One of Them

There she goes with that LOOK again.
I think I missed the cut-off date for talking about this week’s episode of “Lost,” but it’s kind of difficult.

For one thing, I feel guilty. Maybe I’m seeing something that’s not there, but it feels like the show’s in desperate-to-please mode, like a dog that’s been scolded for getting on the couch too many times and now he makes a point of showing you all the time how not on the couch he is right now. This last episode was all, “hey look, see we’re getting away from the Others camp and we’re focusing on the main characters again and we’re answering big questions from the first season and isn’t that what you wanted?” and I have to wince and say, “I really just wanted you to be better!”

And for another, I’m in danger of turning into one of them. The people who really just don’t seem to enjoy the show anymore but still watch it, either out of masochism or a defeatist “I guess that’s as good as it gets” mentality. And I really don’t dislike the show, and I’m not even as frustrated with it as a lot of other people are; it just seems like it’s always a relatively solid show that keeps reminding you how much better it could be.

This week’s episode was all about Juliet, which is fine by me. She’s the most interesting character they’ve got going now; again, unlike every other character in the series, she somehow gets more intriguing the more you find out about her history. We found out even more about her this episode, but they were all fairly insignificant details, and still nothing about the three year gap where she received her ninja kung fu training. And we still don’t know her real motivations. I was saying last week how cool it would be if she turned out to be a villain — this week’s non-twist wasn’t so much a shocker as it was coming to a fork in the plot and nudging things in one direction instead of the other. I’ve still got hope that we’ll find out more about why she’s doing what she’s doing, instead of discovering she’s just another Michael.

And again, Elizabeth Mitchell just does a great job with the part. She’s the only member of the cast these days (apart from Terry O’Quinn, I guess) who gives the impression that there’s really things going on inside her head, and she’s not just delivering lines. Her best scene was the showdown against Sayid and Sawyer. I read somewhere that it was completely implausible she could make them turn tail, but I totally bought it. It’s that look. That look of “I’m not angry, I’m just very, very disappointed in you.” That’s some black belt manipulation right there. And as she was walking away, she had the perfect expression of “holy shit I never expected that to work.”

Still, my mind began to wander. I kept thinking about how the show could be more interesting if they played around with the flashbacks, introducing an aspect of the unreliable narrator to them. Actually showed us how these events were remembered, instead of how they really happened. Maybe what Juliet remembers as being browbeaten by Ben into staying on the island, he remembers entirely differently. So you’re not just given a villain and This Week’s Shocking TwistTM, but you have to interpret what happened for yourself.

But then, that’s the kind of thing you’re left to think about when your mind is wandering. And when you’re desperately forcing yourself not to think about inconsistencies. Like it’s still weird that they didn’t just move into the Others’ camp, but accepting that, why didn’t they at least take a shower first? Instead of walking through the jungle with caked-on mud and being delighted to find a stream to wash off in?

I’m glad that the episode ended as it did, because the idea that Juliet was given a complete run-down of Ethan’s entire plan, down to where he hid the medicine stash, and she still remembered every detail after this time, was straining credulity. (And I never notice that kind of thing.) As it turned out, that part ended up making sense, but in the Never-Ending Jenga Game that is Lost Episode Plausibility, the explanation of Claire’s abduction doesn’t make sense anymore. Even though it was a complete, exhaustive, plausible, and well-thought-out explanation, and it’s now been replaced with “we were careful to insert a magic radio frequency hemmoraghing device for just such an emergency.”

Speaking of which, I’m less convinced now that Ben & Juliet’s Scooby-Doo style exposition from a few episodes back was the clever self-referential comedy I’d thought it was at the time. It seems like all they do is have clandestine meetings together where they clumsily remind each other of what’s happening. “Boy, it sure was nice of your aunt to let us use her island for top-secret experiments in fertility and electromagnetism!” “You said it! I just hope we don’t run into a… sm-sm–sm—SMOKE MONSTER!”

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