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What the Dickens: "Lost" Season Three Opens with A Tale of Two Cities

Is it just me or has Lost consistently presented us with a brilliant opening sequence that contradicts everything we thought we knew about the show every season so far?

Starting again with that focusing eye (previously it belonged to Jack, then Desmond, and now Juliet), Lost's season premiere ("A Tale of Two Cities") takes us on tour of a seemingly innocuous suburban town, where an unknown woman (Juliet, played by newest cast addition Elizabeth Mitchell) seems on the verge of tears before putting on, not a record, but a CD of the song "Downtown" and then realizing that she's burnt the muffins for her book club, there to discuss the merits (or trashiness) of Lost fan Stephen King's work. (That is except for someone named Ben, who is conspicuously absent.) Enter the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 following what can only be described as an electromagnetic disruption masquerading as an earthquake. Everyone runs outside into this tranquil tropical village--looking rather like an upscale Hawaiian resort--to see the plane break up in the sky overhead.

And that's when the Other-Formerly-Known-As-Henry-Gale (Michael Emerson) comes stomping out onto the village green and quickly dispatches Goodwin (Brett Cullen) and Ethan (William Mapother) to the two sections of the plane which have crashed on different parts of the island. He tells them to blend in with the groups and come up with a cover story. And wants lists from them in three days. The way he orders them about in such a calm and orderly fashion makes me think that they've done this before... perhaps many, many times before. He and Juliet exchange a look and he casually tosses off the line, "I guess I'm out of the book club then." Brilliant.

I love the fact that these seemingly normal people, complete with little old ladies, Others with plumbing skills, and argumentative book club members are the Others. We knew from last season that the rags were part of an overly elaborate theatrical ruse designed to make the castaways think that the Others were a bedraggled group of jungle dwellers and not suburban residents with CD players, working kitchens, and Stephen King books. But what's up with the whispers they can throw in the jungle? And why did they take the kids from the tail section of the plane? Why three days? And what's up with that single evergreen tree in the middle of Others village (complete with its own gazebo, no less)? I don't know about you but that weirded me out most of all, seeing an extremely tall evergreen looking so completely out of place in the tropical environment.

Jack, Sawyer, and Kate are each separated from one another and placed under immediate observation: Jack in a Hannibal Lecter-style glass cell, Sawyer in an outdoor bear cage, and Kate... in a gym-style shower. What confused me at first became remarkably clear the second they began to react to their surroundings. The Others were using their own personality traits against them. Jack's prison (both physically and metaphorically) is based on logic and order, which is why they sent Juliet in to rationalize with him. His surroundings are cold and nearly clinical. While he's underwater in fact, the room they've imprisoned him in could easily be a surgical suite for the sharks and dolphins that the Station of the Hydra had formerly bred. Sawyer on the other hand has long fought against his animalistic impulses and rage, so they imprison him in an outdoor bear cage, where he quickly begins to explore his new home, with its experiment-like buttons and levers. (Not totally convinced that Karl, his cage mate across the way, isn't part of the Others' plan and one of them. We never see them attack Karl, just the aftermath and he tries to "free" Sawyer far too easily.)

Then there's Kate. She awakens on the floor of a gym-style shower with our favorite Other, Tom (f.k.a. Zeke or the Sea Captain, played by M.C. Gainey) towering above her. He instructs her to shower and wash off the day and provides her with shampoo and soap and a clean, fluffy towel. Kate refuses to shower in front of him, but he laughs and says that she's not his type. (Huh, interesting.) Afterwards, she discovers that her clothes are gone, but there's a marked locker with a dress inside. Reluctantly, she puts it on and is led out to the beach, where Ben (the Other-Formerly-Known-As-Henry-Gale) is awaiting her, complete with a very civilized breakfast spread, including French press coffee and an appetizing spread. The Others are using Kate's feminine wiles and use of her sexuality against her. While in the past, Kate has used her looks (or her body) to get what she wants, here it's used against her as she's forced into being a woman and they use luxuries (like the shower, breakfast, the dress) against her.

Ben traps Kate into revealing which of her castaways she's more concerned about (she asks about Sawyer first) and that determines her fate: they put her in the cage across the way from Sawyer. I truly believe that if she asked about our good doctor Jack, she would have found herself underwater with him. Ben's MO is definitely about fate vs. free will (revealed by Juliet right before the crash) and he definitely errs on the side of fate. He gives Kate the opportunity to decide her own fate, but he already knows the answer. Forced to choose between logic and order and rage and chaos, she chooses our favorite con man. But I can't help but wonder how things would have turned out differently if Jack had been the first name off of her lips.

