Without further ado, let us continue after the jump.
If you're one of the people dying to know what's up with Jack's tattoos, then...oh, that's no-one then? Right. Okay.
309: Stranger in a Strange Land
Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and Christina M. Kim, directed by Paris Barclay
Airdate: 21 February 2007
Survivor Count: 47
Days on Island: 73-74 (3-4 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Jack
Flashbacks: Jack is on holiday in Phuket, Thailand. He meets a Chinese woman, Achara, and they start a relationship. This relationship is based on them not sharing secrets or backstories with one another. Jack is bemused when a man gives Achara a large amount of money, which she says was in return for her "gift". Jack follows her one night and discovers that Achara is a tattoo artist. Achara angrily corrects him, saying that she inks the truth of things onto people. Jack asks her to ink the truth of him onto his skin and she agrees, although it is normally forbidden for "outsiders". She tells Jack that he is a great man, a leader, but someone who is also lonely, which leaves him angry and frustrated. The next day Jack is approached by a group of local men. They beat him up and tell him to leave the country for breaking their customs, whilst Achara watches and cries.
On the Island: Sawyer and Kate make good their escape from the Hydra Island. Kate advocates sailing back to their camp, but Sawyer thinks it's too dangerous and they need to land on the main Island to get food and water. They do so and quiz Karl about his life with the Others. Karl says that the Hydra is where they go to work on "projects" and they live on the main Island, in houses that have back yards. He tells them about lying out in his yard with Alex and looking at the stars. He also tells them that the kids they took from the tail section (Zach and Emma) are safe. The Others are giving them a better life. When Kate asks better than what, he says, "Better than yours". The next morning they find Karl missing, but Sawyer quickly locates him crying nearby. Karl says he loves Alex more than anything else. Sawyer empathises and tells him to go and find her. Kate berates Sawyer for letting Karl go when he could have led them to the Others' real home. Sawyer brings up the elephant in the room, that they slept together at the Hydra. He tells her not to worry as he knows she did it only because she thought he was going to die.
Later that night, Karl sits by a fire somewhere and looks up at the stars.
At the Hydra: Jack is moved into the outdoor bear cages. He learns that Juliet is in trouble after killing Pickett, but is not moved to help her, or Ben when he is told that Ben's stitches have become infected. The Others' "sheriff", Isabel, visits Jack to find out more about him and his claim that Juliet was planning to kill Ben. She can read Chinese and is amused by Jack's tattoos. Jack says that he lied about Juliet planning to kill Ben. He wanted to sow discord and chaos so he or his friends could escape. Isabel says he's lying, but Jack merely asks to go back to his cell.
The next morning, Jack wakes up to find a crowd of Others watching him, to his disquiet. He recognises one of the watchers as one of the stewardesses from the plane, Cindy Chandler. Cindy disappeared whilst travelling to the main camp with the tail section survivors three weeks earlier. Jack asks her if she is with the Others and she says it's more complicated than that. The two young children, Zack and Emma, come up and ask if Ana Lucia is okay. This angers Jack and he tells them all to leave. Some time later Alex breaks the surveillance camera and asks him why he helped Ben. Jack is more interested in what is going on with Juliet. Alex tells Jack that the Others have a strict code and will demand Juliet's death for killing Pickett. Alex also tells Jack that Juliet killed Pickett to help Sawyer and Kate escape. Jack agrees to help Ben and treats his wounds in return for him saving Juliet. Ben sends a message to Isabel telling her that Juliet is not to be harmed.
Juliet is freed, but she is branded with a curious mark. Jack treats the wound and tells her that he means to ensure that Ben keeps his word and lets them both go. Juliet says that since Jack's friends know where they are, it's too dangerous to remain on the Hydra. They are going "home", on a large motor boat. As they sail off, Isabel tells Jack that his tattoos read "He walks amongst us, but is not one of us." Jack says that's what they say but it's not what they mean. Later, Jack, Juliet and Alex look up at the stars at the same time Karl is, elsewhere.
Major WTFery: The whole "spiritual tattoo" thing.
The location of Hydra Island remains contentious amongst Lost cartography fans. According to the producers, the Hydra Island is one of the smaller islands seen on Danielle Rousseau's maps. However, the positioning of these islands is awkward. We know that the main centre of Other activity on the Island is in the Barracks area in the far north, and the Others seem to travel between the Barracks area and the Hydra Island relatively easily and quickly. They also don't pass within visual range of the southern beach camp where the 815 survivors normally congregate (they use a submarine, which could allow them to slip by, but they are also shown using standard boats, which would not). This supports the placement of Hydra Island as the large (ish) island off the eastern coast of the main Island. It seems to lie off the rocky peninsula that Eko avoids at the start of Season 2 and presumably other characters would also avoid, explaining how it's been missed. However, this placement puts the Hydra a long, long way from the main Others base at the Barracks. In addition, in this episode Kate and Sawyer sail away from the Hydra, moving "right" with the main Island in the background. This means they are heading north. Kate is adamant that this is the correct direction to get back to the main camp. This suggests that the Hydra is actually located off the north-western or northern coasts, both of which would also fit the location of the Barracks better as well.
Some fan cartographers have therefore ignored the producers' statements and added the Hydra Island off the northern coast of the main Island. The official Lost complete series DVD and Blu-Ray box set confuses things every further by placing a large island off the south-eastern coast of the main Island which may be intended to be the Hydra, but this is even more contradictory and unworkable.
Hindsight: Isabel was supposed to be a recurring character, but the producers declared later on that she had died in the events of the Season 3 finale. It's unclear if the problem was actor availability or if the producers thought they'd simply introduced too many Others and needed to thin out the ranks.
Stranger in a Strange Land is widely regarded as the worst-ever episode of Lost, although producer Damon Lindelof did initially cite the Season 1 episode Homecoming as his least-favourite. However, he later agreed that Stranger is the weaker episode. The producers claimed that the demands of producing 23+ episodes per season had left them bereft of flashback ideas and having to dramatically slow down the pace of the on-Island storyline, taking nine episodes to resolve the Season 2 cliffhanger when they should have done it much more quickly. The blanket criticism of this episode (and related ratings decline following the long break from the opening six episodes) allowed the producers to go to ABC suggest they both set an end date for the show and produce fewer episodes over the next three seasons. ABC agreed, allegedly after both Carlton and Lindelof suggested they could leave the show at the end of the third season if they refused. ABC's decision surprised industry-watchers, as the networks were normally much more ruthless towards their employees if they thought money was at stake. However, the widespread criticism Lost had attracted at the start of the third season for drawing out mysteries and giving vital answers in an obscure online game rather than the main show may have left ABC feeling skittish.
Review: Behold! The infamous "Jack's tattoo episode", famed in song and rhyme as the worst-ever episode of Lost. I thought the passage of nine years would make it a more bearable hour of television, but nope, this is easily the single most pointless flashback story they ever did. It adds nothing to Jack's character and doesn't set anything up that is resolved later on. The on-Island story is a bit better but there is some ropey dialogue and cheesy, saccharine moments. Lost isn't exactly immune from these issues, but in this episode they feel like they are enhanced by the dodgy flashbacks. (*)
310: Tricia Tanaka is Dead
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Airdate: 28 February 2007
Survivor Count: 47
Days on Island: 76 (6 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Hurley
Flashbacks: In 1987, a young Hurley is working on fixing his dad's Camaro. His dad comes out of the house and tells him, reluctantly, that he has to postpone their road trip to the Grand Canyon. He has work in Las Vegas, but tells him that he'll be back soon and they can go on their trip then.
In early 2004 Hurley is being interviewed to local news reporter Tricia Tanaka (whom he can only address using her full name). He has won the lottery and bought the Chicken Shack where he used to work. Tanaka wants a feel-good fluff piece and gets annoyed when Hurley instead insists on talking about his bad luck, which recently continued with his best friend Johnny running off with his girlfriend Starla. Tanaka goes inside the Chicken Shack to film some establishing shots, leaving Hurley outside with Randy, his former boss-turned-minion. As Randy assures Hurley that everything in the restaurant is fine, suddenly a flaming meteorite screams out of the sky and reduces the Chicken Shack to smouldering rubble. Hurley and Randy are blown clear, but Tanaka and cameraman are killed instantly.
