Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "LaFleur"

“What about me? You really going to leave me with a mad scientist and Mr. I Speak to Dead People? And Jin, who’s a hell of a nice guy, but not exactly the greatest conversationalist.”


So, I’ve pretty much abandoned my attempt at Olympics coverage in favor of providing more of my usual scripted TV content. Other than yay USA for winning so many medals, the USA vs. Canada hockey game was awesome, Johnny Weir was way underscored, and the top two ice dancing teams were gorgeous, there isn’t really all that much to say about the Olympics. I’ve decided to throw in a Fifteen Favorites as I attempt to continue slogging through the TV I missed from being sick and watching the Olympics. Episode Fourteen on my list is season 5’s “LaFleur.” My thoughts after rewatching it this afternoon are rather different than when it was first broadcast, but overall it’s a lovely, understated episode that does a lot of character development, so it’s most definitely worthy of being on this list.

This episode deals with the aftermath on the Island of Locke descending into the depths of the Island and fixing the Frozen Donkey Wheel. It turns out that Ben didn’t quite turn the wheel correctly in the season 4 finale “There’s No Place Like Home,” and that is what caused the non-Oceanic Six Losties to experience all the crazy, painful time skips. As Dan later puts it, the record is no longer skipping, but they’re not on the song they wanted to be. They’re in the 1970’s at the height of the Dharma Initiative.

The moment that reveals the time to which they’ve traveled is pretty spectacular. We see somebody turn on some really old stereo equipment (reminiscent of the iconic “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and “Downtown” scenes in the season 2 and 3 premieres respectively), and some 70’s music starts to play. Two people, one in a Dharma jumpsuit and one in a very 70’s blouse begin to dance. What really delighted me about the scene was that the Dharma Initiative guy (a security officer), whose name is Jerry, is played by the same actor who played Herc on Friday Night Lights. It’s always nice to see any FNL alum do well.

The episode flashes back and forth between the Losties right after the time skips stopped and the Losties three years later. The scene I just described is of the “three years later” variety. Phil, another guy in a Dharma jump suit, isn’t especially thrilled to see Jerry and his girlfriend goofing off on the clock. Jerry’s girlfriend turns out to be useful, though. She sees something troubling on one of the security monitors. At first Jerry and Phil wonder if a Hostile is making trouble near the sonic fence, but it turns out to be worse, in a way. It’s Horace Goodspeed, leader of the Dharma Initiative contingent on the Island, and he’s drunk and blowing up trees with dynamite.

On rewatch, it’s clear that the three years later scenes were very carefully crafted to create two sort of surprising reveals. The first comes early in the episode. Phil and Jerry realize they need to alert their boss LaFleur about the Horace situation, and they’re clearly afraid of LaFleur. They argue over who has to wake him up, and they aren’t looking forward to it at all. LaFleur, of course, turns out to be none other than Sawyer. He actually seems like a decent boss to Miles and Jin in later scenes, so I don’t know why Phil and Jerry are so afraid of him. The other carefully crafted reveal is that Sawyer and Juliet are a couple and living together, but that doesn’t happen until near the end of the episode.

Sawyer and Miles are able to retrieve Horace and bring him back to the Barracks pretty easily, but the drama doesn’t end there. Not by a long shot. Horace’s very pregnant wife Amy goes into labor while Horace is still completely passed out. To make matters worse, the baby is breeched, and there is no OB/GYN on the Island. The Dharma Initiative usually sends women to the mainland to have their babies. Sawyer sees only one option. Juliet has to come out of “retirement.” Juliet is not thrilled when Sawyer interrupts her at work at the motor pool. I do love that Juliet decides to become a mechanic in her new life. One of the things I’ve always liked about Juliet is that she’s not afraid to get dirty, whether it’s playing mind games with Ben or working on a Dharma vehicle.

Juliet is reluctant to get back in the baby game because her experience with pregnant women on the island has been one tragedy after another. I get the feeling that’s why she chose to take a job with the motor pool in the first place. She just couldn’t deal with losing patients any more. This time around, though, Juliet has success for the very first time since she arrived on the island. Both Amy and baby end up just fine. Horace is kind of a different story. He’s understandably upset to realize that he missed the birth of his son. That evening, Sawyer and Juliet share a celebratory dinner. It’s clear how fully they support each other. Sawyer believed without a doubt that Juliet could successfully complete the c-section, and Juliet always backs Sawyer’s assertions of authority. They work well together.

