Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lost: Suddenly I am run over by a truck

Spoilers for "Lost" just as soon as I figure out who bathed Calamity Jane...

Okay, I addressed some of my problems with this episode in vaguer terms in my column, so let's get down to specifics.

When Jack asked Juliet what Ben told her, I nearly screamed. This is what you ask her, Jack? Really? This is the best you can come up with in a moment where you could conceivably ask her anything? When I complained about this at TCA, Lindelof and Cuse defended it by saying that Jack doesn't expect The Others to give him honest answers to the bigger questions, so he contents himself on smaller issues. First of all, I don't buy that, as Tom was more than willing to explain the recent issues with contacting the outside world, only to be conveniently interrupted by a downturn in Ben's condition. (On this one, I give the writers a pass, as it's a standard writers' stall, ala Mrs. Bennet's non-disclosure of HRG's first name on this week's "Heroes.") Second, even if Jack believes this, what value does this particular answer serve him, nevermind what it does for us?

I'll grant you that the knowledge of how long Juliet's been on the island and the fact that she's being held against her will is a (very) small piece of the puzzle, but here my issue is more with the question than the answer. Cuse has said that a show where the characters all asked the right questions and shared information would be incredibly dull, and I'm sure he's right to a degree, but they consistently go so far in the other direction, having their characters act willfully, mulishly ignorant and non-inquisitive that it drives me up a damn wall. Is Jack really the best the castaways can do for a leader? Because you put Hurley in a room with Juliet and Ben, and he's going to at least try to figure out why things are the way they are on these wacky islands.

And speaking of Hugo, his absence -- and the absence of Locke, and Sayid, and Desmond and company -- continues to be felt. I know the rest of the cast will start popping up as early as next week, and the producers have promised to have virtually all of the good guys (assuming the castaways are the good guys, but whatever) back on the original beach together shortly. But after three months off, it was frustrating for the return episode to be devoted exclusively to the same boring love triangle and the same dumb kidnapping plot -- especially since, with Jack still a prisoner, the damn thing ain't over yet.

But before I marinate too much in the juices of bitterness, let's look at the parts of the episode I liked, starting with the Stanley Kubrick/Alan J. Pakula Memorial Rave/Interrogation Room. (The "Clockwork Orange" parallel is the obvious one, but I thought the imagery more closely resembled the assassination school qualifying test Warren Beatty took in "The Parallax View.") I'm not the type to spend time doing freeze-frame analysis of scenes like this or smoke monster appearances, nor do I believe that any of this will wind up being very meaningful, but in the moment, it was cool, in the same way the four-toed foot was cool, or the pile of pneumatic tubes, or the pirate ship in the middle of the jungle. As I've often said, what these guys lack in terms of coherent narrative abilities, they often make up for in crafting compellingly random images.

It was also a tremendous relief to have a new character flashback, even if I don't feel that I understand Juliet substantially more than before, and even though I laughed far more than I should have at the death of her ex-husband. In watching this one a few weeks ago in a roomful of critics, someone -- I want to say Melanie McFarland from Seattle, but I'm not 100% sure -- pointed out the "Felicity" episode where Felicity's stalker also got hit by a bus. J.J. still isn't involved on a regular basis anymore, so either this was Damon and Carlton's tribute to him, or he just showed up in the office one day and said, "Hey guys, you know what's always cool? Hitting guys with buses."

A few other random thoughts:
  • Did Sawyer set some kind of personal nicknaming record in this one? In the span of, like, five minutes, he hung three different ones on Alex, with "Underdog" being my favorite. And speaking of which...
  • Do we know how long ago Rousseau's expedition crashed on Craphole Island? Everyone has assumed Alex is her daughter, but if Ben is her father and Ben has lived on the island his entire life, Alex would have to have been conceived here.
  • As I commented in the column, this was one weird-ass (albeit good) collection of guest stars, particularly Mac from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" getting pistol-whipped. Nestor Carbonell also had a very nice delivery on the line about them not being exactly in Portland.
  • And on the subject of guest stars, Ethan returns, though I think the scene of him passing Juliet in a corridor at the very beginning of the episode wasn't part of the mainland flashback, but some separate, Soderbergh/Roeg-style jump-cut flashback.
So that's that. I'm not going to jump off any cliffs yet, since I know the other regulars are coming back, and since Cuse and Lindelof, for all their evasiveness and doubletalk on a lot of issues, seemed fairly candid about recognizing the shortfalls of this first batch of episodes and about their desire to get back to what the audience wants to see (answers aside) going forward. But this certainly wasn't the ideal triumphant return.

What did everybody else think?

44 comments:

BF said...

I must admit, they snookered me in the opening scene. After seeing Juliet on the beach and passing Ethan in the hallway, I thought they were on the island, not in the middle of Miami. Well played, Lost. Well played.

And even though the 2 Island concept was introduced in the Sawyer episode last fall, I still think that's a major cheat. There have been too many people sailing around and climbing up mountains not to have noticed Alcatraz.

One more pet peeve while we're at it: we just sat through another one of those hour-long recaps. Why on earth would you include a "Previously On..." in the episode proper?

Not the show's finest hour, and I don't see anyone who gave up on the show last fall being won back over on this episode.

Mac said...

I also laughed at Zeljko getting hit by the bus, so it's not just you. I think it was the way the bus was going full speed even though he'd been standing in the street for several seconds. Odd, that. BTW, is it a "Homicide" shout-out that his character was named "Ed"?

Nestor Carbonell, meanwhile, needs to go easy on the eyeliner.

Anonymous said...

Who played the sister? Was that Robin Weigert?

Tom G said...

We've been waiting for another "H&^% S#@!" moment and when Edmund Burke got hit by the bus, that's what I exclaimed.

baitshop3 said...

Well, I'm still hanging in...the recruitment of Juliet and the "escape" of Kate and Sawyer and what's-his-face young guy gives me a sense that the story's going to maybe start moving out from its recent cul-de-sac...but they're locking Jack up again until they figure out what to do with him? And Jack had Ben's life in his hands and the best he could do was negotiate Kate and Sawyer's escape to the big island where the Others can just go recapture them again anytime they want?

I dunno...was it intentional or unintentional that Kyle McLachlan, survivor of the once SO AWESOME and then suddenly SO LAME Twin Peaks narrated the hour long recap?

And, really, do we need yet another Lost recap show, this time to remind us where we left off, what, two months ago? HBO shows with a zillion characters and plot strands disappear for months (or years) at a time without this much recapping.

Ah well...if I can stick with The Sopranos in its much more advanced state of narrative aimlessness and fading health, I reckon I'll give Lost a little bit longer.

Anonymous said...

That was better than the first 6 episodes, but still not great. They really need to ditch the Others. I've enjoyed most of the mysteries, but having a group of people whose motivations are completely unknown to us just sucks the life out of the show. Since we don't know what they're up to, everything they do just comes off as completely random and I end up either rolling my eyes or just not giving a shit.

Dan Coyle said...

Well, I liked the episode, though it still had all those tics I don't like- Danny's weird thirst for vengeance against a guy who he knows had nothing directly to do with his wife's death, the goofy quest for Alex's boyfriend, the fact that Ed wasn't just Juliet's mean boss, but her ex-husband (once again, I feel the need to point out to J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof that not all adversarial relationships on earth are sexual/familial by nature).

I loved how Juliet immediately called Jack's bluff, and how Jack compounded everything by confessing Juliet's duplicity. Too bad he's such a child that he wouldn't demand more answers from Juliet (Maybe the writers think he won't because girls, to them, are untrustworthy? No wonder they poached a writer from comics). Emerson stole the show even though he was doped up and semi-conscious.

I was overjoyed at the appearance of Nestor Carbonell, and hope they use him again because he can be a wonderful villain (see his chilling turn in Smokin' Aces, where he actually killed someone played by Matthew Fox). Ed Burke's death was a genuine shocker, even if it was lifted wholesale from Final Destination.

Rick said...

Two thoughts:

1) Had this episode capped off the fall series I probably wouldn't have spent the past three months complaining about the show. The episode has its problems, but on a visceral level it really delivered for me (or at least would have had it aired back in November).

