Friday, May 22, 2009

A Look Back.... Meet the Castaways!

So I decided to go ahead and have a re-watching spree, starting with the cinematic Pilot: Part 1 (a generic title that is unusually fitting). It's odd to watch it so soon after listening to the season one soundtrack and to realize how integral that score is to the first episode. In the first ten minutes, it's overpowering, particularly up until the seventh minute or so, when Claire nearly gets taken out by the airplane wing. Those first six minutes are profoundly disorienting. First Jack wakes in the jungle, and then we see Vincent. Second character of the series. Yay, Vincent! All that music, very little talking, hard to tell who's who or what's going on...

I remember exactly when I watched this for the first time. It was February 4, 2006; it was the day before the Superbowl, which makes the date easy to recall. It was a total couch potato kind of day. Mom and I started it off by watching Corpse Bride, which we'd rented, then going to see Rent at the dollar theater with Libbie. We proceeded to Wendy's for lunch, called home and ascertained that Nathan was in a bad mood, but for whatever reason decided to continue our fun at my house. On the menu: LOST. "I got it from the library," Libbie told me. "Do you want to give a shot?" Did I! I'd only been waiting a year and a half to watch the show; goodness knows what took me so long, or how much longer still it would have taken if Libbie hadn't given me that Jacob-like "little push". It helped, of course, that Dan had spent the past year assuring both of us that it was the best thing on television. "Nathan, don't you want to watch this with us?" I prodded as he sulked in the corner. "You know you do..." He harrumphed and turned away. But by the end of the episode he was hooked, bad mood forgotten, and by the end of the disc Mom and Dad returned from a grocery shopping excursion, flung into the show full throttle. They would have to be filled in on the Pilot later.

I went into it with higher expectations that I can ever recall having for a show, which made me nervous. I figured I would most likely wind up disappointed, that it could never turn out to be as fantastic as I thought it would be. That, I suspect, was part of the reason for my delay. In the meantime, I'd been stalwartly avoiding almost any information about the show, though I caught a few things here and there, which were enough to give me a general idea about who a few of the characters were. I was most interested in Charlie, though I realized - largely from the seemingly endless barrage of promos for The Moth - that he was a darker character than Merry, and I wondered if I would even like him. I found sage wilderness man John Locke fascinating, particularly from the the aforementioned preview and the one actual moment of the show that I accidentally watched, when he finishes whittling a whistle and hands it to Michael as a Vincent-finding tool. By this scene, then, I also knew there was a boy and his dad and a dog. Dan filled me in on sweet, pregnant Claire, an early favorite of his, back when she had more to do. Oh, and I knew there was a fat guy, and I wasn't sure exactly what his role was on the show, but I was hoping he would be benevolent. I watched him especially carefully during the first episode.

So Jack comes crashing out of the jungle in a half-run after pulling out his little bottle of alcohol. On the beach, all is pristine and silent... and then a scream. We are introduced to Shannon, the third character, though we hear her long before we see her. And suddenly that little bottle seems like Lucy Pevensie's healing potion, with Jack, like her, trying to attend to all of the wounded at once. In all the panic, we manage to meet most of our core 15. Charlie is next, stumbling about in a daze; he narrowly misses Gary's fate, and moments later almost gets hit with a massive piece of falling plane. The Island, it seems, was always out to get him. Then there's Jin, bellowing in Korean, looking for his wife, who we don't meet until later. Of all the characters, they were the only two who I couldn't connect with at first; they just seemed too separate from everything that was happening, and the language barrier cemented the difference. For long stretches of time, I forgot they even existed. Seconds later, we get the first name on the show, and it's one we're not likely to forget. Essentially the first articulate line of the season is "WAAAAALLLLTTTT!"; it's also the last.

