Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Lost Reviews: Part 16 - Season 4, Episodes 1-8

Welcome to the Lost rewatch project. I am currently rewatching all 121 episodes of the TV series which aired for six seasons from 2004 to 2010. This is very much a rewatch thread, with the show watched with knowledge of what is to come in later seasons. If you've never watched Lost before, you definitely do not want to read this blog series.
This blog post covers the first eight episodes of of Season 4. During the filming of Season 3, showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse struck an unprecedented agreement with ABC to both allow them to set an end date for the show and also to shoot fewer episodes per season. The original plan had been to conclude the series 42 episodes after the end of Season 3, with three seasons of 14 episodes. However, the 2007-08 Writer's Strike affected the writing process, resulting in two episodes being dropped. The final two seasons were slightly increased in length to compensate for this.

I am using the Lost plot summaries from Wikipedia, sometimes fleshed out. I'd previously written each one myself but to be honest the time it was taking to do this had become unsustainable. Wikipedia permits the re-use of such material if the original source is linked as follows: The Beginning of the End, Confirmed Dead, The Economist, Eggtown, The Constant, The Other Woman, Ji Yeon, Meet Kevin Johnson.

Without further ado, let us continue after the jump.

Charlie delivers an important message to Hurley from the beyond.

401: The Beginning of the End
Written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, directed by Jack Bender
Airdate: 31 January 2008
Survivor Count: 44 (-1 after Charlie's death in the previous episode)
Days on Island: 91 (21 December 2004)
Flashforwards Character: Hurley

Flashforwards: A major police chase unfolds in Los Angeles as a red Camaro attempts to evade justice. It eventually crashes and police surround and arrest the driver: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, millionaire, business-owner and one of the infamous "Oceanic Six". In the police station Hurley is interrogated by Detective Mike Walton about what happened: security camera footage shows Hurley going into a convenience store and freaking out after seeing something off-picture. Hurley refuses to talk. Walton tells him that his former partner, Ana Lucia Cortez, was on Oceanic 815 but Hurley says he never knew her. Walton leaves the room and Hurley sees an apparition of a figure - Charlie - dying underwater. His screams bring Walton back, who asks Hurley if he is crazy and wants to be locked up. Hurley asks if that is possible and hugs him in gratitude.

Hurley is sent back to Santa Rosa Mental Hospital and seems a lot happier. A man asks to see him, saying his name is Matthew Abaddon and that he is a lawyer working for Oceanic Airlines. Abaddon offers the airline's help as they feel responsible for any trauma he has suffered, but Hurley becomes suspicious and asks to see a business card. Abaddon says he left them at home. As he leaves, he asks if "they are still alive". Hurley refuses to answer. After Abaddon leaves, Hurley is visited by an apparition of Charlie, who begs him not to freak out like he did when he saw him in the store. Charlie tells Hurley that "they" need him, but Hurley closes his eyes and starts counting loudly. When he finishes, Charlie is gone.

Charlie is later visited by Jack and confirms that he won't be giving up the secrets the Oceanic Six agreed to keep. However, Hurley says that he made a mistake in siding with Locke on the Island and also made a mistake in leaving. He thinks they are needed on the Island, but Jack dismisses the idea and leaves, musing that he should grow a beard to stop being recognised.

On the Island: At the radio tower the survivors celebrate making contact with the freighter, but Jack is furious with Locke's attack on Naomi. Whilst the rest of the group is distracted, Locke flees. Ben, under guard by Danielle, seems to be finding the whole situation vastly amusing. He advises that Danielle get Alex away from their location, as soon everyone on the Island will be dead, but Danielle is unimpressed.

Naomi crawls away from the radio tower and into the jungle. Jack and Kate pursue, but split up when the trail becomes too faint. Kate finds Naomi dying and tells her that the man who attacked her was not with the main group of survivors. Naomi uses the satellite phone to call George Minkowski, the radio man on the freighter. Before she dies, she tells him that her injury was an accident and to give her love to her sister. Meanwhile, Hurley finds Jacob's cabin. He looks through the window and sees a strange man (whom we recognise as Christian Shepard) in a rocking chair, before someone steps up to the glass, only the left eye visible. Hurley runs away, but finds the cabin again in a different location. He squeezes his eyes shut and when he opens them, the building is gone. Locke appears out of the jungle. He guides him through the woods to the cockpit of Oceanic 815, a convenient nearby landmark.

Desmond returns from the Looking Glass to the beach, bearing Charlie's final message that the freighter is not owned by Penny. All of the survivors reunite at 815's cockpit. Jack knocks Locke to the ground, takes his gun and pulls the trigger, but finds that the gun is not loaded because Locke had no intention of killing Jack earlier that day. Hurley tells Claire that Charlie is dead, leaving Claire grief-stricken and upset. Locke tells the castaways that they are in great danger, citing Charlie's last message as proof that the freighter crew mean the survivors harm. Jack disagrees.

The thirty-nine survivors of Oceanic 815 present and their newfound allies - Juliet, Karl, Danielle and Alex - choose sides. Hurley, Claire, Danielle, Sawyer, Alex, Karl and four survivors side with Locke and decide to set up a new camp at the Barracks. They take Aaron and Vincent the dog with them. Ben asks to go with Locke's group and Jack agrees. Kate, Juliet, Desmond, Sayid, Jin, Sun, Rose, Bernard and the remaining survivors side with Jack and return to the beach camp.

As Jack's team heads back to the beach, he and Kate hear a sound in the distance. Breaking off to investigate they see a second helicopter from the freighter in difficulty and several people bailing out. One of the people lands nearby. He introduces himself as Daniel and tells Jack he is here to help rescue them.                                          

Major WTFery: Hurley appears to have been selected for a chat with Jacob, but manages to avoid the cabin. This is a continuation of the oddness of the cabin from Season 3's The Man Behind the Curtain. It appears that this storyline was meant as the original way of revealing Jacob, but was later ditched in favour of the Man in Black/Jacob storyline that gets underway in the Season 5 finale and dominates Season 6. The presence of Christian Shepard in the cabin would seem to suggest that it's actually the Man in Black/Smoke Monster who is there rather than Jacob, but this then begs the question who the person is who steps up to the window (since the Smoke Monster can't be in two places at once, that we've seen).

Charlie appearing to Hurley appears to be the show - rather casually - confirming the existence of the afterlife and that it is possible for the dead to talk to the living under certain circumstances. This is confirmed further in the next episode. As this scene takes place off-Island, it appears to genuinely be the dead Charlie and not the Smoke Monster.

Hindsight: The splitting of the camps is a fairly pivotal moment in the series, although it is somewhat underplayed in the episode. Notably, this is the very last time that Desmond, Rose and Bernard see the real John Locke. It's also the very last time (chronologically) that Juliet and Ben share any scenes.

This episode reveals that only six survivors of Oceanic 815 made it back to the mainland, introducing tension for the first part of the season as viewers both tried to work out what happened to the over thirty-three survivors still alive at this point (and not recruited by the Others or having already escaped, like Michael and Walt). By the end of this episode we know the identities of three members of the Oceanic Six: Jack, Kate and Hurley.

This episode marks the first appearance of Matthew Abaddon, who makes several more appearances on the series until his demise in Season 5's The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham. The producers and J.J. Abrams were keen to work with Lance Reddick, having been huge fans of his role as Lt. Daniels on HBO's The Wire. They have previously tried to cast him as Mr. Eko in Season 2, but The Wire was still filming. J.J. Abrams offered him a full-time series regular role on the new TV series he was developing with Fox, Fringe, which necessitated his departure from Lost.

Review: Season 4 opens with another busy episode and the decision to focus on Hurley is surprising but works extremely well. Like the rest of the season, this is a busy and fast-moving episode with developments in both the on-Island storyline and the flashforwards being compelling. However, the faster pace of storytelling that the show adopts from now on does mean a reduction in some of the nice character interludes the series did very well in earlier episodes. There is also a certain degree of sloppiness in setting up some story elements, most notably the survivors apparently just happening to come together at the cockpit for a big scene rather than it being pre-planned. Still, this is Lost with the training wheels removed and moving forwards with purpose and vigour, feeling very much like a relaunch for the second half of the series. (****)

Newcomers Daniel Faraday, Frank Lapidus and Miles Straume arrive on the Island.

402: Confirmed Dead
Written by Drew Goddard and Brian K. Vaughan, directed by Stephen Williams
Airdate: 7 February 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 91-92 (21-22 December 2004)
Flashback Characters: Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, Frank and Naomi

Flashbacks: Two remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) are exploring the seabed off Indonesia when they come across wreckage and what appears to be luggage strewn over a wide area. Exploring further, they discovered the shattered remains of what appears to be a commercial jetliner sporting an Oceanic Airlines tail insignia. One of the crew piloting the ROVs realises that this must be the remains of Oceanic Flight 815.

In Essex, Massachussetts, Daniel Faraday watches the newscast confirming that everyone on the plane is dead and bursts into tears. His caretaker asks what is wrong and Faraday says he doesn't know.

Meanwhile, in Inglewood, California, psychic Miles Straume is employed to remove the ghost of her grandson from her home. Miles apparently has genuine powers, talking to the spirit and identifying a secret cache of money and drugs that he covertly steals.

In Tunisia, anthropolohist Charlotte Lewis talks her way onto a dig site where a polar bear skeleton has been found, wearing a collar emblazoned with a DHARMA Initiative logo. The archaeologists don't know how a polar bear got into the desert.

In Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, washed-up pilot Frank Lapidus watches the discovery of Flight 815 on the news. He calls the Oceanic hotline, telling them that the pilot isn't Seth Norris, the captain of the flight, as Norris religiously wore his wedding ring and the body doesn't have a ring on it. When the helpline operator asks him how he knew this, Frank says that he was originally supposed to be the pilot of Flight 815.

Naomi Dorrit confronts her employer, Matthew Abaddon, about the suitability of the experts he has picked for the freighter mission. None have combat experience and she is uncertain about their reliability. Abaddon insists that they are the best people for the job. Naomi asks what to do if they find survivors from Flight 815 but Abaddon calmly tells her that there were no survivors.