2) Plotting and character aside, Lost is easily one of the best-looking shows on TV. Alan, I agree with your thoughts on the writers/art-department coming up with some excellent things to look at, even if it serves no significant purpose other than jingling keys in front of my face. Likewise, I don't think I've seen this many awesome shades of green on a screen since Endor. Also, really liked that shot of Henry's face from below the operating table with Jack's face framed in the bend of his arm.

Rick said...

... I mean "Ben." Sorry.

Dan Coyle said...

Well, at least you didn't use "Benry". That REALLY pisses some people off.

Dennis Wilson said...

"Suddenly I am run over by a truck?" Were you even born when Michael O'Donoghue's "How to Write Good" was published in National Lampoon? Whatever, I'm just glad people still know and remember.

Rain said...

I like the idea of the Ethan hallway pass as being a Roeg-esque cut, but the fact that she says to him "Have we met?" when he shows up at the morgue leads me to believe it was all part of the mainland flashback.

Also, just because Alex THINKS Ben is her father doesn't mean he actually is....

Toby said...

The way I read into Alex' parentage, she was abducted from Rousseau as an infant and raised by Ben Linus. He'd be the only parent she ever knew, probably she has no clue as to even the existence of Rousseau.

The first name of "Ed" was more a shout-out to Edmund Burke the philosopher than to the character Ivanek played on H:LOTS.

Burke getting hit by a bus while standing in the street reminded me of the same thing happening to the girl obsessed with Dr. McMahon on 'nip/tuck' - right down to it occurring in Miami.

Maybe operatives from the Dharma Initiative were behind that as well.....

Alan Sepinwall said...

Who played the sister? Was that Robin Weigert?

Yes, indeed -- hence the "who bathed Calamity Jane" line at the top.

was it intentional or unintentional that Kyle McLachlan, survivor of the once SO AWESOME and then suddenly SO LAME Twin Peaks narrated the hour long recap?

Well, I know that Lindelof is terrified of following the path of "Twin Peaks," a show he cites all the time as an example of something that fell apart as soon as they answered the biggest question. (To me, Twin Peaks had fallen apart well before they revealed Laura's killer.) But show producers often have little or nothing to do with clip specials, so who knows if he was even involved with hiring MacLachlan?

"Suddenly I am run over by a truck?" Were you even born when Michael O'Donoghue's "How to Write Good" was published in National Lampoon?

I was born in '73. I think I came across "How to Write Good" after reading Hill and Weingrad's "Saturday Night" book and wanting to learn more about Mister Mike.

mp said...

So, if you have cancer and you aren't fully recovered from it(based on Juliet saying something about getting now all they need to do is to get her sister healthy)...is it really a good idea to get pregnant? Isn't the cancer enough of a strain already on her body?

Kristin said...

Am I the only one who KNEW the ex was going to get hit by the bus the minute Juliet suggested it to eyeliner man? That was no surprise to me at all.

I am wondering if these experiments Juliet had been doing have something to do with cloning. Thus, the ex telling her that even though she was doing something less-than-legal by experimenting on her sister, she was still doing something ground-breaking for which she (and he) could make a lot of money.

I thought the conversation between Juliet & Jack was interesting. Jack realized that he was going to be the replacement for Juliet...and that since she had been there for over 3 years, that was probably going to be his fate also. He is a better doctor...a trained surgeon...and would be much more useful to The Others than this woman. Whatever knowledge she had that they needed, she's already given it to them.

Why would Jack ask bigger questions when he was most concerned about Kate getting away safely? It was a tense moment of life-and-death crisis, not a philosophical discussion about who The Others were and why they were there. He is still their prisoner and he has given up on the idea of going free, so what would be the point in asking the bigger questions?

mp said...

whoops...a little to quick to publish my poorly edited post, but I think you can get my point.

Tosy And Cosh said...

bf: Many of us (well at least one of us) didn't watch the recap,so the "previously on Lost" was appreciated. I too was completely fooled by the opening - just as I was in the season opener.

