Lost: Tabula Rasa   Rewatch 
March 22, 2023 8:43 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Kate knows how to work a farm; Jack struggles to save the marshal.

S1E3: Tabula Rasa (Lostpedia | transcript): air date 6th October 2004 • writer Damon Lindelof • director Jack Bender • days 2-4 on the island • Kate flashbacks

Dangerous, she’s dangerous • put the gun back in your pants • point and shoot • Freckles • hope is a very dangerous thing to lose • flashback whoosh • sleeping in the sheep pen • a hell of a mortgage • Sayid organizes • Johnny Fever • me, I’m in the wild • a heck of a toaster • everyone deserves a fresh start • no, it won’t be quick • they listen to Patsy Cline everywhere • Mr. Locke said a miracle happened to him • rumor has it you can’t • everyone knows what’s got to be done • she got to you too, huh? • you don’t look free to me • are you going to do it, or what? • Sawyer missed • oh no way • Locke’s dog whistle • Vincent! • it doesn’t matter who we were, what we did, before the crash • Hurley headphone montage • DRAMATIC LOCKE CLOSEUP

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, The Lost Will and Testament
[spoilers for future episodes & events throughout]
One undeniable truth kept coming up, a truth that we kept skirting for three months of brainstorming but had never embraced… If the pilot featured flashbacks to the plane before the crash — and the context they provided for the island story was such a great source of contrast and revelation — and if we spent so much time developing the backstories of these characters — why not make that a part of the series? Wouldn’t it be great if we could see Kate’s arrest by the marshal, and maybe their previous Kimble/Gerard relationship as a contrast to her trying to pretend that she didn’t know him?

It is difficult to imagine that for so long — when they were part of the pilot, and frequently discussed in the think tank, and when they were so clearly the pivotal thematic lever of the series — the flashbacks were not considered as being of the essence to the show. Instead, the device was sort of tacitly agreed to have been a thematic grace note that would remain unique to the pilot and not be used in series.

Now, however, as we truly tried to put our ideas into practice, the episodic format finally took shape around the notion that “flashbacks are there to demonstrate what you are in the island is a contrast to what you were in your other life.” This conceit became the theme of Lost, our central concern in the development of the stories, and the glue that held seasons of the show together.
Emily St. James, AV Club: Lost (Classic): “Tabula Rasa”/“Walkabout”
[spoiler-free if you stop at the “Walkabout” heading halfway through]
Those smaller stories within the larger story allowed for the show to play around with its central ideas and themes in settings and contexts that weren’t always familiar ones from the Island. In other words, the flashbacks allowed the show to drop what amounted to a series of short stories in the middle of a long, ongoing novel. It let the series punctuate the main action with supplementary action that could easily cut tension or even ramp it up. The flashbacks were a good source of unexpected story devices, and they also allowed the show to indulge in surprisingly effective and largely straightforward visits to other genres entirely. The series could dabble in the form of a cop show, or it could try something more comedic. Little of this is present in “Tabula Rasa” just yet — the flashback is a largely rudimentary one about the farmer Kate stayed with before she was apprehended — but the show is clearly testing the device to see if it will even work.
Jane Campbell, Eruditorum Press: Lost Exegesis (Tabula Rasa)
What we have here is a narrative convention that establishes a kind of connectivity between the Island story and the flashbacks. That continuity is focalized on a character. Which is to say, it isn’t just a flashback for the purpose of providing backstory, but strongly suggests that the flashback belongs to the character. In these instances, it suggests that Kate is actively remembering her past.

This whole convention of limiting flashbacks in an episode to a single character is really an elegant way for the show to structurally put a flag in the sand regarding one of its core concerns, that of identity. It’s elegant, because it allows the show to spend an entire episode focusing on a single character, rather than spreading itself thin over the dozen or so that make up the entire ensemble. Furthermore, by positioning Kate’s “secret identity” as a mystery to be uncovered, which is only partly revealed (neither we nor Jack learn here what she did to get into this mess in the first place), the show effectively positions the character drama onto the same footing as its “mythology” of tree-crashing monsters, tropical polar bears, and French transmissions.
Rewatch companion: THE STORM: A Lost Rewatch Podcast - S1, E3: "Tabula Rasa"
Joanna Robinson: “We've seen [Sawyer] glower and smoke and read a letter and shoot a bear and like, you know, say racist things to Saeed and fat shaming things to Hurley. Swagger around. And then you just get: Josh Holloway plays Sawyer, the look on his face when he realizes that he fucked up, this immediate sort of like boyish crumple of his face. I think it speaks volumes.I think it's really, really good. I love the characterization of Sawyer.”

