Again… we open with an opening of an eye.  But who’s eye this time?  Jack’s eye.  Again.  But this time it is young flashback Jack in a schoolyard, just after getting punched in the face.  This is the furthest into the past a flashback has gone yet, because we need to go further into the past to pave a way to the future.  To understand these characters, we need to know them intimately.

This episode is wonderfully Shakespearean.  All of the elements of a great play of the Globe are present.  An unsure leader is literally haunted!  Sins of the father are visited upon the son!  Insanity plagues the hero!  Magical islands!  A clandestine meeting with a wise old man in the woods!  It is all here.

“Stay down! Your choice. Walk away now and you won’t get your ass kicked.” Jack of course doesn’t listen.

From the schoolyard, we cut to present day on the beach.  Charlie runs up screaming for help.  “Somebody’s out there!”  He points to the water.  Jack being the hero that he is, without thought to his well-being, rushes into the sea as Charley eerily mumbles to himself “I don’t swim.”  We’re all going to find out the extent of your swimming capabilities soon enough Charlie…

Jack makes it to the thrashing person who is revealed to be Boone.  Momentarily satisfied with his heroism of the day, he is about to make for shore, when hark, he hears another scream.  Another person is even further out.  A woman.  Jack decides to bring Boone to shore before going back for the woman.  She drowns.  Her name was Joanna.

Jack has already established himself as the hard decision-making-leader…  He will do what it takes to keep the camp safe.  He will do what he can for people right up to and sometimes beyond rationality.  At that point he has proven that he is  willing to cross lines that doctors generally won’t.

In the next scene we see the foundation for Jack’s often times crippling fear.  His father Christian commits a horrifying crime in the study with his words, by offering the most terrifying advice to a young black-eyed Jack.  “Don’t choose Jack.  Don’t decide.  You don’t want to be a hero.  You don’t want to try and save everyone, because when you fail…   You just don’t have what it takes.”  Wow.  Talk about a mind screw.  Worst Father of the Year Award goes to Christian Shepherd.  What path would this encounter put a person on if they are experiencing a Joseph Campbell story arc?  The redemptive path to prove themselves worthy?  A path to prove he has what it takes.  I’ve been on that path of proving yourself to others, and it can bring you  far, but the aggressive fires of proving your self don’t last as long as fires created by positive enthusiasm.  Jack seems to, from this moment, take the path of proving himself, just to spite his father, and it leads to multiple complete emotional breakdowns as he tries to prove that he can be the hero who has what it takes.

Dad?

When the man who you NEED to prove yourself to is dead, what do you do?  You hope to crash on a magical island of course.  Jack has seen his dead father twice on the island.  Why has he not talked about this?  He is a man of science.  He thinks it is a head injury or post-traumatic stress.   Like Hamlet being led by the nose and the words of the specter of his dead father, Jack follows Christian into the jungle.  Rather than looking for words of wisdom, I think Jack is looking for a showdown.  He wants answers.  He wants to know:

1. “How did you die?”

2. “Why did you leave mom?”

3. “How are you alive?”

4. And that which he’ll never ask at this point in his Island life, “am I good enough for you now?”

The phrase “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son” can be translated and interpreted many ways.  I like to think that it simply means that children learn from and mimic what they see in their parents, thus are doomed to repeat their mistakes.  Jack spends his entire life fighting this very natural urge.  He does follow his father into adulthood by becoming a doctor, but he wants to be more than a mender.  In one way, he simply wants to surpass his father, and prove that he is better than he.  At the same time, he wants to be a hero to his patients.  He wants to dispel the darkness others feel, and if he fails because he doesn’t have what it takes, he’ll deal with it.

John "Prospero" Locke

The use of a family squabble is wonderfully Shakespearean.  Every great play written by the Bard, at its heart, is simply a family squabble.  Some are more serious, like Hamlet, Richard III or Romeo and Juliet, but others are playful, like the Taming of the Shrew.  Like Hamlet, Jack can’t live up to the vision he thinks his dead dad had for him.   There is a plane crash in a far off land, which is very much like Twelfth Night, where people try to assume new identities and cast away old skins.  Also in the Twelfth Night, we had siblings that were separated for so long that they no longer recognize each other at first glance, similar to Claire and Jack.  The island is a magical place where transformations take place as they did in a Midsummer’s Night Dream.  Some can even harness the magic as Prospero did in the Tempest, or like Locke to heal his legs.

"...God knows how long we're gonna be here. But if we can't, live together... we're gonna die alone."

The Alice in Wonderland references of “chasing a white rabbit” were a little blunt, but perfect at the same time.  It is a universal story that evokes a very broad reaction, whether it is Hunter S. Thompson yelling “White Rabbit!” uncontrollably or John Locke speaking calmly in the woods like a kind grandfather, we get the point.  We are all searching for something.   It really was a perfect way to spell it out for the audience, because who doesn’t love Alice in Wonderland or  feel like they are on the other side of the Looking Glass and looking in from time to time?

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Added bonus! (sort of)  In 1999 I chased a white rabbit that led me to making the short film Alice Underground.  It was an experimental film shot entirely in still photography.  We used actors and print models to transmute Lewis Carroll’s tale to the streets of NYC.  It screened at various film festivals between 1999 and 2010, including The Hampton’s International film Fest.  Here is the trailer for that film, because I won’t torture you with the whole thing.

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