As for the lameness of Jack's question, the producers anser makes sense to me - he doesn't expect ot get an anser to "who are you people" so he doesn't ask. As for not demanding anything better than Sawyer and Kate's escape, he only had an hour. Not enough time to demand a boat, or a phone, or even answers that he has no way of confirming as true.

denniswilson - I'm just about Alan's age (born in 74), and know "HOw to Write Good" also - in my case, from the "Big Book of American Humor" collection, a much-loved and -read tome of cartoons, jokes, monologues, bits, scenes, and errata.

rick - Ditto on the look. I know Heroes has taken over Lost in many people's estimation as a better sci-fi-ish, twisty, geecky series, but the production values, acting, and, emotional payoffs are so much beter on Lost.

leigh said...

I'm with Kristen--I knew as soon as Juliet mentioned the bus that her ex would get hit by a bus. Still cool, though.

And I seriously doubt that Ben is Alex's real father; he's just raised her to think that he is.

Devin McCullne said...

The sad thing is I knew he'd get hit by a bus (didn't Michael get hit by a bus in a flashback also, or was that a car?), and I was still surprised when it happened. And I also got fooled by the intro.

I thought Rousseau said she came to the island about 17 years ago, but that was awhile back and I could be wrong.

About the question - I think Jack's just self-centered, and for whatever reason felt that Juliet had screwed him over. That was more a way of complaining to her than actually asking something.

CM said...

This episode really annoyed me. Every woman in the episode cried at one point. Nearly every man tried to kill someone. Juliet appears to have one all-purpose facial expression. And of COURSE, after Jack tells Kate "Whatever you do, don't come after me," we see the preview for next week with Kate saying, "We have to go after Jack!" Let me guess. She causes some disaster and needs to be rescued by the big strong men.

Kristen said...

We don't know for sure that Ben is Alex's father, just that she calls him that and the Others assume she is. Rousseau said she had been there for 17 years, so Alex still could be her biological daughter that Ben stole and claimed as his own. Or the two of them could have conceived her together. That part of the story hasn't been revealed yet.

I was partial to Sawyer calling Alex "Sheena".

dez said...

The thing I liked about the "catch-up" episode was the showing of clips that had relevance to the upcoming up (e.g., showing Jack telling Kate the story he asks her to repeat when she's safely away from the Others). Also, I had no idea Desmond's full name was Desmond David Hume. Hmmm.

Other than that, I got a little bored with the ep because I really don't care who Juliet is or why she's on the island. Screw the Others and let's get back to the beach! It was nice seeing Bat Manuel again, though.

Dan Jardine said...

C'mon! Sawyer's best nickname of the night was the one he tossed at the brain-fried kid. Called him "Cheech."

Jeff said...

Alan,

Maybe I'm giving Jack too much credit, but what was the point of him trying to read Ben's lips? I think he caught the gist of what Ben was saying (nice 2001 shout out, btw), and was testing Juliet's honesty by asking her. He either got confirmation that she's lying or that she's not.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jeff, I think the point of those shots was simply to establish that Jack couldn't tell what they were saying, which is why he demanded an answer from Juliet.

Jeff said...

Hmm, I guess we'll find out who's right sometime in Season 5! ;)

dez said...

Heh heh! Good one, jeff!

So, Alan, didja watch "24"? Didja? DIDJA??? (Sorry, having a Jack Bauer moment there!)

Louis said...

Even though I agree with most of the criticism here, I still like Lost. And as preposterous serial dramas go, it's significantly better than 24 has been this season.

Anonymous said...

"Jeff said...

Maybe I'm giving Jack too much credit, but what was the point of him trying to read Ben's lips? I think he caught the gist of what Ben was saying (nice 2001 shout out, btw), and was testing Juliet's honesty by asking her. He either got confirmation that she's lying or that she's not."

Jack couldn't see Ben's lips due to the angles. Jack was in the observation booth ABOVE, while Ben was FACE-DOWN on the operating table BELOW jack. It's about as impossible an angle as could be established for Jack to not even know when Ben was talking. The fact that the audience can see the lips moving was purely a cinematic moment, not one that establishes Jack's viewpoint. For that shot, the camera was almost directly below Ben. Jack would have needed to be laying on the floor of the operating room for the same angle.

So, as always, Alan is right about this. Jeff, your point reminds me off all those fanatical LOST boards that read mountains from molehills. Sometimes a show is just a show.

So far, the Others and the Tailees have been a complete bust story-wise. For the Others, no one cares to learn anything about the individual people, and we can be pretty sure that LOST will not be revealing big secrets about the others in general (as is their methodology). For the Tailees, which was pretty much the whole second season, well, they are ALL DEAD NOW, save for that old husband who gets a line every 10th episode.

I'm getting tired of being yanked around by the producers. The may now be promising that we'll "get back to the beach", but it will probably be for endless episodes of Claire screaming about her "Bey-bey", Locke walking around the jungle more moody than a rejected teen, Hurley being funny but ultimately useless, and Jin and Sun losing and finding love (rinse and repeat). Maybe they should all go look for Sayid, since he's been missing longer than any of them, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Aw, I liked it. A lot. Was not expecting much and was thoroughly surprised at how good it was. So glad Lost is back!

anon said...

I'm not sure what sort of episode would have satisfied some of the commentators here. You don't like the Others? Well, they shot one _and_ got two of the Losties off of the island. Miss the regulars? The preview suggests everyone but Jack is back together by the next episode. And while cm's comments above do apply to many _Lost_ episodes, in this episode all of the effective weapon wielding (guns, slingshots) was performed by women, who were also responsible for all of the lives' saved minus one (Jack saving Ben). Yes, the weepy Juliet/stern Juliet contrast was laid on a little thick, but I felt it worked well with the closing revelation.

I generally agree with Rick about this episode having a good visceral component. It also added some depth to _some_ of the Others -- a new flashback (thank god) involving an Other, and an acknowledgment that Tom is the Others' Hurley -- his lines weren't as funny as Hurley's, but that's how it should be. Again, this should have been done in the six episode mini-arc, but I still take it as a sign things are moving in the right direction. Like Andrew Dignan, I was pleased that people actually _shared information_ in this episode, and I appreciated the action throughout.

My concern, of course, is that Alan's comments reflect how things go downhill in the next few episodes, particularly since we'll have to return to flashbacks involving characters whose histories we already know too well. In addition, the preview for the next episode had a "showdown" feel to it, and since we've been betrayed by those types of previews before, I recognize things could go south quickly.

Anon

Anonymous said...

I agree with the suggestion that this episode should have been the one they ended with during the fall. Since next episode will take us back to the beach it would have satisfied all the people complaining about the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle.

Since Kate never listens to anything Jack says, even he doesn't believe that she isn't going to try to free him at some point.

Mac said...

Personally, I was disappointed that Sawyer didn't make a "Hawaii-Five-O" reference. I don't ask for much.

Scott said...

OK, totally off-topic but there's no generic thread right now.

Alan, we need your writing around The Knights of Prosperity. I know you didn't love it at first, but it remains clever and funny, and is really getting better each week. It's at least as good as My Name is Earl this season. If you can't enjoy a Hindi (I think...) version of Cats in the Cradle, you're missing some good humor.

jim treacher said...

Carbonell had a great read on, "Did you say he should get hit by a bus? I don't even remember you saying that..." Sure he doesn't! And the Hanso Corporation didn't use their Probability-Altering Ray to make the guy step out into the street at just that moment. Uh-huh.

"And on the subject of guest stars, Ethan returns, though I think the scene of him passing Juliet in a corridor at the very beginning of the episode wasn't part of the mainland flashback, but some separate, Soderbergh/Roeg-style jump-cut flashback."

I think he was there in Miami, and he had just done something to Juliet's sister while she was asleep. Something that... made her pregnant??? Ewwww.

dez said...

I'm also curious what you think of Knights, Alan. And are you done with 24? Or just behind? I enjoy getting everyone's opinions of the show here.

Jeff said...

LOL. Hey Anonymous, before you go bashing me for being some fanatical message board freak (I actually just watched the first 2 seasons during the break, I'm new to this), watch your recording again. There was a MIRROR below the operating table, so Jack could see Ben talking in its reflection.

Apology accepted.

Anonymous said...

"Jeff said..

