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New Recap from J.Wood.
"Confirmed Dead" has more than enough red-meat new material to keep the confirmed audience digging, and probably just enough to make the unconfirmed even less satisfied with the storyline (and we may hear from them in the comments — let 'em fly!). We have another group of newly-introduced characters (I'm hearing "Freighties"), a return to flashbacks, some slight shifts in the power balance, the question of the plane at the bottom of the Sunda Trench, and a favorite of mine, the oopart (more on that in a minute).
Daniel Faraday: The sort-of-kind-of physicist who, according to Naomi is also a headcase, is our Mr. Fantastic, the scientist who can stretch his body in all kinds of plastic ways (played by Jeremy Davies; check out his work in Rescue Dawn). We first see Faraday in his Essex, Massachusetts home weeping when he sees the footage of Oceanic 815 in the Sunda Trench. Why is he crying? Why is that news affecting him in a way he doesn't understand? He also makes the interesting observation on the island that light doesn't quite scatter correctly there.
Faraday is also the surname of Michael Faraday, the 19th century English natural philosopher who focused his attention on electromagnetism and chemistry. (We seem to be seeing a bit of a shift from philosophers to scientists in references.) Much of Faraday's work was adopted and used by James Clerk Maxwell, the 19th century Scottish physicist who is also the namesake for The Maxwell Group, which funded the Christiane I's search for the Black Rock. One of Faraday's key observations was how light interacted with magnetism. Faraday found that when light passes through a transparent, non-conductive material that's subject to a strong a magnetic field, the polarization of the light waves shifts in proportion to the strength of the magnetic force. This in turn creates an effect that breaks time reversal symmetry.
I don't pretend to understand this well at all, but as I understand it, time reversal symmetry suggests that all physical interactions should work the same whether time was moving forward or backward, but this really only occurs in controlled experiments, and in reality we see something fairly different (due to the uncertainty principle). Faraday's magneto-optical experiment broke that symmetry. At this point, it's good to just remember that the island has unique electromagnetic properties, that Daniel Faraday noticed the light didn't scatter correctly, and that if we're dealing with broken time symmetries, just recall the DHARMA polar bear skeleton in the Tunisian desert. There will be more in future episodes, I'm sure, that will deal with James Clerk Maxwell, Maxwell's Demon, and the whole discussion of entropy and the arrow of time.
The elder Faraday also developed a kind of electromagnetic shielding called a Faraday cage. Say you have a room with some electronic equipment you need to protect from outside static electrical forces and electromagnetic radiation (i.e. light). By enclosing the room in a mesh of wire or some other conducting material, the natural electrical charge in the mesh redistributes itself to cancel out the electrical charges outside of the mesh. It's kind of like turning a room into a lightning rod, and is used in buildings to block out unwanted electromagnetic activity, like wireless signals (which is why you can get a signal, say, out on the sidewalk, but once you step inside some buildings, the signal is Lost). Given the problem with communications on the island, this might be something to keep an eye on.
Last word on Faraday: The Faraday Institute was established in 2006 at Cambridge University in England (thank you Lostcasts). The institutes's primary goal is to explore the nexus of science and religion; Michael Faraday declared his faith allowed him to achieve his discoveries in science, and the institute is organized around the premise that science and faith can be reconciled. This is something that would be familiar to the DHARMA Initiative, scientists whose interactions with each other often began and ended with a "namaste."
Miles Straume: This is the Johnny Storm figure of the Freighter Four, he's a hot-headed ghostbuster with an ability similar to Frank Black, the protagonist of the 1990s X-Files spin-off, Millennium. Frank Black's ability was to see exactly how a murdered person died through the eyes of the killer; he had some connection with the afterlife that he didn't quite understand. Frank was a profiler for the FBI, but was being pursued by an organization called the Millennium Group, an ancient quasi-mystical sect that mixed science and religion in order to try to predict and manage the eschaton. The Millennium Group had worked its way into the FBI, and one particular member worked hard to recruit Frank Black, Peter Watts — played by Terry O'Quinn, our own John Locke. When Miles says he'll know how Naomi died when he sees her body, think of Frank Black, and let's see how Straume and Locke get along.
Miles Straume is also a play on the term maelstrom, which was already out on the internets within minutes of the episode. So what's a maelstrom? It's often used in a way to suggest a strong storm, but it actually means a violent whirlpool. Enter Homer's The Odyssey; in Book XII, Odysseus has to negotiate his ship between two monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla went from being a many-headed, hydra (!) type monster into a rock, and Charybdis went from being the mouth of a giant sea monster that caused whirlpools into a whirlpool itself. We've already had Homer references, what with Desmond, Penelope, and more; Miles Straume may be a development of this. If he's Charybdis, who might be Scylla? The hard-headed Locke?
Also of note is when Miles visits Mrs. Gardner. While our eyes were most likely trained on Ken Leung's intense visage and nifty ghosthunting machine, there were a few things going on in the background worth having a second look at. Take the photo of the boy along the stairwell. It's hard to tell at this point, but that kid looked just a bit too similar to young Mr. Eko :
If not, it may be another in a string of ringers we've already seen on the island.
When Miles was sitting in the living room counting out the money, the objects on the wall behind him are also worth taking a look at, because they're the same eight-pointed star symbols seen in Juliet's brand, and all over the place in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut:
Stanley Kubrick has been brought up in these pages before, as has that symbol, and we'll be sure to see it again before we know exactly what it means.
Charlotte Staples Lewis: Doc Jensen did a fine job of running this one down; C.S. Lewis, and the echoes of the second of his Narnia trilogy, Prince Caspian. Lewis, the Anglo-Irish Protestant atheist turned Catholic, opens his second book with the children returning to Narnia via a mysterious island, and as soon as they arrive back, they play in the water, as did Charlotte. Also, time passes differently in Narnia, and we have hints towards that on the island. There will again most likely be more C.S. Lewis forthcoming; one of the Lost staff, John Bernstein, played the announcer for the DJ Dan podcasts during The Lost Experience, has produced the Lost DVDs, and produced both the DVD for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the documentary C.S. Lewis: The Dreamer of Narnia. Jensen, who had the inside track on this episode, also suggests we keep an eye out for references to Lewis's The Space Trilogy, to which I can only say thanks to Prof. Andrew Weiner at the University of Wisconsin for having us study that trilogy inside-out.
Charlotte is also our Freighter Four Invisible Girl, the member of the Fantastic Four who could create invisible shields — note the invisible shield Charlotte wore under her jumpsuit, unseen until Ben shot her in the chest. But one of the more intriguing Charlotte scenes had to be the flashback in Tunisia with the polar bear skeleton — the oopart. What's an oopart? It's an out-of-place artifact, and a quick Google search will get you more than you ever wanted to know about them. In short, ooparts are objects found in layers of sediment or other archaeological digs that just shouldn't be there because they're too advanced for that age. The Baghdad Battery is one famous oopart, a battery at least 1500 years old made out of a clay urn with a copper cylinder and an iron rod suspended in most likely a citrus solution.
The Coso artifact was found in a lump of hard clay by California rock hunters in 1961. Inside the lump was what looked to be an old 1920s spark plug, but to get within that layer of rock, it would have had to have been there for some 500,000 years (there are fossil imprints next to the plug that stretch back to that era). The artifact hasn't been seen since 1969. There are some possible explanations for this one; older sediment may have layered over the object, but this hasn't been proved.
A favorite oopart is the Piri Reis map, an ancient map assembled from even more ancient sources by a Turkish admiral in the 16th century. The map shows the coast of Antarctica, sans ice. In 1949, a joint British-Swedish team took seismic soundings of Antarctica's Queen Maude Land, and it was discovered that under all that glacial ice, the lay of the land closely matched the map. However, Antarctica wasn't discovered until 1820, and the last time Queen Maude Land would have been ice-free was about 6,000 years ago. Furthermore, the way the map depicts the land suggests that the older maps Piri Reis used employed fairly accurate polar projection, meaning the cartographer knew the earth was round and had it scaled to within 50 miles of its circumference.
