Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOST Redux: S3E10 Tricia Tanaka is Dead

(At the request of a reader, I will be reposting old editions of my LOST column as they no longer appear on the internet. I will not be making any edits to them, so please be aware that they represent a moment and time--my thoughts and analysis after watching an episode's initial airing.)

LOST has jumped the shark, huh? It’s just not good anymore? The writers and producers don’t know what they’re doing? Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, of the viewing audience, I am done defending this show. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to stop writing about it. What I am going to do is stop writing about it from the defensive position. Last week I had a lot of good things to say about a strong episode. However, I was paranoid about all the negativity I knew would be heaped upon an episode that we now know was placed in between two very strong episodes. From this sentence forward, I will only write about an episode from the assumed perspective that you and I both enjoyed the episode. If you didn’t enjoy something, why would you want to read (or write a column) about it? I can honestly say that I’ve loved every episode of LOST. Sure, they’re imperfect and some are incredibly spectacular while others are just good, but LOST is one of those rare series that always delivers. What’s my evidence supporting this claim? Ladies and Gentlemen of the viewing audience, I present to you Exhibit A: The Hurley Episode.

In the run of LOST so far, there have been three Hurley episodes: Numbers, Everybody Hates Hugo, and Tricia Tanaka is Dead. Of those three, I would argue that Numbers was the least powerful; however, being the least powerful of an insane trilogy still makes it insanely powerful. The simple fact of the matter is, Hurley episodes always deliver. I don’t think such a claim can be made about any other character’s flashbacks. The only other character I can think of with comparable strength of episodes is Desmond, as he had the Season Two Finale and the ridiculous Flashes Before Your Eyes two weeks ago.

Before I steal any thunder away from any of the other three sections of the column (and considering that my mind is starting to wander all over the place, which I’m sure is reflected in the previous paragraph), let’s move on to the flashback section. I promise that the comparison of the three Hurley episodes will be comprised in the composition of the rest of the column. (Yes, I used a lot of words that start with co in that sentence.)

WHAT WOULD DUNCAN MCLEOD DO?

The first idea I can hear echoing throughout the internet is the introduction of Hurley’s father to the story. The “All The Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” theory rears its ugly head again. I’m sure someone will consider the following question a reach, but, does Hurley really have that bad of father issues? Yes, I understand that abandonment is serious and can have just as ill effects on a child as, say, the suicide of Sawyer’s father had on him. However, Hurley leaving and going to Australia demonstrated why it is hard to have sympathy for some characters sometimes. All he had to do was try with his father and the healing would have begun. Instead, he chose to go to Australia. I guess my point about Hurley’s character is as follows.

Hugo Reyes’ main struggle is not coming to terms with his father’s abandonment of him. Throughout the episode, it seemed as if his father was little more than a nuisance. Hurley knew he wanted the money and just wanted him to leave. I would assert that most people with serious issues with the abandonment would deserve answers. The classic story is the adopted kid who searches out for his birth parents. Hurley didn’t do such a thing. In fact, throughout the entire episode, it was Cheech trying to reach out to Hurley.

Did anyone else think about My Name is Earl during this episode? In a Season One episode, Earl decides to win back a car for his father. His father was restoring the car and Earl lost it in a road race. The twist of the episode was that all of his life Earl didn’t realize that his father was restoring the car to give to him when he got his license. The episode ends with Earl and his father working on the car together and Earl realizing that he stole the time with his father from himself. Obviously, Cheech stole the time here, but the metaphor of the car and the similarity still struck me.

It’s also kind of funny that Hurley’s father is Cheech and this episode centered around him finding a stoner van. I’m almost reminded of an interesting difference. Every other father in LOST so far has been a hindrance to his progeny. Jin resented his father. Sun’s father is an evil corporation leader (oh no). Jack’s father haunts him. Charlie’s father abandoned him as well. This episode was the first example of a father having a positive affect on his child on LOST. Cheech saying you make your own luck made Hurley “make” his own luck by starting the Dharma Van.

Of course, Hurley didn’t really make his own luck, did he? This discussion may belong in the LOSTology section, but first Vincent found Hurley and delivered him to the van, then a series of seemingly random events brought, Jin, Charlie, and Sawyer to his aid. It’s interesting how the placement of the episode in the series changes our perception of it. If this episode had been in the first season, everything would have seemed so innocent (except for the Vincent thing). Now that we’re pretty sure the island or whatever can control animals, we see how the series of events was set into motion. Then, there just so happened to be beer to coerce Sawyer into helping? It will be interesting to see how the van is used in the future.

