'Lost': Tabula Rasa

Evangelinelilly_lost I knew I'd like this episode before I even saw it, given that it shares the same title as one of my favorite eps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But instead of The Scooby Gang get their minds wiped by an errant spell, the Lost version shows what happens when people stop being polite, and start lying like mad about their past in tonight's edition of "We Have to Go Back."

Tabula Rasa

4) In Short

"It ain't easy, having gangrene."

8) On the Island

Jack spends the majority of the episode tending to the critically wounded marshal, eventually learning that Kate is the woman that the marshal has raving about. Hurley discovers Kate's mug shot as well, and spends the majority of the episode acting as if he's just walked in on a topless Sun bathing in the jungle. (Which Michael did, with equally awkward results.)

Kate in the meantime returns with those from the S.O.S. crew, now complicit in a group lie to maintain the hope of the survivors by neglecting to mention anything about French messages, French deaths, or French fries. She's curious about the status of the marshal, whose increasingly loud cries of agony causes Princess Tact (Shannon) to openly pray for him to die. You stay classy, Shannon.

Jack tries to use medicine found in the fuselage to save the marshal, but it's of no use. The marshal's dying wish? To see the Jean Valjean to his Javert, to find out what promise Kate wished fulfilled. Her answer? That the man who turned her in get his $23,000 reward. Kate then hands the gun over to Sawyer, who's great at killing polar bears but terrible at killing men already at death's door. Jack eventually finishes the job for Sawyer.

In a subplot, Michael worries that Locke and Walt are playing an Island-based version of To Catch a Predator. Walt, in super-snippy "I hate you for never being around, so much that I killed birds and/or my mom with my mind, but we won't learn this for a few episodes" mode, declares Michael an unfit father until he finds Vincent. Locke, meanwhile, carves a dog whistle in order to call for Vincent, letting Michael take the credit for his discovery. But does Locke have an ulterior motive? Only the Island knows, and maybe Chris Hansen.

15) Off the Island

Kate's awoken in an Australian sheep pen by a man named Ray Mullen. He's got a prosthetic arm and a soft spot for girls on the run, and offers to pay Kate (who is posing as "Annie") a fair wage for a fair day's work. In Europe, this plan would lead Kate to go on strike after a few days, but Down Under, this works out fine for a bit.

Ray finds her one night grabbing her accumulated stash, sensing she's about to run. (This is a theme with Ms. Austen.) He offers to drive her to the train station the next day, as a way to keep her close: he's already informed the marshal of her whereabouts in order to collect the bounty on her head. It's hard out here for a one-armed farmer. How hard? Roughly as hard as it is out here for a pimp.

With the marshal hot her tail on the open road, Kate pulls a "Grand Theft Dharma," veering the cars into each other. This plan would have ensured her freedom, except Ray's false arm gets caught inside his overturned truck. Kate saves his life, but ends up getting caught in the process. This is definitely not what The Fray had in mind, Kate.

16) The Mythology

"I'm gonna get your dog back as soon as it stops raining." And instantly it does. And just as instantly, goosebumps appear on my arm.

23) The Moment

When it first clicks in that the show can show more than just events on the Island. While many Lost fans eventually tired of the flashbacks, they were nonetheless a novel idea that provided some of the show's more compelling moments. Moreover, throughout the first three years, it put the viewer in the position of knowing more about the survivors than they did about themselves. (Until Season 4, of course, at which points the roles reversed.)

42) In Retrospect

  1. The first "Freckles"! Warmed my heart to hear that nickname used for the first time.
  2. Kate's alias, Annie (her middle name), sure stands out like a sore thumb now, in lieu of the other Annies in the Lost universe.
  3. What's up with this show and missing right arms? First Ray Mullen, then Marvin Candle, and in Season 5, Darth Vader's going to show up and chop off Hurley's arm.
  4. Sayid, not Jack, serves as the early Island leader. I'd forgot that he's the de facto leader upon returning from the signal excursion. Jack's largely dealing with a medical issue in this episode, and won't really ascend to leader status for a few more episodes.
  5. The Lostaways' secret-keeping as an established motif. Later, this morphed into "Person X has vitally important information he/she chooses not to share" as opposed to "Person X straight up lies about things on/off the Island," but still, this motif was embedded in the show's DNA right from the get go.
  6. This episode shares a lot with the Battlestar: Galactica episode "Water," both in terms of content and realism. Interesting how both shows strove to take a detailed, reality-based approach to the conundrums of their characters from the get-go, subsuming such daily activities into the background of the show once firmly established in the minds of the viewers.
  7. There's a calm serenity in this version of John Locke that's all the more heartbreaking knowing where his story leads. Just a brutal juxtaposition if you know what's to come.
  8. I had forgotten all about "Hurley's Montage Mix CD." Nearly every early episode seemed to end with a montage such as the one in this, until the batteries in his CD player mercifully died. Good riddance, as Michael Giacchino's score is one of the best parts about the show.

108) In Summary

A slight letdown in comparison to the pilot episode, but let's be honest: most episodes fall short of the pilot's brilliance. With the establishment of flashbacks to augment action on the Island, the show demonstrated it would be a character-based drama, a move that solidified its audience and let us gradually know the many people that crash landed on the Island. Such focus was needed in order for us to care about the events that would unfold over the next several years, and conceptually was a masterstroke that saved the narrative structure, provide emotional heft, and gave the show a chance to tell many different types of stories inside its seemingly narrow world.

Leave your thoughts about this episode below! And your homework for next week: watch "Walkabout," "White Rabbit," and "House of the Rising Sun." I'll be talking about those episodes, and asking the following question: Have we seen the end of flashbacks/flash forwards?

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.