I believe, for every character's heroic arc in Lost. The first time to the Island, you are a victim of circumstances and possibly manipulation. The second time to the Island, you do so freely, as the captain of your fate — as a hero. Juliet may have given us a peek at the essential storyline for each character next season. Born again off the Island, the ex-castaways are all going to choose to come back, hard and heroically — to save the Island and Jacob; to complete the ongoing, unbroken redemption projects of their strange, timeline-bent lives.
ABC had already given season 6 a tagline: Destiny Calls. But maybe it needs to be five words longer:
Destiny Calls. And this time, it's personal.
THE BURNER OF SHIPS
Part 2: My big fat Greek unrequited romance!
''May heaven grant you in all things your hearts desire.'' The line wasn't spoken in ''The Incident,'' but it was there, written on the tapestry hanging in Jacob's shadowy, firepit-lit cave, not far from the Egyptian glyph painting of Isis. Of course, the line was also written in Greek, and it was left for Easter egg hunters like the folks at Audibly Lost to decode the text for the rest of us. ''May heaven grant you in all things your hearts desire,'' comes from Book Six of Homer's The Odyssey. It tells of how Odysseus got tossed from his ship during his quest for home and true love Penelope, and washed up on the island of Scheria, where mechanical dogs created by the crafty god Hephaestus serve as sentries. The island became a prison for our Desmond-esque hero: Odysseus' enemy Poseidon, god of the sea, hexed the island so that he couldn't leave.
Upon his arrival, Odysseus met a lovely young woman named Nausicaa, whose name means ''burner of ships.'' She's far more genteel than the name sounds. Odysseus needed some clothes and food; Nausicaa hooked him up. They fell in love, but never acted on it; both of them were keenly aware that Odysseus' fate lay elsewhere, and that his heart belonged to another. Eventually, Zeus persuaded Poseidon to lift the curse on the island, and Nausicaa helped Odysseus get what he needed and where he needed to be so that he could leave.
Sound familiar? It should, because the never-meant-to-be Odysseus-Nausicaa relationship sounds a lot like Sawyer and Juliet's doomed romance. Indeed, the full context of that Nausicaa quote in Jacob's chamber connects directly and ironically with what we learned about Juliet's painful past in the season finale. ''May heaven grant you in all things you hearts desire'' is a fragment of a larger speech Odysseus gives to Nausicaa by way of asking her for help. The full text of the line: ''May heaven grant you in all things your heart's desire — husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind in a house.''
Now, what did we learn about Juliet in her single flashback? A childhood trauma: her parents' divorce. As they explained themselves to Juliet and her sister, Mr. and Mrs. Carlson painted themselves as another, more modern kind of Odysseus-Nausicaa — one of those ''some people aren't always meant to be together forever but we can just be friends'' things. Juliet not only can't accept it, she won't accept it: ''I don't want to understand!'' For Juliet, there is indeed nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind in a house. Anything less is heartbreakingly wrong.
Nausicaa-Juliet link becomes really provocative when you consider Nausicaa's parting words to Odysseus. You can find them in Book 8 of The Odyssey, which also is afire with Lost resonance. Here, you will find a story about a bitter feud between two gods: Hephaestus and Ares, the god of war. This is also the chapter that provides the oldest known chronicle of Odysseus' Trojan Horse, the stealth weapon he created to infiltrate and topple Troy. (See: the Man In Black, disguising himself as John Locke to infiltrate Jacob's lair.) At the end of Book 8, Odysseus and Nausicaa bid farewell to each other. In her most famous line in the epic, the Burner of Ships credits herself as being the proverbial mother of Odysseus' repaired destiny: ''Never forget me, for I gave you life.''
Never forget me, for I gave you life. Wow. How much more Juliet can that be? Because that's what we saw at the very end of ''The Incident,'' as Lost's own ''burner of ships'' banged on Jughead in order to burn away the timeline and repair the destinies of her doomed friends (and herself, to be certain). At least figuratively speaking, Juliet stands poised to become the Holy Mother of the reincarnated castaways. And if Sawyer and company are allowed to keep their memories (as I suspect they will), then no, he and they will never forget the one who gave them life. (Juliet won't remember any of this, of course: Per my prediction, Jacob's magical touch will facilitate castaway resurrection, and as we saw in ''The Incident,'' Juliet was the only character who got a flashback scene that didn't involve a visit from Mr. Touchy-Feely.)
