I think I’m coming down with Cabin Fever.
It’s episodes like last night mythology heavy installment, Cabin Fever, that prove how intricately plotted and dramatically dense this show can be. This is why I watch the show. While getting answers can be rewarding, sometimes it’s more fun to keep tunneling down the rabbit’s hole. As long as you feel faith in the show’s creators to keep the narrative on track, it can be deliriously invigorating to be plopped in the midst of mystery with scant clues to go on and try to work your way back to some semblance of a clue. That’s why I got hooked on Twin Peaks two decades ago and why I spent the better part of the 90’s paging through The X-Files.
And it’s why I grooved on every little morsel and clue doled out in last night’s Locke-centric Cabin Fever. Sure, we didn’t get cold, hard facts and we seemed to get even more conundrums to wrap our brain around but make no mistake, this episode served to move the plot forward just as much as The Constant and The Shape of Things to Come.
Next week begins the 3-Part Season Finale – There’s No Place Like Home. Part 1 airs on May 15th – then there is a one week break before the 2 hour Season Finale airs on May 29th. That will be the final season finale of all network shows this year. Nothing like saving the best for last.
On with the show.
1. The timing of Locke’s origin story couldn’t be more coincidental. Last season, on this exact date (or more to the point – on the Thursday before Mother’s Day) we witnessed Ben’s origin story that followed him from his early days to his arrival on the island and his induction into The Others. Almost a year to the date, we get an episode that provides Locke’s full back story and follows a similar tact. You’ll notice that in this episode Ben keeps alluding to Locke being his replacement – or at least someone who was on the same track as Ben. Although Locke bristles at the notion that he and Ben are the same “I’m not you” to which Ben responds “No, John, You’re Not.” That being said, allow me to peacock a little here and just say, I called this way back. It’s evident in this episode that Ben has been selected by The Others as Ben’s replacement – which is why Ben can no longer hear Jacob (if he ever could in the first place).
2. More on all of that in a moment. For starters, I wanted to draw a parallel between the two episodes/characters. Benjamin Linus was born early to a woman named Emily. She was on a hike when she went into labor 3 months early and delivered Ben into this world. As she was dying, she yelled to her husband, “Name him Benjamin.” Ben is a shy, alienated boy who upon his arrival at the island attracts the attention of the seemingly never aging Richard Alpert who inducts him into The Others. Alpert then positions Ben to be their spokesperson for contact with Jacob.
John Locke was born early to a woman named Emily. She was 15 years old and headed off to a date with an older man when she was hit by a car and forced to deliver the baby early. Her baby was delivered 3 months early. As he was wheeled out in an incubator, she yelled to the nurse “Name him John.” John is a shy, alienated boy who attracts the attention of the seemingly never aging Richard Alpert at several moments in his life. Later in life, John finds himself on the island where he is now being groomed to take Ben’s position as the spokesman for The Others’ contact with Jacob.
3. Here’s my theory. There was a lot of talk about destiny in this episode – as Ben put it, “Destiny is a fickle bitch.” I think John Locke was destined to be caretaker for the island but he needed to find that within himself. Right from the beginning, Richard Alpert is there at the hospital where John has been delivered to the world, checking in on him. Then a few years later, after John has bounced from foster home to foster home, Alpert approaches him once again and introduces a test (I’ll go into more detail in a moment). When John apparently ‘fails’ the test, Alpert checks out of his life once again. But he continues to reach out to him – as the segment in high school reveals, when Mittelos (Lost Time) Laboratories reaches out to induct John to science camp. John rejects that notion, giving voice to a phrase that he would cling to his whole life “Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do.” Years later, when John is at rock bottom after having been hurled eight stories to the pavement, Matthew Abbadon appears as his orderly and offers some life changing advice. “Go on a walkabout.”
4. All of these events were efforts to steer John to the island – to drive him to his destiny. I’m going to hit each in rapid succession.
5. First, Alpert’s test. Alpert lays out a number of items. A vial of sand. A baseball mitt. A dusty old tome – the Book of Laws. A Comic Book – featuring tales of the “Hidden Land“. A pocket watch. A knife. Alpert then asks John to choose the item that belongs to him. In essence, this is a test for John to choose who he really is.
6. In the past, Jack has been called Man of Science and Locke was Man of Faith. Using that naming structure, here’s my thoughts on what these items represent: Vial of Sand (Man of Faith), Baseball Mitt (Man of Play), Book of Laws (Man of Order), Comic Book (Man of Ideas), Pocket Watch (Man of Discipline), A Knife (Man of Action). John chooses the knife and Alpert gets pissed. I think the reason John fails the test is he doesn’t choose the item that represents who he really is – he chooses the item that represents who he wants to be. And it is this drive to be the great hunter, the man of action, that has led John astray from his destiny and kept him from the island the great number of times the island has beckoned him.
