Wednesday, October 14, 2009

3.05 The Cost of Living

Follow along! The episode guide for “The Cost of Living” is in Finding Lost — Season 3, pp. 39-46.

I loved this episode when it first aired, and I love it even more now, in light of season 5. WOW, what an important episode to look back on! I can’t help but see it with the Man in Black in mind, and the scene of Ben being judged in “Dead Is Dead.” The speech that Eko gives to Yemi is one of my favourite of the entire series. It’s beautifully written and wonderfully executed:
“I ask for no forgiveness, Father. For I have not sinned. I have only done what I needed to do to survive. A small boy once asked me if I was a bad man. If I could answer him now, I would tell him that... when I was a young boy, I killed a man to save my brother's life. I am not sorry for this. I am proud of this! I did not ask for the life that I was given. But it was given, nonetheless. And with it . . . I did my best.”
It’s scenes like that I have to point to when people say television will turn your mind to mush. Writing like that is, simply, stunning.

Fun things I noticed:
• Sorry… I have to say it (come on, hating N&P was one of my favourite things to do in the first half of season 3… bear with me). But I wanted to point out something nice you can do on the rewatch. Here’s how I like to watch parts of this episode:
Nikki: I’ll go.
Locke: Great!
Paulo: What?
Locke: Anyone else want to come, meet us at the tree line in 10 minutes. Bring water.
Paulo: alkjdfkanldfhalkjflkajdflaf
Nikki: a;lskdjijaijwlkfjkdjlseijdlkjlakjdfoaj
Desmond: Would you mind if I asked you a question, brother?
Me: Ah… the beauty of fastforward.
• Again, I HATE HATE HATE that scene in the Pearl when Nikki – NIKKI, FOR GOD’S SAKES – is the freakin’ brain trust who figures out that all of the screens must be looking into different hatches. Just go back and watch it again (I know I mentioned it in my S3 book, but I just can’t let it go), please, please go watch it again. When Terry O’Quinn delivers the line, “Well, I’m suddenly feeling very stupid” he does it SO flatly, with absolutely no emotion. He says it in a way he’s never delivered another line on the show before or since, as if he doesn’t believe for one second that somehow Nitwit Nikki would figure out something that he and Sayid – SAYID, FOR GOD’S SAKES – would have missed. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that set as O’Quinn pulled the writers aside:
O’Quinn: OK, let me just get this straight. You want that annoying little twit to figure out the key to the Pearl really quickly; quicker than anyone on this show has ever figured out anything in any of the hatches. You don’t want to, you know, give the line to me? Hell, give it to Naveen, I don’t care, just don’t give it to HER.
Writer: Sorry, man, we think it might endear the audience to her if we have her first bite Hurley’s head off – nothing says love like chewing out the fan favourite – and then show up all of the other beloved characters by figuring out something they couldn’t. So, yeah, we’re gonna leave it with her.
O’Quinn: Fine, whatever. But if it keeps up, do me a favour and either bury Locke alive, or them. Your choice.

Things that have new meaning:
• I’ve always loved the line, “Anyone smell smoke?” because you immediately think of Smokey before you see the fire. But then, if it happens because of the Yemi image, then technically it could have very well have been Smokey (if we’re all correct in our assumptions that the visions are connected to Smokey, which I’m sure we are).
• Let’s look at the scene at the end in light of “Dead Is Dead.” Eko refuses to confess, and the island appears to turn against him. But he’d sold his soul to save good people. Ben, on the other hand, repents, says he’s worry, that he was wrong, and the island appears to spare him. Yet everything he’s done has been for himself (he says it’s for the island) and he’s never seemed to care about a soul other than Alex. So… what does Eko’s death mean? Did the island kill him in a fury because he refused to repent? Or… was his death meant to be merciful? In refusing to repent, in recognizing who he is, what life he was given, and how he chose to use it to save others, does it kill him in order to save him, in a sense? And, consequently, does that mean the island spared Ben to use him further, and therefore granted him no merciful death and forced him to do the terrible thing he did afterward? Is it possible that death is forgiveness?
• Now, let’s think of it in light of the Man in Black. Could Yemi be Smokey/Man in Black looking for Eko to be the body for him to inhabit? If he’d answered the question differently, would he have been the person that the Man in Black would have used to complete his mission to find and kill Jacob? Eko makes his speech, Yemi disappears, and Smokey appears and obliterates him. His final words to Locke were, presumably, “You’re next.” Locke translates the “you” to be plural, as in “you are all next,” and he looks up and says, “He said, ‘We’re next.’” But I’ve always taken this scene to be Locke misunderstanding Eko, who meant the singular “You,” as in “You, John, not the others, YOU.” Is it possible that by this he meant, I was tested and seen as inferior, or too strong for the Man in Black to inhabit, and now you’re next. He will hunt you down, through Ben, and he will take over your body and will become you, because he couldn’t do it to me. Could that be the link between John and Eko? Eko stood strong right to the end. John was easily influenced, and was looking for salvation and meaning. He’s the easier one to twist into position, and Eko wouldn’t do what he was supposed to.
• That final vision. It gets me every time; the first time I was weeping like a baby, and every time since I actually well up in anticipation of it and the tears are rolling by the time we get to it. When I first saw it, I thought it was a lovely vision, that Eko was dying with the memory of him and his brother returning home after a soccer game. But now I watch it with a possible second explanation – what if, going along with what I said earlier, this vision wasn’t him remembering a moment of a time before the militia rolled into town, but instead was the island creating a different life for him, and giving him new memories? (Bear with me on this.) Could the island have actually changed the timeline, and now none of that happened? That wouldn’t explain how he made it to the island… but seeing season 5, I must admit it flickered across my mind that the island could possibly be changing time completely and altering his reality.
Eko is throwing a soccer ball into the air. When the militia forced him to shoot the elderly man, they broke up the kids’ soccer game. His entire life changed in that moment, as did Yemi’s, who spent his life as a priest doing penance for himself and for Eko. Did the island create it for him as a memory that didn’t happen? (Think of Wesley dying in Illyria’s arms on Angel and telling her to lie to him and be Fred…) Perhaps in that final instant, Eko lost all traces of memory of the militia ever coming, and instead the boys finished their soccer game and went home happily to get dinner. Now THAT would be a beautiful lie.


Marebabe said...

Nikki, what an awesome post! Thanks for the first real laugh I’ve had today. And thanks for raising such interesting questions. I don’t have the answers to any of them, but they’re very thought-provoking and have given us all a lot to chew on this week. Speaking of questions, I have a few myself:

Ben’s X-ray showed a large tumor on his L-4 vertebra. That L stands for lumbar, which refers to the low back. So why did Jack ask if Ben’s neck hurts? And he wouldn’t have tingling or numbness in his fingers or arms from that, it would be more like pain shooting down one or both legs.

Why was speaking Yemi’s name grounds for Eko to threaten Locke with a knife held to his throat? And wouldn’t the shell of the Beechcraft be completely blackened after it burned? I think it would.

Juliet’s message to Jack written on poster board could’ve been written on 3x5 cards. Much less chance of being found out. I’m just saying, with all the surveillance cameras in use around the place, I wouldn’t be so confident that I’m not also being spied on.

Gillian Whitfield said...

The first time I saw this episode, I cried a little at the final scene. Ever since, I haven't. This time, I bawled. I loved Mr Eko so much.

I LOVE that picture of . . . her looking at the TV screen and saying "Duh". Did you draw it, Nikki?

Loretta said...

Amazing post. I don't have much to add beyond that I've been similarly obsessed with Eko's death for three years now, and am still unsure what to make of it. All I can think is that it was massively important but that we don't quite have all the pieces yet.

Also, I find myself actually a little bit ahead this week. I just couldn't stop until I got Flashes Before Your Eyes... and I'm contemplating starting on that next disc now too. *guilty look*

JW said...

somehow Nitwit Nikki would figure out something that he and Sayid – SAYID, FOR GOD’S SAKES – would have missed.

While I am a Nikki and Paulo fan, even I'll admit that it's odd that she knew more than Sayid in this instance.

I read an interview with the actress (who shares my wife's name) from around this time where she said it's fun to play the smart blonde, because people tend to underestimate her, and she loved how that played through with this scene.

Anyway, good episode, as all of Eko's are. And so much for the tail people, save Bernard!

Jazzygirl said...

*sigh* This was the night I've been dreading for a while now. My stomach was in knots when I started the disk. Hell, I even grabbed a beer to nurse my way through it. LOL! First off, the funny stuff. OMG, I just LOVE the way O'Quinn delivered that line! It couldn't be more obvious that he hated saying it! I did want to smack her when she said "uh guys?" could they mix that nonsense into an otherwise beautiful episode!?!?!
I was sobbing way before the death scene even started. And yes, that ending dialogue was so beautiful. THAT did me in all over again. "I didn't choose this life..." AGGGHHH!!!! But I also paid close attention in light of S5. When "Yemi" says "you talk to me as if I'm your brother"...I immediately thought this could be the man in black. I really hope they explain his death in S6. And Nikki, I love your idea of an alternate life where he gets to play that game of soccer with his brother and they walk off. Oh lord I'm welling up just writing this. WHY?? How can a show do that??

tiasabita said...

