Perhaps, I'm just not seeing it this week, but I feel like this episode is rather devoid of philosophical discussion. It's not that I would call it a bad episode, but it feels more like the span of a bridge which is farthest from its supports. It is interesting to note that a friend of mine, who I regularly go over the episodes with, felt this was the worst episode of the season so far. For us to share a similar feeling about an episode which seems to lack depth, is evidence that it lacks "Truth in Fiction." There is great content, revealing several useful connections, but it does not ask deep questions or give any answers which we did not already suspect. The most surprising element was learning that Jack has a son, David, in the flash-sideways timeline.
Through this relationship, we learn something deeper about Jack's relationship with his father. Jack was apparently terrified of his father, who had at least once told him "you just don't have what it takes" ("White Rabbit"). Despite David's distant, teenager-like attitude, Jack is persistent in his attempt to communicate. He says he just wants to be a part of David's life. It turns out that David is afraid for his dad to see him fail. Jack admits his love for his son, saying he can never fail in his eyes. Simply getting the issue out in the open, despite difficult emotions, has a healing effect.
This resolution to the flash-sideways seems to be in keeping with the sense that conflicts are quickly righted in the absence of the Island's influence. Which therefore furthers, in my mind, a growing sense that the Island is somehow malevolent. Perhaps the Man in Black does not recognize the Island as in need of protection because it is not the Island that Jacob and his followers are protecting from the outside world, but the outside world that they are protecting from the Island. Then again, if Jacob was supposed to be protecting the outside world, he either wasn't doing a very good job, was losing to the Man in Black, or was sacrificing his own "Queen" for a checkmate.
All the same, we lack enough solid information about the Island's original inhabitants to examine the lighthouse, which Jack and Hurley visit after another "uncharacteristic" step into leadership by Hurley. It appears that Jacob has been using it to watch certain people. We again see the names of the "candidates," but learn no more of their significance. Jack's lack of emotional intelligence once again closes doors by which we could have learned something. And Hurley is left bewildered in the presence of Jacob, who seems to have expected this chain of events to unfold.
The only significance I can draw from these events presently are the larger themes of leadership and destiny. Jacob tells Hurley that some people can just be told what needs to be done—demonstrating that Hurley is both a good leader (he was effective) and a good follower (he did what he was told on faith)—while he says other need to "stare out at the ocean for a while," referring to his understanding that no one can tell Jack what to do, he must find it on his own. This hearkens back to Locke's advice that "a leader can't lead, unless he knows where he's going." ("White Rabbit")
We also visit Claire's camp, which is eerily reminiscent of a cross between Rousseau's beach camp in "Dead is Dead" and her underground hideout in "Solitary." She helps Jin by sewing up his injuries caused by a bear-trap she set (also reminiscent of Rousseau). She asks Jin if he is still her friend with a subtly ominous air, as if treatment of his wounds (and possibly his life) depend on the correct answer.
In addition to Jin, she is holding one of the Others captive, who she plans to torture in order to gain information about the whereabouts of her son, Aaron. In what I can only conclude is a contrast between good and evil, Jin emphatically tells Claire that Kate took Aaron off the Island, temporarily saving her captive's life. Claire then kills the captive, seemingly out of spite. There is a stark difference between the good-natured flash-sideways Claire from "What Kate Does" (see blog post) and this apparent demon-fellow, whose actions seem to indicate the nature of her friend, the Man in Black.
So the battle lines seem to be between a dark-humored (if not wholly evil) Man in Black, who is "claiming" certain pieces on a cosmic chess board, with no apparent concern for life or death; and a solemn but confident Jacob, whose apparent manipulation of "candidates" has cost many lives on the path to some greater purpose. The question is, who is really the evil one? Does Jacob's purpose justify the loss of lives? If not, then is the Man in Black—and not Jacob—ultimately responsible for the deaths?
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