Sunday, February 25, 2007

S3Ep9 - Stranger in a Strange Land (Jack's seventh flashback)

Hello my dear friends -

GOOD GOD, THIS EPISODE WAS AWFUL?!?!?

Where are your white socks and your camera, loser?I'm really tempted to just holler "That was crap!" and call it a day for this write-up. I was extremely disappointed by "Stranger in a Strange Land"... I think it might have been one of the worst episodes of the series. First off, this was Jack's SEVENTH flashback - SEVENTH?!! And that's not even counting the mini-flashback in the Season One finale where they showed what everyone was doing in the airport before boarding Flight 815. The worst part is that I am sure there has to be at least one more Jack!back, because we know that he was not on "Jacob's list," meaning that he is not "good," and so we still do not know what he did in his past that was so awful (although hooking up with Bai Ling may be considered unforgivable by many). I hope in the meantime, however, they start evening up the score with flashbacks for the other characters a bit more.

Secondly, this flashback told us literally nothing except that Jack may have an STD. Really, think about it - we already knew that Jack had tattoos, and since the robotic "Sheriff" Other woman at the end recited what Jack's tattoo said, why did we even need to be subjected to Bai Ling? I would have preferred a flashback for Alex, Zeke, or hell, even The Sheriff instead.

Small rodents live in my hair, you can pluck them out with these chopsticks!I had read a long time ago that they were going to try to respond to "fan demand for sex scenes for Jack." Well, they failed miserably, because on top of the fact that Jack is much better as The Mad Doctor than as Cheesy Over-Aged Backpacker Looking For a Good Time, there weren't really even any sex scenes anyway. And all you need to do is pick up any Us Weekly and look on the back page's "Fashion Police" section to see Bai Ling all scantily-clad in some horrible outfit, so it's not like we were getting anything new with her, either. I demand an hour of my life back for having to deal with witnessing her scary hair (what WAS that thing on her head?), listening to her broken English and cringing at her non-existent acting skills.

Yep, this episode was a failure all around. By and large, people across all message boards are mad and disappointed as well. Perhaps if the previews hadn't raised our expectations so much about the "three major questions" getting answered, there wouldn't be the level of Hate that there is on the boards and across the fan base right now.


WANTED: ANSWERS

You all know that I get annoyed by people who are always whining about how they "want answers." I continue to contend that you should not be watching this show if you demand instant gratification. However, I do get mad when the "ABC Promo Monkeys," as they are so fondly referred to on the boards, say "Next Wednesday...The answers to three of Lost's biggest mysteries are finally revealed..." and then they serve up crap like "Stranger in a Strange Land." Here are the three questions that we can only assume they answered (this is the general consensus on the boards):

Q1) What does Jack's tattoo mean?
A1) We now know the answer, but this was definitely NOT one of the BIGGEST mysteries?!?!?

Q2) Where are the kids, Cindy, and the other people who were taken from the Tailies?
A2) They are still safe on the island (though we can't be sure if the other adults who were taken were there as we don't know what they looked like in the first place).

Yeah, in this episode we did SEE the two kids and Cindy for the first time after they'd been taken, but we already knew they were safe as Ana Lucia had asked Goodwin about this in Season Two:

ANA: What about the kids? Did you kill them, too?
GOODWIN: Children are fine. They're better off now.

Note that Goodwin's line is very similar to Karl's "We give them a better life" from this latest episode.

Q3) Where do The Others live?
A3) On Craphole Island

... but once again, WE ALREADY KNEW THAT from the Season Three premiere when they showed them all running out of the book club meeting and panned back to show their location!?! And Zeke had already told them before that "This is OUR island, we are LETTING you live on it" and then forewarned them not to "cross the line." They should know that their fans have better memories than they are giving us credit for...

In a weird way, however, the fact that this episode was poop is kind of good news for ME, at least, because now I don't have to spend 4 days straight having a nervous breakdown trying to finish this write-up like I did last week. Perhaps The Powers That Be were trying to ensure that fans' heads didn't explode by not following up Desmond's awesome episode with another great one.

Nah, I actually think they just needed a filler storyline and wanted a reason to hang out in Thailand for a bit.


THE LAND OF SMILES... OR BEAT-DOWNS?

And speaking of Thailand, that was another thing that made me mad about this episode... me, and I'm sure the Tourism Authority of Thailand?!?! What's up with making my Thai peeps look all crazy? I spent a month backpacking in the southern Thai islands many years ago, and granted, the only kind of tattoo I got was of the henna variety (it was of a crazy gecko scaling my ankle, in case you're curious), so perhaps that's why no one came and beat the crap out of me afterward. At least they showed a Jack as a tourist loser attempting to fly a kite - that was realistic.

