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"What the Hell is the Brady Bunch?": Strangers in a Strange Land on "Lost"

Color me slightly confused. The promos for last night's episode of Lost ("Stranger in a Strange Land") promised us the reveal behind three of the series' most burning questions, but, um, didn't quite deliver on that guarantee.

Nor am I entirely clear what three mysteries they were to be as I didn't quite get the full answers to anything. (Still, I am assuming they meant Jack's tattoos, the fate of the kidnapped kiddies, and WTF happened to Cindy the flight attendant.)

The title itself, "Stranger in a Strange Land," is an allusion to Robert A. Heinlein about a human raised by Martians on Mars, who returns to his home planet of Earth as an adult. It also features a religious movement called the Church of All Worlds, a mystery religion that blends various elements of different belief systems with psychic training. Nice parallels, guys!

Sawyer and Kate make their way back to the big island with a semi-conscious Karl who's lovesick over his separation with Alex and knows that if he tries to see her again, the Others (and especially Alex's adoptive Daddy Ben) will kill him for sure. But he does reveal a few things to the Losties (and I am glad he never made it back to camp with the Kate and Sawyer, which would have just been weird): (1) Othersville, the place that Ben calls "home" is on the big island, (2) Alcatraz is where they "work" and conduct projects and most of them don't like going there, (3) they have backyards, meaning that Alex must have been raised in Othersville, (4) the people (and kids) taken were given "a better life," and (5) the Others obviously don't watch television regularly, as Karl had no idea who or what The Brady Bunch was. (What exactly are they teaching these kids?)

The Lost Flashback of the Week belongs to Jack, who seems to be living a life of leisure on the beach in Phuket, Thailand. While attempting to build a kite, he meets the mysterious Achara (Bai Ling) and falls into bed with her, despite knowing nothing about her besides the fact that she regularly received packed envelopes of cash and has a "gift." That gift it turns out is recognizing the essence of an individual and then creating a marking. Against her will, Jack forces her to read him (he's a leader but he's scared) and then mark him. Achara doesn't want to do this and she says that there will be consequences ("There always are," Jack replies). The following day, Jack gets the wind knocked out of him by five locals (including Achara's brother) who want him to leave right away, as Achara looks on, crying. Turns out Achara was right: the marking process is for locals only and Jack (and she) transgressed by making it otherwise. But one curious fact: the tattoo Achara gives him is just the Chinese characters and not the rest of the ornate tattoo... so just exactly what does the rest of it mean (the number 5? coincidence that he was attacked by 5 men?) and when did he get it?

Meanwhile, Jack struggles to fit in with the Others but, like everyone else on this show in every situation, he's still a stranger in a strange land. Just when he was getting comfortable in his little glass cell (nice touch with Tom referring to it as a glass house and asking if he wanted some stones), Jack is booted outside and locked up in the bear cages. (Should I feel bad that, unlike Sawyer, he wasn't able to get a fish treat?) And poor Juliet is locked up inside. Seems the Others aren't too keen on the concept of murdering their own and Juliet is placed on trial, marked for execution for the murder of Danny Pickett last week. Overseeing the trial is the local "sheriff" Isabelle (played with gleeful malice by Wonderfalls' Diana Scarwid) who, among her many talents, can read Chinese and translates Jack's tattoo. (Hint: it means "He who walks among us, but is not one of us.")

Isabelle wants to execute Juliet but Jack covers for her at the inquest, saying that he made up the story about Juliet asking him to kill Ben. Isabelle doesn't believe him for a second but I like the fact that Jack and Juliet seem to be forming an alliance together. Juliet asks Jack for help treating Ben, whose stitches have gotten a wee bit infected. Jack refuses, even though he knows Juliet is in trouble. (Not sure why though.)

He wakes up the following morning to find a crowd of onlookers gathered outside his cage, including the missing flight attendant, Cindy. She tries calmly talking to him (she seems unharmed, if possibly brainwashed) as Zach and Emma, the missing kids, saunter up, also looking healthy and happy (and Zach carrying that teddy bear last seen in the jungle.) It's interesting that they're wearing normal clothes and aren't the muddy little jungle tykes last seen in Season Two. Emma wants to know how Ana-Lucia is (oy, that's a conversation for another day) and Cindy says that they are just there to "watch"... something. Typically, Jack doesn't ask the important questions and they leave without revealing anything other than the Others' plans aren't so "simple." And was it just me or did little Zach creep you out with the way he stared at Jack long after the rest of his group departed?