Jack starts ordering people around, and the first to leap to the ready is John. What a joy to be able to lug away a heavy piece of equipment, when moments before he couldn't walk! We don't know that now, of course; that revelation at the end of the fourth episode serves as the first massive "Oh my gosh!" moment of the show. If you weren't hooked before then, that had to do it. But no sooner is Redshirt With the Mangled Leg liberated from the wreckage than we hear Claire's piercing screams and see that she is Very Pregnant, and Jack's got somebody else to run off and rescue. While he converses with Claire, we watch John try to save Gary with a shouted warning, to no avail, and Boone attempt to perform CPR on a prone Rose. Jack's not the only hero here. But he's certainly the dominant one, and he now pulls a dazed Hurley aside and puts Claire in his care. Hurley looks sick to his stomach at the prospect of being responsible for a woman who could go into labor at any moment, but he complies - and it's thanks to him and his stellar interpersonal skills that Our Hero finally, about six minutes in, becomes Jack. "Hey, what's your name?" Hurley calls. Thanks, dude, for clearing that up.

Poor Boone. Jack shoves him aside, and then he runs off to get a pen for a tracheotomy, returning only two minutes later, but it feels like about two hours, especially after Jack's cross-beach sprint to stop Claire from getting pulverized. When Boone shows up midway into Jack's post-panic solitude - after not just Jack but a "spry" and protective Hurley have saved Claire's life - with a fistful of pens, it's so pathetic there's nothing to do but laugh. Which Jack does, but he also gently expresses gratitude for the effort. And ten minutes in, we meet Kate, and her brilliant first line is "What?" This is Jack's first intimate introduction, away from all of the madness of the beach. So Jack and Kate have a special connection from the get-go. (If I'd watched this when it first aired, I think I would have recognized Kate at once from the LiveLinks commercials that played about a hundred times a night in the fall of 2004. That might have worried me...)

And the next thing we see is Sawyer. Which also seems very appropriate. Jack. Kate. Sawyer. And he's sitting there, all stubbly and brooding, with his shockingly short hair and his bad-boy 'tude. "Yeah, I'm gonna sit here and light up a cigarette even though I'm a few feet away from an exploding plane. Who wants to try stopping me?" Just wait until Part 2; Charlie will! Fat chance, buddy. And already, Hurley is making himself useful by gathering food, while John and Claire gaze out at the ocean in wonder. And nearly 13 minutes in, we meet Sayid. In front of a massive fire. He, too, is being helpful; it's a signal fire, and he delegates Charlie to help. (And now the names have started flying fast and furious; we know Sayid , too, and will soon know many others. It helps a lot that nearly everyone has to make introductions to each other.) Anyway, while Sayid's initiative shows his leadership potential, this first shot of him against a blazing backdrop could also be seen as foreshadowing at this late date. Did the writers know how thoroughly Sayid was going to crash and burn?

Poignant shot of Rose kissing Bernard's wedding ring, and then we're back to Jack and Kate and the charming "I might throw up on you." (I feel like somebody else said that, much later in the series, but I can't remember who... Hurley maybe?) And now it's the counting to five story - without any reference to his father. In light of that new knowledge, I see Jack indulging in some denial here, making believe he's a bit stronger than he is on his own. But then he's also convincing Kate to be the best she can be. For now, he's here to help others; the being willing to accept unsolicited help part can come a little later.

Fifteen minutes in, and we've switched to night under a dazzling star-spangled sky. Charlie writes FATE on the cloths on his fingers. More foreshadowing? Sayid wonders why no one's come yet; throughout most of the first season, he is the primary force in the Let's Get Off the Island plans. He's highly motivated - impending reunion with his long-lost love, and wanting to make his best buddy's death worth something - and highly qualified. Next shot - Shannon. Painting her toenails. Is this foreshadowing of their relationship? I never liked that much; why couldn't they just be friends? How could Sayid forget Nadia so quickly? Or give up on getting back to her so quickly? It didn't gel for me. And Shannon is hardly endearing here. She's obnoxious; Boone is at least trying to help, albeit generally failing.

Hurley offers Claire food, asks how she's feeling and even gives her an extra portion; he's really her first friend on the Island, so it's sweet to see him returning to that role in Charlie's absence, starting with Greatest Hits. Not that he and Claire stopped being friends, of course (and I love how he advises Sawyer to endear himself to her by offering her blankets in Left Behind), but he took more of a backseat. Seventeen minutes in, we finally meet Walt - looking so young! - and he rejects nearly-beardless Michael's conversation attempts. He mopes. These two have as many issues as Shannon and Boone. As do Sun, seen here at last, and Jin who, understandably, says, "You must not leave my sight." The kind of separation they endured on the beach would be terrifying. But not knowing Jin yet, he soon comes across as demanding and cold, and it takes most of the first season to get an inkling of what a good guy he actually is.

Meet the Marshall, loaded with shrapnel, and the first indication that Kate knows him, though she spares us the details. "I was sitting next to him." I love Jack's leaf-plane. I'd forgotten he took flying lessons. "Wasn't for me," he said. Could Jack have been a Frank? Might we learn that Frank dabbled in med school? Nah... probably not. But who knows? Oh, and Kate sees smoke. And suddenly, the jungle starts going bonkers, and everyone sits up and takes notice. The best assessment? "That was weird, right?" Yes, indeed, Charlie. The silliest? "Is that Vincent?" Yeah, kid. That's your dog flattening the trees like a herd of elephants. Several people stand up and band together. Our core group, for the most part. "Terrific," says Charlie. (Just what Frank says when he sees John in the box...) Twenty-one minutes in. BOMP. Black. First flashback!

Hiya, Cindy Chandler! Way to flirt with Jack, and Jack, way to tip us off as to your problems with alcohol. Charlie running down the aisle, Jack and Rose bonding. I'm with Rose; I've "never been a very good flier." First mention of Bernard, though her moment on the beach with the ring was a clue that she had a husband, and he was probably on the plane from the reverent, distressed way she was treating the symbol of their bond. John, behind her, looks mildly startled but mostly unbothered. Shaking plane! Flying luggage! Oxygen masks!

And 24 minutes in, we're back to the beach, another day, everyone clustered around talking about the jungle weirdness. Rose recognizes the noise (because it sounds like a grocery scanner?). Kate insists on joining Jack on his quest; first indication that this gal isn't going to simply take no for an answer. She wants to get her hands dirty. She's not even deterred by having to take shoes off of a dead body, though she looks about ready to cry the whole time. And right around minute 25, here comes John in his white shirt with the blue checkered pattern, sporting an enormous scar above and below his right eye and slowly flashing the Fruit Smile. Charming or demonic? Kate seems to vote deranged, and John, abashed, retracts his gesture.

Charlie wants sunblock, which makes me laugh because Diane Sawyer was just harping about how a third of the people in the US don't use sunblock, and I was thinking that the folks on LOST must all be getting skin cancer from prolonged exposure to the sun with nothing to combat it. After the first few days, anyway; Shannon has some at the moment, and in her first helpful gesture, she agrees to share some with Charlie. And Hurley hilariously tries to shield young Walt from grim reality by spelling out "bodies". Incorrectly. (Judging by Some Like It Hoth, he didn't put his three years off the Island to good use by brushing up on his spelling skills.)

Jack puts Boone in charge of the wounded; nice of him, again, to prop others up. Of course, he does need to have somebody playing doctor in his absence, and with his lifeguard experience, Boone is the likeliest candidate. Sayid seems to perk up at the word "transceiver". Jittery Charlie just wants to get back to the cockpit. There are drugs to be had! And 27 minutes in, he's flirting with Kate and trying to impress her with the fact that he's in Drive Shaft. It works, somewhat; Kate's friend Beth (never mentioned again, I don't think?) is a huge fan, and Kate's at least heard the song. But Jack is not impressed, and rather like Desmond in Catch-22 and Daniel in Because You Left, he's all about cutting the chit-chat and getting on the with journey.

While Charlie tries to convince Kate that Drive Shaft is, not was, Vincent stares after them. Knowing he was recently given orders by Christian (Esau?), it sort of makes me wonder what he's up to... Which makes it seem especially fitting to see John next, sitting on the beach, still trying to comprehend his situation. Certainly with no inkling of the long, strange road that will follow. And right after that, sudden rainstorm! Everyone else panics and runs for cover, but he sits, simply calmly at first, then in sheer exuberance, grinning and raising his arms to the sky in gratitude right around minute 29 in the second Iconic John Locke Expression of the series. Sun and Jin are conspicuously together, as are Michael and Walt, though Sun doesn't look thrilled and neither does Walt. And Hurley's still worrying about dead bodies. He's very uncomfortable with corpses, just as he will be freaked out about the whole "I See Dead People" thing later.

Jack says, "Well, let's do this" as they prepare to enter the cockpit; didn't Eloise say that, too, when she welcomed the castaways to her creepy abode? It's time for answers. The plane's a mess, but it's in better shape than the pilot, who like Eko manages to survive a horrific situation only to be killed by Smokey. Getting to the pilot is treacherous, an upward climb in an unstable structure. Charlie's scared out of his wits but still worrying about his drugs. And feeling insignificant. Much like the poor pilot, who at least manages to relay some very important information before he gets splattered across the treetops: They're way off course. A thousand miles. Help is not coming anytime soon; they have no idea where to look.

"Where's Charlie?" Makes me chuckle because I saw a musical by that name in London. The guy spent half the play doing the Mrs. Doubtfire thing; Charlie certainly isn't cross-dressing, but he is engaged in deception. Then again, who isn't? Aaaand note to pilot: Why are you sticking your head out the window when there's a man-mangling monster outside??? Scary running-from-monster music. Muddy and slippery; why must it be raining during this pursuit? Charlie falls and gets tangled in the bracken, Jack goes back to free him. Third time Charlie almost kicks it in the Pilot alone. Kate, isolated and terrified, doesn't seem to care what happened to Charlie but screams for Jack, then tries his counting-to-five trick. And then Charlie shows up out of nowhere, and instead of being relieved, she assaults him with "Where's Jack?" Poor Charlie. Oh, and Kate tells an incredulous Charlie, "We have to go back (for him)."

Can you imagine how this would have played out if they'd stuck to their original plan and killed Jack off here? If Smokey had gotten him like he got the pilot? Grotesque! (I so didn't need to see what precisely befell Seth Norris.) Smokey, for the most part, has left the castaways alone. Why? And why did he pick on the poor pilot and chase Jack, Kate and Charlie through the jungle What did they in particular do to offend him? Or is it just that they're the first intruders he sees? Still not too clear on this. Also, is he somehow unable to visit the beach? We've never seen him there, have we? He seems restricted to a certain area... Charlie gets the last line of Part 1, and it's a question, just like in the second part. "Guys... Where are we?" is much more iconic. "Guys... How does something like that happen?" is certainly pertinent, however - though the more pressing question now is why. Black screen! BOMP! And in white lettering... LOST. What a beginning!


Beth said...

Oh, this is going to be fun! Now that I realize you're blogging your way through the re-watch, I'm going to try to pop over more often and read the recaps!

This one really brought back memories. I've only ever seen the pilot episode once (I think not long after it originally aired, they re-ran it...Dana watched the show from the beginning, but I came in a few episodes late after he got hooked).

What strikes me, in reading your synopsis, is the many ways these people in crisis are on the defensive. They have no clue who anyone else is and who they should trust. They have no inkling that their situation is a thousand times worse than merely crash landing on a "deserted" island where it may be a while before they're rescued. They don't know they've landed in weirdsville or science fiction land. They're just trying to survive, and also fathom the major things that have happened to them in the crash. Kate is stunned to find herself "free" (at least for the present); Rose is stunned to find herself alone (though she continues to hold out hope that Bernard has survived, as we see later); Charlie is stunned to find himself without the drugs he needs; John is stunned to find himself healed and able to walk; Claire is stunned to find herself alive and pregnant and stuck in a situation where she will likely have to become a mommy after all (if she can't get off the island in time to get the baby adopted); and Jack is just in serious hero mode, doing his "saving people thing" (to quote Hermione Granger!). Sun is shocked to find herself still with her husband, in a marriage she was not at all sure she wanted to stay in and with a huge secret she can't share with her husband.

I'm not saying we know all of this from this first episode, but knowing it in retrospect sure must making watching the first episode a heightened experience! I am beginning to think we will need to put season 1 in the Netflix queue this summer!

Erin said...

Yes, knowing what we know about the characters now, it makes their behavior in these early episodes all the more interesting! They've all got so many issues to deal with. Of course, this early on, most of them are probably thinking they'll be rescued soon, but surely the thought has at least occurred to them that it might not happen, at least not for a while. I'd think Claire would be especially terrified - while grateful, at least, that there's a doctor on the Island! And if it weren't for Jack's "saving people thing," I'd hate to think how the immediate aftermath of the crash might have played out...