This episode marks a first in the We Have to Go Back series: the first episode I liked LESS second time around. Every other episode I’ve either maintained my general enthusiasm or increased it, but this episode just feels off to me in hindsight. Maybe it’s the lack of forward movement, maybe its the lackluster flashback, maybe because the central plot is rendered moot in just two more episodes…I can’t quite say. But I’m a professional, and it’s not in my job description to simply skip over the episodes of Lost I don’t like. So let’s ingest a batch of Island paste and work our way through, shall we?
(If you want to see what I thought of this ep the night it aired, go check it out.)
4) In Short
"We are family…I’ve got all my knives here with me!"
8) On the Island
Locke wakes up in the jungle, lying on his back. He sees a naked Desmond running around nearby, but is unable to call out to him. As he stands up, something flies at his head: Eko’s Jesus stick. He heads back to camp and starts dismantling his canopy, much to Charlie and Claire’s surprise. The rocker follows Locke to Eko’s half-built church, where Locke confesses he’s gone mute. Through a series of Charades-liked exchanges, Charlie learns Locke’s goal: to speak to the Island. He plans to build a sweat lodge and wants Charlie to stand guard.
What’s a sweat lodge, you ask? A place of ritual purification, or the Boston subway system during rush hour. All depends on your perspective. Locke makes sure that Charlie does not enter the tent. Once in, he consumes some hallucinogen paste (akin to what he applied to Boone’s head in "Hearts and Minds,"), stares into the fire, and who should appear but Boone. Locke tries to apologize, but still cannot speak. Boone insists that Locke will speak when he’s got something worth saying, and tells his former mentor that he’s here to put Locke back on the right path again.
Aaaaand here we go: Boone pushes a half-naked Locke through the Australian airport. Only it’s not the airport as he remembers it, but the airport via his sweat lodge vision. His purpose, according to Boone, is to locate someone who needs his help. Locke sees Charlie, Claire, and Aaron as a happy family. Boone says they are fine…for now. He sees Jin and Sun fighting in line, but Boone insists Sayid can handle that. He sees Hurley as a ticket agent, and Desmond as a pilot, but neither are the ones in need. He sees Ben as a security agent, waving Jack, Kate and Sawyer through; but Locke cannot help them yet, according to Boone. First, Locke must clean up his own mess: the very same mess on the end of Eko’s Jesus Stick.
Locke wakes up from his fever dream, only to have a vision of a polar bear jump at him. This image sends him spiraling out of the lodge, scared out of his wits. Charlie asks him if he’s OK. Locke slowly and silently draws a knife from its sheath. Charlie wants to know what Locke is going to do. Locke’s first words of Season 3: "I’m going to save Mr. Eko’s life." Thus is reborn the hunter.
Locke finds Eko’s cross in the nearby jungle, confessing to Charlie his suspicion that a polar bear abducted Eko in the aftermath of the Swan implosion. They eventually come across the site of the implosion: a massive crater of earth with bits of metal strewn along the bottom. After that, they see a recently killed boar, with a polar bear soon hot on their trail. Locke attempts to throw a knife into its oncoming rush, only to find he’s hit Hurley’s canteen dead on. Dude, indeed. Hurley quickly catches the duo up on everything that went down at the Pala Ferry.
Locke and Charlie follow the trail of white fur through the jungle, eventually coming across a cave. Locke gets into game mode by covering himself in mud, lighting a torch, and putting a canister of hair spray into his back pocket. Vidal Sassoon: Polar Bear Hunter! While the cave itself is forboding, the creepy toy truck lying on the ground inside the cave is even creepier.
Just down the ways from the truck? A few skeletons, with what look like shirts with Pearl Stations logos adorning them. Next to the skeletons? Eko! He’s alive! But very badly injured. Before Locke can rescue Eko, the polar decides to once again lay claim to the priest via "biting him wicked hard." Locke manages to scare the polar bear away by pulling a Rorschach by way of the old "hairspray as flamethrower" technique on the unsuspecting creature.
Hurley continues his journey back to the beach, when who should he come across but Totally Naked Desmond. Hurley gives him one of his shirts, which looks like a tie-dyed mumu on Desmond. Desmond seems more than a little out of it, which angers Hurley. Hurley wants to get his friends back. Desmond tells him not to worry; Locke will save them. After all, that’s what Locke said his speech. "What speech?" Hurley asks. Desmond looks confused, and then apologizes, blaming the implosion on his ramblings.
Charlie and Locke bring Eko to a stream, resting Eko against a nearby tree. While Eko passed out, Locke apologizes to him: for losing faith in both him and the Island. In doing so, Locke says, he allowed his friends to get captured. He could have protected them, saved them perhaps. Eko suddenly speaks, stating, "You will find them. After all, you are a hunter, John." When Charlie returns from fetching water from the stream, Locke’s surprised to see that Eko’s still passed out. Ya know, it’s almost as if some power spoke through Eko!
