Posted by: lost42chap | 2009, 5 June (Friday)

Lost Rewatch, S01Ep03, “Tabula Rasa”

WARNING: The content of this blog is based entirely on Seasons 1-5 of ABC’s LOST. If you have not watched all 103 episodes and don’t want your fun spoiled,then please do not read this blog until you’ve caught up!

Jack and Hurley see the mug shot of KAte that the marshall had been carrying

Jack and Hurley see the mug shot of KAte that the marshall had been carrying

With a title like “Tabula Rasa” one might have thought that this episode would center on John Locke, after all this was a popular notion of the character’s philosopher namesake.    However,the episode centers on Kate Austen and, in fact, features the first major pre-Oceanic flashbacks.  Different people count the flashbacks differently including the small ones from the pilot in the tallies.  For me it seems that this episode is the bona fide beginning of the flashbacks.  Is there significance to the fact that Kate’s character is the first to have one?  Dunno.

Kate smiles as she's offered a fresh start by Ray on his farm in Australia

Kate smiles as she's offered a fresh start by Ray on his farm in Australia

The title “Tabula Rasa” means blank slate and refers to a belief by certain philosophers (like John Locke) that everyone is born with a brain like a blank slate with no knowledge.  All mental content is then built from experiences and what is percieved through the 5 senses.  What is the significance of this title for the show?  Perhaps that our survivors are starting over here on the Island.  They have a blank slate.  Their previous life makes little difference in this mysterious and dangerous jungle, the rules of life are new.  No one knows who you are, or in Kate’s case what you did and you can build a new identity and life on the Island.  Or can you? The survivors will be wrestling with this notion for years.  But, of all of them Kate seems to have the most reason to forget the past and carry on with the new blank slate, building a new identity and future.

A fresh start

In one flashback Kate the fugitive is offered a fresh start by Ray the farmer in Australia, but it ends up being a dead-end as he turns her over to Marshall Edward Mars for $23,000.  Towards the end of the episode Jake and Kate sit on the beach and have the following exchange in which Jack refuses Kates’ offer to tell whha she did to become a fugitive, offering her another fresh start (episode transcript here):

[Shot of Jack looking out to sea. Kate joins him.]

KATE: I want to tell you what I did – why he was after me.

JACK: I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter, Kate, who we were – what we did before this, before the crash. It doesn’t really—3 days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over.

KATE: Okay.

JACK: Okay.

Jack doesn't want to know what Kate did offers her a fresh start

Jack doesn't want to know what Kate did & offers her a fresh start

3 days ago we all died. This sparked a lot of speculation the first time around, spawning theories that the survivors were actually in the afterlife.  Inever really bought that.  It seemed that Jack was simply saying that we should have been dead, but we’re not, so life essentially is starting over for all of us.  But this time around these few words stuck in my mind more.  Iam vry curious now about who has died, how and why.  Charlie’s random comment in episode 1 echoes this when he said to Kate, “we were dead.  And then Jack pulled me up.” This was when they were being chased by the Smoke monster.  I’m not trying to say anything more than these statements are now intriguing to me in light of the rest of the series.  Time will tell if they are truly significant or not.

Amusing yet significant comment from Sawyer

While on an expedition to try out the transcevier Sawyer and Sayid get into it about the gun that Sawyer had been carrying, but Boone had swiped.  Sawyer says sarcastically (in reference to Sayid), “Yeah, give it to Al-Jazeera, he’ll protect us.”  Charlie comments off-hand that Al-Jazeera is a television network.  Literally “Al-Jazeera” means “The Island” (I should know, I’m studying Arabic right now).  OK, I’m sure Sawyer was just being Sawyer and throwing around nicknames, but I’ve got to believe the writers knew the double meaning of this phrase.  A bit of foreshadowing?  I would say that the survivors would trust the Island to protect them about as much as Sawyer trusts Sayid right now.  But is the Island really out to get them, or not?

John Locke

John Locke looks on as Michael reunites Walt and Vincent

John Locke looks on as Michael reunites Walt and Vincent

A couple of key scenes this episode.  He carves a whistle and calls Vincent out of the forest.  After this he ties up the dog and tells Michael where he’s put him so that Michael can get the credit for finding and returning the dog to Walt.  John seems geniunely warm and concerned in these scenes.  But the episode ends with an intriguing scene.  While some light music plays in the background scenes of happiness and reconciliation play out – Charlie taping his fingers, Claire on the beach, Jin sitting with Sun, Sayid giving Sawyer an apple, Boone handing Shannon some sunglasses, and Michael and Walt laughing over his playful reunion with Vincent.  John Locke watches the father and sun from a distance and the camera pans around to show his face.  At best pensive, at worst downright ominous considering he worked hard to reunite boy and dog and cheerfully gave Michael the credit.  You can’t help but wonder what’s going through his mind.  And . . . . if you listen carefully you can hear the tell-tale clicking noise that usually accompanies Smokey . . . I never noticed it the first time I watched, but Oooo – I got goosebumps when I heard that on the  re-watch!

John appears ominously in thought as he watches Walt reunited with Vincent.

What is going through John Locke's mind?

This post written while listening to:

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, and San Quentin by Johnny Cash, among others.



