The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)

Jack: “He still heading north?”

Locke: “Yup.”

Jack: “You think he’s Lost?”

Locke: “Doesn’t seem to be. Trail’s as straight as the Interstate – the path of a man who knows where he’s going. Where’re you going, Jack?”

The Hunting Party continues Season 2’s swift trip down Depression Avenue, strengthening it’s theme of relapse and regression, of the heavy cost of being human in what appears to be an uncaring larger world, and how that cost can bankrupt you if you let it.

This episode follows Jack’s first (but not only! not even close!) meltdown, as his marriage to his wife, Sarah, dissolves off the Island and his bond with Kate thins out on the Island. It is not ‘fun’ television.

Thoughts:

• Jack wakes abruptly from what seems to be his own flashback. Nifty transitional device or hint regarding the flashbacks?

• If there’s one thing my current apartment is missing it’s a weapons closet. Every home should have one. What could possibly go wrong?

…Well, for one, you could have a half-crazed father shut you and the person you’re least fond of inside of it at gunpoint – which is exactly what Michael does to Jack and Locke. Mike’s decided to go after his boy you see, and no one’s going to stop him. I’ve had some fun in these recaps at Michael’s expense, marveling at the way he becomes such a one-dimensional character in Season 2 (though, let’s be honest, he wasn’t much more rounded in Season 1). At the same time, once he lets himself off the leash it leads to some terrific on-Island stuff.

Locke: “You aren’t going to shoot me, Michael.”

Michael: “No – but I’ll shoot your damn computer. That thing is not what you think it is anyway. You don’t understand, man. You don’t have any idea.”

That there’s an interesting exchange, don’t you think? What does Michael think the computer really is? For that matter, what does Locke think it is? Bracket that thought for a bit – we’ll come back to this a little further down in the column.

• Here’s the other interesting thing about Michael’s exchange with Jack and Locke. Jack offers to come with Mike and help him, but Michael turns Jack’s offer down and tells him that he has to go now, and he has to go alone. Does he say this because The Magic Computer That Might Be Walt tells him to come alone and immediately?

Great Locke and Jack Exchange:

John (referring to the air vent in the weapons closet): “It’s no use. I bolted it shut from the inside.”

Jack: “You what?”

John: “No point in changing the combination if you can get in through the air vent.”

Jack: “That’s really good thinking, John.”

Jack and Locke spend a good amount of time in each other’s company this season, and there’s a claustrophobic feeling to their encounters – as if the two of them, brought this close together, can’t quite get enough room to be comfortable. The Swan seems to bring out a degree of agitation in all of the characters, and again, we’ll return to the question of the Swan and the computer a little further down.

Regardless, the two of them decide to go after Michael, but for what reason? Jack doesn’t seem sure of this, and John is completely content with letting Michael ‘find his destiny’ without interference.

Jack: “Hey – what’re you doing?”

Sawyer: “What does it look like? I’m coming with you.”

Jack: “You’re still on antibiotics.”

Sawyer: “It’s a good thing I’m traveling with my doctor then.”

When Sawyer hears that Jack and Locke are headed after Michael he doesn’t hesitate – he grabs a gun and saddles up. His motives here are murky – there’s a strong and long-honed current of vengeance running through Sawyer and Jack will explicitly bring this up later in the episode. Is Sawyer just out for himself, looking to put a hurting on the man who shot him at the end of Season 1? Or is he instinctively protective of Walt and feeling newly protective of Michael?

I’d offer up the idea that it’s both, and that Sawyer himself probably wouldn’t be able to separate one motive from the other. Two forces – vengeance and protectiveness – coexisting; yin & yang, black and white, dark and light.

• The way in which Jack and Sarah’s marriage has changed saddens me. I’ve been married for almost a year, and I can’t imagine having the kind of chasm between my wife and I that Jack and Sarah have allowed to develop.

Locke: “Any of this look familiar from when you were coming back?”
Sawyer: “Oh yeah – here’s my favorite leaf! How could I forget this place?”

• As the intrepid, unstable trio of Jack, Locke and Sawyer track Michael’s progress across the Island they realize that Mike isn’t headed back the way he came with the tail folk. Instead, he’s headed due north, as unerringly and as instinctively as a migratory bird. We now know that the Dharma Barracks are due north and this map of the Island (courtesy of the ‘Fan Maps’ section at Lostpedia, and fairly accurate-looking) shows just how close to those barracks the tail folk were:



So Locke’s both right and wrong – Mike isn’t headed back the same way, but he’s going to largely the same place. The question is: how does Mike know to do this? Did “Walt” give him the instruction to go north? And even if so, how does Mike orient himself to head ‘straight as the Interstate’ toward his son?

• Jin’s hat is wonderful. Like Sawyer, when Jin hears where Michael’s gone he immediately snaps into action, held back only by Sun’s plea for him to stay. That he does is a testament to how he’s trying to change. The talk they have later in the episode is sign of growing maturity and mutual respect between them – something that’ heartening for me to see in the wake of Jack and Sarah’s vaguely-defined rupture.

Locke (to Jack): “Who are we to tell anyone what they can and can’t do?”

Like his namesake, Locke believes that in a state of nature (and what could be closer to this state than a life on the Island?) all men are equal and independent. True ‘liberty’ only arises when a man is free to do, or not do, what he wishes.

But more specifically, Locke’s comment cuts to the heart of who he and Jack are as individuals. We’ve now seen both men snarl at someone else for telling them what they can’t do. Neither of them is right to then turn around and tell someone else that same thing. They’re literally in no position to judge, or to order, Michael at all.

• Given the generally depressing atmosphere of this season’s flashbacks so far, and the ways in which various characters are relapsing/regressing/refusing to grow or change, it’s not necessarily surprising to me that some folks opted to jump ship on this show in Season 2. None of the first season ‘mythology’ questions (other than ‘what’s in the Hatch’) have been answered, and in place of the generally-uplifting story arcs of S1 we have some pretty brooding vignettes on despair and regret.

The character work being done is admirable, both on the writing and the acting side, but it can’t be said that this stretch of episodes is really ‘fun.’ Those who were looking for something less Empire Strikes Back-y with their primetime television were, I think, understandably nonplussed by the season so far.

But given that Lost is now a finite story and the end is in sight I’m hear to praise S2, not to bury it. We’re in a Long Dark Night of the Soul for many of Lost’s characters, and their circumstances are finally beginning to reflect and illustrate their interior lives and emotions far more accurately (and devastatingly) than S1 did. Now that the episodes are available on DVD it’s easy to cruise through these at a pace that the viewer finds comfortable/bearable, and I suspect that the general estimation of this season as a whole will rise with time. So much of it is rich, darkly-compelling stuff.


• The daughter of the man Jack operates on in this episode, Gabriella, is played by Monica Bîrlădeanu, a Romanian model and actress. She is one of the most stunning women I have ever seen. Good casting, Lost.

• Christian interacts with Jack more than I’d remembered in this episode, and he gives his son some very solid, if stolid, advice. And on re-watch I’m beginning to notice how similarly Jack behaves around Christian and Locke. In some ways, whether this was intended or not, it appears as though Locke unconsciously reminds Jack of Christian.

Locke reveals Sawyer’s real name – James Ford – and seems to relish knowing it and using it. It becomes clear on re-watch that Locke recognizes this name as one of his father’s aliases.

Jack: “Where is she?”

Christian: “She’s gone.”

That exchange works on so many levels in this episode – from Gabriela’s departure from the hospital, to the way in which Jack loses Sarah, to the way he pushes Kate away.

• Jack and Locke clash over Michael again, and their perspectives on the situation throw me firmly into Locke’s camp on the issue. Locke wants to let Michael follow his bliss (straight into death’s mouth, if that’s where the path leads), and Jack wants to rein him in. Jack’s motive for doing this, though, is arguably selfish. He presumes to know better than both Locke and Michael.

Jack: “You know what happens if we just turn around and go back? We’re never going to see him again – and that’s gonna be on us. On you. And on me.”

Bearded Other (aka Tom Friendly): “You’re exactly right, Jack. But if I were you, I’d listen to Mr. Locke.”

Others!

Thus far the Others have remained almost entirely mysterious, and this episode doesn’t change much in that regard. It does, however, introduce the character of Tom Friendly, who goes from creepy jungle hillbilly to kinda-lovable in the seasons to come. It also introduces, by name only, the character of Alex. Tom’s spooky, sudden appearance is a real highlight.

• Tom Friendly is played by MC Gainey, a character actor with a penchant for playing threatening jerkholes. He’s so good at it that Wikipedia describes him thusly: “Mike Connor Gainey (born June 15, 1948) is an American film and television actor whose distinctive mustache, 6’2½” height, and threatening look have given him supporting roles as Southern/Southwestern types, thugs, and criminals.”


• Geronimo Jackson makes its first appearance on the show, and the group will pop up again in Season 5, continuing to solidify the idea that Season 2 and Season 5 are mirroring each other. With as much attention (relatively speaking) as this fictional rock group has gotten, it stands to reason that either the show’s writers simply took delight in creating such a random, interesting detail, or Geronimo Jackson will play some pertinent role in the final season to come.

Thanks to this year’s Comic Con we know that Charlie will be making a return appearance on Lost’s final season. We also know, thanks to Season 3, that a musician programmed the code for the Looking Glass station and that musician’s name has not been revealed. Finally, we know that time travel plays a role on this show. Is it possible that Charlie is a part of Geronimo Jackson somehow?

Sayid: “This music is quite depressing.”

A rare, dryly-funny line reading for Sayid. It’s perfectly realized by Naveen Andrews. Sayid doesn’t often get the chance to be funny (he’s too busy being put-upon, beleaguered, tortured, grief-stricken, and/or violent). That’s a shame.

• Mr. Friendly, the Bearded Other, somehow knows John and Jack’s names. We also learn that Walt is ‘a very special boy,’ which calls back the title of Walt/Michael’s flashback “Special” and frustrates me on re-watch, since we still don’t know if this is true, how its true, or even if this particular plot thread will be resolved.

MR. FRIENDLY: “Let me ask you something. How long you been here on the island?”

