Monday, June 8, 2009

"Don't Ever Tell Me What I Can't Do! Ever!"

From the beginning, John Locke has been one of the most intriguing characters on LOST, particularly since Walkabout. This single episode establishes so much essential information about the Island's Man of (apparently Misplaced) Faith: he knows his way around the jungle, he's handy with a knife, he and the Island have some sort of understanding, he used to be a belittled cubicle dweller, he was paralyzed when he boarded Flight 815. This last is, of course, the most tantalizing bit of all; for three seasons LOST kept us wondering exactly how he got into the wheelchair, and it's still something of a mystery how he got out of it. The Incident suggests Jacob, but given that Esau has been indirectly manipulating him since he was a baby, I wonder exactly at what point he started to get to John on the Island. Whatever the explanation for his returned mobility, in a show full of massive twists and turns, few moments can beat the wow factor of seeing John Locke wheeling through that office, yammering about "destiny" and bellowing, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

There are hints, now that I watch it knowing what's to come. There's his "secret" admission to Walt that a miracle happened to him. There's the shot of him gazing incredulously at his wriggling toes, which is repeated twice in this episode, but then I just figured he was glad to be alive. Like Michael said, that anyone survived was a miracle. There's the fact that we never see him standing in his flashbacks, but then there was no reason for him to stand in those situations. Randy's obnoxious comments are more fitting now - and more insensitive. When John was flat on his back after the boar charged, it's now apparent that he was afraid the paralysis had returned, was afraid even to test and see whether that was the case. And of course, there was the wheelchair on the beach, the one John stares at as the episode concludes, willing it to burst into flames like the fuselage in front of which it sits. But John, sadly, is not done with wheelchairs yet...

John with a knife in hand is a formidable thing. A canteen was the only thing standing between a fatal blade and Hurley back in season three. Later that season, he knifed Naomi, and he came charging in again in season five to rescue Sawyer and Juliet from the '50s-era Others. In this episode, Sawyer is the one in uncomfortable proximity as the knife plunges into the other side of the two-person seat in which he's sitting; Jack's wry comment about John's aim - either really good or really bad - cracks me up. No wonder Sawyer doesn't think much of John's plan! Interesting, though, that Michael joins in, perhaps to atone for his surliness with John earlier. This allows Sun to be drawn more into the family's confidences as she agrees to babysit Walt, and her asthma remedy and decision to plant a garden are foreshadowed by her invention of toothpaste.

It's a shame that the warm glow of finding Vincent doesn't last very long. The episode basically begins with him barking his head off and annoying everyone - though it turns out he's just being a good guard dog, and all his racket alerts the castaways to two important pieces of information. There are boars on the island (which is blatantly Lord of the Flies), and they could be a source of food. And the rotting bodies in the fuselage are attracting dangerous animals, so it's time to do something about that. I find it interesting that throughout the series, Sayid is extremely concerned with the proper treatment of dead bodies. He objects heartily to the burning of the fuselage, with no regard for the religious beliefs of the victims; Jack, in exasperation, says, "We don't have time to sort out everybody's god," while Charlie quips, "Really? Because the last time I heard we were positively made of time." I think I have to side with Jack on this one, but it seems to reveal a certain lack of regard for religion in general, while Charlie's response, while flippant, may hint that he's more in line with Sayid, who later insists on bringing Naomi's body back to the freighter, who is on the Island in the first place because he needed to ensure that his friend received a proper burial, and who is seen praying on more than one occasion.

Jack also says, "Any bodies we bury are not gonna stay buried long." Oh, how true that seems to be! And it's not long after this that he starts seeing his father... That is, after his nearly episode-long conversation, or lack thereof, with Rose. They mostly just sit there together, quietly gazing out at the ocean, and though Boone sent Jack there to help Rose, I think it's Jack who actually gets the most out of the encounter. He really needs this opportunity for healing after his chaotic few days, really needs to spend some quiet time with someone who isn't looking to him to solve all her problems. I love her wryly letting Jack off the hook, telling him he doesn't have to keep his promise and stay with her until Bernard comes back from the bathroom! Her comment about Bernard's fingers swelling and her "always" wearing his wedding ring around her neck seems to suggest a slight inconsistency with S. O. S., which reveals that they're on their honeymoon; wouldn't this be the first time they've flown together, at least with a wedding ring? But I'd much rather have a minor inconsistency than no Rose and Bernard flashback.

Though in the beginning of season two, Hurley will tell Jack he has a crummy bedside manner, Rose compliments him now, but their reverie ends, once again, with Jack asserting his stubborn unwillingness to believe that anything unlikely could possibly be true. Rose is convinced that her husband is still alive; Jack says it's impossible. "They're probably thinking the same thing about us," is Rose's serene response, and that's our first strong hint that there may be other survivors we haven't encountered yet. Though Jack's take was more practical, I was inclined to believe Rose. Besides, this is immediately followed by Christian turning up in the jungle. Is Jack just cracking up? I'd say not, given that his appearance heralds John's arrival. But is it really Christian? Well, that's a very different matter...

