After last week's rollicking outing, as soon as I saw the teaser for this week–with Jack crippled by appendicitis on the beach, and the rest of the gang methodically working their way through the jungle–I thought to myself, "Well, this is bound to be a step down another moving-the-pieces episode." And in a way it was just that. A lot of straight-up adventure and suspense–cat-and-mouse games, medical emergencies, love triangles, whatnot–and nothing much in the way of follow-up about Widmore, Dharma, smoke monsters, Kevin Johnson, constants and the like. But it was still pretty edge-of-your-seat, wouldn't you agree? And as for the ending well, more on that in a minute.
First: Did you realize that this is the first "Jack episode" of the season? Yes, the good doctor has appeared in both Hurley's and Kate's flash-forwards, but isn't it strange that the character who's been the show's primary hero since the very first episode of the first season has been practically a guest star in this one? Tonight though was a make-good: Pretty much all-Jack-all-the-time. On the island, Jack's Inflamed Appendix (which was the name of my first college rock band, by the way) sends the beachcombers a-scurry, with Jin and Sun accompanying Charlotte and Daniel to the medical station for supplies, where Jin learns that Charlotte can speak Korean, and Charlotte learns that she'd damn well better get Sun off the island at the first opportunity, lest Jin go O.G. on her multi-lingual ass.
Meanwhile, Bernard The Dentist and Juliet The Obstetrician prep a tent for surgery, while Jack drifts in and out of consciousness, and we're treated to flash-forwards of Jack and Kate living a happy domestic life in LA shortly after her trial. Major revelations of the flash-forward: Jack is being visited by Christian Shepherd just like Hurley's being visited by Charlie, and no matter who Jack gets close to romantically, eventually he'll start acting like an insufferable, jealous prick. (Note: That last bit may not count as a "revelation.") Major revelations back at the beach: Juliet confesses to Kate that Jack kissed her, but she knows the kiss was really meant for Kate. Kate considers this good news.
As for what's going on with the freighter, or where Ben, Locke and Hurley are, that'll have to wait until next week. The only other island action we got this week involved Sawyer, Claire/Aaron and Miles heading back to the beach; and this thread was packed with so much coolness that I wished it hadn't been the episode's C-story. Miles breaks out his ghost-whispering skills and discovers the grave of Karl and Rousseau? (I couldn't tell, but I don't think that was her body he uncovered first. [Update: Yep, it's her.]) Then the trio plus baby have to hide in the brush while The Surviving Freighter Commandos (the name of my second college rock band) follow Frank The Drunken Helicopter Pilot (the name of our self-released cassette EP) back to his whirlybird. Much tense waiting ensues, peppered by the occasional ill-timed baby squeal. Suspense 101, but effective.
My problems with this episode are few, but here they are anyway: The big twist ending is that Claire sees Christian Shepherd on the island, follows him into the jungle, and abandons Aaron in a clearing. It's a good twist, but it would've been more effective if it hadn't been divided between two separate scenes, broken up by other, unrelated scenes. Also, in the flash-forward, I was a little annoyed when Jack went to visit Hurley and Hurley started mumbling about how nothing is real and they're still on the island. It seemed a bit too much like the random mind-fuckery of "Dave" back in Season Two, and since I think the Lost team has pretty much made it impossible at this point to pull a bait-and-switch and make the big secret that everyone's dead or sleeping (unless they want to be pummeled by angry fans wielding ripped-up DVD box sets), I feel like these insinuations are a waste of time. And yet, the title of this episode, "Something Nice Back Home," comes from what Bernard says to Jack when he argues that the doctor should be put to sleep before surgery. "Wouldn't you rather be dreaming about something nice back home?" Bernard says, lending credence to the "it's all a dream" bullshit. (Or at least I hope it's bullshit.)
I also felt the flash-forward was a little rushed, in that it's clearly meant to get us quickly and efficiently from Happy Jack to the Bearded, Raving Jack we met at the end of last season. Or maybe I only feel that way because I'm starting to appreciate the magnitude of what's being revealed in these flash-forwards. The understanding we've been given in hints and teases is that The Oceanic Six may not have behaved entirely honorably or nobly in their escape from the island, which means their fame and success and semi-idyllic lives (Hurley aside) are based on a lie. After all, Jack did promise to get everyone off the island. And he definitely does not nor does he seem outwardly upset about it.
Ultimately though, can you live happily on a lie? Can you sleep well knowing what it took to buy your freedom? That's been a theme running through this series from the start–what with all the games and cons and double-crosses–and I'm pleased to see it taking root and blossoming as Lost progresses toward its ultimate conclusion. Because I think those are the questions that haunt Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus too, and they may be what keeps Lost from devolving into a straight-up clash of good and evil. When it comes down to it, there never have been too many innocents on this show.
