Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Directed by Michael Zinberg
Tensions mount between Michael and Jin over a wristwatch and matters of honor, leaving Sun in the difficult role of mediation. Meanwhile, Kate, Jack, Charlie, and Locke are chased by bees.
“Remember when all you had to give me was a flower?”
It is often said that one of the formative texts in the creation and plotting of LOST was Stephen King’s The Stand. This episode really drove home this fact. LOST isn’t riffing on The Stand’s plot, per se, but more accurately, it’s structure. While I haven’t finished King’s epic, but the two stories, King’s and LOST, spend the first act in characterization. There is an unfolding plot, but much of narrative is spend following characters and establishing backstory. If you look at LOST as an epic novel, then the first season is the first act (or would be titled “Book One”). And thus, I have a new theory. Over there, I have discovered that classic-era Doctor Who is best enjoyed one episode at a time rather than watched as a complete story. It was written with the former in mind, whereas the latter makes the show seem repetitive and slow. I almost wonder if LOST is best enjoyed as one would enjoy a novel–in large chunks viewed over a shorter period of time rather than weekly over a six year period with large gaps between the book breaks. LOST was a cultural phenomenon spread over six years, but it may actually be best viewed on DVD because the viewer has less time to formulate theories and less time to invest in the characters. I don’t mean that investing in the characters is not important, quite the contrary, it is essential. But watching the show in a shortened period may enable the viewer to process the show like a large novel. You may experience it differently, you may have a greater chance of getting, pardon the pun, lost in it.
So, back to Book One. This chapter focuses on Sun, and it is signposted quite subtly in the opening shots that Sun can speak English. The directorial cues are that we are getting Sun’s perspective as she sits on the beach watching Jack and Kate. At first, their dialogue is a bit muddled, as if we were hearing English the way a non-speaker would hear it. But if you listen closely, you can hear the words resolve and become discernable. This can be interpreted as a shift in POV, or that Sun can truly speak English, and we later find that the latter is true.
The brilliance of this episode’s flashback lies in how it was conceived. In a future episode, we see the same events from Jin’s point of view. Once you have that second perspective, it is difficult to view House of the Rising Sun without that second perspective. In fact, it makes me feel even more pity and sorrow for Jin. He has sold his soul for Sun and at this point, she has no idea. However, at this point in the narrative, we are supposed to feel sorry for Sun and still be suspicious of Jin.
We also have hints to Michael’s story. We know that he and his wife were separated, Walt living with Michael’s ex. We know that Walt grew up with hardly any knowledge of Michael.
The sub-plot in this episode follows Jack, Kate, Charlie, and Locke as they go to the caves for water. They discover two skeletons, which we will find out much later are the remains of Jacob’s surrogate mother and The Man in Black’s mortal body. And maybe I’m slightly mistaken, but I detected the feel of a game with the finding of the white and black stones. I had images of a game in which the losers die. I don’t know if that comes across on the screen, or if this is 20/20 hindsight. Regardless, Jack decides the best option for survival is to move the survivors to the caves, something that splits the camp. The dividing line seems to be those who want to survive and those who want to be rescued. Or, as Sawyer puts it, between the pessimists and the optimists. It makes sense that, except for Charlie, those who were on the expedition to get a radio signal, those who chose to lie to maintain hope for the survivors, are the ones who stay on the beach. Who’s hope is Sayid wishing to maintain, the camp’s or his? To a degree, I’m not sure I get the big deal between splitting the camp. It seems that this is an instance where we can have our cake and eat it too. The survivors merely need to make a volunteer rotation where two or three people work 24 hour shifts to keep the signal fires burning. That way, should a passing plane or boat spot the fire, those on watch could send word to the camp and likewise inform the rescuers about the remaining survivors. It is an intensely practical way of solving this problem and keeping everyone alive and I’m surprised none of our castaways came up with the idea. Granted, in the end it probably wouldn’t work because The Others would have probably killed the people on the beach if Smokey didn’t, but our heroes don’t know that at this point.
Closing thoughts. Charlie is right, Locke is a git. He is a manipulative git. I’m convinced that Locke spotted Charlie’s guitar on the way to the caves and held on to this information. Once he discovered Charlie’s drug addiction, he formulated the scenario of making a sacrifice to The Island in return for the guitar. Locke seems quite happy to set himself up as a mystical guru, when in reality he is making it up as he goes and manipulating people. Just wait and see what he does to Boone! So while getting Charlie off drugs is a good thing, Locke played the situation. Although, I suppose it is possible that Locke truly believes The Island protected the guitar and put it on the hillside so that he could help Charlie get off drugs.