Posts tagged lostbookclub

Jack and his issues

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Lost, season 1, episode 11: “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”

In which Claire and Charlie have been kidnapped by the Others and Jack runs frantically after them without knowing where he’s going and then gets Lost and then is a jerk to everyone else that’s trying to help him rescue them.

Jack is interesting, because he’s undoubtedly the intended hero of the show, but he’s simultaneously (1) so righteous and (2) so flawed that sometimes it’s hard to put up with him. I love this episode because I think it really helps understand where that is coming from. Jack is extremely burdened by (1) his perfectionist need for approval and (2) his guilt for his mistakes. It’s interesting to see that both extremes of Jack’s personality stem from his relationship with his father.

Before the island when Jack is faced with the decision to report his father’s malpractice or to help him cover it up, his father finally gives him the approval that Jack has possibly wanted his whole life, although in a backhanded and loveless way. Reversing the insult that he’d given Jack earlier, Jack’s dad tells him that Jack does have what it takes to be a great surgeon, and that he is so great because his dad was hard on him and pushed him so hard and so ruthlessly and withheld his affection from him.

As sickening as it is to agree with him, the proof of what Jack’s father says comes at the end of the episode.

On the island when Jack finds Charlie strung up, we don’t know how long Charlie has already been hanging there. Jack heroically attempts to resuscitate Charlie, but then when it becomes clear that he’s too late to save him, then Jack crosses over from heroics to mania. Kate tries to comfort him but he pushes her away, and she cries for him to just stop and accept the situation, but Jack won’t stop trying. He won’t call it. And in the end, he wins, and Charlie gets revived.

Jack’s dad is right. He has created in Jack a person that has been pushed so hard that he won’t ever be happy or satisfied or possibly even likable, and that is exactly what makes Jack so powerful and such an effective hero.

The Moth

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Lost, season 1, episode 7. The first episode centered on Charlie.

The Episode

Before the island, Charlie had been reluctant to stick with the band because of the conflict between his religion and the temptations that the band’s popularity was introducing. His brother Liam told Charlie of how important Charlie was to him and to the band and that he couldn’t do it without him. Liam promised that they would help each other and stop if things got out of hand. So Charlie continued with the band and the record deal based on the confidence that his brother had given him.

Later when the band had gotten even more popular, Charlie found his brother with drugs. By that time Liam had become the popular member of the band and had taken credit away from Charlie, and this time Liam wasn’t flattering to his brother. Liam said that he was the important member of the band and that Charlie was useless. Now torn down by his brother, Charlie found comfort in drugs for the first time.

By the time Charlie crashed on the island, he was a hopeless addict (while his brother was ironically clean and settled down with a family). When Charlie isn’t needed to pitch in around camp he starts to believe that his new friends don’t value him and that they think he’s useless, and he wants to turn back to his drugs. Locke shows faith in Charlie that he’ll be able to kick his addiction. Later when Jack finds out what Charlie was going through, Jack tells Charlie how valuable he is. At the end of the episode Charlie finally decides to burn his drugs so that he can’t go back to them.

There’s a pattern that I notice in Charlie’s life. When Charlie was at his best and his strongest and his most confident was when the people that he loved expressed how much they valued him. When Charlie was at his worst and his most vulnerable was when those people expressed a lack of love and appreciation.

The Lesson

Here’s the moral of the story in my opinion: The way that we treat people matters! That might be obvious, but it’s easy to forget or make excuses for it.

Coincidentally we had a similar lesson in Young Men’s class at church last week. Adam showed the following video, which I think is really well done. I like that it captures some pretty realistic high school interactions. (Also the lines about not drinking all of the juice somehow remind me of Napolean Dynamite.)

I think that we often make excuses for our own immoral actions and words by saying that people are responsible for themselves and if someone else chooses to be offended by something we say or do then it’s their own fault. The hypocrisy in that is that we require everyone to be accountable for their own actions while we try to avoid the responsibility for our offenses.

