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Mistress of Lostie Island
07 June 2007 @ 02:12 pm
Original Airdate: 9/29/2004
Written By: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Character: Charlie, Kate
Day Two


As this episode is technically still the pilot even though it aired a whole week after the last episode, it's still somewhat more difficult to look at it as a whole than it is with so many of the other single-character centric episodes. While last week's episode featured only Jack flashbacks, the tone felt off because of the actual crash and the unfamiliarity of the characters. This week, we are slightly more familiar with the characters but we have two characters featured in flashback as opposed to the normal one character: Kate and Charlie. If you combine the two pilots into one feature, it's three flashbacks of the three most prominent characters at the time (which I argue changes in later seasons as Sawyer replaces Charlie in terms of screen time and importance), but if you look at it as separate episodes, then there might be a reason that Charlie and Kate were chosen to have their flashbacks side by side (at least a reason that my sometimes over-analytical mind jumped to).

Last week, I argued that we were lead to believe that Charlie came on the mission with Jack and Kate to be of use, but straightaway this week we find out that he'd hidden his drug stash in the lavatory toilet near the cockpit and wanted to come back for it. This paints Charlie in a far different, much darker, and much more interesting light. Of course, this also fells him directly into the rock star stereotype, but some stereotypes exist for a reason. And then again, he does seem such a nice sort of helpful person, not the sort you'd expect to be doing hard drugs every couple of hours. He's complex. Anyway, this new light that he's painted in is a completely selfish one. While the others go about their business, he sneaks off to furtively get his fix. The first thing that came to my mind the first time I saw this is in a similar vein to what I said about Kate last week. The same way that Kate can't run from her problems, Charlie will eventually have to face his drug addiction. He has a finite supply and seems to be going through it rather quickly. This is something he will have to deal with, and sooner rather than later.

But Kate and Charlie, both of whom have committed illegal activity which they wish to hide from their fellow castaways, are acting very differently. While Charlie desperately scrambles for his drugs, a physical connection to his formal life, Kate cannot seem to distance herself far enough from her past actions. Those handcuffs that Walt found laying on the ground are more than just a plot-point indicating a criminal in their midst, they are a symbol of freedom. This island represents for Kate more than any of the others a chance to start with a clean slate (something touched more upon in next week's episode,
Tabula Rasa). In the real world she was a criminal, caught and going to jail for her crimes. While Charlie clings to his old life, Kate attempts to buck hers off. In this way she's much like Locke who seems to be embracing his new life on the island (and we know from future episodes just exactly why that is). When she stands on the beach washing herself clean with the ocean water, she's also metaphorically washing herself clean. The ocean and her bare body represent freedom, a lack of chains (in fact her chains are lying in the jungle). Something I really enjoyed and had forgotten about until my second viewing of this episode was the way that this behavior of Kate's was compared to Sun's. If Kate and her actions represent freedom, Sun is repression. Where Kate stands bare in the water, clean and free, Sun stands dirty on the beach with her collar buttoned all the way up and no one to talk to but her controlling husband. This is the first indication we get that the island will help to set Sun free as well. When Sun unbuttons herself defiantly, we see that she too wants to stand on that beach with her skin free to the wind.

As long as I'm making comparisons, I don't think it's a coincidence that Charlie had a tiny attraction for Shannon in this episode as they are linked in my mind (and visually, as Shannon is the first thing we see after Charlie drugging it up in the lavatory). Shannon, lying selfishly on the beach doing something as trivial as sunbathing is almost equivalent to Charlie getting his fix. Both are incredibly fixated on themselves and their own situations and their actions reflect it. When Shannon tells Boone that she's just been through a horrible trauma we can see just what kind of mindset she's in. It never even crosses her mind that others are going through the same exact trauma she is. This isn't to say that Charlie and Shannon are the same. Shannon is a spoiled child with a lot of growing up to do and Charlie has an addiction. The island, of course, will help both of them with their problems, but neither of them are focusing on the positive.

