Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Guys... Where Are We?"

Ah, that's the question, isn't it? Not only where in location - aside from hopelessly lost anywhere within a thousand-mile radius of where search parties are looking - but what kind of place is this? Part 1 introduced the Smoke Monster. Now, with Pilot: Part 2, we can add to that polar bears and creepy messages from a French woman playing on a loop for 16 years. Yeah, there's definitely something a little off about this place.

The weather Charlie so cheerfully described as apocalyptic has desisted, and Jack and Kate return to the beach while the rocker yammers his complaints and tells Kate he was "getting sick" when she found him in the bathroom minutes earlier. It's a cover-up, but his malaise is genuine, and when Kate assures him he's not a coward, he, like Desmond, recalls a miserable moment, and certainly not one to be proud of. He looks an agitated mess as he taps his fingers. (I notice he's wearing headphones; what happened to his walkman, I wonder? Or are those official plane headphones?) Oh, and Charlie nearly gets creamed by a heavy rolling object. The universe starts bashing him before the plane is even on the ground!

Shannon lies uselessly on the beach in the pose captured in plastic for posterity. Lucky everyone. Boone scolds her for being a spoiled brat and walks away. Claire tries to make nice with Shannon, and Her Majesty deigns to talk to her, briefly. Claire is worried about the baby. Meanwhile, Sun is trying to convince a Walt-seeking Michael that she doesn't understand a word he's saying and Jin is looking up from his fishing to demand that she keep her blouse fully buttoned, especially in the presence of another man. This is when he really starts coming off as a controlling jerk.

Walt wanders around the jungle on his own looking for Vincent, leash in hand. Bad idea. Michael definitely thinks so, and the handcuffs Walt found make him nervous. Walt should've left them in the jungle; they immediately start causing problems. Sayid already has our sympathies somewhat, while Sawyer is a wild card who looks like a renegade. This scene serves as our first real introduction to Sawyer, and he's really making a nuisance of himself. I thought Lord of the Flies: Jack is Ralph (good guy), Sawyer is Jack (bad guy). Or at least they want us to think so. But I suspected that Sawyer would turn out to be decent underneath all the bluster.

He seemed too obvious an antagonist, a prejudiced redneck who pounces upon Sayid as soon as he learns there were handcuffs on the plane. Racial profiling, or submerging a guilty conscience? Sawyer deserved to be in handcuffs as much as Kate did. (Oh, and I wonder what untranslated vitriolic insult Sayid spit at him?) Sawyer continues to launch unfounded accusations at Sayid until Hurley intervenes: "Hey, we're all in this together, man. Let's treat each other with a little respect." My love for him is forever assured, and Sawyer tells him to shut up and spits out his first nickname, the ever-so-clever "Lardo". But before the year is out, Sawyer will come to take the advice of the first victim of his name-calling tendencies. (And then "Whatever you say, Doc; you're the hero" to an objecting Jack. You will be too, James! You will be too!)

Boone, rather late to the party as usual, asks, "You guys found the cockpit?" I guess there wasn't time to discuss it before Jack broke up the fistfight, but the question now feels very out of place. Hurley vents against Sawyer and bonds with Sayid. Slightly unsettled by the revelation that he's consorting with "the enemy", but that war's over and Sayid has done nothing but treat him decently thus far. So they're friends, and this was my first great moment of hope for building bridges with those perceived as "others". If everybody had Hurley's disposition, methinks there would be a lot more people standing as of season five.

Kate stares out at the ocean while stripping off her outer garments; Sun attempts to convey a message with only gestures and inflection going for her. Sayid and Kate make a good team and ought to buddy up more often. Oh, and "how high" to the tallest point on the Island? Pretty darn high. Up... Up... Up. Kate, I'm afraid you've got a bit of a journey ahead of you. But first she has to check on Jack, stuck watching over a hopeless case in unsanitary conditions. Again she doesn't take no for an answer, insisting on her hike with Sayid, but Jack does offer advice much like Jenny's in Forrest Gump. At the first hint of danger... run.

Jin slaps Sun on the wrist. Sun looks so submissive and miserable, though we see her defiant streak for the first time as she unbuttons her top button. Meanwhile, Jin offers Hurley food, which means he's not all bad after all, and not entirely following his own advice about the Kwons sticking to themselves. Hurley is cordial to Jin but won't go so far as to honor him by accepting his gift of strange, unappetizing food. Oh, well. He tried. And tastes will become considerably less refined as time goes on. Hey, Jin, suddenly being raised by a fisherman doesn't seem so bad, does it?

Walt has Hurley's comic book, and Michael wonders if it's because his son is some kind of bilingual super-genius. Conversation attempt one fails. And then he utters the line no kid ever wants to hear when his pet goes missing: "Oh, I'll buy you another one." Yeesh, Michael. I know you're out of the parenting loop, but come on. Charlie's still unattractively focused on drugs. Hurley, too, is thinking about drugs, but of a very different kind, as he's been recruited by Jack to find some prescription medicine to set up a little Island pharmacy. Boone's exhausted from his efforts, and it's finally starting to sink in for Shannon that this is for real. And she shows remorse for her past bratty actions. But instantly, she and Boone are bickering again. Watching it now, Boone is reminding me of Paolo physically restraining Nikki as she tries to join an expedition. I like Sayid's little "I'm not getting involved in this" half-smile behind his hand as he listens to them verbally claw each other. It's a shame there couldn't be more moments of genuine tranquility between them.

Sawyer sits in a chunk of wreckage and reads his note, brow wrinkled in dismay as he watches Team Sayid shove off. Knowing what the letter is about, the hurt in his eyes is searing. Cue first Sawyer-Kate dialogue, with that great Han Solo-like "I'm a complex guy, sweetheart!" And cue the epic "walking" music, which is used so heavily, and enjoyably, in The Incident. We're really getting a sense of the Island's scope. Are these guys really properly equipped for such dangerous climbing? Slight whiff of Cliffs of Insanity here. And they're slightly insane for attempting it.

Backgammon! Games, and black and white (or, as John says, "one is light, one is dark.") So important to John's character. And Walt is the first character he really connects with. "You're havin' a bad month," John says. We could certainly say the same about John. He takes that commonality and Walt's curiosity and uses it as a bonding and mentoring moment. Walt is the first of many he tries to guide, and the most receptive. (John also is the first character to make a Biblical reference, saying the game is "older than Jesus Christ," coupled with the first reference to an ancient civilization. John cites Mesopotamia, not Egypt, as the birthplace of backgammon, but it's in the ballpark. The Christian references have been sprinkled through the show all along, while hieroglyphics first turned up in season two, with Egypt finally coming to the forefront in parts of season five.) Walt is a captive audience and kindred spirit, so in addition to a little history lesson, he also gets to learn John's secret two episodes before we do.

Claire writes in her diary, which feels extra significant now that we see Daniel, like her, had to rely on his own journal to recall past events. Claire doesn't hold out against Jin's offer as long as Hurley does. She's too sweet to refuse him, and I like Jin's gentle concern for her, and that he gets to feel the baby kick, even if the intimacy of that moment freaks him out. I think part of his discomfort has to do with cultural norms and part may have to do with it triggering his disappointment that he and Sun can't have a family. But I think there's also a sense of wonder there, and it seems very fitting that Jin then gets to help with Aaron's delivery. Little does he know that Sun will be in Claire's position in mere months - or that he won't be there to see it. This experience, then, feels like a gift.

Sayid and Sawyer scuffle again, Shannon freaks out again and Sawyer makes his first contribution the his fellow casataways' wellbeing... by shooting something. And the killings begin! But seriously, that polar bear was on the attack. So well done, Sawyer! Even if it doesn't exactly endear you to anyone... Still, I wish he would've run out of ammunition post-bear and never found the other guns. Blech. Speaking of which, Hurley is "not so good around blood." I knew he was gonna pass out. It had to happen. And it was soooo inconvenient. How is it that the members of the I Pass Out Around Blood Club keep winding up as Jack's surgical assistants?

It's odd to see Charlie flirting with Kate, then switching to Shannon, in these early episodes. According to Greatest Hits, he and Claire have met by now, but obviously he doesn't only have eyes for her. His attempts to win over Shannon throughout this trek are amusing and rather pathetic. (Shannon: Polar bears don't live in the jungle. Charlie: Spot on!) We see Sawyer's frustration in being miscategorized; people have already made judgments about him, and while they're not wholly undeserved, there's a lot more to this guy than meets the eye. Kate's gun con is cunning, and one she's used before, though we don't see it until late in the season. "I don't know how to use a gun!" Ah, Kate. We thought you were so sweet and innocent... Flashback again, and all of our illusions about Freckles are shattered. Who would've guessed her story would be so Catch Me If You Can?

Shannon helps out in a big way by translating Danielle's message, effectively killing the euphoria that preceded the translation. Already starting to get tired of the Shannon-Boone and Sawyer-Sayid sniping. The gravity of this new information shuts them all up, once they take a minute to stop and think about what math whiz Sayid is saying. IMDb says this aired on a different night; I thought it was a two-hour premiere. Certainly the episodes go together. Part one establishes the basic problem, part two clues us in that this might not be quite standard stranded-on-an-island fare. The polar bear is even a Dharma nod, though we won't know that for a long time. Did they have a backstory for this poor creature? A reason he was here? Or did that come later? Just one of many questions. But again, the big question the episode left us with was the most prominent line from the previews, Charlie's simple but haunting, "Guys... Where are we?"

No comments: