Written by Christian Taylor
Directed by Kevin Hooks
As the crash survivors begin to run out of water, Jack chases visions of his dead father into the jungle.
“I had a boy on my table today, maybe a year younger than you. He had a bad heart and he got real hairy, real fast. Everyone was 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, come home to dinner, watch a little Carol Burnet and laugh til my sides hurt. How can I do that? Hm? Even when I failed, 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 to save everyone because when you fail, you just don’t have what it takes. “
The theme of these early flashbacks is two-fold. The first them is to show how each of our characters came to be on Oceanic 815. In the case of Jack, he was looking for his father Christian, who had gone to Australia for reasons yet unknown. He died there, and Jack was having the body returned to Los Angeles so he could bury him. The second theme of the flashbacks is to show what drives and haunts our characters. As we have seen so far, these two issues are usually related in some way. Locke was in Australia to go on a walkabout, which he could not do because he was crippled. Kate was running from the law. In Jack’s case, he is haunted by the shadow of his father. We get only the smallest glimpse of Christian Sheppard in this episode, and that glimpse is of a hard man. There is little nuance, but we do see the two things that characterize the man: alcohol and uncomfortable advice. The tragedy of Jack and Christian is that in many ways Christian truly knows his son. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses and in his own way, Christian is trying to spare his son pain. His attempts fail because he has very little tact, especially when drunk. Christian is extremely blunt. But the other reason why Christian’s advice usually fails to encourage or strengthen his son is because Christian often tries to spare Jack pain. His monologue about having what it takes is later undercut by the implication that Christian does not have what it takes. He knows the pain of failure and wants to spare Jack. Thus, Jack is forever trying to prove his father wrong. But when it comes to the moments that count, Jack crumbles.
Those moments manifest in this episode. Having gone a few days without sleep or adequate food, Jack is starting to crash physically and emotionally. Having been the driving force behind setting order to the initial chaos of the crash, he has become a leader. Unfortunately, the weight of the situation is punishing Jack. The words of his father, words that simmer under the surface due to the recent death of his father, come back with more force than he has experienced in quite some time. Jack must be a hero. Jack must become a leader. This fills him with fear.
So, the question that seems obvious to me is this: Is Jack hallucinating when he sees Christian, or is this Smokey? The evidence for hallucination seems to be that in season four, Jack starts to see his father off the Island. Since Smokey cannot leave the Island, this is most-likely a hallucination. Evidence for Smokey: he tends to appear as figures that would have the most success toward manipulating his target. In Jack’s case, that would be Christian. If Smokey was behind this, what was his goal? He seemed to lead Jack toward a cliff, so murder could be the reason. But Jack also found the caves and fresh water because of Christian. So, was he attempting to kill Jack or ingratiate himself to Jack? I’m not sure there is enough evidence in the show itself to fully support one or the other. Given that no one else sees Christian, I’m inclined to believe he was just a hallucination, although I would discount the cheat answer: In some scenes it is Smokey, in others it was not.
Jack follows Christian into the wilderness. In some ways, you could say he is on a journey of self-discover, something that continues throughout the show. In such journeys, the hero must go into the wilderness and face himself or his fears. He told the airline clerk in Australia that he needs to bury his father, which he implies will free him from his father’s influence. It is quite telling that when Jack finds his father’s coffin, it is empty. In truth, I don’t know that Jack fully comes into his own, becomes a hero, until he chooses to replace Jacob near the end of season six. Jack’s journey is only beginning.
Then there is Locke. He rescues Jack from the cliff, and the two have a bit of a heart to heart, John taking on the role of spiritual guide, a role he will come to love immensely. John has a type of shamanic wisdom, something that sounds good and can be true at times. But we have to keep in mind that his wisdom, his spiritual awakening, is based on a lie. He tells Jack “I looked into the eye of this Island.” We know that this is not true. He saw The Man in Black in one form or another, possibly smoke. Locke is being manipulated already, which is sad because he seems to have found meaning and we genuinely want him to succeed. At this point, we are supposed to love Locke because we have seen his secret and it is a miracle. We have sympathy for him and that sympathy will grow with each flashback. And yet, with no central core to guide him, Locke floats from source to source, piecing together meaning wherever he can find it, believing himself to be wise in the process. Much later we will discover that Locke dies much as he lived . . . manipulated toward someone else’s agenda. Such a tragic life.