It is an Islay single malt.
Made from high-peat barley, Islay scotches have a distinctive smoky flavour the non-connoisseurs among us would characterise as "medicinal". After a tense Thanksgiving dinner, though, it was good medicine indeed for both nervous graduate student and father of the girlfriend.
This is not MacCutcheon's. By this I do not mean to say the whisky is only eighteen years old rather than sixty. I mean the entire emphasis is different. MacCutcheon was strategic, a conceptual weapon of war employed by former island rulers in an attempt to regain world domination by forcing a minor player to perform heroic deeds. Natape is tactical, designed to ferret out the tidbits of intelligence that will allow us to penetrate the greatest mysteries of The Event.
THE EVENT is not based on strategies and anagrams and high-brow character names hinting at the clash of grand philosophies of nature, life, and the divine. The Event is the story of layered conspiracies. It is a mystery in multiple dimensions. We witnessed ten of those mysteries tonight. They are not ideas, but rather characters. The biggest mystery is not Mount Inostranka, the plane crash, or the nose bleeds. The biggest mystery is Sean Walker. Insights welcome.
Starting To Put This Together
"Based on what we think he told the FBI it's clear he's starting to put all this together."
Sean Walker, or the deeds he will perform, are of greater value to the conspirators than human life. Casual murders, even to save the few seconds required to obtain car keys from an innocent bystander, are acceptable.
The conspirators are being painted as powerful, nasty scum. One does not gun down innocent people to save a few seconds, regardless of the nature of the emergency. Even in war the killing of innocents is forbidden. We need to be open-minded enough to consider that the conspirators are motivated by a threat to common interests; it remains possible that the conspirators are the "good guys". Based on events in the first minutes of tonight's episode, however, we know that any justification of their actions would require an imminent and genocidal threat to humankind. The very most we might cede is that the good guys hired some very indiscriminant and nasty thugs to pursue their salutary ends. In just about any other case I can imagine we would have to conclude that the conspirators are what they appear to be: the lowest, vilest, power-thirsty, inhuman brutes.
It seems most likely from the unfolding of events that the conspirators need Sean to perform some as yet unrevealed task. I have several reasons for believing this. First, Leila's abduction by at least three individuals (the two cruise ship security guards and Vicky) could as easily have been engineered to capture or kill Sean. Second, they moved Leila when it became evident that Sean was making progress toward locating her.
This indicates they do not need Sean to move into a position simply for capture, but neither do they require that he arrive under his own power at any particular location. If they do not have to capture or kill him, do not need him to find Leila, and do not need him to move to a particular location, the most obvious conclusion is that they require him to complete an operation he would not carry out even under pain of torture, but could be counted on to perform in the course of a rescue.
We already have some idea about the elements these tasks might include. Sean is an expert hacker, to the point that he routinely infiltrates highly secured government computer systems, as he did in the SUV while fleeing Carter. If the conspirators seek power, wealth, or other advantage, obtaining high-value information would probably assist them in their efforts, and Sean would be a most useful asset in assuring their acquisition of that intelligence.
The scenario so far looks like Simon Says. Sean's hacker- and intuition-guided investigation will pay off, with the conspirators leaving cookie-crumb evidence that he is on the trail to locate Leila. The quest will involve perhaps one or two more instances of innocuous treasure hunts through highly-secured government computer systems. But at some point Sean will require access to a system or facility containing the Holy Grail--the information or change in condition sought by the conspirators. So far Simon has been saying, "you mustn't do that, Sean. This tactic is illegal."
But at a critical juncture Simon will relent, or put up a weak defence (this scenario's equivalent of not saying "Simon says"). With Simon's blessing, or over weak objection, Sean will access the Holy Grail system, or effect whatever change the conspirators need. At that point, the master field operative, Simon (perhaps still using her field name, FBI Agent Collier) will draw a gun and point it at Sean, telling him his assignment is complete, and now will he please put his hands behind his back for cuffing and transport. It's just a possibility, but seems highly probable. "Don't trust anyone, Sean." Michael's words of wisdom to his future son-in-law apply in this scenario more than in any other.
A Vegan Thanksgiving
The White House chefs are the masters of all dietary schemes. When the Gastronome-In-Chief proclaims a requirement for egg-free, honey-free bocaditos, the White House kitchen provides, and the government's most important vegan guest enjoys her meal with the First Couple.
