All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Written by Javier Grillo-Marxauch
Directed by Stephen Williams
This is the first episode to give a flashback to a character that we’ve already met— Jack, and while the title is rather unruly is does have an issue that could apply to all of the characters, but especially Jack, and this hostility causes him major problems when the search for Claire and Charlie begins.
The obvious anger is thrown at Locke, who really doesn’t deserve it. He does everything in his power to try and help lead the search, and it’s obvious, he’s far more capable of doing so than Jack is. But Jack ignores him, and keeps pushing on. When the trail splits, and Locke tries to tell them to go together, Jack blatantly ignores him, and goes ahead with Kate, who now reveals that she has experience as a tracker. But rather than take this as a sign of hope, Jack throws it back in their face the minute that they are alone. For some reason (perhaps because he is beginning to fall in love with her) he still can’t get over Kate’s deception, which will grow even more pronounced over the next episodes. The irony, of course, Jack has been no more honest with her about his life, and certainly hasn’t told her about the problems he was having long before the plane crash.
When they finally catch up to Ethan, Jack focuses his hostility on him, which ends with his ass getting thoroughly kicked. But not even that stops his pursuit, which leads to the most shocking image of the episode— Charlie with a noose around his neck, nagging from a tree. It looks pretty clear that he is dead, but Jack can’t let this go either. Indeed, his lifesaving methods become pretty brutal, as if he’s beating on Charlie for daring to die. Turns out, that this time, he manages to accomplish a miracle, and bring the young rock star back to life.
In the flashback we get, we see what was likely the precipitating incident that probably guilted Jack into flying to Sydneyin the first place. While operating on a pregnant woman, Christian Shephard cut one of her arteries, and despite the efforts of him and Jack, the woman died on the table. Jack realizes that his father was clearly intoxicated, and had no business operating in the first plays. He is willing to lie for his father once to protect him, but eventually his honesty gets the better of him, and his father pays the penalty. But was really Jack’s conscience that got the better of him? Could it have been simple jealousy at having to be subservient to a man who clearly doesn’t have it any more? Jack clearly doesn’t want to turn into his father, which considering his behavior here, and much later, is just as ironic.
Having been in the background for several episodes, Locke steps back into the front in the search for Charlie and Claire. He gently tries to suggest to him that he’s in over his head and that it doesn’t make sense for the islands only physician to risk his life at a job he’s not suited for. Jack ignores him. Later, when Locke tells him that Jack was going in circles, it seems that this is Locke not being subtle. Or perhaps he a little cockier, because for the first time someone is willing to follow him—- Boone, who up until now has been staying mainly in Jack’s radar, now comes to a crossroads. He begins the search following Jack, but finishes it accompanying Locke. He tries to get more information on him (when Locke tells him that in the real word, he was the manager of a box factory, we know Boone thinks he’s being teased), and tries to understand his mysteries. While the search goes on, rain comes out of nowhere, and just like in the Pilot, Locke looks up and holds out his arms. The obvious explanation is he thinks that it’s some kind of blessing from the island.
And, long after the trails runs cold, Locke continues on his path, and then (much like Bobbi Anderson did in Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers) he stumbles over his destiny. Something made of steel is under the dirt of the island. Considering that Sayid found a wire earlier leading from the ocean, it comes as less of a surprise than we think. Of course, we don’t how big the object is, how long it’s going to take to uncover, or what the cost will be. We get a hint when Boone refers to ‘Red Shirt’, a character on Star Trek who always got killed when the captain sent him on an away mission. Locke’s remark is funny, but it too is prophetic in a fashion: Locke is going to lead Boone to his doom.
What are the others doing? Michael tries to help with the search, but when Locke brushes him off, he tries to form one of his own. It’s pretty clear Michael has no use for Locke, and is becoming pretty pissed at being told off, especially in front of Walt. We don’t see much of Walt in this episode, but there is a scene that is rather telling. He and Hurley play a game of backgammon, in which he thoroughly kicks Hurley’s ass. Strangely, every time he throws the dice, he gets exactly what he needs to win. This doesn’t seem to be only luck not here. Hurley’s behavior is just as interesting. It appears he was gambling with the kid, and bet $20,000. It could be that this is just another joke of his, but he seems serious when he says “You’ll get it.” These two guys need a flashback each.
Another interesting scene occurs when a recuperating Sayid meets Sawyer for the first time since the torture sequence (roughly a week ago, according to the calendar) Considering their animosity, it’s a little surprising that Sawyer doesn’t take the opportunity to give back some of what Sayed gave. However, the two actually have a pretty civilized conversation. And as much as he might be a son of a bitch, Sawyer is still on the beach, keeping the signal fires burning. The two of them are a lost closer in their mindset then they’d want to believe.
The rest of the characters don’t do much. We don’t see Jin and Sun at all or Claire (obviously) and Charlie barely shows up. Charlie’s feeling a certain amount of guilt when he regains consciousness. Whoever this Ethan was, his sole interest seemed to have been Claire.
This leads to more questions. How did Ethan mange to drag two people off into the woods and not leave a trail, except for what Charlie left. Did he have help? Did he use some kind of chemical agent? Does it have something to do with how easily he manages to beat the crap out of Jack before disappearing again? And what is this interest that they seem to have in children (Why else would they have taken Rousseau’s baby fifteen years ago?)
‘All the Best Cowboys’ does something that the show will do repeatedly. It sets up two immediate paths, and then has us follow them for weeks before getting into any kind of resolution. (Of course, those resolutions frequently just lead to more mysteries but still…) Still it’s a critical episode for several of the characters, and gets us set up for the second half of Season 1