Lost – “The Man From Tallahassee”

Mystery Solved?

The Wheelchair, The Submarine and the Locke Box

Well, Lost has solved one of its most long-running mysteries with last night’s episode: “How did Locke end up in his wheelchair?” We, finally, learned that Locke lost the use of his legs when his own father tackled him out of an eight story apartment and sent him barreling to the ground. This was one of those mysteries which had always lingered; in every Locke back story, you waited to see if there were any clues, any hints, any revelations as to what happened to our favourite bald mastermind. There was little question that the episode where it was revealed would have to deliver, and in the end: it did.

This episode, more than anything else, was a masterful example of the ability of this show to develop a good character drama. The conversations between Ben and Locke were, perhaps the best the show has had since…well, since Locke and Ben sat chatting in the Hatch. There is something about Michael Emerson’s performance, and Terry O’Quinn’s characterization of Locke, that mesh together so well in terms of discussing and delving into their respective pasts. We’ve missed this side of Ben ever since he went under the knife, and it was fantastic to get manipulative and cunning Ben back to the show.

Because, in the end, this entire episode related back to Locke’s ability to be manipulated, to be used, to be taken advantage of. In a way, the island is perhaps the greatest manipulator, giving him the use of his legs and then asking for things in return which have led to Boone’s death and perhaps even Eko’s, if you want to go that far. The show is often at its best with these types of mind games, and they were in full force in this episode.

You might be realizing that I’m not really talking about Locke’s big mystery, and there’s a reason for this: it doesn’t matter anymore. What Lost has done here is take one of their biggest back story mysteries and actually make it worth a damn in the present. If you remember, when we learned that Kate had blown up her stepfather, we quite literally stopped caring. There was no impact; it didn’t change our perception of the character, it didn’t change the situation on the island, and it was pretty much useless all around.

However, even though the actual event of Locke breaking his back wasn’t over-the-top amazing (Nice quick cut to black, though), it matters in the big picture much more than any other back story we’ve seen. Not only did Locke’s injury provide some great wheelchair banter with Ben (A great parallel to his story, and to this episode), but it all went back to his ability to be manipulated and the memory of his father. It made Locke’s decision to blow up the submarine make sense, which was somewhat integral, and even more importantly it introduced us to the Locke Box.

We don’t know what it is, this box which gives you exactly what you want. However, somehow, it appears to have delivered to Ben “the man from Tallahassee.” When Locke’s father was behind that door, as I had somewhat assumed, it made this entire episode actually matter. I don’t give a crap if it solved a mystery by adding more, because that’s what the show needs to do to stay interesting. Unlike Kate, who now lacks a mystery to sustain her character in back stories, Locke is now even more confused, more complex and is a character open to more development outside of his Season 1 origins.

Fantastic dramatic tension, really good directing (The Hatch shot in the submarine mirroring the shot from the original hatch made me happy), great acting, and a heightening of mystery while providing one of the answers we were always looking for. How anyone could argue against this hour of television boggles my mind, if only for Ben’s one-liners alone.

If you missed it, or want to rekindle fond memories, continue on to check out the full recap.

We open to a woman filling out a form while John Locke dictates. We learn that he is single, not married, and that he never really knew his parents. It’s a disability insurance form, and apparently his appetite is fine. He’s stopped going to therapy, however, and as a result his disability insurance for depression is suspended as he stands up and walks off.

We cut to Locke in the jungle, along with Kate/Sayid/Rousseau. They watch as Jack throw around the pigskin and Juliet comes towards Jack to tell him something and is a little bit too touchy feely for Kate’s sake. Locke pulls out some binoculars as they head towards a room, and Ben emerges in a wheelchair much to Locke’s interest and Kate’s dismay.

Jack and Ben shake hands. The music builds.

Locke: “This is going to be more complicated than we thought.”


We return to Kate loading a gun, as Sayid questions her “Shoot everyone” approach. She believes that they have brainwashed him, and Locke believes that Jack has a good reason for what he’s doing. He suggests approaching him at dark, although I’m sure he has other ideas.

