The survivors can travel with each other, they can bond with others, and they can do so all the more effectively through and after their journeys, but each individual journey is a solitary one.
Sayid finds the cable to the ocean. What is it? A first thought might be some connection to the outside world, reasonable considering the evidence of both human presence and sufficiently contemporary technology on the island. Later, we’ll find out it’s something a little more insular to the island, more appropriate given what we’ve already learned about the island not “wanting” to be seen.
Hurley is sensitive to everyone being tense. He wishes there was something to do. Jack says they’re staying alive, and keeping everyone alive is his main concern. He’s playing into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, noting the fundamental importance of physical needs. But when is it “ok” to move up the pyramid, to move on and go for something beyond mere physical survival? Coming from a civilization so generally bereft of real but intangible satisfactions, it’s easy to understand why the survivors might have an exaggerated focus on physical survival.
Sayid is tortured by his captor. Payback for his torture of Sawyer? Flashback to him torturing someone else — the current torture seems payback for far more than Sawyer.
Walt asks Locke to take him hunting, Michael interrupts, saying it’s not going to happen. Michael is not ready for Walt to follow his own path, even refusing to let Walt be accompanied by someone who seems far more capable of handling danger than Michael himself. Does Michael have an inferiority complex with respect to Locke, or just the usual authoritarian leanings he’s already shown as a parent?
Sayid sees his captor’s name on a jacket — Rousseau, the same name as the philosopher famous for the concept of the noble savage. Is his captor noble? Is she savage? Neither? She refers to “You and the others like you.” It is the series’ first reference to “the others.” The otherness she imagines is bound up with the fear she feels for them. She, though, is mistaken, since Sayid is not one of “the others” she means. She moments later learns his name from the envelope she finds in his bag. There is significance in how they’ve learned each other’s names: by observing what is in front of each of them, outside of themselves, Sayid and Rousseau can learn more about each other than they can by starting with the assumptions and fears they hold inside. They learn names, and become people in each other’s eyes, real people, not dehumanized “others.”
In flashback, Nadia tells Sayid, “You always were older than your years.” Usually considered a compliment. But consider parentification, i.e., when young people assume adult roles before they are developmentally ready. This leads to unhealthy development, and in many ways prevents full development and maturation — the role is taken on without actually being an adult about it, and development can get stuck. Should anyone want to be older than their years? Shouldn’t everyone want to feel and act however many years they actually are? Is it possible that the very fact that people may feel older or younger than they are, may wish they were younger or older, is itself an indicator of immaturity?
Rousseau: “Tell me more about Nadia.” Sayid: “Alex. Who is he?” They each want to learn more, about each other, through knowledge of people important in their lives, paralleling their learning of each other’s names.
One moment, Rousseau is shouting, “Lies.” The next, “I’m so sorry” about Nadia being dead. Her emotional state is incredibly unstable. Is this what the island does to people who’ve been there some time? If we believe there is something meaningful to people’s journeys on the island, then we have to believe that Rousseau, full of fear of “the others” and so unstable even after all this time, has egregiously failed to understand the nature of her own presence on the island. Anyone who goes to her for information and understanding may possibly be misled — and to the extent that they become misled by her, we’ll need to question their own judgment, since they might be the kind of people who may also fail to understand their own life on the island.
When shown Hurley’s golf course, Michael says, “All the stuff we’ve got to deal with, this is what you’ve been wasting your time on?” Hurley: “If we’re stuck here, then just surviving is not gonna cut it…. Fun. Otherwise we’re gonna go crazy waiting for the next bad thing to happen.” Michael, not surprising given his parenting, immediately reacts like Jack, concerned about safety, but Hurley recognizes that there is more to life. Indeed, Hurley recognizes what so many others fail to: that they have been surviving, that there is such a thing as having physical needs sufficiently met, and that this is exactly when it’s not only desirable but crucial to expand one’s life experience into other kinds of satisfaction. Perhaps there is an indication here of some key ability of Hurley’s, the thing he can most contribute to the group. Indeed, it seems truly significant that this leap be made by “the fat guy,” someone who we might imagine would be the most focused on physical needs. The fact that he, of all people, is so motivated to transcend physical needs indicates that the focus others have on these needs may truly be excessive.