It is very fitting that Sawyer's first action in the series is a fight. Full of anger and bitterness, he wants the others to hate him. He picks a fight with Sayid because he's Arab and he calls Hurley "lardo". These are not the actions of a man out to make friends. But Sawyer does bring up an interesting point. Sayid, as we find out not ten seconds later, is an Iraqi who fought in the Gulf War in the Republican Guard. At the time, I remember this move on the part of the writers was very frightening and a little bit controversial to the people I knew who watched the show. September 2004 was much closer to September 2001 than we remember now, and of course, now we know and love Sayid for the character that he is. But then, I remember feeling a little shocked at this first portrayal of a sympathetic Iraqi only because it seemed such a bold move. But this only helps another point that I wanted to make. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I happen to believe that Lost has the most diverse cast on television, and not coincidentally. The island, moreso than even the US, is a true melting pot, or fruit salad, if you will. Aussies, Brits, Scots, Nigerians, Iraqis, Americans, Koreans, Latinos...you name it, there's probably a character on the show. Thematically this is very significant. These people will be forced to live together, to work together for survival. It all comes back to what Hurley says, "We're all in this together." It's an important lesson.

Which brings me to Locke. Creepy, creepy Locke. His little backgammon tangent to Walt was not really about backgammon. If the "oldest game in the world" isn't a reference to good and evil at the very least, I'll eat my computer. And I'm not sure if they were thinking this far in advance, but maybe this is even one of the first indications of Locke's faith being juxtaposed against science and grey areas. Because seeing the world in black and white is a very absolute way of looking at things. And we know from future episodes that Locke has a kind heart, but that he is also somewhat judgmental when it comes to moral issues. He sees himself as pure and the other Losties as corrupt. He can't even bring himself to kill his own father. But I'm getting ahead of myself, we'll save that for another day.

Some quick, final thoughts. I love that Sawyer's first words on the show are,
"Son of a bitch!" Sayid has really, really long fingernails. Bathing in saltwater looks pretty, but I know from experience that it's not very pleasant...salt and sand in yicky places. Big Hurley fainting from blood was highly amusing. Charlie's "Yep, I'm going," and looking hopefully (and lustfully) at Shannon was also amusing. God, Hawaii is beautiful. They don't really do those long, sweeping shots of the cliffs or oceans anymore. Michael and Walt are so awkward with each other. Claire forcing Jin to feel her baby kicking was a nice touch for someone who's so, well, out of touch. Kate so already knew how to use a gun. What a little actress. I wonder what favor Kate was going to ask the Marshall? I can't remember if we find out.


Questions Raised

1. Who was wearing the handcuffs; who was the prisoner?
2. Who is the French woman and who or what killed "all of them"?
3. What is Sawyer reading?
4. Why is there a polar bear on the island?
5. What did Kate do?
6. What is the secret that Locke told Walt?
7. What favor was Kate going to ask the Marshall?

Questions Answered

1. Kate was the prisoner being held by the US Marshall.
2. Charlie was in the lavatory getting his drugs from their hiding spot in the toilet.

Mythology

1. The French woman's signal.
2. The polar bear.

Motifs/Themes

1. Addiction
2. Freedom
3. Redemption
4. The island as a melting pot
5. Black vs. white, good vs. evil
6. Sticking together vs. being alone

Death Count


n/a

Sawyerisms

1. To Hurley: "Shut up, Lardo."
2. To Jack: "Whatever you say, Doc." (recurring nickname use #1)
3. To Kate: "I'm a complex guy, sweetheart."
4. To Sayid: "Don't forget to carry the one, Chief."

Character Connections

1. Shannon tells Claire that Boone is her brother.


Selfish Act #1: Charlie having some fun in the bathroom just before the crash.


Selfish Act #2: Shannon sunbathing amidst the wreckage.


Somebody did a bad thing. Look how innocently those cuffs look lying among the leaves.


Kate washing herself in the ocean.


Locke, making a not very thinly-veiled metaphor to an unsuspecting Walt.


The second indication of many to come that this is not a normal island.


Lines of the Week

"Every trek needs a coward." Charlie to Kate, the closest he can come to confessing his true motives.

"Son of a bitch." Sawyer's first words.

"Whatever you say, Doc. You're the hero." Sawyer, letting Jack know just what he thinks of heroes.

"You're okay, I like you." Hurley being Hurley.

"I thought it would come in handy, and guess what, I just shot a bear!" Sawyer, making a good point about guns.

"Fine, I'm the criminal, you're the terrorist. We can all play a part. Who do you want to be?" Sawyer, to Sayid and Shannon, with a first indication that even assholes can have brains.

"It's French! The French are coming! I've never been so happy to hear the French!" Charlie, being British.

"No girl's just like me." Kate, letting us know that she's trouble.

"Backgammon is the oldest game in the world. Archaeologists found sets when they excavated the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Five thousand years old. That's older than Jesus Christ...Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark." Locke, letting us know he has bigger issues on his mind.

"Guys, where are we?" Charlie, once again ending it on a happy note.
 
 
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Mistress of Lostie Island
02 June 2007 @ 01:56 pm
Original Airdate: 9/22/2004
Written By: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Character: Jack
Days One - Two


The very first image, the Titlecard.


When people say stupid things like "Hindsight is 20/20" it's because those things are usually true. In my case, hindsight is only about 15/20 or something. I don't really understand about eyes and all that optical science shit. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I know what is going to happen three seasons after this. I've seen it, I know what that freaky monster in the jungle is, at least, I know what it looks like. So when I watch this episode for the the third time or so it's a very different experience than the first and even second time. This is both helpful and a hindrance. It's helpful in that I can obviously understand more clearly what is happening and thus my analysis will be more accurate. But it is a hindrance in that I've lost that fresh perspective, those shocked feelings and emotions that I had upon my first viewing. Much of Lost depends upon shock and surprise. Take that away, and you have greater understanding, but less connection to the way that the producers and writers wanted you to feel. In these reviews up until the fourth season, I intend to share both my original reactions and feelings (when I can remember them) and my new ones.

The reason I say all of this is because the pilot episode is very different from most other episodes of Lost. Like most pilots, its function was to establish premise, character, and to hook the most viewers as possible, much emphasis on the latter. Once viewers are hooked, you're free as a writer and producer to  tweak your creation. Upon my first viewing, I distinctly remember that the two most prominent feelings I had were confusion and fear. I came into the show because I loved Dominic Monaghan and I wanted to support his new show. I wasn't really expecting much from a show that had such a corny premise: a bunch of survivors from a plane crash? Been done before. But the plane crash, all the screaming and exploding cock-pits and such, scared the bejeesus out of me. I didn't know who these characters were yet. All I knew was that this show was one hell of a ride, I felt literally exhausted after watching the episode. Which is why I didn't watch another for two more years. (I know, I know. I'm an idiot sometimes, I will admit it. I Netflixed Seasons one and two to catch up in time for season three.) The only calm, non-stressful moments in the episode come from John Locke, which I will get back to in a moment.

This brings me to my next point. How do you hook a large number of viewers, attaching them to characters so that they will know by a word or gesture just what type of people they are? Easy: it's all about fear and what it does to people. I understand this concept very well, and fear was definitely on the top of my list while watching this episode, as being in a plane crash is one of my worst fears. So, seeing it on screen was not really very pleasant. But think about the characters, how scared they must feel. The jerky camera angles, the panicked movements, loud explosions, and screams are just little tastes to the viewer of what these characters are experiencing. We feel a thrill as these characters are experiencing what most of us never dream might happen to us. They are in an unknown situation with no frame of reference for how to behave. Nothing but natural instinct takes over.

Somebody, one of those famous somebodies, once said that in any given group of people there will be a dynamic. Some will be leaders, some will be followers. Jack is obviously a leader. He's pragmatic, practical and trained to handle pressure in stressful situations. While others run amok amidst the wreckage of Flight 815, Jack runs with a purpose. He finds people in trouble and helps them; others, like Hurley and Boone, find him and he gives them a purpose. Without Jack ever saying a word, we as the audience implicitly understand that he is a leader by his actions: by his response to fear. Later on in the episode when Jack tells Kate about the woman he saved in surgery, they speak about fear. Jack says that fear is an odd thing and that no matter how much you fear a situation, it doesn't change the facts. He still had to save that woman no matter how much he feared the consequences and although he clearly fears the situation that the plane crash has put them in, it doesn't change the facts. There they are on an unknown island and he can either embrace it and take action and responsibility for things, or he can hide from it and let that responsibility fall on another's shoulders. This is what sets Jack apart from the others even in the beginning. He is constantly putting his own fears aside to do what's necessary, what's right.

Kate, on the other hand, is one tough broad, but she's not without her faults. It is my opinion that every character on this show has a burden to bear, a sin to atone for. Kate's is her inability to face the consequences of her actions, of tying herself to one place and making things work. Kate takes the easy way out, although I won't jump ahead too far. We'll save that for another episode. But this episode gives you an indication. When Kate says to Jack that she would have been out the door running during that surgery, she isn't joking. That's what Kate does: she runs. This one small comment has enormous impact on future episodes. It's extremely ironic when Jack tells her that she wouldn't because she's stayed to help him. This is Kate's burden: to be a runner but to have no place to run. They are on an island in the middle of nowhere. Kate has virtually no choice but to stay and face her problems. This is not to say that I think she wouldn't have helped Jack if they weren't on an island. What I mean is that by this one comment that she makes, she's showing herself. It's her basic instinct to run, not to stay. Jack is showing some insight into Kate's character here. There is some part of Kate that hates the running and she exhibits it here. At the end of the episode, she does indeed run...away from the monster. But then she stops, breathes...and accepts Jack's leadership. She counts to five, just as he told her he did during the surgery, and then she goes back for Jack. She fights her natural instinct because Jack has become her ally on this island, something she must instinctually feel is a good thing.

We can see little glimpses into the other characters as well. Sayid and Hurley are notable; we see Sayid building a fire, being useful. Hurley, ever the nurturer, helps Claire and begins gathering food to give to the other survivors. Charlie seems useful as well, but our opinion of him will soon be amended as we learn the real reason for his trip to the cockpit. At the very least we see that he's sociable and engaging and funny in the face of fear. It's Charlie's personality that makes us feel for him. Our first glimpse of Boone and Shannon is also pretty telling. Boone: the cocky kid who thinks he knows better than a doctor but is really just as lost as the rest of them. And Shannon, the first image we see of her is her screaming bloody murder in the middle of everything; the second is of her painting her toenails. We're meant to think her a shallow little brat. The first thing we see of Sawyer is him with a ciggy. Because cigarettes=evil in film visuals, we automatically assume he's trouble. Which is true, but it's much more complicated than that. Michael and Walt are there, looking rather awkward with each other. Sun and Jin are secluding themselves from the others under Jin's controlling hand. We will soon learn that most of these first glimpses have deeper layers, but the point is that we're hooked. However, it's Locke that's really interesting.

Even in the pilot, and I'm not really sure if this is intentional, Locke is set up in opposition to Jack. Actually, he's set up in opposition to everyone else in the pilot. He's happy. (And for good reason, although we don't know why just yet.) As the others are panicking and scared, he sits in the rain and smiles, lifting his arms to the sky. Hope and faith radiate off this guy in waves. Ever the optimist, Locke seems to be taking this horrible situation and seeing the bright side. He's alive, he has a second chance. While Jack busies himself with the practicalities, Locke begins to absorb the presence of the island. When he makes that orange peel smile at Kate and she doesn't smile back, something feels off. He has set himself apart from the rest of the Losties.

The final thing that I need to talk about is the monster. Until the monster makes his roaring, crunching presence known on the first night, the show seems thrilling yet somewhat mundane. A plane crash? That could totally happen. No biggie. But that is a loud mother-effing roar and it sounds kind of metallic. Even my first Jurassic Park-like thought upon first viewing that it is a dinosaur is not normal. Seriously, a dinosaur? In 2004? On an island? What is this, the lost world? But it seems too obvious to be right. This first "sighting" of the monster really should throw you off, it's unexpected and out of genre. Plane-crash, stuck-on-island dramas should not be mixed with freaky dinosaur dramas! But Lost is no ordinary show, it goes where no show has gone before, and this is the first indication. Even more eery, in the final scene when we realize that the pilot's body has not been eaten by the monster, we come to a new realization. What kind of monster could it possibly be if its main goal is to kill but not to eat? Because the pilot's body is intact (meaning, not being digested) we must then infer that the purpose, the aim of this monster's life, is not as a normal predator; even a normal dinosaur's main goal would be to eat. No, this monster exists to kill. And what kind of freaky-ass monster from nature would ever do that? The answer is none.

Some quick, final thoughts***. What's up with Vincent the dog? He's not really used in POV shots like this after the pilot. I really enjoyed how the episode began with Jack in the jungle instead of with the obvious choice of the plane crash. This emphasizes character over plot and situation, which is one of the marks of quality writing. I love the image of a man in a suit in the jungle, he's totally out of place. I love that when we first see Kate she's rubbing her wrists, a clear reference to the fact that she's not wearing handcuffs anymore. Looking at short-haired Sawyer, Jin, and Sayid is weird. I love the contrasting sound effects like when it goes from explosions to soft music as the credits play and when the plane crash immediately cuts to Jack gazing out at the ocean...it's soothing. When Kate takes the dead man's shoes, it feels really wrong and sad. Is it my imagination or is the flight attendant who gives Jack the drink totally an Other in the Season Three finale?


***
I am blatantly stealing this from Mike Jenoff because I love it.

Questions Raised

1. The Monster: wtf?!
2. Why is Vincent acting all creepy?
3. Where are they?
4. Where is the tail end of the plane?
5. Where is the cockpit and the black box, etc.?
6. What was Charlie doing in the lavatory?

Questions Answered


1. The cockpit crashed in the jungle and the transceiver has been recovered.

Mythology

1. The Monster

Motifs/Themes

1. Eyes, the close-up of Jack's eye in particular. Indicates the importance of perception?
2. Fear
3. Being rescued: they still believe they will be.

Death Count

1. A whole bunch of nameless extras.
2. The pilot.

Sawyerisms

n/a

Character Connections

1. Jack sat across the aisle from Rose (and Bernard) on the doomed plane and comforted her as they crashed.



The very first image of the show: Jack's frightened, dilated eye.



John Locke, the only happy Lostie. The long red scar and the happy orange smiley face are a nice contrast.



Calm in the midst of a storm. Faith in the midst of panic.


Kate, showing her fear.

Lines of the Week

"You don't seem afraid at all. I don't understand that." Kate, not yet understanding who Jack is.

"If it were me, I'd be runnin' for the door."
"That's not true...you're not runnin' now."  Jack to Kate, making one of his most unintentionally ironic statements.

"As if I'm gonna start eating chocolate." Shannon, letting us know what a brat she is.

"Guys, how does something like this happen?" Charlie, asking what everyone else is thinking.
 
 
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Mistress of Lostie Island
05 April 2007 @ 12:00 am
For me, Lost is more than just a TV show. I mean, that's all it is, really, but at the same time it's so much more. The intricate story lines, flashbacks, connecting character mythos, freaky island creatures, The Others, and the symbols, eegad! the SYMBOLS. Sometimes it's all just too much. Thus enters this site, a way for me to make sense out of the crazy that is Lost.
 
What I will be doing in these reviews: I will write what I see, what I interpret, what character connections I observe, character analysis, over-arching plot threads, camera angles, songs...anything I see fit to mean something or that I like, and to dissect those moments that make you go WTF!??! Each review will also have featured music, if it applies, and one or two screen-shots that  I believe sum up the episode. Other content will include Sawyerisms, character connections, questions raised, and questions answered by each episode. There will be some speculation on my part, but not much, only if I really think I might have something. No wild leaps.

What I will not do in these reviews: I will not give them a score. Like it or not, I didn't create these characters or these story-lines. Each one, irrelevant to my feelings, was created for a specific purpose. I intend to approach these reviews from the angle that these guys, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, know what they're doing. I also do not intend on ripping apart actors or dialogue. It is what it is, and I can't change it. All I can do is analyze it.

Feel free to leave comments on each episode review with things you feel I've missed. As a warning, obnoxious and rude comments will be deleted. If you want to email me, check my user info, I love emails!

I plan to take this thing as far as I can and see where it goes. If for nothing else, I'm doing this to make sense out of the wacky world of Lost. In the words of Kate Austen, "Welcome to the wonderful world of not knowing what the hell is going on."
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