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April 25, 2011

Back to the Island 1.14 – Hearts and Minds

Filed under: back to the island,family,joey — lexifab @ 11:02 am

The Joey had his first Easter egg hunt yesterday. We are not talking about the world’s greatest detective here, but he did at least grasp the concept that some ill-defined lupine entity was supplying him with chocolate in return for at least marginally acceptable behaviour. It was a close-run thing, however, since he spent most of Saturday in disgrace for various infractions of the social order at the markets.

I believe that it’s time to take advantage of the long weekend and the more or less warm sunshine to beat the garden into slightly less absolute disorder.

Here’s my review of my hands-down least favourite Season 1 Lost episode. I had fun writing it, but be aware that I may have allowed a certain hint of snark to creep in. Hmm. Correction – I had a lot of fun writing this one.

Back to the Island 1.14 – ‘Hearts and Minds’

“You’ll be able to cut yourself free once you have the proper motivation.” – John Locke

Summary: Sayyid is starting to get fresh with Shannon, and if brother Boone’s eyes weren’t implausibly blue they’d be turning green. He warns Sayyid off but isn’t taken all that seriously. Even Hurley gives him shit for not bagging any boar on his ‘hunting’ trips into the jungle with Locke. Locke and Boone aren’t really hunting, though, because the metal thing they found turns out to be a sealed hatch, one with no discernible means of opening. Locke sits down to contemplate the hatch, spinning a yarn about Michaelangelo procrastinating harder than a Friday night blogger. Boone wants to tell Shannon about the hatch, so Locke clocks him, ties him up and smears some paste on his scalp wound. He leaves Boone with a knife just out of reach. Boone hears Shannon screaming and gets himself free. She’s tied to a tree too, but no sooner does he free her than they hear the Clanky Diesel Engine Monster approaching. They run for it. Shannon is scooped up and mauled to death. Boone tries to kill Locke for what happened to Shannon, but she’s fine – it was all a delusion brought on by the hallucinogenic hair gel Locke gave him. Locke tells him that it was Shannon that Boone needed to let go of. “Follow me,” he says. Boone follows.

Hurley’s concern about the lack of boar meat is digestive – he’s on an all-fruit, no protein diet. We don’t need to go into details. Sun and Kate have officially figured out they will never be rescued, so Sun’s started a garden. Kate airs a suspicion that the reason that Locke hasn’t come up with more boar is that he’s decided not to keep feeding the survivors. And why should he? They’re pretty ungrateful. Kate discovers through the power of inane historically revisionist chitchat that Sun speaks English. She begs Kate not to let on because she now realises she loves her husband and doesn’t want to hurt him by letting on that she learned an entirely new language just to get away from him. Speaking of Jin, Hurley thinks Jin hates him because he once turned his nose up at uncooked sea urchin chunks, but he needs to eat fish protein so now seems like a good time to reconcile and make friends. Then he steps on a sea urchin (in the wave zone on a beach? Really?) and thinks he’s going to lose his foot to gangrene or something. They bond over a disagreement about whether Jin will urinate on Hurley’s wound.

Flashback: Boone is a playboy millionaire and Shannon’s a scared voice on the other end of the phone. Badness is going down with her boyfriend Bryan in Sydney (Australia! she repeats helpfully). He jumps on a plane across the drink, but when he arrives she blows him off, making like there’s no problem. Eagle-eyed (eagles have disturbingly limpid pools of the palest turquoise for eyes, right?) Boone spots the bruise her fringe is covering up, though. What’s going on with her boyfriend? The Sydney cops don’t care, so Boone writes Bryan a cheque and tells him he’s not the first of Shannon’s squeezes he’s bought off. Surprise, surprise – Shannon is scamming him to get her hands on his money. The joke’s on her when Bryan skips out without splitting the profits. A drunken Shannon confesses to her step-brother that she knows he has the hots for her. For some reason after they sleep with each other neither of them feels that good about it.

Highlights: Well, for a second there it looked like we might find out what the Monster looked like, but then it turned out that Boone never saw it because he imagined the whole thing. But we do get a taste of Island weirdness, because the compass that Locke gives to Sayyid does not point towards where north should be. What does that mean? Eh, we’ll have to work it out for ourselves in four seasons’ time. It’s one of the minor Island mysteries that will never be explicitly cleared up (in retrospect the answer isn’t too hard to figure out).

We can add pharmacist to the list of improbable skills that Locke appears to possess. He makes a half-explanation during a conversation with Boone, in which he admits to being a cub scout as a boy. It is fair enough that he knows some knots and how to track animals. However if his childhood hobbies included the concoction of precise doses of hallucinogenic goop in a coconut, you’d think the Boy Scouts would be more popular these days. I didn’t mind the “it’s all a dream” silliness, but the tropical pharmacology strays awfully close to Gilligan’s Island territory.

Themes: Though the episode features Shannon and Boone’s sordid family melodrama, it’s really all about Locke. Through the episode we get the sense of the survivors falling into either Jack’s camp or Locke’s – Kate doesn’t trust him, but Locke gave Sayyid his compass and Charlie thinks that he’s the only person you can absolutely rely upon on the Island. The episode reinforces early hints that the main theme of Lost will be the confrontation between Jack and Locke.

This is the first episode to unambiguously use the gimmick that the survivors were connected before they arrived on the Island. When Boone is trying to report Bryan to the Sydney police, Sawyer is being arrested loudly in the background. It’s an amusing moment – Sawyer calls someone ‘Croc Hunter’ – but it’s really notable only for being the first instance of what will be one of the more fun games for the fans.

Verdict: Okay, so it’s not technically incest. They’re not blood relatives, as the cop is at pains to point out to Boone when he’s explaining why he’s joined Team Not Paying Any Attention to Anything Boone Says (TNPAAtABS, which is pronounced “tin pat abs”). But even if they had no family connection whatsoever, the relationship between Boone and Shannon would still be creepy and awful. She’s fickle, emotionally manipulative and cunning as a shithouse rat. He’s overprotective and ineffectual, which is a stunning combination, and there are hints that he’s just a little bit more close to Mummy than anyone else is comfortable with. With Locke’s help, he is able to move on, replacing his icky codependent relationship with Shannon for helpless devotion to the Cult of Locke.

The flashback and B-plots of ‘Heart and Minds’ are not especially interesting. The twist that Shannon and the boyfriend were scamming Boone was telegraphed a mile off, and the followup scene in which Shannon liquors herself up so she’ll have the courage to take advantage of Boone’s repressed sister-lust is some sinister shit. Nobody comes out of this episode looking good except Jin, whose overtures of friendship to Hurley are sweet, and Locke, who continues to be a self-assured badass, albeit one with a definite unsettling side.

In retrospect, Boone may be the most broken person to come to the Island. Having ceded all control of his life to first his mother, then his half-sister (even though she makes no particular effort to disguise her manipulations), he is offered an opportunity by Locke to let go and become his own man – and immediately abrogates all responsibility for himself by throwing in with Locke. With ‘Hearts and Minds’, Boone and Shannon now assume a lock on the bottom rung of my list of favourite Lost characters. Their horrible back story won’t really be redeemed. Without that opportunity to pull out of their narrative death spiral, it’s hard to want to care. And the story that leads me to that conclusion does nothing to avert it. Four out of ten.

4 Comments »

  1. As I recall I liked this episode. And I liked Shannon and Boone better after watching it then before. I don’t get the four out of ten. You don’t care about the stories of everyone in the real world, so why should you care about the stories of everyone in ‘Lost’? That you find these people icky and unappealing (like I find all the characters in ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and ‘Q&A’, for example) doesn’t seem to me a good enough reason to rate the episode down.

    Comment by The Former Dr Clam — April 25, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  2. Hmm, good question. I think it’s because before the episode we’re shown that Boone is a kind of self-righteous insecure ineffectual pretty boy whom nobody takes seriously, and afterwards we understand that he’s really…exactly that. Same with Shannon, except that she’s self-important, manipulative and insecure in both the before and after pictures. I guess I am down on the episode because it’s a missed opportunity. Apart from the relationship twist, which while interesting just serves to demean both characters still further, the flashback just reinforces their shallowness without offering much complexity. Which would be fine if, as with some of the other unappealing characters, we would later get a new angle on the characters that shows them in a different light and forces us to reconsider our earlier impressions.

    We won’t get that, though. I assigned the four out of ten probably more from a retrospective point of view. As a new viewer I thought it was okay though by no means compelling. Watching it again and knowing where the season is going, I’m dismayed that this is at best a setup with no payoff and at worst an attempt to court a little controversy with no intention of dealing with the consequences for the characters.

    It’s not that I find the characters unappealing per se – both seem to have enormous potential, especially since they start from a pretty low base – but nothing is done with them. They don’t grow, they don’t change (except in a biological sense) and they don’t contribute a hell of a lot while they are there. Vincent is almost a more developed character than either of them (and already some minor characters like Christian Shepherd and Rose are outstripping them).

    I think I will explore this a bit further when I get to the end of the season and when Season 2 rolls around. But this episode disappoints me most because it promised more than it delivered.

    Comment by lexifab — April 25, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  3. BTW, my pedant nature is impressed by the fact that you have an Easter Wolf! There has to be a deeply disturbing kids’ story there somewhere about the wolf who eats the Easter Bunny and is doomed to take over his role.

    Comment by The Former Dr Clam — April 27, 2011 @ 9:27 am

  4. Hee hee. Oops, you’re right, that was…not quite right, was it? What should it be, lapine? [Checks dictionary] Yes, lapine.

    I’m not going to fix it, obviously.

    I think you might be onto something about the Easter Wolf though.

    Comment by lexifab — April 27, 2011 @ 10:26 am

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