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Naveen Andrews (#110 of 16)

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 15, “Follow the Leader”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Follow the Leader”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Follow the Leader”

When I was a young kid, probably around 9 or 10, I was on the town baseball team (and the town I grew up in was small enough to field a “town” team), despite all evidence that I should probably give up on my athletic dreams. I sat on the bench through most of the games, and once they were over, the next-older team of kids would take the field and we younger kids would have to make our own fun. This usually involved watching the next game, but it occasionally took on other forms of general kid excitement. One week, somebody said, “There’s a CAVE in the woods behind the park,” so, naturally, we being young boys, we went to take a look. The cave was more of a hole in the side of a big hill, dirt encrusted on all sides, but it yawned before us, dark and foreboding and slightly terrifying. The idea of what might be on the other side, what worlds might be opened up by entering it, was, honestly, more exciting than the actual expedition, which only revealed that the cave (or, more accurately, a tunnel) opened up in the field behind the woods. When I think about why I like sometimes shoddy genre entertainment like Lost, I think it’s because I want, more than anything, to recapture that sense I had as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by empty space and millions of possibilities. What makes the show speak to me, more than anything, is that sense of standing on the cusp of something unexpected, torch lit, ready to go.

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 13, “Some Like It Hoth”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “Some Like It Hoth”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “Some Like It Hoth”

Father issues are to the Lost flashback what cancer is to a diagnosis on House. There’s always a tumor somewhere on that show, and if someone has emotional trauma in their past on Lost, it almost always stems from their dad doing them wrong somewhere along the line. One could type up an exact recounting of whose father wronged them how, but that would take up the whole of this piece, and no one would want to read that. Suffice it to say that when Lost confirmed what we all suspected and let us know out front the parentage of Miles Straum, we longtime fans probably braced ourselves for another vaguely dissatisfying hour of a character working through a variety of complexes all linked to the man who walked out on them. Or, y’know, threw them out a window and paralyzed them. Whatever.

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 11, “Whatever Happened, Happened”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Whatever Happened, Happened”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Whatever Happened, Happened”

When I was easing my way back into the TV criticism game late last year, I started thinking about how many shows on the air right now balance a sense of inevitability against the unexpected to generate their conflict. A large portion of the conflict on, say, Mad Men derives from the fact that we, the audience, know what’s coming for the characters, but they do not. We also know that the characters are on the wrong side of history, and that throws most of their actions into a new light. Or look at Breaking Bad, where we usually know the end before we know the beginning, and the ride is all about seeing how the characters try to escape the fate laid out for them but are unable to. There are shows like this all over the dial. All of it had happened before on Battlestar Galactica, and all of it would happen again. Even something as disappointing and all-over-the-place as Damages balanced its storytelling with flash-forwards that let us know (sort of) what was to come. I tentatively grouped Lost in with these shows after its fourth season, since its flash-forwards also offered this sense of inevitability, but it was only a supporting piece of evidence in my case for the new TV fatalism. Interestingly enough, however, Lost’s fifth season is practically all about inevitability and fatalism, in a way that very much casts a new light on events from earlier in the show. A show that purports to be all about the unexpected has become very much a rumination on the futility of trying to escape your predestined fate.

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 10, “He’s Our You”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “He’s Our You”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “He’s Our You”

Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews) has always been one of Lost’s most under-served characters. If you go back and look at the Pilot, the revelation that he’s an Iraqi is played for friggin’ COMIC EFFECT, for God’s sake. Andrews’ performance is so solid (to the point where he’s one of the few Lost cast members to score an Emmy nomination, somewhat inexplicably) and his presence is so great that he’s been kept alive long after other characters the show had no idea how to service would have been killed off. Every season, the series tosses in an episode that pretty much boils down to, “Hey, Sayid used to torture. Isn’t that MORALLY AMBIGUOUS?!” and calls it a day. Without Andrews, most of these episodes would be complete yawns (only “Solitary” and “The Economist” are really worthy of his talents), but the actor has managed to save most of these by just gritting his teeth and pushing through the pain. Like, pretty much all I can remember about Season Three’s “Enter 77” is that the Sayid flashback was ridiculous (I think it involved a mystical cat?), but Andrews was SO GOOD that I liked it more than I probably should have.

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 9, “Namaste”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Namaste”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Namaste”

At this point, midway through its fifth season, Lost is about as consistently good as it’s ever been. It’s not hitting the highs its capable of (no episode this season rivals anything like “The Constant” or “Walkabout”), but it’s also not sinking into the really stupid lows it used to alternate those highs with. It’s just a fun, poppy show, a blend of pulp, goofy sci-fi and basic character drama. I don’t know how long Lost can keep this up, but episodes like “Namaste,” written by Brian K. Vaughan and Paul Zbyszewski and directed by Jack Bender, have been among the most unbridled fun you can have watching TV. Lost, at its best, is just a terrifically good time, and “just a terrifically good time” describes most of Season Five to a T. When a title came up early in the episode reading “Thirty Years Earlier,” it made me giggle with glee because, c’mon, where else are you going to see that on a TV show?

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 7, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 7, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 7, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

I’m sure ten million Lost fans have made this joke already, but “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” was essentially The Passion of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). Not for nothing, apparently, did the last episode prominently focus on Jack’s (Matthew Fox) role as the doubting Thomas of our little band of players.

But then, Locke, especially as played by O’Quinn, has always been the self-appointed messiah of the Island. He believes there’s a destiny that everyone who crashed there is living up to. He’s willing to make the ultimate sacrifice when he’s told he has to and barely even questions it until the midpoint of this episode. And, really, all he wants to do is save everyone. Sure, everyone on Lost has a BIT of a savior complex, but Locke’s comes with the kind of manic fury that one would need to really get things done. He was a broken man off-Island, but on the Island, he’s been given everything he would ever want, so he becomes its chief witness and bearer of its testament. “Life and Death,” written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof and directed by Jack Bender, is as much about removing that casual swagger and confidence from Locke and reducing him to a broken man again as it is playing out the beats that led to Locke attempting to kill himself. It’s very similar to last week’s “316,” right down to the structural level, but I liked it quite a bit better for a variety of reasons. It’s a fairly bold piece of television—and bold in a way Lost rarely has been in the past—for the way it focuses so singularly on one man’s despair and for the way it refuses to be especially plotty outside of its opening and closing segments. It’s a straight-up character piece, so it helps that the character being examined is possibly Lost’s most fascinating (and well-played).

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 6, “316”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “316”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “316”

For the first time this season, I feel completely stymied by Lost, and I sort of don’t know what to say about it. It did a lot of the things I wanted it to (using the tale of the Oceanic 6 returning to the Island to delve more deeply into their characters), and it had a bunch of really terrific little scenes and moments, as well as the sort of deeply mournful tone so many of the best Lost episodes adopt, but it also managed to view a lot of the stuff going on through absolutely the wrong character prism. This seems like the sort of episode that will greatly improve when watched on DVD later, but at the moment, it seemed so bizarre to try to force the dramatic arc of returning to the Island to be viewed through the point-of-view of Jack (Matthew Fox), the one person who’s as gung ho about returning as Ben (Michael Emerson). This left the episode strangely bereft of dramatic snap, even as it sort of worked as a character piece around the edges of the Jack story. I presume it will work better once we know just how the O6 miraculously gathered together again to hop aboard Ajira Airlines flight 316 to Guam, but making Jack our entryway to this story made it both frustrating and fascinating, though mostly unpredictable ways. So, yeah, I’m a bit unsure of what I think, but let’s talk it out, shall we.

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 4, “The Little Prince”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “The Little Prince”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “The Little Prince”

There’s a deal we make, we Lost fans and appreciators. We agree to watch the show and find it generally enjoyable, and the show agrees to keep giving us our weekly fix of obscure symbolism, time travel weirdness and big plot twists. But there’s a devil in the details (isn’t there always in deals of this sort?): Once or twice per season, the show hands over to us a Kate (Evangeline Lilly) episode and leaves us grumbling. And with “The Little Prince” (as with last season’s fourth episode, “Eggtown”), we got us our Kate episode for Season Five. Fortunately, “Prince,” written by Melinda Hsu and Brian K.Vaughn and directed by Stephen Williams, was nowhere near as boring as “Eggtown,” but it was still a step down from last week’s terrific “Jughead.”

Lost Recap Season 5, Episode 3, “Jughead”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Jughead”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Jughead”

When Lost had the idea to reveal that there was a man living down the hatch, a second season premiere development that emerged from much of the back half of the first season’s mysteries, I doubt anyone had any idea that character would prove as integral to the show as Henry Ian Cusick’s Desmond already has. If Hurley (Jorge Garcia, not in tonight’s episode) is the show’s soul, as I argued last week, then Desmond has evolved almost accidentally into the show’s wildly romantic heart. This has been quite a feat for a character many fans never thought would turn up again after he split at the end of season two’s third episode, “Orientation” (and, indeed, Cusick turned up on a few OTHER series in that TV season), but the amount of pathos the show is able to wring from the Desmond/Penny (Sonya Walger) pairing, a relationship that even the forces of space and time often seem to be against, makes the show’s clumsier attempts at relationships seem that much more ham-handed. The interminable Jack (Matthew Fox)/Kate (Evangeline Lilly)/Sawyer (Josh Holloway) triangle was all right in seasons one and two when it was just One of Those Things Genre Shows Are Expected to Do, but the unexpected WEIGHT of Desmond and Penny makes it seem that much more superficial, even in retrospect. It’s tempting to just point at this pairing and say to the producers, “Guys? More like that, please.”

Lost Recap: Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2, “Because You Left” and “The Lie”

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Lost Recap: Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2, “Because You Left” and “The Lie”
Lost Recap: Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2, “Because You Left” and “The Lie”

I suspect when all is said and done that the history of Lost will cleave it pretty neatly into two different shows.

There’s already been plenty written about how Lost’s two-hour fifth season premiere (which is really two episodes that probably could have been stitched together more neatly but most likely weren’t for syndication reasons) more overtly tugs the show into science fiction territory, while the stuff off the island with the Oceanic Six delves into the character-based side of the show that has kept it from having ratings so low it was canceled midway through its first season. But this divide between genre show and character drama is not specifically where the great divide falls for Lost. The great divide falls between the first half of the show’s third season and the last half of that season (which roughly matches up with when executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse convinced ABC to let them set a hard end date for the series). Before season three’s 13th episode, “The Man from Tallahassee,” the series was much more meandering and much more prone to fits of stupidity. But it was also a show with more time—time for things like visual poetry or narrative tangents that occasionally seemed like dead ends (fans hated season three’s “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead,” but it was really a fine little piece of television—it just didn’t advance the master narrative in any way). This series also was slowly shrugging off some of the pitfalls from first season, mostly set there via the original series conception by J.J. Abrams and Lindelof (Abrams has since left the series as an active creative force for the most part, enmeshing himself in Fringe, which actually is starting to feel a lot like Lost in some ways), and that could lead to some really ridiculous things like long flashbacks where we learned why Jack got a tattoo.