You don't have to buy into these tales to see where they have some relevance to Lost; finding a Hydra Station collar on the excavated skeleton of a polar bear out in the Tunisian desert fulfills all the qualifications of an oopart. It also raises another possibility: If the island is somehow unstuck in time, like Desmond and in a way like Jacob's shack, perhaps that bear wasn't somehow transported in spacetime, but was there all along.
Frank Lapidus: The Fantastic Four had a rough-hewn pilot named Ben Grimm, whose skin was made of rock; lapideous means having the nature of stone, and we'll see what becomes of Ben, but lapidation also means to stone someone to death. Lostpedia furthermore points out that Frank Lapidus is an anagram for Farad's Link-up — a Farad is a unit of electrical capacitance named after Michael Faraday. If he's the answer to Ben Grimm (aka The Thing), he has the blue eyes and the street talk down. Lapidus also happens to be a Jewish last name (from Lapidot), and Ben Grimm is also Jewish.
Frank is most concerned when he sees the news footage that Oceanic 815 was discovered, and that the pilot they show at the bottom of the ocean is not the pilot who was on that plane (he knows because he was supposed to be piloting Oceanic 815). This suggests either A) The wreckage is one massive cover-up, or B) We're not dealing with the same crash that we the audience saw in the pilot episode. The talk of parallel universes has already been bandied about quite a bit; it could be possible that in one universe, the plane went down, and in another, it busted up over Mystery Island. Perhaps the Swan Station implosion that allowed Desmond to hop around spacetime also opened some kind of rift between parallel spacetimes, and the work that people now have to do (Desmond, Locke, Jack) is to get that rift repaired. In the meantime, one world's survivors becomes the other world's fish bait.
Speaking of parallels, the post for "The Beginning of the End" brought up the possibility that upcoming episodes will have scenes that parallel scenes from previous episodes in that mirror-twin fashion. In "Confirmed Dead," there is a scene where Jack and Kate are walking Faraday and Miles out to Naomi's body, and when Miles' scanner starts beeping wildly (it's Vincent romping through the jungle with Charlotte's transponder), Miles gets agitated and wants to go after the signal. Jack tells Miles to put the gun down, because his friends are out in the jungle holding guns to his Faraday's heads, and indeed they are, as Sayid proves. This closely parallels the scene from season two's "The Hunting Party," when Sawyer, Jack and Locke meet with Mr. Friendly out in the jungle. Tom tells the Losties to put their guns down after a shot flies out from the jungle and hits Sawyer's shoulder. Jack doesn't believe Tom, just like Miles doesn't believe Jack, and then the jungle snipers are revealed. The Losties in "Confirmed Dead" are now in the same position as the Others in "The Hunting Party"; they're even as quiet. Is this a narrative example of time reversal symmetry?
That's not the only parallel; Sawyer revives Charlie's 'Colonel Kurtz' quip about Locke, raising up the ghosts of previous discussions about Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and questions of post-colonialism, framing stories and point of view. Point of view may prove to be important; the opening scenes of "Confirmed Dead" give us multiple p.o.v.'s, starting with the underwater roving cameras surveying the crash, then Faraday's p.o.v. jumping onto the island, then Locke's p.o.v. staring up at the rain. We're moving quite a bit from a personal p.o.v. to a third-person p.o.v. If nothing else, it suggests that we the audience are now being brought a little deeper into the narrative by putting us inside the heads of characters a little more seamlessly, and not just inside their stories.
Of course there is plenty more to discuss; Locke has about had it with Ben, and asks what we're all asking about the monster. Sawyer may be moving towards his next kill. How long will Ben be able to keep up the mind games (Yoda!), and how long can he sustain the punishment he's taking? How alarmed was Locke to realize that Hurley had access to Jacob's shack? What did Abaddon, the creepy lawyer, want with that particular group of four people that he had Naomi organize for the island expedition, and what do they want with Ben? How many of you called that number on Frank's screen, 1-888-548-0034, and are the associated letters on the dial pad another anagram?
More than enough red meat. Chew away.