Another indepth review of One of Us by the always interesting J.Wood.
Look for the odd shots; they tell so much, and are often symbolic. Symbols are becoming increasingly important in Lost. A symbol is an object, image, or written word that represents something other and more than what it immediately seems to be; it's over-invested with meaning, but that meaning requires a participating observer. We've seen eyes, the Egyptian hieroglyphs, black and white imagery, Buddhist baguas, and more recently the Russian doll and Juliet's mark. The doll was of interest because it was tangential to the overall plot of the narrative; it was the audience that recognized it as symbolically allegorical for the episode at hand. In "One of Us," the symbol could very well be the odd, quick shot of Juliet, Jack, Sayid and Kate's distorted reflections in the stream; it has the virtue of presenting yet another mirrored image, but one that is difficult to make out and changes before your eyes.
The mirrors pop up everywhere, first with the reference back to the second season Sayid episode, "One of Them"; this is the episode when Ben first "joins" the Lostaways, but on hostile terms. In a few places along the way, we seem to be getting characters mirroring the audience reaction once again. Sayid tells Juliet, "I want to know what you people are doing on this island, why you're terrorizing us, kidnapping children — I want to know everything." Isn't this what the audience has been clamoring for? In a recent interview with WBUR-Boston's Tom Ashbrook, one thing Lindelof notes is that the Lostaways never seem to ask the right questions, which can get frustrating for the audience. It seems someone is trying to ask what we're asking. Of course she's not saying anything — and she's under Jack's protection. None of the Lostaways are brash enough to outright attack Jack; he's the only medical care they have, and they and Jack know it. If Jack's going to step in front of Juliet, no one will push him out of the way. Juliet's no Pikki, but she's not exactly a fan-favorite, and she asks Jack how long it'll take before the Lostaways (including us) accept her. Like Sayid, Jack also seems to represent another audience sentiment: "They're good people; they're willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But eventually they're gonna need some answers."
Sawyer has become a near-mirror twin of his former self. Hurley got into his head like Ben got into Locke's, and for the first time he seems to be acting on behalf of the group out of his own volition. Unfortunately, this newfound leadership is bringing him back into direct conflict with Jack, who now seems to be playing the individualist role: "Yeah, Jack, I wanna ask you why you're fighting every one of us and sticking up for one of them." Even Sawyer's former enemy Sayid is backing him up — yet another distorted mirror image of what we saw leading up to last season's "One of Them." This also raises the larger question of whether inveterate selfish sons of bitches can lose a bit of their egos and do something positive for their community.
With this episode, one of the first visual mirrors comes with the upward shot of the submarine hatch as Juliet arrives at the island (the sub trip to the island, by the way, "can be kind of intense," Ethan says — what are they sailing through?). From the previous episode, we know that Juliet is being mirror-twinned with a few characters (at least Locke and Kate). Juliet's going up the hatch to be with the Others, whereas Locke went down a hatch to be with the Dharma Initiative (or what's left of it). In last week's post, a great discussion developed about whether Locke and/or Juliet were infiltrators or were willingly joining the other side; we now know Juliet was a plant, and even her possible discovery was accounted for by her and Ben. (Wait till Ben has to match wits with Hurley.) This knowledge at least plants the suggestion that Locke may be playing a similar game with the Others — but that knowledge in itself may have been a bit of a plant for the audience, something to infiltrate our own conversations, only to come back and bite us later. Given the way the narrative has engaged certain elements of our own immediate mediated circumstances in the war on terror/ism (like the nod to Afghanistan in "Enter 77"), planting misinformation doesn't seem at all out of bounds for Lost. In fact, planting misinformation may be this season's version of the alternate reality game.
Another instance of manipulating audience reactions through a mirrored scene may have occurred with the paper Juliet sees on Mikhail's camera in a flashback. In "Exposé," the paper shown in the airport flashback read September 24, 2004, not September 22. Of course many people caught the discrepancy, and Carlton Cuse joked — like with the Royal Scots honor/honour mistake from "Flashes Before Your Eyes" — that someone was going to lose their job. Of course we know that time is being played with in the narrative ("Only fools are enslaved by time and space"), but the scene in Mikhail's hut certainly went to pains to show us a newspaper with the correct date, complete with Ben grumbling that he didn't like being called a liar.
Another significant visual mirror appears in just a flash, when Juliet goes out for the medical supplies dropped in the jungle. The carving in the tree that marked the spot resembled, to an extent, the symbol branded on Juliet's back. But the top ray of this symbol didn't extend, and the right and left vertical rays were curved. It looked very similar to the Russian letter ж, which is also the symbol for ammonium salt (and ammonium was an important element for alchemists). But, like the problem with Juliet's mark, that letter only has six rays, while the symbol has eight — that horizontally bisecting line messes up all our symbolic logic. In the post for "Stranger in a Strange Land" I went out on a bit of a limb to follow a connection between Juliet's mark and the Rosicrucian cross, which lead back to a sigil which looks remarkably like the blast door map. I'm going to ask for some similar latitude here:
The symbol on the tree looks remarkably similar to a mark impressed on the forehead of a 19th C. Catholic dissident and mystic, Davide Lazzaretti. There is not much written on him in English, but in 1989, Franceso Bardelli wrote the biography Davide Lazzaretti: La Comunitá Giurisdavidica nell'Amiata Ottocentesca. (The Giurisdavidica Community in Nineteenth Century Amiata.) He was born in 1834 in a poor region of midlands Italy that was rich with superstition; the midwife that birthed him claimed he was born with two tongues. He had his first mystical visions when ill with malaria. In 1868 his visions became more intense, and he began to preach in Amiata, Italy. His preaching had two chief dimensions: it was laden with mysticism, and pushed for a socialist utopia. At this point the mysticism needs little discussion, and we might recall "Enter 77's" subtexts of Thomas Moore's Utopia and Tom Stoppard's play about 19th C. Russian socialists working for a new social order, The Coast of Utopia. To intensify his penitence, Lazzaretti went to a grotto for 47 days, subsisting on nothing but one piece of bread a day that a friar passed through a hole. While in the grotto, he was visited by Saint Peter and given the gift of prophecy, and a mark on his forehead – )+(. This symbol then became the symbol for the Giurisdavidican Church. His socialist utopian and mystical teachings eventually challenged the pope, and he was excommunicated. He was later shot dead in a clash with police.
The name of that grotto? Sabina. The name of the woman who died on Juliet's operating table? Sabina. Perhaps Sabina was 47 days pregnant? Like with the Rosicrucian cross, there seems to be something here, but it may be there specifically as a game for us to trace. If nothing more, it traces a nice image, and it may be something for the folks at Lost Pod, the Italian Lost podcast, to follow up on.
Davide's last name, incidentally, translates to "contagious disease hospitals," which takes us to some literary references. "Contagious disease hospitals" fits nicely with the disease on the island and Claire's coughing up blood. We don't yet know the exact pathology of whatever disease Juliet was there to research — this island seems to heal the born, but prevent birth, or at least punish the birth-givers; Juliet can create life where life isn't supposed to be. It has an odd echo of P.D. James book (and recent film) Children of Men. Stephen King also made another appearance in this episode through his book Carrie, and he had a fictional disease in The Stand that showed similar symptoms called Captain Tripps. In the early 1990's, King also blurbed on the back of Richard Preston's book about the Ebola and Marburg viruses, Hot Zone; those viruses also lead to people coughing up blood before they expire. King wrote that Preston's book was one the most horrifying things he'd ever read. But — is there a disease? The Others implanted something in Claire. Des found out by following Kelvin that the biohazard suits were unnecessary. This disease may be more of a weapon than something at large.
Finally, Juliet may be the Carrie-like weapon that's building up to blow; the hard-done-by, seemingly timid girl who, when pushed to a point, turns into a kind of monster. Juliet rages at Ben when she accuses him of being a liar, but we're dealing with distorting mirrors, and her monstrous side may be cold; recall Sawyer telling Kate that Juliet "would have shot you — no problem" in "The Glass Ballerina." Juliet's face is inscrutable, and just when you think she's admiring Jack, she may be plotting something quite different. What we think we're seeing wavers and changes as we watch it. We just have to keep an eye on the odd shots.
* My apologies for the day-lateness on this one. A storm blew out our power/satellite signal; I consequently only got 35 minutes recorded, and had to wait for the episode to make it onto iTunes and ABC's website. *
Recap by J.Wood