We cut to Locke eating a TV Dinner, until he opens his door to find a young man. His name is Peter Talbot, and he is not a solicitor; in fact, his mother needs help and he wants to know how many kidneys John has. It appears that “Adam”, our good friend who stole one of John’s kidneys, has swept his mother off her feet. He wants to know if he’s an okay guy, and Locke claims he never met him. Well, now, that’s a real way to stop depression.

Nightfall. Jack and Juliet are laughing and getting on, which means Kate wants the binoculars. NOW. She sees them enter the same room, and she’s pissed. Sayid covers the front, Locke the back, and Kate is heading in alone based on Locke’s plan. We hear piano music plays as she enters a small compound, and Jack appears to be playing it. I didn’t know he could do that.

Neither did Kate, who smiles at this new side of Jack. He seems confused, asking her what she’s here for. He wants her to leave, right now. You see, there’s a camera. Like, right there. Duh. Anywho, Kate gets herself a gun to the head and Sayid is dragged in to join her. When asked, she lies and says that there is no one else with them. However, as Ben sits in the dark, he learns this not to be true. He turns on the light, and sees John with a gun.

Locke isn’t looking for Jack. He’s looking for the submarine. He knows that they have it, and he knows how they use it. Alex, unfortunately, decides to stop by for a visit. We hear things about Juliet and Shepherd, as Locke hides in the closet with Alex. He overhears that the Man from Tallahassee is going to be brought in. Locke wants answers about it, but Ben? Not so much with the answers.

Locke, however, is off searching for answers as he visits his kidney-stealing father figure. Or, stalks him, really, let’s face it. Locke has decided that he’s conning his wife, and Locke wants him to end it. Locke doesn’t want to have another person go through what happened to him. His father is, shall we say, none too interested.

Ben has plenty of contraptions, and his usual witty remarks. He wants into his chair, and pleads to Locke’s sense of dignity in terms of the whole wheelchair issue. Ben wants to know how he’s going to pilot their submarine, and Locke says he’ll figure it out. Ben amazingly solves a complex mathematical problem in that he realizes Locke has the C4, and that he plans to blow up the submarine.

Ben knows he was born in California, wasted part of his life with industrial boxes, had foster care, and spent the four years prior to the island in a wheelchair. And, he knows how he ended up in it. Ben is all-knowing, and wants to know if it hurt. Locke says that he felt his back break…what do you think?

Kate is playing with her handcuffs as Tom stops by for a visit, bringing Jack along with him. They ask if they were each hurt, but Kate gets down to business: what is all of this? Is this where they took our kids, our people? Jack says they’re all safe, and Kate takes contest with that; she looks at Jack as a traitor. He’s with them, now. And he’s pissed that Kate came back for him when he clearly asked her not to.

He really did mean it, Jack did, and Kate comes over to comfort him in his sadness. She wants to know what they did to Jack, and he informs her that he’s made a deal. They’ll let him go…home? Oh snap. When? First thing in the morning. Seriously? This is ridiculous, it can’t be. He trusts them, because Kate told him to do so when she got him to save Sawyer’s life. Ouch.

He wishes Kate had never come, Jack says as Juliet lets him know time is up. Jack says that, while he wishes she hadn’t, he will. He will come back for her. Awww.

We return to Locke driving home with some groceries only to find a couple of detectives waiting outside of his apartment. Does he know a man named Peter Talbot? He says he does not, and that he was a solicitor, and learns that his family had $200 Million. And, of course, that Peter Talbot is dead.

As we return, Ben is reminiscing about the time in the Hatch when he couldn’t talk to Locke about the healing. He wants to know if it was immediate, and Locke wonders why he isn’t as covering as fast as he’d like. Ben retaliates with an accusation that Locke is scared of losing his ability to walk. Ooooh, tense.

