Sunday, August 14, 2011

LOST Redux: S3E19 The Brig

(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.)

Before I begin this week’s column, I’d like to apologize. I’m not sure how reliable my commentary is going to be. As always, I will try to be as deceitful and biased as possible, but I just don’t know if I can pull that off tonight.

In all seriousness, I always try to look at the episodes with a keen eye for the story and with a fair hand towards their individual story. However, I need to be upfront, because I just don’t know if it’s possible for me to do that for this episode.

I’ve made no apologies about being a Sawyer fan. I will never make any apologies for being a Sawyer fan. But as a Sawyer fan, I can’t help but feel done in by this episode. As I think back over the first two and 82.6% seasons that have aired, I find it hard to think of a character that has been treated as poorly as Sawyer was tonight. Maybe Boone. Maybe Shannon. Maybe Eko. Maybe Sayid. Maybe Libby. No, there were arguably missteps with all those characters, but I’m not sure any of them were as grievous as what was done to Sawyer tonight.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because this is my space to write about whatever I want concerning LOST for whoever wants to read it. On a little deeper level, it’s not fair to you, the reader, who has come to trust my thoughts (I hope). How can you continue to trust me if I write a column with a cloudy head and don’t tell you? Wouldn’t you know if my usually consistent ideas were suddenly off base?

In other words, do not be surprised if my thoughts are all over the map tonight. Part of my scattered brain is due to the intentions of the writers. We seem to be in a transition stage in the plot (I’ll return to this idea later). The other part of my muddled mind is what I have already explicated. That note being hit, I will, of course, endeavor to entertain you in the same manner and capacity as I always do, just please cut me a little slack this week, ok?

Oh yeah, no animals or plant life was hurt during the composition of this column. All celebrity references are done without license or consent. In fact, I don’t even have permission from myself to write these words. The only person I do have permission from is your Mom (and your face!).


The first bone I have to pick with this episode is how minimal the flashbacks were. Usually, flashbacks reveal some back story about the character. No, I’m not talking about some giant reveal that alters our complete view of the character. What I mean is that the character experiences something on the island that mirrors an experience they had in the past. The most obvious objection to this view of flashbacks is that not every flashback has been used in this manner. Fair enough.

I acknowledge this objection and grant it. This episode was not your typical flashback episode. Instead, this flashback explained what had transpired in Locke’s life on the island over the past however many days on the island (I think it was six). Therefore, let’s compare this episode to another episode that used exactly that technique.

The two episodes I can think of as similar to this episode are Expose and Three Minutes. I would put forward that Expose is unlike The Brig. True, it did have flashbacks that occurred on the island, but the important thing to note is where the flashbacks began. The back story for Expose began off the island. Some might argue that the episode was written in this way to write unpopular characters off the show. I disagree, but that point is irrelevant anyway. Nikki and Paulo’s flashbacks weren’t explanatory flashbacks. They were to establish the relationship between the pair. Oh yeah, and the other important difference between The Brig and Expose is that this episode didn’t have a hot chick in it. Boobs would have at least made this episode a little more interesting. Why? Because boobs make everything more interesting. Well, except for Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and the like. (I would have said Paris Hilton, but she doesn’t have any.)

Three Minutes is the closest thing we’ve had to a flashback like this episode. In order for us to understand the actions of a character in present day (in island time), the writers took us back to the last moment we saw the character. With Michael, the technique was particularly effective. With Locke, it was not. Why you ask? What is the important distinction? Well, in turn, I ask you: why even ask me? You know I’m going to explain it.

The important distinction has to do with the time passed over the flashbacks. As already explained, Locke’s spanned six days. I don’t remember how long Michael’s lasted in island time, but it was about half of Season Two. Michael disappeared in The Hunting Party and returned the episode before Three Minutes (episodes are approximate). That disappearance was a large chunk of time. Anything could have happened during it. And anything did.

When Michael returned from The Others camp, he was as shaky and out of his mind as a minor character pointing a gun at the villain in an action movie. But it was more than that type of cliché action. He was shady too. He was making demands. Well, demands beyond, “We’re going to get my son back.” He left a one dimensional one note character and returned a complicated and conflicted enigma. We wanted to know what happened to him.

With Locke, the same can’t be said. Nothing close to that can be said. Locke’s last big moment was The Man from Tallahassee. We found out why he was in the wheelchair. Then, in a big reveal, Locke saw that his father was on the island. The next time we saw him was in Left Behind. He was apparently aligned with The Others and saying goodbye to Kate because of it. The thing was, when I saw him acting that way towards Kate, I wasn’t surprised at all. Why wouldn’t he go with The Others? Ben showed him something he wanted and told him he was special. Hasn’t that been the way to manipulate Locke all along?

So Locke shows up in camp and he’s supposedly there with Ben. He “accidentally” runs into Sawyer first, who just so happens to be the person he’s looking for. Well, you know what happens next. It was pretty obvious he never actually had Ben too. I called it from the previews.


It is currently noon on Saturday. I am returning to writing this column after a couple days off. Why did I need the time off? Well, if you remember this week’s introduction, I felt I needed the distance in order to properly evaluate the episode. Additionally, I seriously weighed the opinions of some of closest confidants. No, I have not seriously weighed the opinions of message board posters. That’s like strolling into the Democratic National Convention or interviewing Howard Dean. You don’t do those things if you’re seeking out rational thought.

Taking into account, the perspective of others on this episode, I have determined that I am wrong. Contrary to the beliefs of other though, those three words were not hard to type. Let it never be said that I think my opinions are infallible. I am nowhere near that arrogant. Ok, well, maybe I am that arrogant because I’m going to tell you my thoughts anyway on the off chance that the world could actually be round and not flat like everyone else is saying.

As this week’s episode progressed further and further, I found myself more and more upset and confused at the fact that it wasn’t a Sawyer episode. What did Locke do besides sit around? He was essentially a prop. He didn’t even feel like the main character of the episode. This episode was the first time in LOST’s run that I felt a flashback episode belonged to another character.

Furthermore, from day one, Sawyer’s big moment has been built up to be his confrontation with Mr. Sawyer. In the first half of the pilot, his only appearance is him reading the letter. In his first flashback episode, the twist to the on island story is Kate figuring out that the letter wasn’t too him, it was by him. All of his “problems” and pain all stem from the one moment in his life. The one moment that has now passed and gone without as much as a second thought.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the scene was done wonderfully. If this episode were a Sawyer episode, I would probably be singing its praises (assuming the flashbacks were as good as the on island action). While locked in The Brig, the exchange between the two con men was so intense. Cooper never seemed like more of a dick than he did in this episode. Truthfully, I don’t even think Sawyer intended to kill him, but when he tore up the letter, he signed his own death certificate. Sawyer then strangled him to death and it was over. Although, this episode did show why Sawyer is my favorite character. Cooper tried to push him around in the same manner as Locke. Sawyer wouldn’t stand for it though.

To a certain extent, this episodes make Sawyer feel like a second tier character now, more so than any other character. How can I make that claim? His story is now only an element of Locke’s. Suppose, for a moment, that they were all brought to the island for a reason. Could it not be argued that Sawyer’s entire purpose was to kill Cooper, so Locke could do and do whatever it is Locke needs to do now? I don’t think it’s such a farfetched notion. Although, I will say the following: if early (I mean the first four episodes again) next season the writers have a Sawyer episode where he is essentially “directionless” because his big moment is gone, then they can fix the character. I guess I just don’t understand why we needed a third Locke episode when the last one was only six episodes ok and we haven’t had a Sawyer episode since episode four.

