Friday, May 28, 2010

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Tricia Tanaka is Dead"

“Look, I don’t know about you, but things have really sucked for me lately, and I could really use a victory. So let’s get one, dude. Let’s get this car started. Let’s look death in the face and say, ‘Whatever, man.’ Let’s make our own luck. What do you say?”


I love “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” because it is light hearted and serves as a breath before “Lost” heads full-throttle into mythology and doesn’t really look back. It is appropriate that this character-focused pause is Hurley-centric, because Hurley is really the heart of “Lost.” I think this is the Hurley-centric episode that most epitomizes that notion. A lot of other Hurley episodes show Hurley dealing with personal drama, such as “Dave,” but in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead,” we see Hurley trying to make people happy. As Ben said in Sunday night’s epic finale (I will share my thoughts on that one eventually, I promise), Hurley “take[s] care of people,” and that’s what we see him do in this episode.

We get some backstory on Hurley’s family in this episode, which I enjoyed. Hurley’s dad left when he was pretty young, leaving his son with a broken Camaro and a candy bar. It’s hinted at that the candy bar is what starts Hurley’s issues with food that would still plague him on the Island. Hurley’s dad left him with something positive, too, though. The ability to hope. The broken Camaro needed a new carburetor, but Hurley’s dad told Hurley to try starting the car anyway. The car didn’t work, obviously, but the experience taught Hurley that it’s okay to have hope that things will work, even if it looks bleak.

Hurley’s world is turned even more when, seventeen years later, his father returns. Mr. Reyes originally returned because he hoped he’d get to share in Hurley’s lottery winnings, but he eventually comes to realize that his son truly needs him. He bribes a psychic to try and convince Hurley that she can remove the “curse” so Hurley won’t go to Australia in search of the meaning of the Numbers. Hurley’s not buying it, though. He still resents his dad for disappearing for seventeen years, and I honestly don’t blame him.

On the Island, things are pretty miserable, too. Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are still missing, and Charlie is understandably broody over Desmond’s proclamation that he’s going to die. As Hurley and Charlie are discussing Desmond’s vision, Vincent appears, and a sequence of events begins that eventually will give Hurley another idea about how to make his friends feel better. Of course, this realization comes with an appropriately “Lost” twist. Vincent approaches the two friends with a heavily decomposed arm in his mouth. Although my initial reaction was probably to be a bit grossed out by that, in retrospect, I think it’s quirky and very “Lost.” Vincent leads Hurley to an abandoned VW Bus with a big Dharma logo on the front. Inside the Bus are the remains of Roger, who was a “Work Man” for the Dharma Initiative.

Hurley thinks it would be fun to get a group together to get the Bus running again. He thinks it’s just the ticket for getting everybody out of their funk. The rest of the Losties don’t seem to agree, though. Only Jin agrees to help Hurley out, and Jin probably didn’t even fully realize what he signed up for. Hurley soon has more help, though, in the form of Sawyer. Yep, this is the episode where Sawyer and Kate return to the beach camp from their imprisonment on Hydra Island. Kate’s fixated on doing exactly what Jack told her not to do- trying to rescue him. No sooner does the classic beach reunion montage finish than Kate is formulating a plan to rescue Jack. She goes off in search of Rousseau, and Locke and Sayid end up joining her. Kate’s got pretty good Rousseau bait, too. She tells Rousseau that she thinks the teenage girl who helped her escape from the Others was Rousseau’s daughter, Alex (and Kate would be right about that).

Sawyer finds himself in the jungle helping Hurley and Jin with the Dharma Bus. The Dharma Beer inside the Bus is a pretty good motivator for Sawyer, even though it’s probably disgusting. At one point Jin and Sawyer do give up, but their respite is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Sawyer, impressed that Jin has begun to learn a few phrases in English, teaches him the three things women want to hear, including “I’m sorry.” It’s a hilarious, low-key, fun moment, and it’s little character moments like that which made “Lost” great. That moment is one of the first times we see Sawyer show real affection for his fellow Losties. The other time was when he first shows up at the Bus and Hurley gives him a big hug. That was kind of sweet, too.

Drawing on the lesson he learned as a young boy from his father, Hurley has a crazy new plan for getting the VW Bus back up and running. He’s going to roll start it on a hill so steep it looks almost like a cliff. Joining him in this crazy endeavor is Charlie. Charlie has decided to take Hurley’s advice and take control of his life. After a suitably suspenseful close call with some large rocks, Hurley successfully gets the Bus to start. He gets Sawyer and Jin to hop in the back seat, and then he gleefully drives around in circles. This is another one of my favorite moments of the series overall. Hurley, Sawyer, Charlie, and Jin get to forget their problems for a few minutes of triumph, and with all they’ve been through, they deserve it.

The episode does end on a more serious note. The guys return to the beach camp at the end of the day, and Jin and Charlie are happily telling Sun and Claire respectively about the fun they had that day. Sawyer looks around hopefully for Kate, but it’s in vain. She’s long gone. Resigned to the fact that the woman he loves will never quite feel the same way, he sits down in his chair and drowns his sorrows in Dharma beer. Hurley, however, is still out in that open grassy area happily driving circles in the Dharma Bus.

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