Home > Lost, Reviews, TV > Lost, Season 1, Episode 19: Deus Ex Machina

Lost, Season 1, Episode 19: Deus Ex Machina

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 title: “Deus Ex Machina

Overall episode rating: A

I could literally write 5,000 words about this episode, and it would probably not be enough. It is one of the most iconic hours of the entire series. In an effort to err on the side of conciseness, let me list the indelible elements and explain their indeible-ness.

1. Finally, the hatch. It was discovered episodes ago, but since then we’ve only seen flashes of Boone and Locke working to unearth it. In this episode’s first scene, they’re pulling out all the stops, rigging a high-speed trebouchet to try and smash the glass. It doesn’t work, breaking the metal tip, which embeds itself in Locke’s leg.

2. Locke and the Island. In Locke’s previous episode, we learned that he used to be in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down for an unknown reason. Upon crashing on the island–immediately upon crashing–he was cured. But when the metal embeds in his leg, he doesn’t feel it. In fact, he’s losing the ability to use his legs as the struggle to open the hatch creeps on. We don’t learn how Locke wound up in the wheelchair, but we do learn the genesis of…

3. Locke’s absolutely heartbreaking back story. There’s a reason Locke was voted one of TVs’ most unfortunate characters by Entertainment Weekly (and they were talking about more than just the horrible hairpiece in this episode). These aren’t the “he’s a jerk to me but got me a job at the best hospital in L.A” problems of Jack Shephard, but something longer, darker and sadder. We knew Locke was an orphan. In this episode–as toy-store employee Locke ominously teaches a young boy the principle of the game Mouse Trap–he is approached by a woman who claims to be his mother. She tells him he’s special, and that his was an “immaculate conception.”

This, of course, prompts Locke–at that point not a spiritual man–to look for his father. He finds him, and they hit it off. They go dove hunting. Along the way Locke discovers that his dad will die without a new kidney. Locke gives it to him.

But it’s all a ruse. His mother was paid to set him up, and it was all an elaborate scheme to get Locke to give his conman father his kidney.

Now, on second/third/fourth watches, we see how naive and desperate Locke was to fall for the plan. Who just drives up to a rich man’s gate and is let right in? Who just offers their kidney to a man they first meet in their 30s? But that’s John Locke, and his simple-minded trust makes it all the more gut-wrenching when he climbs out of his car, white T-shirt soaked with blood from his just-removed kidney wound, and screams at his father to let him in the gate. He doesn’t.

It is no less than one of the most heartbreaking character-development episodes in TV history.

“Hi. I was voted second to only Jerry Sandusky in the ‘Worst People On Earth 2005’ pageant.”

A quick aside on Locke’s father, played by Kevin Tighe with gleeful slime: He’s one of the ancillary Bad Three of the show, which could include Sun’s father, Mr. Paik, and the as-yet-unintroduced Charles Widmore. A big, bad baddie, though not as powerful as the other two, which somehow makes him even more despicable. Fortunately, the story (and the Island) aren’t done with him yet. And we haven’t even learned the Sawyer connection…

4. The vision. In a creepy dream sequence, Locke sees a number of things at the hatch: A Beechcraft airplane crashing on the Island; a bloody Boone standing there chanting “Teresa falls up the stairs, Teresa falls down the stairs”; his mother pointing at the sky; himself in a wheelchair. Trippy stuff.

5. The Beechcraft. The vision of the plane wasn’t BS. Locke leads Boone–who is starting to get frustrated with the Project Hatch–deep into the jungle to find the yellow-and-white propeller plane and, sure enough, it’s there… and it’s been crashed for years, caught in the canopy on the edge of a cliff. Locke, his legs becoming more and more useless, sends Boone up. In the plane he finds. Virgin Mary statues filled with heroin (“Charlie Pace Likes This”). As he investigates (which includes finding a body–more on who it is next season), the plane crashes to the ground with him in it. But not before…

6. The radio. Right before the plane falls 100 feet, Boone tries the radio in the cockpit. The static covers most everything, but after he says “We’re the survivors of Oceanic flight 815” he hears “WE’RE the survivors of 815!” Which is, of course, awesome. Unfortunately Boone’s not going to get to tell anyone because…

7. Boone falls. He’s pretty effed up. Big time. Like, so big the makeup folks from The Walking Dead are probably jealous of the job the Lost creatives did on his torso.

8. But Locke’s suddenly better. Whatever happened, Locke is able to carry Boone back to camp, telling Jack “he fell off a cliff.”

9. Jack immediately goes to work on Boone, but it’s clear immediately that things are not good. Jack screams for Locke to tell him exactly what happened.

10. But Locke is gone. As Giacchino’s score soars, the camera cuts between 1.) bloody, white T-shirt-wearing flashback Locke pounding the roof of his car and screaming that life isn’t fair and 2.) bloody, white T-shirt-wearing Island Locke pounding the roof of the hatch screaming that he was just trying to do what the Island wanted. Suddenly, the window of the hatch fills with light. Locke gets a look approaching rapture in his eyes. The final shot retains a place among the top 10 iconic images of the show, if not top 5. And everyone who wasn’t hooked on Lost after the first four episodes is totally hooked now.


Episode: “Deus Ex Machina”

What the Title Means: “Deus Ex Machina” is Latin for, essentially, “the God in the Machine” or “the ghost in the machine”. This episode could apply to the Hatch, which lights up; the plane, which produces a voice on the radio; or the entire concept of the Island and its powers. Or, perhaps, it represents John Locke’s entire life, which we’re only just now seeing follows a set of rules all its own.

Director: Robert Mandel

Best Scene: There are many of them, but I have to go with the final couple of minutes, as a scene of the still-bleeding Locke pleads to be let into his crook of a father’s home is intercut with Jack’s efforts to save Boone and Island Locke pounding on the roof of the hatch. It’s embedded above.

Worst Scene: Unfortunately they had to involve the rest of the cast somehow (the showrunners of later seasons wouldn’t have bothered) but the whole plot of “Sawyer needs glasses” is silly even by Season 1 standards. It does set up the great scene where Jack quizzes Sawyer about hooking up with prostitutes and STD outbreaks in front of Kate. We also learn that no one solders a pair of Tortiseshell rims like Sayid!

Best Line: “Dude. It looks like someone steamrolled Harry Potter.”: Hurley when he sees Sawyer’s specs.

Best Throwaway Moment: It’s only prescient to those who have finished the series, but the opening scene where Locke explains Mouse Trap to a young boy smacks of Season 6 and the Jacob/Man in Black cat-and-mouse game. Good stuff.

Revelations: Locke was conned out of a kidney by his real dad; a Beechcraft once crashed on the Island, the wreckage contains drugs; Boone is crushed when the plane falls; there is someone else on the Island within radio-shot, claiming to be the survivors of 815; there’s something–at least a light–in the hatch; Sawyer is farsighted, has the Clap.

Next Episode: “Do No Harm” (Ominous title for Boone, wouldn’t you say?)

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

Categories: Lost, Reviews, TV
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