There was a MIRROR below the operating table, so Jack could see Ben talking in its reflection."

Oh how can I have thought you were one of those "see every little thing as being SUPER SIGNIFICANT, rewatch the tape for hours" freaks that overreact to little details?

So lets see, jack was at least 20 feet away, at a vary strange angle. He was LOOKING AT A MIRROR REFLECTION of Ben, whose lips, from Jacks perspective, would also appear to be upside down and also inverted (mirror images are inverted) in that infamous mirror. Of course there is nothing blocking this magic mirror, including possibly Ben's own head, but I'll just give you that since you have the slow mo, frame-by-frame tivo and I don't care that much.

Ben had his head restrained and was on a heavy sedative. So instead of crisp speech and lip movement, he would most likely be mumbling. He does, after all, have an OPEN WOUND gaping in his back, so vigorous enunciation is probably his low priority.

But even with all these obvious factors, its totally logical that Jack, besides spending his adult life studying to be a surgeon, also went to magicians school to learn perfect lip-reading. He is the 1 in 1,000,000 who can read a sedated, head-restrained, barely mumbling man's MIRROR IMAGE, upside down and from at least 20 feet. Even though Jack is under HEAVY duress in the moment, his ability to read Ben's lips is perfectly believable and logical. Because there was a mirror (supposedly) there.

How or how did I mistake you for one of those frame-by-frame fanatics? Tell us, did the bird really say "Hurley"?

No Apology offered, only pity that you will now spend the rest of your time seeing phantom clues in the most innocuous of images. Head on over to those banshees at TWOP, they like your kind there. Lost is the perfect show for you.

On a lighter note, Alan - no review of 30 rock this week?

Jeff said...

LOL. First off, I watched it once, live. No rewind or frame-by-frame - it's called paying attention, you should try it. By the way, this was no split second thing. My recollection is that they lingered on this for a few seconds, cutting back and forth between the reflection and Jack studying it. Seems plausible they were trying to make us think he was at least trying.

Second, why so angry? We're talking about a TV show. If life is beating you up, I can understand the hostility, but why not try directing it at someone who cares?

Third, I never said he definitely knew what Ben was saying. I asked Alan if he thought that was possible. If you can't have fun discussing a few tidbits about the show you just watched, why come here? To feel big and important bashing people anonymously? Such courage.

Fourth, you make good points. It would be difficult to read a guy's lips looking at them through a mirror. Why not point that out nicely instead of being an a-hole about it?

Fifth, this is LOST. Anything could happen, so I don't think my question was beyond the realm of possibility.

And finally, your hostile and unprovoked flaming is much more typical of TWOP posters, not my simple query to Alan. If you didn't like my question, why not just ignore it?

Why don't you wipe your tears, and come back when you can play nice, hmm? And give yourself a handle next time, chicken boy.

nfiledr said...

Two comments... first, I'm with Kristen. I definitely knew that ol' Ed was going to end up flat as soon as Juliet mentioned it to the "guy from Portland". In fact, when Juliet and Ed were talking on the sidewalk, I noticed the bus sitting at the light at the end of the block. Wow... it really built up a head of steam in that relatively short distance. :-)

Also, what would have kept Juliet from double crossing Jack after Kate told him his story from the beach. At that point, Juliet still had the gun and Jack would have finished the surgery thinking Kate and Sawyer were safe.

nfiledr said...

Two comments... first, I'm with Kristen. I definitely knew that ol' Ed was going to end up flat as soon as Juliet mentioned it to the "guy from Portland". In fact, when Juliet and Ed were talking on the sidewalk, I noticed the bus sitting at the light at the end of the block. Wow... it really built up a head of steam in that relatively short distance. :-)

Also, what would have kept Juliet from double crossing Jack after Kate told him his story from the beach. At that point, Juliet still had the gun and Jack would have finished the surgery thinking Kate and Sawyer were safe.

nfiledr said...

Sorry for the double post...

dez said...

Wow... it really built up a head of steam in that relatively short distance. :-)

I noticed that, too. I just assumed SpongeBob was driving the bus.

"Floor it! Floor it! FLOOR IT!"