A lot of the most interesting work in this episode happens back in the immediately post-time skip scenes. It allows us to see the genesis of the respected/feared leader that is LaFleur. After Dan takes a moment to mourn Charlotte, whose body didn’t travel with the Losties on their final time jump, Sawyer suggests they all head back to the beach. There were a number of interesting things going on here. First was contrasting Dan’s mourning of Charlotte to Sawyer’s recent mourning of Juliet. They both seem disconnected following their losses, but Dan’s disconnect is childlike while Sawyer’s is angry. Watching Dan babble about how he wasn’t going to tell a younger Charlotte about her future reminded me of Topher from Dollhouse when he can’t deal with having caused the Apocalypse. Both performances were superb.

Sawyer assumes the leadership position following the end of the time skips, and it shows just how much he’s grown. When trying to convince the other Losties to return to the beach, he says that it doesn’t matter if their stuff isn’t there anymore- they can “build new stuff.” Sawyer of seasons 1 and 2 cared more about his “stuff” than anything else except maybe Kate. He hoarded anything he could get his hands on in his “stash,” and Heaven help anyone who tried to raid the stash. It’s also interesting to watch how Juliet supports this transformation. She vocally supports the beach plan, even though she admits to Sawyer that she thinks it’s a bad idea.

Sawyer’s plan is cut short when the group hears gun shots. A man is on the ground and two men with guns are trying to put a hood on a woman’s head. Sawyer and Juliet immediately draw their rifles and charge in. One of the gunmen is about to shoot Sawyer when Juliet shoots him first. Sawyer then shoots the second gunman. Sawyer then approaches the woman, who turns out to be Amy Goodspeed. Only her last name wasn’t Goodspeed at the time. She was on a picnic with her first husband.

Despite the fact that Sawyer and Juliet saved Amy’s life, there’s still a lot of mistrust on the part of Amy and the other Dharma Initiative folks. Amy tricks the Losties into thinking that she turned off the sonic fence around the Barracks, when she actually just turned it down to a non-lethal setting. Sawyer spins a tale about how the Losties were the crew of a salvage vessel that shipwrecked on the Island. He wants a week or two to search the Island for missing Losties, but the Dharma Initiative wants the interlopers off the Island on the very first submarine.

Sawyer does finally start winning Dharma’s trust when he smoothes over a little problem with the Hostiles. Richard Alpert shows up at the Barracks demanding justice for the two Others who were killed by Sawyer and Juliet. Sawyer makes it clear to Richard that he’s not with Dharma, so the truce hasn’t been broken. He kind of blows Richard’s mind by recounting in detail the events of “Jughead,” which took place about 20 years earlier by Richard’s reckoning. As a show of gratitude, Horace says the Losties can stay at the Barracks for two weeks to look for their lost crew members.

Sawyer and Juliet sit by the docks contemplating their predicament. This scene is especially tragic after Juliet’s death, and especially after Sawyer and Kate’s conversation on the dock in “What Kate Does.” Juliet wants to leave the Island ASAP, even though she won’t be going back to anything she knew on the mainland. Sawyer, however, convinces her to stay for two weeks until the next sub arrives to keep him company. The fact that he just asked her to stay because he didn’t want to be lonely would later haunt him.

The end of the episode seems to spell doom for the newly revealed relationship, though. Sawyer is awoken early in the morning by a phone call from Jin. Some of the Oceanic Six have returned to the Island. Sawyer, not telling the complete truth about what’s going on, tells Juliet to go back to sleep. He then hightails it out to Jin’s location in a Dharma Jeep. Sawyer is thrilled to see Hurley and happy enough to see Jack, of course, but his expression completely changes once Kate steps into view to one of disbelief. He’s going to have some serious feelings to sort out.

When I first watched “LaFleur,” my initial reaction was “oh hell no, they better not mess up Sawyer and Juliet.” I liked how their relationship was mature and supportive. As time went on, however, as much as I appreciated that such a relationship was being showcased on television, I came to miss the sheer chemistry of Sawyer and Kate, so I’m back to hoping those two crazy kids can work it out (after Sawyer mourns Juliet for an appropriate time, of course). Despite the shifting of my shipping loyalties, however, I can still appreciate how beautifully constructed this episode is. It’s a lovely character piece in the middle of all the fast moving mythology stuff that has been happening ever since Jack told Kate “We have to go back!” in “Through the Looking Glass.”

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