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First Impressions: Way to Go, Charlie!

One of Lost’s most character-driven episodes in Season Three, if not the whole series, is the Charlie backstory, “Greatest Hits.” The “greatest hits” list of memories he writes and leaves for Claire—all the acts that Charlie feels define his life—involve his gaining approval, usually fleeting, from others, and Charlie needs to feel that approval. Better than any drug, it feeds his self-worth and makes him feel like he really does have something to offer the world. Charlie often thinks that people don’t appreciate him; they criticize and then abandon him. Throughout his lifetime, off and on island, his actions are based on getting positive feedback from those whose opinion matters to him. His Top Five Memories show just why they in particular are so important:

  • He gains the music-buying public’s approval of his music when he hears it being played on the radio.
  • He gains his father’s approval by learning to swim.
  • He gains his brother’s approval for being the “good one,” most likely to marry, have a child, and influence the next generation of Paces.
  • He gains a stranger’s approval for protecting her against an attacker and thus becomes recognized as a hero.
  • He gains Claire’s approval for making her smile after the plane crash and in some small way making her life better.

The most important item not on Charlie’s list, one he believes won’t become a memory he can share, is a purely selfless act: volunteering to swim into a reportedly flooded station to open a communication line with the outside world.

Charlie may say that his life is “all about the music,” but it really is all about saving others. His previous backstories, especially “Fire + Water,” mention several ways he’s been asked to “save” his family through musical success or to “save” Aaron through baptism; the music he writes and sings, with the exception of “You All Everybody,” includes the word “save.” The only person Charlie thinks he can’t save is himself.

Charlie’s “greatest hit” is his choice to jump headfirst into dangerous waters to save his island family and friends. In so doing, he may have gained exactly what he has been seeking but didn’t think he could receive: redemption.

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