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Lost: "Jughead"

 
Last week I complained that for all the propulsive action in the first two Season Five Lost episodes, the emotional undertones felt a bit forced. Well, “Jughead” went a lot more smoothly, because it was anchored to the one relationship on this show that has real gravitas: Desmond and Penny. I firmly believe that Desmond wants to keep Penny safe, and that any choices he makes to the contrary are made with great reluctance, and only because he’s answering to a higher calling. Desmond can talk about duty and time travel and be credible in a way most other Lost characters never can. And when Desmond’s providing the connective tissue in an episode as tightly plotted and straightforward as “Jughead,” it helps a great deal.
 
“Jughead” opens with a semi-fake-out, showing a beach that briefly looks like it could be our island beach (perhaps at a different time), but instead is some other beach in the Pacific, where Desmond is scrambling around, looking for a doctor. The doctor is found and brought back to Penny’s boat, where Penny is in labor, about to give birth to their son, Charlie (!). Jump ahead to years later, and Desmond is telling Charlie about “a very special island… Great Britain.” (Ha-ha) Desmond also praises Scotland and its “deep lochs,” and because I’m Lost-addled, I immediately thought about John Locke.
 
When Desmond reaches present-day Oxford, in search of Daniel’s as-yet-unnamed mother, he discovers that the name of Faraday is not registered at the university in any official capacity, and that his lab has been boarded up, with all his mazes still inside. (Also there: a picture of Daniel's… wife?) Investigating further, Desmond meets Abigail and Theresa Spencer, the latter of whom was Daniel’s love before a time experiment fried her brain, leaving her in the care of—dunh dunh dunh—Charles Widmore. So Desmond confronts Widmore—“The man who sent a boat to the island to kill all daddy’s friends,” as Penny describes Charlie’s grandfather—and silently uses Penny’s continued safety as a bargaining chip to learn that Daniel’s mother is in Los Angeles. (Presumably swinging pendulums in the basement of a church, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that.)
 
I’ve watched “Jughead” twice, and I enjoyed it more the first time then the second, because the first time I watched it I was drinking in all the new information, much of which is conveyed in the Desmond half of the story. The second time around, the episode struck me as a little more exhausting, since all it really does is tell the audience things we need to know for what's coming next. But you want characters like Desmond and Penny at the helm for episodes like this, if only because with one curt, “Why are you lying to me?,” Penny can make direct, no-dawdling action seem the only reasonable response to a worsening crisis. No coyness; just get on with it. Yes, ma’am.
 
Meanwhile, as Desmond romps across the isles, back on the island Daniel, Miles, Charlotte, Locke, Sawyer and Juliet (a hodgepodge of castaways, Others and Freighties) are making wary first contact with the group of armed commandoes who shot flaming arrows at them last episode. And whaddaya know? They’re Others! Are they the original Others? I doubt it. But Richard Alpert is their leader (in whatever it is they’re doing), and they’re on edge because the U.S. military has been using the island for testing. In fact, the Army has left behind a leaky bomb, with “Jughead” painted on its side. And that bomb ends up providing our gang with a means of escape from their predicament with The Others, as well as a handy way for Daniel to explain something somewhat disquieting.
 
I’ll get back to all that in a moment. But first… HOLY CRAP, CHARLES WIDMORE IS ON THE ISLAND!
 
I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of The Others—the man with the “Jones” on his shirt—is Widmore, since we know Widmore has been on the island before, and that he feels its his birthright to be in control of it again. I even guessed last week that the Flaming Arrow bunch were “Widmore’s men.” But I still gasped when Richard gave Charles a quick dressing-down, and we discovered who he was. The pieces are starting to fit together; and yet there’s so much more I want to find out about how Charles got to the island, and why he left, and what he was doing there. Darn time-skips!
 
