From the Department of You Can't Please Everybody, there were some complaints last week that "Beginning of the End" didn't offer as much in the way of forward advancement as I had promised in my review. Others have made the counter-argument better than I can in my hacking cough-addled state, but I would hope that "Confirmed Dead" would quiet some of those complaints. Because after an underwhelming pre-credits sequence (which I'll get back to), this sucker moved, and lots of things happened. We met our four new regulars, squeezed in useful flashbacks about three of them (and maybe four; again, we'll get to the Dan flashback shortly) and even found out the real reason they're on the island. "Lost" season three would have probably spent four episodes just introducing each freighter person, then a fifth (and possibly a sixth) on them getting Miles to say that they're after Ben.
(The flipside of all this business is that "Confirmed Dead" didn't have the same emotional resonance as "Beginning of the End" -- nothing was remotely as moving as the Hurley cannonball scene -- but you clearly can't have everything in every episode.)
Of our four newbies, Miles the dustbusting ghostbuster is easily my favorite, and not just because I thought actor Ken Leung was so good in his "Sopranos" episode as Junior's mental hospital sidekick. The show has long since abandoned any pretense that it might not be science fiction, so why not throw in a medium to go along with the time traveler, the smoke monster, the magic box, the invisible guy in the rocking chair, etc.? Plus, I love the sarcastic energy he brings. Sawyer and Ben can't be the only ones getting the good one-liners now.
As for the others, I'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Fahey as Frank the pilot, both for being in "Silverado" and for starring in the underrated '90s cop show "The Marshall." The surviving members of the freighter team are all damaged goods in some way (Lindelof the comic book fan borrowing, I'd guess, from The Losers, or maybe the '60s version of the Suicide Squad), and being the man who should've been flying Oceanic 815 on that fateful run makes Frank the most obviously damaged.
I'm reserving judgment on Charlotte, as I feel Rebecca Mader didn't get a ton to do but I've liked her in other things, and I really liked Jeremy Davies' nervous enthusiasm as Dan. I just wish they had come up with a more interesting way to show his flashbacks at the start of the episode. Other than the fact that news of the crash upset Dan for reasons he couldn't understand (or maybe was afraid to explain), we learned nothing there that we hadn't already figured out at the end of the previous episode. Usually, the final beat before the main titles is a lot more surprising than seeing last week's climactic moment from a different angle.
So should we start our rampant speculations about why they're there for Ben? Assuming Frank is really just there to fly the chopper, what kind of mission would require a medium, a physicist, an archaeologist (or anthropologist; I didn't catch exactly what Charlotte's specialty) and some kind of special forces bad ass to complete? And involving gas masks? Is this just Dharma Initiative revenge for their massacre at the hands of Ben and "the hostiles"? (That also involved gas.) If so, why not send in a team of killers? (Abaddon says that Naomi was the key to the whole mission, so how badly will things go with her dead?) Where the hell is Ben in that surveillance photo, and is anyone else surprised by the idea that he's left the island as an adult?
Meanwhile, who's Ben's man on the ship? Since the return of Michael was one of the producer-announced developments for this season, should we assume it's him? (Or are the publicity photos of Harold Perrineau on the island a feint, and we'll only see Michael in the flash forwards?) There's clearly something happening on that ship, based on Miles' inability to get George on the phone; has Ben's agent already started causing trouble?
The writers need to be really careful with Ben going forward. As Sawyer points out in this episode, they should have put a bullet between his eyes as soon as they took custody of him, because any information he can give them about the island is vastly outweighed by the many ways in which he can and will try to kill them all. (Remember the episode late last year where it looked like Locke had complete control of the situation only to get shot and dumped in a mass grave?) Ben knowing who the freighter people are will be useful to a point, but I worry about this turning into a middle-period Spike on "Buffy" situation, where the actor is so good and the character so popular that he's kept alive even though it makes all the heroes look like idiots.
Because the episode was so busy, I'm moving straight to the bullet points:
- Sayid and Juliet ambushing a cocky Miles was a nice homage to when Tom ordered the lighting of the torches to convince an overconfident Jack he was surrounded back in "The Hunting Party." (Side question: other than xenophobia, why isn't Sayid the leader? If there's a guy on the island other than Hurley I'd trust to make the smart move -- and, in combat situations, someone I'd trust much more -- it's Sayid.)
- Locke asking Ben what the monster is was a hilarious meta moment in the middle of an otherwise tense climactic scene. In that moment, Locke was every fan who has ever been frustrated with Cuse and Lindelof's refusal to answer the big questions, and Ben was one of the producers waving a shiny new mystery in our faces to distract us from the way he didn't answer the original one.
- Also amusingly meta -- and necessary -- was all the Sawyer/Locke back and forth about Taller Ghost Walt. One of those things where it was so blindingly obvious that the show had to address it in some way.
- Turns out the island's healing powers didn't have to do a whole lot for Locke, as he was conveniently shot right where the kidney the original Sawyer conned him out of.
- Now, did the polar bear skeleton with the Dharma collar mean that their people have also been working in Tunisia? Or is the fossilized nature of the thing another time travel clue?
- Was the spot where Miles' chute landed the same place where Desmond beat Clancy Brown to death?
- How many times now has Locke predicted, to the second, when an island rainstorm will end? Always a neat parlor trick.
What did everybody else think?