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May 12, 2008 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | May 12, 2008 |

“Cabin Fever” was a great episode, no two ways about it. I know that the regular readers of these recaps are sick and tired of hearing me rant about the people who are sick and tired of “Lost” “never going anywhere,” but this episode offered even more proof that the series does go somewhere every week; it’s just not where you’d expect. “Cabin Fever” was the eleventh episode of Season Four, and the first in a long time to rely on the traditional flashback format. It’s a Locke-centric episode, but more than just going into greater detail about the generally unpleasant life John Locke has had before coming to the island and learning to walk again, it introduced heretofore unrealized links between Locke and the island and the Others that give Locke an even greater air of a man coming to grips with an epic destiny. Plus there were jokes. What’s not to love?

The episode opens, as many good things do, with the strains of Buddy Holly. A young girl in a poodle skirt dances around her room and puts on makeup while “Everyday” plays softly in the background. She’s young, pretty, and looks full of the special defiance known to men and women that age; it’s pretty much a lock (HIYO!) that something bad is gonna happen. Her mother walks in and demands to know where she’s going, but the girl just says she’s going “out” again with “him.” The girl’s mother responds, “He’s twice your age, Emily.” The argument continues as Emily leaves the house and makes her way into the rainy night, and she’s too busy yelling over her shoulder at her mother to see the oncoming headlights. Her mother screams as Emily turns, but it’s too late: She’s hit, and everything goes white. Director Paul Edwards then pulls off a respectable feat for a show in its fourth season, especially one with a tone as well established as this one: He makes the next few moments feel new and unusual. The images are a flickering POV of nurses, doctors, and lights affixed to a ceiling, cutting to reveal Emily being wheeled through the hospital on a stretcher. She comes to and whispers something damning to the nearest nurse: “I’m pregnant … I’m almost six months.” In a rush of what can only be a terrible procedure, the baby is delivered and promptly placed in an incubator. “It’s a boy,” the nurse says. “He’s OK for now. He’s just real early.” Emily asks to hold him, but the nurse tells Emily that the baby is too small to be held. Emily cries as the infant is wheeled out the door, but she pauses long enough to yell, “Name him John! Please! His name is John!”

And all this happens in the first 120 seconds.

Cut to John Locke on Hell Island, torch in hand, wearing the blue shirt he’s been wearing most of the year, leading Hurley and Ben through the jungle to find Jacob’s Teleportational Ghost Cabin and Gift Shop. Right away, the episode gives another great nod to its own structure and detractors with an exchange between Hurley and Locke:

Hurley: Who builds a cabin in the middle of the jungle, anyway?

Locke: That’s a good question.

Hurley: So, how about answering it?

Locke: I don’t know.

It’s similar to the conversation Daniel and Charlotte had in the Staff when they went to get medical supplies for Jack’s appendectomy; Daniel asked aloud, “Where do you suppose all this power’s coming from?” and Charlotte answered, “Add that one to the list.” Because that’s what “Lost” is folks: A show you put together as you go, like “Twin Peaks” or something from Ikea. The fun is asking the questions and watching the pieces come together.

Locke asks Ben how long it will be until they reach the cabin, but Ben says he’s been following Hurley, who in turn claims that he’s not the leader and not even in the front of the line. Ben says he has no idea where the cabin is, and Hurley responds, “Oh, this is just awesome.” It’s a simple line, but perfectly in character, and Jorge Garcia gives it just the right amount of frustration. It’s the first of several great character moments for these guys throughout the episode. Locke says they’ll just stop where they are and make camp. Good call.

Out on the freighter, Sayid wakes Desmond as the helicopter returns from its aborted assassination mission. They head above deck and see Keamy unloading the soldier who was eaten up by the smoke monster. The doctor — who’s still very much alive, confirming that the temporal anomaly means that the island is a couple days in the future, or at least can be — tries to see what he can do for the injured man. Keamy asks Sayid for the location of everyone on the island and then draws his weapon on Captain Gault, accusing Gault of giving up Keamy to Ben. Gault says he’s not the one who ratted on Keamy, then leads him below to the room where they’ve apparently been keeping Michael chained up since Sayid and Desmond blew his cover to Gault at the end of “Meet Kevin Johnson.” (I’d been wondering what happened.) Michael’s sitting on the edge of his bunk, handcuffed to a pipe on the wall, when Keamy walks in and kicks out the bunk’s legs, causing it to crash down in Michael’s calf but not, as will be seen later, break the bone. Michael confesses to giving up Keamy to Ben, at which point Keamy decides to cut right to the homicidal chase and kill Michael. He pulls out his pistol, points it at Michael’s head, and fires twice, getting only dry clicks. I guess Keamy doesn’t know that Hell Island has given Michael a holy ring of Jesus fire that protects him from harm. Gault tells Keamy not to kill Michael because Michael is the only one who can fix the engines, since he broke them in the first place. This pisses Keamy off even more, so he knocks Michael out with the butt of his gun.

In the jungle the next morning, Locke awakes to the sound of someone chopping wood, but Hurley and Ben are still asleep. He walks around a bend into a clearing and sees a guy in a Dharma jumpsuit hacking at a tree. He turns to look at Locke. It’s Horace, a mathematician introduced in “The Man Behind the Curtain” and a guy who happened to be present when Ben was born prematurely in the woods outside Portland; Locke, knowing none of this, just stares at the guy. Horace introduces himself and says he’s building a cabin so that he and his wife can have a place to take a break from the Dharma Initiative. Locke says he’s not making any sense, but Horace, now with a line of blood running from his left nostril, just shrugs and says, “That’s probably because I’ve been dead for 12 years.” He pushes the tree down, then says hello again as if it’s the first time as the tree appears upright once more. Horace says that John needs to find him in order to find Jacob, who’s been waiting a “real long time” for Locke to show up. Horace reintroduces himself and pushes the tree down a second time, apparently locked in a Sisyphean struggle to build his cabin now that he’s dead. John awakes again, for real this time, to see Ben sitting next to the dying campfire, watching him. Locke says he now knows where to go, to which Ben responds, “I used to have dreams.” The premature births, the monosyllabic names; it’s like the island is replacing Ben with Locke as its default method of making its desires known.

Second flashback: Emily and her mother are in the hospital, staring at baby John in his incubator, which the nurse says he’s ready to leave for the first time. The nurse says John is the youngest preemie ever to survive in their hospital, having knocked out a variety of infections and pneumonia. “He is a fighter, your little John,” she says. Emily breaks down and says she can’t go through with it, bolting for the door. Her mother asks the nurse what their adoption options are while trying to light a cigarette. The nurse tells her smoking isn’t allowed before asking if the man in the hallway is the father. Emily’s mother looks through a window to see Richard Alpert, who looks exactly the same as he’ll look in 40-odd years on the island and who is apparently a highlander. Richard just grins his creepy little “You’ll never behead me, Kurgan” grin before nodding briefly at Mrs. Locke, who looks startled and tells the nurse she doesn’t know him. Richard’s already been shown to be involved with recruiting people for the island — he was introduced in “Not in Portland,” hiring Juliet for Mittelos Bioscience — but apparently that includes rounding up potential leaders like Locke.

Back in the jungle, Locke, Hurley, and Ben keep plowing through the jungle. Hurley posits a theory that he, Locke, and Ben are the only ones who can see the cabin because they’re the craziest. They keep walking to what Locke tells Hurley is a “pit stop” on the way to the island. Locke asks Hurley if he’s ever thought about what happened to the hundred or so members of the Dharma Initiative who used to live on the island, which sets off Ben’s radar. Locke gestures to their destination: The mass grave holding the bodies of the people Ben killed in the purge. “What happened to ‘em?” Hurley asks. “He did,” Locke responds before bowing out of frame and letting a slightly uncomfortable Ben take the spotlight.

Third flashback: Little boy Locke is sitting in a living room, setting up a backgammon board while a girl who’s likely the daughter of the couple who adopted John tells him his game is stupid and hits the board. The mother comes in and shoos the girl away before bringing in a man she says wants to talk to John: Richard Alpert, looking unchanged. Richard sits down and tells John he runs a school for kids who are “extremely special” and that he has reason to believe John is one of them. He notices a crayon picture on the wall of a guy being eaten by a giant column of black smoke; John confirms that it’s his work. Richard then lays out a series of items on the table before John: a baseball glove, an old volume titled “Book of Laws,” a glass vial of something granular or sand-like, a compass, an issue of “Mystery Tales,” and a primitive wooden-handled knife. Richard then asks, “Now, tell me, John: Which of these things belongs to you?” John thinks he gets to keep them, but Richard clarifies the question by saying, “No, John. Which of these things belong to you already?” John draws the sandy vial to his side of the table, as well as the compass, causing Richard to look somewhat hopeful. John eyes the book of laws but ultimately selects the knife, which is not at all what Richard wanted to see. Richard says that the knife doesn’t belong to John, then packs up his things and heads for the door. The mother walks back in to see how John did, but Richard says the boy isn’t ready.

Back at the mass grave, Locke digs through the bodies while Hurley and Ben hang out on the ridge. Ben confirms that this is where he shot Locke and left him for dead, but he says it was a “pointless” thing to do. He also tells Hurley he didn’t kill the people down in the pit, or at least that it wasn’t his decision. Hurley says he thought Ben was the leader of the Others, but Ben says that wasn’t always the case. Locke finds Horace’s rotten corpse, jumpsuit and name badge still intact, and Ben is clearly thrown by Locke’s discovery of this particular body. Locke unzips the breast pocket and produces a map and blueprints to the cabin.

Out on the freighter, Keamy is telling Gault he needs his key when Frank Lapidus runs up and says that Mayhew, the smoke monster victim, just bought it. Keamy tells Frank to gas up the chopper and continues on his path down the hall. Gault attempts to explain the insanity that swept through the crew the past few days, but Keamy blows him off and takes his key by force. Keamy heads into the office with Gault in tow and uses the keys to open the safe and retrieve the “secondary protocol” that will tell him where Ben will head for safety in the event that Keamy and his boys decide to “torch the island.” The captain is understandably unnerved, since all he signed for was an extraction mission. Keamy hands him the pistol that wouldn’t kill Michael, orders him to fix it, and walks out. Up on deck, where it’s now daytime, Gault tells a soldier named Omar that Keamy needs him below. As Omar walks off, he gets a message in Morse on the sat phone in his pocket. Gault approaches Desmond and Sayid and tells them there’s a pantry below where they can hide before Keamy starts to go even crazier. Sayid says that hiding is pointless and that he’d rather take the Zodiac raft and start ferrying castaways to the freighter. (Apparently Zodiac raft is a pretty popular term for what Wikipedia terms a “rigid-hulled inflatable boat”; consider me informed.) Gault agrees and tells them he’ll prep the boat, and that they can leave in a few minutes.

Back in the jungle, Locke inspects the map while Hurley passes out water bottles, stressing the importance of hydration after digging through old bones. Locke tells Hurley that he’s free to go now that Locke has the map, since Locke had only kidnapped Hurley in the first place on the assumption that only Hurley could find the Ghost Cabin. Hurley says he’s safer with Locke and Ben before heading off toward the cabin on the bearing Locke’s established. When Hurley’s out of earshot, Ben leans in and says, “He actually thinks staying was his idea. Not bad, John.” John shakes his head and says, “I’m not you.” But Ben gives him a level look before saying, “You’re certainly not.” The line by itself isn’t much, but it’s a perfect line for Ben, and Michael Emerson gives it a nuanced delivery that reflects the character’s disappointment more than anything. Ben doesn’t just dislike the way Locke behaves, but actually views him as inferior, which fuels his disdain and confusion as to why the island has suddenly chosen this man instead of Ben to be its apparent savior. It’s a great moment.

Fourth flashback: Teenage John Locke is stuck in a locker, but come on, has this ever happened? Inside John’s locker is a poster for Geronimo Jackson, a rock band from the 1970s that keeps popping up on the show and is in all likelihood bogus, though producers insist it’s real, ostensibly to further the illusion. (Which is weird, since no one’s pretending Drive Shaft ever had a hit record in the real world.) John is let out by a science teacher, and John stumbles around as a group of cheerleaders, presumably waiting nearby for just such a humiliating occurrence, point and laugh and inflict all kinds of psychic trauma on the boy. The teacher takes John to the nurse’s office and later talks with him in what looks like an empty classroom. The teacher tells John he recently got a call from a company in Portland “doing some very exciting things in chemistry and new technologies.” The company, as should surprise no one, is Mittelos Laboratories, the same group that recruited/will recruit Juliet. The teacher hands John a flyer for Mittelos’ summer camp, but John doesn’t want anything to do with it. “I’m not a scientist! I like boxing and fishing and cars. I like sports!” Keep telling yourself that, John. The teacher leans in and gives John some blunt but necessary life advice, telling John that he’ll never be prom king or star quarterback, but that he can be a gifted scientist. John replies, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” then walks out.