A stunned Hurley goes home and tells his mother that this is the final straw and he is going to Australia to find the source of the Numbers, as he had previously planned. His mother has news for him, however: his father has returned home. She is elated but Hurley is angry. His father was gone for seventeen years and it's clear he has only returned because he found out about the money. His father denies this and Hurley's mother tries to make peace. She tells Hurley to take his dad to the garage. Hurley reluctantly does so and his father is speechless to see the Camaro, fully repaired and ready to hit the road.
Hurley's father takes him to see a psychic, convinced she can help him. Using a Tarot card deck, she discovers that Hurley has had luck with the winning the money but then misfortune with the amount of death and carnage that has followed. She proclaims him cursed, but she can lift the curse with the help of dubious ritual. Smelling a rat, Hurley asks her if his father put her up to this. When she hesitates, he offers her $10,000 to tell the truth. She admits he did.
Hurley packs for the trip to Australia. His dad apologises, saying that of course he came back because of the money but he also did want to reunite with his family. He suggests that Hurley give away the money, apart from enough to get the Camaro back on the road so they can take that road trip. He tells Hurley he'll still be there when he gets back.
On the Island: Hurley is feeling down and visits Libby's grave. He leaves a flower before going to see Charlie, who is still moping. He gets Charlie to admit the truth about Desmond's visions. Hurley wonders if the curse of the Numbers is still following him around. Vincent then emerges from the jungle, carrying a skeletal arm holding what appears to be an ignition key. Hurley races after Vincent, to Charlie's disbelief.
Vincent leads Hurley to an overturned Volkswagen van in the undergrowth. Hurley stares at it in disbelief before saying, "Awesome." He rushes back to the beach, where Sun has been helping Jin improve his English. He gathers everyone around and asks for their help in getting the van working again. When people ask him why, he says "Because it'll be fun." Everyone else seems unconvinced, apart from Jin who volunteers to help with no idea of what's going on. However, Jin seems enthused by the project. Investigating the van further they find a deteriorating corpse with the nametag "Roger Workman" inside, as well as a large amount of beer. They attempt to remove the corpse, but the head detaches in the effort and rolls into the van. Hurley suggests they retrieve it later. They place logs under the van to right it.
Kate and Sawyer return to the beach camp and are greeted enthusiastically by the other survivors. Sawyer's elation turns to anger when he discovers his stash is missing. He asks who was responsible and Charlie admits it was him and Hurley. Sawyer storms off to find Hurley, only to discover Hurley and Jin in the middle of recovering the van. Sawyer's anger is briefly abated by the hugs from his friends. When he demands that Hurley return his stash to him, Hurley refuses and says not only is he not going to do that, Sawyer is going to help them fix the van. When Sawyer asks why, Hurley replies that "There is beer." Sawyer agrees to help them and they get the van turned upright.
On the beach, Kate tells Sayid that Jack ordered them not to attempt a rescue. However, Kate has a plan for such a rescue mission. She sets out to "get help".
Sawyer explores the van and discovers some documents suggesting that DHARMA was planning to build a network of roads on the Island. Evidently they didn't get very far. He also finds Roger's detached head, causing him to momentarily freak out. Hurley tries switching the engine on to find that it's not working. Sawyer teaches Jin some more English - mostly phrases designed to pacify an angry woman - and sees that Hurley has started praying for hope. Sawyer lobs a beer can at him. Hurley sees the can disappear over an incline and realises they're right next to the Island's central valley, with fairly steep drops down the side. Getting an idea, he runs back to the beach and recruits Charlie, snapping him out of his funk by telling him he needs to confront the risk to his mortality head-on.
Sawyer and Jin push the van down the side of the valley. The van drops quite steeply, but Hurley maintains control of the vehicle. At a key moment he guns the engine and its sputters into life. After recovering Sawyer, Jin and Vincent, the lads set out on a road trip up the valley.
Much later, Jin and Charlie return to the beach camp in excellent moods and celebrate their good humour with Sun and Claire, respectively. Sawyer is hoping for the same with Kate, but can't find her anywhere so settles for sitting on the beach and drinking the sixteen-year-old beer. Hurley sits in the van for a while longer, thinking of his dad and their car back home, before pulling some doughnuts.
In the jungle Sayid and Locke catch up with Kate. Locke has an idea on where to find Jack, thanks to the directions he saw on Eko's "Jesus stick". Sayid thinks the notion is utterly ludicrous. Kate's plan is revealed when they are approached by Danielle Rousseau. Kate says they need Danielle's help to find the Others. Danielle asks why she should help. Kate replies that a sixteen-year-old girl named Alex helped her escape, and she's pretty sure she's Danielle's daughter.
Major WTFery: The meteor strike is improbable and random. As well as being, of course, darkly humourous.
Hindsight: "Roger Workman", of course, later turns out to be Ben's father.
The flashback in The Man Behind the Curtain explores Roger's death, including the fact that he and Ben were delivering beer to the Pearl Station when the van was abandoned. Presumably Roger and Ben deliberately drove past the Pearl Station to almost the south coast of the Island so they could enjoy the view of the valley.
Hurley points out that the beer has been inside the DHARMA van, in the sun, since "Rocky III, if not Rocky II." Rocky II was released in 1979 and Rocky III in 1982. Later episodes confirm that the Purge, when Roger died in the car, took place in 1988, between the releases of Rocky IV (1985) and Rocky V (1990).
This episode is a sequel to Everybody Hates Hugo in Season 2, explaining what happened to Johnny (Hurley's best friend) and Starla (the girl he asked on a date). Hurley's father keeps his promise, and greets Hurley on his return home in the Season 4 finale.
This episode marks the first appearance of David Reyes (played by the legendary Cheech Marin) and - sort of - Roger Linus.
Review: From the ridiculously awful to the ridiculously good. There are episodes of Lost that are better from a character, mystery or drama perspective, but Tricia Tanaka is Dead is hands down the most fun episode of Lost ever made. The dialogue is funny, the actors' ease with one another and confidence is a massive boon and the show even makes fun of some of its more tiresome tropes, such as simply giving Sawyer beer in return for his assistance rather than coming up with some labyrinthe motivation-inducing plan. After a long run of dramatically intense episodes, this is Lost kicking back and having fun. (*****)
This week, on Lost, Sayid meets a cow and Locke blows it up, and a horse for good measure. But the cat survives, so that's fine.
311: Enter 77
Written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof
Airdate: 7 March 2007
Survivor Count: 47
Days on Island: 79 (9 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Sayid
Flashbacks: Sayid is working as a cook in a restaurant in Paris. A customer asks to speak to him to thank him personally for the excellent food. The man, Sami, asks where Sayid - using the alias Najeev - is from. When Sayid says Syria, Sami laughs and says he can tell he is from Iraq, like himself. Sami also owns a restaurant whose cook quit recently. He asks Sayid to come and work for him. Sayid agrees to come and have a look. When he arrives at the restaurant there are only a few customers in. Sami thanks Sayid for coming and introduces him to his wife, Amira. Amira has scarred arms and a strange expression on her face. When Sami asks her if Sayid is "him", she nods. The "customers" - friends of Sami - overpower Sayid and knock him out.
Sayid wakes up in the basement. Amira was tortured in Iraq and is certain that Sayid was the one who hurt her. Sayid admits his real name and says that he was a torturer, but that he never hurt women. He suggests that Amira saw him in passing at the same facility and mistook him for her torturer. She disagrees, saying it was Sayid who hurt her. Sayid proclaims his innocence. Eventually, Amira comes to talk to him by herself. She says that when she first came to Paris she was so scared she couldn't even leave the flat she lived in with Sami. She was forced to leave only by the sounds of cat being tormented in the alleyway nearby. She asks that Sayid show her respect by not lying to her. Sayid breaks down in tears, saying he remembers her face, just as he remembers all of their faces, as they haunt him every single day and night. Seeing his suffering, Amira is satisfied. She says she will tell Sami she was mistaken and they will let Sayid go.
On the Island: Several of the survivors have located the ping pong table from the hatch, which was apparently blown clear during the Discharge. They have repaired it and start setting it up on the beach. Sawyer, still smarting from the loss of his stash of looted goods, sees an opportunity. He will play anyone they can put up. If Sawyer wins, he gets his stash back. Sun suggests that if Sawyer loses, he has to stop calling people by nicknames for a full week. Sawyer agrees. Hurley steps up as the people's champion. Sawyer expects an easy victory, only to be thrashed soundly. Sawyer is not amused. Hurley reminds him that his name is "Hurley" or "Hugo", not "Pork Chop" or any of the other names Sawyer uses for him.
Sawyer, Locke, Kate and Danielle march north through the jungle. Sayid confirms that their plan is to march north on a bearing of 305, as was revealed via Mr. Eko's stick. Sayid reiterates that this is a ludicrous plan. After stopping to get some food and water near a river, Sayid is surprised to hear a bell ringing. He finds it belonging to a cow, who is wandering around near a large building. Sayid scopes it out and sees a man with an eyepatch outside, apparently the same guy they saw on the monitor screens in the Pearl. He also spies a horse saddled up outside the building and a satellite dish on the roof. The party regroups and Danielle confirms that this is not the radio tower, which is located in a different part of the Island. She has no idea what this place is for. Deciding it's a tangent from their mission of finding Jack and Alex, Danielle heads back to the river and says that those who survive this escapade can find her there.
Sayid approaches the installation and tries to negotiate. The man shoots him instead. Kate and Locke overwhelm him with superior firepower and the man surrenders. He claims that his name is Mikhail Bakunin and that he is the last surviving member of the DHARMA Initiative. He patches up Sayid and removes the bullet. He claims that he was recruited by DHARMA following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of his military career. He came to the Island and was given command of this installation, known as the Flame Station. The Flame coordinated communications between the Island and the outside world. DHARMA shared the Island with a group known as "the Hostiles" (the Others) who had been living on the Island for a lot, lot longer. At an unspecified point in time the Hostiles turned on DHARMA and wiped out its presence on the Island in an event known as "the Purge". Mikhail took no part in these events. Shortly afterwards, he was approached by the Hostiles and told that "a line" had been drawn around the valley the Flame sits in. As long as he never crossed that line he'd be fine, and he's been here ever since. Sayid finds this hard to believe since with all this equipment Mikhail could have called for help from the outside world, but Mikhail replies that the satellite dish and other communications equipment stopped work years ago and he doesn't have the means to repair it. Mikhail also introduces his cat, Nadia, to the group. Sayid is bemused that the cat has the same name as his lost love.
Locke explores the Flame and finds a room with a computer in it. He discovers that the computer has a chess game loaded into it, and becomes obsessed with beating it. Mikhail is amused, saying that the game cheats. Locke says he doubts that, as cheating is a uniquely human characteristic.
Kate and Sayid quietly converse and Sayid confirms that he thinks Mikhail is an Other. However, he doesn't think that he is alone. The horse outside is still saddled and, from the length of the stirrups, for someone shorter than Mikhail. Mikhail returns with drinks and Sayid asks more questions. Mikhail is quite cooperative. He tells them that the Flame controlled communications across the Island, with communications cables linking the Flame to other stations. He also tells them that the DHARMA Initiative travelled to and from the Island via a submarine homing in on an underwater beacon. Without the beacon it would be impossible to find the Island. Mikhail's guess is that the Others have commandeered or destroyed the submarine. Sayid mentions that the Others probably used the submarine to approach their sailboat by stealth. Mikhail seems surprised that they had a boat and then lost it. Sayid also mentions that an Other was killed during this engagement. Mikhail seems to get annoyed by this and admits his ruse. He, Sayid and Kate fight but, even injured, Sayid is able to overpower Mikhail and tie him to a chair.
They locate a secret hatch in the floor and go underneath the Flame, leaving Locke to guard Mikhail. However, Locke hears the computer demanding the next move in the chess game. Seeing that Mikhail is still out, Locke plays and defeats the game. A video then plays, showing the same Dr. "Marvin Candle" from the Swan and Pearl orientation videos. Instead of introducing the Flame Station, Candle gives a list of commands that can be entered into the computer: 24 for a pallet drop, 32 for a station uplink, 38 for mainland communications, 56 for sonar access and 77 to report a Hostile incursion. Locke tries entering 38 and 56, but is told that all communications and sonar access are out. Locke is about to enter 77 when Mikhail sneaks up behind him with a knife.