The other notable quality of this episode was the tone. Hurley’s stories always have some type of an uplifting ending to them. What made the tone of this episode interesting was that it returned to the “Happy Go Lucky” Hurley of the first season.

Numbers, though most of it was tragic, was at its heart a comedy. When the accountant jumped from the tower, I laughed. The way the event was juxtaposed in the episode, though someone committing suicide is awful, was funny. The episode ended with Hurley commiserating with Rousseau. We found out that he wasn’t alone, that the 815ers weren’t alone and everything was going somewhere. That ending, and the numbers themselves, are a big part of the reason I think Hurley I at the heart of the mystery.

Everybody Hates Hugo, though most of it was very dark, was a victory. In fact, the victory was the first real victory of Season Two for the 815ers. The first three episodes featured the journey into the depths of the Hatch and Sawyer and Michael floating at sea. Everything was so dark. Sawyer and Michael floated at night. The depths of the Hatch were poorly lit. The Hatch was a demonizing influence on the show. Paradoxically, at the end of the episode, Hurley puts his distribution plan into action at night. As he handed out the food, we were granted our first real smile of Season Two.

This episode was light from beginning to finish. Desmond’s powers didn’t seem as foreboding. Sawyer was downright likeable (to everyone). While there was no dark theme within the episode, the episode was placed in a very dark place in the season. This season has been pretty dark in general. It was like the producers were not only admitting that the 815ers needed some hope, but that we, the viewing audience needed some hope. I’ll return to this idea later.

One final note:
Tricia Tanaka, the asian reporter on Family Guy, are they the same character?

HEY, AT LEAST IT BUILDS CHARACTER

You know I’m going to say it, so I’m just going to get it out of the way. Sawyer was completely on point tonight. His hit so many ridiculous Sawyerisms that it was unbelievable. The hippie van? Hooked on phonics? Touche? All right, I’ll stop, it’s time to get a little serious. I have a couple substantial things to mention about Sawyer and Kate.

First off, what size is this island? Kate and Sawyer seemed to have traversed it very quickly. They literally made it back in two episodes. I guess you could argue that the shore they escaped to was a lot closer than the Tailies shore last season. Also, Sawyer is probably an expert at trekking across the island at this point. I wonder how the writers are going to make it so he has to make his way back to camp at the beginning of Season Four.

Second off, as for the Sawyer and Kate dynamic, it sort of bothers me that Kate is the one emerging with the positive image. She placed the onus on him to apologize. Then, when he didn’t, she turned a cold shoulder to him and switched from James back to Sawyer. I’m not saying that Sawyer’s not being an immature douchebag with the whole Kate feeling guilty thing, but why does Kate expect him to apologize without her meeting him halfway? She explained more to Locke and Sayid about why she wanted to go back and get Jack so badly, she “owed him” that much, than she did to Sawyer and Sawyer is the one who needs to hear it the most. Of course, maybe she knows Sawyer won’t listen if she tries to explain it to him. Who knows, I certainly don’t. I’m probably just projecting onto the situation how it always seems to me that girls can do whatever they want without consequence while guys always have to apologize. Sawyer said it himself though, there are only three things you need to say to a woman: I’m sorry. You were right. Those pants don’t make you look bad. He knows he has to apologize eventually, but is waiting for Kate to prove herself to him first. Apparently he didn’t trust her body and is now trying to read his mind.

Kate’s comment about owing Jack also revealed an interesting rift to their dynamic. It harkened back to the days of her looking to him to be morally cleansed and his teaching the five second trick to her. It also reminded me of another passage from I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe:

“Something about Adam’s avalanche of implacably moral stuff got to her, resonated with some of Christ’s Evangelic creed she had brought to Dupont without meaning to, sewn, as it were, into the very lining of her clothes. There was also, unbeknownst to either of them consciously, a woman’s thrill!—that’s the word for it!—her delicious thrill!—when, as before, a man expands his chest and drapes it with the sash of righteousness and…takes command!...upon the Heights of Abraham.

That moment was a turning point. Charlotte pulled herself together, did as she was told, and made it to the exam with time to spare. She returned to Adam’s apartment convinced that she had butchered this exam, too, and complained about the weird, warped mentality of Mr. Gilman. She did not break into tears; she did not despair. Scorn, contempt, and hatred were her m├ętier. She registered not woe but anger, a deadly sin perhaps but a positive sign in this case.” (608)

In the excerpt, Charlotte hits a personal and emotional low and seeks refuge at Adam’s apartment. It is not until he releases his “avalanche” of words that Charlotte turns the corner and can overcome her grief, her choices that brought her to where she is. Obviously, she wasn’t instantly healed, she would still have to answer for what she did, but the journey could begin.

