The Moth Chase

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

Episode 17: The Incident, part 2

with 5 comments

Dear Kathryn,

What the what!?  Ok, let’s tackle this immense episode on a couple of fronts: first Jacob’s continued visits to folks in the real world.  First we have his appearance to Jack post the famous 5-second surgery.  Jack tries to buy an Apollo candy bar (these bars, like McCutcheon whiskey, are one of the many Lost products that appear again and again) that gets stuck in the machine.  Jacob shows up and gives him the bar…but only after Jack and his father tousle over who it is who doesn’t believe in Jack (note, an ongoing theme of belief, faith and trust).  So this is a pre-Oceanic 815 connection.  Second, Jacob picks Hurley up outside of his jail and convinces him to get on Ajira 316 – a post-island connection much like his one with Sayid in the previous episode.  The interesting connection here is that those of the Oceanic 6 who return to the island willingly – Jack, Kate, Sun – had all connected with Jacob prior to their original crash and those who did not return so willingly – Sayid and Hurley – only connected with him afterwards.

And then, perhaps strangest of all, we have Jacob’s connection with John.  At first, Jacob is simply sitting on a park bench reading Flannery O’Conner’s Everything that Rises Must Converge; a collection of short stories she wrote in the years shortly before her death.  Ok, so I haven’t read it, but a quick internet search reveals that it’s about the sinfulness of humanity that we often fail to see in our modern, secular world.  If that’s not one of the themes of Lost, I don’t know what is!  Then we see John fall from atop a building, and we remember that it was his father – who has also appeared on the island – who pushed him to his potential death.  Jacob immediately walks up to him, touches his shoulder, and John responds by waking – whether from unconsciousness or death, I’m not sure – for Jacob to apologize that this had to happen.

Speaking of books – did you notice the coffee table book while Juliet’s parents were telling her about their divorce (yet another example of a broken family)?  It was Mysteries of the Ancient Americas – again, a play on this theme of numerous ancient cultures coming together in our island mythology.

Of course, John/s is the most interesting character in this episode.  While the guy we thought was John takes Ben through the shadow and into the statue, Ilena and the others show up with a box that has our dead John/Jeremy in it.  And we learn that somehow – I can’t even begin to imagine how – the John who’s in the statue with Ben is not John at all but is the man in black who has found the necessary loophole to finally kill Jacob.  Ben, angry at Jacob, his god, for the years of silence – and really, at this point I can’t blame him – kills Jacob in a sort of desperate move.  Is this Esau defeating Jacob; Cain killing Abel, Satan defeating God…I don’t know.  But I was certainly struck by Dr. Chang’s observation that once the energy pocket is breached, “all Hell’s gonna break loose” – perhaps this has happened in a way even he did not imagine!

Oh, and in regards to our previous conversation – yes, I do think we were supposed to see John (or fake John) as a Moses figure as it gets affirmed by Ben’s description of John to Jacob: “he gets marched up here as if he were Moses”.  And if this temple is some form of Moses’ trek up Sinai/Horeb to receive God’s law, then the man in black’s ability to circumvent the rules to find a loophole is particularly ironic.

And if John is some sort of bizarro-Moses figure – we should remember that Claire’s baby Aaron is still off the island.  In the Biblical narratives, Aaron is Moses’ brother who God sends to help Moses lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt when Moses is too wussy to do so himself.  We might recall too that John was an early care-giver for Aaron.  There might be some connection here – at the very least, I don’t think we’re done with Aaron (or with Michael’s kid, Walt) yet!

For what it’s worth – what lies in the shadow of the statue? Besides a confusing Latin phrase?  Translation: He who will save us all.  So as we wait to see who’ll make it out of that statue, we have to wonder who will save them, and how he will do it?!

I’m sure you, like I, kind of loved that fight between Jack and Sawyer.  Finally – if they aren’t going to kiss and make up, at least they finally got to beat the crap out of each other.  But I have to be honest, the fact that every one of our friends’ – Jack’s, Kate’s, Sawyer’s and Juliet’s – reasons to support or oppose blowing up a nuclear weapon was whether or not it would or would not erase their romantic pasts was seriously starting to grate on my last nerve! I tend not to support detonating nukes at all – doing so or not dong so based on one’s romantic attachments is more ludicrous than most other reasons!

Which leads me to Juliet – had you told me when I started this season that Juliet was going to fall down a hole and die detonating a nuclear bomb, I would have been devastated.  She’s my favourite (her and Ben).  And I just love her.  But her fate is no different than anyone else on that island (in 1977) right now – and that’s certainly interesting.  So will we start the next season back in LAX waiting to board Oceanic 815?  I know the first episode of the season is called LAX, but with Lost, that could really mean anything!

Because we are of course left with Miles’ question – does the nuke prevent ‘the incident’ or is it ‘the incident’?  If it’s the former, then things might be set right (whatever right might be).  But if it’s the latter, then we really just begin in an eternal recurrence of the same; in the Western Modern tradition made famous by Nietzsche, but a concept that also pervades many of the world’s philosophies and religions.

Ok, I’ll stop there before I take up everything on which you may have wanted to comment.  Oh my goodness, I do not know how those of you who watched this when it first aired were able to wait so long for the season return!  I can hardly wait until tomorrow!!



Dear Natalie,

It has been a really awesome journey back through season 5 with you, and having to pretend I didn’t know what was going to happen or what we would learn (even just in this final episode) actually made me pay more attention to the small details and the interconnected themes, and that has been great. I am so excited to see what tomorrow night brings – what in fact happened in that great flash of white?!

