by Andrew Dignan
"Previously on 'Lost'..." Not just a nifty way to recap the events leading up to last night's episode, but also an apt one of describing the actual show itself. At times walking a fine-line between a new episode and one of those annoying, "Destination: Lost" clip-shows they get Peter Coyote to narrate and stick on TV in the dead of April, the Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz penned "Three Minutes" showed us exactly what happened when Michael ran off into the jungle in search of his kidnapped son Walt (the long absent Malcolm David Kelley) only to return weeks later a cold-blooded killer.
And it kind of looked a lot like the episode "Hunting Party" which aired back in January.
Feeling like a lull between the fireworks of the last couple of shows and the ones sure to come next week, the episode goes about setting up the odd circumstances that will require Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley to follow Michael into the jungle armed to the teeth to raid the Others' camp and get Walt back, while attempting to humanize Michael's betrayal as an act of fatherly devotion. We probably didn't require Eko's story about a young boy killing a dog that bit his sister to understand where Michael's head is at, but it certainly underlined the issue: nothing matters more than reuniting his family, no matter what the cost.
In one of the rare instances of the show using its flashbacks to advance the plot as opposed to fleshing out back-story—rarer still for being set entirely on the island—"Three Minutes" finds us repeatedly moving back and forth between the present and the events of thirteen days ago when Michael first disappeared. We know this is the timeframe because the show none-too-subtly stamps the date at the bottom of the screen each time we jump around in chronology (apparently remembering that Michael in a sling = present, no sling = past is too taxing on us poor viewers). It's a bit of a nitpick, but it's also representative of the episode's redundant nature, as it tries to make information we've already seen appear exciting and new. Did you like "Mr. Friendly" (the great character actor MC Gainey in full Grizzly Adams beard) chastising Jack and company for "putting their feet up in another man's home" before? Good, because you're about to hear part of it again only now with Michael, gagged and held at gunpoint, looking on from the sidelines.
Of course, the entire episode wasn't just a cleverly edited recap, it only felt that way. Tied-up and walked to the far side of the island, Michael (and we the viewers) get our first prolonged look at the Others and the beachfront tents and shacks they call home... or at least want us to think they call them home. Up till now shown masked in shadow, filmed from the waist down or viewed through the haze of heavy medication, the skulking Others finally got some of the demystification treatment this week. Hell, Michael first stumbles upon one of them played by Michael Bowen (not sure if his name is Buck or if he still likes to fuck) in broad daylight taking a whiz.
After getting roped up and marched off to the Others' camp, Michael walks past a group of dirtied-up refuges from the Road Warrior who don't appear to be having the Club Med adventure that the castaways on the other side of the island have had. Despite access to the Dharma Initiative's underground network of hatches (we see two armed gunmen standing guard in front of a hatch) and a better understanding of what the island really is, this is a dour, spartan bunch that by all outward appearance lives in abject squalor.
We're introduced to the mysterious Ms. Klugh (yes it's pronounced "clue") who has some very pointed questions about Walt, that Michael, had he taken a more active role in parenting, might have been able to answer. One question that we can certainly answer even if Michael can't is "Did Walt ever appear in a place he wasn't supposed to be?" If only poor Shannon were still alive to back up our accounts of his apparition-like appearances.
The motives for bringing Michael back to their camp aren't externalized but the one for his release is: they want their man "Henry Gale" back and say they're willing to part with Walt in order to get him. Demanding proof they have his son, Michael is granted a short reunion (hence the episode's title) with Walt. It's been almost a year since we've seen David Kelley at any length and, much to my surprise, the young actor seems to have dodged the puberty bullet with his name on it. It certainly helps with the verisimilitude of the show and its condensed timeline, but this is a ticking bomb that's bound to go off any day now. Someone keep this kid in steady supply of coffee and cigarettes.
But the Faustian deal Michael strikes with Klugh—played by the actress April Grace who knows a thing or two about interrogations having broken Frank TJ Mackey in Magnolia—doesn't end with aiding "Gale's" escape (nor does Michael settle for simply getting Walt back, shrewdly holding out for the motor-boat we saw Mr. Friendly tooling around in). Klugh has a list of four names; four castaways whom she wants brought to her for reasons that I suspect will loom large and unanswered well past next week's finale. When asked how he'll get these people to follow him to their camp, Klugh tells him to make up a story because "they'll be angry enough to believe whatever you say," perhaps anticipating the horrible things Michael will have to do to cause this chain of events.
