”Lost”: Juliet switches teams
Now here’s an episode that captured the imagination, moved the heart, and made the skin crawl right off my bones. ”One of Us” — focusing on baby-in-a-bottle miracle worker Juliet, with a title that played off of last season’s Sayid-centric meditation on demonization, ”One of Them” — was one for the all-time Lost list. It had answers (women who get pregnant on the Island die, and gruesomely), humor (Juliet: ”I had the day off” = me laughing myself into ball of cramps), and a profound amount of heart. There was even another cryptic anagram, some ice cream, and a little sex to boot.
It began with a panoramic opening shot of Jack, Juliet, Kate, and Sayid — just a Hobbit short of a Fellowship — trekking through the Island’s lush hills (is there a prettier show on TV?), then quickly segued to a camping scene that linked ”One of Us” to ”One of Them” — Juliet and Sayid sharing stilted silence, the Other sensing the castaway’s accusing gaze shooting through her. ”Okay, let’s have it,” she said, bravely meeting his stare and ready to suffer his justifiable anger. It was a gutsy move, actually, and the episode would track her transformation from Mousy Scientist to Steely Survivalist.
Like a machine gun, Sayid rattled off a list of questions, and within the long-suffering Lost Fan Nation, fireworks were ignited. At last! A castaway finally asked the questions we’ve wanted the castaways to ask of their kidnapping enemies. Why are you terrorizing us? Why do you take children? And who are you? And even better was Juliet’s surprisingly candid response: Sayid, I’m so glad you asked. And now, with great detail and none of our usual cryptic wordplay, I am going to give you the answers that you desperately want.
Okay, that didn’t happen. In fact, even as Sayid was ticking off his inquiries, I found myself thinking, ”Okay. How is Lost going to squirt free from actually answering any of these?” Why, by ducking into a flashback, of course! (We’ll cover that in a second.) Still, Juliet’s ominous dodge (”If I told you what you wanted to know, you would kill me”) was intriguing enough to make me think that the Others really do have a good reason for adhering to an irritating nondisclosure policy. I have a theory…but in true Lost fashion, I’m going to make you wait.
The flashbacks were devoted to providing the history, in broad strokes, of Juliet’s Island experience. It’s a classic Faustian story, spliced with a little bit of captive-princess fairy tale. Here’s what we learned:
The flight to Purgatory is very, very bumpy Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Lady strolls into a garden. A snake slithers up to her. ”Hey there, honey,” snake says. ”You look like the kind of girl who likes forbidden knowledge. Want some?” Lady says yes, they seal the deal with a fruity snack, lady falls into spiritual oblivion. Oh, well.
Juliet’s downward spiral into the Island of Fallen Souls began in Oregon, on the vast, tightly guarded campus of Mittelos Bioscience, the apparently Others-backed firm with the cryptic anagram name (Mittelos = Lost Time) that recruited the brilliant fertility doc in the episode ”Not in Portland.” We were needlessly informed through conspicuous chatter that Mittelos has its own airfield, which made me think, ”Why? What else might one find in Mittelos’ big backyard? A large lake with an island, perhaps?”
Juliet’s neo-Eden seduction took place in the lobby of Mittelos’ aviation division, Herarat, which is an anagram for Earhart, as in Amelia Earhart, the aviator who went famously missing in 1937. (For those who prefer more quantum mechanics in your Lost theories, Herarat Aviation also anagrams into ”a variation Earth.”)
On a slightly less nerdy note, may I gush about Nestor Carbonell, whose Slick Willy performance as Mittelos exec Richard Alpert is on par with his superb embodiment of the half-bat, half-lothario superhero known as Batmanuel in the gone-too-soon sitcom The Tick. (I did say slightly less nerdy.) I loved his matter-of-fact way of telling Juliet that he had spiked her orange juice with a massive amount of tranquilizer. (It seems the trip to the Island is so turbulent that it’s better to travel while tranquilized. Where is this island, anyway — Mars?) And his silver-tongued temptation was so persuasive, I think any of us would have gulped down that apple — er, I mean OJ — as quickly as Juliet. When she woke up, she found herself not on an airplane (or a spaceship) but in a submarine. And when she climbed out, she found herself over the rainbow. All that was missing was a little black dog and a ”not in Kansas anymore” quip.