OK, so you get the point - I am bitter about the episode. I will attempt to stop complaining. Here are the things worth noting for the future...


POT, MEET KETTLE


ZEKE: What kind of people do you think we are, Jack?
JACK: Oh, I don't know, Tom -- the kind of people that would take a pregnant woman -- that would hang Charlie from a tree -- would grab our people out of the jungle -- would kidnap children. That's the kind of people I think you are.
ZEKE [tapping the glass]: You see this glass house you're living in, Jack? How about I get you some stones?


Don't make me get my beard and whip you with it!Most people on the boards took Zeke's comment to be a shortening of the phrase "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Zeke obviously thinks that either Jack himself or the Lostaways in general are pretty horrible people, and resents Jack's accusations. The following two posts from the boards illustrate both sides of the story:

The Lostaways' defense:
"The Losties have done as much "harm," for lack of a better word, as The Others, the difference being the Losties were forced into the situation and are surviving in a strange place -- The Others are at home on the island and could have acted with open arms and support to the Losties. The Others had the upper hand, but chose to initiate contact with lies and abductions -- actions that can't be interpreted in any other manner but hostile."

The Others' defense:
"Well - they murdered Ethan and Goodwin and Colleen, and tortured their frickin' leader! So in the Others' eyes, the Losties have certainly done their share of bad..."

What was odd to me about that early scene with Zeke and Jack was that Zeke seemed truly stunned that Jack would ever think that they would kill him.


CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT

Another thing that was strange to me was how both Zeke and Alex were troubled by the fact that Jack sacrificed himself for Kate and Sawyer.


ZEKE: Let me ask you something. You risk your neck to cut them loose, and they run away and don't ever look back...
JACK: Thanks for the sandwich.

... later...

Do not mess with me, for I am the Mad Doctor!ALEX: Ben -- why'd you save his life? All this time -- after all he did to you and your people, you should hate him. But you still fixed him up, even after your friends got away. Why?
JACK: You're his daughter.
ALEX: Answer the question.


I found these two scenes interesting because all I can guess is that Jack is not acting like they assumed he would. From what we know of The Others, they are definitely doing experiments, and we now have proof after the Clockwork Orange Rave Room that some of these experiments are performed on humans. They probably thought they had human behavior all figured out. They obviously brought Kate to the island as leverage to use against Jack, and Sawyer was there as leverage to use against Kate. I believe they are now puzzled that Jack is making decisions that they couldn't have called themselves.



SOMEONE *PLEASE* SHOOT THE SHERIFF!

I will hypnotize you with my monotonous speech.Ugh, first we have Freaky Second-Hand Store Lady in Desmond's flashback last week, and now we have another new Creepy Lady - The Sheriff. The main thing noted about her on the boards was how awful her voice was. She barely had any inflection at all, and quite frankly, I kept wondering if she was really a man because her voice had an oddly deep quality to it.

Anyway, she apparently is the head of Law & Order: Craphole Island Unit, and was heading up a little investigation You can't handle the truth!into Juliet's recent behavior.
I love that Jack wouldn't give her what she wanted:

ISABEL: That true, Jack? Did Juliet ask you to kill Ben? [he doesn't respond] The question's simple. Did Juliet ask you to kill Ben?
JACK [smiling]: No. No, I was lying. I would have done anything to get my friends out. And turning you people against each other was my best chance of creating chaos.
ISABEL: Why are you lying for her, Jack?
JACK: I'd like to go back to my cage now.

You could kill me in a matter of seconds, but hey everyone, keep doing what I say!The Sheriff was none too pleased later when Benry saved Juliet from execution at the last minute. Everyone on the boards took this to mean that despite all of their "rules" and their apparent "judicial system," Benry really does have the ultimate say-so. I hope we don't need to see The Sheriff again any time soon, I don't sleep well as it is.




THE HUMAN ZOO


I feel like they missed a really good opportunity to have freaked us all out during the scene when all of those random people were staring at Jack in the cage. But instead, it fell flat with yet another dose of stilted dialogue that cut off before providing any real insight:

Come one, come all, to see the Side-Show Circus Freak![Back on the island, Jack wakes up startled in his cage. The camera reveals about a dozen people standing outside the cage.]
JACK [frustrated]: What?!!!
CINDY [approaching]: Hey, Jack.
JACK: Do I -- do I know you? 815, you were the stewardess.
CINDY: Cindy.
JACK: What are you doing here -- with them? I thought you were taken -- you were -- you were captured.
Look at the nice man in the cage!CINDY: They're not, um -- it's not that simple.
JACK: What are they doing here, right now? What are you doing here?!!
CINDY: We're here to watch, Jack.
JACK: Watch what?
[The little girl, Emma, from the tail section approaches.]
CINDY: What is it, sweetheart?
[Emma whispers in her ear and waits with a big smile.]