Hurley plowing into Sawyer in Dave seemed so out of character that I completely forgot he and Sawyer had scuffled before, this time over the latter hoarding airplane peanuts. Hurley objects to Sawyer's selfishness, especially now that it's the last of the food. His annoyance with Sawyer continues, as he confides to Charlie on their fishing expedition that he's just glad to get away from that redneck. Oh, yeah, and the fuselage full of bodies. I love this scene because it allows Hurley and Charlie a chance to have a great time together as well as brush up on their survival skills. Their friendship is beginning to blossom. Meanwhile, there's just enough ill will between Hurley and Sawyer now to make the depth of their later friendship all the more powerful.

Shannon is pretty irritating in this episode once again, and I can't blame Boone for being frustrated with her. She sweet-talks Charlie into catching a fish for her, and he in turn gets Hurley to help, because he really doesn't know what he's doing. He devotes his day to catching that fish, and then once he presents it to her he comes to the realization that he has been used. I think this is the point at which he starts to lose romantic interest in Shannon - who showed no more interest in DriveShaft than anybody else has. It's a little pathetic the way he keeps bringing it up, but since that's the one thing in life he feels like he can be proud of, I guess it's pretty understandable. I do like the fact that he mentioned his grandfather to Shannon, and that he said, "God rest his soul," another indication of Charlie's Catholicism.

Although we don't see Claire for that much of the episode, in terms of defining her character, it's one of my favorites. She's the one who heads up the effort to glean as much information as possible about the deceased so she can give them a proper send-off; Jack doesn't want anything to do with it. As he will later state, he hates funerals. Claire is especially taken with Steve and Kristen, the couple who were planning their wedding. This convergence of a wedding and a funeral is significant for a show whose main musical theme is Life and Death, a show where bliss and tragedy always seem to accompany each other. In the midst of her recovery efforts, she finds Sayid's photos of Nadia and gives them to him, setting us up for his grand, tragic love story, and more immediately for Solitary.

While we don't see Hurley saying anything at the memorial service, my guess is that he does; I love that he is standing up there with her, apparently having planned the ceremony right alongside her, which makes perfect sense since he speaks at almost every funeral among the castaways that follows. Claire and Hurley have such a nice rapport, especially in these early episodes; I could almost see them getting together in the final season (assuming Charlie isn't zapped back into existence). I also love Sawyer showing his softer side by very awkwardly giving Claire some wallets he found while raiding the fuselage, much like he will later, on the advice of Hurley, give her a blanket, even more awkwardly.

Walkabout is one of the most significant episodes in all of LOST, mostly because of what it tells us about John, and in turn, the Island. And as much as I was disappointed to learn that John has been manipulated into thinking he is special for most of his life, the fact remains that when he landed on the Island, he could walk again. That's pretty special. How did it happen? Is Jacob responsible, or is it his nemesis? And do we really have to go through the last season without John Locke (and Terry O'Quinn as pseudo-Locke doesn't quite count) or is there any chance of seeing this incredibly intriguing character again?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kate "I've Got Trust Issues" Austen Gets a Clean Slate

Tabula Rasa is about a lot of things, but it's mostly about Kate. This is when we get the mug shot and we find out she was the one in handcuffs - about the same time as, some distance away from Jack and the marshal, Team Sayid opts to give sweet, innocent Kate the gun. Hurley, the second castaway to find out about her outlaw status, is especially jumpy around Kate, though he still shakes hands with her. He's polite enough, but it ought to be pretty obvious to her that something is up from his jittery eagerness to get away from her.

Interestingly, both of the names that come up in the flashback resurface later in the series. Do I think that's significant? Probably not. But Kate takes on the name Annie, which of course is the name of Ben's childhood sweetheart, and she works for a guy named Ray, which is also the name of Jack's grandpa. The significance is probably more that they were running out of names... I like Ray, despite the fact that he turns Kate in; maybe we should see his phony arm as foreshadowing of his deception. I guess she likes him, too; she's hurt by the betrayal, but that doesn't stop her from ensuring his safety and trying to make certain he gets the reward money (the numerically significant $23,000). I think he's a good guy for the most part. It's just a shame that Kate's trust issues had to be confirmed as valid in such a dramatic way.

No wonder she doesn't trust Jack with her secret, though once he finds out half the story, I'm not too surprised she wants to tell him exactly what happened. It might make her come off as more sympathetic. I was annoyed with him for insisting he didn't need to know; maybe he doesn't, but we do! But that's a story for another season... And his point about being able to start over is a good one - though I wonder how many "Island as Purgatory" rumors were fueled by Jack's "Three days ago we all died"! I like how we get a hint about Evangeline Lilly's nationality when Annie claims she's from Canada, and how in the flashback, Kate wears stripes, whereas in the present, she wears orange, both prisoner duds. The marshal tells her, "You don't look free to me"; the Island is a prison too. Also, this is the first time we hear Patsy Cline in a Kate flashback. Few of the characters have a musician so associated with them.

