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“…And Found” (originally aired 10/19/2005)

Throughout “…And Found,” the third flashback episode for Jin and Sun, Sun is looking for her wedding ring, which she realized was missing while doing laundry with Claire. As she searches, she runs into a number of other castaways, each of whom offer her a brief anecdote, or a piece of advice as to where the ring might be located. When Locke stumbles upon Sun ripping apart her garden in a moment of frustration, he stops to offer a handkerchief, and fittingly offers the most philosophical piece of advice she’s given. When she notes that she’s never actually seen him angry, he laughs, and says he doesn’t get angry anymore for one reason: “I’m not lost anymore.”

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Although the Hatch has been a reality for the castaways for only a couple of days at this stage, it’s tough to see Lost as a show about people being lost anymore, at least on the original beach. As Sun searches for her ring, there is no discussion of survival, and no sense that the day-to-day life they’ve established is in any way at risk. Sun’s search for her ring is a storyline that could emerge on any dramatic ensemble series, a way to check in with various characters while focusing on a central conflict for one of them. The fact that it’s taking place on a mysterious island and the characters in question are the survivors of a plane crash is relevant, certainly, but it is not the most important component of the storyline as written and presented. While there remains a great deal of uncertainty, the short-term stability offered by the Hatch—unseen in this episode, and the one after it—reminds us that the original group of castaways have evolved into a civilized society, with each character defined strongly enough for their individual encounters with Sun to be connected yet distinct.

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As Sun and Jin each flash back to the day they met, I was struck by how similar yet distant that period seems compared to the action taking place on the island. On the one hand, Sun’s storyline was a rare case of a significant storyline with no connection to the series’ mythology: although her search is tied to Jin’s departure, and she eventually finds the ring buried with the bottle of notes that came ashore following the Others’ attack on the raft, there is no effort to make it out to be part of anything more than personal storylines. It’s a strikingly personal story, which in this way makes it function similarly to how the flashbacks have been used in episodes that focus on the supernatural elements of the series.

However, on the other hand, the community that has been established on the island is different from the community they left behind. The flashbacks may broadly depict the circumstances in which Sun and Jin met, but they are particularly invested in the class dynamics of their relationship. As Sun’s parents are pressuring her to marry, using a matchmaker to pair her with a hotel magnate she learns has an American lover he intends to marry, Jin earns a job as a valet at a posh Seoul hotel. Jin’s job interview makes clear—too clear—that the Seoul Gateway Hotel does not serve people like Jin, whose rural upbringing marks him as “smelling like fish.” It’s a shorthand construction of class hierarchy, eventually leading Jin to quit when his choice to let a small child and his father into the hotel to use the washroom leads to his boss suggesting “his” people are used to pissing in the gutter.

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The way the flashbacks in “…And Found” are structured works to draw out the class dynamics we already knew existed in Jin and Sun’s relationship, but notably they do so at a point where it feels like the island has evolved beyond those broader social and cultural tensions. When the series started, the characters largely fell into existing patterns of judging others based on issues of race and class, but as they have gotten to know one another those issues have become less central to the on-island narrative. This is particularly true regarding class: while issues of race—and gender, which has been more consistently present—remain visible despite becoming less dominant in how the castaways interact with one another, class distinctions are capable of being erased in this newly formed society, or at least in the parts of the society we’re seeing (so as to account for the people we never see, who may represent as lower class citizens if we had access to their point of view). And yet while this makes the flashbacks seem like an entirely different world, they also reinforce that who these characters have become has been shaped by issues from the world they left behind: as much as Jin and Sun’s relationship may have changed dramatically, its origins lie in the class structures of South Korea, which carry with them in ways that could easily reemerge as the situation on the island changes.

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Although we could begin to associate episodes written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse as integral to the series’ mythology, “…And Found” doesn’t present as one at first blush beyond the brief glimpse of the Others from the ankle down. Yet the episode is an important first step in the series’ complicated relationship with forward momentum in its second season, in which the show is unwilling to move away from the storytelling that made the first season so effective. Whereas Sun’s storyline offers an example of the type of story you can only tell after you’ve developed characters and established a sense of community, the Tailies storyline is Lost keeping one—dirty Others—foot in familiar territory. With a new set of characters we don’t know, and a more active engagement with the uncertainty lurking in the jungle, Jin and Eko’s search for Michael is the exact type of storyline that Lost relied on to push the narrative forward in the first season.

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The Tailies serve a number of functions in the season, but in “…and Found” they mainly let the writers maintain a key part of the series’ DNA without having to force the issue with characters who’ve evolved into a different stage of their time on the island. Sending characters into the jungle has always been one of Lost’s favorite “moves,” as it tells us about the characters’ approach to this experience and often lets them stumble into something important. We get a name for Mr. Eko, whose confidence navigating the island offers a not-so-subtle parallel with Locke’s strong bond to his surroundings. Meanwhile, Jin’s insistence on going after Michael reinforces the sense of friendship he’s built with a man once framed as his enemy, and the episode features the most—still tentative—English Jin has spoken in a given episode. Isolating the characters lets these developments come into focus, while smaller bits of development for Libby and Ana Lucia continue to lay the seeds for their own trips into the jungle—or equivalents—in the episodes to come.