Fab post, Nikki! I too get all verklempt just thinking about the sweet scene of Yemi and Eko. The alternate reality theory is a good one, one I hadn't thought of either. I would assume the two had had many soccer games together and maybe Eko was remembering happier times as he was dying.

I was wondering if no one in the town would have recognized Eko from the past when he became Yemi's replacement. And he seemed confused as to what the bad men were up to with the vaccines -wouldn't Eko have probably been involved in similar types of extortion in his previous career? And if the Losties at the beach really wanted to find Eko after the Smokey fire in the hut wouldn't they have sent an actual tracker like John, or at least Sayid, instead of Churley?

Did Ben and company cover Jack's head when they took him to the funeral? Maybe I missed it.

This may be from the next episode but I don't think Juliet and Sarah look anything alike.

And I just loved the look in John's eye when he saw Mikhail on the screen, just like when he looked into the hatch for the first time. He's a boy with a new toy that he can't wait to start playing with!

Batcabbage said...

Wow, Nik, what a great post. You said everything I was thinking about MIB/Smokey, and I would not be surprised in the least if it turned out the way you said in regard to Eko failing MIB/Smokey's test and John, just John, was next in line. While this was a great moment in the series, I was really, REALLY sad to see Eko go.

There's a line in Y:The Last Man where Yorick posits that it's not what you like that brings people together, it's what you hate. And man, I never laugh so hard as I do when Nik goes off on Nitwit Nikki and Poohead Paulo. That picture is priceless. The only saving grace of those characters is that in the episode where they die, the baddest, coolest cat in the galaxy makes an appearance. I saw Lando at a comic-con once. I giggled like a little girl when he looked at me, smiled and nodded. Sorry, off-topic nerd moment there....

Susan said...

It's cool how many people here love that last scene with Eko and Yemi and the soccer ball. I think it's one of the most poignant scenes in Lost. I never thought of it as an alternate reality, but rather saw it as one of the times that Eko and Yemi were happy and innocent.

Marebabe re the L4, television is famous for medical errors. I saw a few episodes of ER with my mom (a nurse) and she would always find errors. And ROFL at the part about the cameras everywhere. Sometimes I wonder if the whole thing was part of a set-up. Juliet's later behavior about the surgery seems contradictory.

Loretta I too am a bit ahead on the rewatch ;)

tiasabita I agree with you about the Juliet/Sarah resemblence thing. Just because they're both blond doesn't mean they look alike. I think Bonnie of the Looking Glass looks way more like Sarah.

The Question Mark said...

@ Batcabbage: you saw LANDO live?! I am uber-jealous, good sir! When I went to Comic-Con, I met Jango Fett, young (Episode I) Anakin, and David Prowse (the man in the Vader costume), but I'd kill for a chance to meet the Scoundrel himself!

@ Nikki: regarding your theory about the whole "You're Next" business, I think you're bang on. It makes perfect sense that MIB would choose Eko, a man with unwavering faith and courage, but then give up on him when he realizes that Eko isn't "amenable for coercion."

Also, since we have a nickname for MIB, I think it's only fitting to give a nickname to Nitwit Nikki. After all, she shares a name (unfortunately) with our favourite Hostess With The Mostest, and we don't want to cause confusion.
So, as of now, I've voting that we nickname the character Nikki:
"She Who Must Not be Named."

Batcabbage said...

@The Question Mark: Yeah, seeing Lando in the flesh was most excellent. I also met Jango Fett (Temuerra Morrison) at an earlier con, and talked with him for a while. He was very cool. I felt like a complete tool though, because everything he said I agreed with by saying 'Bloody oath, mate!' I must have said it like fifteen times. It was like tourettes, I just couldn't stop. So embarrassing. I once met the original Boba Fett too. He actually came up to me and said 'You look exactly like my first manager. He was this slimy, weasely agent guy...' He then apologised for that, but I didn't care, it was Jeremy Bullock! I was insulted by Boba Fett!

Sorry, folks, we now return you to your regularly scheduled Lost discussion. :)

JS said...

Great write up Nikki.

Like everyone else, this is one of my favorites of the series. I am not sure that Eko was the first candidate. Strong (but not unwavering) belief certainly was the first criterion for becoming the leader (and getting through the loophole). But Ben never talked to Eko as if he was chosen, and none of the Others thought of him as special. So I am not sure how it would have gone over if he were. Maybe his true purpose was to be an example for Locke.

Also, I don’t think anyone who has died on the island has appeared to Losties while they were awake, on the island, if they were buried. There were a few off island (AL, Charlie, Libby on the boat) but once Smokey killed him, (knowing he would be buried), there was no chance of inhabiting his body. (AL appeared to Eko in a dream, Boone to Locke when he was “sweating”, Eko to Hurley at the hospital.) Please correct me if I am wrong.

I guess under island definition, a bad man is a person who takes life but doesn't repent. Though in DiD, Ben only repented for Alex, versus the probably 50 - 60+ he did kill (purge, plus on island, plus through Sayid, plus plus plus ...). It is kind of like a religious crusade - if you kill in the name of the island, it is OK. Which makes me fear for Sayid.

[I still think the PURPOSE of N&P is to annoy fans, and that they did.]

Sagacious Penguin said...

I guess I'll have to be the dissenting voice here.

I do love the final Eko scenes (confession and death), but the build up fell short for me. The episode on the whole seemed like a rush-job - perhaps inspired by the writers having to amp up Eko's character timetable and get done another season or so's worth of character development in a single episode. His confession, while poignant, seemed to not fit with the Eko we'd been watching in Season 2: he seems to be all ABOUT forgiveness. For him to reject it here is powerful stuff and I wish we'd gotten an equally powerful moment of revelation or at least impetus for revelation here rather than 40 minutes of him staggering around the jungle aimlessly.

I appreciate a good punchline as much as anyone, and this episode had a whopper of one, but to me as a viewer (particularly first time 'round) it came out of nowhere, and not in the "what a twist!" way, but rather the "Huh? Did I miss something?" way.

Solid moments, but a weak overall episode in my opinion. Eko deserved a better STORY to get him to that great confession sequence.

Fred said...

Not a big point, but when we first see Eko "asleep" his eyes are moving like REM. Is this a sign that he is time-travelling? However, the flashbacks are not always consistent with a belief he is time travelling. When we later see Desmond time travel, he passes out. Eko does this only once, and then we see a flashback. I am saying this because when he says to Yemi he has nothing to be forgiven for, if Eko had the oppotunity to review his life through these time travel incidents, then it would make more sense. Before this he seemed contrite, almost wanting to be asking for forgiveness by Yemi--hence taking on Yemi's cross, the way he cried over Yemi's body etc. So I am sort of torn between believing Eko's flashback are not in part time travel or just plain old flashbacks. But there is the fact he was near or in the hatch when the EM implosion occured, and so he would have been exposed to its affects, much like Desmond (but as Nikki says somewhere, Desmond's flashes may not be time travel but flashes reviewing one's life before immanent death).

@ Marebabe: I'm with you on the Eko/John Locke and threatening him not to speak Yemi's name. It seems a bit over the top. It does make for good drama, showing us Eko's distraught state of mind that he'd turn on the one man on the island most like him. But I think its the writers need to create parallels in the story line (almost like its a contractual obligation). The scene is reminiscent of when Sayid threatened Locke at the plane (deja vu again). Also I agree the plane should be toast.

No no, Juliet, not "To Catch a Mockingbird." It has to be "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
Ben's on the island, making a plan to remain/Jack's on a bender, Father's on his brain again/Black out, white out, grow to love the bomb, the two men on the beach, are just out of reach/ Look out Tom, Sawyer's got a gun/Know it ain't much, Jacob's got the touch . . . (with all due apologies to Bob Dylan).

Nikki Stafford said...

Fred: LOL!! OK, we need someone to YouTube that, pronto!! :)

Teebore said...

Nikki, I love your idea that Eko failed to meet Esau's criteria so he looked next to Locke.

It connects Eko to Locke while managing to make Eko an important part of the story despite his absence. And it has the added benefit of not making Locke a tool from the beginning (since Esau wouldn't have started manipulating him until after this episode, even he and/or Ben had some inclination of Locke's potential).

SonshineMusic said...

@Nikki: I LOVE the whole "you're next" being directed at Locke specifically. The whole Yemi thing I find very creepy and I think there is definitely more going on there. I hope the writers do find a way to bring back Eko like AAA has asked. It would be nice to see a little more of him (not necessary, but nice)

@tiasabita: wouldn't they have sent an actual tracker like John, or at least Sayid, instead of Churley? I know! Right? I was like, wait, why didn't they send someone who might actually be able to track!?

