TV Club

Season 6: Island of the Guilt-Ridden

Jack, Chad: For the past few episodes, we’ve seen Dogen fondling a baseball as he wanders the halls of the temple. The camera lingers on close-ups of the ball, suggesting there’s more than meets the eye. Does the ball hide a secret beneath its outer layer of leather and stitching? Is it a key that will help us solve some island puzzle?

Turns out that, whatever else it may be, the ball is yet another emblem of father-son dysfunction. (Is there anyone on this island with no daddy issues?) We learn that Dogen drove drunk when he picked up his 12-year-old son from a Friday evening baseball event. The boy got hurt in the ensuing car accident. Jacob appeared and offered to protect the kid in exchange for Dogen accepting a one-way ticket to the island.

Dogen tells Sayid he’s from Osaka, which raises two issues. 1) Why is he driving? Osaka is one of the densest urban centers on earth. We all enjoy a nip of Suntory now and then, but if you’re going to drink you should really make use of Osaka’s extensive public transportation system. 2) This likely makes Dogen a Hanshin Tigers fan. The Tigers are the Japanese team that’s considered the closest analogue to the Boston Red Sox. So that’s two weeks in a row where cursed baseball franchises meld with troubled father-son dynamics to cook up a stew of brutal self-loathing. Last week it was Jack who tried and failed to bond with his boy over the Sox. This week it’s Dogen lugging around that baseball like an anchor. I keep waiting for the Losties to discover a cornfield somewhere on the island—so they can build a baseball diamond, Field of Dreams-style, and get this supernatural parenting stuff squared away over a game of catch.

Come to think of it, an alternate title for Lost might be Island of the Guilt-Ridden. “I can’t be with you because I don’t deserve you,” Sayid tells his beloved Nadia at one point. Almost everyone in the show is working through a stack of serious regrets. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been brought together on the island? Lost’s themes have become increasingly religious this season—more about the essence of good and evil, salvation and banishment; less about technology and the petty battles between warring human tribes. It’s no coincidence that most of the show now takes place in a temple. (Or at least used to take place in a temple, before Smokey drove everyone out at the end of this episode.) The island itself is a church where folks are forced to meditate on the choices they’ve made in life. They pray for forgiveness, rebirth, and—above all—answers. 

I enjoyed the fight scenes this week, Jack. But what was with all the cheap sets? Seemed like some budgetary concerns came into play. Jack, you pointed out last week that the lighthouse appeared “to be made from the same cheap, lightweight Hollywood plaster as the Temple.” I really started to notice the thriftiness this week—it felt drab and confining to spend so much time inside the dimly lit temple soundstage. I like Lost to look big and expensive with sunny outdoor shots, not like an episode of Star Trek where everything happens in the same room.

Jack, all the door knocking you’ve noticed would fit nicely with the island-as-purgatory theory many fans once cherished. We could imagine the characters knocking on heaven’s door, waiting to be let in. Since Lost’s creators have dismissed the purgatory theory, I’m not sure what else all the knocking might symbolize. But your perceptiveness has inspired me to inaugurate a feature I’ll call “Formula Watch.” It’s a chance to point out (with tremendous fondness!) all the recurring Lost tricks and tropes we’ve come to recognize. Jack, Chad, commenters, feel free to join in.

In this week’s Formula Watch, I’ll raise notions big and small. First, this episode once again confirmed Season 6’s structural recipe: Flash sideways to the alternate 2004 timeline, where we see what a character’s life would look like if Oceanic 815 hadn’t crashed. Then have a big reveal at the end of each flash in which we see two Losties encountering each other in the 2004 universe. Jack met Dogen at a piano recital. Locke met Ben in the teacher’s lounge of a high school. Now Sayid meets Jin tied up in the back of a restaurant. 

As for smaller formulaic tidbits: We got a lot of that old Lost standby where characters ask reasonable questions and then seem satisfied with incredibly vague responses. “I want some answers,” demands Sayid. “Answers to what?” replies Dogen, meeting a question with an infuriating question. This exchange pretty much encapsulates the relationship between Lost’s fans and Lost’s writers.

Chad, were you pleased by the return of the gravel-voiced, lip-twitching Martin Keamy? And sad to see him dispatched so quickly via a gunshot to the torso? (Formula Watch!)

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