"LOST" RETROSPECT: (3.13) "THE MAN FROM TALLAHASSEE"
Aside from one episode, I have no real love for the first half "LOST" Season Three. Along with the second half of Season Two and the first half of Season Six, it is one of my least favorite periods during the series' six-year run. However . . . I did say "first half". Season Three began to redeem itself with the airing of the John Locke-centric episode called (3.13) "The Man From Tallahassee".
The episode picked up immediately where the previous one, (3.12) "Par Avion" left off. Oceanic 815 survivors John Locke, Kate Austen and Sayid Jarrah had decided to leave the survivors' camp to find the Others' main camp and rescue their fellow castaway, Dr. Jack Shephard. The trio eventually found Jack at the Others' camp at the end of "Par Avion' and were astounded to discover him playing a friendly game of touch football with his captors. While Locke and Sayid remained in a state of shock, Kate went into warrior mode and decided to shoot as many Others as possible in an attempt to free Jack. Due to the "brainwashing room" that she and James "Sawyer" Ford had discovered during their escape from the Others in (3.07) "Not in Portland", Kate believed that Jack had been brainwashed. Both Locke and Sayid managed to stop Kate before she could commence upon her bloody rescue plan. Locke advised that they wait until dark to rescue Jack. While Kate and Sayid attempted to rescue Jack, Locke decided to embark upon his own agenda regarding the Others' submarine he had learned about from Other Mikhail Bakunin in (3.11) "Enter 77".
Since this episode is Locke-centric, the flashbacks featured turning points in Locke's relationships with girlfriend Helen Norwood and his con artist father, Anthony Cooper. The flashbacks revealed how Locke tried to put his obsession over his father behind him and focus upon solidifying his relationship with Helen. But his goals failed when a young (Patrick J. Adams of "SUITS") named Peter Talbot sought Locke's help in breaking up his mother's upcoming wedding to Cooper. However, Locke's re-entry into his father's life resulted in tragedy for young Peter and himself.
"The Man From Tallahassee" not only marked the beginning of better writing for Season Three, I believe it proved to be one of the season's best episodes. Screenwriters Drew Goddard and Jeff Pinkner did an excellent job of utilizing a certain aspect of John Locke's personality that drove forward the narratives for both the island's present story line and Locke's back story. Audiences have seen how Locke's obsession with Anthony Cooper in episodes like (1.19) "Deux Ex Machina", (2.03) "Orientation" and (2.17) "Lockdown" led to a good deal of misery in his life, previous to the Oceanic 815 crash. Ever since the plane crash, Locke had directed this obsessive trait toward the island and its "secrets". His obsession reached a higher level in "The Man From Tallahassee". The past John Locke finally seemed intent upon staying out of his father's life. But one visit from Cooper's future son-in-law left Locke determined to re-enter Cooper's life and save Peter's mother from falling into the con man's clutches. Locke's obsession with the island and his discovery of the Others' submarine in "Enter 77" led him to abandon the plan to rescue Jack and change his agenda. His actions not only led to a cat-and-mouse game with the Others' leader, Ben Linus, but also soured his relationship with Jack and Sayid even further.
This episode not only continued the series' exploration of Locke's obsessive nature, but also a trait of his that I have always found disturbing - namely his penchant for enforcing his will upon others. Audiences have seen this trait in past episodes such as (1.13) "Hearts and Minds" and (2.16) "The Whole Truth". When I first saw "The Man From Tallahassee", I wondered why Locke had bothered to destroy the Others' submarine with the C-4 explosives he had pinched from Mikhail. The episode never fully explained Locke's actions in so many words. But I eventually began to suspect that Locke did not want anyone leaving the island - whether that person be an Oceanic 815 survivor or a member of the Others. Again, this is merely speculation on my part. However, a part of me also suspect that Locke believes the island is the best solution for everyone's troubles. After all, it had healed his legs and led him to a renewed interest in life after so many failures. But the thing is . . . Locke's faith in the island was based upon what it did to his legs. He never really had an idea what the island was about, why the Others were determined to protect it from outsiders or whether it was the right solution for every soul that inhabited it.
Locke's destruction of the Others' submarine ruined Jack Shephard's chances of leaving the island. Some time between (2.09) "Stranger in a Strange Land" and this episode, Jack made a deal with Ben Linus to leave the island on the subm. Would Ben have kept his deal and allow Jack to leave? Many fans would say "no". Personally, I have no idea. Benjamin Linus could be a controlling liar in order to serve his goals. Yet . . . he kept his promise to Oceanic 815 survivor Michael Dawson and allowed the latter and son Walt Lloyd to leave the island in the Season Two finale, (2.24) "Live Together, Die Alone - Part II". So . . . who knows? The submarine's destruction achieved something else. I suspect that Locke's action led Ben and the island's resident immortal, Richard Alpert, to introduce the castaway to the island's latest newcomer, Anthony Cooper. When I first saw this episode, I had assumed that Cooper was simply a tool Ben was using to push Locke's emotional buttons. Now, I know better. Cooper's presence was basically a test for Ben and Richard to see whether Locke was worthy of becoming an Other. Speaking of Anthony Cooper, "The Man From Tallahassee" also revealed how Locke ended in a wheelchair before his fateful flight aboard Oceanic 815. I have to be honest. I never saw it coming when I first saw this episode. For two seasons, viewers like myself wondered how John Locke became physically handicapped. Although I had had been aware of Cooper since "Deux Ex Machine", I never thought he would end up being responsible for Locke ending up in a wheelchair. During my first viewing of this episode, I had practically gasped aloud when I saw the con artist shove his son out of that window.
The operation to rescue Jack not only ended in failure - at least from Kate and Sayid's point-of-views - but also sidetracked the latter's character. Sayid really had nothing to do in this episode but suffer as a prisoner of the Others. On the other hand, this episode also featured Jack and Kate's reunion after the latter's escape from Hydra Island with Sawyer in (3.06) "I Do" and "Not in Portland". And man . . . did it turn out to be memorable. Many fans of "LOST" have never viewed the Jack/Kate relationship as particularly sexy or passionate. Although I had originally shared their feelings, I also believed that Jack and Kate's relationship was more than simply about sex and passion. However . . . sex and passion certainly had a strong impact upon their reunion in "The Man From Tallahassee". And the ironic thing is that the meeting of lips or the exchange of bodily fluids were not involved. . . . only heated words and hand play.
The "Man From Tallahassee" featured some very fine acting from the cast. Only two cast members did not benefit from this episode. As I had earlier pointed out, Naveen Andrews, who portrayed Sayid Jarrah, spent most of the episode either looking shocked, annoyed and frustrated. Elizabeth Mitchell's Dr. Juliet Burke did very little in this episode, as well. The episode featured a sly performance from M.C. Gainey as Others member Tom Friendly. It also featured an earnest performance from guest star Patrick J. Adams. Kevin Tighe continued his excellent portrayal of Locke's treacherous father, Anthony Cooper. And Michael Emerson was also excellent as the Others' leader, Ben Linus. Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly knocked it out of the ballpark, while portraying the passionate regard both Jack Shephard and Kate Austen held for each other. But this episode belonged to Terry O'Quinn, who gave a brilliant performance as the always complex John Locke. O'Quinn took Locke's characterization all over the place - from emotionally needy to ruthlessly determined - and still managed to keep his performance in control. It is not surprising that O'Quinn won his Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in this episode.
Ironically, I have never considered "The Man From Tallahassee" as one of my top ten favorite "LOST" episodes. Locke's tale in this episode has always struck me as slightly depressing. But I cannot help but regard it as one of the best episodes from Season Three . . . and one of the best that the series had to offer.