The first time Juliet appeared on Lost, back in the first episode of Season Three, the episode started with a domestic scene that was meant to deceive us into thinking we were at an off-island location. But we weren't. The first Juliet-centered episode (the terrific "Not In Portland") started and in a sterile facility that looked like one of the island's Dharma stations. But it was actually Miami. So when "The Other Woman" started with Juliet confessing to a therapist that it feels strange being "a celebrity," why did I turn to my wife and say, "Oh man. She's one of 'the six.'"? Given the history with Juliet episodes, I should've known better.
As it happens, the opening scene was a flashback to one of Juliet's first days on the island, when everyone still thought of her as the savior who was going to find a way to facilitate their breeding project. As for "the other woman?" Well, it's Juliet. It turns out that her relationship with Goodwin–the Other that Ana Lucia killed when she realized he was a spy–wasn't exactly above-board. He was married to Harper, Juliet's therapist. (When Juliet tells Jack about Harper, he says, "You people had therapists?" To which Juliet replies, "It's very stressful being an Other, Jack.")
Tonight's flashback–like tonight's episode–was more informational than scintillating. Outside of the introduction of Harper–who also appeared in the present-day island action, stepping out of the shadows to deliver a message from Ben to Juliet–and the minor revelation that Ben feels he "owns" Juliet, not much happened in the flashback besides dot-connecting.
Meanwhile, in the present, Juliet joined Jack and Kate–the latter back from her internment in Locke's camp–on a hunt for Freighties Faraday and Lewis, who'd disappeared into the jungle to find the island's power station, "The Tempest." When Juliet arrives, she's supposed to kill the Freighties, on order from Ben, but instead she rolls with their plan, which involves neutralizing Ben's store of poison gas so that he can't kill everyone on the island. (As is his wont.) The confrontation between Juliet and the Freighties occurs as Faraday is frantically typing science-y things into a computer, while a computer-y voice warns of imminent "contamination." But come on. Was anyone tensing up during that scene? It played out pretty much as expected, right down to the alarms turning off and the needles dropping back from red to green, with mere seconds to go before doomsday.
"The Other Woman" was basically fine, but it was no "The Constant" or "The Economist." In fact it was a little too blunt at times. Aside from the usual vague dodges that characters use to keep from explaining what the hell is going on–"It's safer for you if I don't talk about it," Juliet lamely explains–the characters often spoke in pulpy clichés. When Juliet finally does tell Jack why she's being so cautious about what she knows, she says that the Freighties "came here to wage war against Ben," and that if Jack gets as close to her as she'd like him to get (smooch, smooch), then he's doomed to be collateral damage, just like Goodwin.
Even Ben, back at camp, sounds clunkily expository as he's telling Locke all about the origin of the freighter, which he claims was sent by Charles Widmore, who's "been trying to find the island for years." I guess all of this plain-speaking comes off as awkward mainly because there's very little about it that we haven't already surmised from three years' worth of reading between the lines. We knew Ben had a crush on Juliet, and we'd guessed that Widmore sent the freighter, and we'd assumed a coming war between The Freighties and The Others. Frankly, "The Other Woman" seemed a little remedial.
But it was still enjoyable, and it did advance the one relationship that's becoming the most interesting on the show: the one between Ben and Locke. Prisoner and captor, turned master and pupil. On the surface, tonight's stinger ending of Ben walking freely around the camp didn't have much pop. But consider the implications. Something in the The Widmore File that Ben gave to Locke has convinced Locke that Ben can be trusted. An alliance has been forged.
-Having just watched the Season One episode that introduced the island's "whisper effect"–more below–I was giddy to hear the return of the whispers tonight. Good to know that the creators haven't abandoned their early conceits, just because what they had been trying to conceal–namely the presence of The Others–has now been revealed.
-Speaking of The Others, it gave me kind of a warm nostalgic feeling to see Goodwin and Tom again. I miss The Others. Lindelof and Cuse have said that they're coming back soon, and I predict that the choosing up of sides that we're about to see will be tense indeed.
-I'll write more about my "re-watching the early seasons? experiment below, but one thing I've noticed that's relevant to the storytelling now is that the sometimes-frustrating feeling that Lindelof and Cuse are just nudging the story along is actually what makes the whole series feel consistent on a second viewing. Only a couple of days (or less) pass with each episode, and it adds a touch of veracity when, say, back on Day 14 there are characters who still don't know each other's names, or about all the island craziness. As late as Episode 8, Charlie is saying to Michael, "What, you didn't hear about the polar bear?"