Here’s another coincidence where this idea has come up lately. Kelly recently shared this quote in an FHE thought:

When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:24)

Joseph Smith felt like he was affected and influenced by the way that other people treated him, whether positively or negatively. It’s probably not fair or realistic for us to expect our friends and neighbors to be immune to the way that we treat them.

To tie this back to the episode, imagine for a minute how Charlie’s life might have been different if the people in his life before the island had treated him with the love and respect that his new friends on the island treated him with in this episode. The writers of this episode give us a nice view into Charlie’s life and the key moments in it as they relate to his addiction, but in real life it’s harder to see the results of our actions. Take even the smallest thing that we say or do, consider the possible butterfly effect (no pun intended with the episode title), and there’s no telling how big of an impact we can make, whether for good or for evil.

The Metaphor

John Locke uses a metaphor with a moth to teach Charlie that he’ll grow through his trials, but I want to hijack that metaphor to tie it into the lesson of the episode in a different way. Here’s part of the exchange from Locke and Charlie:

Locke
Come here. Let me show you something. What do you suppose is in that cocoon, Charlie?
Charlie
I don’t know, a butterfly, I guess?
Locke
No, it’s much more beautiful than that. That’s a moth cocoon. It’s ironic, butterflies get all the attention; but moths — they spin silk, they’re stronger, they’re faster.

And we’ll stop there. Forget the comparison with the moth and the butterfly (because putting down the butterfly contradicts what I’m going for here) and focus on the fact that Locke finds¬†beauty in the moth. It’s easy to think that the butterfly is beautiful because it’s got pretty colors on its wings, but finding the beauty in the moth requires knowing more about it. It’s different than the butterfly, but it’s not any less beautiful.

What if we all treated each other that way? What if we all strove to find the beauty in each other and always treated each other as beautiful and valuable people? I think that’d be pretty good.

Lost Characters

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I started watching the TV show X-Files when I was a freshman in college and I was hooked pretty immediately. About a year later when FX aired the entire series in order I video-taped (on VHS in those days) and watched the whole series. A decade later when I was almost done with college my friends Aaron and Russ wanted to watch the series, which they’d never seen before. But X-Files was a pretty long-running show, so we decided to just watch the episodes related to the alien conspiracy. Since I’d seen the series before I served as our guide. I found some lists of the alien episodes online, but I wasn’t really happy with the choices that they’d made and I ended up curating my own list of the episodes that would best let us watch the over-arching plot line.

X-Files is kind of a unique show because it let us do this. There are two kinds of X-Files episodes: the episodes that are part of the over-arching plot line of the alien conspiracy, and the stand-alone episodes of some weird supernatural thing that isn’t alien related. There really isn’t much of a middle ground. (Star was also an X-Files veteran and would sometimes watch with us, but she was and still is opposed to our approach, and in some ways she’s right: Most of the very best episodes were stand-alone episodes because they were so creative and often had really excellent writers.)

 

Ever since then I’ve thought about that idea of analyzing how required an episode is if you want to keep watching the series. I don’t think most TV shows are as clear-cut as X-Files was. Even shows that do have over-arching plot lines and random single-episode plots, they usually sprinkle and mix them so that there’s at least something related to the over-arching plot in every episode. You can’t usually cut out whole episodes and expect to understand what’s going on in the next episode.

 

Recently we’ve started re-watching the TV show Lost, and the third episode of the show suggests a different way for an episode to be really important to the series.

Really nothing happens in the episode to further the overarching plot. There are several reminders of important things going on but nothing new really happens. Sure they talk about being off-course and the weird radio signal, but they’re just reminding us of what’s happened in other episodes. In other words, if you completely missed this episode you could still watch the next one and understand everything that was going on.

Even though you wouldn’t have missed any plot milestones, you would have missed some really important milestones for our characters. There are tons of instances in this episode where you get a first look at attributes of these characters that end up being really important during the rest of the show. So maybe the episode is still really essential for watching the whole series, but for very different reasons. You could understand the plot without this episode, but you might not understand the characters without it.