In other island news, the Survivors are all lined up against Jack. Gee, I wonder why that is. I never saw that coming or anything. But wait, I can hear it from miles away. The whining of the Jack supporter’s is echoing across the LOSTiverse. It is their contention that Jack is conning everyone and their evidence is the scene where Juliet says they should tell Kate. What’s the big secret? Jack is a douchebag. There, I said it. Can we move beyond it now? In all seriousness, I’m not ready to declare Jack as the still ultimate good guy. I think by season’s end something will be revealed that will flip us all on Jack. Maybe he’ll be continuing his father’s work or something. Of course, that probably means I’ll think he’s a badass or something. But that’s not possible…is it?


It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the “answers” to LOST are supernatural. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I think the island is special. The geologically unique electromagnetic energy is helpful to science because it’s, well, unique and science is all about discovering patterns that exist within nature. This energy heals people, hurts women, and keeps the island largely hidden (unless dispersed in large bursts a la the Fail Safe, but even then someone has to know what she’s looking for). Therefore, I see the timeline of the island as follows:

There is a super special island. Historically, it has been consulted by many different tribes, religions, countries, etc to heal people or do whatever other crazy stuff they think it can do. In the 1970s, The DeGroots discover the island and decide they’re going to use it to save the world (because that’s what hippies and academics think they’re always doing). With the help and money of Alvar Hanso, the couple forms the Dharma Initiative to do research on the island.

Here is where I’m unsure of exactly what happens. I see two distinct possibilities. First, it is important to establish that no one could be living on the island unless they were brought there because conception is impossible on the island (unless that health problem is a myth perpetrated by Ben, which I don’t believe it is). Therefore, either Dharma split in two or people were brought to the island to combat against Dharma. Either way, I see the following happening: For some reason, Hanso decides what he was doing with the Dharma Initiative is incorrect or immoral or something. He goes renegade and begins “The Purge”, only allowing his chosen few to remain alive. The Black Smoke is a part of that Purge, as it scans people and makes sure they are “chosen” and if they are not, kills them.

To this day, Hanso still exerts influence on the outside world. The Survivors were not controlled from day one of their lives (some of them are older than Dharma itself), but they were all manipulated from a certain point on in their life to bring more and specific subjects to the island. Need a pregnant woman? We’ll get you the young single mother who’s mother is in a perma-coma and whose father is dead. Why are these people all so connected? Well, the connections are either a result of the manipulation to get them on the plane or the reason they were put on the plane. Need Locke’s dad killed? Put the con man whose life he ruined on the plane. Need an amazing spinal surgeon on the plane? Well, the pregnant woman just so happens to have a half brother who performs miracles. Once he finds out they’re related, he’ll do anything to help her.

Now, supposed Hanso was not the only incredibly wealthy backer of the Dharma Initiative. What other very wealthy families have we seen? Sun’s family was very rich. More importantly, so is Penny Widmore’s. Penny is probably as rich as Hanso himself. That means, Hanso has finally met his match. Anything he can do, she can do better (or at least equally). He fakes a plane crash and she exposes it as fraud. I’m not saying things will happen exactly that way, but money offsets money.

So where does this leave the Survivors? We finally know what the split will occur over. As was said in Season 1, the people who stayed on the beach were still hoping for rescue, while the people in the caves were packing it in and giving up. The former group will remain the same while the latter group will be comprised of people who want to stay and save the world (you know Jack will be part of that group). However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the former group finds out that the work the latter group is doing actually hurts the world, so they are morally obligated to stop them. I just can’t buy into the fact that Ben and his followers are “the good guys” when they kill indiscriminately and kidnap and the like.


Thanks to my good friend who talked to me immediately following the episode. I really needed to hear that other perspective and to digest the episode with someone else immediately. Also, an apology to another friend who likes to get mentioned. That sentence is as far as that discourse will ever go again, but I’ve done my part. Sometimes, there are just people you can’t talk to anymore due to differences in world perspectives.

I’ve got no witty way to lead to the catchphrase this week. Of course, I could always say that if you still think this show is supernatural, then there’s only one answer for you:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

No comments: