As rewarding as Lost’s back-and-forth storytelling style can be, it does have its limitations. Ever since Jack shouted “We have to go back!” to Kate at the end of Season Three, we’ve been watching him and the rest of “The Oceanic 6” struggle through their off-island lives; and now we’re watching some of them try to figure out how to return to the island. We’ve had a full year to follow their plight, if only in fragments. But Sawyer and Locke? For them, the O6 left like, what, a couple of days ago? And we’ve only been watching them deal with that situation for a few weeks. So when Locke talks about bringing the former castaways back it feels kind of… abrupt.
Or maybe it’s just that I’d be perfectly happy to spend the final year-plus of Lost hanging out with my Oceanic 6: Sawyer, Miles, Locke, Charlotte, Daniel and Juliet. Once again this week, the on-island action trumped what was going on in L.A. (even though the Los Angeles action is in the fyu-tcha!), and even though I acknowledge that the off-island business is vital to the overall narrative, until the final minutes I rarely felt the tingle of excitement with the present-day stuff as I did with all the crazy time-jumps and narrow escapes of the past.
I mean, where do I start with the island? Maybe with the enduring awesomeness of Sawyer, still playing the martyr with regards to Kate, mumbling “Doesn’t matter what I want” when asked for his opinions, yet curious enough about Locke’s plan to bring Kate back that he asks Locke, “What are you going to say to her?” Or maybe I should focus on the places in the island timeline where the I6 (my handy new nickname for them) jumped: first to the night that Boone died, and then to some unspecified future (which I’ll speculate on some in the CC&CAT section below), and then—and this is the coolest part—to the moment when Rousseau and her team arrives. Or wait, no, this is the coolest part: When Rousseau’s team drifts in on their life raft, they find a body floating in the water… and it’s Jin. Oh man.
But I don’t want to zip too quickly past the first item on that timeline list. Last year when I was blogging about the first three Lost seasons simultaneous to watching the fourth, I noted what a terrific episode Season One’s “Do No Harm” is, for the way it cross-cuts between Boone dying and Claire giving birth. I’ll get back to Claire in a moment, but I thought it was smart how tonight’s episode signified that other major event of that day, by showing the beam of light from The Swan’s hatch, right at Locke’s lowest moment. Locke looks spooked when he sees the beam across the island, and perhaps slightly ashamed at the memory of how he behaved that night. But when Sawyer asks him about it, Locke regains his quiet swagger and says, “I needed that pain to get to where I am now.” Just a really nice character moment—and well-earned.
Oh, and did I mention... Miles’ nose is bleeding! As so is Juliet’s! And Daniel wonders if Miles may have been on the island before! And when they get back to the camp on the beach, Vincent is missing and so is the zodiac! But there are some canoes there! And when they row row row the boats, gently around the island, they get shot at by mysterious strangers (from the fyu-tcha!)! Has the island ever been a more fun place to be?
Meanwhile, back in dumb ol’ Los Angeles, Kate’s chosen to get off the defensive and resolve her Aaron custody problem before she has to take it on the lam. She meets with Dan Norton of the law firm of Norton & Agostini, and tries to figure out who’s trying to take Aaron from her. The episode offers us all kinds of teases in that regard. Sun seems awfully eager to take care of Aaron during Kate’s meeting, and as soon as Kate leaves, Sun starts fingering a gun and flipping through a freshly delivered dossier on Ben and Jack. Pretty suspicious. On the other hand, the “previously on Lost” montage reminds us of the existence of Claire’s mother, Carole Littleton. And if you’re like me, I’m sure you were groaning, “So, it’s obviously going to be Claire’s mother,” and cursing the “previously” montage.
Only when Jack confronts Carole about her attempts to get Kate’s blood tested, she has no idea what he’s talking about. (And if you’re like me, I’m sure you were groaning, “Shut up, Jack,” and cursing under your breath.) Instead the mastermind behind Norton & Agostini is none other than Benjamin Linus. And I liked that the Lost team didn’t dither around trying to conceal that fact from us for another week or two. I also liked that Kate figures out Ben’s plan quickly herself, and he doesn’t try to hide it from her, either. I may have criticized the breakneak pace of last season’s finale and this season’s premiere, but ultimately I’m glad that Lost is staying in a high gear, moving the pieces into place quickly, even when the moves are a little lurching.
My major complaint about “The Little Prince” is that, well, it’s a Kate episode, and generally speaking, Kate episodes aren’t so good. (At least not after Season One.) As an actress Evangeline Lilly has a fine presence in certain situations—playful moments, or action, or tenderness—but as we learned during the cage sequences of Season Three, she’s not so good at fear and worry and straight romantic drama. Watching Kate fret is not my favorite way to spend an hour.