On the Island: Daniel makes contact with Jack and Kate, telling them that there were four people on the helicopter. He can use the satellite phone to track them down. They quickly locate Miles, but he is extremely hostile and angrily demands that they take him to Naomi's body. Apparently communicating with her spirit (to Jack and Kate's bewilderment), he confirms that she was killed by a rogue agent on the Island, John Locke. They regroup with Sayid and Juliet and make their way to the third survivor, Frank, after he fires off a flare. Frank managed to land his helicopter completely intact and it requires only moderate repairs to take off again. As the group talks, they realise the Juliet is one of the Others, since Frank memorised the passenger manifest and there was no "Juliet Burke" on it. Miles angrily demands to know where Benjamin Linus is, as retrieving Ben is the freighter crew's primary mission.

Locke's team finds Charlotte and decide to take her prisoner, attaching her tracking device to Vincent to lure the others off on a false trail. Charlotte is bewildered by her treatment. Ben and others in Locke's group begin to question Locke's motives, with Locke revealing that he is following instructions of Walt, who appeared to him when he was shot. Seeing Frank's flare, Charlotte suggests they investigate and Claire admits that the person may be hurt. Ben suddenly grabs a gun and shoots Charlotte several times, but she survives thanks to a bulletproof vest. An angry Sawyer wants to know why they are bothering to keep Ben alive after this latest treachery. Locke admits they have a point since Ben is unwilling to give them information. He asks "What is the Monster?" When Ben says he doesn't know, Locke concludes that he is of no further value and prepares to shoot him. Ben quickly rattles off Charlotte's name, date of birth and occupation, along with the details of Frank, Miles and Daniel. Locke, bewildered, asks how he could know all of that and Ben tells him that he has a spy on the freighter.

Major WTFery: This episode features an aging continuity error. Actress Rebecca Mader was younger than her character of Charlotte Lewis, but blew away the producers so much they cast her anyway. This caused issues on-set when the script gave Lewis's birthday as 2 July 1970, making Lewis 34. Mader, who was 30 when the scene was shot, did not take into account that the episode was set in 2004 and believed that she was being asked to portrary a character seven years older than herself, rather than a less problematic four. Script supervisor Gregg Nations, believing that the producers had simply not adjusted the script after casting a younger actress than originally planned, made a decision to to change the date of birth to 1979 (actually two years younger than Mader herself) in the shooting script.

This created a minor issue in Season 5, when it was confirmed that a very young Charlotte was living with the DHARMA Initiative on the Island in 1974. The producers later ruled that the 1979 date was simply wrong and Charlotte's original date of birth of 1970 should stand.

In Frank's scene one of the ROVs is shown passing the fake plane wreck closely enough to identify bodies, even to the point of being able to identify if the pilot had has wedding ring or not. It is highly unlikely that footage showing the decomposing remains of underwater bodies would be broadcast on a commercial television news channel in such detail.

At one point it is said that the Barracks is due south of the crashed 815 cockpit. This is, of course, highly erroneous. The Barracks are a considerable distance north of the cockpit and beach camp.

Hindsight: This episode features flashbacks rather than the flashforwards used for the previous two episodes. However, the structure is slightly unusual. It moves between five separate characters, one of whom is dead, and provides captions identfying the locations of the characters rather than timestamps, which has not been done before on the show.

This episode confirms that the pilot of Oceanic 815, played by Greg Grunberg and killed in the pilot episode, was named Seth Norris. Grunberg was winning plaudits for his appearance in rival NBC drama Heroes at this time and the mention of Grunberg (a childhood friend of J.J. Abrams) was meant as a tip of the hat to his previous role in Lost.

Some Like It Hoth would suggest that Miles required a dead body or ashes to be nearby to allow him to communicate with the dead. In Inglewood, however, there are no such remains. It is possible that a very large concentration of belongings and artifcats belonging to the deceased may suffice instead. In addition, the spirit in that case was tied to a specific location, which was not the case with Naomi.

When Locke is asked how he survived getting shot by Ben in The Man Behind the Curtain, he points out that he was shot through the space where his kidney used to be. The bullet went straight through him. If he'd still had that kidney, he'd be dead.

The DHARMA polar bear presumably arrived in the Tunisian desert after passing through the "windows" leading from the Island. Both Ben Linus and John Locke would later use the same window to effect their escapes from the Island.

Review: The "freighter folk" get one heck of an introduction that pushes forward the storyline and establishes four major new recurring characters. This is done quite well, and it's particularly interesting that our POV mostly stays with the "freighties" throughout the episode, reflecting their bemusement at these crazy Island people. The only flaw is that this episode confirms (after heavy hints in the prior epsiode and in the Season 1 Claire episodes) that there is an afterlife in the Lost universe and ghosts can talk to some members of the living. This is kind of a big deal but is shrugged off fairly off-handedly. (****)
Future Sayid cleans up good, in more than one sense of the word.

