Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2.10 The 23rd Psalm

Follow along! The episode guide for “The 23rd Psalm” is in Finding Lost, pp. 230-233.

The first major flashback for Mistah Eko is truly amazing. This is one of my favourite episodes of season 2. From the yellow filter they use on the camera lens to make Hawaii look convincingly like Africa (I say that having never been to Africa… my only knowledge of Africa is through TV and movies) to the scene of Eko finding the plane with his brother inside, this episode was jaw-dropping the first time, and beautiful every time after that.

Fun things I noticed:
• I really enjoyed seeing Claire chatting with Eko and how kind he is to her. (Well, until she mentions the statues. Then he turns all badass.)
• It is such an amazing scene when Eko cradles his brother’s head so gently. What an amazing actor Akinnuoye-Agbaje is.
• The man who sells Eko the drugs says that Eko has no soul. At the end of the episode, he repeats Psalm 23, and the line, “He restoreth my soul” takes on a greater resonance.

Things that have new meaning:
• Seeing Eko playing ball with his brother always puts a lump in my throat, because what SHOULD have happened after that game was for the two of them to go home to dinner, with Eko putting his arm around Yemi’s neck while bouncing the ball up and down in his other hand. That’s not what happened – but when Eko dies in S3, the last image he has in his head is of that moment… a moment that was never allowed to happen, and as such changed and destroyed both their lives.
• The man in the guerrilla army refers to Eko as a “born killer,” and Eko became the very thing he accused him of. Later, in “He’s Our You,” Ben will say to Sayid, “It’s in your nature. It’s what you are. You’re a killer, Sayid.” Even though his comment comes after the fact, his words draw Sayid back into the world he thought he’d left behind, when he returns to Santa Rosa and kills a man to get Hurley out.
• Locke doesn’t say how old he is, and instead says, “I’m old enough.” It’s interesting that he’s as elusive about his age as Alpert is about his.
• I was wondering if the symbols on the back of Eko’s coat could be some sort of hieroglyphics? Before I just took them to be a design, but now after having seen many etchings like that, it could be something more. Or not.
• Locke essentially taught Michael how to kill Ana Lucia and Libby.
• Interesting that the pictures that Eko sees in the smoke are hidden to us unless you slow the scene down and watch it frame by frame, but the Ben ones in “Dead Is Dead” are obvious.
• I think Psalm 23 is immensely important in the framework of Lost… The island is the valley of death; there is evil lurking; people are protected by rods and staffs; they are led to still waters; their souls are restored; there are several green pastures.

23 comments:

Writing is my Passion said...

The scene where the smoke monster blows up the tree suddenly = second most "jumpy" scene in the whole season (Libby suddenly waking up and coughing up blood in "?" comes first). It always scares me. ALWAYS.

I loved this episode. In fact, I could say that it's one of my favourite season 2 episodes.

Marebabe said...

Not only did Eko feel enormous guilt for his brother Yemi’s death, but he literally had blood on his hands. During the getaway in Nigeria, his left hand made bloody marks just inside the open door of the drug plane. (You can see them on the right side of your screen.) When Eko looks into the crashed plane on the Island, you can see the bloody fingerprints on the left side of the screen, as if his right hand made them. I was stumped and confused for a minute, but THEN I realized that the crashed plane is upside-down, which explains the reversal. But it doesn’t explain the fact that the bloody marks on the doorway look very different. (The two shots are at about 33 minutes and 34 minutes, if you want to look at them.) So the question seems to be: is this a totally avoidable continuity error, or is this another hint that there are alternate realities in the LOSTverse?

Now, about Eko’s and Charlie’s actual recitation of the 23rd Psalm, there are a few tiny things that are just different enough to raise questions about the alternate reality thing. And it wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all, if it were one character reciting on his own. But they were speaking in unison, and their words matched perfectly. In the timeline that I live in, King David wrote, “Though I walk through the VALLEY OF THE SHADOW of death…” Eko and Charlie said, “Though I walk through the SHADOW OF THE VALLEY of death…” They also omitted an occasional ‘and’ or ‘the’. No big deal, unless you’re talking about Lost! What if the timeline we’re seeing in the show is the one in which King David wrote this psalm exactly as Eko and Charlie recited it?

Marebabe said...

One more thing that’s weird to think about. Eko and Charlie were both Roman Catholic. The Catholic Bible is different from the King James, especially in the Old Testament. (There are books in there that most non-Catholics have never even heard of.) And the Psalms are somewhat different. Now, I’m reporting this from memory, since I haven’t looked in a Catholic Bible since I was in high school in the early 70’s. The only Bibles I have in my home now are King James and NIV. But I remember (I’m pretty sure) that the psalm that starts out with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” is Psalm 22 in the Catholic Bible. Makes no difference, except for how the Catholic characters in the story would have referred to this psalm if they were calling it by its title. I wonder if the writers of this episode even knew about the different versions that are out there. Maybe they were more concerned with the fictional New Alternate Timeline Version that they were writing.

JW said...

Okay, I think I'm watching too much Lost. I just read the headline, "ABC News: Gibson retiring, Sawyer will be anchor" and I have this image in my head of our favorite redneck, sitting behind a desk throwing snappy nicknames at world leaders.

Anyway, this episode is one of my favorites. I remember the first time I saw it being blown away and thinking, "Oh my God, that cinematography is so beautiful." The photographing of "Africa" are wonderful. I'm not sure if they did some sort of digital grading of the film or just a yellow filter, but it was perfect.

And Mr. Eko is easily my favorite tail character. That actor is brilliant.

I will say it's very anticlimactic to have this big buildup at the end of the last episode: "Don't use the computer for outside communication!" (The setup for this was built up in a way to make us think it was as important as Moses coming down from the hills) and instead of something bad happening or Locke discovering Michael is doing so... we sort of skip over it and never deal with it again, except for some story cleanup for Michael later.

Joan Crawford said...

Yeah! Eko is sexy, eh? He's got the whole Sayid "Sweet and calm and then killing things in awesome ways" thing down. He must have gone to Sayid's same school. Plus, I like a man I can climb on ;)

(I totally got that saying from Bonnie Hunt - props!)

Joan Crawford said...

@JW :"I have this image in my head of our favorite redneck, sitting behind a desk throwing snappy nicknames at world leaders."

Hahaha! I love it!

@marebabe: Cool thought! I shall research the differences in the psalms - do you really think they were that aware of the whole different time line thing, even back then? Blows my mind!

Fred said...

@Nikki: "I think Psalm 23 is immensely important in the framework of Lost… The island is the valley of death; there is evil lurking; people are protected by rods and staffs; they are led to still waters; their souls are restored; there are several green pastures."

Nikki, this is an island were God does not see anything, as Ben points out to Locke. The Psalm is an appeal to God's goodness and protection, but that would be absent from the island. Instead, as @Marebabe notes, there is a reversal of the phrase "Valley of the shadow" to "Shadow of the Valley". The island is a place of reversals: who is "good" may be "bad," whose soul may be "restored" may have it "lost," and the "shadow of the Valley" brings to mind "in the shadow of the statue." Is this to whom Psalm 23 is made in appeal: he who lies in the shadow of the statue?

As for "rods and staff" I think of the sonic towers protecting the Dharma Initiative (very poor protection when you think Richard just walks through them, but good against smokie). And if there is any place that is "still waters" the best place I can think of is the pool where Sawyer and Kate swam in. At the bottom of those waters are the dead, still strapped into their seats. Which part of the plane do they come from, first class? Then why did Kate find her suitcase among them? They'd have to be a seat before or behind, but how did her suitcase become wedged under someone else's seat? I looked again at the image of the people in the pool, and while one is a man and the other a woman, I'm not ready to think LOST has gone "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" just yet--the survivors are really dead, but their egos won't let them die. Too much of the purgatory ending. (A Twilight Zone sort of ending would be to have two final survivors come across Adam and Eve and realize they are them all along, then they vanish leaving us with jacob and "Esau". There are a number of Twilight Zone episodes with a similar theme). When Eko eventually dies and he and Yemi are returning home after playing soccer, is this a tip of the hat to Ambrose Bierce's story? I think so.

The Question Mark said...

Definitely one of my favourite episodes ever. Giacchino's score which plays during the montage of Eko & Charlie saying the Psalm is absolutely heartbreaking.
You really get a sense of Eko's whole life, his happy moments with Yemi, his terrifying moments with the mercenaries, and all of those dark years where he was unable to see his beloved brother...in the same way that the images in the Smoke Monster capture Eko's life, so too does Michale Giacchino's music.
Excellent job!

I always get the "shadow" and "valley" parts mixed up, too. My theory? Eko and Charlie are both dyslexic.

I saw an interview on YouTube with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who was talking about his role in G.I. Joe. He didn't say anything concrete, but he made a very *wink-wink/nudge-nudge* comment regarding Season 6.
Here's hoping we'll see Mistuh Eko again.

"MISTUH EKO LET YOU LIVE."
I swear, I'm gonna write that line in my wedding vows.

Ali Bags said...

I have been to Africa, and it has always impressed me how authentic they made this episode look. The production is excellent.
And now I've been to the filming location for 'Africa' on Oahu, and it does actually look a lot like Africa (the red earth helps), but as Nikki points out they manage to make the light look more African than Pacific.

variabull said...

As Charlie is reciting the 23rd Psalm and the says "Yea though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death" does the Rock God think to himself--valley of death --- Marilyn Manson -- Holy Wood(In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)??

This time through I was thinking about what lies in the shadow of the statue when they said that line.

So we have 3 natural born killers? Sayid, Kate, Eko.

Locke is tested. Walt is tested. And the drug runners test for a killer and get their Mr. Eko.

Eko steps in to prevent Yemmi's fate as a drug runner, yet ironically precipitates his death at the hands of drug runners.

celandinehaleth said...

This was one of those episodes that knocked my socks off. Eko facing down Smokey was such a revelation at the time.

I too was intrigued this time by Locke’s comment about being “old enough”. Now I’m old enough to have seen a few silent movies, but not until the 1960’s as a special showing. Is Locke inferring he saw them originally, or like myself, commenting wryly on his age? With the crazy timeline thing, now I don’t know.

Also, according to the commentary, the irregularities in the recitation of Psalm 23 were deliberate. Since Eko has not been acting as a priest, he does not remember it quite correctly, as I myself might mess it up. If you notice, Charlie begins on valley and is a beat behind Eko, literally echoing him as he does not remember too well himself. I don’t think either one has been to Sunday school lately!

I also want very badly to defend Charlie in this. . .he isn’t using.. . he’s just keeping a security stash around. . .but it sure looks bad!!! At least he will ultimately redeem himself by getting rid of the statues.

grubstreethack said...

I don't get why everyone loves the yellow filter for Africa so much. It's the biggest cliche in the cinematograhy handbook.

One of my favourite lines from this episode actually omes from TWOP, when Charlie says "Most people, when they see a creature made of swirling black smoke, they run." The recapper then adds "Most people would also discuss it from time to time."

Jenn said...

@ celandinehaleth:
No, Charlie isn't using, and agree with your desire to defend him. However, I was so scared for Charlie during this time. Keeping a stash of heroin, even if you're not using it, invites temptation of the worst sort. It also suggests that he is still thinking about potentially using. Sobriety is built on the WANT to remain sober. Keeping a few Virgin Marys around doesn't remind me of a guy that wants to remain sober. (Or of a guy who is unsure that he wants to remain sober, since we know he actually DOES stay sober.)
I was scared watching this the first time through because I really, really, wanted Charlie to be safe, and stay of the junk. I also wanted him to be stronger than that. And he was. And then I was happy:)

SonshineMusic said...

Eko's flashback always make me want to cry.

You can see Sawyer's expressions in this episode and it's major foreshadowing for the darker turn he will make soon. Too many people like him, but he still hates himself, so he has to concoct a plan to turn himself into the bad guy again.

How does Charlie all of a sudden know his way around the jungle - sure he gets lost a little, but he's pretty good at finding his way when he's mainly stayed on the beach.

I wonder why Smokey only looks at Eko this time? Is it because Eko still has things he must do? Things he must work out in his life? CRAZY! Only Lost would have me questioning the motivations of swirling black smoke :P

Charlie: What if I don't? Are you going to beat me with your Jesus stick?

The way Yemi frantically grabs at Eko really freaked me out this time. I always assumed that he was talking about the army people that were coming, but maybe he was trying to keep Eko off the plane because he knew it was going to crash! There's this strange look in his eyes and then he appears to Locke later - maybe Yemi is also "special".

SonshineMusic said...

And now some reactions....

@Marebabe: there are differences between the KJV and the Catholic Bible, but there are a lot of people who use the KJV even if they're Catholic, but it is an interesting observation.

@JW: I just read the headline, "ABC News: Gibson retiring, Sawyer will be anchor" and I have this image in my head of our favorite redneck, sitting behind a desk throwing snappy nicknames at world leaders.

HA! I do stuff like this ALL the time! I saw a Patsy Cline record collection and my immediate thought was KATE!!

