I loved the narrative gamesmanship of this past week's episode. Some of LOST's best moments (the season three finale, Desmond's conscious-travel and deja vu) have been born from taking the routine narrative structure and being innovative, finding them free of narrative constraints. And while "Ji Yeon" doesn't rank as one of the show's best, it still is better than some are giving it credit for.
It reminded me an awful lot of "Greatest Hits" - the penultimate episode in season 3 when Charlie recounts his life's top five moments before swimming down to the Looking Glass. Both have a once-wayward and flawed man who finally reconciles his previous failings with the woman he loves, only to (seemingly) approach their premature end. Charlie reconciled his drug use and found acceptance from Claire, allowing for him to make the sacrifice necessary to bring the 815 survivors the chance at rescue and warn them that those on the boat were not who they said they were. Jin needed a similar moment. The previous personal foot-soldier of Sun's father needed atonement for his misdeeds and the treatment of his wife, which ultimately drove her into the arms of another man. He needed to know about her infidelity and then only could he be certain about who the father of the baby in Sun's womb truly was. Speaking of that, how surprising and cold was it when the Ice Queen told Jin about Sun's affair to keep them from leaving for Locke's camp? I was horrified.
I feel as if this completed Jin story arch. No character has changed more over the survivors season of discontent than Jin. He transformed from a domineering, overzealous and isolated husband into a caring, affable and entirely enjoyable character. Now looking back at it, don't you wish Jin had clowned Michael badly in their season one beach side throw-down? That fishing scene with Bernard was marvelous, a clear portrait of a man changed. We needed one more glimpse of Jin slavishly completing the dirty/menial tasks from Mr. Kwan juxtaposed against the infidelity/forgiveness backdrop to serve as a clear illustration of how far he has come as a character. Does this mean that Jin is dead or is he still on the Island awaiting the same "rescue" that Sun enjoyed?
If I had to guess, I'd say that Jin is dead. I suppose it makes sense that he is still stuck on the Island, but Hurley's line about "do you want to go see him?" leads me to believe that he is in fact buried at the tombstone. This is my guess as to what happened. Jin was one of the two 815 passengers to survive the crash but die before rescue, which would jive with the testimony Jack gave on the stand during Kate's trial. Between the time of the crash and his death, Jin impregnated Sun, but died some time thereafter. After his death, Sun is unwilling to leave the Island without his body and therefore is brought along with the other members of the Oceanic 6. Jin is buried under the tombstone erected for the couple after the fabricated 815 wreckage was found and the families sought closure by holding funerals despite not having the body. That would explain the 9-22-2004 date on the headstone and it would also close the holes in Sun's story about who was the child's father and why she was having a child in the 6 to 9 month window after being rescued from the Island. I don't know whether I believe this myself, but it's an explanation that fits in with some of the flash forwards we have already been given. The strikes against the "Jin is dead" theory are the date on the tombstone (why wouldn't Sun have changed it?) and the fact that killing off 815 survivors makes it more difficult for the audience to buy into Jack's obsession with returning to the Island, my argument from a few weeks ago. Are we really going to care if Mr. Go-Gurt is the one Jack is returning to save?
One final thing about Jin. I think this solidifies the members of the Oceanic 6. Kate, Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, and Aaron. I always thought the "Aaron wasn't on the manifest, so he can't be a member of the Oceanic 6" argument was weak. Those questions should end now.
That's enough speculation about Jin for now. Let's talk about the return of Michael. I know it wasn't exactly shocking, especially since at Comic-Con last year, LOST's executive producers were joined for a Q&A panel with Harold Perrineau to discuss his return. And that he has been included in the cast credits for the past month. I wonder why they decided to do it, sucking the surprise or anticipation out of his appearance. Regardless, we are likely going to get an eye full of Michael next week (yes, there is an episode...ABC has previously scheduled the break to begin after this week's episode, but for some reason they are airing another episode this week..I was wrong) and get an idea about where he and Walt have been since leaving the Island at the end of season two. Michael pretty clearly is sabotaging the freighter's engine and communication room, opening doors for Sayid and Desmond, and passing notes about not to trust the captain. But I'm not sure that we can take anything Michael says at face value. We know that above all else, Michael is concerned about Walt and will do whatever he can to protect his son. If it is in his best interest to plant a seed of distrust about the captain in the minds of Sayid and Desmond, he will do it. The captain seems at least somewhat interested in exposing Ben - hence the fake black box that has been recovered from th 815 wreckage - but if revealing the 815 crash site at the bottom of the ocean as a fraud is detrimental to Ben, Michael is going to do whatever he can to stop it out of love for his son. It will be interesting to see where Sayid's loyalties lie on the freighter - will he trust Michael who has proved to be dangerously single-minded or the freighter folk who have not exactly been forthcoming/trustworthy.
Two other quick things.
The captain's name is Gault, an echo of Atlas Shrugged's enigmatic John Galt. My guess is that this is not coincidental and that the motif of overzealous capitalism will play into the coming episodes.
Finally, I want to quickly make a defense of LOST at the risk of sounding like an apologist. I liked Thursday's episode, unlike some of my friends. I think people want more action, more plot movement, and that is understandable. But the downside of that is having to continually come up with stuff to fill air time and add unnecessary drama for the sake of drama's sake. I really don't want the show to turn into The O.C., adding unneeded plot twists and tiresome drama in the name of spicing up the show. If Oliver shows up on the Island, I am going to quit watching. Those of you who have watched both seasons of Friday Night Lights knows how a show's conviction can be hijacked and betrayed by superfluous additions and ill-planned drama. If the choices are appropriately paced or wildly frantic, I'd take the former. FNL and The O.C. ran out of creative juices. Lost runs the same risk, but I think there is a conscious effort to avoid it, setting up for a large payoff in this season's second half.
NOTE: Again, there is an episode this week. I was wrong in my post last week too. Enjoy.