A Tale of Two Cities

Tonight’s much-anticipated airing of the Season Three premiere of “LOST” was actually our second look at it, as we were among the thousands who enjoyed the sneak preview on Waikiki Beach over the weekend. And while the beach premiere was a blast, enjoying and analyzing an episode in one’s living room is a very different experience. I can definitely say I came away liking “A Tale of Two Cities” better than I initially did. Jen, meanwhile, loved it both times.

It was a strong opening act, but it was just an opening act, setting the stage for the pseudo-miniseries we’re getting this year. Though there were some moments of levity, it was nice to return to the menacing gloom I’ve grown to love, and while I’m certainly curious about our other survivors, I’m glad they limited the episode to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. And this was definitely one of Matthew Fox’s strongest showings. Newcomer Elizabeth Mitchell, meanwhile, was fantastic. I’m immediately curious about her story.The opening sequence was certainly an eye-popper. At first just a tribute to the Season Two premiere, we’re disoriented and dazzled as we figure out where and when we are. A widebody jet breaking up in a clear blue sky isn’t something you’ll get in any other primetime TV show. And it was cool seeing how our friends “Benry,” Ethan, and Goodwin first started down the path to our survivors.

Jack’s flashback story is straightforward and illustrative. We see how low he spirals as his marriage dissolves, and the roots of the irrational side we’ve seen on The Island. The “cell phone” scene was a great way to jump into a favorite fan theory: that his father was having an affair with his wife. Jack thought Christian destroyed his marriage, but Jack’s mistrust ends up crushing Christian’s soul. And unlike some flashbacks, his journey is clear. He goes from having to know and control everything about his life and Sarah, to wanting simply to know whether Sarah is happy.

As for developments on The Island? It definitely seems like Kate’s “big choice” is going to be much more than just a minor shipper plot point. She asks about Sawyer first, and ends up in an adjacent cage. (I sincerely hope we’re not about to get into “DHARMA Captive Breeding Program” territory.) And speaking of favorite fan theories, we finally find The Hydra station, the “underwater hatch.” (Jay and Jack, rejoice!) And Sawyer’s rat-in-a-cage scenes were fun… if not a bit too cheesy. Souza on the loudspeaker, fish crackers with a DHARMA imprint, and poor Karl.

At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of answers to bigger questions. But the implications of two plot points and a couple of short conversations deserve some study. The reaction to the plane crash, for one, seems to imply that the Others were surprised on one hand (the crash wasn’t a scheduled specimen delivery), but that they had some protocols in place — something they had training for, even if they didn’t expect to ever have to use it. And Juliet’s file? Perhaps the Others aren’t as forgotten or isolated as some has thought. Seems like they’re still connected to the mothership somehow, able to collect names and obtain thick dossiers.

As for conversations, there’s the book club scene where Juliet and Adam argue about whether Juliet should pick a book Ben wouldn’t like (by, of course, Stephen King), and secondly, Jack’s chat with Juliet, in which both Jack and Juliet refer to the DHARMA Initiative as “they,” and Juliet makes clear that whatever operation is in place now is not what it was initially. Whatever Ben and Juliet and friends are plotting now, it’s probably quite a deviation from the original plan.

As I mentioned, I had my gripes about “A Tale of Two Cities” at first, but I’m also coming to terms with the fact that fans sometimes set their expectations too high. And those of us who endlessly speculate or seek out spoilers probably ruin the fun for ourselves sometimes. I’m learning to let go, and enjoy the ride.

Notes and Notions:

  • The Others’ village, and the charade Juliet, Adam and friends were failing to play reminded me a lot of an episode of Alias (also a J.J. Abrams show) titled “Liberty Village.” It was about a wholly fabricated suburb built in Russia to train agents to infiltrate a typical American neighborhood. The objective? Acquisition of an EMP weapon. Hatch magnet, anyone?
  • Another Kate in a shower scene! Big surprise.
  • A poster on The Fuselage picked up on a strong food theme in this episode. Juliet’s burnt muffins and sandwich toothpicks, Jack’s stubborn refusal to submit for food and water, Kate’s nice breakfast (followed by who knows what), Sawyer’s struggle for water and grain…
  • What was the deal with Karl? An Ana Lucia-like plant? An Other who went astray?
  • What was the Stephen King book? Adam dismissed it as religious hokum lacking metaphor. Carrie? The Stand?
  • The Stephen King shoutout was cute, but I wonder… will he be flattered, or annoyed? After all, while he’s a big fan of the show, he recently chided the show’s creators for trying too hard (he was not a fan of the four-toed statue).
  • Music notes: “Downtown” by Petula Clark, a good match with the Mama Cass song that opened Season Two. And Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” made a repeat appearance in Jack’s car (the same song Sayid and Hurley picked up on the beach via shortwave).
  • Location notes: The Others’ village looked like Camp Erdman in Mokuleia on the North Shore, Sawyer’s cage and the facility Kate was taken from looked like the old aviary at Paradise Park in Manoa Valley. Sarah’s school was Palolo Valley Recreation Center, the lawyer’s office was First Hawaiian Tower downtown (same location as Jin’s father-in-law’s office), and the police station was the old police building on Merchant Street.

60 Responses to “A Tale of Two Cities”

  1. HeyBrah says:

    The two cities referenced in Charles Dickens’s book are London and Paris in the 1770’s during a time of social unrest in both cities (and their respective countries). While the French took a more violent revolutionary direction (the Guillotine! the Guillotine!) The English (or was it British yet?) feared that the French way of destroying the aristocracy would spread to their country. How this all relates to the Season 3 opening episode of Lost can be better explained by one or some of the very prolific bloggers who share their thoughts on this site.

  2. Tom says:

    Why Kate, Sawyer & Jack? This was my question at the end of season 2 and it was not answered in this episode. I’ve heard that they are percieved as the leaders of the losties and thats why they were selected, but I don’t buy it. I hope that this is explained in future episodes.
    Also, there were those “knowing looks” between the 3 as if there were a “plan b”. I think the plan involves Sayid, but I think Sayid will be captured so the writers can have “Benry” gloat over him in a cage or something.
    It looks like “plan c” will involve Juliet.

  3. Benery says:

    Thanks for the Talking Heads reference. The album is Speaking in Tounges. If you start it when Juliette puts in the CD you hear David Byrne singing “Burning Down the House” she seems to realize her mistake.An obvious tie in are the burnt muffins,but also when the guy in the bookclub starts to critisize “Carrie” and by inference “Lost” as “By the numbers religious hokum pokum ….pure science fiction” we hear David Byrne singing “all wet Hey you might need a rain coat” and when we see the plane after the earthquake we hear “no visible means of support and you have not seen nothing yet!” then the plane breaks up and finally “I dont know what you expect starring into the TV set” an obvious message from the writers to us superfans who spend 9 hours a week dissecting a one hour show.Lets face it this is a new kind of TV experience. Thanks!

  4. Tawl says:

    Benery, thank you for presenting a clever and interesting analysis (did the Lost producers use the Talking Heads CD cover on purpose?) I loved it!

    This is on par the speculation of whether or not the Beatles intentionally had anything to do with the “Paul is dead” rumors played out in song lyrics, album art, and reverse recording of sounds within their music. Was it all chance, or is Freud right when he said “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” (no need to look for anything further).

    Wouldn’t it be great if the writers were really as crafty as we surmise? I hope so because they have millions of us watching, thinking, and analyzing every step (and misstep).

  5. pete moss says:

    The losties seemed to be meeting with karmically designed “tests” at the hands of the others (who knows, maybe like when Walt said they made him take tests). They were each treated very differently. Jack was challenged to trust, and his whole flashback revealed his complete inability to trust. Kate putting on handcuffs, given her background, I found very interesting. And maybe Sawyer had to work for a living (food), so to speak, and was probably conned by Carl in the meantime.

    Juliette was clearly a woman who was just trying to hold it together, resigned to her situation, but I’m not sure why a book club meeting would inspire that kind of emotion, although she did end up being challenged at the meeting, in a way that was clearly an issue for her.

    I was struck, as many were, by the fact that the others went outside and immediately looked up, when there seemed to be no reason to. Ben seemed almost prescient in this regard.

    Also, I may be reading it wrong, but along the same lines, when Ben looks at Juliette’s book, his statement of something like “I guess I’m not in the book club,” didn’t particularly make sense. Even if he didn’t care for that type of book, that’s just not what you would say. It seemed more like he had read the minds of those attending or had somehow sensed the strong emotions.

  6. Tom says:

    What do you all think happened to Kate inbetween breakfast, and showing up at the cages? She was visibly distressed and had lots of cuts from the handcuffs….. implying a scuffle?

  7. Dave says:

    pete moss et al… maybe the “book club” was more than just a book club.

    There is clearly some animosity between Benry and Juliet and perhaps a little power struggle as well. Benry seems to take everything very seriously, far more than the other Others (witness Ms. Clue/Bea and Mr Friendly/Zeke/Tom in last season’s finale), and maybe Juliet wanted to stage a little coup?

    That would certainly explain her fragile emotional state and need to compose herself.

    I also have to imagine that while the Others might not have known that a plane would be breaking up overhead, they presumably had to know that the “earthquake” was some kind of energy pulse. They have such a wealth of information, and had commandeered at least some of the Dharma stations, I would think they’d know.

    Crazy question — did Danielle (Rousseasu) ever meet Kelvin Inman or Desmond?

  8. grump says:

    I am a huge fan of lost, and waiting for this episode for a long time, but this episode was just not that good. Karl is definitely an other. I am waiting for the next episode hoping it will get better.

  9. some1cool says:

    I have something to say about this episode, as we all know the others knew nothing about the crash, but they had a plan for what to do, but how do they know that there will be survivors, as Ben told Ethan and Goodwin to go to the sites and make a list. I mean how many ppl can survive after a plane crash from that height.My answer….zero.

  10. thomas r p says:

    Here’s a theory: the Numbers represent the number of days in each season. Season 1 took place over 42 days (crash to opening hatch), season 2 over 23 days (up to J,K&S capture). Interestingly, Ben told Kate that the next 2 weeks were going to be very unpleasant, and this season (3) should be 16 days. Also, interesting prospects for seasons 5 (8 days) and maybe season 6 (or maybe a finale movie for the 4-day ending). The theory also may explain why some of this season’s promos mention that they have been on the island for 65 days so far. And it goes well with something the producers said early on about the importance of the time the survivors are on the island. If true, the course of the series will be 108 days; also, as of the beginning of season 3, it is 26NOV04. Of course, none of this will be precise if, as assumed, the island is exactly on the international date line (they were flying from Australia to L.A., and we already know they are supposed to be near Fiji).

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