But Jack seems destined to always be second-best in the eyes of the women around him and that forms the basis of his flashback as he struggles to understand why his wife Sarah (Julie Bowen) is leaving him for another man and quickly becomes obsessed with the notion that it's his father whom she's sleeping with. (It's not, however, thus discounting hours of fan speculation on that front.) You see, Jack just wants to understand. He wants to know who this guy is and what he does so that it can make sense to his logic-fueled mind. Just like in the present, he wants to know the why's of his and Sawyer and Kate's imprisonment. But Juliet believes that people can change; it doesn't matter who you were, just who you are now. (She's definitely the free will-believing better half of the Others leadership.)

I was shocked when Juliet revealed that they had obtained Jack's father's autopsy report (or claimed to, anyway) and had concrete knowledge about Jack's education, his marriage, etc. Were they really able to get this information? Or was it a ruse, following Jack's drugging, during which he could have revealed information whilst in a suggestive state? Do the Others have a connection to the "real world"? Or is it just more smoke and mirrors?

Regardless, it seems somewhat clear that they are a religious cult of some kind and Ben appears to be their fate-driven leader. They are not Dharma Initiative members ("That was a long time ago," says Juliet.), but they seem to be using their stations and equipment, so they might be a splinter group that shot off of Dharma years ago. Whatever their affiliation, they use kidnapping, brainwashing, and murder as their modus operandi, which makes them a bonafide cult in my eyes. But what happened between Ben and Juliet that caused the friction between them... and made him willing to leave her to die should Jack open that metal door and let the ocean come rushing in?

While Ben, Juliet, and the group's motivations probably won't become clear for quite some time, I'm hooked by the latest twist in this brilliant and always serpentine drama and next Wednesday cannot arrive quickly enough so that we learn the fates of our three prisoners ... and what the rest of our castaways have been up to.

Next week on Lost ("The Glass Ballerina"): While Kate and Sawyer try to escape (and get all kissy), Sayid, Jin, and Sun attempt a daring rescue of the prisoners but the Others aren't going down without a fight. Meanwhile, Ben becomes obsessed with capturing Desmond's boat (curious, that), Jack gets a tempting offer, and Jin takes a bullet. Me, I'm more worried about what's going to happen to the pregnant Sun.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Survivor: Cook Islands (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Smallville (CW); Ugly Betty (ABC); Desire (MyNet)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Supernatural (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Fashion House (MyNet)

10 pm: Shark (CBS); ER (NBC); Six Degrees (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: My Name is Earl.

Personally, I thought that last week's episode was a slight improvement over the seriously lackluster season premiere. On tonight's episode ("Sticks & Stones"), Earl decides to make amends for #91 on his list after seeing Catalina (wow, two episodes in a row!) waxing the face of another motel maid.

8:30 pm: The Office.

On tonight's episode ("The Coup"), Michael gets busted by Jan and Corporate after staging a "Movie Monday," whereby the employees of Dunder-Mifflin watch films all day rather than, you know, do work, leading a very Lady Macbeth-channeling Angela to urge Dwight to usurp Michael's position in the company. Out, damn spot!

10 pm: Six Degrees.

Six strangers discover that their lives are seemingly connected in the latest drama from producer J.J. Abrams. On the drama's third episode ("A New Light"), Laura (Hope Davis) receives a mysterious videotape that claims she'll die within seven days ... Sorry, wrong tape. Instead, said videotape makes her question her late journalist husband's integrity.

Comments

Anonymous said…
The first thing I thought of when I saw the village? Well...The Village. I'm just glad they don't speak all old-timey. That would get old, and quick.

I cannot bring myself to care about Jack, no matter how many flashbacks they throw at me. I enjoy Matthew Fox as an actor, but the character just rubs me the wrong way. I'm excited about next week to get a glimpse of what's going on on the rest of the island, as I care way more about the secondary characters on this show than the main three.
I really like the new character of Juliet. She and Ben obviously have history and I'm looking forward to learning more about what happened between them.

The first season of the show was all about our main castaways. The second season shifted focus to the "Tailies." Could this be the season of The Others?
Jon88 said…
A question for someone who takes better notes than I do: Who has been murdered by the Others? Did they specifically order Michael to kill Ana Lucia, or was this his idea?

Also, Juliet and Ben used to be a couple, yes?
Jace Lacob said…
Jon,

As for who the Others have killed, they were most definitely behind Michael's murder of Ana-Lucia (if he hadn't have killed her, Ben would have). Goodwin murdered Nathan and would have killed Ana too. Ethan killed Charlie (well, he was able to be revived, but he was DEAD).

Did they murder the real Henry Gale? Unknown. And we don't know whether their kidnap victims are dead or alive yet.

But those are just the examples of murders, both attempted and successful, that we're aware of so far...
Me said…
I forgot all about the premiere!
Anonymous said…
I haven't finished reading this yet, but the opening scene was FABULOUS!!!

and I love Juliet.

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