Back on the beach, a whole lot of people are worried about the state of things, including two people we’ve NEVER SEEN BEFORE who suddenly have a lot of lines. Locke proceeds to calm them down with a speech that has Hurley taking a long look at Desmond, who is idly tossing rocks into the ocean.
15) Off the Island
Locke’s driving down California Highway 36 when it starts to rain something fierce. He picks up a hitchhiker by the name of Eddie, who’s planning to go to leave his past behind and be a lumberer in Eureka. The rain ends as quickly as it starts, and the sunshine brings a cop on their tail. Locke has a stash of guns in the back of his truck, all registered, but the cop still wants to haul Locke in for picking up a hitch hiker. Eddie tells the cop that Locke is his uncle, saving Locke from jail time.
Locke eventually brings Eddie to commune, where Locke points out their sweat lodge before taking him to the communal dinner table. The head of the commune welcomes Eddie to the table, and Locke says grace. His speech indicates that this all happens after his breakup with Helen.
Later on, Locke and Eddie head into the orchid to pick peaches. Eddie notices a greenhouse nearby that hides….well, something, but every time Eddie tries to get near it, someone stops him. Eddie thinks that they are building some type of bomb (as evidenced by the fertilizer spotted outside), and wants in. Locke laughs at Eddie’s theory, but says he’ll talk to the head of the commune on his behalf.
When Locke goes to them, he finds they are already looking for him. Inside the greenhouse, we see the commune heads doing their best impression of Nancy Botwin from Weeds: packing up their illegal grow farm and heading for the hills. Why? Because young Eddie is a cop, sent to infiltrate their commune. Desperate to keep his newfound family together, Locke insists that he can "fix" this before everyone has to leave. Sweet Jeebus this is a horrible flashback. Someone hurl a fish biscuit into my temple.
Locke takes Eddie deep in the woods, each bearing rifles. Eddie thinks they are hunting deer; Locke’s hunting Eddie. He wants to know if the police picked him specifically for the patsy: Eddie confirms this, saying their psychological profile pegged him as "amenable for coercion." Eddie walks away slowly, stating that Locke is a "good" man who won’t shoot him. Locke insists he is a hunter, but cannot pull the trigger.
16) The Mythology
So much of the momentum gained by the spirit lodge in re-establishing Locke’s primal relationship with the Island is smashed to bits two episodes later when Eko gets killed by the Island. Or does it? If we look at this episode in the way I’ve suggested throughout the We Have to Go Back campaign, it may not be such a contradiction after all.
In trying to suss out the meaning of any vision on the Island, sweat-lodged base or not, it’s important to try and also figure out which part of the Island’s forces are trying to send it: the light or the dark. You could make an equally compelling case that either side of the Island sent John to rescue Eko. If it’s the light side, then it simply means the dark side later wins in the form of Yemi and a fistful o’ Eko. If it’s the dark side talking to Locke, then it simply means that death by polar bear was in fact too good a death for the priest. Harsh.
One aspect that stood out for me was the juxtaposition of "farmer" versus "hunter," this ep’s version of man of science versus man of faith. But once again, Locke fails to rectify both sides of the juxtaposition into one whole entity. To be a farmer is to connected to the earth, and what did Locke do in this episode if not literally ingest the earth of the Island? He need not abandon his hunting instincts, but he can’t rely on them as a flashy fallback, either. Richard Alpert recognized this tendency early on, and it’s clear in this episode that Locke still hasn’t learned his lesson.
As for Desmond’s newfound time-travel abilities, let’s save major discussion on that for "Flashes Before Your Eyes," alright?
23) The Moment
The semi-psychic vision inside the sweat lodge, with Locke innately understanding how things are, not how they were.
42) In Retrospect
- If Season 5 indeed revisits the heyday of the Dharma Initiative, I hope they take time to explain how a Tonka truck ended up in that cave.
- Watching Paolo and Nikki inserted randomly into the A-Team of Lostaways was somehow more jarring that anything that happened in the sweat lodge.
- It’s hard not to hear Eddie call John a "good" person and not wonder if he moonlights for Mittelos Biosciences.
108) In Summary
For all the cool things that happen in this episode, it’s probably the weakest of the initial three. While it kept up the pace of the first two (i.e., not much really happens), one looks back on this episode and realizes just how padded it truly is. Offering tantalizing glimpses into the show’s future does not make up for the general inertia. In addition, as mentioned before, it’s hard to rewatch an episode based around saving the life of a major character when you know that character has barely any time left on the show at all. There’s a severely burnt polar bear wondering if this ep was worth the bother.
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