Sayid offers to fix Rousseau’s music box, she becomes untrusting, drugs him. We soon discover it was a sedative: “It was the only safe way for me to move you.” She wonders why he’d offer to fix it after all she’s done to hurt him. He will still do it, just wants to know her first name — it is Danielle. How did she come to be on the island? Another crash — a ship. She believes “the others” were the “carriers.” Of what? A disease? Is that what “killed them all”? She tells of whispers in the jungle. Rousseau: “You think I’m insane.” Sayid: “I think you’ve been alone for too long.” Even if she is right about the whispers, the disease, she is still the kind of person who will drug someone to keep herself safe, the kind of person who doesn’t understand why someone else would fix her music box after she’d hurt them. Rousseau has been in solitary on the island and seems no longer capable of connecting. To the extent that anyone is unable to connect, they are likely in their own kind of solitary, a prisoner of their own thoughts, even if they may be continually surrounded by people.
Kate to Sawyer; “One outcast to another? I’d think about making more of an effort.” She is telling him that he doesn’t have to keep himself in a solitary of his own making, that that is the path to being considered an outcast, an “other.” This exchange sheds light on the overall importance of the “others” having been brought up for the first time in an episode entitled “Solitary” — they are reflections of each other. To keep others as “other,” one must put oneself in solitary — and the same holds even for a group, putting itself in solitary, in opposition to all outside, all that then becomes other, enemy. Kate shows us that this can happen in even innocuous ways compared to whatever Rousseau has experienced.
Sayid fixes the music box. “You see? Some things can be fixed.” Indeed, Sayid is right, some things can be fixed — but not all things, and it’s crucial to know what can be fixed and what needs to abandoned in favor of something better. Danielle’s happiness and gratitude give way to fear again when a roar is heard above. She hopes it’s a bear. Sayid wonders if it is the monster, and Danielle says, “There’s no such thing as monsters.” Having been on the island longer, she has learned things that Sayid doesn’t know yet. Curious, though, that she should say this, since someone like her so concerned about “others” seems very much to lean on demonizing people, making other people out to be monsters. If she could get outside her own fear, she might realize that her own statement may be even more true than she knows.
Jack: “I haven’t been sleeping because I want everyone to feel safe, he builds a golf course, everyone feels safe.” He realizes that, though his focus was important, it was extreme. Focus too much on physical safety, and one can easily come to feel unsafe even though one is more than safe. At that point, it truly takes something else to come to feel safe, something emotional, intangible. It isn’t the golf course that did it, it’s the playing on the golf course, the experience, the fun of it. Jack is starting to see this now.
Walt tells Michael, “You left me alone at the caves.” Michael apologizes. The one time he’s apologetic is when he’s totally physically abandoned Walt. It takes that kind of extreme abandonment for Michael to realize that he’s wronged Walt. He doesn’t see the countless less obvious ways he may cause Walt to feel abandoned. All of this, appropriately, parallels Hurley’s great insight — that physical needs are important, but too much focus on them must come at the expense of emotional needs. For Michael, physical abandonment is the only “real” abandonment.
Locke is alone hunting. Solitary. Doesn’t seem to need the fun of golf. Walt comes to find him. Locke is concerned if Michael knows he’s there. Walt wants to learn how to throw the knife into a tree. It seems as if the fun of golf just isn’t fun for Walt. Walt needs something else, and he wants to find it here, learning new things with Locke. The suggestion is that there are levels of fun, enjoyment, satisfaction. Locke has transcended what golf can do, but most the others have not yet. Walt’s interest in Locke, then, suggests that Walt is young enough to not yet have been “spoiled” in some way, that only through some kind of accident — like the accident of authoritarian parenting — would he find himself thinking that golf would be a step up in satisfaction. Walt’s interest in Locke is significant because it seems an expression of Walt’s need to stay on his own path, a path he perhaps had gotten off but now has a chance, far earlier than most, to try to get back on again. Will he be allowed, or will he be denied? Does denial of one’s path mean being thrust into a mental solitary, and staying on one’s path mean freedom from such a prison?