One final thought about Juliet. If you recall, she had been recruited to the Island ostensibly to fix the Others' baby-making crisis, the cause of which we have yet to learn. (But I have a new theory on this coming up if you keep clicking.) Juliet had created a miracle drug that could induce pregnancy in male mice. She proved its effectiveness in humans by injecting it into her sister, whose cancer had all but destroyed her ability to reproduce. That's pretty divine work — and specifically, it is the province of the Egyptian deity Isis, whose picture could also be seen in Jacob's chamber. Two things you need to know about her for now: 1. She was Egypt's goddess of fertility and motherhood. 2. According to Wikipedia, Isis was responsible for the resurrection of Osiris, the forever-youthful, very loving, and very quiet god of life and the afterlife (Think: Jacob), who had been slain by Set, the Egyptian god of evil and chaos. (Think: the Man In Black.) Says Wikipedia: ''Her magical skills restored his body to life after she gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set.''
It's my theory that in the season finale, we saw Juliet pull off an Isis in two ways. First, the fertility goddess finally solved the Island's baby-making plague. During their time-travel days in the Dharma '70s, Sawyer suggested to Juliet that whatever happened to bring about that bizarre malady had not yet occurred. If he is correct, then I'd like to think that as part of history's reboot, the pregnancy plague has been effectively purged. Second, by creating a new timeline, Juliet facilitated resurrection for her friends — and Jacob.
The fertility doctor with the miracle drug ends up facilitating the immaculate conception of a new timeline. Awesome. You'd think they had this all master-planned from the start or something.
THE BURNER OF SHIPS
Part 3: The Lost Oedipus
You know the legend of Oedipus, right? Boy named Oedipus, born to a king and queen who are told by the far-seeing Oracle of Apollo at Delphi that little Eddy is going to grow up and kill his daddy and marry his mommy. The king and queen basically abandon the child in hopes of averting the prophecy, but nope: It happens, anyway. The Oedipus myth stands as a classic story in which we see the essential Lost themes of free will vs. predestined fate, not to mention any number of tricky, icky, kill-your-daddy issues. But if I'm reading the implications of the finale correctly, then Lost has given us Oedipus in the flesh, in the form of...Sawyer. We've seen him kill the man who gave him his name and his identity — his figurative father, if you will. (That would be Locke's con-man biological dad, Anthony Cooper.) And this past season, we saw Sawyer make hearth and home and presumably a whole lot of humping with Juliet, his common law wife — and now, his figurative mother, the woman who gave him life. Sawyer is Lost's Oedipus, ladies and germs. And if you want one final bit of proof, I give you this:
Remember in ''The Brig,'' the one where Sawyer killed Anthony Cooper? During the whole episode, Sawyer was conspicuously sans shoes. He trekked out to the Black Rock and back without any proper footwear, and bitched about it the whole time, because the terrain was pretty brutal on his soles. Well, do you happen to know what the name ''Oedipus'' means in the Greek?
I love this stuff. And it gets BETTER.
THE BURNER OF SHIPS
Part 4: Doc Jensen's season-ending theory
In the story, after killing his father (unwittingly) and marrying his mother (again, unwittingly), Oedipus becomes the new king of Thebes — home, by the way, of the Sphinx, whose riddle Oedipus is also famous for solving. Soon thereafter, a plague hits — it's surely supernatural in nature and most likely triggered by Oedipus' crimes-against-nature rise to power — and Oedipus asks the Oracle how he might be able to save his kingdom from it. She tells him the plague will pass once the old king's murderer is found. Eventually, Oedipus realizes that he was the one who did the deed, and banishes himself from his kingdom. But the plague is lifted, and so he saves his people.
