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19 June 2007 @ 01:32 am
TABULA RASA  
Original Airdate: 10/6/2004
Written By: Damon Lindelof
Directed By: Jack Bender
Character: Kate
Days Two - Four

And here we have it, the first "real" Lost episode. Centered around a single character and a main, central theme, in some ways it is much easier to get a handle on than the pilot. In other ways, it's much harder. The writers know many things we don't. Even now, three years later, I know that I've missed things: themes, connections...etc. But with Kate as the anchoring character we are more clearly able to grasp the "bigger picture", as Sawyer so aptly puts it.

Let's start with the obvious. We know from the previous episode that Kate is a fugitive who was on the run from a U.S. Marshal. That's some serious business. She must have done some heavy hitting to merit the attention of a Marshal. We still, however, do not know what it is that she did, although she offered to tell Jack as a sign of faith. That he refused has to do with the central theme of the episode, the "tabula rasa" or "blank slate". Everyone knows the idea of the blank slate even if they don't know from where it originated. In popular culture today, we know the blank slate as one that has been wiped clean. Of crimes. Of sins. Even of memory. The most obvious way that the blank slate is being used in this episode refers to the fact that Kate and all the rest of the Losties have a chance to start over. No matter who they were in their previous lives, because the other survivors know nothing of those pasts, they can effectively become new people if they wish, possibly the people they've always wanted to be but never could because of the emotional baggage they have been carrying around. The use of Kate to exemplify this notion is extremely effective. Although the other characters might have just as heavy emotional baggage as Kate, none have such visible or socially vilified sins as Kate does. She is a criminal, a fugitive. She has done something so bad that the U.S. government sent a Marshal to Australia to hunt her down. She's dangerous. And yet she has, just as the others do, a chance to be free, to redeem herself. "It doesn't matter," Jack says when she offers to reveal her crime.

But there is also a problem with the blank slate idea...forgiveness doesn't come easy. And I'm not only speaking about others forgiving. Jack himself demonstrated that it's easier to forgive someone for a past regression, to allow them to start over as he has done for Kate, than it is to forgive yourself. He sits on the beach thinking, but we can see that he is upset by his inability to save the Marshal. He berates himself as he tells Kate that her slate has been wiped clean. When the Marshal says to Kate, "You don't look free to me," he's speaking double. Kate is literally trapped on the island, but the real meaning in his words lies in her guilt. Kate will only ever be free if she can forgive herself for the crimes that she committed. And Jack is an extreme case, of course. As Sawyer likes to point out, he's a hero. He finds it much easier to do the right thing, such as forgiving others, than your average follower might. Not all of the Losties will find it so easy to allow others the chance at that promised fresh start. Hurley is a good example of this. We like Hurley. He is jolly and friendly and kind. But he can't see past the idea of Kate The Fugitive. Eventually, we know that he does, but the point is clear. I'm delving pretty deep into psychology when I say this next bit, but isn't it our memories that make us who we are? Our experiences? This goes two ways. First, we have experiences and learn from them. This is the blank slate in action: Kate has the chance to learn from her errors and start over. But can she? How much of her actions resulted from chance and how much from personality? Isn't the smart thing to do judging a person by what he's done? Second, drawing from the former statement, isn't it impossible to truly wipe your slate clean? It's not as simple as a snap of the fingers. In reality, "wiping the slate" is nothing more than forgiveness and redemption, both of which take time and patience. So what Jack says is true; Kate and the Losties do have a chance for redemption, but it won't come as easily as wiping a chalk board with an eraser.

Something interesting to note about "tabula rasa" is that the idea originated with a 17th Century philosopher named
John Locke. Sound familiar? It's definitely not a coincidence that Locke was named after this man. In the nature vs. nurture debate, Locke was on the side of nurture, the side of faith, which we know is the side that Locke is most definitely on. He has experienced a miracle and has a new outlook for life. If anyone's slate has been truly wiped clean, his comes the closest. He wipes his past away gladly.

The other meaning for the "tabula rasa" is more theoretical and less personal. Locke the philosopher theorized that the human mind was blank at birth with no built in instincts or rules to guide it and that it is one's experiences in life that shapes how one's mind works. I argue that this can be applied to the new life the Losties have found on the island. This is a new world. Jack says that everyone's slate is wiped clean of sin, but it's also wiped free of civilization and rules. Sawyer seems to be the only one who recognizes their true situation. Alone in the wilderness with a dwindling chance of rescue. It's either create something new, a way to survive, or perish. While Jack may be right in clinging to his sense of duty, he also needs to come to his senses and accept Sawyer's insight. It is Jack's duty to forge a community with his morals and enable it to survive in their new habitat. He's so focused on his old life, exemplified by his futile attempt to save the Marshal, that he lets his brief leadership stint fail. It is Sayid who begins to organize the camp while Jack is still playing by the old rules. Sawyer may be crude but he at least understands about the blank slated world they're living in. The old rules don't apply anymore. When he shoots the Marshal, he is playing by the new rules: the island's rules. His act, seemingly evil (murder), was in his eyes one of compassion.

Which brings me to another point: Sawyer. This is a smart guy. He sizes up the situation and takes action, although that action is motivated by selfishness. I said above that his act was one of compassion, and it was, but I also think that it was a show. Sawyer knew that putting the man out of his misery was the right thing to do but he didn't do it for that reason alone. His proximity to Kate has clearly affected him: he's attracted to her. His first use of "Freckles" is an indication. From his own lips we know that he heard Kate telling Jack that she thought the Marshal's suffering should be ended. Sawyer knew she would appreciate the gesture. He is the anti-Jack, able to see the big picture, but doing things for himself alone. He scavenges, Jack gives out. And they both are attracted to Kate. Oh, what a triangle is brewing.

The last big thing I'm going to discuss in this review is the campfire scene. It contains two important moments revolving around Kate and Sayid. First, Sayid is clearly the leader in this expedition. He has the knowledge and the power. The gun is not just a gun, it's a metaphor for that power, and Sayid has taken it from Sawyer. He is the one who decides not to tell the others about the signal; he knows that it would do nothing but harm their states of mind. Only those who can handle the information should know, meaning the "leaders". And it is Sayid who takes charge in the camp. Kate's moment is also related to the gun. It's very interesting to me that her companions immediately had a consensus that she should carry the gun. They obviously sense a toughness in her, a strong capability, but there is also trust there, something that Sawyer is definitely lacking. This is ironic. As far as we the audience know, Kate is a fugitive. Sawyer may be an asshole, but we don't know anything about him yet. We know that Kate is "bad" but we like her anyway. Chalk up another hit for good old redemption; we feel that Kate deserves it, no matter what her crime.

Some quick final thoughts. "Nice stick." Two penis references in less than a minute...power struggle much? Even though Shannon is a brat, I feel for her when she is defensive about being stupid. Clearly there's something else going on with her. So far, only Hurley and Jack know about Kate's past. When Jack says "Anything else?" to Kate you know he wants her to tell about the Marshal but he is giving her a chance to do it on her own terms. Charlie and Claire using Locke's discarded wheelchair as a dolly is amusing as well as foreshadowing. Sun looks old and sad and Jin's "I love you" does nothing to help. Hurley cracks me up; what a coward. Locke has a kind heart to do what he did for Walt and Michael. It's strange looking at the Marshal (especially as he makes a fake gun with his finger) knowing that he's going to die in two minutes. I love that Michael has to go out in the jungle immediately after he says "as soon as it stops raining". Be careful what you wish for on this island. Never underestimate the power of hope for the future. When the camera closes in on Locke at the end and the music changes from happy and bouncy, it's really creepy and sinister: what is to come?


Questions Raised

1. What miracle happened to Locke?
2. Why was Kate in Australia?

Questions Answered

1. The secret that Locke told Walt was that a miracle happened to him. Whether or not he told him what that miracle was, we'll never know.
2. The favor that Kate asked the Marshall was that she wanted Ray the farmer to get his $23,000 reward.

Mythology

1. The island "miracle" that happened to Locke.

Motifs/Themes

1. Freedom
2. Redemption
3. A Fresh Start, a "Blank Slate"
4. Appearance vs. Reality
5. Hope and Optimism vs. Truth and Reality

Death Count

1. The U.S. Marshal

Sawyerisms

1. Referring to Sayid: "...Abdul, here..."
2. To Kate: "Freckles?" (recurring nickname use #1)
3. To Boone: "You take my gun, boy?"
4. Referring to Sayid, again: "Okay, give it Al-Jazeera, he'll protect us."
5. To Jack: "Brother...Doc." (recurring nickname use #2)
6. About the Marshall dying: "That poor boy."
7. To Kate about Jack: "I heard you tell the hero."

Character Connections

n/a

Songs


1. "Leavin' On Your Mind", Patsy Cline: Fitting, Kate is always leaving. Why shouldn't Patsy Cline sing to her about it?
2. "Washed Away", Joe Purdy: It's really beautiful as this song plays, singing of washing away sins. It's especially poignant when the camera hits on Kate and then Sun, whom has literally washed herself clean in the episode.



Ray the farmer finds a sleeping Kate in his barn.


"Boo!" Sawyer, being a jackass and inadvertently taking all the heat away from Kate.


Is she trying to decide whether he's alive? Or does she just want to kiss his little face? There's some odd sexual tension going on between Kate and the mortally wounded man.


Doing what Michael cannot.


Alone.


Visual foreshadowing?


Lines of the Week

"Put your gun back in your pants, Sawyer." Kate, with a not so veiled metaphoric warning.

"If we tell them what we know, we take away their hope...and hope is a very dangerous thing to lose." Sayid, playing the wise man.

"He looks kind of...dying." Hurley with an excellent use of proper grammar.

"You're just not looking at the big picture, Doc. You're still back in civilization."
"Yeah? And where are you?"
"Me? I'm in the wild." Sawyer, with a reality check for Jack.

"She will do anything to get away." The Marshal being only half-right.

"In case you noticed, I did get away."
"You don't look free to me." The Marshal, being cryptic about what's really trapping Kate and causing her to run.

"Three days ago, we all died. We should all be able to start over." Jack, saying a very important thing and ignoring the Marshal's advice.
 
 
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q_spade on June 20th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
Hey,

I found projectlost via an Interests search, and I've really enjoyed reading your take on Season 1 so far. :) I've been re-watching the episodes in order as well!

Hopefully it's OK to friend you.
Mistress of Lostie Islandprojectlost on June 20th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
It's totally ok to friend me, I friended you back! I'm glad you're enjoying my reviews, I'm having fun writing them. It's a good way to keep myself occupied until February. That cliffhanger is killing me :) Keep reading and feel free to comment on what you read.