Right On

Recap of “Lost” episode “Namaste”.

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I’m running a few days late on my crucial entertainment blogging duties, partly because of the iTunes delay but also because I had to go on internet blackout to avoid having the BSG finale ruined for me by excited internet folks. (Fortunately, it was ruined for me by Mssrs. Moore and Eick.)

This week’s episode of “Lost” (“Namaste”) was just great. I’d been worried that bringing the now-annoying LA people back to the island would screw up the whole dynamic, but they managed to distill exactly the amount of drama they needed from that, without its turning into some tedious love quadrangle (yet). It’s corny to say “I didn’t want it to end,” but that was the case: I was surprised when the end credits started rolling, since I’d thought there was at least 30 minutes still to go. They jumped right into things with a plane crash in the very first shot (as “Lost” is wont to do), and the momentum just never let up from there.

I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that nothing more epic or revelatory happened in this episode than you’ll find in your typical good episode of “Lost.” But one of the things that makes the series really stand out is its ability to have several different kinds of “whoa, did that just happen?” moments all crammed into one episode. This was a great example of that, but to explain any more requires a spoiler warning.

When I talk about categories of “whoa, did that just happen?” moment, here’s what I mean:

  • Action Movie/Shock Value style: A dude gets impaled by a tree in the first four minutes! This rivals Sucked-Into-Jet-Engine, Blown-Up-By-Old-Dynamite, and Impaled-By-Flaming-Arrow as coolest deaths. Again, let this be a warning to anybody who appears on “Lost:” the first moment you appear on screen, tell everyone your name.
  • Maneuvering and Out-maneuvering style: In the fifth season of a show about a plane crash on a mysterious time-traveling island, the bar has been raised pretty high for telling stories about another plane crash. So they cleverly turned it into a suspense story: how can they embed the four people who’ve suddenly appeared in 1977 into this utopian hippie science cult, without making anyone suspicious? The scene with Juliet’s saving Kate from being discovered at the last minute was perfectly paced and perfectly understated, and it did a great job of tying in with the:
  • Soap Opera style: That whole scene played on Juliet & Kate’s reactions to seeing each other for the first time in three years. The romantic side of “Lost” has always been a little tedious, and now it’s even moreso since Kate and Jack have both turned out to be such duds. But a little of that keeps things interesting, and the show’s done a great job of making it seem like real drama — it’s no longer just two guys fighting over The Only Hot Girl, but she just can’t make up her mind, like it was for the first few seasons. It feels like a real intrusion. We know that Juliet and Sawyer couldn’t be happy living in the late 70s in a doomed commune, and we’ve only seen a few minutes of it so we shouldn’t feel attached to it. But it seems like they’d be happier just going on without the others coming in and messing everything up.
  • Character Development style: Seeing Sawyer put Jack in his place was inexplicably satisfying. It does put a negative spin on the first few seasons, though: you start to realize that Sawyer was always an underdeveloped and poorly-handled character (I never saw the appeal, personally), and that we follow Jack mostly because he’s the protagonist, not because he’s that much of a hero.
  • Spooky Ghost Story style: My favorite moments in the episode where Sun and Frank’s exploring the Dharma village in the dark. The walk from the dock, and Christian’s appearance in the doorway, were both really creepy without being over-the-top shocking. Showing the same locations in their pristine state and then in ruin was a great move.
  • “All the Pieces are Coming Together” style: Juliet’s reaction to hearing that the baby she delivered would grow up to be Ethan was priceless. Elizabeth Mitchell is probably the best, subtlest actor on the whole series. Seeing Dr. Candle give Jack his workman’s jumpsuit was a nice touch, too.
  • Belated Payoff style: All of Sun’s super-spy-like dealings with Widmore were building her up to be a bad-ass action star Mata Hari, the Sever to Sayid’s Ecks, if you will. (Not to mention her being one of the only castaways able to actually take down an Other, back on the ship a few seasons ago). So it was disappointing, to say the least, when that all culminated in Los Angeles with her immediately dropping her gun and agreeing to go wherever Ben wanted to take her. Not only did she completely redeem herself by clubbing Ben the moment she found out what she needed, but her cold and blank deliver of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I lied” line was just perfect.

My other favorite aspect of “Lost” is the set direction, and this episode was a great example of how they get it right. I’d heard that the game Myst was an influence on the series, and you can see it here: the bent and rusted lamps at the submarine dock, the old-school TV screens at the monitoring station, and the Dharma scientist putting together a model of the station that would become “the hatch.” Myst did a great job of establishing place: everything was an incongruous combination of familiar elements, which worked together to make the whole place seem abandoned or “haunted.” Somebody involved in the production really understands what it takes to make these environments resonate: it’s not necessarily a matter of going over the top with huge set pieces (like a giant pendulum, for example), but making places feel real but “off.” And it means including enough little details to remind you of place and establish something as real: like a 70s island commune with leis and a fleet of VW buses and a host who casually says “right on.”

