Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Lost Reviews: Part 3 - Season 1, Episodes 8-12

Welcome to the Lost rewatch project. Over the next few months I plan to watch 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.

Without further ado, let us continue after the jump.

Josh Holloway rocking the smart business look as Sawyer in full conman mode.

108: Confidence Man

Written by Damon Lindelof, directed by Tucker Gates

Airdate: 10 November 2004

Survivor Count: 46

Days on Island: 9-10 (30 September-1 October 2004)

Flashback Character: Sawyer

On the Island: Sayid recovers from being knocked out by an unknown assailant and having his transceiver smashed. Locke suggests that whoever was responsible is someone who is likely profiting from their current situation so doesn't want to leave. He gives Sayid a knife to defend himself with. Sayid says that his first suspect is Sawyer, but he was manning one of the signal rockets at the time. Locke points out that Sawyer could have used a cigarette to rig a time-delay to set off the rocket whilst rushing over to attack Sayid.

Sawyer finds Boone going through his stash of looted supplies from the aircraft and beats him bloody. Jack treats Boone's injuries and Boone says that he was looking for inhaler capsules for Shannon, who suffers from asthma. Her last capsule ran out a couple of days ago and Boone thinks Sawyer is hoarding the rest, since some of Boone and Shannon's other things are in Sawyer's stash. Jack asks Sawyer for the capsules and Sawyer refuses. Kate then asks, and Sawyer agrees in return for a kiss. She is disgusted and asks him why he is working so hard to be hated when he's not that kind of person. Sawyer shows Kate a letter he has from a little boy whose parents were conned by Sawyer: the father killed the mother and committed suicide. Sawyer tells Kate to leave him alone.

Shannon's condition worsens. When Sayid arrives at the caves for water, Jack punches him out. Sayid, now believing that Sawyer was the one who attacked him, volunteers to use the "enhanced interrogation" techniques he learned as a member of the Republican Guard in Iraq to get the information out of Sawyer. After briefly being tortured, Sawyer gives in and agrees to hand over the capsules in return for that kiss from Kate. Kate agrees, but Sawyer laughs and tells her he never had the inhalers: he found other stuff from Shannon's luggage scattered along the beach but not the capsules. Sayid goes beserk and attacks Sawyer with Locke's knife. He severs an artery but Jack is able to stop Sawyer bleeding out. Sayid is horrified at his loss of control and doing what he promised himself he'd never do again. He tells Kate he is setting out to map and explore the Island and departs.

Sun enlists Michael's help in finding eucalyptus leaves. She grinds them up to create smelling salts for Shannon which eases her breathing. Meanwhile, Hurley is hurt when Charlie suggests he might be hiding food somewhere to explain why he hasn't lost weight. Charlie apologises. Charlie also spends more time with Claire at the beach and eventually convinces her to join the survivors at the cave.

Kate confronts Sawyer with the envelope from his letter: the postmark on it says 1976, making Sawyer far too young to have been conning anyone out of anything. Sawyer admits he lied: he was the little boy who wrote the letter. He was searching for the real Sawyer, the man who conned his parents, and ended up using his techniques himself to survive. He became the man he hated.

Flashbacks: Sawyer is having an illicit affair with a married woman, Jessica. He mentions an oil deal he is setting up in Baton Rouge which will have a 300% return rate. Jessica gets her husband, David, interested in the deal and agrees to put up $130,000. Sawyer sets it all up as a con, but has a change of heart when he sees they have a young son. He cancels the deal. When David becomes furious due to the difficulties he had in raising the money, Sawyer leaves them his money as well.

Major WTFery: For the first time, pretty much nothing too weird happens in an episode.

Hindsight: Sawyer's backstory is a bit weirdly coincidental, given that the man he is searching for turns out to be Anthony Cooper, who is also Locke's father, and he bumped into Jack's father in Australia. But by Lost standards it's pretty mild. This is also the first episode where learn that Hurley is a major Star Wars fan.

Review: Sawyer gets some backstory and the show treads a fine line between humanising him without making him too sympathetic or taking the edge off the character. It's a pretty standard episode apart from the relative rapidity with which Jack resorts to physical violence and coercion to get what he wants from Sawyer. For someone who a couple of episodes ago didn't want to be in charge, he's turning into a full-on authoritarian leader pretty quickly. Lost also has an interesting angle on torture, suggesting that it pretty much doesn't work. Given it aired at the same time as 24, which glorified torture to an uncomfortable degree, and directly in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, this was a bold step to take and one that works well. This isn't a massively revelatory episode, but one that is well-played by all involved and helps build character. (****)

Naveen Andrews with Mira Furlan, who became famous from starring on Babylon 5, created by J. Michael Straczynski. JMS is currently writing Sense8, an SF drama on Netflix starring Naveen Andrews. Huh.

109: Solitary
Written by David Fury, directed by Greg Yaitanes
Airdate: 17 November 2004
Survivor Count: 46
Days on Island: 12-13 (3-4 October 2004)
Flashback Character: Sayid

Flashbacks: In the mid-1990s, Sayid is a member of the Republican Guard in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Sayid proves to be an effective torturer and interrogator, and is given a promotion and transferred to Intelligence. He is assigned to interrogate a female prisoner, Nadia, who turns out to be a former schoolfriend. Sayid questions her, but can't bring himself to torture her. Her pride and defiance make an impact on him and he starts falling in love with her. Frustrated after a month of no results, Sayid's superior officer orders him to kill Nadia. Sayid agrees, but then helps her escape. Sayid's superior discovers the deception, so Sayid shoots him dead and then shoots himself in the leg to make it look like it happened during Nadia's escape. He vows to find her again one day.

On the Island: Sayid is mapping the coast of the Island, having left the beach camp two days earlier. He finds a cable on the beach leading out to the ocean. He follows it back into the jungle and doesn't get far before he's attacked and knocked unconscious. He wakes up chained to a metal bed in an old bunker and is subjected to electric shocks by a woman who demands to know where "Alex" is. The woman turns out to be Danielle Rousseau, the Frenchwoman who made the distress call that Sayid and his friends picked up on their radio. She is shocked when Sayid tells her that the message has been repeating for sixteen years. Danielle says that she and her companions were on a scientific trip when their ship ran aground three days from Tahiti. Danielle tells him that there are "Others" on the Island, but she has never seen them directly, only heard their whispers in the jungle. Sayid wins Danielle's trust by fixing a music box given to her by her husband and telling her about Nadia. Danielle leaves to investigate what appears to be a polar bear sniffing around her camp and Sayid escapes with one of Danielle's rifles. She confronts him outside, noting that his rifle's safety pin has been removed. Sayid asks Danielle to kill him, so he will be reunited with Nadia in the afterlife. Danielle makes a confession: the other members of her expedition, including her husband, fell sick after a trip to the "black rock" and started acting dangerously. She had to kill them herself. She lets Sayid go, but he asks again who Alex is. She replies that Alex is her child. Sayid departs back to the beach camp, but hears whispering voices in the jungle.

Out in the jungle, Locke has been joined in his hunting expeditions by a Canadian survivor, Ethan Rom. Ethan has some hunting experience and soon proves to be of invaluable assistance in boar hunting.

At both the beach camp and the caves, the survivors are starting to suffer from declining morale. Jack is becoming concerned at mounting cases of hypochondria and depression. Hurley appoints himself morale officer and tries to find an activity to keep the survivors occupied. Finding some golf clubs in the plane's cargo hold, he constructs a golf course. The survivors are initially incredulous, but soon join in a mini-tournament with even Sawyer taking part.

Major WTFery: After last week's "normal" episode, this week the craziness is back with full force. According to Danielle, there is a sickness on the Island that turns people crazy and can only be cured by killing them. Danielle also has maps of the Island that may prove useful. If you're a careful screencapper and you can speak French, you can see references on the map to something dangerous called "The Smoke" and the location of the radio tower and Danielle's cable

Hindsight: This episode references a whole truckload of things on Lost that eventually become hugely important. There's Danielle's expedition, which we actually get to see in a later episode, and there's also the first mention of the Black Rock, the "smoke" (i.e. the Monster), the Others and Alex (at this point not identified as being female). We also get to meet our first Other, Ethan Rom, although that doesn't become more apparent until next week. There's also the first appearance of the beach cable. Eventually, in the penultimate episode of Season 3, we find out that it leads to an underwater DHARMA Initiative research station called the Looking Glass. And there's also the Whispers, which go unexplained until the middle of Season 6, when it is confirmed that they are attempts by dead spirits trapped on the Island to communicate with the living (although occasional voices in the Whispers appear to be people who died off the Island as well).

