Right On

Recap of “Lost” episode “Namaste”.

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?