Jack's tattoos are first seen in the pilot, when he removes his shirt to assess the extent of his injuries. Kate and Jack discuss them in "House of the Rising Sun" before they leave on their trek to the Caves.
In "The Man from Tallahassee", while Jack is waiting outside of Ben's house, some kind of drawing is visible on his left arm. This is another tattoo that he received before arriving on the Island. Its origins were never explained. Jack's forearm tattoo is also seen in "Outlaws" when he is giving Kate a gun from the marshal's case, in "One of Us" when Jack is handing towels to Juliet on the beach, and in "Catch-22" when Jack is helping Juliet build her tent. It can also be seen in "The Shape of Things to Come" when Jack is taking pills from the medical suitcase, and less clearly when Doctor Ray's body is pulled from the water.
Jack also has a small tattoo on the upper left part of his back. It can be seen very briefly in "Pilot, Part 1" after he says "standard black". It is very noticeable in the early scenes of "Something Nice Back Home".
Jack's tattoo on his left shoulder include the number 5 and four Chinese characters just underneath. In "Stranger in a Strange Land", we learn that the characters were tattooed on Jack in Phuket, Thailand, by a local woman using the name Achara.
She claims to have the gift of sight to see someone's inner identity. She is able to "see who people are" and "mark them". According to Achara, Jack is "a leader, a great man" but this makes him lonely, frightened, and angry. He forces her to give him a tattoo, despite her protests that he is an outsider and she will get in trouble if she does. Her brother and a gang of Thai locals later attack Jack over the tattoo and demand he leave the country.
In "Stranger in a Strange Land" while Jack is in captivity on Hydra Island, Isabel reads out the tattoo and remarks on its irony, asking Jack if he knows what they mean. She later translates them as "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us." Jack replies, "That's what they say. That's not what they mean." Although the translation given by Isabel matches the impact of the tattoo during the episode's flashback, Isabel's translation is far too long for any combination of four characters and is inaccurate.
A word by word explanation of the 4 Chinese characters on the tattoo:
- 鷹 means eagle or hawk.
- 击 means strike, beat, or attack.
- 長 means long.
- 空 means sky.
These characters are pronounced yīng jī cháng kōng in Mandarin. They are taken from a famous poem "Changsha", written by Chairman Mao Tse-t'ung (Pinyin: Mao Zedong) in 1925. They may be roughly translated as "Eagles strike the wide sky" or, more simply, "The eagles fly upon the sky." Within the poem, the eagles are an example of creatures fighting for freedom. The traditional gloss of the line also sees the eagles as representatives of the gifted members of society using and displaying their abilities. 鹰击长空 was a 2001 Chinese TV show about airforce pilots starring Zheng Xiaoning and Ru Ping. It is also the Chinese title for Tom Clancy's HAWX video game.
There is a kind of typo in this tattoo. Chinese is written either using traditional characters (繁体) or simplified ones (简体), but not a mixture of both sets. In this tattoo, the third character "長" and the first character "鷹" are written in traditional form, while the second one "击" is simplified from 擊. The last character has the same form in both sets.
- The correct rendering of the full set in simplified form should be:
- The correct rendering of the full set in traditional form would be:
- Compare to the actual tattoo:
|This poem is one of the most popular poems by Mao. It was formerly widely used as an exemplary poem in the Chinese high school textbooks of the People's Republic of China. Many former Chinese high school students should be able to recite this poem or at least part of it.|
- The Season 1 DVD interview with Matthew Fox mentions that he had these tattoos before the show. The producers first considered putting make-up over them, but later decided they fit in with the show and kept them.
- The fact that the tattoos received an entire episode to explain them has led to widespread derision of the tattoos among the Lost fanbase. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse regularly joke about the tattoos in interviews, often joking another episode will focus on them or that they hold deeper importance.
- Also on the Season 1 DVD, during the episode "House of the Rising Sun", at about 40:06, when Jack leads a group to the cave, his tattoo is clearly visible on his right shoulder, indicating that the film negative was most likely reversed in editing.
- During "Homecoming" during the fight with Ethan, Jack's tattoo also switches sides, pause at 34:41, the tattoo appears to be on his right side.
- The literal translation of the tattoo, "Eagles high, cleaving sky", is echoed visually in "Stranger in a Strange Land" by the scene of Jack flying his kite.
- In "House of the Rising Sun", Kate and Jack talks about his tattoos, him refusing to tell her about them. Kate expresses her view to Jack that he and his tattoos "don't add up", and they joke about the tattoos being a sign of Jack being "one of those hard-core spinal surgeons". When Charlie, tired of their according to him ridiculous argument, attempts to get them to hurry up and finish the discussion, they do so. Kate, however, asks Charlie to ask Jack about his tattoos, to which Charlie replies, "Oh, you guys have an inside joke. How absolutely wonderful for you both.", ending the conversation.
- In "Lockdown", Sawyer asks Jack if the tattoos were made in Phuket, but Jack ignores the question.
- In real life, 5 in the tattoo is a tribute to Matthew Fox's days as a star on FOX's "Party of Five".[source needed]
- Jack's number as a Candidate is 23. 5 (the number on the tattoo) is the sum of both digits of 23.