Review: When Lost started in the UK, airing a few months after the USA, most of the cast was unfamiliar to British audiences with one notable exception: Naveen Andrews, who played Sayid. Andrews had been a staple of British TV and cinema for a decade by that point, appear on many series but perhaps most memorably The Buddha of Suburbia, and in films such as The English Patient. A seriously talented actor, this episode is the first of Lost to really stretch him as he has to play a torturer and ambitious military officer, fall in love, find remorse and attempt to make contact with another damaged human being on the Island. It helps even more when that character is played by the extraordinarily talented Mira Furlan, a Croatian actress notable for playing the role of Delenn on Babylon 5. This episode is a frankly a joy to watch just to see two great actors sparking off one another. Throw in the genuinely amusing subplot about the golf course and the fact that this one episode sets up almost the entire mythology of the show and gives us our first map of the Island, and this becomes the first unmissable episode of the series. (*****)

16 days abandoned on a tropical island whilst pregnant and suffering possible PTSD apparently engenders the same facial expressions as enduring three days of an outdoor music festival and finding out that your favourite band has just pulled out to be replaced by Nickelback.

110: Raised by Another
Written by Lynne E. Litt, directed by Marita Grabiak
Airdate: 1 December 2004
Survivor Count: 46
Days on Island: 15-16 (6-7 October 2004)
Flashback Character: Claire

Flashbacks: Eight months before the crash, Claire tells her boyfriend that she is pregnant. He is initially delighted and volunteers to help raise the baby as he should. They move in together, but after two months together he freaks out at the responsibility and leaves. Claire decides to give up the baby for adoption. Her friend convinces her see a psychic, Richard Malkin, but he tells Claire it is imperative that she raise the baby herself. Disbelieving him, Claire goes to sign over the rights to her baby to the new parents, but all of the pens stop working. Taking it as a sign she shouldn't agree to the contract, Claire decides to raise the baby herself. To her confusion, Malkin insists that she should now give up the baby for adoption, but in Los Angeles. He gives her a plane ticket and a confused Claire sets out to get on Ocean Flight 815.

On the Island: Claire has a nightmare in which Locke - who has black and white stones instead of eyes - warns her that her baby is in danger. Claire wakes up screaming, discovering that she was sleepwalking. Jack puts the incident down stress, but the next night Claire wakes up again, this time convinced that someone was trying to inject her with something. The survivors make a sweep of the area but can't find any sign of wrongdoing. Charlie decides to look after Claire and becomes annoyed when Jack suggests she may have been hallucinating.

Concerned about the possibility that someone was trying to hurt Claire, Hurley decides to create a census of the planet survivors. He creates the list and Boone suggests that he compare the list to the flight manifest, which Sawyer has in his possession. Hurley talks Sawyer into giving up the manifest.

Jack tries to talk Claire into taking some sedatives, but she becomes angry and storms off into the jungle. Charlie calms her down and she tells him about the psychic. Charlie is puzzled as to why the psychic was so adamant that she raise the baby herself and then suddenly advised her to go to LA. He raises the possibility that Malkin knew Flight 815 was going to crash and, that if she got on board, that Claire would survive the crash. This would create a situation where Claire had to raise the baby herself. Recalling Malkin's insistence that she take Flight 815 and no other, Claire realises that this may be true. Shocked, she starts having contractions. Charlie calls out for help and Ethan Rom (Locke's hunting companion) agrees to go and get Jack.

Sayid staggers back to the caves, still injured from his brush with Danielle. He warns the group that there are "Others" on the Island. Moments later Hurley arrives at a run from the beach. He tells the others that there is one more person amongst the survivors than on the manifest.