Neil Miller: “I love how they really drive home, especially early in this episode, the Sawyer is kind of a piece of shit thing. And then they don't let it last on and on and on. I think that one of the fun things about Sawyer is that, by the end of this episode, you're not entirely sure how you're supposed to feel about this guy. Especially after you see that, as Joanna explained, the look; and then how he fumbles with his cigarettes and is just totally knocked out of his confidence.”
Emily St. James:
I’m not a big fan of the closing montage, but I do like the way it tries to close off the story on a note of hopefulness in an almost entirely visual manner. Lost broke new ground for visual storytelling on a broadcast network TV show, and that moment when, say, Sayid tosses Sawyer the apple is as efficient a device as any scene where the two have a heart-to-heart.
Jane Campbell:
This is the first episode to provide a measure of closure at its end. And not, we should note, the sort of closure that comes with answering mysteries, but emotional closure. The episode has finally established that this is a group, their own circle, and that the fresh start they get on this Island is one that will come together.

“Three days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over.”

posted by We had a deal, Kyle (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Currently streaming in the US on Hulu (subscription) and Freevee (free with ads); in the UK on Disney+; and available for purchase just about everywhere. The next episode will post on Saturday.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:45 AM on March 22, 2023

racist things to Saeed

Ah, and of course I spot this right after posting: Whisper took a decent guess at transcribing that, but the show uses the Sayid spelling.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2023

Line that has stayed with me from this episode since I first watched it: "They listen to Patsy Cline everywhere." Not sure why. Don't know if maybe it's because it was the first real clue that for as much as she doubts herself, and as much as the marshal warns about her, at heart she's a regular, real, decent person. I am realizing that I don't remember whether we ever find out what she did (I expect we do?) but I also don't much care.

I had forgotten about Sawyer's failed attempt to kill the marshal. That part was strongly upsetting to me now, like it was for Sawyer.

I think this episode is where my teenage crush on Sayid/Naveen Andrews began.

A really impressive aspect of the show is that episodes could be equally thrilling and compelling if they did or did not have any of the supernatural elements. This was one that kept its feet pretty firmly on the ground, and yet there was still so much to it.
posted by Night_owl at 8:55 AM on March 23, 2023

It's clearly implied -- but not directly seen/heard or mentioned, as Sawyer's attempt was -- that Jack euthanized the marshal, no? Which I think in part is him being, well, Sawyer messed this up and now I’ve got to fix it; but also is of him accepting Sawyer’s argument that they’re no longer in civilization and that ending the marshal's suffering is now the most humane thing he can do in this situation.

(I feel there's also a darker undertone to the episode that it was necessary for the marshal to die -- or at least for him to stop dying so slowly and noisily -- in order to unite the group in a kind of peace at the end. Sayid tells Jack "the others are getting upset"; Shannon "I wish he would just die already." Like: do we get the grace montage at the end if there's not this final closure on the marshal's story?)

Anyway: I think the weight of this on Jack is visible next episode.

The whole "one bullet left" thing is really kinda hokey though.

The Lostpedia trivia notes that "why would Sawyer, who seems competent, miss?" was discussed later, in the DVD commentary for I Do [spoilers]:
Josh Holloway: “Let's just get to Sawyer’s aim for, you know... During the pilot, he takes out a polar bear at a full run with a nine millimeter. But after that, he can’t even get his gun out. He can’t hit anything, he can’t hit a guy not moving.”
Carlton Cuse: “That was why, literally, it was because of that we’re sitting there and l was like, ‘He’s myopic.’ l mean that’s gotta be the problem. He doesn’t have... he can't see. So, that was how the idea came up to have Sawyer have glasses.”
Josh Holloway: “l love that. l love the fact that he starts out like ‘Wow, he’s really a good shot and everything.’ From then on, every time he reaches for his gun, he gets shot or he gets hit by a girl or he gets whacked with a stick. He never gets his arm around, he’s like the slowest draw in town.”
I think also this is the episode where they start leaning more strongly into compartmentalizing information as a mechanism to generate and maintain tension in the group. Jack, Kate and Charlie know more about the monster than the rest of the group; Jack and Hurley know about Kate’s history; Kate knows Jack knows but doesn’t know Hurley knows; Sayid decides to withhold the news of the French transmission from the larger group, although Kate does tell Jack about it; and of course Locke and Sun are still holding their individual secrets. So, they’re a group at the end of this episode; but they’re fractured along who-knows-what lines.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:46 AM on March 24, 2023

I feel there's also a darker undertone to the episode that it was necessary for the marshal to die -- or at least for him to stop dying so slowly and noisily -- in order to unite the group in a kind of peace at the end.

This rings really true to me, in a very uncomfortable way.
posted by Night_owl at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2023

« Older The Mandalorian: Chapter 20: T...   |  Book: Jingo... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments