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“Enter 77” (originally aired 03/07/2007)

Of all the characters who were sidelined by the close focus on the Hydra Station early in Lost’s third season, Sayid is the most interesting. He was technically the one who had spotted Michael’s lie and pushed for a counter-mission, but his journey with Jin and Sun turned out to be a false flag. And then when action did break out, he was forcibly separated from it, with the submarine allowing the Others to move past his front line defense. Subsequently, Sayid returned back to the beach, where he drafted into Locke’s trip to the Pearl Station, and then onto Kate’s plan to go after Jack.

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Whereas characters like Hurley and Charlie have always been more likely to suggest ping pong showdowns than plot major plans, Sayid is a man of action, but early in this season he lacks a clear goal or purpose, which makes “Enter 77” so interesting—how do you articulate a character as central when nothing in the plot thus far has supported such an articulation?

Despite the fact that “Enter 77” is obviously intended as a jolt to the season’s plot momentum, Sayid is not really directly involved. Rather, Sayid is reaffirmed as the show’s utility player: he is principled, he is skilled, and he is generally-speaking motivated, with a knack for navigating complicated situations while embodying the series’ reflective turn to the past better than perhaps any other character. “Enter 77” is almost never truly about Sayid, but he is a productive and engaging focal point regardless of his connection to the plot, and serves as a great vantage point for our brief time with the Flame Station.

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Like many flashbacks this season, Sayid’s is neither an answer to a specific question nor particularly important to our larger understanding of the character’s past—in truth, I had forgotten this flashback had ever happened, which is the case with a few different flashbacks this season. The story of Sayid being kidnapped by the husband of a woman he tortured for the Republican Guard and being forced to face the sins of his past is not that dissimilar from his other flashbacks, all of which are about Sayid reconciling his current actions with the actions from his past. On some level, what we see in the flashback is just a version of what we saw on the island, where Sayid responded to his torturing of Sawyer with similar regret. In all cases, the goal is outlining that Sayid’s past has resulted in a clear set of principles, which are continually being challenged by the situations he finds himself in on the island.

This makes it really difficult for a Sayid episode to feel entirely new, but it also makes it very easy for a Sayid episode to resonate. The episode doesn’t do a lot to make the flashback overly important—it’s a long way into the episode before we get our first glimpse, and the scenes unfold without any particular suspense given we know Sayid survives. However, the final scene between Sayid and Amira is really affecting, and Anne Bedian and Naveen Andrews each give really strong performances in it. It offers little new information, but it relies on the work the show has done with Sayid’s existential pain in previous seasons, and it crafts a meaningful reason for Sayid to allow Mikhail to live. The episode doesn’t try overly hard to make the flashback resonate, but it pulls together a last scene that makes an impact, even if it’s an impact that failed to linger once the episode itself was done.

Sayid is good for this. There is something fun about watching Sayid work, and the command he shows when in situations like this one. Much as he was a good foil for Rousseau in the first season, he’s a great foil for Mikhail here, as the “Eyepatch” guy from the Pearl Station video feed briefly plays the role of a Dharma Initiative member. Yes, Kate and Locke are there with him, but it’s Sayid who takes the bullet, and then reads through Mikhail’s act, and then finds the secret door to the basement, and then finds the map that will lead them to the Barracks. When the show needs to get things done, Sayid is a tremendous tool to have, and it’s just enjoyable to see Andrews pointing a gun around and shouting orders. It comes very naturally to the character, and it helps to serve a twisty, action-driven setpiece like the Flame Station confrontation.

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Meanwhile, Locke is productive when you need to blow it up. Reminiscent of the show’s approach to long-term storytelling more broadly at this point, “Enter 77” gives us a glimpse of Dharma’s past on the island while talking away the promise of learning even more. This is not a show where an entire episode will be spent with characters reading from the Dharma binders Sayid finds in the basement; this is a show where they get blown up along with everything else, all because Locke was too curious about the Marvin Candle Interactive Computer Experience. Whereas Sayid was thinking rationally, treating the communications station as a potential stepping stone to contacting the outside world and getting off the island, Locke is willing to—literally—play games. It’s a great example of how the situations that play out on the show are shaped by the characters involved, and how the diversity of the show’s bench can help them justify destroying a mythological resource soon after it’s introduced.

