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01 July 2007 @ 10:34 pm
WHITE RABBIT  
Original Airdate: 10/20/2004
Written By: Christian Taylor
Directed By: Kevin Hooks
Character: Jack
Day Six

As I was watching this episode, I couldn't help thinking about The Matrix. Follow the white rabbit, Neo! Follow the white rabbit! Er, I mean, Jack. Follow the white rabbit, Jack! Alice in Wonderland references are very efficient ways to represent a character being out of his ordinary world, falling into a "wonderland". In both Jack and Neo's cases, those wonderlands were negative places to be. Jack has found himself trapped on an island and now he's seeing a man, an impossible illusion, just as Alice sees a talking white rabbit with a pocket watch at the beginning of her adventures. This is not the last time Lost references Alice and her wonderland, either. The big question regarding the Christian Shephard white rabbit is who sent him? Well, I'm going to pick my answer: I think it was the island. I've said in previous reviews that I believe the island will help these characters to repent, to overcome their particular hurdles. I've even had a few comments and emails talking about the idea of "tests". Well, this is Jack's test.

The very first scene indicates something important about Jack: he seems to have been born a hero, it's a part of his very being. When I say "hero", I don't mean like Superman or even that he wants people to idolize him. Just the opposite, in fact. What I mean when I say hero is that Jack's motivating force is the desire to help others, to do the "right thing". He admits to his father that those boys didn't attack him, he willingly joined the fight because he could not stand by and watch as others were wronged. He was capable of helping, of "saving" the other boy, so therefore in his mind, that is what he must do. In
Tabula Rasa, I argued that it was very important to save the Marshal. In this episode, he saves Boone from drowning, but lets the woman Joanna die because he had to make a choice. He didn't see Joanna, only Boone, and he believed that he had to save Boone. Because Joanna died, Jack blames himself. He sees his actions as failures. All of this seems to be connected back to his father.

In his monologue, Jack's father talks about making decisions, about the power and the responsibility. He tells young Jack that the only way he can deal with failure is to separate himself from it, to tell himself that he is not a hero and that he's there only to do a job. That way, if he fails, it's not his fault. It is impossible to see yourself as a failure if you have no expectations, and Christian Shephard is a man without expectations. He is a cynical alcoholic. We don't know what Jack's father was like before he became jaded; perhaps he was like Jack. (In fact, some might argue that the third season finale is an indication that Jack and his father are more alike than they at first seemed.) And Jack has learned this lesson well, or rather, not learned it. It's a fine line understanding whether Jack is the way he is because he idolized his father or because he hated him, possibly both. Either way, here's man with a young son, telling that son (by words and actions) that there are no heroes, only selfish men. That his bourbon and Carol Burnett are more important than the job. In doing so, he's managed to simultaneously make in Jack somebody who wishes to do good, to save others and be the hero, but who believes that heroes don't exist. Jack is conflicted. He does not wish to be the leader for the Losties because he believes he will fail. Because his father told him that he would. (Because his father failed.)

Christian Shephard let his failures overcome him; the "pressures" that Jack's mother talks about were too much for him, and he turned to drink. And Jack is following in his father's footsteps. If Jack wants to be different from his father than he has to understand something: that it is impossible to save everyone all the time. All that a leader can do is the right thing, and hope that it turns out for the best. What Christian says about choices, about not making them, is very important because it is our choices that indicate who we are. Making choices, making decisions....these actions have consequences. Jack's father had the power of life and death over that little boy on the operating table and the decisions he made, for good or bad, affected the outcome. The only way that he could deal with the guilt was by ignoring it. Jack realizes in the end (thanks to some prodding by Locke) that somebody has to be the one to make those decisions, to hold that power and responsibility in their hands. When Claire tells Charlie that she feels everyone treats her strangely, like "a ticking timebomb of responsibility waiting to go off," she's not wrong. Locke touches on this idea, also when he tells Jack that nobody wants to talk about the strange things that go on. People don't like thinking about things that will bother them. In general, people ignore looming responsibility or threats, whispering along the sidelines. But somebody needs to say these things, somebody needs to bring them out in the open, into the collective consciousness.

This is where Jack's ending monologue starkly contrasts to his father's. Jack talks of working together, and he finally says what everyone else has been thinking alone, that they might not be rescued, and instead of sitting around ignoring the issue, they need to start thinking ahead. None of the Losties wanted to acknowledge this fact; they were too frightened. It was up to Jack, the leader, to bring it out into the open. "If we can't live together, we're going to die alone", he says. And indeed, Jack's father does die alone, wallowing in his own failures. Jack only believes he doesn't have what it takes because his father told him so, but the others can clearly see that he does have what it takes. All that he needs now is to let go of that memory of his father and understand that his father was deeply flawed and not the source of all wisdom. He loved his father so much that he believed what he was told, and when he came to hate his father, to despise what he stood for, he never understood something important: that fathers can be wrong. He needs to shape his own destiny and stop letting his father's skewed views affect his judgement. On the island, Christian's ghost haunts Jack literally, just as Christian and his beliefs have haunted him figuratively for his entire life. Like the white rabbit, Jack followed his father into medicine, he followed him to Australia, and now he follows him through the jungle, finally letting him go. The death of his father is an opportunity for Jack, just as coming to the island was for Locke and his paralysis. He now has the chance to become that hero, the true hero who takes responsibility and understands that even "heroes" aren't perfect, that he always wanted to be.

I'm going to pause right now to say that this episode, and Jack and Christian's juxtaposition, their characterization, is fantastically complex. I've tried my darndest to make sense of it, and I think I have, but I know I've missed something. This episode is a clear example of fine television writing. It is highly entertaining and engaging and one can enjoy it shallowly, but deep beneath the surface lies a complex interweaving of themes and motivations. We are shown just enough about Jack and his father to begin to understand them, but we want more. We understand that these extremely faceted characters are too much to explain in just one episode, and it intrigues us.

I know that I'm always contrasting other people to Jack, but really, it's so easy. Locke, once again, is contrasted. When they are sitting in the jungle, having their little heart to heart, talking about hallucinations Jack tells him scientific explanations. Locke challenges Jack in response to think outside his box, that maybe there isn't a scientific or rational explanation for his "hallucinations". Jack finds this extremely hard to believe. Similarly, we have Boone. Boone feels guilty about surviving over Joanna. He goes to Jack, letting out that guilt and blame all over Jack, "I run a business! Who appointed you our savior? What gives you the right...?" The very fact that Boone has to assert his manliness, tell Jack that he runs a business, shows that he's not mature enough to handle the responsibility. When he takes the water, saying that "someone had to do it", he's going about things all wrong. He deals in secrets, Jack deals in openness. Boone cannot handle the guilt over Joanna's death. Jack is learning how to deal.

Which leads me to the water. Water in this context means many things. It means survival, life. It also means nourishment both literally and figuratively. The lack of water symbolizes the Losties dwindling supply of hope. Sun's lips are parched, Claire faints. So when Jack brings back news of fresh water he's not only saving their bodies but their selves, their sense of hope. Maybe we can survive on this island. And with Jack as their leader, uniting them, they are not as lost as they would be alone. When Sawyer tells Kate that water doesn't have value, he is dead wrong. Water is everything, it is the basic molecule of our very existence and without it, the Losties would perish. He had it right the first time when he told Shannon that her money was no good on the island. Things only have as much value as people assign them and right now, money is much less important currency than water or food or even bug repellent.

Finally, I need to talk about Sun and Jin. Little by little, we are being given glimpses of this couple, and we don't like what we see. To us, Jin seems overbearing and Sun repressed. This week, Sun asks Jin when somebody is going to tell them what to do. Like the others, who she wants to join, she is looking for a leader, somebody with answers and solutions. But Jin is solitary, he trusts no one, and he refuses the idea that anyone but him could provide for his wife. This is how Jin sees himself, as a provider. And not of emotional well-being, either, but of money and necessities. Meanwhile, Sun is suffocating. "We'll be fine, we don't need anyone else. I will tell you what to do," he says. This is exactly the attitude that Jack believes will get more people killed.

Some quick, final thoughts. Joanna is the first Lostie down. Why couldn't Michael take five seconds to explain to Walt why it is bad to drink seawater? Sawyer is reading Watership Down, a book about animals living in a very strange and sinister community with each other...coincidence? I love that Shannon is still wearing hoop earrings. As if anybody else cares what is on her earlobes. I forgot how mystical Claire is, that's not something that's really portrayed in later episodes. If you look closely, you can see that Jack's dad is wearing white shoes, a nod to the white rabbit idea. I love Claire wearing Converses, it seems so fitting. After the beginning bargaining scene with hoarding-Sawyer and Shannon, we assume that he is the one with the water. It's great when it turns out to be Boone. Charlie's tattoo, "Living is easy with eyes closed", reminds me of Claire. She doesn't scare him because he embraces responsibility. Every time somebody says "the others" I laugh. It's interesting to me the way that people use that word: other. It gives a feeling of not belonging. And in fact, it's not until The Others come along that our Losties begin to feel like a community. They have something to rally against. I love Sawyer gloating over the fact that he's not the most hated anymore. Locke saving Jack is almost like a gift from the island to Jack...because Locke is the island's bitch. I think the dolls in the cave represent Jack's lost childhood. I forgot that Jack's father's body is missing. I really miss the cave, I think they need to go back there in season four.



Questions Raised

1. What did Jack do to his father that was so bad as to cause him so much guilt?
2. Why was Jack's dad in Australia?
3. How is it that Jack saw his father, his dead father, on the island?

Questions Answered

1. Jack was in Sydney to bring his father home, which becomes escorting his father's dead body home for the funeral.

Mythology

1. Jack's "hallucinations". Will anyone else have them?

Motifs/Themes

1. Water = Life = Salvation
2. Eyes...again.
3. Making decisions.
4. What makes a leader?
5. Fear and its causes.
6. Live Together, Die Alone vs. Every Man For Himself

Death Count

1. The drowned woman, Joanna.
2. Jack's father, Dr. Christian Shepard.

Sawyerisms

1. To Shannon: "You're in my light, Sticks."
2. About Jin: "I traded Mr. Miyagi my last water for a fish he caught."
3. To Kate: "Besides, water has no value, Freckles." (recurring nickname use #2)

Character Connections

1. Jin was standing behind Jack in line for Oceanic Airlines at the airport.


 
This is the third episode out of five that has opened with a variation of this same shot...now, you tell me I'm crazy!




Boone is way too pretty to be the leader. Look at those lips and that porcelain skin. He better be wearing sunscreen.


The Daddy Hallucination. Jack is losing his mind!!!!!


Jacks' role model...what an upstanding guy!!!


A really pretty shot. Jack, reaching for something he can't have.


I just really like the coloring on this one, the mood.


The episode's big moment: the daddy that Jack's been following around for thirty minutes is dead! Also, on a more serious note, this is just a really beautiful shot.


Creepy doll in the water.


The money shot. Also, it took me forever to actually capture the fire falling onto the ground.



Lines of the Week

"You go after him now and he'll give you nothing. But if you wait, a rat will always lead you to its hole." Sayid, with a cruel but accurate description of Sawyer.

"I had a boy on my table today. I don't know, maybe a year younger than you. He had a bad heart. It got real hairy, real fast. And everybody's looking at your old man to make decisions. And I was able to make those decisions because at the end of the day, after the boy died, I was able to wash my hands and come home to dinner. You know, watch a little Carol Burnett, laugh till my sides hurt. And how can I do that, hmm? I mean even when I fail, how do I do that, Jack? Because I have what it takes. 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." Dr. Christian Shephard, the anti-hero.

"I'm not a big believer in... magic. But this place is different. It's special. The others don't wanna talk about it because it scares them, but we all know it, we all feel it." Locke, telling Jack something he doesn't want to hear.

"You're not going crazy, Jack. Crazy people don't think they're getting crazy. They think they're getting saner." Locke, possibly describing himself.

"But I've looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw... was beautiful." Locke, letting us know that he doesn't see the monster as monstrous.

"Why can't you?"
"Because I'm not a leader."
"Yet they all treat you like one."
"I don't know how to help them. I'll fail. I don't have what it takes." Jack, showing his weakness.

"A leader can't lead until he knows where he's going." Locke, with some insight into Jack, and the idea of a leader.

"Who would you rather meet in a dark alley? Whatever's out there? Or that old geezer with his four hundred knives? Now me, I only have room for two hundred knives. Three hundred at most." Charlie, with some much needed humor.

"I really need to bury my father." Jack, with the understatement of the year.

"It's been six days. Six days, and we're all still waiting. Waiting for someone to come. But what if they don't? We have to stop waiting. We need to start figuring things out. A woman died this morning just going for a swim. He tried to save her and now you're about to crucify him. We can't do this. Every man for himself is not going to work. It's time to start organizing. We need to figure out how we're going to survive here. Now I found water. Fresh water, up in the valley. I'll take a party up there at first daylight. If you don't want to come then find another way to contribute. Last week most of us were strangers. But we're all here now. And God knows how long we're going to be here. But if we can't live together--We're gonna die alone." Jack, finally accepting his duty, and setting the thematic stage for the next three years (well, 60 or so days in their time).
 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
 
Archbishop Melker: hatcharchbishopm on July 2nd, 2007 06:13 am (UTC)
I am enjoying these reviews so much. Mmm, meaty!
SAMMEH!: Lostblackannis238 on July 2nd, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)
I certainly agree that the island conjured up Christian's image for Jack, although, unlike Kate's horse, no one else saw him. Since both those characters had a run-in with the monster early on, however indirect it was (compared to Eko and Locke for example), I'm sure that the the monster and the island somehow work together in creating these visions.

I do find it interesting that individual characters' visions can either be good or bad. In this case, it's good. The island leads Jack to the caves and the water via a trial so he in turn can lead the survivors with a new sense of purpose.
Mistress of Lostie Islandprojectlost on July 2nd, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
This is going to sound slightly crazy, but I think that the island knows what the characters need. Jack needed to be the only one to see his father. If other people could see him, then Jack would possibly be able to rationalize what happened. As for Kate's horse, the very fact that the horse approaches her is miraculous and it only reinforces the miracle that others can see it.

In terms of positive and negative, I think it's the same thing. In order to lead, Jack needed to have a positive experience, to be reinforced. The first negative hallucination that pops into my mind is Hurley's in season two of Evan the mental patient. If I'm remembering correctly, "Evan" tried to get Hurley to commit suicide. But even this "negative" hallucination had a positive outcome, Hurley faced Evan down and triumphed. It was his test and he overcame it.
q_spade on July 3rd, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
This is the episode where Charlie says "I don't swim!". Not that he can't, but that he doesn't. It's quite likely that this is a continuity error, but knowing what we know now about Charlie it brings up some interesting ideas. Had Charlie swam out to save Joanna – had he chosen to swim – would he have drowned? A pre-Desmond deviation from his FATE, perhaps?

Also, had Charlie gone out there instead of Jack, he might have saved Boone – which would have made relations between them very different later in the episode. Their main parallel of course, is that both of them become sacrifices; Charlie ultimately chose his fate, however, while Boone had no idea where Locke was leading him.


It is impossible to see yourself as a failure if you have no expectations and Christian Shephard is a man without expectations. He is a cynical alcoholic. We don't know what Jack's father was like before he became jaded, perhaps he was like Jack. (In fact, some might argue that the third season finale is an indication that Jack and his father are more alike than they at first seemed.)

Wow...Jack becoming the person he despises most, all the more because he loves him so. :D Brilliant! I won't be surprised if we do find out in future seasons what Christian was like before he became jaded, and exactly WHAT circumstances drove him to alcoholism.

I really need to read about Christian over at Lostpedia or somewhere, because in re-watching this episode I was consumed by questions. Why was there no documentation prepared for his body? Was there no autopsy done (I didn't see any scarring on his chest to suggest he was opened up)? Why is the viewer led to assume that the empty casket is Christian's? Obviously Jack reacts to it as if it were – but we also know that he's dehydrated, suffering from lack of sleep and already questioning his own sanity.

Then of course there's Jack's pushy Mum. She knows her husband's in Australia, but instead of going to get him herself she makes Jack do it. On second viewing, I now wonder if she knew about Christian's other situation out there...or at least suspected enough to not want to know.
Mistress of Lostie Islandprojectlost on July 3rd, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the Charlie thing bothered me a little, especially considering we just saw him swim in Greatest Hits (and I'm sure, other times as well). When continuity errors crop up I tend to ignore them so as to soothe the pain in my soul. And I hate to be the one to bash the writers (no really, hate it) but I'm not sure exactly how far they'd gotten in planning the rest of the story yet. I'm sure they didn't know how successful the show would be so before they sat down and made all their big plans and what not, I'm sure there's some bits like this Charlie swimming one that are just mistakes.

I never considered before that we were lead to assume the casket was Christian's...interesting.

And about Jack's mom, I think you're absolutely right about her knowing something else was going on (Claire), but I also think she had another motive. She can't be stupid, she must have known that Jack had drifted away from his father and that can't have been a pleasant experience, having a huge rift in your family. I'm sure she wanted Jack to go get his father because she wanted Jack to reconnect with him, to come back to his family. A desperate move in a desperate situation.
Mistress of Lostie Islandprojectlost on July 3rd, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, and thank you so much for taking time to play along with me. I really appreciate all the thoughtful commentary and feedback!