Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Lost " Fifteen Favorites: "Not In Portland"

“If he were hit by a bus, how ‘bout that? That would work.”


Number eleven on my Lost Fifteen Favorites list is “Not In Portland,” the Season 3 episode which was the first to really explore the character of Juliet. The episode is a perfect illustration why some new character introductions on Lost (Desmond, Juliet, Ben, and the Kahana science crew) worked better than others (the Tailies, Nikki and Paulo *shudder*). This episode showed that Juliet had a real character arc and left me wondering what exactly happened to turn her from meek, submissive scientist to ruthless killer. Thankfully, the answer to this question would be somewhat explored in several later episodes, and Juliet would become one of my favorite characters.

The episode opens with a classic Lost fakeout. Juliet is sitting on a beach, looking rather forlorn. We next see her in a room with a woman who is clearly not healthy. She is very pale and is wearing a scarf on her head. Juliet injects her with something directly into her abdomen, and I think we’re supposed to be reminded ofwhen something similar happened to Claire while she was held by Ethan and the Others. The woman turns out to be Juliet’s sister, Rachel, and when Juliet opens the curtains in her sister’s room, we see that they aren’t on the Island, they’re in Miami, and this is a flashback. It’s sort of the opposite of Juliet’s very first scene in the series, where we think we’re watching something play out on the mainland, and it turns out we’re seeing the crash of Oceanic 815 from the perspective of the Others.

Juliet was a fertility doctor in Miami, conducting research for her domineering ex-husband’s company. Juliet’s trying to quietly rebel, but it’s not going well at all. She tries to steal more of the medicine she was using on her sister out of the lab, but she’s caught when her ex-husband, Ed, drops by after hours to take his new girlfriend on a “tour” of the lab. To add insult to injury, Ed calls her into his office the next day and says he wants in on whatever she’s doing. He correctly speculates she’s giving the medicine to her sister, and he basically blackmails her into agreeing to give him some of the credit.

Juliet briefly sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she takes a meeting with a Mr. Alpert (yeah, Richard gets around) of Mittelos Bioscience. Richard claims Mittelos does privately funded, groundbreaking research in the Portland, Oregon area. Juliet is dubious about making the move, especially with her sister in poor health, but she warms to the idea when Richard shows her what she’d been working on. She would be figuring out why a 26 year-old has the reproductive system of a 70 year-old. She is quite intrigued, but then she drops back to reality when she realizes Ed would never allow her to go out and have success on her own. She jokes to Richard that the only way she’d ever be able to take a job with Mittelos would be if Ed got hit by a bus. She’s mortified at her distasteful joke and runs out of the conference room as fast as she can.

Juliet’s flashback story, however, is a great example of “Be Careful What You Wish For.” She finds out that her sister is indeed pregnant, and she’s discussing this with Ed near a bus stop. Right on cue, a bus zips by and Ed is no more. Juliet is horrified, not because Ed is gone, but because she thinks it very well might be her fault. Her suspicions seem to be confirmed when Richard and Ethan approach her at the morgue after she’s ID’d Ed’s body. They once again ask her if she wants to join them, now that Ed is no longer a problem. Rachel, however, is not going to be able to join Juliet on this new adventure, because she wouldn’t be able to get the medical care she needs. Mittelos doesn’t exactly do their work in Portland.

The on-island story in this episode largely deals with the fall-out from the iconic “Kate, damnit, run!” moment at the end of “I Do.” Sawyer manages to overcome Pickett in the chaos that ensues after Jack’s walkie talkie transmission, and I most definitely cheered when Sawyer electrocuted Picket by slamming his head repeatedly against the polar bear cage food button. That might be second in awesome “Lost” attacks to Sayid killing an Other with his feet in “Through the Looking Glass.” Meanwhile, Jack announces to everyone in ear shot that Juliet asked him to kill Ben. Tom responds by throwing Juliet out of the OR until the mess can be cleared up. For the first time in a while, Juliet is as powerless as she was on the mainland.

Once he recovers, Pickett follows Sawyer and Kate through the jungle, determined to have his vengeance for Colleen’s death. Pickett has always been a bit mustache-twirling for my taste, but I suppose, given Colleen’s death, there is a decent explanation for his single-mindedness about killing Sawyer. Sawyer and Kate are saved by none other than Alex. Alex shows them to a handy hiding spot she dug into the ground. Once the danger is passed, Alex says she has a boat Sawyer and Kate can use to get back to the Island. There’s just one catch. They have to help her save her boyfriend first. Sawyer asks if the boyfriend happens to be named Karl, and when Alex confirms it, Sawyer’s begrudging acceptance cracks me up. Sawyer’s soft spot for Karl will never not be entertaining.

The building where Karl is being held is under armed guard, but Kate’s got an idea about how to get them in. Sawyer affectionately dubs it the “Wookie prisoner trick.” Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t really jive with his not getting Hurley’s recent reference to Anakin Skywalker, but whatever. It was damn funny at the time. The guard, Aldo, catches on too late and lets the crew in the building when Kate threatens to shoot his knee. Sawyer congratulates Kate because he thought her performance was believable- she says she wasn’t kidding with that threat. A welcome reminder that Kate was indeed very dangerous in her past. The crew finds Karl in “Room 23” which has some of the most bizarre imagery I’ve seen on “Lost.” Karl has something being pumped into him via IV, and he’s wearing strange goggles as he looks at fast-paced kind of creepy images and hears blaring music. Sawyer, Kate, and Alex are a little captivated by the light show at first, but one by one, they come to their senses and get Karl out of there.

Back in the Hydra surgery center, Ben has woken up. He has heard what’s been going on for the past few minutes, and he demands to see Juliet. Tom goes to fetch her and tells her that Jack “said he’s a spinal surgeon, not an anesthesiologist.” I like to think this is a tiny little Star Trek shout-out. I can just picture Dr. McCoy saying “Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…” When Juliet arrives, Ben wants to clear the room except for her. Jack very reluctantly acquiesces. I absolutely love the direction in the scene where Jack is watching Ben and Juliet from outside the OR. There are jaunty quick cuts, and we see Ben’s mouth move but hear no sound since this is from Jack’s POV. Artistic choices like this make me sad that it seems Stephen Williams, director of this episode and formerly a “Lost” directing stalwart along with Jack Bender, appears to no longer be with the show.

Juliet leaves the OR and tells Jack he has to complete the surgery. Jack, naturally (since he’s such a busybody), wants to know what Ben told Juliet. She won’t say, but she does say she’s going to make sure Sawyer and Kate make it safely off Hydra Island. Juliet keeps her word, and she ends up having to kill Pickett to do so, because he was still hell bent on killing Sawyer. Sawyer, Kate, and Karl successfully escape on the boat and are headed back to the Island (after Juliet has Kate tell Jack “the story” of counting backwards from five to recompose himself during surgery…excuse me, I think I feel a bit nauseated). Alex, however, must stay behind. Juliet reminds her that Ben is not going to be happy if she’s not around when she wakes up from surgery. When she returns to the Hydra OR, Jack again asks why Juliet had the change of heart. She reveals that Ben offered to let her go home. Some leader Ben is if the promise of letting someone get far, far away from you is what gets that person to do what you want!

No comments:

Post a Comment