Back in the present, Michael proves to be the most pathetic liar since William H. Macy tried to fudge the serial numbers on some car loan forms in Fargo, stumbling, stammering and in short making the worst sales pitch imaginable that Kate and the 300+ lb Hurley would make better rescue party members than former Republican Guard and certified badass Sayid would. As Sawyer brilliantly puts it "even though Pippy Longstocking and the damn Grape Ape are ideal candidates for the 'Dirty Dozen,' I'm just gonna' say we might want to bring the red beret." You would think that the situation wouldn't require Sayid's Corleone-esque gift of perception to figure out that something fishy is going on, but since no one else does, it's all the better for our castaways he pulls Jack aside to let him in on his suspicions.
Sayid's read of Michael would appear to level the playing field a bit for next week's assault/ambush on Others' beach and the appearance of an approaching schooner in off shore (perhaps the one that brought Desmond to the island?) at episode's end is the sort of out-of-left-field capper fans of the show live for, but I can't get over the feeling that we spent the week in a holding pattern. It doesn't look as if either Locke or Eko have reported on their discoveries of last week's episode and most of what we learn about Michael's motives had been correctly inferred by astute viewers. The real trinket of new info from this episode is Klugh's list, which is interesting more for who's not on it (no Locke or Eko or pregnant Sun?) than who is.
The feeling of déjà vu in "Three Minutes" permeated beyond the recycled footage as well. Here we are, yet again, presiding over a teary-eyed, beach-side funeral of a beloved cast member (two of them actually). There's Charlie further wrestling with his drug addiction. I swear Charlie even makes the same joke to Eko about not writing or calling that Bernard made three episodes back.
In general, I found the episode marred by writing lazier and more hackneyed than usual. Vincent, the dog dropping the heroin-concealing statue literally at Charlie's feet, was such a perfect moment that I'm willing to ignore how contrived it was, but I'm less willing to overlook the dopey following scene where Charlie makes a big show of hucking his stash into the ocean while Locke watches on silently. Charlie nonchalantly dropping "vaccine" he "found" in Claire's lap without running it by island doc Jack, and Claire doesn't bat an eye (hey, didn't this guy try to drown your baby a couple weeks ago)? Sawyer's heart to heart with Jack as he grieved over Ana-Lucia was downright embarrassing, containing not only a drunken frat boy confession ("...you're about the closest thing I got to a friend, doc") but also a cheese-ball, macho bullshit exit line of "at least now we get to kill somebody" followed by the lock and load of a shotgun. Yeesh, get thee back into Tango & Cash where you belong. Locke cutting himself free of his leg brace and literally stepping on his crutches as he walks off into the sunset (couldn't he have kicked over his old wheelchair along the way?). And could Hurley have perhaps waited until after he finished Libby's eulogy to tell Michael he'll ride with him to get Walt back? Are we certain Stephen E. de Souza didn't ghostwrite this thing?
As for advancing the show's mythology, the episode chose to illuminate the one element of the conspiracy I'm not especially interested in: who are these crazy, jungle-lurking Others? Having gotten rapped on the knuckles (and rightly so) for jumping to the conclusion last week that the numbers were meaningless, I maintain a healthy level of skepticism that the Others grunginess and hobo-town was all a façade; we already know Friendly's wearing a false beard and as Walt pointed out "They're not who they say they are. They're pretending." But to what end, this ruse? Do they work for Dharma? An off-shoot of Dharma? Are they squatters or castaways themselves? Are they really less imposing under half an inch of dirt or is the idea to be more so? And is this all a charade just for Michael's benefit or do they hang out like this all day, like they're employees of Plymouth Plantation?
We also were reintroduced to Alex—played by the dangerously jailbait-looking Tania Raymonde—who's most likely the daughter of Danielle Rousseau, the mad Frenchwoman. Last seen assisting Claire escape in her then-pregnant state, Alex takes time in-between smacking Michael in the back of the head with the butt of her rifle to inquire just how mother and child are doing these days. It's interesting that the girl (presuming she is in fact Rousseau's offspring) was forcibly taken from her mother as a child and is now a conspirator herself. One wonders if Walt is destined for the same kind of Patty Hearst-like attachment to his captors if he doesn't get the heck out of there. Maybe Michael's rescue is coming not a moment too soon.
So, next week: the long awaited, two-hour season finale that JJ Abrams has promised is better than sex, ice cream, baseball and Bacardi 151 combined. The real deal or breathless claims meant to assuage people still bummed about last year's finale? As long as it doesn't end with us staring up at Jack and Locke from inside another hatch, I'll say it's a step in the right direction.