"James, are you sure you know what you're doing?" -Juliet"LaFleur" wasn't a mind-blowing episode of "Lost," nor one where we can spend a lot of time picking over it for clues about the larger mythology. (UPDATE: Apparently, I was wrong on this. 200 comments and counting!) But boy, was it fun.
"Not yet. But I'll figure something out." -Sawyer
Having shown us Dan in the '70s in the season premiere, and having shown Jin driving the magic bus and wearing a Dharma jumpsuit at the end of "316," the writers didn't have much of a surprise left in showing that the rest of Sawyer's motley band also wound up hanging with Horace Goodpseed and company. But that's fine, because the storytelling model of the last few seasons means that every now and then we need a filling-in-the-blanks episode, and this was one of the more entertaining ones they've ever done. Sometimes it's nice to have an hour of "Lost" that's relatively straightforward (even with the frequent Three Years Later/Earlier jumps), that doesn't require an advanced degree from the Dr. Sam Beckett Fan Correspondence School for Quantum Theory to make sense of, that's simply about the pleasure of watching a great character like James Ford doing his thing -- and, for that matter, the pleasure of watching Juliet Burke do her thing right beside him.
I've always enjoyed Sawyer, but separating him from Jack (both during season three and this season) has been good for the character. It forces him into a leadership role, and he's even more appealing as a reluctant hero than he is as a charming irritant. The very nature of "Lost" allows the show to explore lots of genres -- sci-fi, horror, action-adventure, espionage, soap opera, personal drama -- and their archetypes, and Sawyer the con man fits well into so many of them. Here, we got to see him be all Steve McQueen (with Juliet, I suppose, as Yul Brynner) in his confrontation with the two Hostiles (the looks they trade are pure McQueen/Brynner in "Magnificent Seven"), but also to see him as the crusty but benign boss in an off-beat period workplace drama ("The Dharma Years?").
The look of pure joy on his face as Juliet told him about the successful delivery (see above) was matched only by the look of relief on Juliet's face. Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell played so well off each other throughout the episode, and sold all of the emotions as the two of them slowly assimilated into life with the Dharma Initiative. Though I like Sawyer with Kate (especially if the alternative is Jack with Kate), Sawyer and Juliet fit so well together that it was almost disappointing to see him set eyes on Freckles again at the end.
(Now that Sawyer's been with Juliet, who used to be with Jack, who's been with Kate, who used to be with Sawyer, we've finally got a legitimate love quadrangle. Quick: can anyone name an interesting love quadrangle in TV, movies or literature? Comic books? Cave paintings?)
"LaFleur" gave us a Sawyer who was finally at peace after three years of waiting for Locke to show up, and it also gave us a Sawyer who had gradually learned to let go of lying. Sure, he's still using the name Jim LaFleur, and he still has Jin searching various quadrants of the island for Locke and the others, but he's content, and he's found love, and he manages to save the day -- and win a job as Dharma's new security chief -- by telling Richard Alpert the complete and unvarnished truth. (Isn't it funny how good things can happen when people on this island share information with one another?)
I just had a great time throughout even as I wondered, like Juliet, what the point is of the Oceanic Six coming back. Locke re-aligned the wheel, the jumps stopped, the nosebleeds stopped, everyone other than Charlotte is more or less okay, if stuck 30 years in the past, so what am I missing here? What plans does the island have for the Six (and for Desmond, and, hopefully, Walt) that have nothing to do with the needle-skip problem? And how mad are Jack, Kate and Hurley going to be once they realize that they apparently didn't need to come back to save everybody?
I look forward to finding all that out, especially if upcoming episodes are as strong as this one.
Some other thoughts:
• The fine folks at the "Lost" Easter Eggs site wasted little time in getting up a screen capture of the four-toed statue in all its original glory, albeit from behind. It's probably a higher-quality than the one I made, but feel free to start analyzing either version for clues about just what this thing is. It looks Egyptian to me, particularly the things in its hands, which look sort of like ankhs. But Cuselof definitely lived up to their promise to show us the statue again, even if they didn't explain it or show us its face.
• Though this was primarily a Sawyer episode, with a generous serving of Juliet, I don't want to overlook Jeremy Davies continuing to knock it out of the park as poor, grieving Dan Faraday. The look on his face as he recognized little girl Charlotte in the '70s was heartbreaking.
• Speaking of Charlotte, interesting that her body didn't go with them (or stay with them) on the last jump. I guess whatever force was moving the rest of Sawyer's group (or holding them in place) has no power over (or interest in) the dead, unless maybe they're being touched by the living.
• After four and a half seasons of "Lost," Daniel Dae Kim finally gets to stop speaking in pidgin English. In our brief glimpses of him in the Three Years Later scenes, it's clear his time among the Dharma-ites has done wonders for his language proficiency.
• I'm a little confused about the marital status of Horace Goodspeed. When he was first introduced in season three's "The Man Behind the Curtain," he was traveling with Olivia, the character played by Samantha Mathis, and it was at least implied (enough to convince the folks at Lostpedia) that she was Mrs. Goodspeed. And Olivia was seen again as a Dharma schoolteacher when Ben arrived on the island as a little boy. Yet here, Horace is free to marry Amy as her rebound guy, so either we all misread the Olivia situation, plans changed for that character, or something more complicated is going on there.
• Speaking of "The Man Behind the Curtain," did it establish whether there were fertility problems in the Dharma days, or only after the Hostiles overthrew them? Clearly, it wasn't an issue back in the '70s, so whatever caused all the miscarriages has yet to take place.
• A good week for Hey, It's That Guy/Girl!s on "Lost." In addition to the return of Doug Hutchison as Horace, we got Reiko Aylesworth from "24" as Amy, Patrick Fischler (recently seen as comedian Jimmy Barrett on "Mad Men") as Phil and Kevin Rankin (Herc on "Friday Night Lights," and the only good thing about the "Bionic Woman" remake) as Jerry.
• Still waiting for Rose, Bernard and Vincent to send up a signal flare. Are we to assume that they're also somewhere in the Dharma village, and we just didn't get to see them this week? And, as usual, what about Cindy and the kids? Or are they supposed to be immune to the jumps somehow like the native Others?
• Note that Sawyer refers to Richard as "your buddy out there with the eyeliner." I guess they had to reference it sooner or later within the show, even if Lindelof and Cuse insist that Nestor Carbonell isn't wearing any eye makeup.
Finally, in case you missed it this morning, please take a quick skim through the guide to posting comments before you start to weigh in. Okay?
What did everybody else think?