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: Anyone else want to come, meet us at the tree line in 10 minutes. Bring water.
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.