Lost, of course, has a plague in its mythology, too. In light of the season finale, here's my new theory of the Island's pregnancy plague, as well as my new, finale-inspired super-string theory of Lost:
Begin with John Locke. I have now come to the conclusion that the ''Man of Faith'' was never, ever supposed to come to the Island. Or if he was, he was supposed to have a very different Island experience, because he should have come to the Island a very different kind of man. Maybe we'll get to know that man next season. But the one we currently know, belonging to the timeline now destroyed, came to the Island a tampered creation, burdened with issues and burning with ambitions he was never supposed to have.
How did Locke get tampered with? It happened the day that mystery man ran over his pregnant mother, causing his premature birth. We never saw who was behind the wheel, but I'll bet you we will, and I bet we'll see it was the Man In Black, who decided to use Locke's life as the means to bring about the only way to bring down Jacob: Convincing Jacob's chosen leader to renounce him and turn against him. (Shades of: the Book of Job, in which God and Satan wager that God's most faithful servant, Job, couldn't be turned against him. Satan loses.)
The leader that the Man In Black was trying to corrupt: Benjamin Linus. For quite some time, I've theorized that Ben was, at best, a temporary fix to the problem of Locke's delayed arrival and ascendancy to Others leadership. I'm taking that back: I think Ben has been Jacob's boy all along, and Locke has been nothing less than the Man In Black's tool. By pitting Locke against Ben, and by making it seem Locke was indeed the Island's golden boy, I think the Man In Black was trying to embitter Ben toward Jacob and engender a growing toxicity that would ultimately lead to Ben's assassination attempt.
Jacob's counter to the Man In Black's scheme was multifold. One of its key elements: the Plague. The fact that the nature of the plague resembled the circumstances of Anti-Christ Locke's birth (pregnant moms die just three months before they come to term; Locke was born three months early) was probably a clue meant for...the audience, as it was an irony only we could have really known. It was the show's way of nodding toward the idea of Locke's corruption, not Ben's fraudulence. Jacob's intention with the Plague was to create a scenario that would inspire Ben to bring Juliet to the Island. Indeed, my guess is that if John Locke represented the Man In Black's dark knight, Juliet was Jacob's white queen. Through her, Jacob intended to basically undo all of the Man In Black's evil work by wiping away the histories of all the people caught up in it, including Pawn Boy John Locke. Mission accomplished. But I think there was a secondary objective: to prepare his hand-picked castaways for the final battle to come. That's next season.
THE BURNER OF SHIPS
Part 5: Yeah, Jacob! What about Ben?
Giving the devil his due, preemptively mending the holes in my download/resurrection theory, and uncovering what really happened when Young Ben was taken to the Temple...
One question I posed last week in my recap of ''The Incident'' was this: Was Ben really so clueless about the Jacob-Man In Black drama playing out in front of him in the cave? Probably. It makes sense that Jacob felt he had to deceive his faithful servant. Remember, if the Man In Black is really Smokey, as many are speculating, then we're talking about an entity that can read minds. So I'm thinking that Jacob had to keep Ben in the dark about his salvation plan in order to keep it safe from his psychic adversary.
I believe Ben when he said he had faithfully and unfailingly carried out Jacob's every written instruction. He may have often misinterpreted the intent of his orders, but he carried them out, nonetheless. Case in point: Juliet. Ben brought her to the Island, but mistakenly believed Jacob had given her to him as some kind of companion. (However, thinking the very best of murky Ben, I would like to think Ben was merely keeping Juliet safe for Sawyer. Hence, why he sent her Other lover Goodwin to his death.)
Yet despite his ignorance about the specifics, I think Ben is pretty intuitive about the Way Things Need To Go. I bet he's sensed for quite some time that something wicked has been this way coming. I also think he's known that this evil was capable of taking any number of forms. Perhaps his penchant for lying, game-playing, and utter inscrutability has all been to protect himself, Jacob and the Island from a villain that he knew was hiding in plain sight, maybe even living right next door. In the finale, as he expressed all of that bitterness and resentment and entitlement toward Jacob, I have no doubt Ben felt those dark emotions...but I also think he intuitively understood that Jacob wanted him to kill him, understood that Jacob wanted him to play out the murder that Alterna-Locke had assigned him. Those emotions only helped him sell the drama. He's quite the Method actor, that Ben.
