Just when all of us smarty-pants obsessive "Lost" fans start to think that we have (some of) it figured out, by gum, along comes an episode like this to knock us back on our heels. I'm a little light-headed after absorbing everything that was presented to us in "LaFleur."
I think it felt particularly intense because a lot of it seemed to be pretty straightforward. I lost track of time after the second or third "Three Years Earlier/Later" slate and just tried to keep up with the ride as best I could. There were too many WTF and OMG moments to count. I was scribbling the whole hour; for once, I didn't mind the commercial breaks (except the Victoria's Secret spot with the skeletal model. That bugged the hell out of me. Enough with the emaciated look, already.)
One big question that popped into my mind right as I sat down to write: Where's Ben in the '70s Dharma groove that we've settled into?
By the end of this captivating seg, written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and Kyle Pennington and helmed by Mark Goldman, we learn that our ragged band of time-travelers -- Juliet, Sawyer, Miles, Jin and Faraday -- first integrate themselves with Dharma in 1974. And three years from that time would be, of course, 1977 (summer of "Star Wars" - I remember it well).
Ben, as we know from that great season three episode), was born by the roadside in Portland, Ore., sometime in the early 1960s (to the best of my recollection at this moment) and of course was delivered by good ol' Horace Goodspeed and his girlfriend/wife who were kind enough to help Ben's mom and dad in their moment of need, and then help Ben and his no-good dad come to the island when Ben was 10-11-ish. So doing the math, you gotta believe that Ben definitely arrives on the island somewhere between the 1974-1977 time frame, if not before. And, if memory serves, he's about 20-21-ish when he helps deliver the gas attack on the Dharmas, on his birthday no less.
During the episode, I kept thinking about how the presence of Sawyer et al for these years will turn out to have influenced the course of the Dharma story. As Faraday reminded us yet again tonight, "What happened happened." I'm sure our "Lost" leaders have answers for us, at some point.
Another thing that made this seg so engaging was the superb casting. The scene early on with the Dharma guards in the monitoring station who are afraid to go get "Mr. LaFleur" was a fantastic case of When TV Worlds Collide. Guard Jerry was the great Herc from "Friday Night Lights," played by Kevin Rankin. And Guard Phil was the unctuous, but somehow charming, Jimmy Barrett from "Mad Men," played by Patrick Fischler. Whoo hoo. Bonus points for TV junkies!
I'm also a fan of Reiko Aylesworth, who was pretty much instantly intriguing in her role as Amy, the young Dharma woman who was fortuitously saved Sawyer and Juliet after her husband Paul was killed by some hopped-up Hostiles. I'm guessing the answer to how Sawyer and Co. influence the Dharma story will have a whole lot to do with Amy and her progeny, the boy that Juliet delivers after scrubbing the lube off her hands.
Oh man, the Dharma stuff was just action-packed, but let's not forget the jaw-dropper that opened the seg. We finally see ... the Four-Toed Statue when it had more to it than four toes!!! At least we see it from the back. It kinda looked like a femme figure, no? Holy mole. I noticed how the Jin, Miles, Juliet and Sawyer seemed to be looking at it with great reverence.
Now, to the biggest OMG of the hour. Juliet and Sawyer! For all the signs and hints dropped through this season, I'm ashamed to say I didn't see this coupling coming, at least not to this degree. I loved loved loved watching Juliet and Sawyer play Butch and Sundance. "You got my back?" After Sawyer survives his commando move to save Amy from the Hostile, the grateful nod he gives Juliet for taking out the guy who would have otherwise taken out Sawyer spoke 1000 words. One thousand words that should have told me a love connection was coming, but hey, I was a little preoccupied.
The evolution of the Sawyer-Juliet relationship was so well handled -- building on all of the hints dropped through the other episodes this season. I should've guessed it by the way she steadfastly called him "James." I suppose in her Other days she might've had a look at his dossier and so she would know the source of his pain.
Even an hour later, I'm still a little giddy about the idea of Sawyer and Juliet keeping house in New Otherton. The scene where he talks Juliet out of boarding the first sub out of Dodge was as good as any romantic scene we've seen on this show, thanks to great work from Elizabeth Mitchell and Josh Holloway and a deft touch by helmer Goldman. "Whatever it is you think you're going back to, it doesn't exist yet," Sawyer tells her. He's right, and she knows it. The use of the slow piano-solo "Lost" theme right there was almost too much for my heart to take.
The whole idea of them settling down with the Dharma initiative for a spell is just mind-blowingly entertaining. An alternate reality fer sure -- with Sawyer as a security chief! (Loved his explanation of the made-up moniker "LaFleur." "It's Creole.")
Clearly, there's a part of him that is finally happy in this weird time blip he's stumbled into. He's a person of respect in the compound, and he's in love with a smart, beautiful woman who very wholeheartedly loves him back (unlike a certain other fickle person who isn't half as cool as Juliet). Sawyer back home in 2004 never assembled all those pieces.
There's also an interesting side to the evolution of Sawyer as a leader and loyalist. He's keeping the faith with John Locke. He's obviously convinced that Locke is coming back, and that it is in all of their interest to just stay put and keep looking for his friends, no matter what it takes, as he says more than once in the seg ("As long as it takes." Very Penny Widmore of him, isn't it?) This is not the smarmy, bitter, nasty Sawyer that boarded Oceanic 815 in Sydney at the behest of the Oz government -- not by a long shot.
Also, if I'm ever in the middle of tense negotiations to save a peace treaty that's in danger of going up in smoke, I hope I remember to call my adversary "Hoss." When Sawyer comes out to the grassy area to defuse the standoff with Hostile honcho Richard Alpert, the reference to "Bonanza" just cut the tension like a hot knife through butter. Didn't hurt that Sawyer's mission started with him delivering the single-best line of the seg as he explains his plan to Horace: "Your buddy out there with the eyeliner -- let me talk to him."
And again, Holloway's incredible growth as an actor was on display in the great scene, so well photographed, between him and Alpert on the bench as they discuss the situation, and the reparations the Hostiles demand. Juliet was right to have faith in his ability to convince the Dharmas that their story about a shipwreck was true. He was a professional liar, and he's smart. On the fly, he realized that confusing Alpert was the best way to go, throwing all the stuff he knew about Jughead and a weirdo bald guy talking "mumbo jumbo" that Alpert met some years ago.
"You still think I'm a member of the damn Dharma Initiative?" Sawyer asks incredulously of normally unflappable Alpert, who looks like he just wants to run. Go Sawyer! How can you not root for him? (Jack who?)
So much more to cover, so little time before my fingers give out (Wednesday is deadline night for the weekly edition of Variety. I've been typing since I woke up this morning).
So just a few more highlights:
** Daniel Faraday's mumbo jumbo when Sawyer, Juliet Jin and Miles first come across him after Locke goes down the rabbit hole and Charlotte goes on to ... wherever she was meant to go. What was Faraday mumble-babbling about "I won't do it" and such? Hmmmm. Seems clear that Faraday's presence in the Dharma stomping ground in the 1974-77 period will have serious significance too.
** Faraday delivers the second-best line of the seg, in his Quantum Physics for Dummies-speak: "The record is spinning again. We're just not on the song we want to be on." Love how his skinny tie never budges.
** Jin stepping up to carry the body of Amy's dead husband was heartbreaking. Didn't need any exposition to explain why.
** Loved Sawyer's reference to "the old slaver the Black Rock" and Horace pretending he didn't know what he was talking about.
** Horace to Sawyer: "You are not Dharma material." Geez, those Dharma guys are so snooty!
** Have we seen that cross-like necklace that Amy takes from Paul's body before?
** Couldn't miss the brief shot of the little red-headed kid looking for all the world like a toddler Charlotte running through the Dharma compound and waving at Daniel "emotional basket case" Faraday. The look on his face would've scared me too, at that age.
** Wonder if Miles' heart was a little broken by Juliet falling for Sawyer? We know he had a crush on her.
** Swell scene toward the end with Horace and Sawyer talking guy-to-guy about love and loss and if three years was enough to get over someone. I can honestly say that at that point I knew Jack, Kate and Hurley were on their way soon.
** Super-fantastic touch at the very end for the big moment when Sawyer sees Kate for the first time. "Lost"ies turn romantic reunion scenes on their head by giving the slow-mo, hair-blowing scene to the Boy while the long-lost Girl steps off the helicopter looking absolutely like hell -- exhausted and bedraggled, as well Kate should have under the circumstances.
** Wracking my brain trying to remember the scene in season four (I think) where Locke (I think) meets up with Horace who's clearing some land to build a house for his wife, and in that scene Horace very visibly has a nose bleed. What does it all mean? I don't have the time to revisit that scene now, but I'm pretty sure it was Locke...I think?
** You just know that the worldly possessions that Horace packed with him when he decided to bail on civilization for the Dharma Initiative included well-worn copies of the Grateful Dead's "
Europe '72" (let's make that "Aoxomoxoa." "Europe '72" may not have been out by the time Horace left.) and George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass." Maybe some Hendrix, some Cream, some Beatles. And definitely a well-loved platter of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue."