NOVEMBER 27, 2010
AIRED: FEBRUARY 28, 2007
Unlike in Season 2, when the worst episode was followed by one that wasn't really that much better, Lost rebounded quite awesomely from "Stranger In A Strange Land" with "Trisha Tanaka Is Dead", a crowd-pleasing yarn that actually tosses in a lot of hints about future revelations while basically making the audience happy and forgetting all about Jack's goddamn tattoos.
In fact, Jack's not even in the episode at all. In fact he's the only one of the original Islanders that doesn't appear; everyone else appears and has dialogue and everything (though Claire only 'talks' in the background while music plays), for I think the first time all season. And he's mentioned, as Kate makes her "I OWE him that!" speech that will be replayed in the "previously" montage at the beginning of seemingly every single episode for the rest of the season, then goes off to get help in finding him, tailed by Locke and Sayid.
Her target, naturally, is Rousseau, whose daughter was the one that helped Kate get away in the first place. Not that it was the biggest surprise, but anyone who read the credits would have known that Mira Furlan was going to appear, and since it wasn't until the last 30 seconds of the episode that she did, I consider the credits sort of a "spoiler". And it wouldn't be the first time; several 'surprise' appearances would be ruined in the opening moments of the show. It's something that annoyed me for a long time until I finally learned not to read them (it's something I can't help - partially because doing credits is my job), but I wish they could have just used better judgment in doing their opening titles and saved 'surprise' actors for the end credits, like a lot of other shows do.
Side note about this subplot - Sayid's explanation of how they got a compass bearing is so damn funny. The look on Naveed Andrews' face is hilarious. He's pretty much the most "serious" character on the show, so the rare moments where he's actually smiling (almost laughing) are a delight.
Anyway, the main focus of the episode, and thus what makes it so good, details Hurley's discovery of a Dharma van and his attempts to get it running. Not only does he team up with the three folks he has the best chemistry with (Jin, Charlie, and Sawyer), but he actually does something for the good of everyone (and it would have a great payoff in the season finale). Like he says, the survivors could use both some hope and fun, and it seems the golf course is closed. It might even be one of the last "fun" A-plots left in the show - as the mythology got more complex and the danger levels got higher, there simply wasn't an opportunity for the writers to devote an entire episode to a few of our guys trying to fix a van so they could drive around.
Plus it's literally packed with funny character moments - Sawyer teaching Jin the most important things he needs to tell a woman, Hurley not knowing what a "work man" is, Roger's poor head, etc. Even the potentially angry moments are dismissed quickly; Sawyer comes looking for Hurley to confront him about his missing stash, and it quickly turns into a rather touching reunion, complete with a man-hug and Sawyer's oddly affectionate nickname of "Snuffy". Speaking of the nicknames, possibly the funniest moment in the episode is Hurley's terrible attempt at one ("Red...neck... Man!") and Sawyer's hilariously impressed reaction.
And I don't care, I cry happy tears at the end when they get the thing started and just start driving around in circles. Everyone's laughing and happy for once (plus Vincent's there!), Giacchino's score is wonderful... it's just an awesome moment. As I'm sure I've mentioned, I never cared as much about the Others and mythology stuff as I did seeing these people grow and form bonds (probably why the actual ending didn't piss me off as much as a lot of other folks), and when you consider the point of "Lost Heaven", it's moments like this that sort of justify it. And even though it's slightly marred by Sawyer's sadness about Kate, the montage at the end, with Jin giving Sun a flower (by the way - what the hell does Sun use in her hair? Look how long it's gotten since last season!) and Charlie regaling Claire with the story of their adventure, is a pretty sweet epilogue to the proceedings. It's one of the "warmest" episodes ever.
Hurley's flashback is also pretty fun, since it has some stuff about his curse but for the most part just tells a nice story about him and his dad (welcome to the "daddy issues" club, Hugo!). I kind of like that we actually got a "reveal" about how he got so husky (again though - they answer THIS?), and the stuff with his mom's "needs" is pretty hilarious. But it also adds dimension to his character - he's still the comic relief, but he's got a lot of baggage too - you really feel for the guy, which isn't something you can say about most comic relief types on big ensemble shows. I don't know if Jorge Garcia has much of an acting range (I've never seen him in anything else), but he definitely gives one of the most underrated performances on the show. His opening bit, talking to Libby, is pretty sad stuff, and Garcia nails it.
Only thing I don't like is the title event. I know he's cursed and all, but a meteor just seems too far-fetched, even for this show. They also throw in some dialogue about entering the building before the ribbon was cut, which doesn't jive with the curse idea anyway. And why did he agree to do the show anyway, when he clearly wasn't interested in it? A more "normal" disaster would have been a much better kickoff, I think.
If memory serves, tomorrow's episode has some fun stuff too (I think it's the ping pong one?), which makes me wonder if they KNEW "Stranger" was a dud even in the writing stage and were like "OK guys, we're going to need to earn a lot of goodwill back after this thing! Bring the fun and funny!"
Where are we?