Tonight we also met gun-totin’ Other Ellie, who takes an immediate dislike to Daniel even though he finds her vaguely familiar. (Theories on that coming towards the bottom of this post.) And of course we met Richard again, who’s “always been here,” according to Juliet, and who listens to Locke jabber because Locke insists the future-Richard left him in charge of The Others. (“I certainly don’t want to contradict myself”) And we also got to see our heroes using their skills: Miles hearing the ghosts of four U.S. soliders—“Did any of them happen to mention what year it is?” Daniel asks—and Locke tracking down Richard’s camp, and Sawyer playing the not-as-reluctant-as-he-seems White Knight. All very fun to watch, in my opinion.
 
Again, I found the episode a touch too plotty the second time through, but I’ve still found myself pondering the ramifications of a few things over the past week, since I first watched “Jughead.” Let’s start with the bomb, suspended by a scaffold, with a breached hull, in danger of exploding and destroying the island. Daniel boasts his way free of The Others by claiming he can do something about the bomb, but once he arrives at the bomb site and examines the device, he offers a strange solution: Bury it and don’t worry about it. It can’t go off, because it didn’t go off. Fifty years from now, the island still exists.
 
The more I think about Daniel’s “can’t change the future” theory, the more I wonder if it’s a pessimistic or optimistic way to view the world. (It’s very Calvinist, I’ll say that.) I’m assuming that later this season we’re going to jump around and finally get the story of The Black Rock, and Rousseau, and so on, and having this “can’t change anything” rule is a handy way for our writers to let the castaways interact with these past events without us fretting about The Butterfly Effect. But Daniel’s inaction seems so anti-heroic to me. If you can’t mess anything up, why not try to do the right thing anyway? The future may be written, but at least you’ll feel better about yourself.
 
Which brings me to the other thing I’ve been pondering: Locke refuses to shoot at a fleeing Other because, “He’s one of my people.” Who has Locke’s loyalty, ultimately? The people he crashed with and survived with, or the people who made them their leader? And aren’t they all united in the same cause: thwarting the plans of Charles Widmore?
 
“You’ve got to answer to someone,” Richard tells Locke, and that’s been a recurring theme on Lost. When in doubt, the characters choose sides and follow a leader, abdicating all responsibility. (Sometimes, as in Daniel's case, they're answering to a scientific ideal.) But sometimes the character make radical choices, like Desmond going to extraordinary lengths to prove his love to Penny, or Daniel offering as collateral to Richard the confession that, “I’m in love with the woman sitting next to me,” meaning the (apparently dying) Charlotte. It’s these real personal connections that cut across the arbitrary lines that people keep drawing in this ongoing saga.
 
And when people make those connections, good things happen. Almost all the tragedy on the island and off has stemmed from a lack of trust. Trust, I'm starting to think, is the real constant.
 
Grade: A-
 
Stray observations:
 
-It looks like my Slingbox plan is going to work, so unless ABC offers next week’s episode to critics early, look for the next blog post to be up about an hour after the episode finishes airing. Or, if for some reason the Slingbox fails, look for an open thread to go up as soon as the episode ends, with a review coming later. Either way, I doubt I’m going to be able to be as detailed as I have been the past two weeks, so be prepared to pick up my slack (as you all so often do).
 
-I think I’m going to name my next band “Frogurt On Fire.”
 
-We lost a couple more redshirts tonight. They only had about a second of screentime, too. Aside from Rose and Bernard, are tonight’s island protagonists the only 815ers left?
 
-Daniel being a smart-ass: “Rifle fire? Right next to… what would you call this? Hydrogen bomb.”
 
-Miles, reminding us he exists: “Yeah, me too. I’m great too.”
 
