Spoilers for "The Other Woman," the latest episode of "Lost," coming up just as soon as I fold my laundry...
Almost anything was bound to be a letdown after last week's time-bending love epic, and while "The Other Woman" wasn't the weakest episode of '08 (that remains Kate's episode), a number of season three-era problems crept in for the first time this season.
Start with the flashback story. I don't mind alternating Oceanic Six flashforwards with flashbacks for the newer characters who aren't so played-out that we're finding out the origins of their nose jobs. But they need to tell us something new about either the overall story arc or the character, preferably both, and Juliet's flashback told us neither. Outside the introduction of Goodwin's unpleasant wife Harper (played by Andrea Roth from "Rescue Me," who's in danger of being typecast as a shrew whose husband steps out on her), the flashback story offered us absolutely nothing we didn't already know about Juliet, Ben, or Goodwin and his death. Between the season three-opening flashback showing The Others' response to the Oceanic 815 crash, Ben and Juliet's strained relationship throughout that season (past and present) and the revelation in "One of Us" that Juliet and Goodwin were sleeping together, it was beyond obvious that Ben had sent Goodwin to the Tailies' side of the island in the hopes that he might get killed. Why did we need an entire episode on that detail when it's been clear from Juliet's first appearance that Ben is insanely crushing on her? If it was just to set up the big dramatic moment where Jack decides to defy Ben by kissing her, then yawn. The moment where I gave a toss about Jack Shephard's sex life passed a long, long time ago (if it existed at all).
(To go off on a tangent for a moment, one positive about the return of Goodwin and the visit to the site of his death was that it got me to reminisce on one of the few highlights' of Ana-Lucia's tenure on the show: the long, tense conversation she and Goodwin had on the top of the mountain before they had their battle to the death in "The Other 48 Days." I wish it was on YouTube; might have to crack open the season 2 DVD to watch that one again.)
Just as frustrating was how we're back to Jack and Kate being complete imbeciles -- Kate the alleged badass letting Charlotte get in position to cold cock her even though she knew these two were up to no good (Juliet the obstetrician continually makes her look like a wuss), and Jack again following someone blindly in a situation where answers are demanded and letting things go after being told he's better off not knowing. If you're going to devote an entire episode to The Others having an electrical station that doubles as a poison gas plant, the least you can do is explain what the purpose of it is within the Dharma/Others/pirates balance of power on the island.
And yet, in spite of all that, "The Other Woman" wasn't a total waste of time, because it wasn't a sole-focus hour. The problem with "Eggtown" was that if you didn't care about Kate, there wasn't much else there. (Most of the discussion about the episode, not surprisingly, was about the scraps of information we got about the Oceanic Six/Eight, plus the Aaron twist.) This one, on the other hand, gave us a rare B-story (or, if you consider the flashback to the B-story, then a C-story) with Ben once again getting over on Locke over at the bungalow colony. While John is also being an idiot in the grand scheme of things (and is being more destructive than whatever small idiocies Jack and Kate committed), there's at least a thematic consistency to it. Locke is obsessed with protecting the island, and on that his goal and Ben's are intertwined, so I can see how this makes sense in his cracked brain. Plus, any scene with Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn playing off each other is fun (as was the reaction of Sawyer and Hurley to seeing Ben out and about and being domestic). Last week made it plain that Mr. Widmore was behind the freighter, but that was info Locke didn't have yet, and the prospect of the two island zealots teaming up to make things bad for everyone else intrigues me, and I would like to subscribe to its newsletter.
Some other random thoughts on "The Other Woman":
-The opening of the flashback tried to fake us out with the implication that Juliet was one of the Oceanic Six (she feels like a celeb), but of course she couldn't be, because she wasn't on the plane.
-Interesting that Ben, even in captivity, can easily communicate with the rest of The Others, which suggests two things: 1)They're going to come back before the end of the season (preferably with Immortal Richard, now that Nestor Carbonell's commitments to "Cane" would appear to be over); and 2)Ben is, as usual, lying through his teeth when he tells Locke that his people don't want him.
-"You people had therapists?" "It's very stressful being an Other, Jack."
-The "Lost" score is usually impeccable, but I thought this one was overdone in a number of spots, notably when Goodwin stopped by to give Julia his "extra" sandwich. As with the entire flashback story, it was as if the producers didn't trust us to figure this out unless they underlined everything. "See? Ben's up to no good here! Can't you hear all the strings?"
-When Harper says to Juliet, "You look just like her," is she referring to Ben's mom or to Annie, his young friend from the flashbacks in "The Man Behind the Curtain" or to someone else altogether?
-Ben was just bursting with the great one-liners tonight, notably "This didn't have a number, did it?" and "I taped over the game."
What did everybody else think? As mentioned in the post below this one, I had to enable comment moderation for the whole site (it's an all or nothing thing) from now until when "The Wire" finale airs because the finale leaked and people are starting to go around to various sites and "guess" everything that happens in it. Sorry if it slows down the flow of the discussion. I'm going to bed shortly, but please comment, and I'll authorize everything as soon as I wake up in the morning. I know it's a pain.