Sperm + egg = death = totally, totally creepy The shocking revelation we were given about the Others and the reason they were so desperate to bring Juliet and her fertility science to the Island: Women who get preggers on the Island die. And there you have it, confirmation of one of the most widely speculated Lost theories since the abduction of Claire in season 1: The Others are sterile, albeit in a rather disturbing way. It’s not that the men and women are infertile, it’s just that the life they create…well, something is wrong with it. Something that causes destruction both to itself and to the mother. Something…unnatural? Unholy? Why does the Island not want these dreaded Others — or possibly any of its human inhabitants — to reproduce? (My bet is that it has something to do with Dharma Initiative experimentation; when the Others talk about ”the Purge,” they may mean ”the Big Neutering.”)
This unsettling new element to the Lost mythology supercharges the show with some high-octane creepiness and tension. Among the affected: Sun and her baby, obviously. And pretty much anyone who has had unprotected sex on the Island — and that means you, Kate. (Unless, of course, she and Sawyer found some condoms tucked under the polar bear’s water trough.) This freaky fact may also explain Ben’s apparent desire to keep his daughter, Alex, and her boyfriend apart. Still, the prospect of teenage horndoggedness leading his child to ruin wasn’t enough to make him give Juliet permission to test this theory by taking a pregnant woman off the Island. For some reason, Ben would rather have his people peter into extinction than let them leave the Island. (My theory is forthcoming.)
Her mission seemingly at an end, Juliet asked to leave; she wanted to be home in time for the birth of her sister’s child. Ben manipulated her into staying by informing Juliet that her sister’s cancer had returned and that Rachel would be dead before she gave birth. But Ben had a solution: Apparently, here on his amazing island, there was a cure for cancer. Invoking the name of the great and powerful Oz/Big Brother/Almighty God of the Others, Ben said that Jacob himself would see to the matter of Rachel’s healing. Once again, Juliet succumbed to a devilish Other.
Discuss: Do you think Jacob is for real?
Juliet doesn’t like to cuddle after knocking boots, but she does like a pint of ice cream A couple years passed after Ben’s promise to save Rachel, and in that time, Juliet evolved from fragile femme to strong, sexy woman. The details were left unsaid and will most likely be the stuff of a future flashback. It seems that at the time Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island, Juliet was sharing her bed — and her ice cream stash — with Goodwin, the Other whom Ben sent to infiltrate the Tailies. (He was eventually killed by Ana Lucia.) In light of the whole killer-baby thing, the question must be asked: Were they using contraceptives? If not…well, perhaps Juliet isn’t as strong as she looks. Look out, Jack: Juliet might be just using you for sex — and a suicide solution to her own castaway hell.
Second best scene of the night Juliet and Ben fighting over the discovery of his spinal tumor. What you expected to happen was this: Juliet tells Ben he has a tumor; Ben gets bummed out; Juliet consoles him. Instead, Juliet got pissed. After all, didn’t Ben tell her he had a cure for cancer? During their fight, Juliet again begged Ben to let her leave the Island. Again, he refused. My question, again, is why? Might he have another motive for keeping Juliet besides just saving his people? Perhaps he’s in love with her. Or maybe it’s this: Like Desmond, Ben knows the future — only he knows much more of it than Desmond does. He knows the ultimate purpose of the Island and the destinies of everyone on it. Perhaps he feels he has a calling to facilitate this future, or maybe he’s motivated by other selfish rewards — an answer to his baby problems, or maybe some cooler spectacles than those bug-eyed bulbs he’s forced to wear. Either way, to get what he wants, he has to make sure everyone does everything they’re supposed to — by any means necessary. Hence, Ben the cunning manipulator; hence, Ben the purveyor of false free will. Bottom line: Ben might not be keeping Juliet on the Island because he’s a jerk but because she’s an element in the Island’s future history.
But the best scene of the night was… Ben, Juliet and Patchy in the Flame. I am certain that Dharma’s former telecommunications facility — home (prison?) of the eye-patched Other known as Mikhail Bakunin — was loaded with Easter eggs and other clues, but I lack both the magnifying glass and the HDTV to execute a proper investigation. So I’m looking to you guys to help me out. Besides, I was too busy dabbing my eyes. No, it wasn’t Ben’s declaration of his creepy desire to use the surviving females of Oceanic 815 as possible breeders for his doomed people that made me upset. It was the moment when Ben proved his integrity by showing Juliet that her sister was alive and cancer free and the proud mother of a two-year-old son named Julian. Juliet wept at this happy revelation, and so did my wife, Amy. In late January, one week before ”Not in Portland” introduced us to cancer-ravaged Rachel, my wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery to remove it. Today, Thursday, Amy will be going in for her last radiation appointment. Soon there will be a test to determine if she’s cancer free. Seeing Juliet rejoice in her sister’s health — well, it hit right where we live. Sorry if this seems inappropriate. It’s just kinda on my mind. And it’s just weird how these two Juliet episodes have bracketed our own cancer story.
The flashback revelations — dense with detail — were intertwined with the present-set Island drama involving Juliet’s awkward introduction into the castaway community. I break it down like this:
Jack: Whipped or wily? I first refer to the scene in which Jack and Kate were breaking sticks for firewood, the tension between them crackling louder than the twigs as the fugitive father killer pressed the father-haunted doc on his exile in Otherville. Does anyone really believe that Jack ”kept his head down” and played the role of good doggie trying to earn a bone (i.e., a sub ride back to civilization)? And I’m not 100 percent sure I buy his explanation to Juliet that the yearning for escape that he glimpsed in her eyes is the reason he doesn’t need explanations and justifications from her. (At least, for now.) Given the existence of Room 23 and its drum-and-bass, Buddha-meets-Old Testament aversion therapy film, we must allow for the possibility of brainwashing. And because I’m a comic-book-saturated freakjob, I must always allow for the possibility that Jack has been possessed by a disembodied Other or replaced by a shape-shifting doppelgänger. Yet what I’d really like to think is that Jack is a man with a plan and that, for now, he’s keeping it to himself. Still, the scene in which he demanded trust from Charlie played like foreshadowing to me. Jack’s integrity will factor into the endgame of the season.
Jack’s triumphant return to the beach Goosebumps. I’ll let you ‘shippers out there moon over Sawyer’s reunion with Kate, but I was more moved by his swell of emotion at seeing that Jack was back, and alive, too. Debate: Sawyer’s nice-guy transformation — wussification or winning evolution? (Either way, in light of the moment when Juliet rudely reminded the con man that he’s also a cold-blooded killer, my gut tells me that Sawyer’s recent gains in the redemption department will soon be sorely tested.) And once you’re done discussing Sawyer, discuss this: Was removing Jack from the beach for 15 episodes bone headed or brilliant? Last night demonstrated how much we’ve missed seeing the gang all together. Then again, that wonderful reunion scene wouldn’t have earned its emotion without the abduction story line. Where do you stand on this?
Line of the night — funniest moment of the season? Hurley asked Juliet why she wasn’t there when he, Jack, Kate, and Sawyer were bound and bagged in the finale to last season. ”I had the day off,” Juliet replied. Even Hurley had to try hard not to crack a smile. Interesting that both Juliet and the camera looked in the direction of Boone Hill when Hurley mentioned where Ethan was buried. I wonder if we should keep in mind the eye-for-an-eye ethos of the Others. I sense foreshadowing. And I worry anew for Ethan’s killer, Charlie.
Speaking of the Claire-obsessed devil… I don’t want to dwell too much on Juliet’s explanation for Ethan’s infiltration of the castaways in season 1; even though the sequence itself was thrilling in the way it cut between Juliet’s narration and glimpses of season 1 scenes (a model, I think, for how Lost should handle future Big Explanations for Big Mysteries), I’m not sure how much of her story I believe in light of the twist ending. This is how I’m tracking it: Ethan was supposed to take blood samples from the women and monitor Claire’s pregnancy. But the boy became obsessed with Claire and abducted her, which, according to Juliet, wasn’t supposed to happen. Or was it? Perhaps Claire was brought to the medical hatch to be implanted with memories that corroborated an Ethan-was-an-obsessed-stalker cover story? After all…
It’s all a scam The delicious final scene revealed that the whole business of Juliet being ”left behind” by the Others in the last episode was all theater. In truth, she’s been tasked with executing yet another component of Ben’s master plan. Claire wasn’t really suffering from the side effects of a drug Juliet devised to aid her pregnancy with Aaron; she had been implanted with a bug designed to eventually make her sick so Juliet would have ”a nice little crisis to solve” to facilitate her infiltration — to sell the castaways on the idea that she was no longer ”one of them” but now ”one of us.” Yet this twist raises many questions. Did Claire get the implant during her abduction, or is there another Other on the beach charged with completing Ethan’s work? What is Juliet’s mission? Has she come to keep an eye on Sun’s potentially doomed pregnancy, or is she hunting other game? And can Juliet use any of the steel and smarts that she gained during her time with Ben to find a way out of her predicament — and better, to earn back the soul she sold away for a trip to Wonderland?
One thing’s for certain, something suggested by the closing shot of Juliet pulling taut the knot on her tent: The noose is slowing tightening. But around whom? Charlie? Sun? The castaways? Or could it be Juliet herself?
”See you in a week,” Ben told her. Of course, we’ll have to hang on for seven days as well — but I can hardly wait to see how this plays out.