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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the LOST episode “Walkabout", which originally aired on October 13th, 2004.
Previously on LOST: With the chances of rescue diminishing more each day, the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 settle into life on the mysterious island. Jack Shephard has become the de facto leader of the group, a position he reluctantly accepts. While we’ve gotten a handful of nuggets about what makes these people tick, they’re still shrouded in mystery.
Every great television show has certain episodes that are long remembered after the end credits roll on the series finale. While LOST’s two part pilot and last week’s episode “Tabula Rasa” were good episodes, it’s “Walkabout” that proves to be the first chapter in the saga that truly shakes the foundation of the story.
It’s fitting that the previous episode ends with a creepy close up of John Locke as he’s the star of “Walkabout”. Up to this point the character has been something of an enigma, defined more by his quirky behavior than by anything he’s said or done since the plane crash. If you were to project his overall importance to the LOST story based on what we’ve seen so far you’d probably think he’d be nothing more than a bit player in the saga, but that opinion would certainly change after this episode.
“Walkabout” opens with yet another mystery as the survivors hear someone rummaging around inside what remains of the plane’s fuselage. Given all the strange things they’ve seen over the last few days everyone’s imagination runs wild, but this time nature is to blame as a boar charges out after Sawyer shines his flashlight on it. The situation sets up a solution for a problem that they find the following morning as their limited food supply has almost been exhausted. With no more bags of peanuts to snack on an alternative must be found, and it’s the mysterious Locke that offers the perfect solution: hunt the boar.
It’s revealed that Locke had a briefcase full of exotic hunting knives on the plane, leading the audience to believe that perhaps he’s ex-military or maybe in law enforcement. This slight of hand is reinforced as his flashback begins, the camera shows us a close up of Locke as he’s on the phone with someone who refers to him as “The Colonel”, seemingly confirming our suspicious that Locke is indeed a veteran of some branch of the armed forces. This narrative is shattered when his obnoxious boss Randy appears over the wall of his cubicle, revealing that Locke is nothing more than a pencil pusher at a box company. “The Colonel” is just a code name he uses when playing a board game with a coworker at lunch, which Randy openly mocks Locke for. It’s obvious that Locke is nothing more than a plaything to his supervisor, who teases him over a brochure for a walkabout adventure in Australia. When Locke informs him that he has already signed up Randy says that Locke can’t do that, to which he responds “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” This is Locke’s catchphrase, one that we’ll not only hear him say multiple times in this very episode, but also throughout the show’s run. It speaks volumes about the man's determination, which will see him experience both success and crushing failure.
From there we see Locke talking on the phone to someone named Helen, a character that was referenced earlier during his lunchtime board game fun. The conversation initially leads us to believe that this might be a girlfriend, someone Locke has a long and storied history with. But as he tells the woman on the other line that he bought her a ticket so she could accompany him to Australia she informs him that it’s against the rules for her to see customers in person, revealing her to be nothing more than a dial-a-date.
Back on the island Locke informs the camp that it will take three people to successfully kill a boar, and since the restless Kate is always up for an adventure she quickly volunteers. Michael is still smarting from the fact that Locke found his son’s dog before he could, and rounds out the party in the hopes that he can impress young Walt just like Locke has from the moment they landed on this strange island.
Unfortunately for Michael his role in the hunt ends in disaster, as he’s maimed by a boar and has to limp back to camp with the assistance of Kate. Despite her insistence that they all return to the beach Locke insists on continuing the hunt alone, and soon after they separate he finds himself face to face with The Monster that we last saw in the pilot episodes. Kate sees that the creature is headed Locke’s way and when she gets back to camp she reports the bad news, wrongly assuming that it has killed him. The audience gets to see Locke’s encounter first hand, and even though we don’t get a glimpse of The Monster the look of peaceful wonder on Locke’s face says a lot about both the creature and the man brave enough to face it down. By the episode's end Locke will turn up again, this time with a fresh boar for the camp to feast on. When Michael asks him about The Monster he denies having seen it, letting the audience that had just started sympathizing with Locke know that he still can’t be trusted completely.
The main reason “Walkabout” is held in such high regard with LOST fans is the last act of Locke’s flashback. He’s found his way to Australia and is arguing with a travel agent, demanding that he be let on a bus that is about to depart on the walkabout. The agent is desperately trying to maintain his composure, claiming that Locke misrepresented himself on his application and that his “condition” prevents him from going on the journey. In what proves to be the first big reveal on LOST the camera pulls back as the agent leaves the room, showing us that pre-island John Locke was imprisoned in a wheelchair. His final “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” is heartbreaking, and explains much of the things he’ll go on to do during his time on the island.
A couple other story threads pop up in this episode, most prominently Jack’s interactions with Rose on the beach. The two survivors shared a row on the flight, which serves as a bit of an ice breaker as the doctor tries to convince Rose to join the other survivors at their makeshift camp. While this subplot has some nice dialog it doesn’t really do much until they wrap up, as Jack sees a yet-unidentified man staring at him from a distance away. The man is dressed in a three piece suit, certainly inappropriate attire for the situation, and it’s clear that Jack knows who he is even though we don’t. Given how strung out Jack is at this point we have to wonder if what we’re seeing is even real, or nothing but a hallucination cooked up in his exhausted mind.
The most forgettable aspect of “Walkabout” is Claire’s insistence that they have a memorial service for those who didn’t survive the crash, which is inspired by the group’s decision to burn the fuselage so it doesn’t attract any additional boar. The situation does give a little insight into Jack’s character as he makes it clear that memorials aren’t his thing, establishing him as the show’s “man of science” which will come into play later on. We also see Charlie dip into his diminishing heroin supply, reminding us that he’s a junkie that will soon find himself forced to go cold turkey. The memorial closes with a beautiful shot of Locke watching his wheelchair in front of the flames, which seem to lick at the device that has caused him so much misery.
Next week on LOST: “White Rabbit”, the first of many Jack-centric episodes.