JACK: “50 days.”

MR. FRIENDLY: “Oooo, 50 days. That’s what — almost 2 whole months, huh? Tell me, you go over a man’s house for the first time, do you take off your shoes? Do you put your feet up on his coffee table? Do you walk in the kitchen, eat food that doesn’t belong to you? (Looking at Locke) Open the door to rooms you got no business opening?”

What to make of this? We know that the Pearl station, which will be discovered later this season, gives the Others the ability to spy on the Swan. This may be the way in which they’ve learned certain castaways’ names. We also know that they’ve allowed Desmond – who is not an Other and not a Dharma employee – to operate The Button without any interference on their part. Assumedly this means that they themselves do not worry about whether The Button is pushed or not. If the threat posed by it were harmful or dangerous to the Island there would be Others manning the station. This leads me to wonder if the Others want The Button to go un-pressed.

If so, this would explain why Friendly directs his attention to Locke on that line about opening doors to rooms – they don’t want him continuing to enter the code. But there are a few separate possibilities as well: (a) Locke had no business discovering the Hatch in the first place, was perhaps ‘not supposed to’ discover it, and has perhaps ‘broken the rules’ that Ben will speak of obliquely in Season 4. (b) More figuratively, Locke’s presence on the Island and the Others’ awareness of him (something we can assume, given that Friendly knows his name) suggests that perhaps buzz is beginning to build among the Others about him – about Richard’s past interactions with him on the Island (which will come in Season 5) interactions that haven’t occurred for Locke yet, but which Richard has already had and contemplated.

We know that questions are being raised about Ben’s leadership of this group, and that Locke is seen as a worthy successor. Is Locke opening metaphorical ‘doors’ to further questions about the direction that Ben is taking them? If so, Mr. Friendly’s attitude toward Locke is understandable. As we’ll see in later seasons, under Ben’s regime he leads a pretty good life that he wouldn’t want to see disrupted.

Mr. Friendly: “You know, somebody a whole lot smarter than anybody here once said: “Since the dawn of our species man’s been blessed with curiosity.” You know the other one about curiosity don’t you, Jack? This is not your island. This is our island. And the only reason you’re living on it is because we let you live on it.”

And just why are they letting the castaways live on the Island? The Others may not be ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ in their own estimation, but they have no compunctions about killing. Presumably they could steal their way into the beach encampment at night and slit the throats of every castaway. So why don’t they? Has Jacob ordered them not to do so?

And while we’re stewing in Friendly’s words of wisdom, let’s consider the quote he cites. According to the internet that quote originates from none other than Alvar Hanso, founder and funder of the Dharma Initiative. Since this Re-watch does not acknowledge the online RPGs or anything outside of the show itself I’ll stop here. If you’re interested in learning more, just Google that quote.

• Friendly’s stunt with the torches, meant to show the Others’ strength, will later be revealed as smoke and mirrors. Yet again there’s the theme of con games, ordinary ‘wizards’ behind intimidating curtains, and the sense that authority is an illusion.

MR. FRIENDLY: We’ve got a misunderstanding, Jack — your people, my people. So listen carefully. Right here, there’s a line. You cross that line, we go from misunderstanding to something else.

Friendly’s reference to a line on the Island which the 815ers should not cross directly echoes Christian’s earlier line about there being a line in the doctor/patient relationship, and that Jack knows not to cross it. But what we learn of Jack’s character in The Hunting Party suggests that Jack is, to some extent, incapable of respecting these invisible lines.

Sawyer: “You and me ain’t done, Zeke.”

They sure aren’t.

• I’m ultimately not clear on why Sarah leaves Jack. On one level I get that he’s obsessive about his work, and that he’ll ‘always need something to fix,’ but on another level I don’t emotionally buy it. He’s just come out and admitted to his faults, his kiss with Gabriella (totally worth it, Jack) and has made what appears to be a sincere offer to change. In response, Sarah tells him that she’s schtupping someone else, and leaves, having already packed all of her things. WTF? What kind of human being does this to the man who saved her life? Especially since there’s zero evidence of physical/emotional abuse? Again, I repeat: WTF?

• Vincent the dog, Canine Harbinger of Doom on the Island, befriends Ana Lucia at the end of the episode. That’ll go well. Who will Vincent mark for death next?!

• The episode concludes with Jack and Ana Lucia, two self-exiled outcasts, sitting together on the beach. Jack asks Ana Lucia how long it would take for them to train an army, and the episode ends, leaving me with the following thoughts: (1) Ana says she was a cop – in what way does that qualify her to estimate on the time needed to train an army? (2) This whole army idea, as far as I remember, ends up going to Nowheretown in quick fashion (Nowheretown being accessible off of Depression Avenue via the Melancholy Parkway). (3) Jack doesn’t learn. I’m getting the feeling as I watch this show through again that Jack is destined to be alone. After all, he walks among them, but he is not of them.

(You can catch up on what you’ve missed by visiting www.LostTheRewatch.blogspot.com. You can also visit the Lost: Rewatch thread here at Chud, where a phenomenal group of people dissects and expands upon these rambling thoughts in a fun and enlightening way every day.)