I’m actually glad I forgot to toss this observation in with my recap of Episode 5.03, “Jughead,” because it gives me a chance to break this thought out on its own, which I think it deserves. When Juliet revealed that learning Latin (even “Vulgar” Latin…”the language of the enlightened”) was part of “Others 101” to Sawyer, I got to thinking about just what exactly the Others’ skill-set is, and it’s quite impressive. Every Other appears to have received a top-notch mental and physical education (“mens sanum in corpore sano,” as it were):
- In addition to Latin, as revealed in “Jughead,” Others have shown themselves to be accomplished polyglots, at least conversational in Russian (“Enter 77”), English (“Enter 77”), Arabic (“The Shape of Things to Come”), and Portuguese (“Catch-22”) even when not their native language.
- Their reading list encompasses an exhaustive list of global scriptures and literary classics (“The Economist,” “Eggtown,” “Every Man For Himself”).
- They’re skilled with firearms (“Greatest Hits,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “Because You Left”), explosives (“Exodus, Part 2”), bows (“The Lie”), thrown and/or blown weapons like bolos and blow-darts (“Live Together, Die Alone”), hand-to-hand combat (“The Shape of Things to Come,” “Every Man for Himself”), and guerilla tactics (“There’s No Place Like Home”).
- They’re trained in hunting, tracking, trapping, and stealth skills to a point where even someone like Locke admits they’re way out of his league (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”).
- All the ones we’ve seen off-Island seem to have criminal/espionage skills including aliases and front organizations that withstand scrutiny (“Not in Portland,” “The Shape of Things to Come,” “Cabin Fever”).
- They are educated in science and understand relatively modern technology to the point where they can effectively use the stations and equipment left behind by the DHARMA Initiative (“Enter 77,” “Maternity Leave,” “The Other Woman,” several others).
Serious “renaissance people,” these.
What’s more, they (usually) seem to have rather stringent requirements in who they allow to actually join them. As Mikhail the nigh-indestructible Russian said in “Par Avion” regarding Kate, Rousseau, Sayid, and Locke: “You are not on the list because you are flawed. Because you are angry, and weak, and frightened.”
Look at the caliber of person left off Jacob’s List:
- Jack: Surgical prodigy, staggeringly well-educated, world traveler, leadership abilities.
- Sayid: Linguistically, technologically, psychologically, and martially adept.
- Locke: Keen strategic mind, spiritual insight and intuition, skilled hunter/tracker/survivalist. Guy knew how to make a bloody trebuchet out of common jungle materials, fercryinoutloud.
- Sawyer: Skilled con artist, unexpectedly brave and self-sacrificing when the situation demanded it.
- Sun: Skilled at deception, picks up languages easily, business and financial acumen.
- Bernard: Dentist (well-educated), knows morse code, skilled marksman.
- The innumerable scientific minds of the DHARMA Initiative: You’d think they might have found someone worth recruiting beside Ben among the DI.
(I’d also toss Libby onto this list, but I’m not entirely convinced she wasn’t either an Other or one of Widmore’s operatives of similar skill-set.)
So, clearly it’s not just a matter of brains or talent. If it were just those, any one of the people listed above should have been very desirable to the Others. It’s also not just a willingness to believe in the seemingly supernatural qualities of the Island, or Locke and Rose would have been scooped right up. It’s not even a willingness to do literally anything up to and including laying down one’s own life in the service of the Island or, again, Locke would have been at the top of the List.
Apparently, it also takes the lack of certain kinds of emotional baggage (or at least a willingness to shed same, as with Ben taking care of his neglectful, abusive father). This would explain why children are especially desirable to them…children would naturally be able to be shown the wonders of the Island and molded into good Others much more readily than adults.
That said, I’ve seen at least one seeming exception to this pattern, and that’s Juliet. She was something of a wreck when she was recruited in “Not in Portland.” She was letting her philandering husband walk all over her and generally not showing the kind of character associated with Otherdom. If not for her eminence in a field of personal interest to Ben and her willingness to “bend the rules” as she did with her sister’s pregnancy, I don’t think the Others would ever have recruited her.
But the big question is, “why do Others have to excel in so many ways?”
The easy answer would be that it would be required so that no one without staggering intelligence, drive, and loyalty to the Island would ever have the ability to use the Island’s power to affect little things like causality itself for petty ends. The most notable exhibit in favor of this hypothesis Ben’s tumor and subsequent turning of the frozen donkey wheel to move the Island. When he went “off the reservation” by focusing the Others’ attention and skills on fixing the pregnancy issues for his personal reasons, the Island made him sick and ultimately maneuvered things to effectively banish him.
But that assumes that the Island just does what it’s directed to. I think it goes deeper than that. The reason that only the best, brightest, and most “special” are allowed to be Others is that the Island has a symbiotic relationship with the aggregate of the minds that “serve” it…and especially from the mind of the leader of those servants. And to have petty, dark, pain-induced emotions being the ones melding with the Island would be potentially catastrophic for not just everyone on the Island, but for all of humanity. (Ever seen the Red Dwarf episode, “Legion?” If not, then see it! It has direct bearing here…)
This is why it banished Widmore on at least one occasion, why it banished Ben, and why it sent Locke on his suicide mission to bring the Oceanic 6 back. Why Locke? Because Locke’s need to become the leader of the Others is, fundamentally, self-aggrandizing. He needs to feel special and to not feel like the failure who lost out on the Other Lama Test, got stuffed in lockers, got conned out of a kidney, lost the love of his life over his emotional issues, got tossed out of an eighth-story window, was crippled, worked for a box company, paid for phone-based companionship, and got turned away when trying to go on his walkabout. Yes, he’s willing to submit himself to the Island, but it’s to prove himself.
It’s why I think Locke’s headed for a resurrection…his death ultimately proves his willingness to let all of that, and his very life, go in the service of the Island. It was a death of ego matched by a literal death, finally proving himself worthy in a way he was never willing to before, as when he failed to kill Cooper and or to stop Jack from making his call to the freighter by any means necessary.
It’s also why neither Widmore nor Ben can ever again be allowed to be in charge of human society on the Island. Whoever is in charge on the Island needs to not only be equipped to make decisions that could potentially affect the whole planet, but needs to be able to make them for the right reasons.
I really find myself hoping that it’s Locke, somehow, who manages to outmaneuver both Ben and Widmore in the end—and for the right ends—thereby proving his worthiness for that leadership role. He deserves it. 😉