Consider these scenes and what we learn about the characters:

  • When Jack goes into the airplane wreckage to rummage for medicine he finds Sawyer already in there rummaging for anything else of value. They debate the ethics of rummaging for supplies, and Sawyer suggests that Jack is acting like he’s still in civilization while Sawyer sees them as being “in the wild”. I think there’s an interesting irony that’s presented here. Sawyer is “in the wild” as far as his morals are concerned, having no problem taking from the dead nor from the rest of the castaways in order to benefit his personal stash. However, Sawyer is calm and collected as he does it. Jack on the other hand, operates for the common good and is slowly creating the civilization of the island. But here we see him rushed and almost panicked as he rummages for medicine, and he seems at the end of his wits, like he might just attack Sawyer at any second. We see this battle of values and personalities between Sawyer and Jack over and over during the course of the show, and this first encounter sets it up perfectly.
  • This is really Kate’s episode, and so you see multiple sides of Kate in it. One side is the dangerous criminal. The marshall tells Jack that she is dangerous and that she shouldn’t be trusted.
  • During the conflict over the gun, Kate gets nominated to carry it. She walks around camp with a gun and no one seems to mind except for Hurley. While we were watching this part Kelly said out loud, “It’s amazing that people are OK with her just walking around with a gun.” The thing we really learn about Kate through this is that she is able to command trust from her peers.
  • The marshall and Kate have two encounters when he is conscious: in the first the marshall attacks her and tries to strangle her, and in the second he has a kind of fond-farewell to Kate, even to the point of asking her to put him out of his misery. Here you see the other pieces put together: Kate is dangerous and the marshall both hates her and fears her, but he also strangely sees her as a trusted friend and relies on her to be compassionate to him.
  • You see this dual nature of Kate again in the attempted escape after the farmer sells her out. She is willing to do anything to get away, crashing the truck but ultimately she allows herself to be slowed down to save the farmer from the burning wreckage. She was just dangerous enough to crash the car, but too compassionate to allow the farmer to die, even when it meant her being caught.
  • Sawyer tells Kate that since she has the gun she should put the marshall out of his misery. He doesn’t know that Kate was the fugitive and that it actually would serve Kate’s interests if the marshall weren’t around anymore. We don’t see the rest of the conversation, but later we see it’s outcome when Sawyer has the gun and shoots the marshall. Here we see Kate as a con artist herself, conning the conman into doing something that really serves her more than anyone else, and you can imagine that she’s done it in a way that Sawyer thinks that he’s convinced her.
  • When Sawyer leaves the tent after shooting the marshall, he has a look of pain and sorrow on his face. Jack confronts him and Sawyer justifies his actions and makes a convincing argument that he was actually being merciful to both the marshall and the rest of the passengers. But because of the looks on his face, you get the idea that he isn’t glad that it’s happened. This is the first time that you realize that Sawyer isn’t one-dimensionally evil, but that he’s actually complicated and is trying to do the right thing from his own point of view.
  • When the marshall groans after being shot, Sawyer realizes that he has spent his last bullet and missed. Despite all of the morally questionable things that we’ve already seen him do, this is the first time that he looks afraid and ashamed. It reinforces the idea that Sawyer does have some compassion deep down, but also let’s us see another aspect of what makes Sawyer who he is: even when he is trying to do the right thing, he is ashamed of himself for constantly screwing up.
  • After Sawyer shot the marshall, he accuses Jack of not being able to do what needed to be done. But after he has missed, Jack goes into the tent and puts the marshall out of his misery. Here you see another pattern for Jack: despite whatever character flaws Jack may have, he is extremely capable, and doesn’t shy away from conflict or hard situations.
  • Perhaps most importantly, this is the first episode where Sawyer calls Kate “Freckles”.

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