403: The Economist
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, directed by Jack Bender
Airdate: 14 February 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 92 (22 December 2004)
Flashforwards Character: Sayid

Flashforwards: Sayid is a professional assassin, working for parties unknown. He travels to Berlin and courts a German woman, Elsa, in order to get closer to her employer (the eponymous "economist"). After several dates, Sayid turns on Elsa, who reveals herself to be a counter-spy by unexpectedly shooting Sayid in the shoulder. Sayid is able to shoot and kill Elsa. As the episode ends, Sayid is treated for his wound by Ben, who gives him another assignment. Sayid is now wary since they now know that he's after them, to which Ben replies, "Good".

On the Island: Jack and Miles argue about what to do about leader of the Others, Ben Linus, and Miles's colleague Charlotte, both sought after by Miles and his colleagues and taken prisoner by Locke. Sayid pays his respects to Naomi Dorrit, and takes her bracelet. He then offers to retrieve Charlotte without bloodshed, in return for a helicopter flight to the freighter. He takes Miles and Kate to the Barracks. Sayid asks Jack not to come with them as he might be unpredictable around Locke.

While Sayid is gone, Daniel radios the freighter and asks Regina, a colleague on the boat, to shoot a projectile onto the island. Regina does so, but the projectile does not arrive for thirty minutes. When it lands, Daniel extracts a clock from the payload and finds that the two times, that running on the island and that running outside, are not synchronized. Daniel seems to have been expecting this result, but the size of the disparity (31 minutes and 18 seconds) shocks him.

The survivors led by Locke arrive at the location of Jacob's cabin, but find the area deserted and no cabin in sight. Locke and his team head to the Barracks as originally planned, and there use Hurley to lure Sayid, Kate and Miles into a trap. Kate is watched by Sawyer, and they discuss their reasons for wanting or not wanting to go home. Kate, realizing that she would be arrested for her crimes upon rescue, defects to Locke's group. Sayid negotiates with Locke to exchange Charlotte with Miles, in order to get access to the boat. Locke tells him that wouldn't be necessary as Ben has a spy on that freighter, to which Sayid responds that he would rather sell his soul than trust Ben.

At the helicopter, Desmond - who has been fetched by Juliet - confronts pilot Frank about the picture Naomi had of him and his ex-fiancé Penny. Frank denies any knowledge of her, but Desmond nevertheless demands a place on a helicopter. At the same time, Sayid returns with Charlotte. While Frank accuses Sayid of being dishonest, he considered Miles a "pain in the ass" and agrees to fly him offshore. Desmond decides to accompany him to find out more about where the picture of Penny came from.
Major WTFery: It would seem to be counter-productive to use one of the most famous people in the world (as the next episode suggests the Oceanic Six become) as an assasssin. However, Ben does appear to be working with limited assets.

Hindsight: This episode confirms Sayid as the fourth member of the Oceanic Six.

In this episode Desmond leaves the Island and does not return until Season 6's The Package.

Review: Sayid getting involved in an intense, moody and violent story of double-cross and thwarted passions is nothing new, but Naveen Andrews is such a formidably good actor that it all remains highly compelling and watchable. The back-and-forth between Team Locke and Team Jack has the potential to get a little wearying, but for now the splitting of the survivors is working quite well. Faraday's crazy scientific experiments and his analysis of the weirdness on the Island is also quite amusing. (****)

The Trial of Kate Austen is something I think most fans thought we'd never see.

404: Eggtown
Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and Greggory Nations, directed by Stephen Williams
Airdate: 21 February 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 93-94 (23-24 December 2004)
Flashforwards Character: Kate

Flashforwards: After leaving the island, Kate has become famous as one of the Oceanic Six but still has to stand trial for murder, escaping from custody and theft. She pleads not guilty. Because Kate is opposed to bringing "her son" into the trial, Jack is called in as a character witness. He lies in his testimony, saying that Flight 815 crashed in the water, eight survived the crash, but two have since died and Kate was primarily responsible for the Oceanic Six's survival. Kate speaks with her mother Diane Janssen for the first time in four years. Diane is no longer angry at Kate because her perspective changed when she thought that Kate had died in the plane crash. When Diane, the prosecution's star witness, no longer wants to testify against her daughter, the District Attorney makes a plea deal: Kate gets ten years probation, but must stay in the state of California. Jack meets Kate in the parking garage. He admits that he still loves her (in contrast to his false testimony under oath on her behalf) and asks to go out for coffee with her. Kate responds that they cannot go out until he is willing to visit her baby. It is then revealed that Kate is raising Claire's son Aaron as her own.

On the Island: Locke is keeping Ben prisoner in the basement of the house that he has claimed in the Barracks. He prepares breakfast for him, including the two remaining eggs which he fries along with some fresh melon, but Ben taunts him and Locke becomes frustrated. Kate cuts a deal with Locke's prisoner Miles: he will tell her what he knows about her if he can speak to Ben for a minute. Miles wants to extort $3.2 million from Ben and in return, Miles promises to lie to his employer claiming Ben is dead. Miles gives Ben a week to produce the cash. Before Locke finds them, Miles reveals that he knows all about Kate's past. Locke banishes Kate from the Barracks and goes to a lake house where Miles is being held captive. Locke puts a grenade in Miles's mouth so that if he ceases to bite, he will die. Kate sleeps with Sawyer but does not have sex with him. Before Kate leaves for the camp at the beach, she slaps Sawyer across the face after he suggests that she is just pretending to be mad as an excuse to go back to Jack and continue their love triangle.

