LOST gave us a flashback on Thursday. Not to the pre-815 Island through Juliet's perspective, but rather to the doldrums of early season three. Perhaps we have set the bar too high. Perhaps we are settling in to a familiar pattern - set-up, payoff, rinse, repeat. Perhaps the writers' pre-strike jitters manifested themselves into a poorly written script. But Thursday's episode of LOST seemed to miss the mark, almost alarmingly so. I will confess, I am not a huge fan of Juliet, so that might have played a part. And a much like the Kate episode, this seemed to be more of a plot accelerator/positioner than anything else. But Kate's episode answered some overarching questions. It gave us a wonderfully delicious twist at its conclusion. This episode just sort of sat there, full of potential energy but lacking a catalyst to spark it. Frustrating on a number of accounts, but satisfying on a few others. I'll start with the positive.
Ben & Locke
My favorite scenes in LOST have dealt with the mysterious (and mobile) cabin of Jacob's. But a very close second is the interaction between our two favorite Island seers, Locke and Ben. It is no surprising that Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor (with O'Quinn winning). It's like Messier and Gretzky or Malone and Stockton...perfect compliments to each other and a beauty to watch perform. It is dynamic. And epic. And nerve-racking. And LOST at its absolute best. Ben's line at the end of the episode to Hurley and Saywer - "See you at dinner" - was the highlight of the show.
The SS Widmore
Well, we now know who sent the freighter and if you have read previous posts on this blog, the revelation shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Mr. Charles Widmore - Penny's father - is the uber-zealous bad guy, at least according to Bug-Eyed Ben. Ben's insistence that he didn't know what Mr. Widmore wanted from/of the Island - answering in LOST's speciality, generalities - is probably a load of red herring, but the reveal was satisfying none-the-less. I need to point out when I am right this week because I have a feeling my Oceanic 6 prediction will fall apart 815-style next week.
One other quick thing about the tape. How did Ben get it? He said he taped over the Red Sox win, but has also acknowledged that ever since the fail safe key was turned and the sky turned purple, their communication systems have been down. Ben showed Jack the Red Sox tape after the fail safe key was turned, meaning he taped over it after the communication problems had begun. Has Ben been lying about his ability to communicate with the outside world? In what capacity has he been doing this? And do the Others have only one damn VHS tape on the entire Island?
Ben's communication problems is a good segue for discussing the bad in "The Other Woman."
First off, how is Ben communicating with Harper? I know Ben always has a plan and it is possible that the spy (I will call him Michael from here on out) on the ship knew of Farraday and Charlotte's plan and communicated that to Bed pre-imprisonment. But the timing suggests that Ben sent Harper when he "knew" that Farraday and Charlotte had left for the Tempest. Is Ben communicating telepathically through the Island? Does he have something to do with the whispers, which Juliet heard just before she had stumbled across Harper (I actually really like this idea)? And where did Harper come from anyway? It felt like she just came from no where. In fact, that appears exactly right. She wasn't in the opening scene of season three - when Juliet's book club was interrupted by the 815 crash - but was inserted in that flashback during Thursday's episode, standing behind her husband Goodwin. Regardless, LOST has previously flirted with introducing characters that were there all along, but really weren't (see: Paulo and Nikki), and we all know how that has gone. Harper seemed to be another misstep made in the same vein. It's not as if she was a ghost and mirage in the same way Walt and Jack's father have been since both Juliet and Jack saw her. Any thoughts on this or whether I am alone in my feelings towards Harper would be appreciated.
The back story didn't do much for me either. I suppose we needed a story about the "history" between Ben and Juliet and I loved the scene when Ben's sophomoric pining for Juliet shown through. But did it have to take the entire episode? Is the motif of Ben owning Juliet going to be such a strong emotional tenor for the remainder of the season that it deserved the lengthy and tedious set-up it received in "The Other Woman"? I hope so, because if not, I feel the show burned a major opportunity to add more dimension to Juliet's character. And while I don't particularly care for Juliet, Elizabeth Mitchell's performance is consistent, strong, and believable.
But she was dealt a horrible hand with "The Other Woman" script. I'd like to nominate the "What I need for you is to help me? Will you help me? If we move all night maybe we can catch them. Thank you" scene as the cheesiest LOST scene ever and worst female monologue scene on TV or film since T2 when Sarah Connor said, "In an insane world, it was the sanest choice." And the kiss at the end of the episode was almost as bad. I don't understand Jack's interest in Juliet. Doesn't he need a project, something to fix? Kate seems to fit that mold much better than the Other's OB/GYN.
And finally, who is Juliet really working and looking out for? She says that it is in personal interest to be near Ben, but chooses to stay with Jack. She says that she ultimately thinks Ben will win whatever war the 815ers find themselves in the middle of and yet seems to be distancing herself from him. If he is so powerful and important and possessive, why doesn't Juliet just stick with Ben? The scope of his power is vast and her belief in Ben's eventual victory would make at least me believe that Juliet could never escape Ben's grip. It is in her own self-interest to stay closely aligned with and within proximity of Ben. So why try to work against him and yourself? And why did Ben and Farraday/Charlotte want to do essentially the same thing - neutralize/not use the gas.
Another thing...Goodwin clearly worked at the Tempest Station...shouldn't that have played into Juliet's hand at some point. Didn't he spill some beans in one of their post-tryst sessions in bed that would help Juliet stop Farraday and Charlotte? The acknowledgment that she recognized Goodwin's electrical burn was too much of a hint that Goodwin was involved in something dangerous at the Tempest to be left hanging. What exactly was going on at the station?
I think most of us can agree that "The Other Woman" episode was not classic LOST. But if the show has taught us anything, it's that the episodes must be viewed in the right light. Isolated episodes may not seem to have great importance, much the same way a single tile of a mosaic appears insignificant apart from its whole. However, both stand as integral parts of a larger whole that gain greater significance when placed within their proper context.
Last season, I felt the episode about Hurley and the old VW bus was a nice episode and would have fit perfectly in season one, but felt out of place in season three. I thought it was a waste of an episode. But over the course of the next few episodes, when the skeleton in the bus was revealed to be Ben's awful father and the bus saved the lives of Sayid, Jin and Bernard, the episodes full meaning was revealed. The surrounding tiles and new perspective gave the singular tile its proper and complete context. Then there was the Jack in Bali episode when he got the tattoos, which was awful at the time of airing and when the full story arc of season three was played out. Here's to hoping that "The Other Woman" is more like the former than the latter.
The flow of the season seems to be set-up, payoff, set up payoff (the Freighter Foursome arrival lead into Sayid's flashfoward; Kate's episode lead into an excellent Desmond-centric thriller). Next week - the last LOST episode until mid-April - appears at least to be a worthy payoff. The meaning and worth of its wayward, meandering set-up remains to be seen.
Just a quick note about next week's episode. I think everyone is pretty sure Ben's spy on the boat is Michael. And we know the last of the Oceanic 6 will be revealed. But I think everyone is hoping for something more. And my guess is that we will get it. LOST had 8 episodes completed before the strike, but they are only showing 7 before they take their 5 week break. This is clearly a conscious decision to leave the show on a high note, giving fans plenty to gnaw on over their brief hiatus. If the build up to a big reveal just turns out to be Michael, I think we will be let down by who ever make up the last two members of the Oceanic 6. I think we all expect more (something like Jack's dad as the captain of the freighter), and my hunch is that we will get it.