CINDY: She wants to know how Ana-Lucia's doing.
JACK: Are you serious?
CINDY: What?
JACK [angry]: If you've got something to watch, Cindy, go watch it!! Go!!


How lame was it that Cindy was all, "Hey, Jack!"? I will tell you: VERY LAME!

Here are the two main revelations we can gather from this scene:

1) Cindy either may have been one of The Others from the beginning, or she is now brainwashed, and "watching" the experiments may be part of the overall initiation...

and

2) Cindy truly did not know what happened to Ana Lucia.

Overall, everyone was frustrated that Jack just told her to go away rather than trying to get more information out of her.



THE SCARLET ASTERISK-THINGY

Yum, let's go eat now! Juliet's "branding" was definitely a major event in the episode. When The Sheriff read the note from Benry indicating that Juliet's life should be spared, but that she should instead "be marked," Alex, Zeke and The Sheriff all physically recoiled. Many on the boards therefore assumed that to The Others, being marked was worse than death. So what is the significance of the mark - both in its design and in what it signals to the rest of The Others?

Regarding its design, I felt like people were really grasping at straws on this subject. Yes, I will totally admit that I do see the resemblance to the Scientology cross, and while the guy who played Ethan IS Tom Cruise's cousin in real life, and while show creator J.J. Abrams DID direct Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III, I don't think Mr. Couch-Jumper's influence has pervaded the show just yet.

Other people thought that the mark resembled a symbol often used for the North Star, and then convinced themselves that it fit with the Jesus Stick inscription: "Lift up your eyes and look north."

Frankly, I don't think it is meant to be any existing symbol that we would recognize. However, I do think the signficance of "marking" someone is an idea they took from a few different religions and famous stories. Alex said that their rules were essentially "an eye for an eye," a phrase which comes from the Exodus chapter of the Bible, as does the title of this episode, "Stranger in a Strange Land." Here are thoughts from people who seem familiar with the subject:

- "In the Bible (Genesis 4), Cain kills Abel (Juliet killed Pickett) and God marked Cain so nobody would take vengeance on him and kill him. Hmmm, maybe the mark is a mark of protection... interesting."

- "I certainly think this may be a Cain and Abel reference. Here is some insight on the topic from answers.com: "God “set a mark upon Cain” to protect him in his wanderings. The “mark of Cain” now refers to an individual's or humankind's sinful nature."

- "Yesterday was Ash Wednesday if you are Catholic, and I was watching this episode with my cross of ashes on my forehead, thinking what the priest said as he put them on: "Turn away from sin." So this can all be a coincidence, or this mark on Juliet is similar to the mark on Cain."

- "I studied Theology pretty extensively and that is the reason why traditionally Christians never got tattoos, and why during the early 20th century bikers were so feared. To mark your body was a grievous sin."

One last post brought up a point having nothing to do with religion: "Juliet getting a mark paralleled Jack's tattoos as a basis for being an outcast-leader, thus propelling their relationship and co-dependence."

I think we are going to have to wait (surprise!) to understand the meaning behind the branding, but I do think that it is strange that it was put on her lower back. If it was meant to be shameful (like The Scarlet Letter), why wouldn't it have been somewhere a tad more noticeable? Some people are convinced that the mark is a sign for Smokey to kill Juliet, which I think is way out there.

Here is one idea that I do think is on the money, however: "You know that we will be seeing this mark on someone before the season is over. And since it is in a fairly concealable location, it will be on someone "surprising". "Gasp! Why does (insert character here) have the Others mark!?!?!"



HE WALKS AMONGST US, BUT HE IS NOT ONE OF US


5 is NOT one of the numbers, how will they explain THAT one?The only other thing I liked in this episode, besides Juliet getting the mark, was the meaning of Jack's tattoo - I think it is a cool saying. That's not what his tattoo really means, however, but I will cover that in a minute.

So obviously "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us" first and foremost signifies a leader. Someone who is obviously like everyone else at face value, but who has that special something that makes him or her stand apart. We've been witnessing Jack's "reluctant heroism" ever since the series' pilot, so it's not like the meaning of the tattoo was any big shocker.

As one fan put it, "I think it absolutely applies to his situation now with The Others. But I also feel it probably fits for the rest of his life as well. I doubt Jack has ever really just been one of the gang. He graduated top of his class (med school) and did it a year faster than anyone else. He's been busy trying to be a good man rather than just being one. His push for something better in himself could never let him be content being him. It's hard to be at one with other people when you're not even one with yourself."

