“LOST” RETROSPECT: (5.09) “Namaste”

 

lost-namaste

Below is an article I had written about the Season Five episode of “LOST” (2004-2010) called (5.09) “Namaste”

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (5.09) Namaste”

“Namaste” is a term used commonly on the Indian subcontinent that is used as a greeting and a parting valediction between individuals. I suppose that this word might be the proper title for this ninth episode from Season Five from ABC’s “LOST”(5.09) “Namaste” served as a crossroad for the series’ fifth season. It served as a closure for some of the season’s story arcs and a beginning for others.

The episode opened where the sixth episode, (5.06) “316” ended, with former castaways Dr. Jack Shephard, Kate Austen and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes disappearing from Ajira Flight 316 (destination – Guam) and reappearing on the Island. Following their harrowing reappearance, they are spotted by one their former castaways, who had remained on the island, Jin-Soo Kwon. The season’s eighth episode, (5.08) “La Fleur”, revealed that Jin; along with James “Sawyer” Ford (“Jim La Fleur”), Dr. Juliet Burke, Miles Straume, and Daniel Faraday; had ceased their time skipping and landed in the year 1974. They spent the next three years as members of the Dharma Initiative. When Jin informed Sawyer of Jack, Kate and Hurley’s arrival in 1977, Saywer races from the Dharma compound to greet his former castaways.

Sawyer explains to the three newcomers that they had ended up in the 1970s. And in order to remain at the Dharma compound, he lied to the organization’s leaders that he was captain of a research vessel, whose crew was searching the wrecked slave ship, the Black Rock. He then arranges for the trio to join the Dharma Initiative as new recruits. Jack becomes a janitor, Kate joins the motor pool, where Juliet works. And Hurley becomes a cook. Sawyer manages to achieve this after Juliet forges their necessary documentation.

Back in the 21st century, pilot Frank Lapidus manages to land the Ajira 316 airliner on the runway constructed by members of the Others, Kate and Sawyer (who were prisoners) back on Season Three, on the Hydra Station island. Along with Frank, Sun-Kwa Kwon and Benjamin Linus (former Others leader), other survivors include a man named Caesar, who assumes leadership of the surviving Ajira passengers and a bounty hunter named Ilana Verdansky, who had been escorting former Oceanic castaway Sayid Jarrah into custody. Ben sets out for the main island to reunite with the Others. Sun decides to join him in order to find Jin. And Frank accompanies them in order to protect Sun from Ben. However, she knocks Ben out, leaving him behind on the Hydra island. Sun and Frank encounter a figure in Christian Shephard’s image, who informs them that Jack, Kate and Hurley have time traveled back to 1977. He also informs Sun that Jin is with them.

I found nothing particularly unique about “Namaste”. But I must admit that I still found it interesting and solid entertainment. I found the present day sequences featuring Sun, Ben and Frank less interesting. Ben’s intention to leave the Hydra island in order to reunite with Richard Alpert and the rest of the Others did not seem very interesting to me. Even Ben’s attitude regarding his intention seemed like the logical conclusion. Which is why I found Sun’s reaction to him rather over-the-top. One, she did not have insist upon joining him. If she really wanted to leave Hydra island for the main one, she could have made the trip on her own. Instead, she insisted upon joining Ben, before whacking him over the head with a paddle. Many“LOST” fans cheered. I simply rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all and a confirmation of her vindictive nature. When she and Frank later discovered that Jack, Kate, Hurley and Jin were all in 1977, I found the scene . . . well, uninteresting. The only interesting aspect of this story line was that it explained the finale of (3.07) “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”– with the Man in Black (in John Locke’s form) looking down at his unconscious form.

The scenes set in 1977 managed to rouse my interest. The interactions between the main characters seemed filled with a great deal of emotions – overt or otherwise. Much of that emotion was centered around James “Sawyer” Ford. Ever since the Season Four episode, (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, many “LOST” fans have been pushing him as the series’ hero. Sawyer’s “hero” status was solidified – as far as many were concerned – in “La Fleur”, when he found a way to ensure that he and his fellow castaways would become part of the Dharma Initiative and became romantically involved with Juliet Burke. Within three years, Sawyer became the Dharma Initiative’s Head of Security. In a way, I can see why many fans had put Sawyer on a pedestal by mid-Season Five. Yet, I found some of his interactions with the other characters and his own decisions rather questionable. I am not accusing screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Brian K. Vaughan of bad writing. On the contrary, I thought they handled Sawyer’s role in this episode very well. But I suspect that so many fans were viewing Sawyer through rose-colored glasses that they failed to see the warts behind the heroic image. Not even Jack Shephard during the series’ first season was regarded in such a high light.

Many fans anticipated the reunion between Sawyer and his former bed partner, Kate Austen; believing that the latter was over Jack. Mind you, not all fans believed this, but a good number did. The episode’s last five to ten minutes featured a moment in which the two exchanged subtle looks. That look would prove to be the beginning of the end of Sawyer’s romance with Juliet . . . but in a way he did not anticipate or liked. Even worse, Kate’s little moment of flirtation was a return to an old habit of hers – using Sawyer to erase her romantic problems with Jack. Fans marveled at how he and Juliet had arranged for Jack, Kate and Hurley’s initiation into the Dharma Initiative. And many cheered at his criticism, near the end of the episode, of Jack’s earlier leadership of the Oceanic 815 castaways. I felt impressed by the former and unimpressed by the latter. My recent viewing of this episode led me to realize a few things. One, three years as the “Sheriff of Dharmaland” had allowed Sawyer to develop an ego the size of a basketball. Note some of his criticism directed at Jack:

SAWYER: [Chuckles] I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It’s how I like to run things. I think. I’m sure that doesn’t mean that much to you, ’cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn’t think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.

JACK: I got us off the Island.

SAWYER: But here you are… [sighs] right back where you started. So I’m gonna go back to reading my book, and I’m gonna think, ’cause that’s how I saved your ass today. And that’s how I’m gonna save Sayid’s tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night’s rest. Let me do what I do.

One, Sawyer had forgotten that not all of Jack’s decisions were bad . . . and not all of his decisions were good. He also seemed unaware that his decision to include himself, Miles, Juliet, Jin and Daniel into the Dharma Initiative was a bad idea. And he should have never given Jack, Kate and Hurley the opportunity to become part of the Dharma Initiative.  Sawyer did not save Jack, Kate and Hurley’s lives. He merely dragged them into his own deception.  And his decisions will prove to be bad ones by the end of Season Five.  His belief in his own leadership skills proved to be nothing more than a reflection of his skills as a con artist. Like the Oceanic Six, he and his four companions had been living a lie for the past three years . . . a lie that would eventually catch up to them.  I also suspect that Sawyer (and Juliet) were responsible for the newcomers’ new positions. Sawyer’s rant and his arrangement of Jack’s new position as a janitor only convinced me that despite his words, his insecurities regarding the spinal surgeon have not abated in three years.

However, Sawyer was not the only one who made bad decisions. Hurley decided that he wanted the comforts of the Dharma Initiative, instead of the discomforts of the jungle. It was a bad decision on his part. And both Jack and Kate made the mistake of agreeing with Hurley’s decision. I could not help but wonder if Juliet had regretted assisting Amy Goodspeed through a difficult birth. The Goodspeeds’ new child turned out to be Ethan Rom, a future follower of Ben Linus in 2004. I feel that Juliet had made the right choice. But . . . I have great difficulty in believing that Ethan was 27 years old in 2004 (the first season), especially since the actor who had portrayed him, William Mapother, was 39 to 40 years old during the series’ first season . . . and looked it.

The episode ended with the revelation of Sayid Jarrah’s whereabouts. He did not appear on the island with Jack, Hurley and Kate. And he was not seen among the Ajira survivors in 2007. Instead, he also ended up in 1977, discovered by Jin Kwon seconds before they encountered the Dharma Initiative’s borderline psychotic head researcher, Stuart Radzinsky. Jin had no choice but to place Sayid under arrest for being a possible Hostile (the Others), the enemies of the Dharma Initiative and longtime island residents. At the end of the episode, Sayid met the 14 year-old version of Benjamin Linus, the man who manipulated him into becoming a hired gun in the latter’s war against rival Charles Widmore. This meeting will prove to have grave consequences for the Losties. So much for Sawyer saving Sayid’s ass. “Ain’t life a bitch?”

Thanks to screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Brian K. Vaughan, “Namaste” is a pretty good episode that brought a great deal of closure to the first half of Season Five and initiated the story arcs for the rest of that season and the sixth and final season. The emotional complexities – especially in regard to James “Sawyer” Ford – proved to be very interesting in the 1977 sequences. But I was not that particularly impressed by the 2007 scenes. Despite my disappointment in the latter, I managed to enjoy the episode in the end.

“LOST” RETROSPECT – (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” (Or . . . The Emergence of Saint Kate)

 

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT – (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” (Or . . . The Emergence of Saint Kate)

While looking back at some of the articles I have written about “LOST” and its characters, I discovered that I have written at least five articles that were either about the character, Kate Austen or in which she featured heavily. One would think that she is such a compelling character. But I do not think so. I suspect that my problem with Kate is that she is one of the most badly written characters on this show and in the history of television . . . and she is the female lead. And I find that disturbing. My dislike of the character went up a notch after I had watched the Season 5 Kate-centric episode, (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened”:

Set mainly in 1977, this episode of “LOST”(5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” – was badly written. It really was. I felt as if I had watched the emergence of a character called “Saint Kate”, instead of an interesting episode about the reasons behind a woman’s choices. But there were no reasons given for Kate Austen’s sudden desire to save young Ben Linus’ life. Instead, the episode had her in a state of frantic over Ben’s condition that did not make any sense. Even worse, the episode went too far and had her donate blood to him in a heavily contrived attempt to make her seem selfless and worthy to the fans.

First, I want to focus on the situation regarding young Ben’s shooting. Why did spinal surgeon Jack Shephard refuse to save Ben? Was his reason the same as Sayid Jarrah’s?  Because Ben will grow up to be a manipulative and murderous man? How did Jack suddenly become anti-Ben, again? I read a piece on this episode on WIKIPEDIA, which claimed that Jack was to blame for creating the monster, Ben Linus. I find this hard to accept. It seemed as if they are trying to absolve Sayid of his crime. And that does not work with me.

Speaking of Sayid’s crime, it seems that Ben will no longer have any memories of it, following Richard’s treatment. If this was the case, what in the hell was the point of Sayid shooting Ben in the first place? What were the writers trying to achieve? Was the shooting nothing more than a contrived event to make Kate lovable to the fans again? Was it a plotline to explain how Ben became so murderous? Hell, they could have done that and allowed Ben to retain his memories of the shooting. This whole “erasing Ben’s memories of Sayid’s crime” made no sense to me. What was the purpose of it? To explain how Ben “lost his innocence”? Ben was already on that road by living under an abusive father.

But you know what? Despite Sayid shooting him, Jack’s refusal to save him or Others’ subordinate Richard Alpert’s memory-wiping cure, the one person who is mainly responsible for Ben’s moral downfall . . . was Ben. Other people have come from traumatic backgrounds and managed to make decent lives for themselves. Ben does not have any real excuse. Sayid has to deal with his crime of shooting an innocent boy, himself. Jack has to deal with his refusal to treat that boy. But they are not mainly responsible for Ben’s crimes. Ben is.

When I heard that Kate might finally confess about the lie surrounding Aaron Littleton, the son of Australian castaway Claire Littleton, I thought she would end up confessing to James “Sawyer” Ford, Juliet Burke and the other castaways. Instead, Sawyer’s old girlfriend, Cassidy Phillips, exposed her true reason for claiming Aaron as her son.  I found this very disappointing. And now, Sawyer never really knew about the lie surrounding Aaron.  And he did not find out, until Season 6 that Kate’s reason for returning to the island had nothing to do with saving his life. And she continued to have the murder of Wayne Jensen, her drunken father, hanging over her head. If we were supposed to root for them to get together following this episode, I think that the writers have failed. At least with me.

Regarding Kate’s decision to return to the island – she told Cassidy that her intention was to find Claire and get her back home to Aaron.  During the early spring of 2009, I found myself pondering on how she had intended to achieve this.   Was Kate really that stupid?  She did not know about the runway that Frank Lapidus had used to land Flight 316, until her return to the early 21st century at the beginning of Season 6. Locke had destroyed the Dharma submarine back in Season 3. And Kate knew about the destruction of the freighter. How did she planned to send Claire back to Aaron? Or had she been talking out of her ass?

You know, ever since (4.04) “Eggtown”, Kate’s story arc had been badly handled by the writers. It started with that ludicrous attempt by her to get information from Miles Straume about her status as a fugitive. Then it developed into the storyline surrounding her custody of Aaron that went no where. The only thing that the Aaron storyline achieved was a temporary estragement between her and Jack. It was revealed in (5.04) “The Little Prince” that she had decided to claim Aaron as her own, because she was traumatized over losing Sawyer. And yet . . . “Eggtown” made it clear that she was willing to use Aaron to re-start a romance with Jack. If Aaron had represented a substitute for the loss of Sawyer, why did she have a photograph of both Aaron and Jack on her mantlepiece in Los Angeles, after her break up with the surgeon?  Had the photograph been a symbol of her continuing desire for both Jack and Sawyer? Or what? And the storyline surrounding her return to the island . . . contrived and badly written. After refusing to return to the island for Sawyer’s sake, she visited his ex-girlfriend, confessed the Aaron kidnapping and vowed to return to the island in order to find Claire Littleton and send the Australian woman back to her son and mother . . . without knowing how to achieve this little act.  The only thing Kate did right was hand Aaron over to Carole Littleton, his grandmother.  And I saw that coming a mile away. Once Kate had returned to Los Angeles following her visit to Cassidy, she used Jack for comfort sex and later rejected him after boarding Ajira Flight 316.

And in late Season 5, the producers dumped the badly written “Whatever Happened, Happened” episode on the viewers in order to make Kate favorable to the viewers again. They had her acting like a frantic Florence Nightengale over a kid she hardly knew. I understand if she was perturbed over young Ben’s situation, like the others (sans Jack). But the writers . . . took it too far with Kate’s frantic desire to save him, which included her donating blood to him. And they even used this episode to blame Jack for Ben’s slide into darkness. I guess that the show’s writers and producers’ attempt to redeem Kate in the eyes of the viewers seemed to work.  The viewers eagerly lapped up this shit like it was Turkish Delight. But Lindehof and Cuse achieved this at a heavy price. In the end, all they did was sacrifice any semblance of artistic achievement for bad characterization and mediocre writing.

But there is a post-script to Kate’s story.  After airing the questionable (6.03) “What Kate Does”, the writers finally set about redeeming her character.  She ended the flaky love triangle by finally admitting that Jack was the true man after her heart.  More importantly, not only did she finally confessed to Claire that she had been wrong to claim Aaron as her son in (6.13) “The Last Recruit”, she became the only castaway who made any real effort to help the emotionally damaged Claire get off the island via the Ajira 316 jet in order to reunite her with her son.

“LOST” RETROSPECT :  (5.08) “LaFleur” 

 


“LOST” RETROSPECT :  (5.08) “LaFleur” 

Many fans of ”LOST” have claimed that its Season Five has been the series’ best since the first season. I have to be honest. I do not think I can agree with that sentiment. At least not for Season Five’s first five episodes. I have mixed feelings for it, just as I had for Seasons Two to Four. But there are elements of the fifth season that I have enjoyed so far. And many of those elements had a lot to do with the story arcs surrounding the island castaways left behind when the Oceanic Six departed the island at the end of Season Four.

”LaFleur”, the eighth episode of Season Five, picked up where (5.05) “This Place Is Death” left off – when John Locke turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel from ”(4.13) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” and vanished from the island and into the future. Following Locke’s departure, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles and Daniel are relieved to discover that they no longer have to endure the constant time jumps that have threatened their existence and ended Charlotte Lewis’ in ”This Place Is Death”. However, they are surprised to discover that the time jumps have stopped in 1974, when the Dharma Initiative has been in existence for at least four years. The five survivors decide to return to the beach and make camp, when they comes across a pair of Dharma Initiative members who have been captured by some of the island’s native inhabitants, known as the Others. Juliet and Sawyer kill the two Others and free Amy (Reiko Aylesworth), but her husband has been killed. The group returns to the Barracks, where Amy resides; however, she tricks them into walking through the sonic fence which surrounds the Barracks, knocking them unconscious. The rest of the episode focused upon how the five survivors ended up joining the Dharma Initiative in 1974 and the state of their lives, three years later in 1977.

Remember when I had stated that I had mixed feelings about the series’ Season Five? Well, some of those reasons had a lot to do with how Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof’s writers handled the story arcs surrounding the two groups of characters during this season. Of course, there are the members of the Oceanic Six who made it off the island – Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sayid Jarrah, Sun Kwon, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and the infant Aaron Littleton. And there are the members of those left behind on the island, included James “Sawyer” Ford, Juliet Burke, John Locke, Jin Kwon, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis, Daniel Faraday, Bernard Nadler and his wife, Rose Henderson. Quite frankly, I did not care for the episodes that heavily featured the Oceanic Six. One, I never cared for their lie that left the infant Aaron in the hands of fugitive Kate Austen for nearly three years. Two, I simply did not care for their story arc in the first half of Season Five. I found it contrived, trite and a waste of my time. The story arc featuring those survivors left behind turned out to be a different kettle of fish.

On the other hand, I found myself enjoying the segments surrounding the ‘Left Behinders’ in episodes like (5.01) “Because You Left”(5.02) “The Lie” and ”This Place Is Death”. So, it is no surprise that after eight episodes, my favorite Season Five episodes turned out to be both (5.03) “The Jughead” and ”LaFleur”, which heavily featured Sawyer, Juliet and the gang. But . . . I am not here to discuss both episodes. Only ”LaFleur”.

What can I say? I loved the episode. I love it so much that I now consider it to be one of my ten favorite episodes of the entire series. And I never thought I would be saying this about a Sawyer-centric episode. Five days after it first aired, I found myself still thinking about it. I am sitting in front of my computer, trying to think of something meaningful or witty to say about this episode. But the words continue to elude me. I have a deep suspicion that my high opinion of ”LaFleur” had more to do with how this episode had such an emotional impact upon me.

Like the Left Behinders, I felt the relief they must have felt over the end of the time jumps, following Locke’s departure. Or the confusion and they had felt upon stumbling across Amy, her dead husband Paul and the two Others. I felt Daniel’s continuing grief over Charlotte’s death . . . or Amy’s grief over Paul’s death. I felt Richard’s curiosity during his conversation with Sawyer (from now on . . . James) about Locke’s appearance twenty years earlier. I felt Horace’s despair over his suspicions that his new wife, Amy, had yet to get over her grief for her husband now dead for three years. I felt James’ desperation to find help for Amy, who was in labor with Horace’s child . . . and Juliet’s reluctance to deal with another childbirth. I certainly felt James’ relief and happiness over the successful birth of Amy’s child and Juliet’s tearful joy. I felt James’ relief and disbelief in discovering that some of the Oceanic Six – Jack, Kate and Hurley – had made it back to the island. And I especially felt the friendship and love both James and Juliet had for one another.

But the above paragraph strikes me as being too simple a way to describe my enjoyment of ”LaFleur”. Foremost, I have to commend writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Kyle Pennington for penning a well-written episode that revealed the Left Behinders’ experiences with the Dharma Initiative in two time periods without disintegrating into a big mess. The fact that Sarnoff and Pennington also managed to inject some character development – mainly James and Juliet – into a complicated plot has raised my admiration toward their work. Another thing that I liked about ”LaFleur” is that for some reason, it strongly reminded me of one of my favorite ”LOST” episodes of all time – (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”.

This episode is not an exact replica of the Season Two episode that revealed the backstory of the Tail Section passengers’ first 48 days on the island. But I feel that both “The Other 48 Days” and “LaFleur” allowed viewers to experience the interactions of a small group – in the case of the Season Five episode, the Left Behinders – developing a close relationship through shared experiences. Mind you, most of James, Juliet, Miles, Jin and Daniel’s worst experiences occurred in previous Season Five episodes like “Jughead” and “This Place Is Death”. Still, we got to see how they became part of the Dharma Initiative in 1974. And how they had managed to settle into their new lives by 1977.

Josh Holloway literally owned this episode with a performance that nearly knocked my socks off. His James Ford aka James LaFleur has come a long way that rough-hewed Southern con man who had irritated just about everyone back in Season One. This transformation did not happen overnight. In fact, I suspect that it had its origins during late Season Three, when Hugo Reyes forced him to take the mantle of leadership of the Losties during Jack, Sayid, Kate and Locke’s absence during that period. The Southern accent has remained intact and so has the snarky sense of humor and talent for pulling a con job. Not only did he managed to convince one of the Dharma Initiative leaders – Horace Goodspeed – that he and his fellow castaways were survivors of a wrecked salvage vessel looking for the Black Rock. Within three years, James had become Head of Security for the Initiative and a new love, namely one Dr. Juliet Burke.

When I had earlier stated that Hollowy had owned this episode, perhaps I should have said almost. After all, Elizabeth Mitchell (who has become one of my favorite actors on this series) was just as good as Juliet Burke. After three years, she has forgo her profession as a fertility doctor by becoming an auto mechanic for the Dharma Initiative. At first, I was surprised that she would choose to become a mechanic, instead of continuing her role as a doctor. But considering her past heartaches in dealing with previously pregnant Others, I eventually understood. But the premature labor of one of the Dharma members, Amy Goodspeed (portrayed by Reiko Aylesworth of “24” fame), led James to convince Juliet to act as midwife for the new Goodspeed baby. The result of Amy’s labor led to one of the most beautifully acted moments in the series’ entire history, when Mitchell and Holloway expressed Juliet and James’ relief and happiness over the baby’s successful delivery. I could go on about the strong screen chemistry between the two actors. But I have been aware of that chemistry ever since the Season Three finale – (3.22) “Through the Looking Glass”. The interesting thing about James and Juliet’s relationship is that the series used their growing friendship in the previous six or seven episodes to show how they eventually became a couple. They seemed to have become the first romantic pairing, whose relationship started out as a mature friendship. Perhaps that is the reason why I find it so appealing.

The other cast members in this episode also did a fine job – especially Jeremy Davies, as the grieving Daniel Farady, Doug Hutchison as the Dharma Initiative mathematician who came off as less self-assured than he did in past episodes, Nestor Campbell as the Others’ ageless second-in-command, Richard Alpert and Reiko Aylesworth’s sly performance as Amy, another Dharma member, whose life James and Juliet save. Daniel Dae Kim had a nice moment when Jin witnessed Juliet’s news about the successful birth of Amy and Horace’s baby.

There were many moments in “LaFleur” that have remained stuck in my mind . . . even after five days. Here are a few that I consider truly memorable:

*James, Juliet, Miles and Jin spot a giant, Egyptian-style statue following Locke’s disappearance.
*The brief look on James’ face after Juliet saves him from being shot by one of the Others.
*Amy tricks the Left Behinders into walking past the sonic fence.
*James mentions Richard’s encounter with Locke and the ‘Jughead’ bomb in 1954 to the very surprised Other.
*James convinces Juliet to remain on the island for a while.
*Juliet and James’ happy reaction to the successful birth of Amy and Horace’s child.
*James’ conversation with Horace about dealing with past loves.
*The sight of James and Juliet in bed, with her body spooning his. She really ‘had his back’ in that scene.
*Jin delivers three of the Oceanic Six members – Jack, Kate and Hurley – to an awaiting James.

Even thought that last scene was memorable, I must admit that I found myself comparing it to the sight of a roach crawling across a white rug. Especially when one considers how the Oceanic Six’s arrival affected the Left Behinders – now members of the Dharma Initiative. Both Kate and Jack’s presence proved to be a trial for the James/Juliet romance.  And the Oceanic Six’s presence eventually threatened the Left Behinders’ standing with the Dharma Initiative. Perhaps it was just as well.  Part of me believes that the Left Behinders’ decision to join the Dharma Initiative was a big mistake.