Kate and Jack share such a relationship and shared such a moment. The third episode was the beginning of Kate’s “rehabilitation” and she has felt obligated to Jack and looked to him for guidance ever since. Where most people would have not ignored the mug shot, demonstrated through Hurley in that episode, Jack did and, essentially, forgave her. He had already taken command and had used his power to spare her. Maybe they won’t ever be together, but they will always have that special moment.

Moving on to the other characters, I would say this episode had a good Season One blend of characters. All the characters, except for Jack, received small nods and scenes. I do want to note them each individually though.

Paulo and Nikki were downright likeable this episode. I don’t know how people can’t like them. Then again, I don’t know why I believe Entertainment Weekly on that claim. The small gesture of him grabbing her belt buckle demonstrated a lot about the type of relationship they have. It made him seem a lot more experienced and knowledge than her, as he was pulling her away from a experience her perceived naivety and innocence would have gotten her into.

Locke was the same old Locke, but I have to wonder what is going on with Sayid. I can honestly say that I miss him. We need a flashback for him SOON. Why is he following the light on Eko’s stick theory? It seems a bit out of character for him. Of course, it would be easy to argue that his mentioning of the light on the stick was in a sarcastic manner and he is only following the crowd to make sure he knows what is going on. He always kept himself involved, if only to protect the other 815ers. It’s interesting how he isn’t really noted as a leader on the island for that either.

Ok, Jin and Sun, did they have a mini-fight or something? What was the point of the whole flower thing? I thought it would have made sense for Jin to have said something to Sun in English. I actually thought he was going to say the three things Sawyer mentioned, though I’m glad he didn’t because that would have been cheesy.

Even Charlie was likeable this week. He actually took action and didn’t allow fate to control him. Although, his actions bring up an interesting question I’ve always had about Final Destination. If you try to kill yourself before it’s your turn in the pattern, will your suicide attempt fail? I think they mentioned this idea briefly at one point in the movies, but don’t recall. If so, then Charlie was essentially ridin’ dirty with immunity in the hippie van.

Rousseau’s storyline is finally going to progress. Do you think she’ll get a flashback?

And finally, and you know what I’m noting is obvious if even I’m asking it:
Where did Claire find a hair stylist on the island?

LOSTOLOGY

At first glance, this episode seems mythology light, but it actually contains the central dichotomy of LOSTology, light first dark. In this case, the dichotomy is manifested in comedy versus tragedy. Hurley has always been the comic character of the show. His episodes are uplifting and this episode seemingly said the characters could overcome their tragic fate and make their own luck.

And that last sentence is what makes the placement of this episode so interesting mythology wise. This season has without-a-doubt been tragic. Eko died, Sun’s child may be illegitimate, Charlie is living Final Destination style, Jack’s captured, Desmond was forced to travel back in time and chase away his true love, Sawyer and Kate last for about 30 seconds before they hit the rocks, and Sayid is STILL sad about Shannon. Now, when we all need some hope, we’re given some.

There’s always the argument that none of it was free will and all of it was fate. Vincent brought the key to Hurley. There was beer for Sawyer. Using the manipulated flashback theory, Randy was the one who made it so Tricia Tanaka went into the building and thus died tragically. If he is an agent of whomever, then he could have done that to make Hurley think he had bad luck.

Although, if there are TWO forces, maybe one controls them, while the other gives them the opportunity to overcome their past. So, one force gave Hurley the chance to embrace hope and the lessons of his fathers (presumably a good force would do such a thing) while the other force tried to control him by making him believe he was bad luck (presumably a bad force would do such a thing). Maybe there are PEOPLE trying to control the 815ers and make them do bad things (and they control the black smoke) and the island is a good force combating those people. Right now, I like that idea the best. I bet if you go back and watch Seasons One and Two with that perspective, then it’ll make a lot of sense.

Oh, and by the way, WHERE DID VINCENT COME FROM? I’ll have to go back and watch the Season Two finale because I thought he was on the boat with Michael and Walt. If he was, are they somewhere on the island? I thought it strange that they were allowed to leave.

FREDDY ADIEU

I haven’t got much else to say. I hope you enjoyed the episode. I know I really did. If you didn’t, then stop watching LOST. We don’t need you, really. And if you think your negativity is a good thing, then I’ve only got one thing to say (and I’m not saying being critical is bad, there’s a difference):

Shut up, you’re wrong.

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