Jack agrees to help Ben and goes to see him after Alex intervenes (and takes out the camera spying on the bear cage); she's furious that Jack would help Ben after everything he's done to Jack and the Losties. But he only agrees to help Ben, really to help Juliet. After all, Ben promised both of them they could leave the island and Jack intends to see Ben follow through on that pledge. Thanks to Ben's involvement, execution is no longer an option and Juliet is instead marked (gee, just like Jack!) with what appears to be a star-shaped brand. Not sure what the shape signifies or why it was placed on her lower back. (Hmmm, but I sure did love that little frisson that passed between Jack and Juliet as he applied aloe to her back.) And we finally learned what Ethan's role among the Others was: the mysterious Mr. Rom was their surgeon. Curiouser and curiouser.

But it's all happy families (or is it?) by the end of the episode as Jack, Juliet, Tom, and Ben board a ship to take them back to the big island and Othersville. I'm extremely happy at the change of scenery and hope that Jack's travels to their little commune reveals a hell of a lot more about the Others, like why there's that big evergreen in the middle of the town, why they can watch sports events but not The Brady Bunch, and just what the purpose is behind their not-really-so-idyllic existence.

Next week on Lost ("Tricia Tanaka Is Dead"): the gang discovers a Dharma-branded car on the island along with a mysterious key (courtesy of Vincent!), Hurley embarks on a mission, Kate and Sawyer are finally reunited with the Losties, and Kate pleads with the group to launch a rescue mission to free Jack.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Survivor: Fiji (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Smallville (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); American Idol (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); Scrubs/30 Rock (NBC); Supernatural (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); The O.C. (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: Shark (CBS); ER (NBC); Men in Trees (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: My Name is Earl.

On tonight's episode ("Guess Who's Coming Out of Joy"), Earl recalls the happy days when Joy was pregnant with a child he thought was his and remembers how his dad (guest star Beau Bridges) urged him to stay with her.

8:30 pm: The Office.

Over on The Office("Cocktails"), it's J.J. Abrams' time to shine as he directs an episode in which Michael and Jan make their ongoing relationship known at a cocktail party thrown at the home of the Dunder-Mifflin CFO, Jim meets Karen's ex-boyfriend, and the rest of the gang head out for some happy hour drinks.

9 pm: The OC.

Time to wax nostalgic as Seth, Summer, Ryan, Kiki, JuJu, Sandy and the whole gang in Newport Beach sails off into the sunset tonight with its series finale. While I gave up the series cold turkey a loooong time ago, I might just have to sneak a peek and see how things wrap up. Just as long as they promise not to do that obnoxious glimpse into the future thing with a wrinkly Seth and Summer reminisce.

9 pm: Scrubs.

Finally! Scrubs is back on NBC's schedule, where it belongs. On tonight's episode ("My Therapeutic Month"), J.D. falls for a sexy physical therapist but can't seem to ask her out, while Turk is sent back to residency thanks to a broken arm and realizes he knew less about medicine than he thought. D'oh.

9:30 pm: 30 Rock.

I can't get this show off of my mind grapes. On tonight's episode ("Hard Ball"), Tracy gives Kenneth the Page a prized spot in his entourage, Jenna is misquoted in a magazine, and Jack negotiates Josh's new contract.


Anonymous said…
Alls I have to say is...not my favorite episode of Lost.

Oh, and further ammo for my Brady Bunch theory - an actual BB reference! I am building something here!

re: The OC. Yeah, I gave up cold turkey a long time ago, but I watched last week's in prep for this week. Gotta see it out...
I'm always patient with "Lost" but I was kind of put off by last night's episode when it failed to answer questions as promised (or just half answered). Although I don't think it would have bothered me if they hadn't gone crazy with the THREE QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED! promos. Also, Jack looked like such a dorky tourist in the flashbacks. What was up with that?
Anonymous said…
I think the reason the kids looked all dirty and barefoot in Season 2 was that the Others were still in primitive island drag (and therefore so were their captives). This season, it's all about pastels! At least that's what Michael Kors says.
And I for one felt satisfied by last night's episode. Yes, there were two magnificently stupid moments: 1) Does this look infected to you? and 2) Sawyer letting Karl run off. But all in all, I liked the Jack backstory and felt like the flashbacks worked. And are they even flashback memories or are the Losties (like Desmond) jumping back and forth through time? Whatever, I'm just glad that Christina Crawford is along for the ride. Do you think she used a wire hanger to brand Juliet?
The CineManiac said…
Two things:
1. Creators said that the rest of the flashbacks were not like Desmonds, so no they aren't going back and forth like he was, and;
2. One site pointed out that the brand looks like an upside down symbol of Scientology.

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