JANUARY 8, 2011
AIRED: FEBRUARY 18, 2009
While it wasn't exactly a return to 1st season heights, "316" is one of my favorite episodes of the 5th season, thanks to a minimum of time travel (it only occurs when they transfer from the plane to the island), and more importantly - a focus on one character (Jack) in which the story and his personal demons are linked. You know, like the old days.
The key difference is that it's presented in one long "flashback" (it's technically a flashforward through time), something that only Desmond and Michael have been offered so far. The structure keeps most of the island folk off-screen entirely (only Locke's corpse appears, and Jin at the very end), which is fine by me. No time travel and we get to see Jack doing his Jack-thing for the bulk of the hour? Sign me up!
One nitpick I never really thought of before - this all takes place, what, a week after the season 3 finale, where we saw him as a total wreck? Yet he's totally cleaned up (as is his apartment) and functioning normally. I only noticed because Kate is now the one who's all depressed, spending most of the episode crying or hiding behind sunglasses. Their love scene is so damn depressing; as much as I enjoy seeing my lady engaged in bedroom behavior, it's just uncomfortable - maybe they should have just cuddled? Or, if Jack was still all messed up too, it would have been sort of cathartic. Oh well.
Jack undergoes a pretty big transformation as this season continues (and goes full blown in S6), and it really starts here. First with the shoes practically falling in his lap, and then with the suicide note - you can really see that he's starting to buy into this stuff once and for all. One could argue that he felt that way the moment he read Locke died, but I saw this more as a guy at the end of his rope seeing an opportunity to redeem himself, not as a "holy shit, he was right!" moment. It's just a damned shame that the two men never really had another scene together.
And I have to applaud the writers (Lindelof and Cuse in this case) for sticking with Jack despite what seemed like a lot of action occurring elsewhere. It could have easily been another scattered episode, if they showed why Kate was sad, why Sayid was under arrest, why Ben had been beaten to a pulp for the umpteenth time, but they saved all that stuff for later. It's the rare occasion that it seemed they were withholding information not just to keep us coming back, but also to ensure they were providing a focused and just plain GOOD episode of the show.
It also has two of my all time favorite moments from their respective characters. First is Ben's hilarious response (and Michael Emerson's delivery) when Jack asks what will happen to the other people on the plane. It's not only funny because Ben doesn't care, but it's also a good meta-joke - you know there were some people wondering about it, so it was the writers' way of "explaining" that it doesn't matter. I always mock my wife for caring about the person who dies in the opening scene of a horror movie ("Why do you care if they die? You don't even know their name!"), and this is along the same lines - they're just anonymous blurs, and we only have 30 episodes left. There are more pressing matters! I also love that Hurley used his wealth to keep the body count down by buying every available seat. Good on you, Hugo.
The second A+ moment occurs a few minutes later, when Frank sees everyone on the plane and sighs "We're not going to Guam, are we?" I love that he barely knows these folks and is instantly OK with whatever nonsense they're up to - he could have easily turned the plane around before any shit went down. For whatever problems I may have had with the last two seasons, that Frank was still around (I figured he would be killed after 2-3 episodes, initially) made up for some of them. When Desmond was introduced, I was excited, thinking all new characters would be as interesting. Sadly, most weren't, but Frank bucked the trend - just a shame we never got to know too much about him.
All in all, a solid episode of Lost; the type that, when it aired, would rejuvenate my interest for the following week (when more often than not, something would annoy me and make me wish I could just wait for the DVDs or something).
Where are we?