-Desmond gets Faraday’s mother’s address from Widmore’s organizer. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to take a closer look at that thing
 
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
 
-So, to me the most interesting wrinkle in this episode—I mean, besides the whole “Desmond and Penny have a son named Charlie, and Charles Widmore was on the island with Richard Alpert in the early ‘50s” thing—is that The Others all speak Latin, “the language of the enlightened.” It made me think about all the Latin in Radzinsky’s blast door map. But I’ve got to be honest; it also made me think about how problematic Juliet has become as a character, given her history with The Others. I like Juliet a lot—and I think Elizabeth Mitchell is terrific—but she’s been on “our side” since the middle of Season Three, living with Jack and Sawyer and a bunch of other folks who probably have a lot of questions about the island, and all she does is drop cryptic, smart-ass remarks whenever she’s asked direct questions about what’s going on. Perhaps she doesn’t really know what’s going on. But I think it’s clear from her past expertise with the perimeter fence and other Dharma tech that she actually knows quite a bit, which is why the writers can’t just have her say, “I’m in the dark just like you.” They haven’t yet figured out how to deal with that gap between Juliet’s knowledge and the castaways’ curiosity—aside from the old gambit of having the castaways not be that curious.
 
-When Penny reminds Desmond that their Scottish love story includes the part  “where he broke her heart,” it made me think about a theory floating among the Lost-obsessed that Desmond and Penny are doomed to be separated again. This episode definitely seems to be setting us up for that eventuality, with Desmond swearing, “I won’t leave you again,” and Penny warning him to leave her father’s business alone. But if they split, what will become of Charlie? Will he come with Desmond to the island, become a talented musician, slip backwards in time and program the security codes at The Looking Glass? (Or, as one person has suggested, will he grow up to be Charles Widmore?)
 
-Locke invites Richard to come see him when he’s born in a couple of years, an invitation that we know from "Cabin Fever" Richard will accept. But here’s what I’m wondering: In the Dalai Lama test, was the compass meant to connote some higher spiritual calling, or did Richard just want to see if the kid would recognize the item his older self gave to him back in 1954? I’m thinking now it’s the latter, given Richard’s use of the phrase, “Which of these things belongs to you already?” But if so: How did Richard get the compass in the first place?
 
-So Widmore pays for the bills for Theresa, just as Christian Shepherd paid for the hospitalization of Claire’s mom. Interesting parallel. How long before Christian becomes a player again on Lost? (Or Claire, for that matter? According to all reports, she’s sidelined for the whole season, but I wouldn’t put it past our Lost team to sneak her back onto the show somehow.)
 
-Daniel tells Miles that the next time-jump “could be five minutes, could be 5000 years.” In “The Constant,” didn’t we learn that people “unstuck in time” spend longer and longer in the places they’ve jumped to? Will that happen to our heroes, too? They did spend quite a bit of time in 1954 tonight.
 
-Ellie mocks Daniel, saying, “Aren’t you the Romeo?” To which he replies, “Far from it, I assure you.” But we’ve seen Daniel with a few women so far: his mysterious caretaker back in “Presumed Dead,” and Charlotte, and that Spencer gal, and now Ellie, who reminds him of someone. My guess as to who Ellie reminds him of? His mother. If Daniel’s mother is, as many have predicted, the anti-Widmore agent Ms. Hawking, then perhaps “Ellie” and “Jones” had a falling out back in the ‘50s, forcing the split we now see. It’s a very factional place, that island.
 
-Speaking of “Jones,” Jeff Jensen helpfully points out what I should’ve realized myself, as a huge Archie fan: that Jughead’s last name in the comic is Jones. Of course “Jughead” stands for something else in this episode too, but I would be surprised if the name was a coincidence.
 
Flashbackin’:
 
-Speaking of titles with double meanings, I went back and watched the first two episodes for a third time (since my wife hadn’t seen them) and I’m now very much on board with the idea that Sun is a big fat liar, and is in league with Widmore. In fact I think the title of the second episode—“The Lie”—refers to Sun telling Kate, “I don’t blame you.” Because she so, so does.
  
-Other new thoughts from the premiere (which may have been mentioned elsewhere, so apologies if I’m copying): I think the Daniel from the “Because You Left” opening is the post-moving-the-island Daniel. I think that whole sequence was a “flash forward” to something we’re going to see later this season. Also, I hadn’t noticed before that Pierre Chang says the same thing at the end of the opening that Ms. Hawking says at the end of the second episode: “God help us all.”

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