The ”Lost” season premiere: Exile in Othersville
The long, dry season is over.
When we said adieu to Lost last May, the story had reached a fever pitch. All the hullabaloo culminated in one very exciting season finale (Michael retrieving Walt, Fake Henry reappearing as the chief Other, a Locke meltdown, a Hatch meltdown, a shocking phone call to Desmond’s ex), but I dare say every bit of it was topped by the opening minutes of season 3’s premiere episode.
I’ve been on my share of face-freezing theme-park roller-coasters, but that was a ride. Talk about a new perspective. (First of all, that island is humongo. How could a land mass that big be unknown? Can a South Pacific expert — the region, not the musical — please explain?)
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Just listen to the rhythm of the gentle bossa nova! In a parallel to season 2’s premiere, a lilting pop ditty once again underscored our thrillingly disorienting introduction to a new setting. Who can forget our first glance at life inside the Hatch, as Mama Cass entreated Desmond to ”Make Your Own Kind of Music”? This time, we encountered both a new setting and a new character, with the soothing sounds of Petula Clark’s ”Downtown” playing inside the modest, modern house of a woman who was later identified as Juliet. Now, normally I’d resist the idea of another lead player joining such a sprawling cast, were it not such an immediately impressive addition: the talented Elizabeth Mitchell, who redefined ”inner monologue” in her first 30 seconds on screen. Give that casting director a raise.
(FYI about ”Downtown”: The 1964 hit was written by Tony Hatch. Seriously.)
In an episode overflowing with stellar moments, my favorite was this first glimpse of Juliet. She opened her eye, started her CD player, and approached a large framed mirror on her wall, lost in thought. I was transfixed: What was upsetting her? Trouble at the office? Bad breakup? She kept fighting the tears, but why? (It’s all right to cry. Rosey Grier? A little help?) She subtly, decisively blinked away her blues and then reality, in the form of burnt muffins, called. Food tumbled from oven to floor just as her first book-club guest arrived. Another harried start to another ordinary day in suburbia.
Except, of course, it wasn’t. As soon as a book clubber mentioned an absent Ben — whose opinion was clearly valued by many in the room, though not Juliet — I recalled last season’s fretful exchanges between Others (in the medical hatch and on the pier) about a nameless ”him.” Well, he’s nameless no more. A loud, earth-shaking rumble brought all of Juliet’s neighbors out of their houses, including Fake Henry, whose real name we promptly learned. (I may have to call him Benry for a while. First impressions and all.) Can I get an amen for the return of Michael Emerson? Those eyes! That voice! That receding yet still very sinister hair! Those eyes!
So far we’ve seen the crash of Oceanic 815 from two very different perspectives. Now a third point of view: a small community of neighbors staring into a bright blue sky, witnessing a jetliner full of people break in two. What’s arguably just as horrifying as the interior shots of the disaster that we’ve previously seen is Benry’s reaction to the tragedy overhead. He quickly dispatched Ethan and Goodwin, like two clean-cut soldiers in ”sleeper cell”-mode, to infiltrate the survivors. His orders — ”Don’t get involved….I want lists in three days” — were chilling.
I have to applaud the choice the writers made in structuring the rest of the episode. After the jaw-dropping aerial shot showed us a well-hidden, well-manicured Othersville, the episode sharply narrowed its focus, mostly to explore Jack’s state of mind. We haven’t spent this much time with our hero in ages, and it felt great to care about the guy again! In flashbacks, we learned more than ever about the nature of his emotional burden and Dad-related regrets. (Meanwhile many Sarah-related questions were raised: In the heartbreaking scene in which she and Jack met to finalize divorce terms, was she walking away smirking?) Inside the Jack-jail, he kicked and screamed and heard possibly hallucinatory voices through a possibly defunct intercom, then met his interrogator, Juliet. She informed him he’d been drugged, offered him a grilled cheese sandwich, and pretended to know little about him before eventually sharing the contents of a dossier that had been compiled about his life. (Let’s quote Michael here: Who are you people?) At the same time, she exhibited fleeting signs of genuine concern for him. Was that an act? Just when we started to think Jack was no match for a manipulative Other, he lured her into an ambush and dragged her toward a door that she was terrified to open. Benry popped into the hallway to warn Jack, who opened the door anyway and unleashed a wall of water — at which point Benry had the bad manners to slam a different door in Juliet’s face as he rushed to save himself, causing her to nearly drown. Could that have been an accident? No. It could not.
Throughout, we got a just-right dose of Sawyer and Kate, bringing the total of original castaways in this episode to three. Unlike Jack, Sawyer adapted to his captivity with enough of a cool head to keep himself calm (and fed). At first I thought the lab-rat metaphor going on in his cage was overkill, but as usual, it may not be what it seems. For that matter, Chachi, a.k.a. Carl, may not be either. Kate’s disconcerting breakfast at Benry’s Seaside Bistro left her shaken — frankly, I failed to see the point of the scene. But have we ever seen Sawyer as tender with her — or anyone — as when he shared his Dharma cookie with her? She’d had a hard time, what with her clothes disappearing and her wrists being handcuffed again. I had to wonder if even more was said to frighten her than what we saw. What did Benry mean, anyway, telling her the next two weeks would be very unpleasant? Was there more to the exchange we’ll learn about later?
Which brings me back to perspective. The island is being shown to us from entirely new angles, the way we continue to see the characters in new ways that turn what we think we know on its head. The producers may be promising more action this season, but I’m dying to know whether we’ll ever learn any one character’s full story. If that’s even possible.
Here’s the obvious downside to focusing so exclusively on Jack, Kate, and Sawyer this week: We’re already one hour into the season with no idea what’s happened to another key trio, Locke, Desmond, and Eko. Surely, they haven’t all met their end, though the Hatch seems likely to be gone for good. Call me impatient, but how soon can we find out what all the noise and glowing fallout was? We’re still essentially in season 2 as far as the original Lost characters are concerned. Perhaps we should look at this as a month of Lost premieres, as there are now so many castaways to catch up with.
What do you think? Are Desmond, Locke, and Eko alive, and are you upset that wasn’t addressed in this episode? Is Juliet a threat to Benry’s authority? Was Sawyer’s brief escape a setup? And was Jack channeling Ugly Betty when he walked into a glass wall?