The Great 'Lost' Debate: Staking a claim

naveen-andrews-lost-s6-320.jpgThe fourth in our series of "Lost" debates covers one of our favorite topics: Zombies!

OK, not zombies exactly. But we wanted to look at the idea of The Man in Black "claiming" people -- what that means for those involved, whether it's irreversible and how it might affect the sideways timeline, or vice versa. "Lost" blogger Ryan McGee has the opening salvo.

Ryan McGee: With time comes hopefully a mellowing of the "Lost" fan base, many of whom were less than thrilled to with last week's episode. Don't know about you, Rick, but I've been hiding in my bunker waiting for the dust to clear. While I didn't think it came close to reaching the heights of "LA X," I thought "What Kate Does" did the job it was supposed to do. Not every episode can be amazing, and I'm not sure I would trade in more mythological answers if it meant losing scenes like Sawyer/Kate on the dock.

And it's not like we were denied mythological richness this week: let's talk some Man in Black! Looks like he's "claimed" Sayid, and this seems far from the first person that he's "infected," to use Lennon's term for it. Remember his initial appearance in "The Incident," when he told Jacob, "I already ate"? Methinks he'd just claimed someone or something while Jacob cooked up some fish.

I love the idea of "claiming" as a form of sustenance for The Man in Black. By "claiming people," he appears to be hollowing them out in some way. But it's not just that he empties his victims: he appears to be consuming them as well. This might explain why he has the memories of those he claims, and why his impersonations of them hold so true to those that experience them (I'm thinking about Yemi and Dave in particular here). Is the ability to "claim" people an advancement of his ability to impersonate the dead? A separate but related power? Part of his search for a loophole? Help a blogger out, Rick!

Rick Porter: I'm inclined to think that the third option is the most likely, if only because in his guise as The Hurt Locke (I'm sticking with that nickname for the bald guy who's currently ambulatory), he seems to have found said loophole.
 
I'm also thinking that his "claiming" is part of some larger process connected to the Temple. That's where Rousseau's cohorts got sucked underground and infected, and in "Dead Is Dead" we saw Smokey take the form of Alex to give Ben what-for and tell him to do whatever Locke says. That, to me, seems pretty odd considering that the Temple is also the refuge for Jacob's followers -- but totally in keeping with the "Lost"-ian notion of good and bad often residing in the same place.
 
emilie-de-ravin-lost-s6-320.jpgAnd maybe I'm the only one who saw this, but in the very brief glimpse we got of Island Claire in "What Kate Does," she didn't exactly project the calm, confident air of Cabin Christian, The Hurt Locke or the original MIB. She looked wary, uncertain -- kind of like Rousseau did when we first met her. D'you think that there's any chance that once you're claimed, you can fight it?

RM: I'm right there with you that "Claimed Claire" and "Cabin Claire" seem like different entitles. Also, I'm thrilled both versions give me the chance to use alliteration. I'm easily pleased like that.
 
In my "Letters from the Flame" the other day, I alluded to the fact that the cure may not be medicinal but spiritual/emotional. Just because The Others have never found a cure for someone claimed doesn't mean it doesn't exist; it just means they may have been going about the cure in the wrong way. And yes, this does hearken back to the science/faith dichotomy again, but there's also a new wrinkle added, a third party if you will: trust. "Trust" was a key word in "What Kate Does" and may speak not only to the Lostaways' realization that larger forces are at work, but also that they have only upon each other to rely on at this point.
 
It's one of the reasons why long-form narrative television is my personal favorite medium of entertainment right now: After five years, these relationships feel earned, lived in, and organic. Having Sayid and Jack reject what's in front of them for what's between them sums up the heart of this season for me so far. These connections, which span not only years but apparently timelines, are at the heart of what will go down this season. If Claire or Sayid can be "cured," maybe the endless cycles of The War of the Island end.
 
After all, the infection is as much about personality as biology. People's organs aren't being hollowed out. Their souls are. Without Aaron, Claire has no soul. But given the relationship between this timeline and the sideways one, I think we'll see a glimmer of the old Claire on the Island before long. What about you?

RP: I think we may have already. In hindsight, Claire's confused look at the end of "What Kate Does" could be not just surprise at seeing Jin for the first time in a good while, but a kind of, "Wait -- what am I doing here with this gun in my hand?" reaction. (There's also a good chance I'm reading more into it than what's there because I think it's a cool idea, but still.)
 
But I think the notion that the timelines are interconnected and have an effect on one another -- and that it may in turn affect how strong the MIB's claim on a soul is -- makes complete sense in the "Lost" we're being shown now. Take sideways Locke, for instance: If his only destiny is to end up in a coffin three years hence, then that's the saddest story ever (in addition to an utter waste of six seasons of our TV-watching lives). If, however, he has decided to take control of his own life in Sidewaysland -- if he wasn't lying to Boone about his walkabout, for instance, or if he at least takes Jack up on his offer for  a consult -- then there's a chance of undoing or altering what's happening on the Island at the moment.
 
I suspect, too, that we'll be seeing Sayid in Sidewaysland relatively soon, and that it will offer us some better idea of the link between the two worlds. Don't you?
 
RM: I think we'll be seeing almost everyone available in the "Lost" universe in the sideways universe at some point or another. If we get two episodes of Arzt there and none with Sayid, I'll be an unhappy camper.

I think I'll side with "altering" as opposed to "undoing" in terms of your formulation above. There's a stubborn way in which events cling in the "Lost" universe, which may have been why they created the sideways timeline at all. It's one thing to say "whatever happened, happened," but that construct only applies within one timeline. It doesn't apply to the sideways timeline. That doesn't mean that everything will be flowers and sunshine in that other timeline, but the ability to zig where the Island version zags DOES exist, which means that Locke and Jack can work together even though the Locke we knew died before they ever had a chance to do so.

If Jacob is right, and we all do have a choice, it will be nice to see our characters finally make the right ones after years of constantly choosing incorrectly. And if it takes the introduction of another timeline to do that, I'm down. What's your take?

RP: I think the other timeline will allow for more good choices to be made, for sure. But I also think that we've seen the characters at least edge up to some smart choices in the timeline we've been following all this time -- Juliet clearly had a positive effect on Sawyer, and Hurley has become a real voice of reason on the Island (maybe it takes a guy who's not totally right to grasp the weirdness that is the Island, or at least go with it a little). What I do think the sideways timeline can do is offer the likes of Locke, Jack and Kate especially to start putting things right and bring the war to an end.

That's what I'm hoping, anyway. We'll see if any of this bears out when we see "The Substitute."

Previous 'Lost' debates:

How will 'it worked' work?
The fate of Benjamin Linus
Men of science of faith

Photo credit: ABC
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