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.
What did everybody else think?