The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

LOST Rewatch: “The Hunting Party”, “Fire + Water”, “The Long Con” & “One of Them”

Posted by therebelprince on August 8, 2009


“This is not your island. This is our island.” – “Mr. Friendly”

This week, we get some exciting episodes as Charlie and Sawyer make ripples in the pond of island life, and we meet our next Other (though we don’t know it yet)… It’s all in a day’s work over at Lost.

I’ve gotta admit the second season, while widening its scope, has actually revealed very little. No wonder there were quickly calls of dissent among fans who suspected the series was going nowhere. It’s a real pity that ABC couldn’t put aside their initial money lust to give a definite length – be it three, four, five or six seasons – because the producers could have avoided some of the unncessary thumb-twiddling that took place last week to carry on with the story. Every episode this week (except perhaps “Fire + Water”) gives us something to work with in the series’ overall mythology, so at least we’re moving in the right direction.

“The Hunting Party” is the only episode to take us away from the Losties’ base camp, as Jack, Locke and Saywer pursue Michael who has gone to confront The Others. When they arrive, they’re met by a party of Others, and come face to face with “Mr. Friendly” (M.C. Gainey), the same man who kidnapped Walt. Kate, of course, has made this all about her and set out to follow the boys. So, naturally she’s captured and used as a hostage to force the Losties back to the beach. A tender truce has been initiated now, with a line that the Losties can’t cross, and an awareness that they won’t get Michael, Walt or any of the Tailies back unless at the Others’ mercy.

It’s an enjoyable episode even if it primarily features moody trekking through the jungle, but aside from Mr. Friendly (right), there is little of interest. Jack’s flashback – because apparently he needs a fourth when some characters have only had one – is a below average installment, although well acted as usual by Matthew Fox and Julie Bowen. You know, every time we see a flashback in which Jack, Kate or Sawyer fall in love, it just cheapens their pathetic love triangle. In fact, I’m more inclined to believe that the three of them are just really horny which lessens my level of care for Jack’s angsting.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure which came first in this chicken/egg scenario: Harold Perrineau‘s occasional displeasure with the show or the writers’ apparent dislike of Michael, but we won’t see him again for a while. It’s nice to see a show that supports story over character, and doesn’t feel the need to force every contract player down our throats each week. But it also seems as if Malcolm David Kelley‘s age problem came first, then Michael’s desire to find him was such an overwhelming element that there was no choice but to write both characters out. It’s a pity, but given that those remaining just sit around the beach looking bored and hunting tree frogs, they should probably feel lucky.

“Fire + Water” is a surprisingly singular episode, focussing entirely on Charlie’s misguided attempts to protect Liam. This is possibly the first week since “Walkabout” where the flashback trumps the island storyline. While we knew vaguely about the dying days of Driveshaft, it’s interesting to see Charlie’s protectiveness of Liam before his own problems come to the fore. I also very much appreciate the fact that both Charlie and Liam are drug users. It would have been easy to make Liam the clean, wiser brother but by giving the characters these similar facets it develops a level of understanding between them. The lowest moments of Driveshaft are also wonderfully humiliating: wearing nappies as they bastardise their own songs for money.

On the beach, though, Charlie’s craziness is spinning out of control. His first dream of Aaron and the piano is unexpected and effecting. The second, with Claire as an angel, is a bit tackily done but apt enough for his religious persuasion. I more enjoyed Claire’s relationship with Locke, and hope this figures in somehow in season six.

The highlight of these four episodes is “The Long Con”, with Jack and Ana Lucia’s desire for an army coming together only after Sawyer initiates a coup and takes over as ‘Sheriff’. I’m relieved that as some characters like Ana Lucia redeem themselves, we get Charlie and Sawyer’s true natures rising to the fore here. The problem is that – due to the episodic nature that still pervades this series – Charlie’s actions in “Fire + Water” and Sawyer’s actions in “The Long Con” are barely referenced after their specific episode.

Sawyer’s flashback in “The Long Con” is immensely refreshing. Finally, we’re taken back into one of the original characters’ pasts to see something we had no idea about. Sawyer’s complex relationship with his mark, Cassidy (Deadwood‘s Kim Dickens) isn’t fully explained here, but Dickens and Josh Holloway work wonders in their scenes together, and leave me waiting anxiously for the next Sawyer/Cassidy flashback.

Then we’re into Sayid’s rather extensive flashbacks in “One of Them”, which contrast nicely with the island storyline: the first genuine movement in the series mythology we’ve had on the show since we discovered the hatch. “Henry Gale” (Michael Emerson) is caught in the jungle by Rousseau. Despite claiming to be a balloonist from Minnesota, most of the team are suspicious and Sayid undertakes torture in the hatch. Emerson is a find, with wonderful finnicky eyes and it’s almost impossible to decide whether he’s really an Other or not. I love the moment when his eyes lock onto Sayid – who in the heat of things admits his own recent loss – and tries to switch the interrogation around to focus on that pain.

On the other hand, Jack’s complaints about the torture seem more necessary than rising organically from the plot. In fact, he gives no good reason for believing “Henry”‘s story. Does he really think people built the entire hatch infrastructure for nothing? Much like when Charlie rather stupidly claimed there were “no others” at the start of the season despite his experience with Ethan, Jack seems to base his decision on… well, nothing whatsoever. In fact, Jack is just generally annoying in all of these episodes. Shut up, Jack.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see Sayid become more of a player in the game, in the aftermath of Shannon’s death. His flashback shows us how Republican Guard-trained Sayid received torture training: after being captured by the US during the Gulf War. Kate’s dad Sam (Lindsey Ginter) and ‘Joe’ Inman (Clancy Brown, finally!) are his superiors, and both work well alongside Naveen Andrews (although we don’t yet know Inman’s story).

The C-Plot of “One of Them”, Sawyer and Hurley tracking a frog, is eminently forgettable. While it’s the first we see of Hurley sneaking food, it paints Sawyer as a rather petty person in the immediate aftermath of his takeover (which isn’t mentioned for some reason). This whole episode feels very episodic, and it’s not the first this season. As with the second seasons of many serialised shows (Murder One and 24 among them), there is usually a network-enforced prerogative to make things a little bit more episodic to bring in new viewers. Thankfully, “One of Them” works but the Sawyer subplot is just playing for time, even though we could have explored Sawyer’s new leadership, or Eko and Libby adjusting to island life, or any other of the numerous subplots. If the island is trying to make a point about individual episodes “pursuing” Sawyer (after the boar last season) I guess that’s cool, but I couldn’t help asking what Sawyer’s gonna do when the next frog starts chirping.

Meanwhile, we get a few little mythological nuggets: Sayid and Hurley pick up a radio transmission of an old-school music program. Hurley jokes that it might be coming from “another time”. Of course, we now know it is. And when Locke fails to push the button in time, we see awesome red and black hieroglyphs on the timer briefly before he saves the day. It’s the first explicit reference to Ancient Egypt (except for a passing remark during Walt’s flashback last season) but it’s far from the last.

And finally, after quite a while of expertly avoiding it, the writers fall back into the old trap of having characters speak like writers. Michael’s “you don’t understand about where Walt is!” and Rousseau’s evasive comments about how she knows Gale is an other, both smack of baiting us with tidbits but not revealing the character’s knowledge. Why neither Locke nor Sayid ask their respective scene partners further questions is never explained. Poor form, writers. Poor form.

Diverse observations:

* Guest star of the week is probably Kevin Dunn as Sawyer’s partner Gordy. I’m so used to Dunn in silly comic roles that I was taken aback by his power.

* You know, I don’t actually require the sometime-tenuous links between the flashbacks and the island storyline. If a flashback works, as Sawyer’s does, then it shouldn’t need a cheap connection.

* It’s fun seeing unexpected guest star names in the episode (e.g. Beth Broderick as Kate’s mother) and then seeing when they’ll appear.

* Surely pushing the button with 3 minutes remaining just wastes time, no?

* Locke and Sawyer have a brief discussion about the origin of Sawyer’s name, which will become somewhat ironic later.

* Cynthia Watros has been utterly wasted so far. Aside from the so-far tiny subplot of Hurley being interested in her, Libby barely appears.

* Sawyer just picks up a colourful tropical frog. Doesn’t he realise some of those things can kill?

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