What worried me was Jack's comment at the end:

ISABEL: "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us." Your tattoos -- that's what they say.
JACK: That's what they say. That's not what they mean.

Uh, I don't get it. Is he trying to say that he wants to be one of The Others? Is he trying to deny that he's a leader? Does anyone have any other ideas?

Exhibit A in Why I Didn't Listen to Iron MaidenThe tattoo's meaning dove-tailed nicely with the title of the episode. As mentioned above, 'Stranger in a Strange Land" is a phrase mentioned in the Bible, but it also could be taken much more literally - Jack was an outsider in Thailand, he is an outsider amongst The Others, and overall - the island is quite a strange place for any of them to be. There is also a sci-fi novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein which revolves around a human raised on Mars being returned to Earth. And just to be EXTRA thorough, according to TV.com, "the episode title could also be an allusion to the song of the same name by Iron Maiden, about an Arctic explorer who dies and is found a century later by another team of explorers."

And to those of you wondering why the tattoo was in Chinese even though they were in Thailand, I offer you this wisdom from tattoo.com: "Thailand has a large Chinese population. Life in Thailand is saturated with superstition. People are convinced that benevolent and sinister powers direct their destinies and a lot of time is dedicated to appealing to these powers for help and kindness. In Thailand the sacred and profane are completely intertwined and interdependent. For more than 300 years, Thai men have visited with tattoo arjan (master), listened to the teachings and received tattoos in an effort to understand their destiny and exercise some control over it."

And, as I mentioned above... sorry folks, but Jack's tattoo's meaning was purely made up and created by the writers. Matthew Fox has those tattoos in real life, and they have said all along that they were going to work them into the show. Way back in Season One, Kate asked about his tattoos and Jack acted all skittish. Its actual translation is: "Eagles high up, cleaving the space" - a verse taken from a famous poem called Ch'ang-sha by former Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-tung (yeah, you remember him from history class back in the day!). According to TV.com, "The poem itself has a much deeper meaning as we can see in the end of the second stanza when the poet asks: "Who masters fate's rise and descent?" - which might have influenced the writers' translation." Yes, that sure sounds like a poem that a Free Willer would like!

And remember, we still don't know how/why he got the big number five or the other tattoos. All I ask is that Bai Ling doesn't turn up again as the tattoo artist for those!

That brings up the issue of the timeline - when in Jack's life did this flashback take place? My guess is that it was after Sarah left him, but before his dad took off for Australia. However, it could've also been before he met Sarah.



THE LOVE BOAT

Now's your chance, throw Benry overboard, fools!I almost hurt myself pulling at my hair and face when the horribly sappy final scene aired. What was UP with that "gazing at the stars" montage and all of the Karl/Alex and Jack/Juliet longing glances? Not to mention the awfully cheesy music. The better not ever pull that type of crap again.

Some people were able to ignore the sugary sweetness and focus on the boat. I thought it was the same boat used to kidnap Walt, but most people on the boards think that what they were using to cross back over to Craphole Island was a much bigger vessel. I'm not sure if it matters one way or the other, but thought I should mention it.

The bigger question at the end of the episode was, "Is Jack right in trusting Juliet?" Remember that even Benry forewarned him, "Juliet doesn't care about you, Jack. It doesn't matter what she's done. No matter what you think -- she's one of us." In my opinion, Jack doesn't really have much choice BUT to attempt to form an alliance with Juliet. She clearly has a different agenda than the rest of The Others', and Jack is smart to try to leverage that to his benefit. If he actually falls for her, then yes, he is an idiot. I like Kate more than I like Juliet, and as you all know, that is really saying something.



BEST LINES OF THE EPISODE


SAWYER [singing]: Show me the way to go home/I'm tired and I want to go to bed/I had a little drink about an hour ago/And it went straight to my head.
KATE: Stop.
(This folk song, "Show Me the Way to Go Home," is sung by the three shark-hunters in Jaws while waiting out the night on their small boat)




KATE: Turn the boat around, Sawyer. I mean it.
SAWYER: Have you lost your mind? We just got away.
KATE: Just do it.
SAWYER: You give me one good reason to turn around!
KATE: Because we can't leave Jack behind!
SAWYER [pausing and staring at her]: Yes we can, Freckles, because that's what he asked us to do. You think about it -- if we go back there -- what do you think Captain Bunny Killer's going to do if he catches us?



Don't take relationship advice from this man![Cut to Sawyer approaching Karl. Karl quickly wipes his eyes. Sawyer punches Karl in the arm.]
KARL: Ow!! What the hell was that for?!
SAWYER: So you'd cowboy up. Crying in the jungle -- I thought you people were supposed to be tough.
KARL [shoving Sawyer]: I am tough.
SAWYER: Sure you are, Bobby. [Karl looks puzzled] Bobby, the Brady Bunch?
KARL: What the hell's the Brady Bunch?


BENRY: The cavalry has arrived, at last.
JACK: I'd be more impressed with you people if you had a good surgeon.
BENRY: We had an excellent surgeon, Jack. His name was Ethan.




WORST LINES OF THE EPISODE

ACHARA: There are things that happen here that you could never understand.
JACK: Like your gift?
ACHARA: Yes, like my gift. [they kiss and roll off the bed, laughing] Are you having fun with me, Jack?
JACK: Oh, yeah.
ACHARA: Then stop ask questions. Let's have fun.




JULIET: Why did you help me?
JACK: He told you he was going to let you go home. He told me the same thing. We're going to make sure he keeps his word.
JULIET: And how are we going to do that?
JACK: Together.



WISE WORDS FROM THE BOARDS

- I won't say it was worthless b/c I love the show, but did we really need to devote an entire episode to Jack's tattoos? What's next? Two episodes on Kate's freckles? Why does she have freckles if neither of her parents have freckles?!? PLEASE no more filler episodes!
- As someone who's seen every single episode of the show so far, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that was the worst one. So what we learn from Jack's tattoo is that he's a reluctant leader? Sorry, folks, that's not learning. That's repeating. That aspect of Jack's character has been firmly established since the first season. Maybe since the first friggin episode.
- Jack's tattoos mean: "Party of Five"
- I think it is similar to the scar Ben will have from the surgery. No one believed Jack when he said he'd lied about Juliet asking him to kill Ben. Remember Alex said "an eye for an eye?" I think putting the mark on her spine and simulating an incision and stitches would be a gruesome reminder of what she planned.
- How is Juliet's mark going to affect anything? I don't see any of them going around in belly shirts. Is someone really going to see it? And more importantly... what does the mark mean for her. Three strikes and you are out?
- And when you "mark" someone isn't the point of it to be visible so that everyone can see it? I would have liked it to have been on her cheek or forehead!
- Anyone think the ending, where Karl and Alex are looking at the stars was a little bit... An American Tail?
- That was some Fivel Goes West shit at the end.
- I almost expected to hear "Somewhere Out There" during the looking-at-the-stars montage at the end.
- Hmm, we should have expected a terrible episode the second they cast Bai Ling. ICK.
- I had to avert my eyes. Avert my EYES! From Matthew Fox in a sexual scene. It's just not right.
- Bai Ling is Skankness on Two Sticks. I didn't want to look at her on screen too long for fear of catching an STD in my eyeballs.
- Serious meta this episode, with Jack screaming, "If you have something else to watch, go watch it!"
- Also I hate how these people act in ways that I can't imagine normal people thrown in the same (admittedly absurd) situation would act. Sawyer's just escaped a completely psycho situation and he's whistling and singing while he rows the boat? They have an Other in their possession and they just don't keep firing the questions at him? WHAT experiments? HOW do the Others plan to make the world better? Kate wants to go back and get Jack even though she knows she's outnumbered - instead of getting back to their island and assembling a posse? Where the hell is Sayid to be the BRAIN of the operation here? Also, if they're going to have an Asian subplot, why cast Bai Ling, the worst living actress on the planet, instead one of the zillions of Asian actresses out there who CAN act?
- The sheriff was played by Diana Scarwid who played Joan Crawford's daughter in "Mommie Dearest"... I wonder how Juliet was marked? I hope it wasn't with a wire hanger.


UPCOMING EPISODES

2/28/07 - Tricia Tanaka is Dead

3/7/2007 - Enter 77

3/14/07 - Par Avion

I've seen a few extra clips of "Tricia Tanaka is Dead," and I can confirm that Sayid actually speaks in this one, yay! The good news is that it really CAN'T be worse than last week's show, right?

Enjoy,
- e

4 comments:

wanders said...

Your write up was 815 times better than the episode itself. As I turned off the TV, I said to my wife, "Worst. Episode. Ever."

Anonymous said...

I like the song "I had a drink about an hour ago and its gone right to my head..." My grandpa always sang it along with a lot of other random stuff. Goooooooo SAYID!!!! We miss you!

Doug Fry said...

I knew the sheriff looked familiar, she is played by Diana Scarwid - Mommie Dearest's Christina Crawford

Spicedogs said...

It was not a bad episode and it was not a great one. I don't know about you guys, but I am grateful for any episode of LOST.