That said, I’ve got to give it up to Lilly for her look of frustration when Jack calls her and demands to see her. (It was a real “I wish I could quit you” moment… and not in a loving way.) And I thought it was kind of sweet the way she commented on Jack shaving his beard.
Also, this episode made good use of Kate at different points on the timeline: showing her now, anxious about losing Aaron, and showing her three years ago on Penny’s boat, prepared to lie for Jack in order to keep Aaron safe, and showing her three years ago on the island, helping Claire bring Aaron into the world. In just a few short scenes, Lost lays the foundation for what that boy means to Kate.
And as an added bonus to the Claire-giving-birth scene, we have Sawyer watching from the bushes, and then, when the sky flashes, Sawyer losing Kate again.
You know, sometimes, the way Lost tells its stories works out just fine.
Grade: B+ (Though honestly, the on-island scenes were all “A,” baby.)
-I must’ve read The Little Prince like a half-dozen times when I was in junior high, and the parallels between the book and Lost are—as is often the case when Lost drops a reference to a piece of literature—pretty neat. Doc Jensen has some good pre-show analysis of the title choice at Entertainment Weekly’s site, so I won’t even try to compete. I will say that I’ve never really thought these literary connections were worth over-analyzing. I mean, it’s fun to do it, but I don’t think the writers are thinking about these connections as deeply as we do. It’s more that Lost relies on so many of the core elements that make up classic stories that the similarities just fall into place naturally.
-By and large, I appreciate that the Lost creative team has been bolder with their musical choices, but sometimes they overdo it. When Kate says “I have always been with you” to Jack on the boat, the swelling strings struck me as overcompensating.
-So much Sawyer goodness this week:
-“Who came in these? Other Others?”-“Time travel’s a bitch.”-“Thank you Lord!… [Sudden rainstorm.]… I take that back!”
-Also nice to Sayid gettin’ bad-assy again. I have a feeling next week’s standoff with Sun is going to be something to see. Jack’s already vouched for Ben to Kate, but Kate still feels betrayed. And Sayid doesn’t trust Ben, but feels bound to him regardless. And Sun… well, we’re still waiting to see what Sun’s deal is. (I don’t think they’re going to make us wait very long.)
-Nice jump-cut from Sun grabbing the gun to Jin on the beach. As I said last year in writing up “Ji-Yeon,” the story of Sun and Jin is the story of two people in love, running on paths that rarely meet. And here they are again, separated by time and distance.
-Dan Norton snaps at Kate, “You did this to yourself!” I run hot-and-cold on Kate as a character, but I do feel bad for all the guilt she has to bear. It doesn’t take much to make her feel bad about herself, that’s for sure.
-Did anybody watch “Lost Untangled” during Life On Mars? What did they untangle? Do I need to start recording that?
-I wonder where Desmond and Penny and Charlie are right now?
-Special thanks to Scott Tobias for letting me watch his TV from across the country. Viva Slingbox!
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-Has Sawyer ever been on a boat or a flying vehicle that hasn’t wrecked or been shot at?
-Kate and Jack are caught in a rainstorm, just as the I6 are back on the island.
-As much as I complain about “the lie” as a plot-driver on Lost, I’m starting to see how it would drive the O6 nuts, especially as they keep letting more people in on it: Hurley’s mom, and then Claire’s mom (almost). Who else will have to be let in on the conspiracy, and what will the O6 have to do to keep them quiet? And is managing these kinds of messes what turned Ben Linus into the man he is today?
-Is that marina the same place where Michael tried to kill himself? Or was that in New York?
-So, let’s speculate on the glimpse of the island’s future that we got there in the middle of the episode. The I6 find some boats, with water bottles from an Indian airline. And then they're shot at by strangers in the mist. Who do we think came from India to the island? And were they the same ones with the guns? Are we going to find out in a few weeks that the O6 were shooting at the I6?
-Sayid was unconscious for over 42 hours? Kate lives at 42 Panorama Crest? They meet at the marina at Slip 23? Is it worth pointing these things out anymore?
The more I think about the idea that “Jughead” is still on the island somewhere, waiting to go off, the more impressed I am with the patience and long-range thinking of the writers. I don’t want to give them too much credit—because for all I know, they came up with the idea for sticking a hydrogen bomb into the show a couple of months ago—but if Jughead really was buried where The Swan would later be built, and stuck behind thick concrete walls, then that means that Lindelof and Cuse and company have waited years to introduce what may turn out to be a major plot element. And it’s not like it’s coming out of left field either. American military weaponry and equipment have turned up on Lost before, which would imply that the writers have long conceived the island backstory with an Army presence. Pretty impressive.