Thursday, May 3, 2007

Brotherhood of the Traveling Phone

Alas, Desmond and his buddies took a definite sideline in this episode, but that's okay because this was a story that really needed to get out. The Brig provided much-sought-after resolution for two characters, ending a story arc that began way back in the eighth episode of the first season. Now we know what Locke has been up to all this time, and the question of Anthony's whereabouts has been solved. He's the first one down. No big loss there. I hate seeing anyone killed off, but if anyone "had it comin'", as Locke said, it was him, the most viscerally vindictive character who has appeared on the show. He's worse than Ben. He's worse than Mr. Paik. He's just plain vicious.
So I'm not going to mourn too much for Anthony. Better him than Sawyer and Locke, and knowing how many deaths are coming, that spares one character I actually care about. This was a really intense episode. It didn't surprise me. I knew what was coming, and even if I hadn't had that theory bouncing around in my head beforehand, I think I would have figured it out before Sawyer did. Mom figured long before they reached the ship that Ben wasn't in there. John continues to lie through his teeth; he's become quite the expert deceiver. He conned Sawyer into coming with him to take revenge on Ben, locking him into the room with him so he would be forced into this dramatic confrontation with the man who ruined his life. He got what he wanted by making Sawyer do the dirty work, though it was what Sawyer wanted too. He'd spent most of his life in anticipation of that moment. And yet...
He has obviously been very haunted by the fact that he killed an innocent man in Australia. He almost didn't go through with it, then Jack's dad had to go and give him a pep talk. Darn you, Christian... So now, rage-filled as he was when the plane crashed, all Sawyer wants is to move on, to avoid inflicting any more unnecessary pain. It may have been John's flashback, but this was Josh Holloway's episode, with him growling his way through most scenes, furious that John sees him as a murderer and a pawn in his game, raging against his own desire for vengeance, first against Ben and then the much more deeply rooted desire to lash out against Anthony, or whatever the heck his real name is.
He argued vehemently. "I ain't killin' nobody," he murmured dangerously, wanting to make it clear that he values life just as highly as John does and that he's not going to walk away with blood on his hands for John's sake. I love the fact that he left his knife outside the room so he wouldn't be tempted to use it. But then once he was in there, once he realized who he was facing... The game changed. Yet he didn't immediately try to kill Anthony when he figured it out, and I'm still not positive he planned to at that moment. What he needed, first and foremost, was the chance to tell Anthony exactly how his life had been shattered because of a cavalier con artist. He needed the letter.
It was the Inigo Montoya moment. But there was no triumph in Sawyer's countenance when he realized he'd finally caught up with the man who ruined his life, just deep sadness and bitterness and disbelief that Anthony still wasn't the least bit sorry. He really did absolutely nothing whatsoever to make himself sympathetic. John hesitates in killing him, so, bristling with contempt, he calls John "spineless". He bites John's hand. He mocks Sawyer's pain, and he tears up his letter. Tearing the letter up was the last straw. Something just snapped. Sawyer was supposed to be the one in control at that moment, calmly telling him that he'd killed his parents and now was going to pay for it, but Anthony still had the upper hand, refusing him the satisfaction that would come with that long-awaited reading. I thought Sawyer would read the note himself and was a little surprised he handed it off to Anthony; maybe he was hoping for some sort of emotional reaction. He certainly didn't get it. Anthony never showed an ounce of remorse. In the face of such smug indifference, Sawyer just lost it. It was not a glorious moment. It was nothing for either John or Sawyer to be proud of. But it finally released them both from the hold this wicked man had on them.
It's interesting that Anthony actually had a Southern drawl. It was strange to hear him speaking with one when he always sounded like a perfectly legitimate Yankee with John. Tom Sawyer is a great name for a con man, incidentally. Tom was a total punk. I couldn't stand him in Huck Finn. Always did like that fence-painting con though. Anyway, major kudos to Josh Holloway here. This couldn't have been an easy episode to film. Sawyer was in almost a perpetually tortured state. Even in the beginning with Kate he wasn't happy because it was perfectly obvious to him that she did not share his depth of feelings. Briefly, when they first returned, I thought she might, but it's pretty plain Jack is the one she's after and she's only settling for Sawyer. But Kate is small potatoes compared to what he went through after he went off with John. I felt especially bad for Sawyer when he informed Anthony, eyes blazing with pain, voice husky, that his mother's name was Mary. And then throwing up outside... He really, really didn't want to kill anybody. I think his killing days are over. He already had begun to let go of his revenge-driven life. Now that he's accomplished his goal, however unenthusiastically, he should be able to move on entirely. I just hope the end of this arc doesn't mean Sawyer is dispensable now.
I still don't know what to think about John. He's on a journey to enlightenment, but it seems like he's been mired in the sinking sands of confusion since midway through the first season. He can't pull himself out. Is he special? Is he just deluded? Surely there is some purpose to his being here. But what? And how did Anthony get on the island anyway? He claimed he was in Hell and almost seemed to believe it, and to be happy about it. I don't buy the notion that these people are dead. But why was it so important to Ben to have Locke kill Anthony? Was it just his way of setting him up for an impossible task, thus publicly humiliating him? Is Richard really working against Ben, or are they on the same team? And if they're not, whose team is more noble? So many questions...
I like John, I just don't know what to make of him. They'd better not turn him into a villain. Nathan is confident he's all right, and will continue to be so; I mostly am, but I have my doubts. And I'm not so sure about his refusal to kill denoting any moral superiority when he just delegates to someone else. Of course, I don't think he's claiming the high ground in this episode; he literally can't bring himself to kill his father, but that feels like a failing to him rather than a worthy gesture of mercy. I don't know what moral we're supposed to take away from this episode, if any; I retain my belief that this, along with Smallville, is the most spiritually stimulating show on television, and more so because these people are more ordinary than a multi-billionaire and a super-powered extra-terrestrial. And there's such a cross-section of characters from all cultures and backgrounds, it's hard not to find someone to relate to. Trouble is, I've always related to John, and that's starting to worry me. Just don't turn totally psycho on me, John, okay? Still, while John's behavior in this episode wasn't always exemplary, I was tickled that he got a third flashback. Usually only Jack and Kate get that kind of action... I figured it would be a Sawyer flashback, but it made more sense this way. Oh, and what was up with that random "What happens on the Black Rock stays on the Black Rock" moment with Danielle? I'm thinking we'll see her again this season, probably in the finale. She may just throw a wrench into Ben's plans...
I want to like Ben. Why is he making me feel like such a sleazeball for it? His insistence that John kill his father isn't so different than John making Boone let go of Shannon - except that Boone's experience wasn't real; it only made him see that Shannon was holding him back. Ben is just as culpable for Anthony's death as John and Sawyer are. How long was he holding Anthony, anyway? Did he fetch him by submarine? I don't understand... I was excited for Ben when he said that he'd been regaining feeling in his toes since John's arrival. John really must be special. I loved how he used John's words against him with "Don't tell me what I can't do." But Ben didn't come across so well in this episode overall, and if his own flashback next week doesn't manage to paint him in a sympathetic light, I don't know what will. I'm holding out hope, though. I do think that Ben isn't as powerful as he seems. Our first introduction to him was as Henry Gale, Dorothy's uncle in The Wizard of Oz. He supposedly crashed in a hot air balloon, which was of course the wizard's mode of transportation, and the name of Ben's upcoming episode is The Man Behind the Curtain. Pay no attention to him... It would seem that Ben, like the wizard, is a lot of bluster and not nearly as in control of the situation as he would like people to think.
Next week we are also supposed to catch a glimpse of the elusive Jacob. That excites me. Once he shows up, maybe we'll see Ben in a whole different light... Who is he? Ben's father, maybe? That would be biblically appropriate... Then there's Isaac, the faith healer Rose saw, but he certainly isn't old enough to be Ben's grandfather if we want to carry the biblical family tree further. I wonder if Ben could be Jewish. I was reading something somewhere wondering why there are no Jewish characters on LOST; Benjamin is definitely a Jewish name, and we know Ben believes in God, or at least claims to; he could just as easily be Jewish as Christian or some other religion, couldn't he?
It was fun to see Richard, even if I'm not inclined to trust a man who gets people run over with busses. He certainly seemed congenial enough with Locke, but he's probably up to something. I don't think Tom is, though. He never seems to have an agenda. Granted, he was deceiving everyone with the hick get-up for a while, but other than that, I think he's a fairly straight shooter and awfully benign as Others go. Probably not particularly clever, just the ideal sort of guy to have as a lackey. And he isn't a sniveling coward serving Ben out of fear, a la Wormtail and Voldemort; there seems to be genuine devotion there, and in general he seems pretty easy to get along with. I really think he's a good guy. Certainly he didn't do anything dastardly in this episode.
Moving away from the main story and the Others and all that, there's Jack and Juliet, and they're definitely putting their heads together about something. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Jack knows about the plan to abduct the women. Are he and Juliet plotting to stop Ben from taking them? Are they planning to facilitate it because it's probably what's best for Sun and Kate? Or are they both baddies now? If Kate thought she was going to get Jack back in her good graces by telling him about Naomi, she was off base. I'm getting a little frustrated with Kate, though I understand her jealousy. It's just not very attractive.
I'm a little puzzled by the timeline. The flashback in which Ben was listening to Juliet's recording took place 3 days before the events of the current episode. Charlie said they got back that morning. Did it take them two days to get back? Maybe... How did they get Naomi into the tent without anyone noticing? I suppose they came back in the middle of the night - had they just arrived back when Sawyer saw them? - but it seems like someone would have been keeping a lookout or something. If they were gone that long, wasn't Sun worried, if no one else?
I'm not sure if Jack was hurt because he was locked out of the camping trip or if he was suspicious because he figured something else was going on. Either way, he really doesn't seem like the leader anymore. He's on the outskirts now. I was a bit surprised that after his "maybe the Hostiles aren't so bad" attitude last week, Desmond was so reluctant to trust Jack because he'd spent ten days with them. Ah, well. He's just being cautious; it's not like he did a 180 and tried to murder Jack in his sleep or something. I loved all the shots we got of his face when they kept cutting between him and his fellow conspirators. And they did it again when Sayid showed up, switching back and forth between those two hairy faces. I liked the unspoken moment of kinship between them, and Desmond's nod and little smile that said, "See, I'm all right after all. You didn't want to trust me, but now I'm trusting you with this great big secret." And then that goofy grin on his face when Naomi said she'd been looking for him: "Listen, Sayid, this is the best part!"
I suspected as soon as we saw her two weeks ago, when we realized it wasn't Penny attached to that parachute, that it was someone sent by Penny. Could have been any number of other possibilities too, but we already know that Penny is searching the world for Desmond, and she had a picture of Desmond with her, so it makes sense. Desmond sadly went away about a third of the way into the episode, his soft, thoughtful, "No," in response to whether he'd actually seen the helicopter, the last word we heard him say. Then it was on to Kate accidentally finding out about the phone and spilling the beans to Jack. Gah. But if they didn't exactly see the chopper, they certainly heard it, and they saw the lights. What else would it have been?
I don't think we'll see Rose next week, and that makes me sad. I have a hunch she'll show up in Charlie's episode. (I assume the "greatest hits" refers to something in connection with Charlie, but I suppose it could be a reference to that tape Sawyer snagged from Bernard. Probably not though.) She and Charlie had that wonderful moment back in season one, and I think she could help him in what could be his final hours. Here's hoping, though, that both of them are around for a long, long time...
I didn't love this episode as much as the last two, but it was an important episode. The confrontation needed to happen. Are Sawyer and John the better for it? I don't know. Not particularly, I don't think, but at least now they can stop worrying about it. It's a load off both of their minds, and goodness knows they have enough other things to trouble them now...

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