'Lost': Sun and Jin vs. true love
Yes, pretty much nothing happened. Yeah, Sun getting an aphasia that meant she could no longer speak English was pretty convenient from a storytelling perspective (and pretty stupid all around). And that "V" countdown clock ABC stuck in the lower right-hand corner of the screen for much of the episode's running time was deeply enervating. At one point, around the middle of the episode, it went away, and I was thrilled that someone at ABC had apparently gotten the memo, only to have it replaced immediately by a little bumper for the local news on the East Coast feed I was watching. At the episode's emotional climax, where Sun and Jack are talking about how little she cares about being a candidate and she's writing her answers to him on a notepad, the little clock actually blocked one of the words she was writing. Now, it was easy enough to make it out around the big red V, but this was a stupid call on ABC's part, and one that the network is rightly being lambasted for.
Now, we can't hold that against the show, since no one involved with it has any say in how ABC promotes its programs. But we could hold the other two things against the show if it didn't accomplish both so gosh-darn stylishly. This is far from my favorite "Lost" episode ever or even of the season, but it's also not ruined by some decisions that have often dragged "Lost" episodes down in the past. There are few things more irritating on this show than a whole episode that's devoted to everyone involved talking about what they're going to do and then very little of that happening, as the show realizes it can't get the plot moving too quickly. This was pretty much one of those episodes in both the flash-sideways and the main plot, and yet it maintained a certain level of enjoyment for me.
The aphasia, though, is where I suspect most of us will want to start. Now, obviously, I probably shouldn't be bothered by a pseudo-medical reason for Sun to suddenly lose her ability to speak English on a show with a smoke monster and pockets of electromagnetic energy that can cause plane crashes, but something about the way the plot was introduced really bugged me. I can buy the justification that it's meant as a way to perhaps suggest the sideways universe (where Sun can't speak English) is reaching out to stick its tendrils into the main timeline. I can even buy the justification that it's a clever way for the show to flip the situation from when the series began, where Sun could speak English and Jin could not. But the way it all came up -- Sun runs into a branch and gets her mind joggled -- was pretty silly and a throwback to daytime soap operas. (Or, at the very least, the first season of "24," when the same thing pretty much happens to Terri, only she forgets everything.)
Now, don't get me wrong. I liked the way that this allowed Sun to say everything she was really thinking without anyone interrupting her or trying to talk her out of it. Her anguish at having the big questions of who the final candidate will be and what it will take to defeat the Man in Black take precedence over her desire to see her husband again and escape the Island with him to see their daughter again was very well done. Yunjin Kim, who has always been one of the show's unsung acting treasures, sold every one of these moments perfectly, and once the show got past trying to explain what happened to her, I liked the way the series offered this up as a way to subtly isolate her from everyone else in her little group.
It also reminded me of just how much I used to love scenes between Jack and Sun and just how much more Sun used to get to do on the show. (Kim and TV husband Daniel Dae Kim have pretty much had nothing to do since mid-season four, which is too bad, as Sun and Jin have always been among my favorite characters on the show.) But the whole process of the show explaining why this had happened, of saying that, "Yeah, sometimes things like this happen in real life!" might have been accurate but sure felt like the series was vaguely embarrassed to be doing this and wanted to justify it somehow. Had the show just written it off as the Island being the Island, it might have been just as silly, but it wouldn't have carried that vague specter of shame that kept the whole thing feeling sort of goofy.
Furthermore, I absolutely get the complaints that the flash-sideways is pretty stand-still. It basically exists to get Jin in that freezer that we saw him in back at the end of Sayid's episode. While I like the notion that the two are still in love in the flash-sideways universe but somehow unable to really be together, it feels like the episode doesn't really have anywhere to go with that storyline from there, instead tossing in Keamy (and the revelation that he's there to kill Jin for messing with the boss' daughter) and hoping for the best. The early scene where Sun unbuttons her shirt in front of Jin is sexy and fun, and the end of the storyline -- where Sun gets accidentally shot in the gut and reveals she's pregnant, Jin trying to get her to the hospital in time -- is a nice (if completely predictable) twist. But everything in the middle with the two trying to avoid what was going on and Mikhail turning up as a translator felt like just killing time between point A and a point B we already knew about. Outside of Mikhail being in the storyline, none of this was unexpected, and that kept the flash-sideways plot from really taking off. (I did like having Keamy back, though, and I liked how he kept yelling at Jin and Sun to be understood. It's a cheap joke, but it made me laugh.)
But, y'know what? I still liked this episode well enough, and I think that was because it was a Jin and Sun episode. The two get a lot of flak from fans, who see their episodes as time wasters, much of the time, episodes that are seemingly designed to kill time before the really big ones happen. But I love more Jin and Sun episodes than I dislike them. I wouldn't say I loved this one (like I loved, say, season one's "House of the Rising Sun" or season three's "D.O.C."), but the emotional heart of the storyline -- these two crazy Koreans just want to be together -- remains consistent and that means I'm a sucker for Sun's frustration at almost two full seasons of JUST missing her beloved husband. I want these two crazy kids together, and I want it sooner, rather than later.
But this pulls out to a larger point about "Lost," I think. The one place in fiction where ideas of destiny and fate are almost necessary for the story to work for most people is in the love story. How many romantic comedies have you seen where the characters are presented with a range of possible partners and then choose one with the expectation that if it doesn't work out somewhere down the road, they might go and find somebody else? Obviously, there aren't too many. All evidence to the contrary, we humans seem to want to believe that there is exactly one person for us, one person with whom we'd be absolutely happy. All we have to do is find that person, right?