Sayid, meanwhile, watches as Alex is getting Ben’s packc for him, and proceeds to plant the seed of “Your mother is still alive and has a gun somewhere around here.” Back in the compound, Ben explains that their electricity comes from two giant hamsters in their underground lair, and Locke decides to eat some chicken.

Ben was born on this island, and he’s ready to try to defend it and the rights of his people to leave it. The ability to leave the island is part of what keeps people happy, not depressed, and Ben believes that Locke is too connected to it to ever depart. He wants him to picture a box, and tells him that it is very large. And no matter what you want to be in the box, it will be there when you open it. Locke is unconvinced, and believes that Ben is cheating based on their “come and go, running water, guns” attitude. Locke is protecting the sanctity of this island, not their co-opted chicken in the refrigerator.

Locke thinks he knows this island better than Ben: “You’re in a wheelchair, and I’m not.”

We return to Alex returning with the pack, and Locke decides to hold her hostage until the Submarine. In less than an hour, Jack is leaving on that Sub, as Ben points out, and with communications down the sub won’t be able to find its way back anyways. Alex lets Locke know that Ben is clearly being manipulative (And we’re forgetting Rousseau in this equation). Locke heads to the dock where the submarine is, and needless to say things are looking back for Jack. Rousseau, however, gets a glimpse of her daughter.

The music tenses up as Locke opens the hatch to the submarine (Nice callback to the last Hatch, Jack Bender!) He checks things out as Ben puts his chicken back into the fridge. Jack has arrived to ask for a favour, and Ben wants to know why they didn’t knock (Juliet is there). Jack wants his friends to be let free, and Ben agrees…but he knows about Locke. And isn’t telling anyone. It’s very bizarre. Ah, there it is: he’ll let them go as soon as you’ve left the island.

Juliet thanks Ben for keeping his promise…oh my, Locke is playing right into his bloody hands, damnit. This is incredibly frustrating to watch. Locke is walking away, with a purpose, as Jack and Juliet move towards the submarine. They hold Locke at gunpoint, and Jack is none too pleased with the sight of our good friend. Locke is sorry. For what?

KABOOM! Submarine go bye-bye!

“What did you do?” Locke arrives and deals with his fake father and Peter’s death. She’s called off the wedding, and there’s no profit in it; he’s a con man, not a murderer. And then…HOLY SHIT. His father just proceeded to tackle him right through the window of the apartment and Locke goes barreling down to the ground on his back. Wow.

Mr. Locke’s father is gone; he’s gone to Mexico, and then disappeared. He could be anywhere in the world right now, but the detectives can’t continue. His therapist has arrived, and it’s time to get him up and out of his bed. He doesn’t want the wheelchair, he can’t do it, but the therapist lifts him into it anyways.

Locke is slightly alarmed at the whole experience, and breaks into tears. Alone, in the chair, desolate. We cut to Locke, handcuffed to a pipe. Ben wheels himself in, looking rather displeased in his smug little way. Locke knew he wanted it to happen, that he left the C4 in Sayid’s bag when they didn’t need to. Ben wants to stop Jack from leaving, didn’t want to show weakness, but also didn’t want to break his word by killing him.

Locke solved his problem, and made his dream come true. Speaking of that, it’s time to see what came out of the magic box which Ben references earlier. Ben wanted to know if Locke hurt not in a physical sense, but in terms of his own father trying to kill him. He is afraid of his father, Ben says, and claims that that is why he destroyed the submarine. Locke has some sort of communion with this island, and it makes him very important.

What does Ben want? He wants to help John because he’s in a wheelchair and Locke isn’t. Is Locke ready to see?

The door opens…to reveal a man, tape on his mouth. It is Locke’s father. He is what came out of the box. And he’s on the island. And he is, no doubt, the man from Tallahassee.


Filed under Lost, Television

2 responses to “Lost – “The Man From Tallahassee”

  1. Niels

    Very nice summary of the episode.. good read, chapeau.

  2. Pingback: For Your Consideration: Supporting Actors - Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Emerson « Cultural Learnings

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