Another indepth review of Par Avion by the always interesting J.Wood.
The standard shot of opening a scene on an opening eye is revived in this episode, and used to connect Claire's backstory with the frontstory on the beach; the first eye-shot opens the flashback, the next eye-shot opens the beach scene. The revelation that Claire's father is also Jack's father Christian Shephard isn't really news to Lostologists who presumed as much from the second season episode, "Two for the Road." That episode portrayed Ana Lucia in Australia, where she worked for Christian Shephard during his death-bender. Ana drove a drunken Christian out to some home in Sydney, where a blonde woman (now known to be Claire's aunt Lyndsey) hollered at Christian and he proclaimed he paid the mortgage and had a right to see his daughter. If anything the revelation is that the woman was Claire's aunt, not her mother, which only clarifies Christian's direct relationship with Claire, not his relationship with Claire's mother. And it confirms that Jack and Claire are half-sibs; what this bodes, however, is anyone's guess. The subtext, however, is all about Christian's subterfuge; he lied to both his American family and at least kept his Australian family in the dark.
Subterfuge is the other thematic link. Charlie and Des won't tell Claire about Charlie's impending demise, Locke proves himself to be duplicitous, and it isn't clear whether Bakunin told the truth or not. Charlie seems to have come to some grips with Desmond's prophecy, and tries to start living each day to its fullest with Claire, until Des pulls one of his unstuck-Billy-Pilgrim tricks and ruins his day. Des can't keep Charlie from eventually buying it, but it seems that Charlie's fate is directly connected to his desire to be with Claire; Charlie's potential death by lightning, drowning and being smashed against the rocks by the surf would all have been a result of his trying to help Claire and her baby. Maybe Richard Malkin's prophecy that "danger surrounds this baby" meant something after all.
Locke's subterfuge is more enigmatic. In "Enter 77," Locke accidentally blows up the Flame Station, and proclaims he didn't know the station was wired with C4; and even if he did know, how could he know that entering 77 into the computer would set off the C4? But when Locke and the rest on the Jack mission find the sonic pylons in the jungle, Locke reveals that he stashed some C4 from the Flame in his pack. This deception raises the tension between Locke and Sayid to near–Jack vs. Locke levels, and suggests Locke purposefully destroyed their potential means of communication. The audience can also question just what are Locke's motives; he's already said he's not motivated to find Jack, and we know that he's in no hurry to get off the island. He could be embarking on these missions in order to forcefully fulfill his supposed special destiny, but it's still a mystery. His actions become more erratic when he throws Bakunin into the sonic barrier, and Bakunin's head explodes inside his skull. Bakunin earlier revealed in the jungle that he knew all about his four captors, and that he couldn't explain why he and the Others are there on the island because they couldn't comprehend the purpose — and they couldn't comprehend because they weren't on the list. They were brought there by a great man, Bakunin says, and that man isn't Ben. He then proceeds to point out each person's deficiencies; Kate Austin is flawed, John Locke is angry, Danielle Rousseau is weak and Sayid Jarrah is frightened, and that's why they were never on any list. He also nearly announces that the John Locke he knew was paralyzed, but Rousseau interrupts him at the "para-." Perhaps Locke threw Bakunin into the barrier to keep that knowledge secret (a little knowledge can be a useful or a dangerous thing). His story is next week, and we should have a clearer idea of where his motivations come from.
The sonic barrier is interesting for a couple reasons: Bakunin claims that like everything else on the island, it hasn't functioned in years, but Locke proves that wrong. However, such technology is rather new, and suggests that either the Others, or the Dharma Initiative, or whoever made the barrier, was very much ahead of the curve. The Pentagon is just now developing Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD's) to be used in crowd control and in battle situations, and they've been used on naval and commercial ships only since 2003; in 2005 a Carnival cruise ship successfully used such a device to fend off a pirate attack.
The literary subtext in this episode, however, is only briefly alluded to, and sets the episode in contradistinction to "Enter 77." Just before Charlie and Claire release the tagged seagull with a message tied to its foot, Sawyer is seen reading Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead. Rand was a disciple of Aristotle, the accidental godmother of libertarianism and founder of a philosophy she called objectivism. Like Mikhail Bakunin, she hailed from Russia and the ideas of both were shaped by their particular cultural moments; both were highly skeptical of centralized state governments and organized religion, but unlike the wild-haired ideologue, Rand was very much against political anarchism.