-Line of the night, from Ben to Locke, concerning dinner: "Rabbit again? This didn't have a number on it, did it?"
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-Ben's reading VALIS again, as suggested by Locke. Wonder what he's picking up?
-So in the flashback, Goodwin has a chemical burn. Is this related to mixing up the poison gas, or is it something else?
-"The Tempest" a Shakespeare reference, yes? As in: Prospero's island.
-Two more tidbits from the flashback: Ben mentions Zach and Emma, two children from Los Angeles who were snatched from The Tailies' beach. That's a whole area the show is still withholding from us: Why is Ben obsessed with children? The other tidbit seems more obvious. When Harper tells Juliet that Ben likes her because she "looks like her," she must be referring to Annie, don't you think?
-When Ben's man on the boat is revealed next week, are we really going to be as surprised as the ABC promos seem to think we will? I mean, we've all figured it out, right?
-Two tidbits from last week, picked up from reading Lostpedia and its ilk: (1.) The freighter's name is "Kahana;" and (2.) Charles Widmore's number at the auction was 755, and the ratio of time elapsed during Desmond's time-jump in Faraday's office versus how long he felt like he'd been gone was 75:5. (That's a number that has special meaning to me as a lifelong Hank Aaron fan, so I should've noticed it earlier.)
-As great as "The Constant" was, it's made Lost fans a little cuckoo, such that now everyone's concocting wild time travel theories and speculating on who's who's "constant." We should all heed Lindelof's warning to EW's Jeff Jensen this week: "Looking for specific rules for how all this works will lead you down the path of insanity."
Flashbackin' Season One, Eps. 9-12:
-After eight episodes of mild island mystery and mostly informational flashbacks, Lost really lurches into high gear in this block of episodes (aside from the lame Kate-centered hijinks in Episode 12). Sayid meets Rousseau. Ethan appears and kidnaps Claire and Charlie. In the Claire flashback, a psychic first tells her to raise her baby on her own, lest dire consequences occur, then tells her to give her baby to a couple in Los Angeles. Oh, and deep in the jungle, Locke and Boone find a hatch.
-Boy, people got the shit kicked out of them a lot in the early episodes. Jack, Michael, Sayid, Sawyer and Charlie all suffered breaks, sprains, strangulation and/or puncture wounds during their first 16 days on the island.
-The ninth episode, "Solitary," is quite cleverly structured, both in the way it balances Sayid's torture at the hands of Rousseau (and his grim Iraq backstory) with the lightness of Hurley's makeshift golf tournament, and for the way it introduces a couple of new castaway characters, including Ethan, thereby not completely telegraphing the reveal of Ethan as an Other in Episode 10.
-In Episode 11, the heroic, largely likeable Jack of the early episodes starts to turn into the insufferable sourpuss we all um love? On the island, he bickers with Locke about his methods for trailing Charlie and Claire, while in his flashback, he dicks over his dad by telling a review board that pops was drunk when Jack stepped in to finish his surgery (and screwed it up).
-In retrospect, the introduction of Rousseau is one of the most significant "first looks" in the run of the show, especially given the way the writers subsequently abandoned her. (She'd only appear twice more in Season One, and only two times in Season Two.) "Solitary" includes the first mention of "the others," her daughter Alex, her music box, her map of the island, The Black Rock, and "the sickness" that took the rest of her crew. Also mentioned, but not yet returned to: Her "love" Robert, and the nature of their expedition. And two things she says seem strange now, given what we know she knows: When Sayid asks her, "Have you seen other people on this island?," she replies "No, but I hear them;" and when he warns her about "the monster," she says, "There's no such things as monsters."
-Two tidbits that might have repercussions later on: (1.) Jack tells Claire that he used to talk in his sleep, and when Claire asks what he said at night, Jack says he doesn't know, but that his girlfriend "didn't like it." and (2.) Claire's psychic–a fraud, according to Eko–insists that she has to take 815, which at the time led fans to speculate that he was setting her up in some way. But what way? The psychic is another major piece of the puzzle that's gotten lost under the couch over the past year.
-Foreshadowing that we didn't know was foreshadowing at the time: Boone explains the Star Trek "red shirt" theory a few weeks before he dies; Walt gambles on backgammon with Hurley and wins $20,000, well before we knew Hurley was rich; and when Jack and Kate free Charlie from Ethan's tree-trap, the vines Charlie was hanging from circle around his head like a crown of thorns. (Plus he can't breathe presaging his sacrificial drowning.)