Back to the Island 3.1 – A Tale of Two Cities
“I don’t think you’re stupid, Jack. I think you’re stubborn.” – Juliet Burke
Summary: Jack, Kate and Sawyer are prisoners of the Others, who live in a nice Dharma Initiative village
The Best Bit: In an episode centering on how much of a stubborn, obsessive arsehole Jack Shepherd is, the best bit is, as you’d expect, something Sawyer does. Specifically, Sawyer’s cranky struggle with the weird Skinner-box animal cage he’s been put in, his triumph at ingeniously solving it using lateral thinking, his disappointment that his reward is a Dharma fish biscuit, and his utter deflation when Tom Friendly tells him that “it only took the bears two hours” to solve it.
The Worst Bit: Okay, at this point, do we really need yet another insight into how Jack is a stubborn, obsessive arsehole? He single-handedly destroyed his own marriage and, for an encore, drove his recovering-alcoholic father back to the bottle that eventually killed him? Bra-fucking-vo, heroic leading man Jack!
The Mythology: This episode is all about the tease – the Others’ were all minding their own business, baking muffins, reading books and fixing plumbing when Oceanic 815 crashed. They live in a Dharma facility but “that was a long time ago”. They seem to have access to impressive resources – Juliet had Jack’s life story in her file, which they seem to have put together in just a few weeks despite being on some uncharted island in the South Pacific. Just what exactly do they do all along, and why have they been pretending to be murderous ninja-hobos all this time? Mysterious! Oh, and it turns out that “Henry Gale” is really a guy called Ben, who is probably the Others’ leader.
The Literature: Juliet’s book club is reading Stephen King’s “Carrie”, which one member dismisses as trash that, intriguingly, “Ben wouldn’t read on the toilet”. It’s Juliet’s favourite book, so the other club members must have been disappointed to be robbed of a good literary stoush by the sky turning weird and a plan exploding overhead. The other literary reference is the title, but for once I’m stumped. Is it referring to LA and Sydney? They are hardly mentioned. And there’s the Oceanic survivors on one side and the Others on the other side, but that’s kind of a long bow to draw. I hereby accuse the producers of wedging a gratuitous literary reference in for no reason whatsoever.
The Episode: It’s all setup, from the flashback of Jack being a destructive, life-ruining arse to the present where Jack is being a destructive, life-ruining arse. Juliet is introduced as a smart woman with a lot of very strong emotions she is working hard to suppress. Weaselly manipulator Henry Gale is reintroduced as Ben, a ruthless manipulator and the leader of the Others. Tom Friendly is reintroduced as, well, a friendly guy who doesn’t mind administering the odd clinical beating. And Kate, we are stunned to learn, wears a summer dress well and has a great line in upset stares when Ben tells her that “the next two weeks are going to be very unpleasant”. We also meet Carl, but it’s safe to say it will be some time, if ever, before we care about Carl.
The episode is okay. The opening scene with Juliet popping open a CD and having an unsettling emotional breakdown to the tune of Petulia Clarke’s “Downtown” is a nice callback to Season 2’s opening scene with Desmond. With only three of the principal characters present, and spending most of their time in cages of one sort or another, it’s not the most action-packed episode, but it does have some nice psychological drama elements. Juliet is presented as someone who has learned to survive in Ben’s company by controlling herself carefully and playing some of the same mindgames we’ve come to love from him. Sawyer is concerned with living in the moment and surviving, reflected by his incarceration in an animal cage. Kate is required to do nothing, literally, but to look pretty in this episode. And Jack is, as always, an arrogant, self-obsessed arse.
Seven fish biscuits, and we really need to cut Jack out of this diet.