Home > Lost, Reviews, TV > Lost Season 1, Episode 3: Tabula Rasa

Lost Season 1, Episode 3: Tabula Rasa

Welcome to the Lost Re-Re-Rewatch Project. In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. This is my fourth round-trip to the Island, but my first time attempting to chronicle my thoughts on the show on an episode-by-episode basis. The mission: A post per episode. Nothing so epic and theory-heavy as Doc Jensen’s great stuff at EW.com, which I highly suggest you read (the theory game is a bit moot at this point anyway), but hopefully it will help scratch both my writing itch and my Lost itch at the same time.

Episode 2: “Tabula Rasa”

So, I promise some original subject matter on this blog at some point. Someday I will unleash my long-nascent opinion-making machine, but it is not this day. For now I spend too much time writing about a television show that aired more than seven years ago.

So, “Tabula Rasa!” Lost developed a not-at-all-undeserved reputation over its six seasons of having killer season premieres and then mailing it in for at least the next week. Season 1 set that expectation. It’s almost like J.J. Abrams in no way expected the show to get picked up as a series (perhaps a mini-series?), and when it did was like, “Oh crap. Let’s make episode two revolve around the female lead and kill off a semi-pricey guest actor!”

Not that “Tabula Rasa” is completely without its charms, starting with the name. Tabula rasa is a Latin phrase that, translated to English, roughly means “blank slate.” That is, it’s an argument–most famously favored by 17th century philosopher John Locke (yes, John Locke)–that human consciousness and experience are not pre-determined, but decided by external factors and capable of being altered. As Wikipedia puts it, it’s the “nurture” side of the nature vs. nurture argument, one which becomes central to the ultimate endgame of Lost. (Seriously: There’s not much better than trolling Wikipedia and reading about philosophy.)

Ergo, no character’s past is more mysterious in Lost‘s beginning episodes than that of one Katherine Ann Austen. In the first episode we learned that she was the criminal being escorted by the U.S. marshal aboard Oceanic 815. We also learn that the marshal is awake, but dying because half of a drink cart is embedded in his gut. Eventually Jack learns about Kate’s fugitive status, then Hurley, which is done mainly to give Hurley something to be nervous about.

Meanwhile, Kate is coming back from her trip through the jungle with main cast’s B team. She’s been given charge of the group’s lone gun because… hey, why not? She’s not Iraqi. When the group gets back, they don’t say anything to the rest of the castaways about the strange message blocking their radio signal. Why not? As Sayid says: “Hope is a dangerous thing to lose.” It was nice to remember a time when Sayid wasn’t the darkest mofo on the Island.

Anyway, Jack and Kate play their little cat and mouse game for the rest of the episode. In between we get flashbacks to how she was arrested, being turned in by a poor, one-armed Australian farmer. She saves his life after wrecking his car, which allows the marshal to get the drop on her. But she definitely wants the farmer to get his reward. Aww… Kate.

Also: Michael sees Sun naked as she’s showering in broad daylight! Where is this going? No one knows!

Also: Is it me, or is Claire hotter with the big pregnant belly than afterward, when everything interesting about her is gone. This isn’t a pregnancy fetish thing. I think it might actually be true.

The show’s third act saves the episode, and gives us our first of many Jack-Sawyer tiffs. The marshal is dying, and after trying to strangle Kate, goads her into offing him because Jack won’t. Kate (who still has the gun, remember), coaxes Sawyer into doing it for her. He botches it, collapsing a lung instead. Jack has to finish the job. Sawyer feels so bad he can’t even smoke. Jack and Kate have a talk on the beach about her past. She offers to tell him what she did and we’re all like “OKAY!” and Jack’s all like “What we did before doesn’t matter.” And we’re all like “DAMN YOU JACK! (But not really because we don’t care all that much).” And, although we will eventually find out what Kate did (in an episode brilliantly titled “What Kate Did,” in Season 2) I don’t think Jack ever does. And he learns an awful lot about Kate.

Meanwhile, the man who coined the episode’s namesake philosophical tenant, one John Locke, is busy finding Walt’s Laborador, Vincent, who we know is on the island. Locke crafts a dog whistle, find the dog, and then gives the dog to Michael to give to his estranged son. The episode ends with a close up of Locke looking grim. And that scar highlighting a single eye makes him look absolutely horrorshow, my brother.

Overall Episode Grade: C

Episode: “Tabula Rasa”
Director: Jack Bender
Best Scene: Slim pickings here. I’ll take Jack and Sawyer in the plane’s fuselage. Jack’s scouring for drugs, Sawyer for smokes and porn. They verbally spar. Good times.
Best Line: This exchange between Jack and Sawyer in the fuselage:
Sawyer: “You’re just not looking at the big picture doc. You’re still back in civilization.”
Jack: “Yeah? And where are you?”
Sawyer: “I’m in the wild.”
Best Throwaway Moment: The jungle group is arguing over who gets to keep the gun, and Sawyer, still not trusting Sayid, says “Sure, give it to Al Jazeera there.” Charlie chimes in: “Al Jazeera’s a network…”. Good timing in an episode that needs a non-angsty moment.
Worst Moment:  In “Tabula Rasa” we are introduced to Hurley’s CD player, which he finds amongst the baggage. It’s a cute little gimmick that runs for about the first half of this season. The episode ending with a popular song (some of them good) as the castaways do… stuff. Here we get Joe Purdy’s “Wash Away” over sappy scenes of castaways making nice after conflicts that lasted all of two episodes. Seriously, seriously cheesy stuff here.

Revelations: I honestly can’t think of one that maters. The marshal dies. Kate was on the run but has a heart. Not an all-timer in the mythos department.

But just wait until the next episode…

Next Episode: “Walkabout.”

(All images and ep-title links are courtesy Lostpedia.com)

Categories: Lost, Reviews, TV
  1. matt campbell
    January 8, 2012 at 7:47 am

    All is great so far! Looking forward to you dissecting Mr. Lock as well as more characters in upcoming seasons. Also, since producers and writers didn’t get their man for Jack, they picked a horrible replacement and Fox made it clear he was second-rate.

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