As for the questions this episode raises:

  • I made the mistake of reading TV gossip blogs, and some of them suggest that one or more characters will die by the end of this season. So far, the show’s apparently setting it up to be Juliet or Sun. Either one would really, really disappoint me.
  • Of course, the question remains how Locke seemingly came back to life.
  • What does it mean to be able to see Christian Shephard? If I’m remembering correctly, only Jack, Claire, and Locke have been able to. I’m wondering if he’s visible to those who either have died, are going to die, or are otherwise pulled out of reality somehow. Which would imply dark clouds over Sun and Frank’s future.
  • When did the plane land? It’s apparently not “present day,” since the scene suddenly shifted from night to day and also because there are still remnants of the Dharma initiative signage back at the village. So it’s either after the purge but before Ben took over and moved The Others back to the village (most likely), or else it exists in some other pocket of time completely, like Jacob’s shack. Maybe… and this might be weird, but hold on… maybe the plane crash survivors are in purgatory?

5 thoughts on “Right On”

  1. Hmm, about your last point, but when we went from the plane crash-scene to the Jack/Kate/Hurley meeting Sawyer-scene, wasn’t there a caption saying ’30 years earlier’? That would mean the new plane did land in the present. As for the plane suddenly crashing in full daylight, remember that the Island possibly moved to another location. While the new plane was flying over the familiar route (where the old plane crashed), the island might not be there anymore, since Ben ‘moved’ the Island (although the Island might only have moved in time, not space). The difference between the new plane flying in night and day might be explained by the fact that they suddenly get transported to a different place on earth, and thus a different time zone.

    My explanation doesn’t sound right at all, but I’m still confused about the ’30 years earlier’-bit. But yeah, Lost has been great lately. I know it was exactly the feeling the writers wanted me to have, but when Jack/Kate/Hurley met Sawyer again, the nostalgia hit me like a brick. ‘Awesome, the gang is back together! Dude, how long ago was it when we first met? Six years? Crazy man. Oh man, remember when Hurley build that golf course? Oh, and that time we where running through the jungle and…’ It sounds incredibly wrong and cheesy, but I have been following Lost since I was about 15/16, and the series will be done when I finish, or have just finished University. That’s like, the best part of my life man.

    The only thing they should stop doing, because they’ve been doing it A LOT lately, is the old trick where you see the back of someone’s had, maybe the person says 1 or 2 lines, and they want the audience to go ‘Who could it be! The suspence!’, while everyone can cleary see, hear or easily deduce who it is. And they always and the scene with the familiar OMG-sound and blackout. (think Mrs. Hawking, or Young Ben in the last episode). It’s absolutely never a surprise who it is, and the same trick 30 times in a row, yeah, that gets old. But the rest is amazing.

  2. This was the first episode this season I actually liked.

    But my gal Elena has brought up a really annoying thing to me, and it only gets more annoying the more I think about it: why doesn’t anybody grill Juliet about what’s going on? It’s like, hey, you used to be an Other, maybe you know something that might be kind of helpful somehow?

  3. Alfred, you’re right about the “30 Years Earlier” title card. Which leaves me wondering at all the Dharma signage left in the village. I’d swear that when they showed the houses while the Others were living in them, most of the signs of the Dharma Initiative had been removed. (But I could be just mis-remembering, and making a bigger issue of it than it really is).

    Jesse, has Elena been watching from the beginning of the series? Because compared to the first two or three seasons, the characters on “Lost” won’t shut up now, always telling each other exactly what’s happening. But I haven’t noticed anything weird about Juliet’s withholding information. In fact, I thought the bit with the sonic fence was pretty brilliant — we in the audience were completely in on it, and we could see first-hand how she had to withhold information to keep from blowing her cover.

    Basically, I don’t know what she could reveal that Sawyer, Jin et al. have already picked up from living with the Dharmites for three years. Especially since Ben’s thing is withholding information to try and stay in control: he didn’t let Juliet, or anyone else, know anything more than the bare minimum you’d need to survive. I’ve got to wonder how much, if anything is left for Juliet to reveal.

  4. Saying “I don’t know what Juliet could tell them” is not sufficient explanation for them not trying. Personally, I’d sit her in achair and ask her every single thing I could think of and not let her eat until we were done. Hey Juliet, why’d you want to kill Ben? Hey Juliet, what did you know about the Dharma initiative, or the Temple, or those two bunnies they showed Sawyer? What about the brainwashing room? What’s with the dressing up like hobos? Why on Earth do you all speak Latin?

    Yeah, it would be dull TV, but they should at least explain why nobody does it.

    And I’m curious what blabbing you’re referring to. They all seem as infuriatingly tight-lipped as ever. Hey, how’d you guys get here from the future? Shrug.

  5. “Hey, how’d you guys get here from the future?” “We all got on a plane and there was a bright light.” “Huh. Neat.” That’s gripping television.

    Same goes for all the other questions, except that business with the camp (which we’re not going to find out until we learn more about Richard Alpert’s Others, instead of Ben’s Others). She can’t answer anything the audience doesn’t already know, so there’s no point in her explaining it to everyone again. That wouldn’t be “dull TV,” that’d be “bad TV.” The cases where characters know stuff the audience doesn’t know yet are going to be resolved over the next few weeks with flashbacks like Sayid’s: how’d Hurley get out of jail, what did Kate do with Aaron, etc.

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