Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

May 7, 2011

Back to the Island 1.17 – Outlaws

Filed under: back to the island,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:09 am

Oddly shattered this morning. All the late nights and extreme senescence are starting to catch up to me, I suspect.

So probably the main purpose of these Lost reviews – other than having an excuse to watch the show again from the start – is to build some writing muscles. I am trying to establish a habit and get it to stick. I’ve tried the same thing with physical exercise, which works up to a point – the point being where circumstances force me to break the habit for a couple of days, and then the whole routine falls in a heap.

With the writing, I’ve cut myself a little slack. I know that I am mostly going to be writing in the evenings after the kids are in bed, and I know that there are going to be quite a few nights where I’m not going to have any time. So I’m looking at a peaks-and-troughs pattern of output. Since I started the reviews I have been keeping track of my word counts against various projects (some of them not yet for public consumption) and looking at averages. With April done, I have my first full month’s data.[1]

The results are…mixed. Total word count 13787, of which 8220 were Back to the Island reviews. The average daily word count was 460 (rounded up). I had 11 days with zero word count. The surprising part of that equation is that there seem to have been about 5000 words of non-review material. Only about 1000 words of that appear to have been fiction [2]. Most of the rest was Lexifab entries -nearly 4000 words there.

The average daily word count is obviously the important part for my initial purposes. Over time I am going to want to see a higher proportion going to fiction, but for now I am content to keep that ticking along quietly in the background.[3]

Anyway, here’s the Lost review for today. I mean yesterday. [4] And what do I think about ‘Outlaws’? The tl:dr on that one is: “It’s great.”

 

[1] I’m not counting March. I only tracked stats for about three weeks, which included the first flush of enthusiasm for the project. I already know I can be hugely productive in short bursts. I’m more interested to see how I fare across the long term. The March figures would just skew the pooch. For reference though, the March daily word count was 775, which is more or less what I expected.

[2] A short story that’s vexing me. I’m not sure if I have enough story for the (expected) length. Tightening it will probably be a challenge for my editing skills once it’s done.

[3] Unless I suddenly crack the problem I’m having with the short story, in which case I will probably knock it over in a couple of days.

[4] You know, I miss my deadlines on this project so often maybe I should just shift the schedule to Tuesdays and Saturdays. Nah. There’s probably some critical flaw in that logic that I’m missing.

Back to the Island 1.17 – Outlaws

“You are suffering. But don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s fate. Some people were meant to suffer. That’s why the Red Sox will never win the damned series.” – Christian Shepherd

Summary: Waking from a dream recalling in horrifying detail the circumstances of his parents’ murder-suicide, Sawyer finds his beach shelter invaded by a large boar. Sawyer clocks the invader with a bat, but it runs off, taking his tarp with him. Sawyer gives (shirtless) chase, whereupon he hears the whispering jungle voices. One whisper seems more clear than the rest: “It’ll come back around”. When Sawyer finds the tarpaulin the boar appears from nowhere and knocks him into the mud. Kate volunteers to convince Sawyer to return the pistol he’s still carrying. She finds Sawyer ranting about the boar having a vendetta against him – he’s heading into the jungle heavily armed and ready to take revenge against his porcine nemesis.

When Sawyer inevitably becomes confused and disoriented, she offers to track the boar in return for her choice of anything in his precious hoard. During the night’s camp they play a drinking game called ‘I Never’, in which both reveal that they have killed a man in their past. In the morning they wake to discover that the boar has entered their camp and destroyed all of Sawyer’s belongings (leaving Kate’s intact). They cross paths with Locke, who recounts a time when his foster mother believed that a stray dog was the reincarnation of his dead sister. A clearly unsettled Sawyer confronts the boar but decides not to kill it. “It’s just a boar,” he tells himself. He returns the gun to Jack, and during their conversation realises that the man in the bar was Jack’s father. He does not reveal this to Jack.

Flashback: Sawyer’s sleazy acquaintance Hibbs provides him with a police dossier showing that the confidence man who caused his parents’ deaths is living under an assumed name in Sydney. Sawyer travels to Australia and buys a pistol from an associate of Hibbs’. He prepares to kill his supposed tormentor, Duckett, but chickens out at the last minute and heads to a bar. There he meets a broke drunkard with a sob story, whom we recognise as Christian Shepherd. Shepherd inspires Sawyer to go through with his “business, whatever it is” rather than let his weakness consume him, as it has Shepherd. Sawyer confronts Duckett and shoots him, but when he tries to read his childhood revenge letter to him, he realises that Hibbs has tricked him into murdering a man who owed Hibbs money. Duckett’s final words are “It’ll come back around”.

Highlights: In the previous Sawyer story ‘Confidence Man’,  we got a glimpse of his father killing his mother and then himself. This episode expands the sequence, showing the mother’s terrified final minute in which she hides her son from the enraged father. It’s gruelling and unpleasant, but not as gratuitous as it seems at first. Sawyer’s lifelong pain and frustration is at the heart of this superb story, and the nightmarish opening sequence shown from the point of view of a scared child launches it perfectly. In a sequel dream sequence mid-episode, the boar with which Sawyer has become obsessed replaces his father, an absurdity more disturbing than amusing.

The traditional Sawyer-Kate flirtation scene achieves is on a whole new level in ‘Outlaws’. Their game of “I Never” is on the one hand blatant teasing exposition of backstory – Kate admits to having been married, Sawyer’s never been in love, both are killers. On the other hand, the character dialogue is superb, the chemistry between the actors is charming and unforced, and the conversation tracks a steady inexorable arc from light banter to uncomfortable revelation. It’s a spellbinding scene. The fact that it’s followed shortly afterwards by Locke telling his shaggy dog story – which appears to be a rambling anecdote but is revealed as a wise and personal parable  – is a welcome bonus.

It’s interesting that the writer was sufficiently well-acquainted with Australia that he was able to accurately explain the difference between firearm laws between here and the USA, but still managed to depict a Sydney-based seafood fast food van as a “shrimp stand”. Still, perhaps his victim was attempting to corner the market in ex-patriot American crustacean fanciers.

There is a brief C-plot in which Charlie gives Claire the brush-off to go and bury Ethan, the man he murdered in the previous episode. Hurley recognises that Charlie is suffering and recruits Sayyid, who knows something about post-traumatic stress. It’s not an in-depth examination of the after-effects of a killing, but in a busy ensemble show it’s more of an acknowledgement of the psychological impacts of violence than you might expect. Dominic Monaghan’s subdued performance as the shell-shocked Charlie convincingly subverts his usual twitchy animation.

Themes: The interconnectedness of the characters’ backstories moves to front and centre in this episode. The previous flashback crossovers have all been incidental moments of no apparent consequence – Sawyer in a police station where Boone is lodging a complaint, Jin standing behind Jack at the airline check-in counter – but Sawyer’s bar conversation with Christian Shepherd is completely pivotal. It provides the impetus for him to go through with Duckett’s killing, and as we will learn later has terrible consequences for Shepherd as well. Lost goes from teasing the audience with cameos to outright stating that the characters are connected. I think at this stage it’s more of a thematic illustration of ‘the interconnectedness of all things’ rather than the specific plot point that it will later become.

Verdict: I’d forgotten just how strong this story is, probably because it’s not a particularly action-packed piece. The Island plot and the Flashback merge seamlessly, and even the Charlie subplot is thematically relevant. Its construction, built around a tight, riveting flashback and three excellent dialogues (Sawyer-Kate, Sawyer-Christian and Sawyer-Jack, with Locke’s monologue as pure gravy) is almost flawless. If I can quibble at anything, it’s that Sawyer’s obsession with the boar, upon whom he projects all his darkest secrets and regrets, is difficult to take seriously, and sure enough is played for laughs in the first couple of scenes. Considering what’s going on in Sawyer’s head, as revealed through the course of the story, it seems almost mean in retrospect to take delight in the early humour. Since my quibble therefore amounts to complaining that “the writer tricked me with jokes and then made me sad”, I have no hesitation in calling ‘Outlaws’ a success.

Packed with resonant scenes, striking good humour and delicious,believable character dialogue, ‘Outlaws’ is one of the best episodes of the first season and I suspect will be one of the very few to which I will end up giving ten out of ten.

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