How did I miss that? How did I miss that Jin was in a flashback while Sun was in a flashforward? I took mental note of his bulkier cell phone (Jack's sleek phone was the first giveaway for me in "Through the Looking Glass") and I also noted that the comic tone of his scenes with the stuffed panda was wildly at odds with what was going on with Sun, and yet I still didn't put 2 and 2 together until Jin invoked his old job with Sun's father's car company and then told the nurse he'd only been married for two months.
Now, I can't decide whether to be pleased or annoyed with the narrative shenanigans. On the one hand, there was no way to save the news of Jin's death(*) until the end of the episode without it, because an episode where the off-island scenes only feature Sun would have been a giveaway.
((*) And, yes, I believe that Jin is dead. I know the date on the tombstone was 9/22/04, the date of the crash, but remember: according to "Eggtown, the cover story is that all but eight passengers died in the crash, and two more died later. I don't know the reasoning behind that lie, but it would certainly cover Jin dying at any point pre-rescue. Sun's grief seemed too real -- not just a "We're separated by an ocean and I don't know if I'll ever see you again," but real, honest mourning -- for me to think anything else.)
On the other hand, by structuring the episode the way they did, the writers made the news of Jin's death feel almost gimmicky. I know that many of the show's best episodes featured some kind of big twist at the tail end of the flashback (Locke is paralyzed! Sawyer's the little boy in the story, not the con man!), and I know I was suitably impressed by "Hi, Aaron" only a few weeks ago, but here the stagecraft got in the way of the emotions.
Part of that, I think, is because the present-day island material with Jin and Sun was so moving that it made the twist seem more gimmicky than it would have when paired with a more plot-driven island story. As with the Sayid episode much earlier in the season, "Ji Yeon" was a reminder of how underused these two great actors and characters have been. Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim may not appear much anymore -- and Daniel Dae may not be appearing much longer, period -- but they have superb chemistry together, and the characters have come so far that Jin's devotion to his wife had real power. These two have been through so much together, done terrible things to each other and for each other, but there can be no doubt that there love is back and very strong.
(And good on the writers for using fellow married guy Bernard to bring Jin around and make him realize this was karma for the man he used to be, not the man he is now. Bernard rules -- between the fishing expedition and the Hurley cannonball scene, he's got the golden touch of late for classic "Lost" moments.)
Also gimmicky -- and not offset by any tear-jerking declarations of eternal love and devotion -- was the long-awaited introduction of Michael (aka former Phoenix Suns point guard Kevin Johnson) as Ben's man on the boat. If there's a "Lost" fan who hadn't guessed that it would be Michael -- and hadn't guessed that three or four episodes ago -- I'd be stunned. Now, Cuse and Lindelof brought this on themselves by announcing Harold Perrineau's return back at Comic-Con, but they've also had him in the opening titles for every episode this season, allegedly for contractual reasons, so this may be an instance where they wanted to keep things a surprise but knew they couldn't. In that case, though, they should have structured things differently -- should have known that their fans are smart and obsessive and found a way to re-introduce Michael several episodes ago, even if it was just a glimpse of him on the freighter moments after Ben discussed having a spy there. Trying to turn his intro into a shocking, full string orchestra-worthy moment didn't work, because we all knew it was coming.
Still, the freighter scenes were far from a total loss, given our introduction to the "surprisingly forthcoming" (especially for this show!) freighter captain. Of course, the captain (and the show) could afford to be forthcoming with information we already knew (notably that it's Penny's father's boat), but now Sayid and Desmond are in the loop, and there are more signs that something besides time travel sickness is amiss with this crew. (At first, I was annoyed that they brought in Zoe Bell for her to talk on the phone for several episodes and then jump in the ocean minutes after we first saw her, but I have to think we'll see her again whenever we get the inevitable Michael flashback about what he's been up to.)
So, to sum up before the bullet points, not as brilliant an all-around episode as "The Constant" or some of the season's earliest episodes, but some great performances and moving moments for two of the show's underrated players, and enough hints about the bigger picture to satisfy me. Moving on:
- Hurley in a suit! Did not expect to see that. Very interesting that he would be the only one of the Six to show up to see the baby. Obviously, Kate can't leave the country, and we don't know how quickly post-rescue that Sayid became a globe-trotting assassin, but you would at least assume Jack could drag his annoying self across the Pacific to see the kid. Perhaps a rift between him and Sun?
- Does this definitively establish Aaron as the last of the Six? The ads said the episode would tell us who the rest of the six were -- another way we were set up to believe Jin survived -- so I'm assuming the group is Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Sun and Aaron?
- I loved how Sun refused to trust Juliet. We know that Juliet's absolutely telling the truth about this, but it's about time someone among the Lostaways finally got fed up with the constant obfuscation and half-truths coming from Jack's new squeeze.
- Was the TV show that Sun turned off before feeling her labor pains supposed to be a dubbed-into-Korean version of that thing Nikki was on?