“…And Found” does a great job of embracing the separation of the two groups of castaways, using Jin and Sun as an emotional centering point as the flashbacks begin with one character and transition into the other. Their romance is the series’ most successful relationship to date, unburdened by love triangles and transformed by their time in the island in ways that make us personally invested in something more complicated than “true love.” In this episode, their connection serves to link two storylines pursuing momentum in different ways, storylines that are set to bump into each other in something other than a meet-cute in the episodes to follow.

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Stray observations:

  • Just so we’re clear, Michael’s plan was to run through the jungle yelling “WALT” at the top of his lungs? How did the Others not hear him earlier? And how did Eko not punch him right in the face for being such an idiot? Sigh.
  • As though they were nostalgic, Cuse and Lindelof throw in a boar attack for no reason other than to remind us that boars are out there, and to briefly make us concerned Jin was about to run into either the black or white menaces that have also attacked castaways in the jungle.
  • “I’m not gay”—lest we forget that the show is required to have some form of complex love structure, Ana Lucia and Sawyer have a brief flirtation that prepares us to enter love square territory should they make it back to Jack (who Ana Lucia flirted with before getting on the plane) and Kate (who tells Sun her regrets about not saying goodbye to Sawyer).
  • “His name was Goodwin”—I bet there’s a story behind the dude impaled on a giant stick, no?
  • “Is Seoul the good Korea or the bad Korea?”—this line’s a little dumber than I’d like from Hurley, honestly, but I suppose it’s a case where his class upbringing—if not his class before he arrived on the island, what with the lottery winnings—does play a role in how he interacts with those around him.
  • “It is just a thing”—a lesser show would have had Kate pull out her toy plane after Sun says this about her wedding ring, so I appreciate the restraint in this case.

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“Abandoned” (originally aired 11/09/2005)

It’s difficult to write about this episode without engaging in something approaching spoilers—frankly, it’s hard to know in retrospect whether or not there is uncertainty regarding whether or not Shannon survives the events at the end of “Abandoned,” so I’m having to stake a claim here. If you are one of those people that are reading these reviews as you’re watching the series for the first time, and you’ve yet to see the two episodes following this one, and you really don’t want to know how it plays out, I want to give you a chance to stop reading here and move on. I’m going to put a photo here to keep you protected.

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I don’t know how much “Abandoned” is intended to be a meta-commentary on the place of Shannon Rutherford within the series’ narrative, but the episode sure plays like one. In her flashbacks, we meet Shannon at the age of 18, after her father—and Boone’s stepfather—died in the same car accident that nearly paralyzed Sarah (as covered in “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith”). Given that her stepmother already resented her for her closeness with her father and with Boone, Shannon knows that things will be difficult, but she has no idea that Sabrina intends on refusing to offer any kind of financial support in the absence of a will specifically leaving Shannon any money. She ends up alone, forced to fend for herself for the first time, a path that eventually leads to her making a living conning her stepbrother into paying off her boyfriends.

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It’s a meditation on what happens when the thing that connects you to the people around you disappears, and you’re left to redefine your place within a family, or a community, without that reference point to rely on. It’s also not a coincidence that it comes as Lost unceremoniously removes Shannon from the series after her place in the narrative was left muddled by Boone’s death.

Boone’s death resonates throughout “Abandoned.” Rose hangs clothes with Hurley—she doesn’t like the Hatch—and talks about how hard it must be to lose the person you love on the island. Shannon’s attempt to use Vincent to sniff out Walt—who appeared to her for a second time—leads her directly to Boone’s grave. And Sayid’s refusal to believe Shannon saw Walt, and that she’s not just working through her grief about Boone, eventually comes back around to her grief about Boone, and her struggles as a teenager balancing her sense of abandonment and her stubborn desire to maintain a position of independence to prove her stepmother wrong.

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At one point, Shannon gets frustrated with Sayid’s refusal to believe her about Walt, and asks him a telling question: “You really think that this is all about Boone?” And the problem for “Abandoned,” and Shannon as a character in the television series Lost, is that it kind of is. Shannon never got to have a flashback of her own, meaning that her identity was explicitly tied to Boone and special guest star Ian Somerhalder. And where Jin and Sun’s shared flashbacks in the first season balanced the focus between the two episodes, and were unilaterally stronger, Shannon was a supporting character in Boone’s flashback and had no other opportunity for her character to be developed independently. Her relationship with Sayid has been barely acknowledged this season, and emerges here without much in the way of interest or momentum. At this stage, Shannon has been relegated to the role of reminding the audience about Boone’s death, a sure sign that the writers have no more stories to tell about this character.

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“Abandoned” does what it can to make Shannon’s life on the island meaningful. She works through her abandonment issues with Sayid, who loves her, and believes her, and promises her that he won’t leave her. But it’s a purely episodic meaning, something the episode constructs out of thin air to create a sense of closure when Shannon runs after “Walt” in the jungle and runs right into Ana Lucia and the Tailies. As the one remaining bullet finds its way into her stomach, Shannon’s death ends up struggling as much as Shannon’s life to survive in her brother’s shadow: while his death was a pivotal turning point for Jack, Locke, and the series’ approach to death, Shannon’s death registers as a solution to the problem of a character that outlived its value to the series.

As always, however, the value of a deceased television character is not fully determined until we consider the impact their death has on the people around them. And while we’ll explore the ramifications of Ana Lucia’s trigger finger next week, the event itself offers a further culmination of just how awful things have been for the Tailies. Not dissimilar to Battlestar Galactica’s Pegasus arc that started a month and a half earlier, the Tailies offer an alternate reality twist on the scenario we’ve already seen unfold. “Abandoned” has the show in full tease mode, building on the hints from earlier episodes and started to seed our interest in seeing the whole story. What did Libby mean about the children? Why wasn’t Eko talking? And once Ana Lucia lays out more of the story for Michael (and the audience), how did they survive the chaos after so many people were taken from the camp in the first weeks on the island?

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Whereas Shannon’s death shows Lost removing a threat to the efficiency of the narrative, the Tailies are purposefully constructed as a threat to the world that’s been established. They bring real danger, as the Others stalk them to the point where Cindy the flight attendant up and vanishes into thin air, and they bring with them baggage that would have been complicated even before Ana Lucia murdered Shannon. There are still problems among our castaways—Claire learning how to be a mother, Charlie’s addiction and the Virgin Mary statue—that the episode brings to the surface, but the Tailies return us to a period of open conflict that the show had signaled was potentially a thing of the past. Shannon’s death may have lacked resonance for her own character arc, but it serves as a chestnut of sorts for the complicated merge that’s about to transpire, which is at least a meaningful addition to the season if an unsatisfying event in and of itself.

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Stray observations:

  • I like Maggie Grace in this role, but I think Shannon was doomed as soon as they chose not to give her her own flashback in the first season. Lindelof has said they knew going into the season she was going to die, and it shows in the way she was a non-entity early on. I think Grace and the character deserved better, but it was probably for the best at the end of the day.
  • “It’s your turn”—Locke is talking about the game, but I love the way this fits in with his hope that Charlie will confess to carrying around the Virgin Mary statue and the heroin inside of it. As great as Terry O’Quinn is in Locke’s most emotional moments, he’s so great at Locke as a sponsor, or as a swaddle-making wet nurse.
  • Naveen Andrews was not among the actors who the series consciously objectified all that often, but they took the opportunity of Shannon’s pending departure to facilitate some tent action so he could spend some time shirtless.
  • “Maybe you oughta talk to my shoulder”—Sawyer’s condition worsens as the episode goes on, but his sense of humor helps to make “Libby’s a psychiatrist!” exposition much more engaging.
  • People get shot in the rain a lot in this show, have you noticed?
  • Daddy issues alert: Would you say that stepmom issues are inherently also daddy issues, even after the daddy in question is dead? I’m going to say yes.

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Spoiler Station (only read if you’ve seen the whole series):

  • The show did a good job of dealing with the separate groups of castaways here, something that will become more of an issue in the beginning of season three (which, as noted in previous comment threads, I’ll defend until the end of time).
  • Jin and Sun are not all that well-treated by the story moving forward, thinking specifically of the way there time on the island ends, but these early episodes built such a strong foundation that it all ended up working anyway.
  • We had a conversation about Shannon being there with Sayid in the Flash Sideways, and I’m realizing it’s a pairing of characters who were screwed over in different ways: Sayid by the way his on-island journey fizzled, and Shannon by the way her flashbacks never gave her short on-island life any deeper meaning. I think it makes more sense for Shannon to find Sayid than Sayid to find Shannon—the lack of meaning in her flashbacks make him the strongest non-Boone emotional tie she had, as far as I can tell.
  • Okay, what the hell is the deal with Walt? I’m putting this here as opposed to above since we learn more about what happened with Walt at the Hydra Station as time goes on, but is there any chance that it was actually Walt who appeared to Sayid and Shannon—the only time both see him, and the only time he isn’t speaking backwards—if not during the two previous sightings?
  • Given the way she goes out, Ana Lucia kind of ends up playing unsatisfying, underdeveloped death tag with Shannon, no?

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Next Week: We take a journey back to see the other 48 Days, and get our first Tailies flashback.