On the freighter, Frank pops in to see Michael and offer his support. Frank asks Michael why he never came clean about being a survivor of Oceanic 815, and Michael says he was worried about Frank not believing him. Michael adds that in addition to the wreckage being a hoax, it was placed there by Charles Widmore, which makes Frank laugh and think Michael is OK. (Frank would probably not be safe around children.) Michael tells Frank that he can’t fly Keamy back to the island because Keamy plans to kill the castaways, which is a burden Michael says Frank can’t live with. They head into the hall and see Keamy and Omar a few doors down. Keamy is shirtless and flexing idly while Omar attaches some kind of radio to a strap on Keamy’s not inconsiderable forearm. Frank tells them he’s just taking Michael down to work on the engines, and Omar shuts the door. Topside, Gault is giving Sayid and Desmond final instructions. He tells them to stay exactly on a bearing of 305, per Daniel Farraday. Desmond then backs out of the rescue to the rescue when he tells Sayid he’s never going back. “I’ve been on that island for three years,” Desmond says. “I’m never setting foot on it again. Not when Penny’s coming for me.” Sayid, knowing a thing or two about lost love, takes this in admirable stride as he climbs down into the boat and speeds off. No one shoots at him or even calls out to him, either. Lucky guy.

In the jungle, Locke is still leading Ben and Hurley to the cabin. Ben expresses doubts about Locke’s guidance, but Locke says the cabin hasn’t moved because he was told where it would be. Ben replies that he was told things, too, like how he was special. “Ended up with a tumor on my spine and my daughter’s blood all over my hands.” Locke stops and turns to face Ben with a look of bemused suffering, as if he’s dealing with a kid who won’t stop whining. Locke says (maybe half-heartedly) that he’s sorry for what Ben’s been through, but Ben says it was his destiny to experience those things. He cautions Locke that there’s a price to pay for being chosen because “fate is a fickle bitch.” Again, it’s a nice line given to the right character and delivered perfectly, and it’s followed up with another one when Hurley interrupts with, “Guys. Cabin.” They turn to look past Hurley and see Jacob’s cabin sitting in the moonlight, as if it had been there all along, waiting.

Fifth and final flashback: The adult John Locke is in physical therapy not long after his dad chucked him out a window, walking himself down a pair of rails while his legs hang dead below him. He collapses at the end, exhausted and frustrated, as the physical therapist encourages him and tells him they’ll try more tomorrow. A tall black orderly approaches with a wheelchair, and you can tell by his height and skin color and the way we don’t see his face that we’re just moments away from having another encounter everyone’s favorite angel of the abyss, Matthew Abaddon. As the orderly wheels Locke down the hall, he tells him not to give up on his therapy. He says it’s already a miracle that Locke survived the eight-story fall. At this point we finally see that it is indeed Abaddon at the wheel. Locke says he doesn’t believe in miracles, to which Abaddon replies, “You should. I had one happen to me.” It looks for a minute like Abaddon’s going to push Locke down the stairs, but he stops the chair and turns it around before sitting down to get on Locke’s level. Abaddon stares at Locke and tells him he needs to go on a walkabout, a “journey of self-discovery” in the Outback. Locke contends that he’s a “cripple” and thus unable to go, but Abaddon just shakes his head. “I went on my walkabout convinced I was one thing, but I came back another.” Locke gives him some noise about how he’s risen all the way to the rank of orderly — Locke’s handicapped, but still full of piss — but Abaddon says he’s “more than just an orderly.” The elevator arrives, and Abaddon wheels Locke into the car but stays out in the hall. Abaddon says Locke will listen when he’s ready to hear what Abaddon’s saying, and then he adds a creepy ending: “And then when you and me run into each other again, you’ll owe me one.” Locke’s just beginning to realize that Abaddon’s not at all who he says he is, and probably not even a licenses health professional, when the elevator door slides to a close.

Out on the freighter, Keamy and crew are loading up what’s probably a disproportionate amount of firepower to take out a small rebel camp, but they’re too committed to care. Desmond watches with an attitude somewhere between concern and resignation; as long as they aren’t hurting him or directly preventing Penny from finding him, he’s fine. Ray tells the doctor that the Morse code message he received earlier wanted to know why the doc’s dead body had just washed ashore; the doctor isn’t really phased by this, weirdly. Keamy comes out and tells everyone to get moving, but Frank refuses to start the chopper, saying he was hired to fly scientists, not mercenaries. Keamy threatens Frank’s life, and Frank calls his bluff. Before he can be stopped, Keamy swaggers over to the doctor and slits the man’s throat, kicking him overboard with a gruff apology. Keamy wheels back on Frank, but just then a gunshot rings out: Gault’s back with Keamy’s pistol, no longer malfunctioning. Gault tells Keamy to stand down or he’ll fire, but Keamy raises his arms and points to the device strapped to his arm and tells Gault to think carefully. The thing’s function isn’t specified, but it looks like some kind of failsafe that activates a countermeasure if the wearer — in this case, Keamy — loses contact with the device or dies or something. Gault, like an idiot, turns to Frank to ask what’s on Keamy’s arm, which is when Keamy draws and fires, killing the captain. This is a bummer: Gault was a hardass, but he was shaping up to be a decent guy and interesting character. Keamy retrieves his pistol from the captain’s dead hand while Frank starts up the helicopter. While he does so, unseen by Keamy, he powers up a sat phone and wraps it inside a canvas bag. The psycho soldiers load onto the chopper, which takes off into the night sky, headed for Hell Island.

The episode next makes a pit stop with the beach folks, just to make sure Jack’s healing from his prison-style appendectomy. Juliet finds Jack out of his tent and scavenging in the food area for cereal when they hear the chopper flying overhead. Everyone runs to the shoreline to watch the helicopter approach. When it passes above them, a small bag is tosses out of the window, damaging some of the makeshift structures on the beach as it lands. Jack hobbles over to it and pulls out a sat phone that appears to be tracking the departing chopper on its radar screen. “I think they want us to follow them,” Jack says. This is probably true, but then, Jack’s gotten into trouble trusting the freighter people before.

Back to the jungle, with the moment Locke’s been waiting for all day. Ben refuses to go in, passing the torch to John in the race of who gets to be the island’s favorite son. Hurley opts out, too. John heads to the porch and lights an old lamp hanging by the door. Taking the lamp, he enters the cabin — which is dark inside and seems to lack the decorations seen in earlier appearances — to find a man sitting in the shadows in the corner. Locke asks if the man is Jacob, to which the figure replies, “No, but I can speak on his behalf.” He leans forward into the light: It’s Christian Shephard, looking as happy and calm as ever. He introduces himself, giving only his first name, as Locke sits across the table from Christian. Locke says that he was chosen to be there, to which Christian replies, “That’s absolutely right.” There’s a creak from the corner, and John picks up the lamp and turns to see Claire sitting easy in a chair reclined against the wall. Aaron, of course, is nowhere around, having been left in the jungle and saved by Sawyer, but Claire looks completely at ease with her situation. Claire says she’s with Christian, and that everything’s fine. Locke asks about Aaron, but Christian interrupts and says the baby’s where he’s “supposed to be,” which is elsewhere. He tells Locke to keep mum about Claire’s appearance to the other castaways, pressing him to get down to business since the people from the boat are on their way back. Christian tells Locke to asks the one question that does matter; Locke takes a beat, looks at him, and says, “How do I save the island?” Christian and Claire share a look of satisfaction and relief, knowing that Locke is their man.

Outside the cabin, Hurley and Ben have a wonderful little moment sitting on a log, waiting for Locke to emerge. Hurley takes a chocolate bar from the pocket of his shorts and unwraps it. He looks up at Ben, considers what he’s doing, then breaks off half the bar and hands it to the guy. Ben takes half the bar as they both eat silently. It’s such an honest moment of levity in the middle of a heavy scene. Just then, Locke emerges from the cabin and walks toward them. Ben asks if Locke knows what to do, and Locke says he does: “Move the island.” The episode has been about Locke’s choices, and what it means when he tries to follow what he thinks is his path only to have the island correct his destiny. The island called to him throughout his life, from infancy through boyhood on up, and he’s finally where he needs to be. That’s why Christian and Claire looked happy: Locke had finally made the right choice, something he wasn’t able to do as a boy with Richard. “Cabin Fever” also raised a host of interesting questions about Locke, not least of which was just how far back has he known about the island or some of its inhabitants. As a boy, he drew a picture of the smoke monster; does he still remember that? What kind of role will he play in the inevitable battle for the island? And seriously: What’s up with undead Christian?

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

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