Friday, June 20, 2008

Alpert, Locke & That Damn Test!

Good news! Looks like Nestor Carbonell, aka Richard Alpert The Gorgeous Eyelash Man, will be back next season. Hopefully he'll be a series regular. There's an interview with him up at Latino where he talks a little bit about Lost but mainly about his role in the upcoming Batman movie (thanks to DarkUFO for the link!).
LatinoReview: What do you have coming up next after this?
Carbonell: I'm working on 'Lost' so I will be returning to that in August. I'm also current working, coincidently, on the Batman cartoon. This is called 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'. It's the next Warner Brothers version of Batman, the cartoon.
I have a soft spot for Alpert, not only due to his eyelashes and eyes, but also because he seems so soft-spoken and gentle: such an antithesis to Ben, even though we found out in "The Man Behind The Curtain" that he recruited Ben! And seemingly deferred to him as leader (though he was getting a little rebellious there when he slipped Locke Sawyer's file). Yet he can also be rather forceful and persuasive... if you remember him from when he talked Juliet out of her last minute jitters when she was headed to the island in "Not In Portland". I am really dying to find out who he really is and what his backstory is: ancient Egyptian? descendent (or member?) of the Black Rock crew?

Alpert had that great mysterious quality to him even before we found out that he seemingly doesn't age, and that he was there at the hospital when Locke had just been born, and that he later performed some kind of lama-ish test on Locke. But all that? Totally added to his charm.

I was thinking about that test that Locke seemingly failed as a young boy in "Cabin Fever". Alpert's outburst when Locke picked the knife was very abrupt and very out of character for Alpert I thought at the time. What if Locke actually didn't fail, but passed? But that the time was not right for Locke to do whatever it was Alpert wanted him to do yet? With Ben, they asked him to wait after Alpert first met him in the jungle. And even though Alpert was supposedly recruiting Locke for some special school, an offer withdrawn when he "failed", I wonder if it was all just a ruse? I mean, say that Locke passed the test. Whatever the test was for... (I'm still not really happy with the thought of tibetan-style reincarnation and I hope something else is going on), maybe it was essential Locke NOT know that he passed? And they did try to recruit him when he got older. And eventually he ended up on the island anyway of course.

I don't know. Alpert's rough response to Locke when he picked the knife just rubbed me the wrong way I guess, and we've never seen Alpert act that way around other people before or since. Though it is possible that Carbonell has no idea where the writers were going with the whole thing (Naveen Andrews has stated that the actors pretty much find out f--- all from the writers about their characters' motivation - side bar: Naveen makes for an awesome, though rather outspoken interview subject!), and just tried to interpret the situation the best he knew how under the circumstances. In other words: even if Alpert knew that Locke really passed, it's possible Carbonell didn't. After reading about how little the actors know about what will happen to their characters in the future (or past!), I think it might be a good policy to avoid too detailed an analysis of the performances. Though of course I can't help myself anyway.

I'm still mulling over those objects he showed to Locke, and wondering if they all had some kind of meaning or if some of them were just "duds" added to entice the boy to pick them just because they looked cool. I mean, the baseball glove? What was that all about? It is interesting to note, that in "The Brig", it is Alpert who helps Locke out of the conundrum of how/if he is to kill his father by giving him Sawyer's file. Leading Locke to manipulate Sawyer into killing "the real Sawyer" in one of the series' darkest and most disturbing scenes, imo.

In spite of my dislike of the reincarnation storyline possibility, it seems that what Alpert was doing corresponds fairly closely to how the Tibetan buddhists choose, or rather find, the Dalai Lama. From WikiAnswers:
He is not chosen, he is found. The current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. He was born two years after his last incarnation ended. Senior Tibetan monks recieve information during meditation which helps them track down the new Dalai Lama. They have a secret set of criteria which they use to determine whether the child they have tracked down is the Dalai Lama. Although, Familiarity with the possessions of the previous Dalai Lama is considered the main sign of the reincarnation. The search for the reincarnation typically requires a few years.
And just add this from Wikipedia:
The reincarnation is then brought to Lhasa to be trained by the other Lamas.

Yeah, totally what Alpert seems to have been doing. Except: IF Locke failed the test, why would they still have tried to recruit him to the island when he was older? Which again makes me really wonder if Locke passed or failed that test. And also: getting someone to kill their father doesn't sound very buddhist, now does it?

I do wonder if the whole reincarnation bit is not somehow a red herring thrown out by Lost's powers that be. It seems so obvious, and at its best, this show has always avoided the obvious answers. I'm hoping that's the case here too. There is something weird going on with Locke, Alpert and that whole storyline, but I really hope the payoff is not a straight rip-off from Buddhism. (No offense Buddhism!)

Screencaps of Richard Alpert from "The Man Behind The Curtain", "Cabin Fever", "The Brig", and "There's No Place Like Home" thanks to lost-media.

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