7. I read online that this test is similar to how the new Dali Lama is chosen. Items of the former Dali Lama are arranged in front of boys whom are believed to be the reincarnation of his soul and thus his successor. If a boy chooses the correct item that “belongs” to him, they are set on the path to becoming the next Dali Lama.
8. We see that in high school. The teacher tells John straight out that he is not going to be the Quarterback. The Homecoming King. The Superhero. He tries to steer John to Mittelos Laboratories (the same company that would become Mittelos Bioscience and would later draft Juliet). Again, he tries to steer John to the island. The thing is – John has to want to go there – he was to want the island.
9. Now, the curious event is when Matthew Abbadon shows up as Locke’s orderly. We know Abbadon works for Widemore (he assembled the team of Charlotte, Faraday, Frank and Miles). And still, Abbadon seems to be steering Locke to the island to fulfill his destiny. So does this shed some light on Widemore’s claim that the island is his? Was Widemore at one time in league with Alpert? And when Widemore tells Ben, “We both know you can’t kill me”, could this be read as the same reason why Richard Alpert continues to look so young through the decades. Does the island lock them in their age at the time they encounter it. What if Widemore was one of the original inhabitants of the island (captain of The Black Rock???) and was somehow banished from the island? Alpert may have been on board as well and stayed on to become leader of The Others. Or, perhaps Ben can’t kill Widemore for the same reason Keamy can’t kill Michael. There’s still work to be done.
10. Anyway, my theory is that the island needs someone to take care of it – to do Jacob’s bidding – and that John Locke was predestined to be that person but he dodged destiny for most of his sad life. So Ben was recruited as a stopgap until Locke finally found his rightful way. Or was coerced to Australia so that destiny could step in and crash his return flight home.
11. Making Ben the false prophet I predicted long ago. In fact, last season, there was a sequence where Locke marveled at how The Others seemed in awe of him. Alpert told Locke that they had been waiting for him for a very long time. (I love it that these writers aren’t just making this stuff up as they go – the threads woven early really do get stitched later).
12. With Locke in place and apparently getting ready to accept his rightful role, all paths lead to the cabin. This is the sequence that has strained the brain and for two reason. First, we’ll tackle Claire. I’m pretty sure she’s dead.
13. We know for a fact that dead loved ones have a habit of confronting the living for the purpose of delivering a message. I believe this to be the way the island communicates its message to those it needs to talk to – by speaking through specters of their associates. Jack sees Christian. Ecko is haunted by Yemi. Hurley sees Charlie. Michael sees Libby. Locke sees Boone. Etc… I think Claire died in that house explosion but because this is ‘fantasy island’, the island wouldn’t allow her to expire. Here’s the evidence. First, Miles (the ghost buster) has been taking a weird interest in her. There has to be a reason why he was grouped with her and Sawyer. Then, Christian encounters her and leads her off into the woods (just leaving Aaron behind). And then, she appears in Jacob’s cabin alongside Christian and definitely seems strange – almost eerily peaceful. It’s almost as if Christian came forth to drag her soul (which refused to believe it was dead) to its rightful place. So I am on the record as saying that I believe Claire is dead and that is why Kate has Aaron in the real world.
14. Now there’s one more Cabin mystery to discuss but I’ll save it for last. Before that, we have to touch on the freighter folk.
15. As I mentioned above, on board the freighter, we got more evidence that the island can exert its will as no matter how hard Keamy tried, he could not kill Michael.
16. We also got clear cut evidence of the time travel theories as we saw the Morse code message come in stating that the doctor was dead while he was alive and well on the freighter. And then Keamy, who hadn’t heard the message, went and sliced the doc’s throat thus sending the doc along on his own private date with destiny.
17. Now, what is in those DHARMA branded files that Keamy opened? It looked like another hatch logo was imprinted within and Keamy mentioned that Plan B called for them to intercept Ben at the place he would head if the island were a total loss. Ladies and Gentleman – We’re going to the Teleporter.
18. Finally, what was that thing Keamy had strapped to his arm? I got the sense that it’s something that will ward off the smoke monster. (P.S. I loved the description that the Smoke Monster disemboweled one guy).
19. Back to the cabin. So Locke gets his marching orders. He has to move the island. I think we know he’ll be successful as evidenced by Ben’s future statement to Widemore – “You’ll never find it.” But the question is, without Brandon Routh’s Superman, how does one move an island?
Next week, There’s No Place Like Home – Part 1.