“Enter 77” literally maps out the show’s future, with Sayid finding the location of the Barracks and setting a course for what we presume to be the community we saw in the premiere’s opening scene. It does not necessarily make any tremendous statement otherwise, with a half-developed ping pong battle between Hurley and Sawyer barely registering as a B-story that exists mostly for Sawyer to channel the audience’s confusion at who Nikki and Paulo are. And yet looking back, it’s one of those episodes that goes down really smoothly, with Sayid a strong anchor an episode that has to get from Point A to Point B to set the show on a new course.

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Stray observations:

  • The idea of all of Sawyer’s luxury goods being equivalent to Sawyer not using nicknames for a single week seems silly to me. I feel like Sun could have struck a harder bargain, no?
  • Given the presence of SONAR, and Mikhail confirming that the wire leading into the ocean leads to a beacon of some kind, methinks we’re supposed to be storing this information away for the future.
  • While Vincent provided a strong animal presence throughout the series, I will say that getting a more diverse spectrum of animals here was kind of nice. Was Kate’s horse from the Flame Station farm? And does it have conversations with Sayid’s cat about how these humans keep staring at them all weird-like? (Also: I wrote “KITTY” twice in my notes.)
  • “The Purge,” you say? Let’s file that away for later, too.
  • “I play a lot at the Instit…the place I hung out at for a while”—smooth, Hurley.
  • So long, Ms. Klugh—we hardly knew you, but we definitely knew your name was a troll job.
  • Myles Has To Go Back: 2007 Myles was really convinced that ABC was going to pick up Kiele Sanchez’s Footballer’s Wives pilot, which is pretty hilarious in retrospect, but he had some on-point thoughts about Locke: “So, first he stops inputting the numbers and they lose the hatch, and now this time he blows up the Flame Station? I have to wonder how he managed not to blow up that box company he was working at in his flashbacks the second he touched their computers.”

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“Par Avion” (originally aired 03/14/2007)

In discussing Furious 7 with fellow TV Club contributor Carrie Raisler over the weekend, she rightfully observed that the character of Mia, played by Jordana Brewster, was sidelined in the film given the presence of her son. No matter how high-octane the story was going to get, she was always going to be forced to remain in the domestic sphere in order for the rest of the story to unfold.

This is Claire’s fate following Aaron’s birth. Outside of being abducted and the instance where she experienced nightmarish flashbacks to the time she was abducted, Claire has represented the series’ home front. Every other character has been at one point or another tied up in one of the show’s many expeditions, but Claire has been thus far immune from the calls to adventure that see characters traversing over sonic fences.

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“Par Avion” is our first Claire episode since her trip back to the medical station, and our first “proper” flashback for the character since season one. This makes Claire the series regular with the least flashback exposure, demonstrating her marginalization from the series’ momentum over the past two and a half seasons. However, in the context of a season where so many flashbacks have felt repetitive, Claire’s lack of flashbacks proves a boon for the show, as it can finally make a case for the flashbacks pushing the characters and the story forward in meaningful ways. The episode still mostly sidelines Claire from the series’ mythology, but it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the show’s characters, and delivers one of the season’s biggest “reveals.”

The fact that Christian is Claire’s father reaffirms his place as the character with the most varied connections to our castaways. He is something of a skeleton key: there’s the chance encounter with Sawyer, the brief employment of Ana Lucia on his trip to Australia, and then the deeper connections with Jack and Claire as their father. It’s a lot to take in, and written out like this it seems like a huge coincidence, to the point that you have to presume something supernatural allowed it to unfold. However, in the context of the show, the gradual reveal of this information means that it doesn’t feel like a huge stretch, and serves to reaffirm Christian not just as a character in other people’s stories, but a character in his own right despite having never been alive in the show’s primary timeline. The fact he chose to travel to Australia suddenly makes sense, and the specific existentialism which fueled his alcoholism gains new context and meaning. John Terry has always been great as Christian, but this is the ultimate test of his performance, and he grounds what could be seen as a highly suspect reveal in real emotion, which is then matched by Emelie de Ravin.

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It is to de Ravin’s credit that “Par Avion” still remains a Claire episode. The “action” of the episode is undoubtedly with Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, and Rousseau escorting Mikhail to the Barracks—the sonic fence is a new piece of the Others puzzle, Mikhail’s death is the episode’s most thrilling moment, and composer Michael Giacchino gets to have a lot of fun with the suspense of Kate’s trip over the fence as though things were going to go entirely south. Combine with one of the show’s most well-drawn cliffhangers, as our heroes come across Jack playing football with Tom and we cut to black on Jack’s touchdown celebration, and you have momentum that has nothing to do with Claire’s quest to use migratory birds as an alternate communication method with the outside world.