By the way, did you catch how right after Ben stabbed him, Jacob fell forward and touched his servant-turned-assassin? At the first, my theoretical self thought, ''Cool! Ben's going to remember his old self in the new timeline, too, just like the other Jacob-touched castaways. More, he should be included, because theories require this kind of consistency: If Jacob's touch does indeed 'do something,' then everyone he touched should be affected.'' Then, suddenly, Theory Jeff went ''Crap! It doesn't work!'' If my contention is also that Juliet changed time in such a way that effectively negates all of post-Oceanic 815 history, that means Ben's killing of Jacob, and therefore Jacob's touching of Ben, would be negated, too. My beautiful theory — up in smoke! ARGH! And here I thought I had already saved it from two big black holes. Let's tangent briefly from Ben to discuss them.
6. Wouldn't Sayid still need his castaway experience for that event to have happened? NOT NECESSARILY. Remember why Sayid got aboard Oceanic 815 in the first place: He was going to Los Angeles to find Nadia. I say that the scene in the finale between Sayid and Nadia was/is common to both Lost timelines — the one Juliet destroyed, and the one that has replaced it. Indeed, I think for many of the Oceanic 6, their new 2004-2007 will resemble in many ways their old 2004-2007, albeit with a few, negligible tweaks. To wit:
THE HOLE: Jacob touched Hurley after he was discharged from jail following events that took place during his Oceanic 6 period. Again: Isn't Oceanic 6 history contingent on previous castaway history? NOT NECESSARILY. I think the key lines of dialogue in Hurley's taxi-cab conversation with Jacob pertained to his mental state. Now, remember why Hurley went to Australia in the first place? He was searching for a man who had been cursed by the Numbers, just as he had. My prediction is that in the new timeline, Hurley will return to Los Angeles and check himself back into the mental institution, which is where he spent most of his Oceanic 6 life. When we revisit this taxi scene next season, he'll be getting discharged from Santa Rosa, not jail.
So back to Ben, who represents a trickier challenge to my theory. THE HOLE: Jacob touched Ben after Ben stabbed him. Ben would never have stabbed Jacob if not for John Locke and the old Oceanic 815 timeline. Therefore, Ben can't be among the castaways who will awaken at their Jacob Touch Point, because for Ben, that JTP never would have happened. NOT NECESSARILY. Because that assumes Jacob had never touched Ben before. How quickly we forget: June 1977, when Sayid shot Young Ben, and Sawyer and Kate brought Ben to Richard, and Richard followed through on his promise. I think Jacob saved him — gave him a healing touch that pushed him back to life and healing, just as he gave Locke a push back to life and healing after his daddy threw him out the window. And next season, when all of the castaways get reborn self-aware, Ben's awakening will occur at the moment of his Jacob-touched healing. Which answers a burning season 5 question for us, doesn't it? No, Ben didn't remember being shot by Sayid....
But he might next season. Ben's about to live his entire post-Sayid life again, but this time, he'll have all the memories of his previous life. What will Ben do with that knowledge? We shall see...
As you can tell, I remain pretty activated by the season finale. This column was supposed to be about the results of the survey questions I gave you a couple weeks ago: 1. Do continuity errors in the Lost narrative ruin your appreciation of the story? 2. What are the top three mysteries Lost must resolve in its sixth and final season?
However, I really didn't think my Juliet and Ben musings would produce 4,000 words of copy, and if I got any longer, my editors are going to throw me out an eighth-story window. So guess what? Next week, you're going to get one more Doc Jensen column! Whoo-hoo! We'll discuss the survey results, we'll talk about YOUR finale theories, we'll talk more about Doc Jensen's Hiatus Reading List, and we'll have the season finale of Totally Lost. As for this week's episode, posted below, Dan Snierson and I share more thoughts about ''The Incident,'' and we take you inside Pig E.'s hatch as we continue to explore the mystery of his shooting. Over the next week, if you have a new theory or new thoughts on the survey questions, hit me at DocJensenEW@gmail.com. PLUS: Should Doc Jensen go Twitter during the hiatus? You tell me.