Monday, June 25, 2007

Top Ten Episodes #9: 3.13 "The Man From Tallahassee"

: "John, you fell 8 stories and survived, okay. I don't want to hear about what you can't do. Now let's go. It's gonna be alright." Rating: 9.6 (#4, although technically #3 if "Through The Looking Glass" was counted as one episode)

Brief Synopsis: Off-island, Locke is visited by a young man, Peter Talbot, who claims his mother is about to marry a man by the name of "Adam Seward," who he's suspicious about. He tells Locke that the man used to call himself Anthony Cooper and that he found out Locke donated one of his kidneys to him and wants to know if Locke has an information on him. Locke says donated it anonymously and never met him.

Locke tracks his dad down and confronts him in a flower shop. He tells his dad he wants him to call off the wedding or else he'll tell the son everything. His dad agrees. Later on, two detectives start asking Locke questions because Peter has turned up dead and Locke's name was written on a piece of paper in his pocket.

Shocked and angry, Locke confronts his dad in his father's apartment. Anthony offers Locke a drink. He claims he had nothing to do with Peter's death and tells Locke Peter's mom has called off the wedding. Locke doesn't believe him and asks for her number.

Anthony obliges and points him towards the phone. When Locke turns his back, Anthony barrels toward him, pushing him through the glass window. Locke falls eight stories and hist the ground. He wakes up in the hospital where, in a heartbreaking scene, his wheelchair greets him for the first time.

On-island, Locke, Kate, and Sayid try to "rescue" Jack from the Others-controlled DHARMA Barracks. Kate and Sayid are quickly apprehended, but Locke holds a wheelchair bound Ben at gunpoint and reveals his true objective: He wants to blow up the submarine!

While he waits for Alex to retrieve his backpack with his explosives from some of the Others, Locke and Ben talk about the mysteries of the island; its healing powers, how John has a special connection to it, and how its odd that Ben is healing so slowly. Ben tells Locke there's a "Magic Box" on the island that will make anything you imagine suddenly appear. Locke is skeptical and proceeds with his plan.

Ben allows Locke to blow up the sub because it allows him to break his promise to allow Jack and Juliet to leave on it the next day. After the explosion, Locke is captured and confronted by a shell-shocked Jack. Ben takes Locke to show him what came out of the Magic Box and tells him that he's responsible for it. He takes him to small locked room where inside Locke finds his father, bound and gagged.

Why it's a classic: Let's divide this into two (equally good) parts here:

1) The moment we were all waiting for

I view the second half of the third season, from "Enter 77" to "Through The Looking Glass" as one of the best "runs" of episodes Lost has had. Thing is, many of them kind of blur together because they're all part of one continuous storyline. The only three that really stand out by themselves are the aforementioned finale, Expose (which was really a stand alone episode anyway), and "The Man From Tallahassee."

John Locke is arguably Lost's most popular character. Yeah, Sawyer's better eye candy for the ladies, but Locke episodes are arguably the ones that the viewers respond to the most because he's such a tragic, mystical, and even spiritual character. Not only was this the best set of Locke flashbacks since "Walkabout," it finally answered the long-standing question of how Locke ended up in his wheelchair.

And, oh, what an answer that was. The way it happened wasn't really that surprising; I think everybody and his grandmother figured Locke's dad played a role in it. But I couldn't help but but feel shocked and sickened when it happened.

And if the actual event was shocking, the scene which followed was quite possibly the most heartbreaking of the entire series. Not only did Terry O'Quinn portray Locke perfectly when he's being placed into his wheelchair for the first time, but the orderly telling him that "there's nothing he can't do" (and thus giving us the origin of the phrase) was just brilliantly scripted by the writers.

To me, the moment when Locke is placed in his wheelchair is one of the most awful feeling moments of anything I've ever seen. Think of how you felt when Han was placed in carbonite, when the warden threw Andy Dufresne into solitary after finding out who framed him, when Silvio took Adrianna into the woods. Even though in this case you know he's not going to stay in there forever, you still feel horrible. Just an incredible scene, and one of the best of the series.

2) Ben and Locke

The rest of the episode was primarily Ben and Locke trading barbs and dishing sweet, sweet dirt on the mysteries of the island. Let's take another look at the "Magic Box" conversation, shall we?

LockeWhere do you get electricity?
BenWe have 2 giant hamsters running on a massive wheel at our secret underground cave...
LockeYeah, that's funny.
BenThere's leftovers in the refrigerator. Help yourself.

[Locke walks into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, and takes out an aluminum foil covered plate of meat]
BenI ate most of the dark meat. Sorry.

[Locke starts eating the meat with his hands]
LockeHmm. I never really...appreciated chicken until right now.
BenI know you think you need to do this, John, but if you blow up my submarine, I have a big problem with my people.
LockeIs that supposed to be an incentive not to blow it up?
BenI was born on this island. Not many of my people can say that. Most of them were recruited and brought here and as much as they love this much as they would do anything to defend it...they need to know they can leave if they want to. The sub maintains that illusion.
LockeSo you're lying to them.
Ben[Frustrated] No. There here because they want to be here. Some of them are just not ready to make a full...commitment yet. But you've already made that commitment. And now you have a choice...because if you stop and think, I can show you things. Things I know you want to see very badly. Let me put it so you'll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don't you John? What if I told you that somewhere on this island there's a very large box...and whatever you imagined...whatever you wanted to be in it...when you opened that box, there it would be. What would you say about that, John?
LockeI'd say I hope that box is big enough to imagine yourself up a new submarine.
BenWhy are you so angry, John?
LockeBecause you're cheating. You and your people. Communicate with the outside world whenever you want to come and go as you use electricity and running water and're a hypocrite...a Pharisee. You don't deserve to be on this island. If you had any idea what this place really wouldn't be putting chicken in your refrigerator.
BenYou've been here 80 days, John. I've been hear my entire life. So how is it you think you know this island better than I do?
LockeBecause you're in the wheelchair and I'm not.

This conversation has a little bit of everything, doesn't it? Zinger by Ben, zinger by Locke, some insider island info, and a nice bit of insight on John's part. It exemplifies everything that was great abotu the second half of the season: crisp dialogue, good characterization, and just some spectacular acting. Michael Emerson, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Terry O'Quinn all seriously deserve some Emmy consideration for their work and it will be a shame if at least one of them isn't honored.

But what to make of the Magic Box? Ben later admits it's a metaphor, but for what? The writers have repeatedly claimed there's nothing in the show out of the realm of science or pseudoscience, so we're likely talking about something that is able to either 1) Teleport or warp things from place to place 2) Transport things from time to time or from timeline to timeline. Given the conservation of matter (and its apparent ability to transport Locke's dad), I don't think it can simply materialize things out of thin air. But we really don't have enough information to fully speculate on its nature yet.

However it does seem that only certain "good people" are able to use the island in such a way Does that mean innocents? Children? Is there some other criteria? Walt was obviously very special because of his psychic ability, but being psychic doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for using the box given that Locke brought his dad to the island.

It's interesting to note that John seems to almost have a child-like innocence about him: His need for a father-figure, his simple enjoyment of games, his gullible trusting nature that always seems to get him into trouble. It seems that young Ben had these properties, but perhaps his time leading the Others (and his subsequent desire to hang on to his power) has corrupted him.

Certain combinations of characters can simply make a great episode, especially when one of the tandem is either Ben or Locke; TMFT gave us a whole episode. Mix with a terrific flashback and you get some classic TV. I don't doubt that after the show is over that this episode will be considered one of the highest points of the entire series.


Episodes #6-#9 on my list are pretty much interchangable. I was going to list TMFT higher, but for some reason it just seemed to fit well here. I think many people would justifiably have this episode in their Top 5, but as good as this episode was, there are others in the series that give me just a tad bit more of that sweet Lost buzz we've all come to know and love.

What do you think? Should this be in the Top 5? Is it in yours? Or were you disappointed at how Locke ended up in his wheelchair? :)

Previous Reviews:
#10: White Rabbit


Missie said...

I think my favorite exchange in that episode is when Ben has to clarify his question of "Did it hurt?", as in (paraphrased from memory) "No John. I assumed falling 8 stories, landing on concrete and feeling your back snap would hurt. I mean, did it hurt when your father tried to kill you?". Brilliant.

I would also still place "Walkabout" way higher than this episode, just because that flashback to John standing on the beach after the wreck, which we see in the very first episode, but without any back story, still sends chills down my spine. Just so fantastically layed out and shot. And really, for me, first illustrated just how big this story was going to be and how much thought had already been put into details. Strangely, the only other show I can compare that 'Holy crap, they really thought this out and it's brilliant!' moment to is Futurama.

Honestly I don't know if I could pick a Top 10 for all 3 seasons. I could maybe commit to a Top 5 from each season, but it would be difficult. There are just so many episodes which upon first viewing are Good, but maybe not Best Ever material. But then a season later, all of this other stuff comes out, you go back and watch that same episode, and suddenly it's mind blowing!

Without thinking too hard about it, Desmond's flashback/time travel episode is probably my all time favorite. I think I just dig the whole cyclical time concept in general. (You may recall my favorite X-File episode is "Monday").

"Walkabout", "Greatest Hits", "Through the Looking Glass", the episode where they let Henry Gale out of holding, first episode of the second season, Shannon's back story would all make the top 10, but the order would be tough. And there are several other episodes not in my list which have some of the best individual moments (like when Ben tells Jack the Sox won the World Series...), so that would be an entirely different list. Have I babbled long enough? You have to get down to VA Beach and we can have a Lost-athon to hold us over until next Feb...

Jay said...

I would also place "Walkabout" much higher - in fact, there may be something posted to that regard in the future. <_<

It was very, very hard to make a Top Ten list - there are just too many good episodes. But I tried to pick the ones that seem to give me the most goosebumps when I think about them.

I was talking with Em about planning a trip down there in the fall. It's going to be tricky because 1) We've both got a lot on our plate right now 2) My dad's getting re-married in September, so we've got a wedding to attend and 3) Em and I are going to Italy for about two weeks in November! :)

Ideally, we'd love to come down before it gets too cold, but maybe a winter visit instead with hot cocoa and LOST is the ticket instead.

Missie said...

I figured "Walkabout" would be showing up later...