Lost Exegesis (Solitary) — Part 1

We now begin what I consider to be the second act of LOST’s first season.  The basic tenor of the show has now been laid out – our principal characters have been introduced in some detail, as has the mysteriousness of the Island, and the general tenor of the show’s approach to episodic serialization has been established.  Overall, it’s been a story of how these survivors of a plane crash have adapted to living on an island in the South Pacific, touching on issues of social organization through intense characterization.  Now the show begins to shift focus, adding new dimensions: not only will some of the mysteries introduced early on be revealed, but it starts exploring the implication of the fact that our survivors are not alone.

Which is ironic, given the title of the episode. And yet, in some ways the title of this episode is perfectly chosen, given the extent to which it explores the various connotations of the word and some of its metaphorical implications.  We have Sayid, of course, who has shunned his fellow survivors out of his own shame; we have Rousseau, who lives the life of a hermit; we have Nadia, who experiences solitary confinement; we have Sawyer, a self-described outcast; we have Walt, estranged from his father; we even have the game of golf, which is most typically (though not exclusively) played as individuals competing against others or themselves, unlike most sports, which are team affairs.  And, of course, there’s the fact that our Losties are literally lost on an Island, itself a solitary and unique place.

Let’s start with Sayid.  It’s interesting that we begin this episode right where the previous one left off – indeed, the end of Confidence Man is prophetic, with Sayid heading off to ostensibly “map the Island,” which is practically what we get in Solitary.  We haven’t had this much continuity between episodes since Pilot Part 1 and Pilot Part 2, with a dash of Tabula Rasa thrown in. We also haven’t had a character who blatantly represents a major component of the audience’s desire regarding the show’s mysteries.  Jack is concerned with leading the group, Charlie with facing his demons, Kate with proving she’s a good person, Sawyer with proving he’s not, and all the rest with their own interpersonal relationships. Locke comes close, but he’s already had his revelation, an experience not shared by the audience.  Sayid, on the other hand, has already tried to triangulate the source of the Frenchwoman’s transmission, and now he’s actively exploring the Island. He is now, at least here, our proxy for trying to divine the Island’s mysteries – especially once he finds a mysterious cord laid out across the beach, leading at once out to sea and deep into the jungle.


The Hanged Man

As such, I find it very interesting that Sayid eventually finds himself in a position that evokes a couple of mythological connotations when he ends up caught in Rousseau’s trap, hanging upside down with his leg briefly impaled by a pointy stick. …

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