  1. I am loving your Lost Re-Watch Blog – and will be reading your commentary on every episode (and watching the relevant episodes again).
    I’m not sure where to post these thoughts, and please accept my apologies if the ideas have been aired before. I was re-watching the 2004 movie “The Butterfly Effect again recently and was struck by how that film’s course corrections are really only seen through the eyes of (the hero?) Ashton Kutcher’s character, Evan.
    I’m now beginning to wonder if Locke – who is clearly a pivotal character in Lost- is repeatedly or occasionally going back and forth in time, or consciousness, to re-order events, taking with him knowledge of what needs to have happened. The difference between Lost and the treatment in The Butterfly Effect would be that we don’t get to see most of John’s time skipping – but he does have a lot of unexplained absences during Lost plots. We now know that the “John Locke” person in Season 5 has manipulated none other than Richard Alpert and we cannot really know if there is a time skipping Locke – or really a second version look-alike Locke – who has appeared at strategic moments in earlier seasons, not just observing ”himself” injured by Ethan’s gunshot and taking refuge in the crashed Beachcraft wreckage, but in other situations too when he appears to have know more than we’d expect him to know about the Island!!
    I’m really quite struck by the fact that John Locke sometimes seems to steer events and people in significant ways (with hindsight) but also makes some really silly mistakes as well, and that some (if I’m on the right track) of his attempted course corrections have unexpected or unintended consequences. It may even be that many of the John Locke flashbacks we see are effectively red herrings as they simply relate to an “earlier” John Locke incarnation, or only relate to the “original” John Locke (and not his copy) and so don’t give us a full insight in to the John Locke that we assume he is. I also cannot help feeling that Locke’s father, Anthony Cooper, is a more significant figure than we sometimes realise. The fact that Ben was later working to a list of ‘people to assassinate’ with Sayid (off island), but somehow managed to produce Anthony Cooper bound and gagged (on island) is sinister. Did Ben know of Anthony Cooper beforehand? Was this Anthony Copper really a Smokey creation like Eko’s brother?
    To me the most chilling scene of all – in almost all the seasons of Lost is the look on John Locke’s face (with accompanying dramatic music) at the end of this episode – Tabula Rasa – and it seems amazing how well Terry took the direction at that stage in the saga, as watching that look now imbues it with a huge amount of menace and mystery! That doesn’t look like an expression that we’d expect to see from the recently marooned now-walking Locke – it seems to be a much deeper look altogether.

    • Steve – thanks for reading! Ihave fallen behind on the rewatch due to “real life” encroaching on my fun – the nerve! But hope to catch back up. You have some interesting observations on John Locke. It seems like you are raising the question of whether there is an imposter Locke that is manipulating things for evil(?) even in season 1 or if there is an actual Locke that is time-skipping who is influencing things for good(?)

      I too am curious about Locke’s disappearances at strategic moments. Is it just Locke “innocently” being consumed by his interest in this island that has miraculously healed him (and therefore disinterest in the ongoing fight for survival of the other Losties)? Or is it something more sinister? Immediately after Tabula Rasa I was more inclined to say the latter due to the strange encounter with Smokey. But now, I don’t know. As you observed it seems that sometimes John is laser-guided and other times kinda silly in the decisions he makes. Are there two Lockes? Or two consciousnesses controlling him at different times?

      Anthony Cooper does seem incredibly important having crossed both Locke and Sawyers paths in rather dramatic ways. I’m not 100% convinced the Cooper we see on the Island is the real Cooper (despite Sawyer seemingly physically killing him). But . . . if he was indeed the real Cooper . . . What is up with that?!? How did he get there? How did Ben know about him? Etc., Etc. I actually have a little theory that just as Jacob was making off-island trips to visit and touch certain people, so was his nemesis. Perhaps Anthony Cooper rec’d a visit from Jacob’s nemesis that set him on the path that he was on to basically destroy both Sawyer and Locke’s lives.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. You’ve inspired me to get back in the saddle.

      • Thanks for your quick response – and don’t worry I wasn’t aware that there was a Rewatch schedule for your to stick to 😉

        I’ll move on to the Walkabout episode. See you there!

  2. In my limited understanding of Egyptian gods, they were described as being either good or evil. This just seems too simplistic for these writers. What makes this story so intriguing is the apparent dichotomy between good and evil, black and white. And yet, Jacob and his nemesis aren’t (in the end) going to be fully good nor evil – I believe.
    So the thing about the brainwashing: maybe Jacob orchestrated that and he’s not fully good. Or maybe his cult (the Others) came up with that themselves. And regular humans, of course, would have both good and evil actions.
    I’m not sure about Ben using the idea of Jacob. It seems to me that perhaps Jacob had made himself known previously, but I can’t back that up right now.

  3. Yeah, that’s very interesting about Locke. It’s been a few years since I last rewatched season 1, and I didn’t take note of the Smokey click.

    Somehow, he’s already playing God by orchestrating events. Maybe he’s Locke or maybe he’s Jacob’s nemesis (Esau?).

    • Yeah, the whole Jacob/Esau thing is interesting – but then there’s the Egyptian imagery too. (Of course Biblical Jacob went to Egypt.) Some people have gone way overboard with making analogies based on Egyptian mythology – IMO. I think I’ll be disappointed if Jacob and his nemesis end up literally being Egyptian Gods. ‘m not sure why, because obviously there has to be some sort of fantastic and otherworldly explanation. One other thing on Jacob – do you remember the scene (can’t remember which season now) where they rescue Alex’s bf from what can best be called a brainwashing room? If I remember correctly odd religious type messages were flashing on the screen, something like “God loves you like he loved Jacob” how weird is that?! And who was behind it? Jacob? If so perhaps he’s not the good guy. Or maybe Ben (who perhaps never really had access to Jacob) was using the idea of Jacob to control the Others.

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