Claire's contractions stop and Charlie promises to look after her. Suddenly, they are confronted by a threatening-looking Ethan Rom...
Major WTFery: Malkin's reliable psychic powers move Lost a few more notches into the supernatural, whilst the confirmation that there are Others on the Island and Ethan is one of them is a key moment in the show's development. We also learn that the baby is special and Claire needs to be a mother to him or bad things will happen.

Hindsight: Deleted scenes from this and later episodes would suggest that Malkin was actually a fraudster rather than a real psychic: he was paid money to get Claire onto Flight 815 and may have advised Claire not to go through with the adoption so his other contacts in LA could get the baby instead. However, it appears this storyline was abandoned as the producers couldn't work out the logistics of it, so in show canon (which does not include deleted scenes) Malkin indeed appears to be psychic. The question of what makes Aaron so special is eventually answered when he becomes the first baby successfully born on the Island in twenty-seven years, the last being Ethan himself (actor William Mapother was 39 when he played the role; Ethan's age was a later retcon).

Review: A bit of an oddball episode which seems to conclude that psychic powers are real. But it's all engaging enough, thanks to Emilie de Ravin's sympathetic performance as Claire and William "cousin of Tom Cruise" Mapother's creepy turn as Ethan. The confirmation that there are other people on the Island adds a fresh element of drama to the show just as the everyday survival stuff was threatening to run out of steam (after the agonising drama of choosing where to live and how to build a shower unit out of wood and sticks). The cliffhanger ending adds just the right amount of jeopardy into the show at the right moment. (****)

Charlie needed medical attention upon realising it was yet another Jack flashback episode.

111: All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, directed by Stephen Williams
Airdate: 8 December 2004
Survivor Count: 46
Days on Island: 16 (7 October 2004)
Flashback Character: Jack

Flashbacks: Jack is called into his hospital where his father is carrying out an operation whilst drunk. The patient dies on the operating table. Jack is furious. Jack's father warns him that if Jack reports the situation, he'll be stripped of his medical licence. At first, Jack agrees to lie and protect Christian's reputation. But later he learns that the woman was pregnant. After seeing her grieving husband at the hospital, he makes a full confession to the hospital board that the death was Christian's fault. This is presumably the incident that would lead, two months later, to Christian's trip to Australia and his death.
On the Island: At the caves, Hurley confirms that Ethan Rom was not on the plane when it took off or when it crashed. He must have hid himself amongst the survivors during the chaos of the crash. Jack and Locke set out in search of Ethan, who was last seen heading off after Charlie and Claire. They can't find any of them, but do find signs of a struggle. Locke suggests they regroup and carry out a measured pursuit, but Jack tears off by himself. Boone and Kate join Locke and they find Jack exhausted further along the trail. The four continue searching but find that Ethan has made a dummy trail. Unable to determine which way he want, Locke and Boone take one trail and Jack and Kate (whose father taught her to hunt when she was little) follow the other. Jack and Kate are on the right path and soon catch up with Ethan, who overpowers them. He warns them that if they continue to follow him, he will kill one of the prisoners. When Jack and Kate carry on regardless, they find Charlie hanging from a tree. Jack is able to resuscitate him. They return to the beach, where Charlie tells the others that Ethan had no interest in him, only in Claire and her baby. He can't remember anything else from the kidnapping or chase. Night falls and Boone and Locke still haven't returned.

Sawyer confronts the injured Sayid, still angry about Sayid torturing him. Sawyer seems ready to exact some revenge until Sayid tells him about Rousseau and her claim that there are "Others" on the Island, as well as strange whispers in the jungle. Sawyer leaves Sayid alone.

Boone and Locke are deep in the jungle and Boone thinks they should head back to camp. Locke tosses him a torch but Boone drops it on something metallic, hidden under the undergrowth. Locke and Boone unearth some kind of metal surface, apparently built into the jungle floor.

Major WTFery: The discovery of the hatch is a major gamechanging moment on the show. Ethan appears to show borderline supernatural abilities, easily defeating Jack (who is not a small man) in hand-to-hand combat and keep him on his back with his foot. He also seems to display awareness of the pursuit and where Jack and Kate are.