The Fountainhead follows an architect named Howard Roark, who incarnates three pillars of objectivism: ego, rational self-interest, and individualism. Roark is Rand's Zarathustra, the perfect person who perfectly embodies the writer's objectivist philosophy (in fact, Roark is Gaelic for champion). Objectivism starts with Aristotelian-like epistemology, meaning you take only what you can observe as a first principle. (For viewers trying to crack the riddle of the Lost narrative, most theories that come only from what we've seen seem to work best.) Rand placed reason above all else, and argued that for a individual to be fully realized and truly happy, that individual had to hold her own rational self-interest above all else — reason directly led to the primacy of the ego and self-interest, and the best social structure to serve such a notion was free market capitalism. But rational self-interest didn't mean hedonism; to act hedonistically is to mistake being sub-human for realizing a full state of human nature. Objectivism basically comes down to the the right to life as the furtherance of life (almost along the lines of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness); this didn't mean the protection of life as such, but fulfilling the potential of an individual's life. Rand shared some ideas with the enlightenment philosopher John Locke, and we might see the actions of the character Locke as him furthering his own life on the island — the one place he's been able to have a life, after being raped of his organs and left paralyzed.
Rand had differences with certain ethical positions that emerge from particular philosophical and religious contexts; she rejected the Hobbesian idea that human beings are born bad (original sin), as well as the requirement to consider your fellow person's well-being over your own — religion stifled individualism. Rand felt that people were born as blank slates to be shaped by their environments, and that no individual has any particular obligation to any other person other than him or herself (which sounds vaguely Christian Shephard-ish, and definitely Sawyer-ish, except they're both hedonists). In short, the fully realized person is the one who works only towards their own rational self-interests. In such a view, individual rights trump civil rights, which puts Rand at somewhat odds with the philosophers Locke and Rousseau and their conceptions of the social contract. Both Locke and Rousseau championed individualism, but also put forth different notions of the "general will" and "law of nature," in which the individual is a part. Rand felt that the individual will could trump the general will and sometimes put it over natural law; people could consent to such things, but weren't automatically under their dominion. It's clear why Rand's ideas might click with Sawyer, although when he takes off his glasses to contemplate a passage, we don't know if its because he agrees or disagrees with what he's reading. At any rate, Sawyer's encounter with Rand could possibly result in some sort of fundamental character change. What could Sawyer produce that would also be a monument to his own ego as well as a commodity he could trade?
Such individualist notions as Rand's don't fit well with the idea of a collectivist state, and she was staunchly anti-communist and a pro-laissez-faire capitalist. However, economist Mark Skousen has pointed out a contradiction in The Fountainhead's understanding of individualism and capitalism — the role of the consumer. Roark stubbornly refuses to compromise his designs to meet the will of the client, and even destroys one building when its construction doesn't match his design. Skousen notes that a producer of some good, like an architect, needs consumers in order to be a producer. If an architect like Roark refuses to design a building according to his client's wishes, the client will go elsewhere, and the individualist architect will be left out of the capitalist loop of productive associations. Both Rand and Bakunin had similar positions on how relationships of production should occur; free people should enter productive associations on their own, without any kind state intervention. This is indeed how the relationships of production are developing back on the beach; how the Others do it, we don't yet know.
For Bakunin, this approach to production led to a kind of anarchist collectivism, where the laborers do the negotiating and relationship-building. Anarchy for Bakunin meant consistently upsetting the structures that would turn any governmental system into centralized system that could interfere with such productive associations; coming out of the monarchist meltdown of 1848, he had good reason to distrust centralized governments. For Rand, however, the focus was on the individual producers for whom the laborers might work — Roark would determine the terms of a contract, not the manager who entered into the contract with Roark, nor the workers who would eventually construct the building. Rand was also skeptical of people's ability to get along in non-aggressive, productive relationships without some sort of limited governmental oversight to protect life and property (and in this sense, she echoes Hobbes; what would Rand have to say about organized street gangs?). The fact that the Lostaways have been getting along without organized protection may argue against this — but there was the need for Hurley to play sheriff when Ethan started kicking people's asses.
What we get, then, with the introduction of figures like Rand, Bakunin, Locke, Rousseau, (Hobbes and Marx implied), Hume, Burke, and others, are possible paths for social organization that the Lostaways may take, and we're slowly getting glimpses of the path the Others took. Furthermore, there's a weird mirror-twinning aspect that's occurring with the audience, as we convene and discuss ideas in various virtual social settings — in blogs like this, in forums, in wikis like Lostpedia, in podcasts, and in watching the show itself. Each has its own virtues; some foreground the individual voice, some the collective voice, others and interaction between the individual and collective. We're living lost right along with the characters.
Article by J.Wood