Like Mark Twain wrote: “Clothes make the man.” And like EJ Feddes wrote: “Have we seen Island Christian in different clothes?” Since that is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night, here, at the end of Lost, I went through and actually looked. And like the monkey said to the astronaut: “Don’t look for it, Taylor; you might not like what you find.”
The first thing that surprised me was that out of all six seasons of the show so far (that’s 116 episodes as of “The Last Recruit”), Christian Shephard has only appeared in seventeen episodes. Doesn’t it seem much more than that? And, as I delved deeper, of those seventeen episodes, in only eight of them does he appear on the Island. In the other nine appearances, Christian is giving Jack hassles in surgery (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”), getting loaded with Sawyer (“Outlaws”), hassling Jack at his wedding (“Do No Harm”), hassling Jack in surgery again (“Hunting Party”), getting loaded with Ana-Lucia and getting her to drive him over to see Claire (“Two for the Road”), hassling Jack through seeing Sarah (“Tale of Two Cities”), or trying not to hassle Goth Claire after her car accident (“Par Avion”).
But these other eight is where it gets interesting. In the Chinese parable sort of way.
Right off, it’s not eight; it’s nine, because I’m going to count Christian’s appearance in the writer’s strike mobile phone “mobisode” which takes place seconds before the pilot episode begins. One of the lingering questions for some folks is whether or not Christian Shephard is actually dead. Even though the whole reason Jack was on the plane in the first place was to ferry his father’s body back to LA, just because the coffin was empty some folks think he might not actually be dead. That maybe the Island healed him in some way. But I think this line of thinking is pretty definitively debunked in “So it Begins” as when we see Christian Shephard, he’s wearing his burial suit and the cheap tennis shoes Jack had him dressed in. Both shoes. Even though that’s pretty obviously Dead Christian’s tennis shoe in the tree that Jack passes and the camera lingers on in the first moments of the pilot. So, this one: Christian is the Smoke Monster, wearing his burial suit.
Even though the “mobisode” takes place first chronologically (or as “chronological” as you get in this show), the first appearance of Christian Shephard is in “Walkabout,” glimpsed in a far shot, wearing his burial suit. Interestingly, he’s not even played by the actor John Terry in this shot, although it’s clear it’s supposed to be that character. Or, some form of that character… so, this one: Christian is the Smoke Monster, wearing his burial suit. And next, in “White Rabbit,” it’s pretty clearly the Smoke Monster, wearing the burial suit.
We don’t see an on-Island Christian until the premiere ep of Season Four, “Beginning of the End.” As Hurley approaches Jacob’s cabin, he hears the whispers. Lostpedia.com has a transcript of the left- and right-channel whispers:
“You have to believe it’s me, Nikki”
”Did anyone say something?”
”I said nothing”
”You better not say a fucking thing… or talk about Desmond”
“I’m not going to listen to them”
“It’s January 7th”
“I see somebody”
“Do you recognize him?”
…which certainly lends credence to Dead Michael claiming the whispers are the lost souls of the Island, what with Nikki being dead herself at this point. But as Hurley looks into the cabin, he sees a portrait of Vincent on the wall, and Christian Shephard sitting in a rocking chair… wearing his cheap tennis shoes and burial suit. Smoke Monster!
Or is it? Because here’s where I think it gets interesting. The next time we see Christian, it’s both on- and off- the Island. In “Something Nice Back Home,” Claire sees her father on the Island, slowly rocking his grandson Aaron, and, for the first time, is wearing something other than that blue suit. He’s got some sort of casual Banana Republic sort of brown striped shirt on. But! Jack sees him in the 2007 flash-forward at the hospital…wearing his cheap tennis shoes and burial suit! But Christian is dead, and the Smoke Monster can’t leave the Island. And we only have Smokey’s word that it was him impersonating Christian on the beach on Day Three. So… what if Burial Suit Christian is actually… Jacob! And crazy ol’ brownshirt Christian is the Smoke Monster? It seems to fit… especially since when we next see Christian, he’s trapped in Jacob’s cabin by the ring of black ash, wearing his brown striped shirt, telling Locke he can speak on behalf of Jacob and tells Locke to move the Island. Holy crap!
In “No Place Like Home, Part 2,” Brown Shirt Christian says “You can go now, Michael” as the freighter blows up. That sure sounds like the cold calculation of the Smoke Monster.
And Brown Shirt Christian next shows up to Broken Leg Locke in the Frozen Donkey Wheel chamber in “This Place is Death,” where he chides Locke for letting Ben turn the wheel and basically talks Locke into killing himself for the Island. Which is pretty ironic considering it seems only so the Smoke Monster can change forms.
He’s wearing the brown shirt again when he shows Lapidus and Sun the Dharma recruit photo from 1977 in the episode “Namaste.”
And even though we only see Christian Shephard in a surgery flashback in “The Incident,” the Season Five finale, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this episode first shows Jacob in his true form and has Ilana say that Jacob himself hasn’t lived in the cabin for “a very long time” and that “Someone else has been using it.” I think that’s a pretty good support that Burial Suit Christian is either Jacob or a manifestation of the Island in some way (remember, there was that other eye staring out at Hurley from the cabin window in “Beginning of the End”), and Banana Republic Christian is the Smoke Monster.
Anyway, two weeks is too long to wait for the next episode.