In the basement of the Flame, Locke and Kate find stacks and folders full of information about the DHARMA Initiative and its operations on the Island. Sayid is more disturbed by the amount of C4 lining the walls with detonators in place. They also find a hiding Ms. Klugh, who promptly attacks them. They overpower her, but she is not interested in talking to them. They leave the Flame only to find Mikhail holding Locke at gunpoint. There is a standoff, but Ms. Klugh starts talking to Mikhail in Russian. After a moment's hesitation, Mikhail shoots Ms. Klugh dead and tries to shoot himself, but is over powered by the others.
The party regroups and moves to leave the Flame. Sayid has found a cabling map identifying an area not far to the west called "the Barracks". It seems to consist of houses. Sayid suspects it is the Others' home. Mikhail refuses to confirm this, saying he will happily kill them the second they drop their guard. Danielle rejoins them and wonders why they are keeping him alive. Sayid says he doesn't want to kill the man unnecessarily. Before they move out, Locke heads back inside to enter 77 to see what happens. He leaves the Flame and promptly the entire building blows up. Sayid incredulously tells Locke that he may have just destroyed their only chance of communicating with the outside world.
Major WTFery: The episode makes it clear that Mikhail's cat, Nadia, survived the destruction of the Flame. Unfortunately, it forgets to do the same for the horse and cow. Whilst it's possible the cow survived (as it had a large area it could walk around in), the horse certainly couldn't as it was tied up right outside. So this is the episode of Lost that blows a horse to smithereens for no real reason. Nice work, Locke.
It would seem that Sayid spent at least a few months in Paris at some point. Even allowing that it was probably at least a decade before his time on the Island, it would seem unusual that he hadn't picked up at least a small amount of French given his apparent skill at learning English. Of course, it is possible that he spent most of his time amongst other Arabic-speakers, and thus explaining why he needed to get Shannon to help him translate Danielle's notes and materials.
The Purge took place in 1988, but Mikhail says he came to the Island after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was (depending on how you look at it) between 1989 and 1991. A few episodes suggest that the Purge actually took place in 1992, but the overwhelming amount of evidence (most decisively, the fact that Ben can only have started raising Alex after the Purge and the expiry of the fifteen-year truce agreed to in 1973) places the Purge to 1988, and this was later confirmed by the post-finale Lost Encyclopedia. Mikhail likely adjusted the timeline for plausibility. It isn't impossible that someone from DHARMA could have come post-1991, since the Hanso Foundation apparently did recruit Inman and assigned him to the Swan Station, but their interest primarily revolved around the Swan as that determined the fate of the world, not the Flame.
Locke taking his eyes off Mikhail to play a video game seems rather out of character.
Hindsight: According to the producers, everything that Mikhail says is true except for being a member of the DHARMA Initiative. He was actually recruited by the Others rather than DHARMA. This is the second episode (after Not in Portland) that firmly shows that the Others are actively recruiting people from the outside world.
Ms. Klugh had been supposed to return in the opening episodes of Season 3, but the actress had not been available. Colleen Pickett had been created to replace her. This episode gave the producers a chance to bring her back and dispose of the character.
Actor Andrew Divoff, who played Mikhail, developed a backstory element that Mikhail and Ms. Klugh had been lovers. Being forced to shoot her explains Mikhail's later homicidal hatred of the 815 survivors, although this was never confirmed on-screen.
The Flame Station was first mentioned on the blast door map in Lockdown.
Review: The producers went overboard with information in this episode, showing us the Flame Station, telling us (and the 815 survivors) a lot more info about the end of the DHARMA Initiative and the Purge and so forth. The flashback is self-contained but dramatically effective, with an excellent performance by guest star Anne Bedian as Amira. If the episode has some problems it's that Locke's incompetence in letting Mikhail escape and later his stupidity in blowing up the Flame feels very random: the latter is later explained (by his growing belief they should never leave the Island) but the former is not. But overall this is an effective episode that adds a lot more information to the databank. (****)
Desmond's latest Charlie-saving plan.
312: Par Avion
Written by Christina M. Kim and Jordan Rosenberg, directed by Paul Edwards
Airdate: 14 March 2007
Survivor Count: 47
Days on Island: 80 (10 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Claire
Flashbacks: Claire (with dyed black hair) is driving with her mother when she is involved in a very serious motor accident. Claire is fine but her mother is thrown clear of the vehicle, sustaining serious head injuries. At the hospital she is hooked up to a life support machine, but drifts into a coma. Claire and her aunt, Lindsey, are surprised to hear that her mother's medical bills are being taken care of by an anonymous donor.
Some time later, Claire visits her mother to find an American doctor - Christian Shepard - visiting with her. The man is surprised to see Claire, but confirms that he is paying the medical bills. Lindsey arrives and argues with the man, who eventually says that Claire deserves to know the truth. He tells her that he is her father. He stayed away at her mother's request.
Claire is at work in a tattoo and piercing parlour when her father stops by. He asks to buy her a coffee. He tells her he did visit a few times when she was little, but her mother wasn't too happy about it and her aunt despises him. He makes Claire laugh, but her attitude towards him turns sour when he asks her not to let her mother suffer. Claire says she won't turn off the life support machines and is disgusted he suggested it. She walks off, saying she doesn't even want to know his name.
Five years later, Claire is pregnant and getting ready to leave for the United States to give up her child for adoption. She visits her mum and switches on the TV. A programme about migratory birds is running. She apologises to her mum for the fight they had in the car before the accident.
On the Island: Charlie wakes up Claire with a special breakfast. He has arranged for Aaron to spend the day with "Auntie Sun" and for him and Claire to have a relaxing day of fun on the beach. Claire is delighted, since Charlie had been so miserable recently. Their celebrations are interrupted by Desmond, who urges Charlie to help him in hunting boar. By the tone of his words, Charlie realises he means that this is something to do with Charlie's prophesied death. Claire realises that something is going on with the two guys, but is distracted by an eruption of seabirds flying out of the trees. She suddenly says she has an idea to get them all off the Island.
Back at the beach camp Claire calls upon Jin, Sun and Charlie to help. She used to watch nature programmes with her mother (neglecting to mention it was when she was in a coma) and knows that birds like these are migratory. If they can attach a message to one of the birds, someone might find it. Charlie says it's a long shot, but Claire is sure she saw an electronic tag on the bird's leg. If that's true, a science team may recover the bird and any message they send. Charlie, after noticing Desmond watching disapprovingly, says he thinks it's a waste of time and leaves, to Claire's bemusement. Jin and Sun agree to help her create a trap and bait for the birds. When Claire goes to get one of the birds, Desmond fires a rifle nearby, scaring them off. Desmond apologises, saying he was hunting.
Convinced something is up, Claire follows Desmond surreptitiously to a rocky stretch of beach where he catches one of the birds, which indeed has a tag on its foot. She asks him what the hell is going on. Reluctantly he tells her about his flashes. In one of them Charlie was trying to catch a bird on her behalf, only to dash his head on the rocks nearby and die. Claire goes back to the beach and tells Charlie that she knows what Desmond says and thinks that they can avoid Charlie's fate if she just believes in him. They write a note confirming that the survivors of Oceanic 815 have survived on this island for 80 days and are still alive and still have hope.
On the other side of the Island, the party becomes divided. Locke wants them to keep following Eko's stick, but the rest believe that the stick was only to guide them to the Flame, and the map from the Flame will guide them to the Others' camp. As they bicker, Kate and Danielle get some water. Kate says she is surprised that Danielle has not asked more questions about Alex. Danielle says that to Alex she will be a stranger, and in turn Danielle may not like when Alex has become.
Mikhail confirms that he came to the Island by submarine and that the sonar beacon was knocked out by the Discharge, which Mikhail describes as an electromagnetic pulse or EMP event. The Others can leave on the submarine, but they can never come back until the beacon is repaired. Kate is bemused that anyone would willingly live on the Island by choice. Mikhail says she would not understand because she is not capable. A "magnificent man" brought him to the Island, as he brings others. Those who are not on "the list" provided by this man will not be able to understand why it's important they remain on the Island. Mikhail seems to indicate that Kate, Sayid and Locke are not on the list.