Hindsight: The hatch leads into the Swan Station, one of the DHARMA Initiative's research stations on the Island. This will not be confirmed until the start of Season 2. Locke and Boone make a lot of noise on the hatch surface (during this and subsequent episodes) which the hatch's occupant, Desmond, doesn't hear, which is odd. Ethan does display abilities (here and in Homecoming a few episodes down the line) which border on the superhuman. However, later episodes confirm that the Others are just ordinary men and women. It's possible the producers had something in mind at this point and later discarded it.

Review: Argh! Jack flashback! But this one is okay, fairly restrained and well-paced, whilst the on-Island pursuit story is tense, relentless and excellently-shot. Jack and Ethan's confrontation in the rain is one of the show's more iconic, visually arresting moments. (****½)

Despite the psychological significance, I'm not sure a toy plane was really worth all that fuss.

112: Whatever the Case May Be
Written by Damon Lindelof and Jennifer Johnson, directed by Jack Bender
Airdate: 5 January 2005
Survivor Count: 46
Days on Island: 21-22 (12-13 October 2004)
Flashback Character: Kate

Flashbacks: Kate is opening a bank account in New Mexico when armed robbers break in. Kate is in league with the gunmen, pretending to be held hostage to convince the manager to open the vault. When the gunmen threaten to kill the manager, Kate shoots one of them in the leg and kills two others. It turns out she only wanted something from a specific safety deposit box. With that in hand, she flees.
On the Island: Kate and Sawyer find a waterfall and lake in the jungle and enjoy a dip. They also find additional wreckage and bodies from the plane at the bottom of the lake, including a metal case. They retrieve it, Kate claiming it as hers. Sawyer agrees to give it to her if she tells him what's in it. She refuses and says she doesn't care. Sawyer sets about trying to break into the case, but can't do so. In desperation he throws it off the top of a cliff, but this doesn't even dent it. Kate tries to steal the case back but fails. She enlists Jack's help, telling him that two of the US Marshal's guns are in the case. They exhume the body to get the marshal's key, which Kate tries to steal. Jack notices and realises he's being manipulated. He takes the key and gets the case from Sawyer. He opens it with Kate, takes the Marshal's gun and a small package. Kate opens the package and it has a small toy plane in it. She tells Jack it belonged to the man she loved, who was also the man she killed.

Charlie is angry and withdrawn because of Claire. The tide is coming up the beach and threatening to inundate the fuselage, so the survivors are moving a mile up the beach to a more secure location. Rose asks Charlie to help and he agrees. Later on, Rose (who, like Charlie, is a Christian) tells Charlie that no-one blames him for what happened. They pray together as Charlie breaks down in tears.

Shannon notices that Boone is disappearing off into the jungle with Locke every day. Boone claims they are searching for Claire, undertaking lengthy sweeps through the foliage. Boone gets annoyed and tells Shannon she is useless. Sayid then asks for Shannon's help in translating the notes on Danielle's notes. Shannon's French isn't great and she finds it hard going. She storms off, thinking her brother was right. However, then she returns and tells Sayid that some of the notes are actually song lyrics from a film she watched about fish (Finding Nemo). She sings "Le Mer".

Major WTFery: The unusual tide swamping the plane fuselage feels like a weird moment, but it was actually a real problem: the plane set was in danger of being destroyed due to Oahu's seasonal tide surge sending waves up the beach. This required that the plane set be dismantled and taken away. Sayid indicates that the tide surge is unusual, but the show never addresses it again so it can be dismissed as a simple natural occurrence.

Hindsight: The significance of the plane is explained in Born to Run: it was a gift from a childhood sweetheart, Tom. Later, when they were both adults, he was killed by a policeman who was trying to arrest Kate. Jack getting his hands on the marshal's additional guns plays into a minor Season 1 subplot about firearms and who has access to them; this subplot is mostly negated by the opening of the hatch in Season 2, with its significant stash of firearms.

Review: Given the urgency of the last couple of episodes, it feels a bit odd to be spending time again on a stand-alone episode. However, it works mostly because Evangeline Lily does a great job as the conniving, manipulative past-Kate and letting this facet of her personality slip into her current-day persona. Kate's obsession with the plane is odd, but can be explained by her secretive personality and trust issues, which evolve over the course of the show. Overall, not an outstanding episode but a perfectly watchable one. (***½)

No comments: