“Left Behind” (originally aired 04/04/2007)

Lost fans wanted—and heck, in some cases still want—answers. And although I ultimately feel that those who reduced Lost to mysteries that needed to be solved are doing the show a disservice, I do not blame fans for wanting answers. It’s a basic human reaction: when riddles are presented, we want them to be solved.

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In “Left Behind,” the search for answers becomes part of the text itself. Kate has been sitting handcuffed in the Others’ rec room while Locke has been holding Ben hostage and blowing up submarines, and she has no idea what’s going on. The last she heard, Jack was leaving the island, and the next Juliet is delivering her a sandwich without offering any additional context. The next morning, Locke shows up and says “goodbye,” announces he’s leaving with the Others, and sets the stage for the Others gassing the entire village, after which Kate wakes up in the jungle handcuffed to Juliet. As Kate says to Juliet,” Welcome to the wonderful world of not knowing what the hell’s going on.”

Yes, we as Lost viewers are confused, but we actually know way more than any individual character (that we’ve been introduced to at this point, at least). Kate and the other 815 survivors have had questions from their first day on The Island, and that hasn’t really stopped. Here, Kate enjoys pointing out to Juliet that she’s finally in the same boat: while the Others had access to lots of answers, including Kate’s hidden past, Juliet is now looking for answers just like the rest of them. Juliet may know more about how the fences work, and she might know details of Jack’s past, but she appears to be in the dark regarding why the Others chose to leave her behind.

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“Left Behind” is about answers without having any of them. Anthony Cooper coming out of “the box” has clearly made an impact on Locke, but we get no further clarity in regards to the how or why of it all. Instead, the show focuses its attention on Kate, who it turns out has been working to rescue Jack based on a false answer. She chose to believe that the reason Jack told her to leave him behind was that he wanted to protect her, but Juliet has a different answer: Jack saw her with Sawyer, his heart was broken, and he wanted to protect himself. It’s not the answer Kate wanted, and it puts the events of the past few days into a harsh new perspective. Was Kate responsible for setting off the chain of events that destroyed the submarine and robbed Juliet and Jack of their chance to go home?

The answer is no, ultimately—that’s on Locke, pretty comfortably. But Kate nonetheless holds herself responsible, in part because she’s been held accountable in similar ways before. The flashback, in which Kate teams up with Cassidy (Kim Dickens) to get in touch with her mother, is all about answers: Kate wants to know why her mother chose to turn in her own daughter for killing the man who was abusing her. The answer, it turns out, was love: she loved Wayne, and it forever frames her understanding of Kate’s decision to murder him in cold blood.

Beyond this particular thematic parallel, though, the flashback in “Left Behind” is compelling on two other levels. The first is obviously the convergence with Cassidy, which gives Kim Dickens more to do outside of Sawyer’s flashbacks and continues to use the power of coincidence to serve multiple flashback narratives at once. The second, though, is the flashback’s temporality. As the flashback unfolds, you realize that we are decidedly before two events we’ve already seen: Kate’s return to her hometown to see her mother as she is recovering from cancer in “Born To Run,” and Cassidy showing up to visit Sawyer in prison and tell him about their daughter in “Every Man For Himself.” And while the show had trouble early in the season constructing flashbacks with purpose, here the show adds depth to past flashbacks. We better understand Diane’s reaction when Kate shows up at the hospital when we see her warning to Kate after giving her the answer she wanted, and we can better understand Cassidy’s decision to tell Sawyer about their daughter given the way her guilt over turning him in manifests as she continues on as a con woman.

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This may not be one of the most revelatory flashbacks for the audience, but it nonetheless depicts a revelatory moment for both Kate and Cassidy, registering as an event of consequences in their lives in ways that we have seen play out previously. The non-linearity of the flashback gives the episode a richness it might not have otherwise, adding to an episode that is otherwise rich with a new mystery: why was Juliet left behind? The episode uses the uncertainty surrounding Juliet effectively, whether in her feigned ignorance to the Smoke Monster or in her choice to leave herself and Kate handcuffed despite having the key. Is she really just concerned about being left behind and wanted to tie her fate to Kate’s? Or is she a plan by the Others as Sayid fears, left behind to infiltrate their camp?

This may not be one of Lost’s largest or longest mysteries, but it’s a complex one, and the end of the episode offers a great sense of the complicated character dynamics that result from Juliet’s inclusion. We could reduce it to a love rhombus, sure, but the way Juliet’s presence plays out in “Left Behind” creates effective conflict that works in conjunction with Hurley tricking Sawyer into being a leader to place the unity and cohesion of the castaways a central topic heading into the season’s third and final act.

Stray observations:

  • Right down to the Giacchino-scored montage at episode’s end, Sawyer’s campaign tour felt like a throwback, and an effective one—lots of great lines, some entertaining discomfort from Josh Holloway, and a nice calm before the storm.
  • Continuing the series’ tradition of fights taking place in the rain, Kate and Juliet’s throwdown delivers.
  • “Left Behind” was directed by Karen Gaviola, who has the distinction of being the only woman to direct multiple episodes of Lost. This was her second and final episode.
  • “I ain’t gonna get the Korean vote”—perhaps more needed to be done than holding a baby in order for Sun to come around on Sawyer after discovering her orchestrated her violent kidnapping, but I do appreciate that the show acknowledges it here, and uses it as an anchor in Sawyer’s redemption arc.
  • Why can’t the Smoke Monster go over the fence like Kate did? I’ve never actually thought about this before, but it does seem weird that it can’t, right?
  • “Did he say that to you?”—the way Kate questions Juliet about her understanding of Jack’s motives is interesting, given that he never actually said it, although it’s more to set up the love rhombus than suggest any deeper theoretical understanding of what it means to really “know”s someone. But that latter reading remains, given Juliet’s “facts” vs. Kate’s “lived experience.”
  • “Your baby’s…not as wrinkly as he was a couple weeks ago”—Sawyer perhaps needed to think through his small talk a bit more carefully.
  • Myles Has To Go Back: 2007 Myles didn’t review “Left Behind,” because 2007 Myles had final papers to write. 2015 Myles is disappointed in 2007 Myles. Instead, go read Friend of the Reviews Jeff “Doc” Jensen’s review, where he also raises the “why can’t the Smoke Monster go over the fence” riddle.

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“One Of Us” (originally aired 04/11/2007)

Lost’s third season started with Juliet. As much as the opening sequence became a crucial “reveal” of the Others’ encampment in the grand scheme of the season, the first person we see is Juliet, preparing for her book club meeting. The last person we met in this context was Desmond, who over the course of the second season was transformed from a short-term antagonist to one of our “heroes,” so we could ask ourselves: Is Juliet on the same path? She may be an Other, but is she a different kind of Other?

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That question drives “One Of Us,” picking up from the strong work setting up the uncertainty surrounding Juliet’s allegiances in “Left Behind.” From the moment Sayid gets Juliet alone, he has questions about everything, but most of all about Juliet herself: Who is Juliet Burke? The Others know everything about the castaways, as Juliet demonstrates later in the episode when she throws Sayid and Sawyer’s flashbacks in their faces, but they know nothing about her. “Not In Portland” gave us some insight into what brought Juliet to the island, but only Jack has any sense of what motivates Juliet. Everyone else—including, perhaps, the audience—has every reason to be suspicious.

For much of its running time, “One Of Us” plays out as a perfectly constructed redemption arc. Putting Juliet front and center, the episode continually works to assure the audience and the castaways that Juliet is on the level. Further flashbacks fill in the gaps between her discovery that she wouldn’t be traveling to Portland and the crash of Flight 815, as she says goodbye to her sister and travels to the island to save young women who are dying before they are able to give birth. Those flashbacks reframe Ethan’s “attacks” on Claire as an experiment designed to help her carry Aaron to term, whilst simultaneously giving context for Claire’s mysterious illness that Juliet claims is related to the injections. They also show Juliet battling with Ben regarding her future on the island, with Ben convincing her to stay by promising to cure her sister’s relapsed cancer. By the time Juliet is cutting down Sayid and Sawyer’s moral righteousness as she gets the medical supplies necessary to save Claire’s life, it’s hard not to be rooting for Juliet, who shows great resolve in an incredibly difficult situation.

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Yet if you start to watch the flashbacks closely, you’ll start to get suspicious. After Juliet calls Ben a liar after discovering his cancer—which she thinks he’d have cured if he had the power to do so—and demands to go home in an incredibly melodramatic and emotional confrontation, we can logically read that as context for Ben and Juliet’s coldness in the season’s opening scene, which is the subsequent flashback. However, that flashback then continues, as Ben takes Juliet on a trip to the Flame Station, where he shows her live footage of Rachel and her two-year old son Julian. While the rest of the episode’s flashbacks showed us what we presumed was the backstory for Juliet’s distrust of Ben and the Others, here we see a moment where Ben proves the Others’ power to her. She still wants to go home, and he still refuses to allow her to do so, but it complicates the idea that Juliet has cut all ties from the Others. It’s a complication that comes to life in the final flashback, where the audience sees Ben and Juliet working through the entire episode’s narrative, which was perfectly constructed because it was a plan all along.

We know certain things about Juliet. We know she asked Jack to kill Ben, something that definitely wasn’t part of his plan. We know that she wants to leave the island. However, we learn in this flashback that what she’s leaving the island for is something that only exists because of the mysterious “Jacob,” meaning that she may feel a certain debt to Ben and the Others. Jack isn’t wrong that Juliet wants to leave the island, but what makes him so sure that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 are the best way to achieve this? Wouldn’t Ben still represent her best chance of returning home, even if she did want him dead, and even if she still holds a grudge?

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“One Of Us” is one of the season’s sharpest character studies, benefitted by our interest in learning more about a new character and a tightly-focused episode. There is no B-story here—Claire’s illness is technically introduced as its own storyline, but it quickly merges with Juliet’s, and is retroactively taken over by hers given that it was caused by an implant activated as part of the plan. Despite being a new character, Juliet serves as a strong anchor, with emotional flashbacks and compelling island scenes that mark out the character’s distinct place within the island framework. She is neither “one of us” nor “one of them”: she is a wild card, whose complicated relationship with both sides positions her at the heart of the conflict between the castaways and the Others moving forward.

This is an episode interested in moving forward. By bringing us full circle to the opening scene, “One Of Us” signals that we are entering the final act of the season. The second act has fleshed out our understanding of the Others, shifting away from mystery toward specific plans based on a specific history. They have been humanized without being defanged, remaining a threat while nonetheless moving closer to the castaways in terms of their relationship with The Island and the larger narrative. They might still know more, and they might still be hatching a nefarious scheme, but they are doing so for reasons that are not that dissimilar from the reasons that drive the characters we’ve known for three seasons. Juliet tightening that knot leading into the closing title card is a bit on-the-nose, perhaps, but it symbolizes the tightening of the show’s storytelling, which now begins the gradual but thrilling march to the season’s conclusion.

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Stray observations:

  • 2007 was a year where the Emmys actually revealed the Top 10 in each category, and somehow Elizabeth Mitchell failed to even crack the Top 10 in Supporting Actress, which is just absurd. She’s good throughout the season, but she goes through such a range of emotions here, putting her scene in the mirror in the premiere into dynamic context.
  • The idea of Juliet and Goodwin sleeping together is interesting, if only because it feels so extraneous—what function does it serve? Was his death supposed to be added to the tragedy pile, expanding her feeling of being alone? It would seem there is a scene missing to really drive that point home, no?
  • After Noel discussed the way “Exposé” functions as a clip show last week, we get a version of that in the scene where Juliet explains Ethan’s actions with Claire. It also frames Ethan’s kidnapping as a renegade act, although he doesn’t get a chance to explain why he’s so desperate as to make that particular move.
  • So we’ve heard Jacob’s name a few times now, but the idea that he could personally cure cancer is certainly a new wrinkle. I’d be interested to go back and see what speculation surrounded the character back in 2007 based on this line.
  • Loved the way the use of “Downtown” in the premiere is seeded in the flashback as the song Juliet and Rachel are listening to as they arrive to Mittelos.
  • We get a brief glimpse of news coverage of Flight 815’s disappearance in the Flame Station—in light of the missing plane coverage on CNN in recent years, I wonder how long the cable news channels would have dragged out the disappearance.
  • Does the submarine go through the Panama Canal, I presume? Don’t you have to, like, get some kind of permits for that? Do they just let rogue private submarines through? Maybe I don’t properly understand the Panama Canal, or maybe they went around South America.
  • You can tell Lost uses a lot of location shooting based on how windy scenes can be—Juliet and Ben on the rocks is particularly windy, and there was a similarly windy scene in “Left Behind.”
  • Myles Has To Go Back: 2007 Myles was very unsure of Juliet’s motivations, and broke down whether or not her various story threads were genuine or false—it’s an interesting real-time reflection of how I responded to the character without the benefit of foresight.

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

  • On rewatch, Kate and Jack’s hallway conversation as the former returns to the Barracks seems like a direct mirror of their flashforward reveal conversation in “Through The Looking Glass.”
  • Do we ever get a clear understanding of why Ben gets cancer, exactly? I mean, he takes it as a sign of his being not worthy, but is it actually some kind of test created based on Jack’s arrival as a candidate? Is he a vessel? It’s still really confusing, but also interesting given that Ben ends up serving as Hurley’s advisor.
  • As with any scenes regarding the Love Rhombus, I love how Sawyer’s reaction to Juliet plays in light of their future relationship. As much as I believe Sawyer and Kate’s connection is genuine, Sawyer’s relationship with Juliet is just so much richer, and feels less arbitrary.

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Scheduling Announcement: Another twofer next week, with “Catch-22” and “D.O.C.” and then Noel returns for the final four episodes of the season in the four subsequent weeks.