"Lost," obviously, deals with issues of fate and destiny all over the place. Jacob (and/or the Island) wanted these people to come to him, so he brought them. Many of them have come to believe they have some purpose in this whole cycle, even if many of them are actively working to avoid that purpose. But look at how all of the show's love stories end up. Almost all of them are about people who seem like they're destined to be together or people who clearly believe they're meant to be together and end up learning that the universe has other plans. I highly doubt that this series is going to end without a Sun and Jin reunion. That would just be too dark. But keeping them apart this long seems like the show's tragic, romantic heart being at war with its ideas about fate and free will. And it's not just these two, either. Juliet is torn away from Sawyer. Kate can't make up her mind (and even when Jack becomes her only option, he pretty much screws it all up). Desmond and Penny are separated by the forces of space and time. Richard's beloved wife dies, and he can never find the way to bring her back. I half expect to find out that the Man in Black went crazy because a girl he really liked just wanted nothing to do with him.
It's a little funny, I think, that "Lost," a show that started out with a plane crash, has ended up being a series about missed connections as much as anything else. For as much as the people on the series talk about purpose and destiny, about having a higher meaning to their lives, there's often a sense that the universe -- or SOMEthing, at least -- is actively working against them. Keamy himself says that some people just aren't meant to be together tonight, and while I doubt Keamy's going to be the guy who expresses the show's ultimate philosophy on love, it certainly seems sometimes like the show believes less in the possibility of true love and more in true love being thwarted at every turn. It's as if the show turns ever-so-slightly cynical when it comes to this point of view. (Though, again, I would be very surprised if the show ended without at least some of these couples -- even the ones separated by death -- reuniting.)
And yet, even if both storylines were marking time (and a little unfocused, since they kept skipping between locales in a way that felt center-less at times), I ultimately liked the episode. I liked the insight we got into what Widmore's up to and the answers we got about what happens if the Man in Black escapes the Island (everything ceases to be!) were appropriately apocalyptic (though also vague enough to suggest that that whole epilogue theory of the flash-sideways plots might be correct). Having Alan Dale back has introduced a nice wild card into the whole scenario, and I like the way Widmore's presence is forcing the Man in Black to improvise, something he's clearly a bit uncomfortable with. I also liked a lot of the on-Island character scenes, and I like the way it seems that both Jack and Sawyer are working their best to just get as many people off the Island as possible.
But, for me, what made this episode work hinged almost entirely on two scenes. The first is just a brief character moment, but it's one that's played perfectly by Daniel Dae Kim. Widmore presents Jin with a camera that contains photos of his daughter, Ji-Yeon, whom he's never seen or met. The sheer joy and sadness on Jin's face in this moment, his relief at finally getting to see the little girl he's wondered about all these years but also his worry that he may yet end up dead or unable to see her in some other way. All I wanted in that moment was for Jin to finally get to meet his daughter, and it's to the show's credit that this moment is so emotionally raw and perfectly pitched. And knowing my love of Desmond as you do, do you even have to ask what the other scene was? Yes, friends, Mr. Hume is back, and he's still a little bit drugged out from his trip to the Island. But I have a feeling we'll be getting to know just what he has to say and just how all of these pieces fit together very soon. I don't blame you if you thought this episode was one, big stall tactic, but those two scenes gave me faith that "Lost" knows what it's doing and where it's headed in the immediate future.
Some other thoughts:
- * The show is essentially just toying with us now every time the characters get in those long boats, isn't it? We all know one of those scenes is going to end with the season five "Lost" gang shooting at the season six gang, and waiting for it is starting to feel ridiculous.
- * I shared this theory with my wife, and she was horrified, both that I had thought of it and that it seems like something the show might actually try. So here goes. I posit that Jack will take the place of Jacob, while Kate will take the place of Smokey. Only, this time, instead of the mutual anger between the two creating a war, Jack and Kate's PERFECT LOVE (or something) will destroy the antipathy meant to be built up between these two entities. Thus, the two will become both the Jacob and Smokey replacements AND Adam and Eve, all at once. I don't actually expect this to happen, but I consider it my worst-case scenario. If it does happen, I expect shoes to be thrown all across this great nation of ours.
- * I like how Ben's 12-step program for giving up his lust for power has apparently led to him just helping out Sun whenever he can.
- * It was nice to see the brainwashing room from season three pop up again. I do hope that we get some answers that put the whole role of DHARMA and the Others (and the relationship between the two) in some sort of context. I'd say that would be a pretty big piece of the puzzle to leave unresolved.
- * The Man in Black setting up a Kate-versus-Claire girl fight with his carefully chosen words definitely seems like a big piece of the show putting things in place for the finale.
- * If there are ever more "Lost" action figures, I want a nighttime Sayid swimming action set. Creepy!
- * And with that, it's time to go. Remember to send me your theories and thoughts via e-mail or Twitter. Or you can just post what you have to say in the comments section too.
--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)
Photo: Above: Ben (Michael Emerson) is very concerned for Sun's (Yunjin Kim) health after she knocks herself out. Below: Charles Widmore (Alan Dale) is back on the Island. (Credit: ABC)