Sayid starts mocking Mikhail, saying that the Others are not omniscient. Mikhail agrees, but then refers to all three of them (he studiously ignores Danielle) by their full names. He says they are all strangers to him, apart from Locke, but the Locke he knows was "para..." Danielle interrupts him with news of a discovery. She has found a series of poles topped by large spherical devices. These poles extend in either direction as far as the eye can see, through hilly terrain. Consulting the map, Sayid realises these poles are shown on it as small squares. They completely surround the Barracks in a massive circle, with no way around them. Mikhail claims that they are a security system, but like everything else on the Island they don't work. Locke decides to test it by pushing Mikhail between the poles. Mikhail says "thank you" and promptly drops (apparently) dead as a devastating sonic pulse runs through him.
Sayid berates Locke for his carelessness, which has yet again a devastating consequence. They also discover some C4 from the Flame in Locke's backpack, suggesting that Locke may have known more about what was going on there then he let on. Danielle suggests using the C4 to blow up a pylon, but Locke is unwilling to go near any of the things. The group gets a massive tree branch instead and run it over the top of one of the pylons. They use this to cross over. They examine Mikhail's body on the far side and he appears to be dead.
They finally reach the Barracks, the same cluster of yellow houses from where Juliet and Ben saw the crash of Flight 815. They see Jack running, and prepare to cover his escape. Instead Jack stops, picks up a football and throws it back to Tom. The sight of Jack apparently cooperating with the Others befuddles the group.
Major WTFery: Mikhail is quite clearly killed by the sonic fence: you don't get "stunned" by having a cerebral hemorrhage and spurting blood out of your ears and nose in all directions, and then collapsing on the floor with your eyes wide open. The producers presumably liked Andrew Divoff's performance (he was popular with fans as well) so contrived a reason to bring him back at the end of the season.
Mikhail says that he came to the Island when he was 24. However, if he indeed came to the Island after the end of the Cold War, say in 1991, that would have only made him 37 or 38 at the time of this episode was filmed. Andrew Divoff was actually 49 when they filmed this episode and looks it. Either Mikhail had a very hard and stressful life (which as an ex-Soviet soldier is entirely possible), or he actually came to the Island rather earlier than he originally claimed.
Australia's medical provision is rather different to the United States and in fact it is highly unlikely that Claire's mother's life support would have been turned off without additional funds.
Hindsight: The halfway point of this episode is also the halfway point of the entire series, as this is the 61st hour of 121 hours produced for Lost overall.
This is Claire's last-ever flashback or indeed centric episode, which is unusual for a character who remains a regular for another two-and-a-half seasons (if separated by Season 5, in which she does not appear as a regular character).
This episode confirms that Christian is both Jack and Claire's father, making them half-siblings. Jack does not learn this until the Season 4 finale, when he is off the Island. Jack and Claire don't actually reunite with the knowledge of their relationship until The Last Recruit in Season 6.
Christian suggests it would be a mercy for Claire to end her mother's life. However, in the Season 4 finale it is confirmed that her mother recovers in full from the coma.
The message that Claire and Charlie send on the bird is never found. However, it is interesting to note that the note does not explicitly contradict the cover story later provided by the Oceanic Six.
This episode also alludes to Jacob, with Mikhail saying that he was brought to the Island by a "magnificent man."
The episode also mentions "the list", presumably the list of Candidates to replace Jacob. This list becomes highly important in Season 6. Clearly Mikhail's copy of the list has not been updated recently if Sayid, Kate and especially Locke are not on it.
The producers would use the fact that Mikhail can be seen breathing after he was "killed" as proof that he survived, allowing him to return later. In actuality, almost every character killed on Lost has been shown breathing after being killed, because it is often impractical for actors to hold their breath continuously for multiple long takes and set-ups. This is more of a problem for TV shows, as films can more easily afford visual effects to freeze the part of the screen where a corpse is located to make sure it appears dead.
Review: Claire's flashback and on-Island story are both enjoyable, if slight, and give the episode a bit of a "Season 1" vibe, something that Damon Lindelof in particular was keen to revisit as the series approached the point when it the standard Lost set-up was going to be shattered forever. The stuff with Mikhail is entertaining, especially Locke speaking for the entire episode when adopts a "Just get on with it" attitude and throws him through the sonic fence, with disastrous results. (****)