-Evangeline Lilly in skimpy clothing as much a part of the fabric of Lost as people not asking questions.
-Sawyer to Miles: "Back off, Donger." Is there no limit to Sawyer's command of pop culture references?
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-A good question from Daniel to Charlotte as they step into the medical station: "Where do you think all this power's coming from?" (And a good answer from Charlotte: "Put that on your list.")
-A telling quote from Lewis Carroll, read by flash-forward Jack to flash-forward Aaron: "If I'm not the same, then who in the world am I?"
-I've been thinking a lot about Jack this week, in regards to what I wrote above about him being the main hero of Lost. What I've come to love about this show is that its dramatic structure–protagonist-wise–has gotten more and more open. On one level, it's a show about Desmond and Penny. On another, about Ben and Widmore. On another, about Ben and Locke. On another, about Jack and Locke. (It's never really about Kate or Sawyer or Hurley though sorry, folks.) When all is said and done though, I think Jack will be the person the whole story hinges on. Jack's a confused dude, just like us, and so far he's seen a half-dozen models or more on how to behave and what to believe. The person he becomes by the end of Season Six will in some ways be a judgment on all that we'll have seen up to that point. That's my guess, anyway.
Flashbackin' Season Three, Eps. 5-8:
-Meanwhile, back in Season Three, I've started moving out of the murk and into the light. First up: two dreary episodes, "The Cost Of Living" and "I Do," with middling flashbacks, disappointing plot developments, excessive violence and minimal forward motion. But then: two series highlights, "Not In Portland" and "Flashes Before Your Eyes." (I'm so stoked by those two episodes that I almost hesitate to mention that next week I'll be watching "Stranger In A Strange Land," a.k.a. "Jack's Tattoos.") Even though Lindelof and Cuse mentioned in my interview with them that they feel fans focus more on mythology than the character stuff they find interesting, when you watch "Not In Portland" and "Flashes Before You Eyes," you see how mythology and character are necessarily intertwined on Lost. Ultimately, the problem with "The Cost Of Living" and "I Do" is that they're mainly concerned with wrapping up a storyline that in itself felt under-realized and unimportant to the overall arc of the series. Which is fine–but in doing that, the writers could've at least given fans more to chew on in the flashbacks. (Maybe it's just me, but if you'd read the titles of those episodes to me a week ago, I wouldn't have been able to remember what they were about–and that's pretty telling, I think.) In "Not In Portland" though, we get insights into how Juliet became so cold-blooded and we're introduced to "Mittelos Bioscience," infertility issues, and Room 23. In "Flashes Before Your Eyes," we get the rich emotion of Desmond and Penny's star-crossed romance and we get the "what you do is important" speechifying of Ms Hawking, hinting at revelations that are still trickling out. (And oh yeah, we also found out–in a way–what happened to Desmond after the hatch imploded, and we had the introduction of one of Season Three's key lines of dialogue, "You're gonna die, Charlie.") The result: Two satisfying episodes, the titles of which make any good Lost fan wistful.
-Some quick notes on these four episodes:
*"The Cost Of Living" The surprisingly haunting footage of The Others' funeral rituals again makes me want to find out more about Other culture. Do they love Ben? Fear Ben? Do they like their lives? Do they understand their lives? And how do they get cheeseburgers? In inviting Nikki and Paulo to join his search for Eko, Locke purposefully shows a different kind of leadership, which we'll later see run aground in the realities of heading his own camp in Otherton So did Ben send the smoke monster to kill Eko, or was that a freebie? Why does Locke see a white light when other folks see black smoke? And have you noticed that there's a sound like a conch shell blowing when the monster appears? Very Lord Of The Flies.
*"I Do" I know I made fun of Locke calling the smoke monster "the smoke monster" last week, but he actually did it first back in this episode, saying, "The folks back at the beach call it 'the monster'." In this episode we also learn that Jack is not on Jacob's list. Again: What is Jack's place in this story?
*"Not In Portland" One of my favorite openings of the series occurs in this episode, with Juliet sitting on a beach, then walking past Ethan in a hallway with flickering lights, in what turns out to be Miami. Nice twist. Though the violence and torture of the first six episodes of Season Three were a bit much, a lot of it pays off in this episode, as everyone on both sides behaves abominably, raising questions about how different everything could be if they all just treated each other like human beings.
*"Flashes Before Your Eyes" (a.k.a. "The Last Temptation Of Desmond") Man what an awesome episode, right down to the choice of song that Charlie sings in the street: Oasis' "Wonderwall," with the telling line, "You're gonna be the one who saves me."