@ celandinehaleth and Jenn: It's funny because I always was defensive about Charlie and upset at how Claire reacts, but this time I actually kind of sided with her. She does go a bit far in later episodes (I'll wait till we get there) but Charlie did lie and she didn't really know him that well and she had lost a lot of her memories from the early days when they really connected. I just wish they could have sorted things out sooner so we could have had better Chaire (?) moments before Charlie ::sniff sniff:: left us.

EvaHart said...

Beautiful episode. I love all of the Eko-centric epiosdes it's just a shame there isn't more. :(

Highlight had to be the return of smokey, and reminded me of the interesting theory that the monster was fear itself. It doesn't attack because Eko faces it but does later when he runs away.

@SonehineMusic: I have always wondered how everyone seems to know their way around the jungle so well.
Maybe Locke organised some orienteering lessons with a bit of boar hunting thrown in?

Susan said...

EvaHart I love your idea of Locke giving people "island lessons" though I don't think he really would do that as he is very possessive about the island and his provider/tracker role.

The Shout said...

Great, great episode.

I picked up on the Sayid parallels too Nik. Its interesting how both men become the very thing they are accused of as children, both attempt some kind of redemption and are eventually forced into accepting their killer natures.
In both cases the event that starts them on the path to possible redemption is something beyond their control. In Mr Eko's case it is the death of his brother, in Sayid's the lost of Nadia.
I'm wondering whether Sayid is due a meeting with Ole' Smokie in Season 6.

Seabiscuit said...

"@JW: I just read the headline, "ABC News: Gibson retiring, Sawyer will be anchor" and I have this image in my head of our favorite redneck, sitting behind a desk throwing snappy nicknames at world leaders.

HA! I do stuff like this ALL the time! I saw a Patsy Cline record collection and my immediate thought was KATE!!"

Heh, I heard a Patsy Cline song on slacker.com and immediately thought of Kate. XD

I've also been watching ER reruns lately, and there was a story arc with Elizabeth Mitchell and Alan Dale as guest stars (different story lines, they never shared a scene). I was all "Eeek, it's Juliet and Widmore! The Others are infiltrating County General!" XD

studiorose said...

Love Eko, too, but more as a "protector/father figure" than as, um...Sayid. :) I would definitely want to be on his good side on the island. His calm, deliberate manner (and intimidating size) would make you feel safe, especially after seeing him face down the terrifying Smokey.

I think it's interesting that Eko is never shown with a woman in "that" way. No girlfriends in the flashbacks, no love interest on the island (granted, he didn't have much to choose from on the Tailie side), and his interactions with Ana-Lucia are strictly as a compassionate friend. Thoughts?

Jenn said...

We know that Eko is deeply guilty over some of the things in his past. I once heard a saying that "We get only the love we think we deserve." Perhaps Eko doesn't feel that he's worthy of anyone's love? It is a sad hypothesis, but I can see it.

Jazzygirl said...

I LOVED and yet dreaded watching this episode for the same reason...I love Eko! My heart is still sunk over the fact that he's gone. I loved his character and the actor (too long to spell) is just wonderful. I didn't comment on the other episode "What Kate Did" but I agreed with everyone about Eko's monologue with John about the old testament, etc.
This episode made me cry the first time and probably always will from the opening scene. I too get a lump in my throat watching them as kids. I also now think of that fabulous YouTube video about them all as children. :-(
My biggest question with this episode is the black smoke. And yes, I vote this episode as one the jumpiest episodes. I had it on stereo and I literally jolted when the tree exploded. LOL Why did it just stare at him? Why did Eko say he wasn't afraid? I really hope we get to see him again in S6. The show hasn't "quite" been the same without him.

Katey: I can relate. I teach high school seniors and I too get the pre-first day restless sleep! You'd love my class though...I have my 2009 LOST calendar on the wall. This month it's Desmond. :)

Marebabe said...

@Jenn: Regarding the saying, "We get only the love we think we deserve", I can understand why someone would say that, and why others would agree with it. But it doesn't hold true for everyone. In most cases, parents love their newborn babies unconditionally, and yet the babies never had any thoughts beyond their standard-issue reflexes and instincts. And how about the Christian belief that, before people were saved, they were only deserving of death? That's what all the rejoicing is about when someone gets saved: They realize that while they were "dead in trespasses and sins", God still loved them.

The saying about getting the love you think you deserve holds true for adults regarding their family and romantic relationships, and for children who are old enough to reason and communicate. And, unfortunately, many people are abused into believing that they are unlovable.