Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

April 20, 2011

Back to the Island 1.12 – All the Best Cowboys have Daddy Issues

Filed under: back to the island,friends,geekery,now playing: anything — lexifab @ 1:56 am

Try to contain your surprise, if you can: I have missed another deadline. My shame is absolute.

Actually I had every intention of going to bed and forgetting all about posting another Lost review, but there are a few things I wanted to record before I let them slide (like a deadline!). In this I will resort rather cravenly to dot points:

  • Friends Ted and Sumie have just announced the arrival of the third little Pokemon, Hiro Rafael. Nominative determinism would seem to dictate that he will fight crime in a racy airport thriller in about twenty years. Much love to the proud parents and the elder Pokemons.
  • JeffR (whose last name I regret not backing up to my current PC, along with the contents of the The Sounds of Lightning lexicon game) has just announced the start of a new lexicon game, The Feast of Harmon’s Fall, which he has made open to anyone that asks. I’m not going to join because I *really* don’t have time at the moment, but I know several folks as might stumble across this entry have enjoyed lexicon games in the past. This would be your chance to play one without having to organise it. He’s using one of the variants that limits the explosion of phantom entries. The number of turns will be limited too, so the usual attritional burnout that usually kills these games is less likely to be a factor here. It’s a cool premise too – one for the food fetishists amongst us. Ahem. Go check it out.
  • Portal 2 has been released. If you’ve finished the previous game, the first hour of the sequel is hilarious. I presume it continues thus, because Jimbo keeps guffawing loudly, which can’t solely be down to the Harry Dresden audiobooks he’s been listening to. But consider both Portals to come with my highest recommendation. Portal’s a short, brain-teasery physics-puzzle solving platform game with a sarcastic and deranged narrator. It’s genius.  Oh, and the Minecraft update is out as well. As if I had time for more computer gaming.
  • I need to get to bed. I’m supposed to be looking like a professional and conducting three interviews tomorrow (asking the questions, not answering them, thank goodness).

Here’s that Lost review I owe you myself. I think this is a pretty good one.

Back to the Island 1.12 – ‘All the Best Cowboys have Daddy Issues’

“I’ve had to sacrifice certain aspects of my relationship with you so that hundreds – thousands of patients will live because of your extraordinary skills” – Christian Shepherd

Summary: Figuring out that Not-one-of-us Ethan has done something to Claire and Charlie, Jack and Locke hare off into the jungle in hot pursuit, finding Claire’s belongings. Jack didn’t believe Claire’s story about getting molested by a weirdo with a syringe in the middle of the night, so now a sliver of guilt worms its way through his +4 platemail of self-certainty. He can’t wait for Locke to round up a posse, and gives chase alone. Locke collects Boone and Kate and they immediately catch up to the doc, because he doesn’t know the first thing about tracking. It turns out that Kate does, though, so when it looks like Ethan is laying a false trail, the group splits up. Boone’s with Locke, and of course Jack and Kate pair off. Boone and Locke eventually lose the trail, but by then Locke has started looking for something else. It seems he’s found it when they stumble across what appears to be a metal plate on the floor of the jungle.

Meanwhile Jack and Kate are hot on Ethan’s heels, so when Jack slips down an embankment because he’s still charging around wildly, Ethan double back and kicks the crap out of him. “Stop following me or I will kill one of them,” he warns Jack, leaving not a lot of room of misinterpretation. Jack, of course, keeps following. That is why, a scene or two later, they come upon a blindfolded Charlie hanging there with strangler fig vines around his neck. They cut him down and Jack begins a resuscitation – but it’s too late. Charlie’s gone and the Music of Death (‘dum, da dum, da dum de dum de dum’) begins to rise.

Jack is too arrogant to accept the musical evidence and begins pounding Charlie’s dead, cold chest in a rib-crackingly antimedical manner. That does the trick. Charlie gasps himself violently back to life. Back at the camp, all he can recall is that Ethan was never interested in him. He was there solely for Claire and the baby. Everyone looks mildly worried about the implications for the still-kidnapped Claire

Flashback: During a risky surgery Jack takes over from his father, but the patient dies on the table. Dad, whose name is Christian Shepherd, of all things, had a couple of drinks under his belt at lunch. His unsteady hand caused the fatal injury. He’s the head of surgery, though, so he quietly omits that from his official report. Jack isn’t going to sign off on the report but his old man guilt-trips him into backing his play rather than ruin his illustrious career. He doesn’t even bother with the old “Think what this would do to your mother” routine. It really is all about him. He spins an implausible line about how he tempered Jack into the steely surgeon that we see before us and Jack folds like an origami elbow. The outlandish self-aggrandisement of the quote at the top of the review should give you the right idea. Then at an official hearing it turns out that the patient was pregnant and that Christian knew about it all along. Jack changes his story and send his jerkwater father down the tubes where he belongs.

Highlights: We’ve yet to see the backstory of Michael and Walt, Hurley, Boone, Shannon or Jin in his own right, so was it really time for Jack to get his second spotlight episode? I might just be biased against Jack, whose backstory for me is in the bottom three or four least interesting of all Lost characters. With so many genuinely intriguing characters to choose from, I nursed a small resentment against all the attention Jack got. Then later we learned more about Boone and Claire and I realised it could be worse.

This episode is all about the prophetic conversations, the most gratuitous of which is an exchange between Boone and Locke in which Boone explains about Star Trek redshirts. That is, the security officers in red who would always beam down to a new planet with Captain Kirk only to be killed before the first ad break. “Sounds like a piss-poor captain,” says Locke, little realising he’s less than a dozen episodes from leading his interlocutor to an untimely demise.

Greater ironies abound: Sawyer dismisses Walt’s theory that Ethan must already have been on the Island because his name wasn’t on the manifest, observing that he might have lied about his name. “Lying about your name is stupid,” replies Walt to the man who is lying about his name. A long time later Walt will also live pseudonymously. Sawyer scoffs at the whole idea that “~ a tribe of evil natives planted a ringer in the camp to kidnap a pregnant girl and a reject from VH1 has-beens”. There are a lot of psychics scattered around the Lost series – who knew that Sawyer was one of them?

Themes: The main theme of Daddy Issues is right there in the title. Jack and Christian are both screwed up by their monstrous arrogance, but Christian kind of has to take the credit for both of them (and incredibly he does, because he’s an egomaniacal prat). I have a theory that as the series progresses Christian Shepherd rises to greater prominence in the Lost backstory because the writers realised they had created in him an almost cartoonishly awful parent and that the only way to redeem him was to make his story as wilfully convoluted as any of the crash survivors’.

Jack and Locke have a cute scene when Jack asks how one man can drag two adults through the jungle against their will, to which Locke responds that the real question is not how but why? Just a quick little reiteration of their respective mission briefs – Man of Science asking “how?” versus Man of Faith asking “why?”. Well, I thought it was neat. Shut up.

Verdict: While it has a decent flashback plot, ‘All the Best Cowboys have Daddy Issues’ mostly comprises of several of the leads running through the jungle either making revelatory small talk as connective tissue between the resumption of the previous episode’s cliffhanger and Charlie’s shocking faux death scene at the end. In that respect the entire episode reeks very faintly of cheating: the cliffhanger is not actually paid off until the climax of the following episode.It feels like being charged twice for the same ride at the show.

That’s a vague structural weakness though. The actual cheat is Charlie’s non-death by hanging. He’s dead, we’re sad, there’s the music and – pow! Not dead at all! It would not, I suppose, be unreasonable to justify it, Locke-style, by asserting that the Island isn’t finished with Charlie yet, and so he can’t die. Later events will certainly support such a retroactive precedent. But the question of Charlie’s capacity to fulfill some as-yet-undetermined destiny is clearly not at the heart of the scene. It is – sigh – all about Jack’s stubbornness, righteous determination. In that thematic sense it’s a sound resolution to Jack’s paternal conflict. Narratively it’s downright dodgy.

I don’t care though because I didn’t want Charlie to die. And I don’t dislike this episode one bit, despite how this review might sound. It features some sparkling elements – further developing the revelation that there were already other people on the Island, investing the Fellowship-of-the-Ring-style pursuit of Ethan with foreboding, distraction and a fading sense of hope, the gripping discovery of blindfolded and hanged Charlie, the moment that Boone and Locke seal their fate by stumbling across the metal plate. AtBChDI gives real weight to the sense that Lost is going somewhere that will be worth following. Eight out of ten.


  1. Great review. “[A] sliver of guilt worms its way through [Jack’s] +4 platemail of self-certainty” is pure genius. And I hadn’t realised that Jack’s father’s name is Christian Shepherd—that’s almost embarrassingly anvil-icious.

    The only thing I can add is I think that Walt’s mention of “not Michael, Brian my other dad” makes him another one of the Cowboys mentioned in the title.

    Comment by linbot — April 29, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Ooh, good point about Walt. I meant to mention that as a flag for the upcoming Michael/Walt episode, but I forgot.

    It’s hard to know whether they meant Christian to be as significant as he became, so at this stage his name is still merely slightly silly. Later on it assumes an air of nominative determinism, but by then he has become completely entrenched as a secondary character.

    (I knew you’d like the platemail gag. The funny thing about that scene is that Matthew Fox plays the reaction moment with a subtle hint of fear and doubt, before heading up over the top as Jack descends into his more familiar state of self-important stubbornness. He can certainly act with range when he needs to).

    Comment by lexifab — April 29, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

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