The scene was engineered to make us feel uncomfortable. We saw Sophia's and the President's full faces at the beginning of their brunch, but toward the end, when Sophia was expressing her hopes for the future, we were given only half her face and half of the President's, most of the framed image left vacant. We're getting only half the truth from both of them, and most of what ought to have been said remained guarded by both sides.
Twice during the episode President Martinez exuded a sense of brooding doubt. "Maybe," Vice President Jarvis said, the aliens' resurrection of dead bodies was, "a display of power." The President wondered out loud, "To what end?" The aliens needed a rationale for such a difficult undertaking, and it was their motive that eluded the President and caused him to understand much more was occurring than anything he saw with his eyes.
The first occasion of the President's prolonged cogitation occurred during and after his pleasant brunch with Sophia one year ago. Upon learning Sophia was vegan, the First Lady joked, "We have absolutely nothing in common." Having grown up with ropa vieja and other animal-centred Cuban culinary delights, Christina Martinez was not going to suddenly feel empathy for an extreme vegetarian. However the true nexus of concern was not diet, but identity. "We have absolutely nothing in common" because we do not share the same DNA. We are of different species.
The First Lady's joke was not the only thought pervading the President's mind as he listened to Sophia express hope for freedom and integration into our society. He knew nothing of her people's goals or aspirations, nothing of their reason for arriving in Alaska in the closing months of World War II. There was more to Sophia than she was revealing, and understanding her motivations was critical.
In the larger context of this evening's episode, the half-faces toward the end of the brunch meant something deeper. We believe not that there is a possibility of hidden agendas, rather we believe there must be hidden agendas. Sophia and her people need release because they are on a mission. "Thomas," she told the President, "is intelligent, charismatic, a natural leader." It was imperative that he escape Inostranka before the local authorities tracked and imprisoned them as they surely would in time of war. Thomas has a mission. It has nothing to do with the crash of 1944 or recovery from the crash. The mission existed before their arrival, and it continues to this day.
We ought to be looking at the side of Sophia's face that was obscured during her brunch in the White House. President Martinez is not her beloved. Thomas is. She did not counsel that Thomas' demands be met because she feared him, or because she pitied the President. She counseled acquiescence because it was in her people's interest to do so. If we strip away emotive projection, we see one fact very clearly: Thomas and Sophia are saying precisely the same thing. Thomas is saying it with threats to the human population in general and to the President's son in particular. Sophia is saying it with false shows of empathy and compassion and visual displays of concern. Good cop, bad cop--alien style.
At worst, we are delicacies, perhaps something akin to monkeys in Asian and African countries. At best we are like the eighteenth century Guaraní, as depicted in the 1986 film "The Mission". The aliens who crashed in 1944 may be the advance party for a group of ranchers intent on putting us into barns and harvesting us for food or amusement. Or they may intend to "convert" us (as Father Gabriel was doing in the photo above) or "educate" us to their advanced way of thinking. There are many possibilities in between.
We have only 99 percent of the DNA of our detained guests in Northern Alaska. They possess technologies far beyond our capabilities and are millions of years ahead of us in evolutionary development. If we gather into our chimpanzee meeting places and decide these humanoids can live among us chimpanzees as equals, we have been eating too many bananas. These aliens, able to think in dimensions we have never explored, can only become our masters, relegating us to nature preserve, zoo, or milking barn. They are not Organians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organian; see also http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Organian).
One of the interesting hypotheses in this regard comes from a close examination of the Natape label I began discussing at the beginning of this essay. This careful consideration can be performed using word manipulation software, or it can also be achieved with a couple of bottles of Molson Canadian, which has always been my favourite thought lubricant. "Natape" can be rearranged to form the string "Ape Ant". This future employment prospect under the whip of the aliens--being used as an educated slave labour force à la Planet of the Apes--would be a step above being harvested for food or fun.
Those who adhere to linear thought are chastising me at this point. "You said there were no anagrams!" No, I wrote that THE EVENT is not based on anagrams, and I believe this. But I reserve the right to invoke Island-based thinking whenever I deem appropriate. Many analysts, left over from previous television sci-fi serial dramas, are interpreting THE EVENT episodes strictly on the basis of patterns and skills they acquired during their six years on a certain Pacific island. Some of these analysts have already dismissed THE EVENT on this basis. To these I would say THE EVENT is a very different programme, and it requires an open mind. Put away your Dharma Initiative protocol manuals. The rules are different on the Mountain than they were on the island.
The Thousand-Year Reich
Perhaps the wrong side won World War II.
Or possibly we lost the war. Last week I compared William's death to that of Edith Keeler (http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Edith_Keeler). In "The City on the Edge of Forever", Edith Keeler had to die so that space exploration would begin twelve years after the end of the war, in 1957. In the first minutes of the 1967 Star Trek episode, human exploration of space never occurred because the Third Reich won the war and enslaved the world.
But maybe we did not win the war after all. Over eighty million people died during World War II. Entire villages, towns, and even whole cities were consumed in this unparalleled conflagration. The Nazis turned Stalingrad into a bombed-out wasteland. They surrounded Leningrad for three years out of spite and caused over a million deaths from starvation. They gassed over twelve million souls and burned their bodies to dust. The Allies turned Dresden into an inferno, and the Americans vapourised Hiroshima and Nagasaki into radioactive rubble. Of the tens of millions who perished, entire family trees and nearly entire races were destroyed.
Is it possible that thinkers critical to humanity's future lost their lives in the war? Perhaps the grandson of a Japanese fisherman turned to dust in Nagasaki would have been the first to make contact with extraterrestrials. Perhaps the great-great-granddaughter of a Ukrainian family massacred by the Nazis would have prevented a late 21st-century World War III. That is to say, perhaps in this case Edith Keeler had to live, but the horrors of war destroyed her before her parents could become the gleem in the eye of her grandparents.
The arrival of advanced beings in the closing months of World War II does not seem temporally coincidental. If their arrival was intended at that time and place, their purpose would have had bearing on events of that time. Would they try to prevent the use of the atomic bomb? Prevent Germany from producing the first jet aircraft? Prevent the Allies from winning the war? Could it be, from the aliens' point of view, that the wrong side won World War II? Perhaps the Nazis, after exterminating all their enemies, would have moved quickly into outer space, not more slowly, as Star Trek hypothesised.
Regardless of the intentions sixty-six years ago, the present context of Sophia's interactions with the President and Thomas' actions indicate the objectives remain the same or similar. Certainly we humans in the early 21st century have the same foibles and pursue the same stupidities as our mid-20th century grandparents and great-grandparents. We lie, cheat, steal, and hate. We hope, love, give, and help. But technologies have evolved. Does a World War II-era threat remain? Should we be looking for the Boys From Brazil? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boys_from_Brazil_(film))
Perhaps, as with the half-faces of Sophia's lunch with the President, we do not see the full face of World War II. Perhaps the Third Reich, Fascist Italy, and the Japanese Empire were not the only Axis powers. Did the aliens wish to join them? Or did the aliens arrive to help us against another alien faction sent to aid the fascists? Are multiple alien powers, distinct from each other, using Earth as a place to work out their grievances or to set humankind on a course of their choosing?
Many are speculating that the aliens are entirely human, but from our future or from a parallel world. If so, the same questions remain. Why would they have chosen 1944 in particular as a drop time for their interventionist adventures?
We have no evidence for any of these scenarios, but I think we do well to remember always the context of the aliens' arrival on 20th-century Earth. World War II probably has some role to play in THE EVENT's mythology and end game.
Canadian Thanksgiving in Georgia
The Thanksgiving story of Leila and Sean was broadcast on Thanksgiving Day. This is news to most of you reading, but not to those living north of the 49th parallel in North America, who spent the day (or more likely the day before) cooking and then feasting on turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and all the normal side dishes of this autumnal feast. I believe this fact is important, because it goes to the heart of the notion of perception and our perceptions are going to frame our ability to make sense of THE EVENT.
Sean's words during Thanksgiving Dinner were critical to his character. This single scene was the highlight of the episode, and one of the critical parts of the last four hours of this serial. We need to look at what Sean said, what we believe his words mean, and the importance of his self-revelation to the larger story. We are going to couch our understanding of his words in our own expectations of human behaviour, based heavily on our experience. This is where an examination of the full North American experience of Thanksgiving will be useful. I'm giving some space to this discussion because the brief Thanksgiving scene consumes two full headers in this essay, and I believe some depth may be useful to our thoughts about these critical minutes at the Buchanans' table.
Those born and raised in the United States share a common mythology related to Thanksgiving history. The Pilgrims sought the help of First Nations ("Indian" or "Native American") farmers to grow crops, the harvest was successful, and the displaced Englishmen and native farmers got together for a big feast that came to be called Thanksgiving. Those interested in reading the much harsher truth behind this elementary-school fairy tale will enjoy reading "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick. Among other things, there was no Thanksgiving feast during the Pilgrims' first year in Plymouth. The Pilgrims did, however, steal tools and a basket of corn seed from the Aboriginals.
The Canadian perspective is not monolithic. Canada was French, with scattered and weak Anglophone centres, until the 1770s. During the rebellion (the American Revolution), the rebels seized property and imprisoned those loyal to the King. The first great wave of settlers after the initial French colonisation comprised former residents of the thirteen colonies who wanted no part of the rebellion or who were fleeing for their lives. Thanksgiving in Canada is connected to both immigrant waves, the French and Nova Scotia variants tracing their lineage to Samuel de Champlain's "Order of Good Cheer" (L'Ordre du Bon Temps), a ritualised but jovial, almost tongue-in-cheek feast celebrated among Champlain's fellows and including Aboriginals. The later, Anglophone wave from the south carried the traditional American myth of Thanksgiving north, but the myth was now part of the preservation of an orderly English way of life, as opposed to the lawless ways of those living south of the Great Lakes.
I believe that just as Canadians can look at Thanksgiving from several points of view, we will best serve our interest in understanding THE EVENT by remaining flexible in our interpretation of Sean's important words at the Thanksgiving Day table.
Sean at first mumbled something about his parents living "here and there... they just move around a lot." Then Michael asked a question for which Sean should have had immediate response. "Where are [your parents] spending Thanksgiving? The truth was very odd coming from American lips: On Thanksgiving Day, in a state that was one of the original colonies, Sean Walker did not even know where his parents were.
This is beyond strange. If you visit the United States on the fourth Thursday in November and have no clue regarding the historical and cultural significance of that day, you will be forgiven for believing that the entire country has become one large ghost town. There is no traffic. In some locations you may see no one at all outside for the entire day. Probably many in the United States don't know this strange fact about their own country--because they're all inside a relative's house, talking and eating, and thus have they done since their earliest memory. People may not always know where parents, siblings, or children are at all times, but on Thanksgiving Day, they will know. And four times out of five they will be together, in the same house, even if it is the only day during the year that they see each other.
Thanksgiving is the single most important family holiday in the United States. More than Christmas, Easter, or any other religious holiday, more than any other state holiday, Thanksgiving is the one day when everyone is with family--even if they cannot stand their family. This is why a sleepless sixteen-hour road trip from Boston to Atlanta--in pouring rain (it should have been colder in Boston, but we northerners have to give California script writers some latitude!) would have been acceptable. The only alternative would have been for Leila and Sean to seek out his parents, and apparently this was out of the question.
We know that Sean placed appearances below truth in his hierarchy of values. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to lie earlier. I just felt weird... ah... telling you guys that stuff. That's my story... in a nutshell."
We know Sean lies, he considers comfort and appearance more important than truth, and he has given at least two sets of stories regarding his relationship to his parents. This was remarkable, occurring on the day it did.
A Mirror in Time
Sean's history and his connection to parents is obviously important to the story, though we have as yet no reliable information regarding the relationship. He understood a music box in Vicky's mother's house to be a childhood toy, and he found the toy's owner. This should definitely be considered a part of Sean's fragmented past. He didn't accidentally or coincidentally recognise the toy as something out of place. And when he knelt down to speak with the boy, he was almost surely looking into a mirror image of his younger self. Adam's admission that "We're not supposed to keep pictures of her" parallels Sean's statement that his mother "wasn't well" and his father had full custody of Sean; both he and Adam had been forced from their mothers, if we believe Sean's story.
While we may empathise with Sean over his lonely and miserable childhood, we should not necessarily ascribe to him any virtuous qualities on the basis of his apparent ability to overcome or at least live with hardship. Deprivation is as likely to instill propensities for depravity as it is to create opportunities for decency.
Probably the most obvious parental connection is between Sean and others we know to be old enough to have fathered a 20-something young man. The rules of economy (you can only hire so many actors on a limited budget) indicate we may have met one or both of Sean's parents already. This means some of us, accustomed to the normal constraints of television drama, are already creating interesting scenarios in our minds that include Sean and Sophia's beau, Thomas. Or perhaps both Sophia and Thomas, depending on the level of difficulty associated with the concealment of a pregnancy during incarceration in the Inostranka facility, and the possibility of smuggling an infant out of the facility. This is almost idle speculation, but Sean himself told us we cannot trust him to have revealed the truth or even a partial truth, and we must keep in mind all possibilities as we move forward into Episode Five.
Some have said THE EVENT lacks depth. There are no characters. "Characters welcome," they chide. To these analysts I say this: This essay will exceed four thousand words because the characters, especially Sean Walker, have been richly developed and require lengthy discussion. In fact, if I didn't have a full-time job (I've never been paid so much as a penny for any of my writing), I could compose an eight-thousand word essay on the characters in this episode alone. The characters are rich, but they are the focus of this story's mystery, and therefore they are going to be more hidden than characters may be in most stories. The storytelling paradigms are different than they were on the island. Recall the Shepherd's advice: "Remember... and... let go." (6.18, Act 13) Some are remembering just fine. I'm not so sure all of them are letting go, especially when it comes to analysis of other stories.
They're sick. Disorientation, emotional instability, and now massive nosebleeds. Thomas is making good his threat to the President. He infected the Flight 514 passengers, and now they're going to infect the world.
"Aha!" you say. "Pearson predicted it last week." While I would like to claim credit for having correctly predicted a plot element (it may be the first time I ever predicted anything correctly!), I urge you to curb your enthusiasm. First, I didn't predict an infection of the passengers, rather this possibility was one of many that I discussed during the course of last week's essay. Also, I need to point out that the physical evidence before us does not necessarily indicate biological infection. Infection is one possibility, but there are others.
Nosebleeds could be the normal outcome of the type of biological revival the passengers experienced, for instance. Perhaps in minutes or hours their symptoms will go away and they will return to their lives as usual.
Another possibility is that this is not an infection but something more akin to a... conversion. The good doctor at the National Bioquarantine Facility told the President PET scans had revealed the bodies experienced mitochondrial activity during their period of clinical death in the desert sun. Mitochondria produce energy for cells, but they also maintain unique, critical control over other important functions. For instance, mitochondria regulate hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. An important fact to keep in mind when considering mitochondria is that the DNA inside these "cells within a cell" is unique. This DNA is found nowhere else, and it is different from the DNA inside the cell nucleus. One might even consider mitochondria to be different from the cells they inhabit--foreigners, essentially. In fact, some biologists feel the mitochondria may actually have their origin as an entirely distinct species. "Due to their independence from the nuclear DNA and similarities with bacteria, it is believed that mitochondria have originated from bacteria by endosymbiosis."(http://www.buzzle.com/articles/mitochondria-structure-and-functions.html; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endosymbiotic_theory)
Walter at The Event Log (http://theeventlog.net/) speculated a few days ago that the crash of the aliens at Inostranka and the crash of Avias Flight 514 are connected in more than superficial ways. His ideas are sound, well composed, and quite in keeping with the flavour of the series. I urge everyone to read it (http://theeventlog.net/2010/10/10/missing-the-obvious-parallel/). His quite startling analysis ended with a strong intimation of another way of looking at the resuscitated passengers: "... seeing the passengers of 514 appeared dead and then re-animate at the end of episode 103... raises the question of whether those passengers underwent some form of DNA therapy that renders their genetic code only a 99% match with homo sapiens." That is, perhaps the action we understand as infection may actually have been the first step in converting human beings into humanoids biologically identical to the Inostranka detainees.
I loved the revelation at the end of the Vicky/Leila sequence. I enjoyed a screening of The Sting just a month ago, and it has always been one of my favourite movies.
When the sequence began I blew some quite loud and derisive raspberries at the flat screen in front of me. "Come on! Give me better storylines than this!" The broken glass was too obvious as a means of allowing Leila to gain her freedom. If I had not been grasping a pen and clipboard in front of me (standard operating equipment for a television analyst) I would have been crossing my arms over my chest at that point. By the end of the episode I was chuckling. Clipboard in hand, I think myself somehow a cut above, able to see things no one else sees, erudite beyond compare, and then... a modern-day Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorff pull the rug out from under me and I fall on my butt. The whole sequence was wonderfully executed and could not have served as a more appropriate ending to a very entertaining hour (42 minutes on my DVR) of television.
The conspirators are going to extreme lengths to set the stage for Sean's activities in the next few episodes. I should write much more about Sean, his history and abilities, the likely course of events in coming weeks, and so on, but I fear if I do not end the essay now I may not find an easy way to close it in the next several hours. And since my employers have a reasonable expectation of some degree of commitment in exchange for compensation, I will end the essay at this point.
The last two hours of THE EVENT have been rich, puzzling, intriguing, and compelling. I look forward to seeing the Casualties of War and hearing their stories next week.
Posted by DarkUFO at Wednesday, October 13, 2010 15 Comments
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