What I like about Claire’s storyline, though, is that we see the clear tension between the domestic situation on the beach and the looming threat. Desmond’s prophecy is that threat in this case, as Charlie’s attempt to carpe diem with Claire runs straight into his imminent doom. The resulting course correction makes sense to us: we understand why Desmond is disrupting Claire’s search for the birds, and why Charlie suddenly veers away from it, but Claire has no reason to. Claire has just been living her life as normally as you can, caring for her son and relying on the people around her for support. She sees the birds as something she can do to contribute, and when Desmond and Charlie fumble their way into disrupting it she wants—and eventually gets—an explanation. She becomes the first character other than Charlie to know the whole truth about Desmond, and it bolsters the character’s place within the series as a whole.

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It also ensures that the flashback is not solely focused on revealing Christian as her father. Instead, the flashback narrows in on Claire’s struggle to find her own identity amidst a situation in which she had no clear role—she never knew her father because her mother and aunt pushed her father away, and because he wasn’t willing to choose his family in Australia over his family back in California. Similar to how Rousseau has chosen not to ask too many questions about Alex, Claire’s has been a story about tentative connections, both with her unborn baby and with Charlie. The flashback uses her combined Mommy and Daddy issues—this is Lost, you knew there had to be some of those—to lay out the past that brought her to that point, and Emilie de Ravin gets to do some nice work with Goth Claire before embodying the more reflective Claire revealing her pregnancy to her comatose mother, demonstrating the progress she made even before she got on Flight 815. The cut back to Charlie and Claire on the beach is touching, and a hopeful moment that in retrospect is one of the final moments where one could understand hope in such simple terms.

Stray observations:

  • Seriously, Jack spiking the football right into the cut to the title makes me laugh so hard. I could watch the GIF all day. It’s pretty much a complete troll, and I love that about it. I also love that M.C. Gainey is not very good at throwing a football.
  • I didn’t have anywhere to put this, but I felt I had to share.

This too.

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  • Daddy issues alert: While Claire ultimately struggles more with the way she left things with her mother following their car accident (which offers a visceral opening to the episode), the fact she chooses not to even know Christian’s name still places him as a complicated part of her identity. It also justifies why she never put two and two together with Jack’s last name (although that math would be more like calculus, given it’s a common name).
  • Ethnocentrism Alert: I initially thought Claire was lying about having been driving the car, because I forgot that Australians drive on the right side. Whoops.
  • While Locke’s theft of the C4 is a rather dark bit of character development (especially after he used his lack of knowledge about the C4 to justify his destruction of the Flame Station), the show gets some real mileage out of Locke’s curiosity driving his terrible decision-making, as in his choice to just throw Mikhail into the fence.
  • “No, I like dogs”—Locke cracking jokes is another sign that his carefree attitude is running amok.
  • Flashback Tag: Mikhail very nearly revealing that Locke was paralyzed is one of the more explicit cases of flashback tag the show has done since back in season one, where it was much more common to foreshadow the next week’s story.
  • Lost Book Club: The state of the social order at the beach camp is definitely not going to be helped by Sawyer reading Ayn Rand.
  • “We are alive—please don’t give up on us”—this sounds like a direct shot at the purgatory truthers, doesn’t it?
  • Myles Has To Go Back: 2007 Myles was getting (too) creative, framing this as an episode about birds. Locke’s the raven, Christian is the pigeon, Jack is “the one that flew the coop,” while Claire is the Common Indian Myna: “Now, apparently, the Common Indian Myna is an invasive pest in Australia, which is kind of how I felt about Claire in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, the character isn’t quite that awful, but the problem was that it was a diversion to the much more interesting storyline regarding the search for the Others’ barracks.” Harsh, 2007 Myles. Harsh.

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

  • Claire’s absence for an entire season of the show kind of made her “ending” less effective than those for other characters, but I’m finding the parallels between Claire and Rousseau to resonate well on rewatch. It’s adding whole new levels of depth to Squirrel Baby.
  • The show’s treatment of Mikhail is really difficult to talk about without going into spoiler territory. First, Sayid allowing him to stay alive in “Enter 77” is technically what dooms Charlie, even if we know that fate would have found another way. Second, I had forgotten that they fake murder him, which just makes his role in “Through The Looking Glass” that much more superhuman.

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Next Week: Noel Murray returns for the show’s most-anticipated flashback as we finally find out how Jack got his other tattoos. (Just kidding: It’s how Locke became paralyzed.)