Meanwhile, Jack returns to the survivors' beach camp with Juliet and newcomers Daniel Faraday and Charlotte Lewis. Jack and Juliet grow increasingly uneasy over a series of unsuccessful attempts to contact the freighter by satellite phone and verify that Desmond, Sayid and Frank, who departed for the freighter by helicopter the previous evening, have arrived safely. That evening, as Charlotte tests Daniel's memory using playing cards (Daniel successfully remembers two out of three cards, and Charlotte remarks that this is "progress"), Jack and Juliet ask if there is another phone number they could try. Charlotte dials an emergency number and speaks to Regina, who reports that the helicopter never arrived.

Major WTFery: Although not impossible, Kate's story about being pregnant when Flight 815 crashed seems a little far-fetched. However, with testimony from four eyewitness to Kate giving birth to Aaron (Hurley, Jack, Sayid and Sun), this may have been enough to forego a DNA test.

Adam, one of the Others, seems to suggest in A Tale of Two Cities that Ben does not like science fiction. However, in this episode he is seen reading and enjoying Philip K. Dick's novel VALIS. It may be that Adam was projecting his own dislike of SF onto Ben, his idol, or that neither consider Dick's work to be science fiction.

Claire offers Kate the chance to hold Aaron, briefly freaking Kate out. It seems unlikely that Kate has gone 51 days without ever holding the baby that she herself helped deliver.

Kate's trial is somewhat bafflingly handled. The plea bargains and her mother's testimony would be relevant only to her murder of her stepfather, but the bank robbery and the resulting deaths would have been a separate charge which would have been almost impossible for her to avoid.

At the trial Jack says that Oceanic 815 crashed in the South Pacific, but as part of the cover story it would have been in the Indian Ocean.

Hindsight: This episode suggests that Aaron was the fifth member of the Oceanic Six, although at the time there was some discussion over this as Aaron was not born until after the crash, so potentiallly two members of the Six remain unidentified. The episode Ji Yeon plays on this uncertainty.

This episode establishes the Oceanic Six's cover story: the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean near Bali and Sumba after going massively off-course. There were initially eight survivors in the water, but two died subsequent to the crash. Kate Austen, who was then pregnant, was instrumental in tending to the others' wounds. They managed to get a small uninhabited island and managed to survive for several months whilst constructing a raft. Kate gave birth to Aaron in this time. They then paddled to Sumba and rescue.

Of course, at this point the reasons why the Six are lying about the situation and the fates of everyone else (Sawyer, Jin, Claire, Locke, Juliet, Desmond, etc) remain unknown.

Review: The trial of Kate Austen is something I think most fans just assumed we'd never see. It's ridiculously implausible that Kate would escape jail time or a mandatory DNA test to confirm she is Aaron's mother, but if you blink a lot it's just about excusable to keep the story moving. (***½).

The tragic love story between Desmond and Penny takes yet another twist.

405: The Constant
Written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, directed by Jack Bender
Airdate: 28 February 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 94 (24 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Desmond

Now and Then: Desmond, Sayid and Lapidus experience turbulence while flying the 130 kilometers (about 80 miles) distance from the island where they were stranded to Lapidus' team's freighter, the Kahana. Desmond's consciousness travels back eight years to 1996, when he is serving with the British Army's Royal Scots Regiment. Moments later, when his consciousness returns to the present day, he neither knows where he is nor recognizes his companions, and has no memory of his life since 1996. After the helicopter lands, Desmond continues to jump between 1996 and 2004. He is taken to the sick bay, where a man named Minkowski is strapped to a bed because he is experiencing similar problems. Minkowski explains that someone sabotaged the radio room two days earlier and that Desmond's ex-girlfriend Penny Widmore has been trying to contact the freighter. Sayid uses the satellite phone to contact Jack on the island and explains that Desmond appears to have amnesia. Daniel, a physicist from the freighter, asks Jack whether Desmond has recently been exposed to a high level of radiation or electromagnetism. Jack is unsure, and so Daniel speaks to Desmond and asks him about his situation. Desmond responds that he believes that he is in 1996 and is serving with the Royal Scots. Faraday understands and tells Desmond that when he returns to 1996, he needs to go to the physics department of Queen's College, Oxford University in England to meet with Daniel's past self, and gives Desmond some mechanical settings to relay, along with an extra phrase that Daniel assures him will convince Daniel's past self that the story is legitimate.

Desmond's flashbacks become more frequent and longer. In 1996, Desmond tracks down a younger Faraday at Oxford, who takes Desmond into his laboratory where he is experimenting with a time machine. Setting his electromagnetic device with the settings that Desmond has given him, Daniel places his laboratory rat, Eloise, in a maze and exposes her to electromagnetic energy. The rat appears to become comatose, then awakens and runs the maze. Daniel becomes excited because he had just built the maze and had not yet taught Eloise how to run it. Desmond realizes that, like the rat, he is caught in a time warp that is moving his consciousness between two different bodies at two different points in time and space. Eloise dies of a suspected brain aneurysm brought on by the exposure to the time lapse. Desmond becomes worried that he will die like Eloise, and Daniel instructs him to find something or someone—a constant—who is present in both times and can serve as an anchor for Desmond's mental stability. Desmond decides that Penny can be the constant; however, he must make contact with her in 2004. To find out where she lives, Desmond gets her address from her father Charles, who is at an auction buying a journal owned by Tovard Hanso written by a crew member of the 19th century ship called the Black Rock.

In 1996, Desmond finds Penny, who is still distraught over their break-up and is not willing to see him. However, he gets her telephone number and tells her not to change it because he will call her on Christmas Eve 2004. In 2004, Sayid, Desmond, and Minkowski escape the sick bay and begin to repair the broken communications equipment. Meanwhile, Minkowski enters into another flashback, and dies. Showing signs of suffering the same fate as Minkowski, Desmond telephones Penny, who tells Desmond that she has been searching for him for the past three years and that she knows about the Island. They reconcile before the power is cut off. Having made contact with his "constant", Desmond stops alternating between 1996 and 2004. Back on the island, Daniel flips through his journal and discovers a note that he had written, "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant."

Major WTFery: This episode suggests that the Black Rock departed Portsmouth, England on 22 March 1845 on a trading mission to Siam (Thailand). It was lost on this mission. However, Season 6's Ab Aeterno confirms that the boat was instead lost in 1867. The discrepancy was never solved on the show, but it was likely a result of the producers realising that dynamite was not invented until the mid-1860s and changing the date to explain how the ship had so much dynamite on board.

Hindsight: The Constant may be the most atypical episode of Lost ever made. This is the only episode which - arguably - features no flashbacks or flashforwards at all. Instead we remain with Desmond's POV as it moves bath and forth in time, experiencing the events linearly (even when they involve time travel). This episode also has the fewest number of main characters to appear in it, with just Jack and Sayid appearing in it from the Season 1 cast.

The episode is notable for maintaining its focus almost entirely on Desmond for the entire episode (the exception being the beach scene, but even this is connected to Desmond through his telephone call). 

This episode can be seen as a direct sequel to Flashes Before Your Eyes, and features a nod at that episode with Daniel's rat Eloise being named after Eloise Hawkwing (whom later episodes would establish is Daniel's mother).

Tovard Hanso sold the Black Rock ledger. According to the DVD commentary, Tovard is a distant relative of Alvar Hanso, the founder of the Hanso Foundation and, like him, is a descendant of Magnus Hanso, the captain of the Black Rock.

This episode introduces additional members of the freighter's crew, including Martin Keamy, Omar and Dr. Ray. It also confirms that the freighter is called the Kahana.

Desmond's time-skipping was inspired by All Good Things, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which likewise sees Captain Picard's consciousness moving backwards and forwards in time.

Review: This is widely-cited as the best-ever episode of Lost and its hard to argue with that assertion. The key to the episode's success is its focus, clarity (despite dealing with a complex narrative) and the fact that it's science-fictional elements are told through a very human and emotional story about Desmond and Penny's need to reconnect. The result is a very powerful and human story that also furthers the background mythology, is impeccably directed and builds up to a pitch-perfect finale. (*****)

This will end well.

406: The Other Woman
Written by Drew Goddard and Christina M. Kim, directed by Eric Laneuville
Airdate: 6 March 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 94-95 (24-25 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Juliet

Flashback: Following her arrival on the Island in September 2001, Juliet starts adjusting to life there. Juliet has an affair with Goodwin, who is married to therapist Harper Stanhope. Harper discovers the affair, and warns Juliet that their leader Ben will punish Goodwin because he has a crush on Juliet. Following the crash of Flight 815, Ben sends Goodwind to infiltrate the tail section group. He is killed by Ana Lucia after she realizes he is not a survivor. In October 2004, Ben invites Juliet to what he initially describes as a dinner party, but is actually a private date. Ben leads Juliet to Goodwin's impaled corpse, where she accuses him of having wanted Goodwin to die. Ben then subsequently reveals his love for her.

On the Island: Daniel and Charlotte leave the beach camp, sneaking off. Juliet and Jack notice their absence from the camp and pursue them. After hearing the whispers, Harper approaches Juliet. She tells her that Daniel and Charlotte intend to kill everyone on the island by deploying a lethal gas at the Tempest Station and that Ben's orders are for Juliet to kill them. On a trek back to the beach in the morning, Kate encounters Daniel and Charlotte and is knocked unconscious by the latter. Jack and Juliet come across Kate and they split up: Juliet continues for the Tempest alone, as Jack looks after Kate. Inside the station, Juliet finds Daniel in a hazmat suit at a computer. After a standoff, Daniel and Charlotte convince Juliet that they are not going to kill anyone; they are neutralizing the gas in case Ben decides to use it again, as he had sixteen years earlier during the Purge. Jack arrives at the Tempest and Juliet explains that those on the freighter came to the island to wage war against Ben and she expects him to win. She fears for Jack because Ben thinks that she belongs to him, but Jack shows no concern and kisses her.

In the Barracks, Ben bargains with Locke for his freedom. Ben explains that Charles Widmore, a rich industrialist and the father of Penny, owns the freighter and has been searching for it for years. Widmore hopes to exploit the Island but needs to kill everyone living there first. Ben also tells Locke who his spy on the freighter is in return for being granted parole and limited freedom. Sawyer and Hurley later watch, shocked, as Ben moves back into his house and is given his liberty by Locke. 

Major WTFery: This episode features the crash of Oceanic 815 as seen by Juliet in A Tale of Two Cities. However, the scene is re-edited so that Harper is present and significant glances are exchanged between Juliet, Harper and Goodwin. These changes are rather unconvincing, it has to be said.

Presumably to save having to pay an appearance fee, Ethan Rom does not appear in the flashbacks despite being present.

Harper's sudden appearance and disappearance in the jungle is reminiscent of the first two seasons, when the Others had an apparently supernatural ability to move through the jungle without detection. No explanation is given for this. Harper's fate is also unknown, as she never appears on the show again. It is probable that she died in the Temple massacre in the episode Sundown.

Hindsight: Ben's claim that he doesn't know how Widmore knows about the Island is, of course, a lie. Charles Widmore was the previous leader of the Others, but Ben usurped him after exposing the double life he had been leading in the outside world for decades (including having a relationship with a woman off the Island, having a daughter and building up a business empire) and banishing him. Widmore has since been searching for a way to get back to the Island and take his vengeance on Ben.

The relationshp between Ben and Widmore is explored in much greater detail in later episodes and seasons.

This episode is a straightforward flashback, but the opening scene makes it appear that it could be a flashforwards with Juliet seeking counselling and being told that she is a "celebrity". Of course, since she was never on Oceanic 815 in the first place, Juliet could never be a member of the Oceanic Six.

Review: This episode feels a little redundant, since we already knew that Ben had a creepy obsession with Juliet and that Juliet was having a relationship with Goodwin. The revelation of yet another DHARMA station a couple of hours from the main camp that the survivors have somehow missed in three and a half months of exploration is also rather less than convincing. That said, there's some nice performances and it's good to get confirmation that the central conflict of the series - at least at this point - is between Widmore and Ben. (***)
Sun and her daughter, Ji Yeon. But where is Jin?

407: Ji Yeon
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, directed by Stephen Semel
Airdate: 13 March 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 95-96 (25-26 December 2004)
Flash Characters: Sun and Jin

Flashes: Jin rushes to a hospital while Sun, now enormously pregnant, goes into labour. Jin's journey to the hospital is marred by several unfortunate incidents, including difficulty in purchasing a stuffed panda and his cell phone being broken. Sun gives birth to a girl, who she names "Ji Yeon", the name chosen by Jin. However, it is revealed that Jin's story is set in the past, two months into his marriage to Sun. He was rushing to the birth of a Chinese ambassador's grandchild to deliver the panda as a gift on behalf of his employer, Mr. Paik. In the final flashforward, Sun and her daughter are visited by Hurley, who takes her to pay her respects to Jin. His memorial tombstone indicates that he died on the day of the crash of Oceanic 815.

On the Island: Sun becomes increasingly worried about the intentions of Kahana crew. Despite Juliet's warning to Sun that women who conceive on the Island die during their second trimester, Sun arranges to defect with Jin to the rival faction led by Locke, who does not want to leave the Island. Juliet tries to stop Sun from leaving by telling Jin that Sun had an affair, causing him to angrily back out of the journey at the last minute. After having a heartfelt conversation while fishing with Bernard, the only other married man on the island, he forgives Sun, who assures him that the baby is his.

On the Freighter: On the Kahana, Desmond and Sayid are still waiting to speak to the captain of the freighter, Gault. Frank Lapidus gives them food before departing with the helicopter and several other crewmen. When Desmond and Sayid are taken to see the captain, a crewwoman named Regina jumps off the side of the ship, having wrapped herself in chains. Gault shockingly dismisses this as "a heightened case of cabin fever", and asserts that losing her is better than losing several more in saving her. He says that he is employed by Charles Widmore, Desmond's girlfriend's father and tells them that Benjamin Linus faked the plane crash by expending tremendous resources in the process and procured 324 dead bodies to make everybody believe that all the passengers were dead. Gault proceeds by saying that is one of the reasons why Mr. Widmore is keen on finding Benjamin Linus and the Island. After their meeting, Desmond and Sayid are relocated to a different part of the ship, where they meet Michael Dawson working as a deckhand under the alias "Kevin Johnson".

Major WTFery: This episode and the previous one take place on Christmas and Boxing Day 2004. Although Sayid mentions in The Constant that is nearly Christmas, no-one else remarks on the dates. Admittedly, there is rather a lot going on.

Hindsight: Although the full list wouldn't be confirmed until the Season 4 finale, this episode indicates that Sun is the sixth and final member of the Oceanic Six (after Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid and Aaron). It also confirms that Jin is not a member of the Six, and that Hurley and Sun believe that he is dead.

Hurley flies to South Korea without issue or warning to see Sun, suggesting that he regained his fortune after leaving the Island.

This is the only episode of Lost which employs two different secondary narrative tricks: prevous episodes had been 100% flashforwards or flashbacks. This is the only one that mixes a flashback narrative with a flashforward one.

This episode also reverses the trick from the Season 3 finale, where what appear to be Jack flashbacks turn out to be flashforwards. In this episode, Jin's story is presented as a flashforward but turns out to be a flashback.

The flashforwards in this episode appears to take place about seven months into the future, around July or August 2005, when Ji Yeon is born. 

Jin has taken possession of Karl and Alex's outrigger and has been using it to fish in deeper waters offshore.

This episode establishes that, in 2004, Jin is 30 years old and Sun is 24.

Review: Sun and Jin episodes are always good value and this one continues in that vein, with Jin's storyline being quite funny ("I need the panda!"). Some people loathe the twist in this episode, feeling that it is manipulative, but I thought it was both clever and worked really well, setting up the possibility that Jin may be killed during the course of the season. (****)

"So I guess we're not over that bit where I killed two people and led four others into a trap yet?"

408: Meet Kevin Johnson
Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and Brian K. Vaughan, directed by Stephen Williams
Airdate: 20 March 2008
Survivor Count: 44
Days on Island: 96-97 (26-27 December 2004)
Flashback Character: Michael

On the Freighter: Captain Gault stops two crewmembers from deserting the freighter in a raft. He publicly beats them and shouts that this is to save their lives, reminding the crew of what happened to George Minkowski when he left the boat. The next morning, Sayid confronts Michael and demands to know what is going on. Michael, reluctantly, agrees to tell his story.

Flashback: Michael and his son Walt Lloyd return to New York. Overcome with guilt, Michael confesses that he murdered Ana Lucia and Libby as part of his rescue of Walt from the Others' captivity. Michael becomes estranged from Walt, who goes to live with Michael's mother. Michael is haunted by apparitions and nightmares of the late Libby. Michael attempts to kill himself in a car crash, but fails. He sells the watch that Jin gave him in the first season finale and buys a gun for another suicide attempt, but this, too, is unsuccessful because the gun jams. That night, Michael is confronted by Tom, the Other who abducted Walt. Tom explains that the Island will not allow Michael to kill himself, and gives Michael an assignment: Michael must infiltrate the freighter Kahana using the pseudonym "Kevin Johnson" and kill everyone on board, as they will try to kill his fellow crash survivors. Michael agrees to do it and boards the freighter at Fiji. Michael becomes acquainted with the crew and hesitates to sabotage their mission until he finds Martin Keamy and his associates target-practicing with machine guns. After Michael tries to detonate a bomb provided by the Others only to discover that it is a fake, Ben contacts Michael by radio and explains that the trick illustrated his stance against killing innocent people in his war against Widmore.

On the Freighter: Sayid, appalled by Michael's association with Ben, exposes his duplicity to Gault.

On the Island: At the Barracks Locke meets with the rest of his group to discuss the situation. Ben reveals that Michael is spying for him on the freighter. Ben later urges his adopted daughter Alex to flee to the Others' sanctuary at the "Temple" for safety. Alex agrees and departs, accompanied by Danielle and Karl. On their way, Karl and Rousseau are shot dead by hidden assailants and Alex surrenders, loudly proclaiming that Ben is her father.

Major WTFery: The timeline for Michael's escape, return to New York, estrangement from Walt and his return to the Island seems very tight. They escaped on Day 68 (28 November) and on Day 82 Ben and Tom led an exodus of the Others from the Barracks, beginning a continuous stream of story that ended with Tom's death on Day 91. The only window for Tom's trip to New York is in fact between Days 74 and 80.

When Walt appears in the window, it appears to be a different actor playing the role. Weirdly, the producers later said that Season 1 footage of Malcolm David Kelley was used to digitally create the image, but this does not appear to be the case at all. Kelley himself said that make-up was used to make him appear younger, but it was not tremendously effective so was used only for a fleeting glimpse. It is possible that the production team considered using a digital solution but were unable to find suitable footage. Whatever the truth of the situation, Kelley is not credited for this episode.

There were two helicopters on the Kahana, the one crashed and destroyed by Naomi and the one later used by Frank to shuttle back and forth. However, only one helicopter is seen on the freighter before its arrival at the Island.

Hindsight: This episode marks the last appearance of M.C. Gainey as Tom Friendly on the show. It also marks the last appearance of Mira Furlan until Season 6's What They Died For. The 1988 version of Danielle would reappear in Season 5, played by a different actress.

Contrary to rumours that Furlan asked to be written off the show due to "island fever" (a term used by Lost cast and crew to refer to the isolation of living so far from friends and family for a large chunk of the year), Furlan had instead hoped to explore her character in greater depth after being reunited with Alex and was disappointed that she was killed off so quickly.

This episode confirms that it was Michael's choice to killed Ana Lucia to rescue Ben. He was not ordered to do so by the Others.

Review: Michael's flashback is interesting, if a little too predictable, but it's good to see the story stepping up a notch. The last-minute killing of Danielle, a relatively major recurring character since Season 1, is shockingly effective. This is another episode when Lost unleashes its ruthless side and does it very effectively. (****)

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