The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Episode 9: Namaste

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Hey Kathryn,

Well, I was immediately excited to see that this episode is named Namaste considering my reflections on Widmore’s art just a few episodes ago (episode #3: Jughead).  We learned then that he was once an other, and in this episode the Dharma folks, in fabulous hippy style, all greet each other with Namastes.  Of course, as I noted before, this Sanskrit word is a greeting that refers to a notion of seeing the good in an other, in one’s fellow human – it’s like saying, “the good in me sees the good in you”.  And having Indian origin, I wondered before if Widmore’s painting with Namaste written in it was linking him somehow to Ajira airlines.  But now, being reminded of its common use by the Dharma initiative, and remembering that Widmore was an other, it makes me wonder if there is some more basic link or deeper connection between the Dharma folks and the others/the hostiles than we’ve previously recognized because we’ve been so distracted by their relationship of enmity.

And indeed, it’s difficult for me to even understand why this episode is called Namaste.  The word doesn’t play an obviously significant role, besides being the greeting used…so why name it as the descriptor of the whole episode?  Perhaps it seems strange to get so hung up on one word, but I can’t help but thinking it’s pointing to something more!

Ok, so recap – we open on the Ajira flight as it’s about to go down.  Our friends flash into the past, but we quickly realize that neither Sun nor Ben flashed with them. Now, it sort of makes sense that Ben wouldn’t flash through time, but I have no idea why Sun didn’t. Sun and Lapides start rowing from the island on which they’ve crashed to ‘our island,’ Sun having knocked Ben unconscious with an oar.  The two arrive at the former Dharma crew homes, totally abandoned and in disrepair, to find one light ominously on.  Who else but Christian Shepherd, our ghost-dad, Jacobesque, father of two main characters, comes out to greet them and tells them that they are to follow him on a “bit of a journey” (an understatement if I ever heard one seeing as they will need to traverse 30+ years!).

Back in 1977, with the parallel narrative, Sawyer, Jin, and the now Oceanic 3 reunite (sans Aaron, Sun and we’re still wondering where Sayid is).  Sawyer gets the three of them jobs with the Dharma initiative by pretending that they are some of the new recruits.  They all flash numerous, painful-to-watch, meaningful looks at each other throughout the episode that would get even the most unobservant Dharma goof wondering, yet somehow no one catches on that something strange is happening (except maybe Phil)…and these looks intensify when Sayid is caught prowling the perimeter and is imprisoned by Dharma, presumed to be a spy from the hostiles.

The two key info-pieces or a-ha moments we get occur when Amy tells Juliet that she and Horace are naming their baby Ethan and Juliet realizes that she has delivered her future friend who will, when our friends one day arrive on the island, be killed by them.  And I think it’s worth noting here that I love Juliet’s or, rather, Elizabeth Mitchell’s ability to act with nuance – unlike Sawyer’s sort of silly wistful faces and Jack and Kate’s overacted moments of recognition, Mitchell manages to communicate much emotion with only flickers of facial expression.  The other a-ha moment is when the child who brings Sayid his sandwich reveals himself to be Benjamin Linus.

But I think the point of the episode that I loved most is Sawyer’s schooling of Jack!  Jack slams him for reading a book instead of taking care of business, to which Sawyer responds that Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz, and that’s what helped him to think.  Jack always reacted to things without thinking and, Sawyer points out, that got a lot of people killed.  Now that Sawyer’s in charge, it’s going to be a careful, thoughtful operation.  It’s a great exchange; one that totally puts Jack in his place!  And one that let’s the Oceanic 3 know that however it is they’ve imagined they’re going to save those who were left behind, those who were left behind are doing just fine.

Speaking of those who were left behind, though, I keep forgetting to ask this, but think it almost every episode – where on earth are folks like Bernard and Rose?!?  Our main characters got split between the real world and those who started flashing through time and then moved into Dharma, but what about our other named, but not quite main, characters?  Where/when are we to imagine them to be?

Ok, let me know what you thought!

ox,
Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I also loved the showdown between Jack and Sawyer – it was my favorite part of the episode! Everything Sawyer said to Jack seemed right on: Jack is the quick-acting, jump in the water, respond like a hero kind of leader. We’ve been watching Sawyer for all four previous seasons sit back, reflect, make up his mind more slowly – and often with a book in hand in some quiet corner of the beach. We’ve always known there was more going on than his don’t-give-a-damn attitude suggests, but it was so fun to see him vocalize his own prerogative as a leader and to offer his own critique of Jack’s style. I couldn’t help but wonder though if there different styles don’t have something to do with their different aims: Jack spent all his time as a leader trying to get folks off the island. Sawyer, so far, has been spending all of his time, trying to make life on the island safe and livable. I almost can’t help but feel like Sawyer has more of the life he’s always wanted on the island than he ever thought he could have off the island, and his style is to keep the status quo. Then again, after all Jack’s hard work to leave, he is the one who wanted to come back, so this might be further proof that Sawyer’s got the right idea. But this is something I want to track as I keep watching the season again.

Perhaps one of the most touching signs of this fundamental difference is the way Sawyer is trapped between wanting to maintain his life and love with Juliet and wanting to welcome back and take care of the returning survivors. The same nuance you recognized in Juliet when she is holding baby Ethan, I found totally heart-breaking when she greets Kate just in time to process her. Why is it I feel so little for Kate and so much for Juliet?

You are right: something is going on with the Namaste business (and that is not a spoiler!). I am not sure if it will add up neatly, but the recurrence of this Sanskrit greeting/blessing, coupled with the presence of the ankh and that crazy towering ancient statue our time travelers saw in one of the flashes, suggests that if nothing else, we need to pay attention to the wisdom found in these non-Western systems of meaning. We have a lot to go on with Locke/Bentham/Hume and the whole Western Enlightenment track, but these visual and aural clues suggest to me that even if there is not a definite philosophical school being gestured to, there is some sort of connection to the non-Western wisdom traditions.

Of all the strange mysteries that remain to be cleared up, the question of why Sun didn’t flash with the others is one of the most vexing to me. When Christian steps out of the abandoned Dharma house and tells Sun she has a journey in front of her (you are right, ridiculous understatement), I thought back to very early hypotheses about the show: that the island somehow represents a kind of purgatory, a purification between normal time and something like eternity. I’m not sure this theory holds for the show as a whole, but purgatory is often described as a journey, almost like Psyche or Hercules’ tasks of endurance in Greek mythology – as Dante describes it, a long journey up a mountain. It kind of worked for me to think that Sun and Jin have this long journey in front of them before they can find each other again.

OK, I’m saving other thoughts for the next episode, which is a real doozy!

xoxo,
K

Written by themothchase

January 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm

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