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Lostwatch: The Doctor is In(sufferable)

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SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses last night’s episode of Lost. If you haven’t gotten around to watching it, go to your TV immediately–walk off the job or leave your kids unattended if necessary–watch it and come back before reading further.

Last night on Lost we got out first extended look at one of the "Others" since the menacing denizens of the not-so-desert island absconded with kid castaway Walt at the end of the first season. Their grizzled leader told a band of the castaways it was time they had "a talk," which on Lost means it was time they had an exchange of vague, cryptic threats that gave little sign of the Others’ origins or designs.

We got more in-depth info instead about doctor Jack (Matthew Fox), in the form of a flashback that told how he lost his wife, and miracle patient, by cheating on her (and vice versa). More to the point, the flashback shed more light on Jack’s uncontrollable, paternalistic compulsion to get in other people’s business.

One of the many great things about Lost is its willingness to make what amounts to its male lead character into a total, arrogant, pushy jerk. (Albeit one with an exculpatory backstory of alcoholic father, personal loss, etc.) Another great thing is how seamlessly the show has related Jack’s jerkitude both to his role on the show (as nominal tribe leader) and his profession.

Jack, that is, is a jerk in that unique way that doctors can be jerks. (No offense to our well-heeled and admirable readers in the medical professions or the pharmaceutical and personal-health-product companies that so generously advertise in this website’s parent magazine. Breathe Right Strips are modern miracles!) He has been trained, over great time, to heal the human body, and there is something in him that cannot bear to see foolhardy, untrained amateurs in charge of their own well-being. He needs to fix things, and the will of the thing, or the person, that he is fixing is immaterial. Hence his stubbornness; hence his meddling; hence the single-mindedness that strains his relationships with his fellow castaways and, apparently, that contributed to the bust-up of his marriage.

Fox plays Jack with an unsparing intensity that allows you to see the reasons for Jack’s bullheadedness without necessarily liking him for it. And certainly a little bullheadedness and boldness can be useful in his situation; at the end of the episode, he started making plans to train the group into an army to take on the Others. Which at least will keep us hanging to see whether his latest prescription is a cure or worse than the disease.