But first: this episode totally floored me – again! The revelation in Jacob’s lair that John is not John, the cosmic showdown, the death of (a) god (?) – it was actually way more interesting to me than the nuclear bomb plot. Not to suggest that detonating a nuclear bomb isn’t significant and I don’t want to know as much as the next girl what it all means. But what I really want to know is who are Jacob and the Man in Black and what relationship do they have to everything else that is/has been/will go on?! I loved your suggestions of Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau overtones. I had not really seen it, but I think the resonances are there. Using Locke’s body to persuade Ben to kill Jacob for him was the loophole, not discovering an ability to kill Jacob himself – and this seemed laden with suggestions of trickery and place swapping, much like the two biblical brother stories you draw our attention to. And like brothers locked in some cosmic struggle, they both share a common fear. With his dying breath Jacob tells not-John that “they” are coming; not-John looks startled and fearful, and then pushes Jacob’s body into the flames. So one big question to keep in our minds is who are “they”?

[A quick digression: my brother pointed out to me that there is no reason to think that the Man in Black hasn’t animated other dead bodies to get his work done. In fact, we have every reason to suspect that Christian – Jack and Claire’s dead dad, for whom John’s body was supposed to be a substitute – is just another proxy for the Man in Black. Which means that everyone who has met Christian and thought they were talking to Jacob’s spokesman has actually been talking to the Man in Black. Ilena confirms that Jacob has not been using the cabin, but someone else has – the Man in Black. Eloise, who we can assume might play for the same team as Widmore, is the one who insists that John’s body go back to the island, providing the Man in Black with his necessary loophole. If this is all true, than none of our islanders have been in communication (at least not on the island) with the real Jacob, and are following the destiny set in play by the Man in Black and his proxies. Thanks Michael for pointing all this out to your dense sister].

Unlike you, I did not find Ben’s confrontation with his god compelling or understandable. I found him incredibly pathetic. Sure, I get it: he has been ignored and abused, left to follow orders with no direct access to the main man. Still, he seemed like a selfish, sniveling whiner and I absolutely loved it when Jacob said to him “What about you?” One of the themes of the show so far has been how our lives are interconnected, and how, if in anyway an individual is special over and above the web of relationships that bind him or her. Ben has always had a hard time accepting this and even as a small boy wanted to believe he was special in a way that would give him power and access to knowledge. Jacob’s even-toned reply, asking Ben just why he should think he is special in the first place, seemed to me, not so much a taunt as a moment of grace that Ben ignored. At least a moment of grace as it might appear in a Flannery O’Connor story, which is why I absolutely loved the close up, lingering shot of that book cover and why it made so much sense to me that Jacob was reading it. You (or the web reference you found) are totally right: Flannery loved to make clear the sinfulness (often in deeply petty ways that add up to so much more) that is ignored or psychologized away by modern life. But she also loved to offer her characters moments of grace – chances to walk away from whatever selfish desires are driving them to destruction. Re-watching this time, I couldn’t help but think that this is what Jacob was doing with all his off-island encounters: offering our characters a small moment of grace, a chance to choose differently, a chance to think about their lives differently. When not-Locke says to Ben “everything will change once he’s gone” I couldn’t help but think that was right – but I’m not sure how and I’m not sure for the better.

OK, I am already going on too long. Let’s cut to the chase: the great white flash and what is going to happen next. As we discussed when debriefing over the phone, there is no reason to think that Juliet would die but all the other people on the island would survive. It was a nuclear bomb after all. But since Elizabeth Mitchell is not supposed to be back this season, we’ve got to think that whatever happens in that flash affects her differently. Like perhaps the flash is not the Incident, but really does reset time. Or even if it is the Incident, that the storyline we are supposed to follow is not the one that involves her time on the island. The title for the episode is not LAX but LA X, suggesting that this LA is not the LA we know/our characters know. Whether they are there because of or in spite of all that they’ve already done is an open question and your guess is as good as mine. I am very glad we only have to wait 36 more hours and I will be very excited to follow this next season together!

Let the countdown begin,

See here to read the entire Lost, season 5, conversation from start to finish

Written by themothchase

February 1, 2010 at 8:40 am

5 Responses

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  1. I think LA X means LA 10 as in 2010.

    Thunder Jones

    February 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

  2. Nice commentary. I’ve enjoyed reading all these to catch up again before the season premier (I actually just started watching LOST last May and finished Season 5 in early December).

    I agree with K’s brother about the man in black. I’m convinced that the cabin was a prison for Esau/MiB (the chalk circle around the cabin which is not to be broken). Maybe there is also some symbolism with how Christian is wearing all black when we first see him on the island, and later on is seen only in his white shirt.

    Anyway thanks for the blog. I also enjoy reading your take on Big Love.


    February 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

  3. Just to clarify:
    They were supposed to land in LAX, they took off in Sydney. So if the title of Episode 1 refers to the airport LAX and not something completely bizzare (which is possible) it may be following the alternate past created by the nuke detonation, where the plane actually lands. This is incredibly complicated and involves choice, alternate futures, and time-travel paradoxes and would be an awful load to dump on fans the first episode, so I’m actually leaning towards a more esoteric meaning for “La X”.

    Man in Black

    February 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm

  4. If the MIB has been inhabiting dead bodies, he may have also been taking the form of Ana Lucia, Charlie, Mikhail (who seemed to have many lives, didn’t he?), and Dave perhaps from Santa Rosa? There may be more too. I’d like to find a common theme between those interactions…


    February 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    • Well we’ve also seen the smoke monster take the forms of dead people, such as when it encountered Mr. Ecko the second time (became the bodies of the drug dealers).


      February 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

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