@The Question Mark: "She Who Must Not be Named." hehehehehehehehe - I agree. That brought a nice round of giggles to me. I shall use this from now on if I cannot avoid speaking of SheWhoMustNotBeNamed.

Nathan said...

Oh, good heavens, I could not disagree with you more on this episode. Most of it's pretty good...but Eko's death scene ranks in my book as the absolute worst moment of the series so far (even above Bai Ling's tatoos!). Why?

To put it simply, it's because it's character assassination. Pure and simple. Eko's character arc on the series has been all about repentance, about faith, about taking responsibility for his past actions and atoning for them--and going from that to saying "It wasn't my fault!" is in of itself a major pill to swallow. But if, say, his character arc had eventually led there over a number of episodes, it could have worked--but it doesn't. Oh, good heavens, it doesn't.

Eko ends the second season as the man of faith, committed to atoning for his past crimes--he then gets blown up, attacked by a polar bear, and then suddenly he's saying that he didn't do anything wrong, and that he doesn't have anything to atone for. Really? The man who something like a week earlier had said that he had betrayed his brother and was atoning for it, who said that he was "back on the righteous path," who asked Benry's forgiveness for killing two others in self-defense, who fasted for 40 days, suddenly and without explanation decides that absolutely everything he did was necessary, and that he really didn't have to be sorry? Really?

To put it simply, to have a character suddenly and without explanation reverse his entire set of beliefs and character is simply bad writing, and bad character; nay, it's anti-character, in every way.

And the idea that his speech is somehow "deep" or powerful? I'm afraid I don't get that, either. This is nothing more than a shallow Hollywood "It's not my fault!" speech, to be easily found on any old TV show (complete with the Mean Ol' Nun sternly ordering him to confess), basically disavowing any responsibility for his actions because life was hard. And you know what? What made Eko a cool character was that he was above that sort of crap, that he was someone who knew better than John's self-serving Destiny spiel or Christian's fate-determines-character, someone who believed in destiny and had faith in a higher power, but who also believed in human choice, and in human responsibility, someone who always took responsibility for his actions, without lame excuses. That was what made him cool; and to kill him off by totally removing this stinks of shoddy workmanship and bad writing in every way.

And, hey, I know it was sudden because the actor was leaving and the writers had to figure SOMETHING out; I give them that. But totally re-setting his character to his pre-island self and reversing the last two seasons of development WAS a mistake, and I do hold the writers responsible for that. They could have done better--they could have killed him off without also destroying his character.

And that is why I despise this episode...

SonshineMusic said...

Finally have a chance to sit down with my notes....

Smokey seems different in this episode than other times we've seen him (it?). It's kind of whisping around the jungle all loose and not attached to the ground as we often see. It is less substantial until it comes and grabs Eko. So it could possibly be able to get more height and conceivably had a hand in the crash of 815. imo

I love the cheeseburger scene between Jack and Juliet. She's so doggone cute in it.

I find Ben's comment about the proof of God to be quite intriguing after his last comment about God not being able to see the Island. Of course Ben is a liar and a manipulater, but I still find it interesting.

When John says "I saw a very bright light," in reference to looking into the eye of the Island it reminded me of a passage in the Bible where it says that the devil disguises himself as an "angel of light". Don't know if it has any relevance, but it's what came to mind.

When Paulo came out of the bathroom it is very reminiscent of Charlie coming out of the bathroom in the cockpit in The Pilot. Both were hiding something.

Valerie said...

I suppose that the real reason Eko changes so quickly is that the actor was leaving but since I live in the make-believe world of Lost I think this is an explanation. :)

Eko has done some horrible things; murder, intimidation, theft, and drug smuggling, (maybe his worst offense as the drugs he smuggled may have killed and ruined countless more lives.) He really wanted forgiveness and wanted to find a way for atonement.

After getting to the island he really tries to figure out what he could do to save himself; he doesn't talk, he takes care of others, he whittles on the Jesus stick, he builds a church..... but finally he comes to the revelation that he can pay for it all if he spends the rest of his life in the hatch pushing the button to save the world. Then all of that literally blows up and at that point he changes; there is nothing he can do anymore. He tried to be good but the hatch blows, the polar bear attacks (Even in his flashback he has the chance to be good as a "Priest" and by turning is back on the bad guys someone is shot.) Eko just gives up and wants to be judged.

I dreaded seeing this episode again as the pain of Eko's circumstance is so sad.

Anonymous said...

I just watched this episode. You're totally right about Terry O'Quinn's delivery of that line. He just did not want to say it, did he? I never noticed that before, but it's hilarious.