Sawyer and Kate are thrown into one another's company quite a bit here. Sawyer calls her Freckles for the first time, and there's lots of snarky interplay between them. The scene back at the beach is especially good, and you think that Sawyer is talking Kate into putting the marshal out of his misery, but she delegates the job to him. There's an interesting blend here of Sawyer's hostility and compassion, and foreshadowing of his own first flashback as we see that killing is not something that comes easy to him. He talks a big talk, but when it comes down to it he does it wrong, probably in part because he's conflicted to begin with, though he's horrified when he realizes that he's just made this poor guy suffer even more.

The marshal becomes the first character to have some degree of resolution of past issues and then die, and ironically, Jack the savior is responsible for the first death that occurs among the castaways after the immediacy of the crash. At least, I read it as Jack doing something to end the marshal's life, though it isn't clear what, and of course he was a goner by then. Still, back on the mainland, I doubt Jack would have agreed to assisted suicide; he certainly was reluctant here, and only did it because Sawyer inadvertently made the situation so much worse. That conversation between them in the fuselage revealed so much about their personalities, and Sawyer encouraging Jack to forget the rules of civilization oddly comes into play at the end of the episode. Also, that suitcase blow to the head that knocked the marshal out reminds me of the toolbox that Jack took to the head in The Incident; I hope the doc comes out of it a little better!

Hurley spends this episode hovering around Jack, trying his best to be helpful, though uncomfortable with the marshal's condition and the revelation about Kate. I think my favorite Hurley scene in this episode is his conversation with Jack in which he postulates that the Smoke Monster is a dinosaur. Jack says it couldn't be a dinosaur because they're extinct; turns out it isn't, but it just goes to show how closed-minded Jack is. At this point, Jack has no inkling that this Island has been inhabited by humans before; what makes him so sure dinosaurs couldn't have survived here, and nobody knew about it? And anyway, that bird that calls Hurley's name looks like it could be prehistoric. Their chat reminds me of Xeno Lovegood calling Hermione "limited," and it comes up again and again, as early as the next episode when Jack insists that Rose's husband is dead because he simply can't imagine how anyone from the tail section could have survived.

Jack's furious "What did you do?" to Sawyer after he shoots the marshal reminds me of his reaction to John blowing up the submarine. John gets the last shot of the episode, an indication that the next episode will focus on him. Here, he's nothing but helpful, making a whistle to find Vincent and then showing Michael where to find the dog so he can take credit for returning him to Walt. I saw that scene at the very end of the episode when it actually aired, and it made me quite inclined to like John. All this after Michael has demonstrated such instant dislike for him. It seems he's simply jealous because Walt would rather spend time with "Mr. Locke" than him. I love the revelation that a miracle happened to John - another hint at what's to come in the next episode - and Michael's response that a miracle happened to everyone who survived the plane crash. And apparently the Island wants Michael to keep his promises; I always get a big chuckle out of him pledging to look for Vincent when it stops raining, only to see the deluge suddenly stop seconds later.

Of course, this leads to Michael's encounter with the shirtless Sun. She's too startled to say anything, while he yammers on, making a fool of himself before finally stumbling away. This moment sets up hints of a potential romance between Michael and Sun that are very nearly acted upon in the mobisode Buried Secrets. In both cases, Michael is looking for Vincent and stumbles upon something he shouldn't see, but in the second, he and Sun are moving in for a kiss when Vincent suddenly shows up. Awfully good timing! Sun and Michael could have made a good couple, but not at the expense of the Kwons' marriage. Sun's indulged in more than enough adultery already, methinks. Jin doesn't come off great in this episode either, at least in the beginning; Sun is busy looking through luggage trying to find their bags, and Jin tells her she's filthy and to go clean up. It seems really rude, but in part, he's probably feeling bad that she's exhausted and overworked and wants her to take it easy. The cleaning up isn't just about modesty or pride, it's about feeling refreshed. And when we see them together at the end of the episode, with Sun asleep, Jin is undeniably tender as he brushes her hair across her face.

The ending of the episode is wonderfully tranquil, with Hurley's song about washing one's troubles away playing on his Walkman as castaways make amends with one another. There's the Jin and Sun moment; the reconciliation between Michael and Walt as the boy joyfully runs to greet his father and Vincent; Boone handing Shannon her sunglasses and her gratefully accepting them; Sayid cheerfully tossing Sawyer a piece of fruit, prompting confusion from the latter; Charlie smiling as he sits near Claire and changes "FATE" to "LATE". Does this mean he thought the plane was fated to crash, and they were stuck, but now he's hopeful that rescue is merely late in arriving but will come soon? This was the first episode in which we see Charlie and Claire interact; maybe that blossoming friendship has cheered him up. For all concerned, it's a wonderfully uplifting way to end the episode. Sayid - who is really proactive in this episode, dividing the beach folks into groups and generally taking charge, showing he's as much a leader as Jack - says at the beginning that hope is a dangerous thing to lose. As the episode ends, it's clear that hope has not been lost.