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LOST's Tabula Rasa Shows Kate Yearning for a Blank Slate

By Edited May 15, 2014 0 0

One of the key concepts in LOST is that of a "tabula rasa" or "blank slate," an idea crucial to the musings of philosopher John Locke. When people come to the Island, their past doesn't matter anymore. Or does it? Can anyone ever truly escape his or her past and start over? In Tabula Rasa, we explore this notion with Kate Austen, the first of the castaways to have a truly centric episode.

Kate is a fugitive, a startling fact that she would prefer her fellow crash victims not to learn. Jack finds out, however, as does Hurley, thanks to a mug shot carried around by Edward Mars, the federal marshal who has been trailing her for years, Catch Me If You Can-style. They must then decide how to deal with this information. Can they still trust the young woman who seemed so helpful the day before? Should they share this shocking tidbit with their fellow castaways by way of warning?

In the flashbacks, we learn about what Kate was up to shortly before Flight 815. In nearly every flashback, Kate refers to herself by a different name, and this time it's Annie. Under this moniker, she had taken a job as a farmhand after being caught squatting on his land. We see her resourcefulness as well as her reluctance to put her faith in others. She knows that there is a reward for turning her in, and every person she meets, no matter how friendly he might seem, is a potential traitor. At the same time, she grows to care about Ray, a down-on-his-luck widower with one arm, and her last moments in this episode, both on the Island and off, demonstrate her deep capacity to empathize with others, even if that rarely seems to manifest itself in any useful way.

While this episode focuses primarily on Kate, we also learn a lot about Jack, especially his inability to "let go". Jack is a skilled surgeon, a fixer, and his refusal to give up on a patient is both admirable and hazardous to his well-being. There are no-win situations, and he needs to accept that if he is going to stay sane on this Island. The events in this episode illustrate that lesson powerfully, but this is only the beginning of a long process of self-discovery for Jack.

Meanwhile, Sayid continues to assert himself as a different type of leader. His authoritative manner and expertise in communications equipment make him well-suited for the task of trying to orchestrate a rescue, even though he now understands that finding a way to contact the outside world will be much more difficult than anyone would have originally anticipated. With Jack preoccupied with a grievously injured patient, the castaways need someone else to turn to for hope and direction. His efficiency quickly earns him respect, though there are still those who distrust him simply because of his ethnicity.

Sawyer pillages his way through the fuselage, which most of the other survivors are reluctant to approach, given the fact that it is full of dead bodies. Hurley is particularly uncomfortable with this, which is a shame, because if he had gotten to the luggage first, he would have distributed it equally among the survivors. Instead, Sawyer is able to set himself up as a kingpin, the one person on the beach with the most resources, giving him quite a bit of leverage, and he's all too happy to lord his possessions over the others. Toward the end of the episode, he takes a drastic action that illustrates his tendency toward violence but also seems to hint at discomfort with watching people suffer.

Charlie takes his first tentative steps toward Claire in a scene that shows their gentle rapport with each other. Hurley continues to make himself useful, though he's not particularly happy about some of the tasks he has been given. Pop culture references begin to trickle in as he questions whether the entity later generally referred to as the Smoke Monster might be a dinosaur, though scientific Jack naturally rejects this Jurassic Park hypothesis. In the flashbacks, Patsy Cline comes on the radio, the first of many times her music will be connected with Kate. The episode also includes one of the first uses of the number 23, one of the six numbers that mysteriously comes up throughout the series.

John Locke continues to come across as aloof and mysterious, and Michael doesn't like the fact that Walt seems to have bonded with him. Maybe he's just jealous that Walt connects better with a stranger; maybe he thinks John has evil intentions up his sleeve. However, the contentious relationship between these two hits a complication when John not only whittles a dog whistle to find Walt's missing dog, Vincent, but offers Michael the chance to deliver the dog to his son. This kind gesture forces Michael to reevaluate his initial assessment of this enigmatic bald man, leading to a tenuous partnership in the next episode.

The cinematic quality of the series continues to impress, particularly during a rainstorm that sends everyone except John ducking for cover. He seems to be strangely attuned to the weather patterns here; while the sudden appearance of precipitation frequently catches survivors off-guard, he always seems to appreciate the cloudbursts, and he has a knack for knowing when each storm will play itself out. Seeing him revel in the drenching makes the rain an even more visceral experience for viewers.

Even as early as season one, fans had some complaints about Kate episodes, as they all follow basically the same trajectory of Kate doing something wrong but wriggling her way out of it. Then again, this seems to simply serve as a reminder that it's never as easy as one might think to leave the past behind. Kate is born to run; Jack is born to fix. Whether they can find proper applications for these personality traits is a question they must evaluate with the dawning of each new day on an Island where nothing is as it seems.



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