Lost, Episode 19: The Brig

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Locke and Sawyer find they have more in common than they ever thought: a magic box that delivers to Locke the father he never expected to see again and to Sawyer the con man who changed his life forever.

I wanted to post this review of Lost, Episode 19, “The Brig” much sooner, but after watching it I got sidetracked on a little quest around the house.

You remember the part from Episode 18, the one mentioned in the Previously On Lost recap, the one where Ben says, “What if I told you that somewhere on this island there was a very large box and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it, when you opened that box, there it would be.”

Well, I started thinking about that, as if Ben had said to me, “What if I told you that somewhere around your house there was a very large box …”

And I so I started looking for that box …

… in my house …

… instead of writing my review.

No one never actually gets to see the box on Lost, or to see anyone using it … and in fact Ben says out loud to Locke that the box is a metaphor (but evidently a very powerful one).

Wouldn’t you want a metaphor like that if you could find it?

Clever Ben.

I can imagine a lot of things.

The writers of Lost are a clever bunch, too. A magic box, especially one that’s just a metaphor, is a really cheap and effective way to reinsert characters and concepts, such as Locke’s father and the con man who twisted Sawyer’s life, one in the same fellow, into the show in a very real and very tangible sense; real enough to stab, it would appear, and tangible enough to strangle.

And in the end, you know, nothing gets more real or tangible than that.

Ben is clever, and a real scoundrel, too.

Looking for my magic box, I went from room to room, box to box, but none of them were magical and none of them held whatever I imagined. In a metal-hinged lockbox I found some old baseball cards rubber banded together, a few buttons, and a ceramic Day of the Dead pin in the shape of a skull. A shoe box held an old pair of … shoes, ones with missing laces and holes in the soles. In a large cardboard box were five years of back tax files and the leftover handouts from the San Diego Comic Con.

Certainly not the type of things I was imagining.

During “The Brig,” Ben says to Locke, “You’ll never be free until you release the hold that your father has on you … When people join us … they need to make a gesture of free will … of commitment. That’s why you’re going to have to kill your father.”

But Locke can’t do it, can’t be that committed.

But the dominoes are in motion. As Ben plays mind games on John, so does John play mind games on Sawyer. Sawyer serves John’s will and John will soon deliver to Ben what Ben wants, all to continue the march toward some sort of conclusion, or explanation …

… or maybe in the best Bobby Ewing / Dallas style, Locke will simply walk out of the shower and discover that he actually doesn’t need to take his place aboard the ill fated Oceanic 815.

Roll credits.

As he’s always done, Locke figures out a way to surmount the latest challenge to his manhood and Sawyer wins a thin, little slice of redemption. Oh, and all of us viewers are a few steps closer to learning whatever we’re supposed to learn. All because of a metaphor: a little magic box that contains whatever you imagined.

Amidst all of the cerebral actions and taut, gritty dialogue, there’s a wonderful little scene that’s so insignificant if you blinked you might have missed it. Locke is sitting inside the festering, gutted out hulk of a grounded slave ship, whittling in accompaniment to Sawyer’s door pounding and screamed threats (and what’s more delicious than hearing Sawyer hurl such venomous invective as “Let me outta here, you bald bastard!”?). Cue rusty, mechanical unlocking sounds and who should poke her head out of a nearby doorway but Rousseau. Startled, she recovers quickly. Locke isn’t startled; doesn’t anything ever surprise Locke?

Let’s be a fly on the wall, eh?

Locke: “Rousseau.”

Rousseau: “Locke”

Locke: “What brings you to the black rock?”

Rousseau: “Dynamite … And you?”

A savvy look is all Locke has for her. Sometimes no dialogue is the best dialogue of all.

Locke: “The crates are right over there … be careful. It’s unstable.”

Such a scene is a viewer’s delight, the equivalent of the mouse that roared, a little bit of understated, but effective brio. It reveals a little bit about Rousseau, keeps her alive within the context of the story, and gives the viewer the teensiest aperitif to savor before the writers launch into the nitty-gritty knockdown finale to the episode.


This review of "The Brig" is very spoiler light, but that’s because the episode glides so easily between the various locales, characters, actions, and plot reveals. I haven’t mentioned at all the revelations of a recently downed pilot who is so amazingly beautiful that I would have believed her if she said she was really Wonder Woman in disguise and had parachuted out of her invisible jet plane. Nor did I mention that Ben knows everything he knows about Jack’s group because he’s planted a traitor in their midst. All this is secondary because it seems like Lost is finally picking up steam again, finding its voice, and surging ahead toward that conclusion that I alluded to earlier in the review.

You may be wondering whether I ever came up with a magic box in my house.

You be the judge.

It was a cardboard carton, musty with age and covered in heavy brocade, perched away in an underutilized corner of the attic. Inside I found a dog-eared book of quotations that naturally fell open to a particular page, one with a single quote circled in aged, sepia-toned ink.

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
-- Mark Twain

Is that everything I imagined?

Perhaps with regard to the current season of Lost, it is.

It’s not too late to start looking for your own magic box.

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