LOST Rewatch: Season 1, Episode 3 “Tabula Rasa”

Kate and the 'bounty share' share a tense moment.


ALTHOUGH the title of this episode is ‘Tabula Rasa’ (latin for ‘blank slate’, an 18th century philosophical term coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau), it might better be titled ‘Lies, Lies, and More Lies”. This is the first of the character-centric stories, writing upon the slate for step-daddy killer, Kate.

The implication of the title is that somehow the island has offered each passenger a ‘fresh start’. As we ‘watch’ the interactions and choices of the Oceanic ’42’, we must remember the Man in Black’s line: “They come, they fight, they destroy, it always ends the same.” Inherent within that curious statement is a presumption of initial innocence, as if the passage into death through the ocean (a symbol of rebirth) has ‘washed away’ their sins, leaving them with a ‘blank slate’. The question is, what will each do with the new start?

Important moments to observe:

• Michael sees Sun without her clothing as she is washing. A sin? Perhaps not, but it is the beginning of a rivalry and ‘fighting’ between Michael and Jin.

• Kate and the hikers choose to ‘lie’ about Rousseau’s recorded message that says ‘they’re all dead’.

• Jack chooses to ‘lie’ about Kate’s ‘mug shot’ (shown to him by the bounty hunter)

• Sawyer tempts Kate with the idea of killing the bounty hunter, ‘to put him out of his misery’.

• Rather than ‘lie’, Hurley simply avoids Kate. His true innocence is a constant theme throughout the show’s seasons.

• Walt tells his father about Locke’s ‘secret’: The island is a miracle place.

In my last analysis, I explored the theory that the island might be purgatory. Purgatory is where you ‘work out’ your sins through suffering (supposedly assisted by the prayers of the living). If the island is indeed purgatory, then the Oceanic ‘dead’ are in for six years of hell.

Jack’s statement about everyone getting a second chance (after ‘death’–“three days ago, we all died”) is emphasized by the closing song played just after his statement about a ‘second chance’, John Purdy’s “Wash Away”. Let’s take a look at those lyrics:

Lyrics to Wash Away :
I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they’re gonna wash away
They’re gonna wash away

And I have sins Lord, but not today
Cause they’re gonna wash away
They’re gonna wash away

And I had friends oh, but not today
Cause they’re done washed away
They’re done washed away

And oh, I’ve been cryin’
And oh, I’ve been cryin’
And oh, no more cryin’
No, no more cryin’ here

We get along Lord, but not today
Cause we gonna wash away
We gonna wash away

And I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they gonna wash away
This old heart gonna take them away

As the strains of the final chorus to the song fades out, the camera focuses closely on John Locke’s face as he stares at the ocean, knowingly. His right eye is raw and red from an injury suffered during the crash. This marked eye is always with Locke, and it echoes Jack’s right ‘open eye’ from the opening scene of Episode 1. More on Locke’s ‘eye’ and what its semiotic purpose might be next time.

NOTE: The next article will go up on Monday. I’ll be taking weekends off during the Rewatch. Episode 4-8 are scheduled for next M-F. Until then, have a great weekend everyone!