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August 20, 2016

Back to the Island 3.9 – Stranger in a Strange Land

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:50 pm

Quote: “You see who people are? Who am I?” – Jack Shepherd
“You are a leader. A great man. And this makes you lonely, and frightened, and angry.” – Achara

Summary: While Sawyer and Kate escape back to the Island, Jack is bull-headed for forty minutes and then decides to save Ben from surgical complications and Juliette from execution.

The Best Bit: Uhhh, give me a minute. Oh, no okay, I got it: when Jack snarks that he’d be a lot more impressed with “you people” (meaning the Others) if they had a decent surgeon, Ben snarks back “We had an excellent surgeon, Jack. His name was Ethan.” Ooooh, snap! Ben’s deadpan snark is literally the only worthwhile thing in this episode.

The Worst Bit: The entire flashback story, in which Jack travelled to Thailand to find himself and gets mixed up with a psychic tattoo artist, exists solely to explain how Jack got Matthew Fox’s tattoos. The plot openly implies their mysterious significance and power. They are never mentioned again. GDI Lost, do you want plummeting ratings? Because this is how you get plummeting ratings!

The Mythology: “What do you do with the kids you took?” asks Kate, to which Karl replies “We give them a better life. Better than yours.” We get a few more glimpses into the lives of the Others, including the introduction of Isabel (their “Sheriff”). She might well have added an interesting new dynamic to the Others, if she had ever appeared again. She won’t though.

More interestingly, we see the return of Cindy, the stewardess – please, Lost, it’s 2004; they’re called flight attendants now, okay? – who slipped Jack some extra booze before the crash. It’s great seeing Kimberley Joseph again, but more to the point it’s clear from the clean clothes and healthy complexions that the Others have not been mistreating all the people, including kids, they kidnapped from the tail section.

Which raises the question – if they could have kept everyone in relative comfort, why did they only kidnap *some* of the crash victims and consign the rest to months of shouty jungle drama? (There is an answer, of course, but don’t hold your breath for it).

The Literature: The episode is named after either a quote from Exodus or, more likely, Robert Heinlein’s famous science fiction novel about a Martian-born man adapting to human culture and eventually transforming it. Which could be a significant bit of foreshadowing, except that so little of what happens in this episode matters that I wouldn’t bet on anything being intentional.

The Episode: Up to date followers of this review series might assume the reason for the more than six week gap between episodes is my usual procrastination, but for once it’s not that: it’s this. This episode. It’s fair to say I’ve not been looking forward to it. The rewatch hasn’t given me cause for reconsideration.

The political machinations of the Others, with Jack’s obstinacy pouring fuel on the fire, are at least marginally interesting, but it’s hard to get invested in it. Juliette is going to be executed for shooting Danny after a fair trial, but Jack decides to help and gets Ben to stop it. That’s it.

The Thailand flashback slathers on yet another mysterious person with purported ill-defined precognitive abilities, but takes that plot nowhere. Sawyer and Kate bicker as a screen for unresolved tensions after they slept together. Alex and Karl pine for each other at length. And Jack yells at a nice stewardess and scares some kids because he’s just that much of an egomaniacal rageaholic.

None of it hangs together. Apart from Juliette not being executed the status remains unchanged. New plot threads and characters are introduced only to be completely abandoned. The whole thing is a transparent exercise in treading water. There are worse episodes in the series, but none of them are more skippable than “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

I’d be tempted to give it five, for Jack’s “5” tattoo, but it’s really not worth more than a four.

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