Wednesday, March 31, 2010

“Your Wife, Your Daughter, My Daughter, Everyone We Know and Love Would Simply Cease to Be. I Came Here to Make Sure That Doesn‘t Happen.”

After Ab Aeterno, my hopes for The Package weren’t particularly high. I figured LOST couldn’t top itself so soon, especially with a Sun and Jin episode. It isn’t that I don’t like them, but unless Mr. Kwon is involved, their episodes tend not to be favorites of mine. The subtitles are a minor annoyance, but it’s more that we’re getting two characters at once usually, and in different places for the most part, so neither of them is getting as much screen time as I’d like. Plus, their episodes have a tendency to be misleading. This one, for instance, overturned several of our assumptions about what we saw in LA X and Sundown: that Sun could still speak English, that she and Jin still had a rocky relationship, that Sun’s father had given his approval of the Sun and Jin courtship, that the business transaction was between Paik and Widmore. Now, I suppose Widmore could still be involved; maybe the watch was for him and the money was for Keamy. But the money had a very sinister purpose indeed.

When Keamy demanded the money in the hotel room, and then Jin begged him not to reveal to Mr. Paik that he and Sun were involved, we all thought it was pretty odd that Paik wouldn’t have known that the money couldn’t go through customs. So I said maybe he didn’t want it to go through customs; maybe he wanted to hold them up because he suspected the relationship and wanted to stop them from taking off on him. This seemed confirmed to some extent by what Keamy said and by the fact that Paik cleared out Sun’s bank account, but what did he expect to happen next? Did he figure Keamy would just do his dirty work for him anyway and he could get away with not paying him? Or maybe he didn’t mean for them to get stopped at customs after all.

I knew from the airline employee in LA X that Sun and Jin weren’t married, so I was a little surprised that they were traveling together, but Paik seems to have planned this all out pretty well, using two pretenses: Jin is Sun’s bodyguard while she goes on a shopping trip, and Jin has a package to deliver in L. A. Given the differences in their relationship, I wonder if in this reality, Sun and Jin met after he began working for her father. This Sun is fairly crafty, but I don’t think that English is something she has up her sleeve; surely she would’ve spilled that secret after Keamy came striding in demanding money. And since she was hoping to run away with Jin, not from him, I’m not sure why she would keep her language skills under wraps. I do think it’s possible that her baby isn’t Jin’s, though. I noticed that there was a mirror moment with both Sun and Jin; Sun studied herself in the hotel room mirror, while Jin had a wavery reflection on the surface in the back of the restaurant.

I wasn’t thrilled to see that we were starting the episode from the airport. It made sense, since we’ve been seeing everybody from pretty much that point, except Ben, who wasn’t on the plane. But since we saw Jin all tied up at the end of Sundown, we knew where this was heading, and it wasn’t somewhere good, so I figured the episode promised to be both repetitive and unpleasant. And do I need to tell you how much I didn’t need to see Keamy again? Him and his grotesque smile and his racist remarks and his money-grubbing murderousness. Blech. Though I suppose maybe I ought to give him a teensy bit of credit; he seems, in his own obnoxious way, to have been concerned for Mikhail’s safety at the end there, and as he was as good as dead himself, perhaps I can give him a little credit for sort of having his back, though fat lot of good that did him.

I was tickled to see Mikhail again. He cleans up pretty nicely; he looked almost dashing in that suit, with his genteel manners to match, and I again found myself hoping he wouldn’t turn out so bad. Yes, he’s hanging around with lowlifes like Keamy, and yes, back on the Island he killed Charlie Pace, but somehow I still really wanted to like him. I wanted to think of him as off-kilter and violently committed to a particular cause but not entirely malevolent. And he really didn’t seem too bad until he attacked Jin. But then he was back to his old tricks, with the reward that he lost an eye again, and probably his life as well. I don’t know if either Keamy or Mikhail is anywhere near as resilient in Sideways World; my guess is they’re both done for. I’m wondering whether the Danny that Keamy referred to might be Danny Pickett, but I have no need to find out. Can we just be done with the thugs now, please? Even if we are, though, things look even worse for Sun than they did for Sayid, who did at least give Jin the means to free himself before he high-tailed it outta there. Suddenly Sideways World isn’t looking quite so sunny.

Back on the Island, we got more Sun and Jin than usual, though they were spread a bit thin. Both were angry and frustrated; neither trusted Smokey when he offered to facilitate their reunion, though in this case it was clear that he could deliver, at least until Jin got kidnapped. Why didn’t he take Jin along with him to court Sun? I’m a little surprised that neither of them seems to be under his spell at this point; that’s an encouraging thought.

Sun’s sudden inability to speak English struck me as a strange device. I guess I can buy it happening, odd as it is, but what’s the point? It isn’t like she had any really critical information that she was unable to relay, and anyway her inability to communicate was quickly cut short by Jack’s ingenuity. It was kinda funny to see her chew out a confused Richard in Korean, and it was nice to see her in her garden again. And I liked Jack’s Little Tomato That Could.

But Jin’s was the more interesting of the two stories because he got to meet face to face with Charles Widmore, and I have a feeling we’re headed for another mythologically loaded episode. What did we learn this week? Zoe is a geophysicist, and she’s interested in the electromagnetic pockets, or Charles is. She knows about Room 23, which may suggest that she is either a former Other or a former member of the Dharma Initiative. We learned fairly conclusively that Widmore and Smokey are, indeed, enemies, though their prior familiarity with each other is limited. It would appear that Widmore is not just against Smokey but for Jacob; certainly he is similarly concerned about keeping Smokey contained, or at least he claims to be.

Charles has been almost as big a mystery as Christian throughout the series, and his motivations and plans are murky at best. But after this episode, I’m less inclined to think that Charles killed the people on the beach, and I’m more prepared to think that he could still have a big role to play on the side of the good. I’ve thought for a long time that his animosity toward Desmond was mostly for show, just a way of pushing him into making certain decisions. Desmond is a very significant player, and it would seem that his significance didn’t end with turning that failsafe key. After Lighthouse, my brother said he thought Widmore was coming, and I said Desmond. We were both right. And the fact that Desmond was apparently kidnapped and drugged, brought totally against his will, means that he didn’t break his promise to Penny. Of course, it also means that once again we’re about to have a very confused, angry Scotsman on our hands.

While I still got a whiff of condescending aristocracy from Charles this week, I thought the moment with the camera was really sweet. Maybe he’s using Ji Yeon as motivation for Jin, but I hardly think lack of motivation is a problem for Jin. I thought it was a really nice moment and that Charles seemed touched by Jin’s reaction. They are bound together by the commonality of having a daughter from whom they are separated. Incidentally, I found it a little odd that Ji Yeon had an English “Happy Birthday” banner; didn’t Sun live in Korea all that time? Maybe it was there for the benefit of English-speaking guests like Hurley. I was so hoping for a photo of Mr. Kwon with his granddaughter, but I suppose they weren't about to have John Shin fly to Hawaii so they could take a snapshot of him...

Aside from Sun and Jin, we got a little bit from just about every character, but not much. Claire’s abandonment issues are flaring up again, and she’s starting to fear that she will be discarded once Smokey’s plan is complete. Sawyer is just laying low, waiting to see how things play out, and his methods aren’t thrilling Kate or Jin. When Sayid told Smokey about his lack of emotion, it reminded me of Frodo on his way up Mount Doom, telling Sam about how he couldn’t remember the taste of strawberries or the sound of water or anything else. It seemed to me that when Sayid saw Desmond, it sparked something; a tiny light seemed to flicker in his eyes. But if Sayid was unwilling to intervene to save Kate, I don’t suppose Desmond could snap him out of his stupor. Or could he?

Back at the beach, we got the funniest, oh-so-wrong line of the episode from Miles: “Unless he’s covered in bacon grease, I’m not sure Hugo can track anything.” Man! I thought you two were supposed to be friends! I’m not sure what Frank’s response was about; was Miles making him hungry? I liked Ilana’s wide smile when Richard showed up and Hurley’s not-really-necessary “I don’t think she wants to come.”

And Ben was so sweet and concerned for Sun when he found her in the jungle. He’s become quite the little lamb. But he still seems a little bitter toward Richard. This week and last, we saw him try to convince Ilana that Richard wasn’t coming back and that he didn’t know anything. But Richard was the one giving him orders all those years; how can Ben honestly claim that Richard is completely clueless? I think this is similar to his hissy reaction in The Man Behind the Curtain when John said he’d just ask Richard to take him to Jacob. I kinda get the sense he just doesn’t want Richard around. But when he came back, he did readily tell him where Smokey said he would be. Except that’s actually where Charles is. If they go there, Sun and Jin may be able to reunite finally. But what will Charles do when he sees Ben with them?

It was a good episode, but it wasn’t really a great one. A little too fragmented for me to feel too much engagement with anybody. But next week is going to be amazing yet again. I saw the episode title a couple of weeks ago: Happily Ever After. And immediately, I thought: Desmond. Because his romance with Penny has seemed so fairy tale-like, with them finally overcoming all the obstacles keeping them apart in order to achieve their happy ending. And that troubled me, because I figured this episode would pose an enormous threat to that happiness. Well, after Desmond was revealed to be “the package” - about to be shown to Jin, which I find curious - and after we got that preview with the magnificent bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace, it seems pretty evident that it will be Desmond after all. And Desmond episodes are always exceptional. So I’m excited, but I’m nervous, especially after the phrase “happily ever after” was uttered in this episode, by Keamy, as he made a promise to Jin that he fully intended to break. I see trouble brewing…

And will it be a Sideways or a flashback? I assume the former, but there’s still a fair amount about Desmond that we don’t know. For instance, his childhood is almost a complete mystery; we know only that he has several brothers that he cares for after his father took off. So another character with a bad dad and a mom who apparently departed early. He’s one of the very few major characters we haven’t seen as a child. We don’t know anything about his stint as a doctor and still can only guess at why he was kicked out of the army. And, of course, we don’t know just how he wound up on the sub to the Island, though I think I can imagine how that went. On the other hand, we don’t know where he went when he seemed to vanish from the plane. Now, I suppose that could’ve been our Desmond, after he was happily married, blinking through time for just a moment. But if that was the case he was must more at ease about things this time around. Also, if we see Sideways Desmond, I feel like there’s a pretty decent chance of seeing his brother-in-law, and another Desmond and Daniel scene would make me supremely happy.

But whatever the episode holds, I expect something impressive, and probably emotionally wringing. Somebody will be asked to make a sacrifice, unless Charles is referring to a time when he himself was asked to make a sacrifice. I presume he’s talking to Desmond, after sitting him down for a long talk in which he explains his reasons for acting like such a jerk for so many years. But hasn’t poor Desmond sacrificed enough already? This episode could also have something to do with this idea that Smokey is able to offer each of the castaways whatever he or she wants most. We may see him dangle a particular “happily ever after” in front of another castaway and give some explanation as to how he might deliver on that promise. Whatever its context, I’m pretty sure that Happily Ever After is a deeply deceptive title. But here’s hoping I’m wrong.

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