Par Avion (S3, ep. 12)
Charlie (reading aloud): “To whom it may concern: We are survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. We have survived on this island for 80 days. We were 6 hours into the flight when the pilot said we were off course and turned back towards Fiji. We hit turbulence and crashed. We’ve been waiting here, all this time, waiting for rescue that has not come. We do not know where we are, we only know you have not found us. We’ve done our best to live on this island. Some of us have come to accept that we may never leave it. Not all of us have survived since the crash, but there is new life too, and with it, there is hope. We are alive. Please don’t give up on us.”
Par Avion has some pretty cool moments embedded in it, but I’m not a huge fan of the episode as a whole. Claire’s flashback is pretty depressing stuff, and the on-Island action is, for the most part, not really capable of carrying the episode by itself. But the appearance of mysterious pylons and a nice stinger of an ending make up for their somewhat-lackluster surroundings. This column won’t be too meaty because I don’t really have a ton of thoughts on Par Avion. I welcome yours.
• There’s that open-eye motif again – a constant (no pun intended) on this show, and a reinforcing of what’s arguably one of Lost’s biggest thematic concerns, if not it’s biggest: self-awareness, self-definition, self-awakening.
Locke: “It’s electrical wiring map, Sayid. I’m not sure it’s as accurate as you think.”
Sayid: “Well it’s certainly not as infallible as the magical carvings on your stick.”
Locke: “Hey, the stick did get us to that station.”
Sayid: “Oh, the station which you accidentally blew up.”
Locke: “Well, if youd’ve warned me that the basement was rigged with C4, I might’ve been a little more careful.”
• Sayid and Locke would make a terrific old married couple. With dialogue this bitchy and hilarious, I’d watch a spin-off series of the two of them living as roommates in a cramped apartment.
• The Charlie’s-gonna-die plot continues to hover at the forefront, but there’s nothing new worth pointing out about it that I can see. It’s nice that Claire seems to get over her weird mood-swings towards him but all of this was pretty much more of the same. We haven’t given up on you, Oceanic castaways, but we’re ready for the show to shift into a higher gear. It’s never a good sign when you’re tempted to type blahblahblahblah over and over again instead of, y’know, actual thoughts.
Cop: “At about what speed would you say that happened when you were driving?”
Claire: “It just came out of nowhere, I didn’t –”
Cop: “That’s not the question I asked, Miss Littleton.”
Claire: “I don’t – I don’t know how fast I was driving. Why are you even asking me these questions?”
Cop: “These questions are standard procedure when there’s a fatality.”
Claire: “My mother is in surgery, she’s not dead.”
Cop: “Right. So she is.”
Claire: “This is not my fault.”
Cop: “Didn’t say it was. Good day Miss Littleton.”
• This officer’s approach to police work is just as dickish and dismissive as the policeman who basically shrugged his shoulders at Boone over potential domestic abuse back in Season 1. Australia’s Police force doesn’t come off very well on this show, do they?
Kate: “Why would you want to come back?”
Mikhail: “You would not understand.”
Kate: “Try me.”
Mikhail: “I misspoke. What I meant to say is you are not capable of understanding.”
Kate: “And why am I not capable?”
Mikhail: “Because you are not on the list.”
Kate: “What list?”
Mikhail: “The man who brought me here, who brought all of my people here, he is a magnificent man.”
Kate: “If Ben’s so magnificent, then why did he need one of us to save him?”
Mikhail: “Ben? Ben is not him. I will try to make this as simple as I can. You are not on the list because you are flawed. Because you are angry, and weak, and frightened.”
Sayid: “The more I learn about your people, the more I suspect you’re not as omniscient as you’d have us believe. Don’t speak to us as if you know us.”
Mikhail: “Of course I don’t know you, Sayid Jarrah. How could I? And you, Kate Austen, are a complete stranger to me. But you John Locke, you I might have a fleeting memory of, but I must be confused, because the John Locke I know was para –”
• This conversation is the most important part of “Par Avion,” in my humble opinion. For the most part I try to keep lengthy dialogue quotes out of these columns (and I’ve violated that standard twice in this column already, so I’m full of it), but there’s so much packed into the words above that it feels right to reproduce the entire exchange. Let’s look at what’s said, what’s implied, and what’s assumed:
We’re told that a man has brought Mikhail and ‘his people’ (the Others) to the Island. We can assume, given what we now know, that this ‘magnificent’ man is Jacob. We’re told of the existence of a list – a list that appears to be separate and apart from the lists that Ben ordered Ethan and Goodwin to create when 815 crashed. It is implied that this list is the work of Jacob, the magnificent man, but we can’t assume that. It’s also possible that the list in question was created by Ben, with or without Jacob’s input.
We’re told that Kate, Sayid and Locke are not capable of understanding why a person would want to return to the Island after leaving it, which is an interesting (and interestingly prideful/hubristic) statement on Mikhail’s part. We’re told that they aren’t capable of this understanding because they aren’t on the aforementioned list – a list that presumably contains the names of those castaways who ARE capable of understanding (I suspect that Hurley is at the top of that list, if it even exists).
And why aren’t Kate, Locke and Sayid on this list of ‘people capable of understanding why we’d want to hang out on this Island’? It’s because of their emotional flaws. They aren’t emotionally ‘evolved’ enough (according to Mikhail at any rate) to grasp the purpose of the Island, or, perhaps more accurately, they aren’t emotionally prepared to handle the responsibility and the temptation of caretaking an Island with the ability to make them rich, to keep them young, to give them what they think they want and/or need.
I’ve made the suggestion that the Others are monks of a sort – that they’ve foresworn material wealth and emotional attachments in order to devote themselves to the Island. You can read about those musings HERE and HERE. Mikhail’s comments here certainly seem to help to back those theories up.
Lastly, its revealed that Mikhail knows, and has known, a great deal about these three particular castaways (lending further credence to my suggestion, in the Enter 77 column, that Mikhail was using ‘Nadia’ as the name of his cat in order to screw with Sayid’s head), up to the point at which they crash-landed. That’s a lot of info for a fairly brief exchange.
• Sayid refers to the mysterious (and frankly awesome) structures that they encounter as ‘pylons.’ Is this a “Land of the Lost” shoutout?
• Claire’s mother is shown here in a coma. Sometime between this flashback and her appearance to Jack in Season 4’s “There’s No Place Like Home, Part I,” Carol Littleton wakes up. We don’t know how. What’s interesting to me about this: Christian appears to Claire in this episode and urges her to let her mother die – an echo of his urging Jack to ‘let it go.’ If Claire had followed his advice her mother would be dead, and Kate would not have been able to leave Aaron with her when she joins Jack to return to the Island. Is there significance to this?
Mikhail: “Thank you.”
• We haven’t seen the end of Mikhail – he’ll pop up again soon enough, bewilderingly – and seeing him collapse here thanks to the ‘sonic weapon fence’ (great name, Locke) makes me wonder what the setting was when Locke pushed him into it. We’ve since learned that the fence has a stun setting as well as a kill setting and Mikhail confirms this later in the season when he returns and remarks that he was ‘fortunate the pylons were not set to a lethal level,’ but the ‘stun’ setting that Amy will use on the castaways in Season 5 doesn’t provoke nearly as strong a reaction from them.
• As for his enigmatic thanking of John Locke – well, for now I suppose we have to guess that Mikhail would rather be left near-death at the fence, than help to lead the castaways all the way to the barracks.
Sayid: “I thought you didn’t know if there was any C4?”
Locke: “Well, I stand corrected.”
• Locke’s season-long saboteur arc comes to the fore here as we learn that he was responsible for detonating the Flame Station, that he saved some of the C-4 for later use, and as we watch him shove Mr. Bakunin straight into sonic agony. If you have thoughts and/or theories about Locke and his motives here I’d love to hear them. From my perspective it seems as though he spends the season trying as hard as he possibly can to cut the Island off from all contact with the outside world, preventing even the possibility of escaping it. This makes complete sense for Locke – he doesn’t ever want to return to the world he left behind. But to also cut off everyone else from potential escape/rescue? That I don’t know about. Interestingly, it would seem the fact of the Oceanic Six leaving the Island is what ultimately allows the MiB to execute his long-simmering plan for Jacob. So Locke, theoretically, spends most of this season blocking the MiB’s plans, only to fall into them later on.
That’s pure conjecture, though.
Christian: “Claire, listen to me. Do not keep your mother alive for the wrong reasons. Now there is hope and there is guilt. And believe me, I know the difference.”
• We get confirmation in this episode that Christian is Claire’s father, and in a brief scene between the two of them we get another glimpse at Christian’s morality. I’d agree with him that hope and guilt are motives worth distinguishing, but as mentioned above, it would seem as though keeping Carol alive provided Aaron with the opportunity to be raised by his own family, and not another/an Other.
• Sawyer’s Book Club makes a return in this episode – he’s reading The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Rand famously established a philosophy she called ‘objectivism,’ which centered around the importance of (one might say the deification of) reason, individualism and ego. Both Rand and Bakunin (who we discussed briefly in the column for “Enter 77”) believed that individuals were best left largely free of the influence of authority, though Rand believed some form of limited government was a necessity in society, whereas Bakunin wanted the abolition of all government. Where Bakunin advocated for equality among people via ‘collectives’ of individuals who dealt with one another in a socialist arrangement, Rand was a firm proponent of capitalism, and for her the primacy of the individual over any collection of individuals was a given.
The book’s inclusion here has, I think, two potential purposes. In the larger thematic sense it acts as a silent counterpoint to the Bakunin ideal, to the kind of society that the castaways have constructed in Sawyer’s absence. On a character level, it can serve as a signal of Sawyer clinging to his notions of beach capitalism in the face of the changes made in his absence. Of course, we don’t get an indication as to whether Sawyer agrees or disagrees with Rand, and so its also possible that his reading it signifies a growing awareness that his old ways are out-moded, or insufferably selfish, even childish (as Rand’s critics have often, vociferously claimed).
• A fun ending. Given the way in which we’ve seen people like Cindy throw their apparent allegiance over to the Others, there’s something eerily plausible about the idea of Jack having ‘turned’ and become one of them.
That’s all I got!
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Missed a column? Catch up here:
• Enter 77 (S3 ep. 11)
• Tricia Tanaka is Dead (S3 ep. 10)
• Stranger in a Strange Land (S3 ep. 09)
• Flashes before your Eyes (S3 ep. 08)
• Not In Portland (S3 ep. 07)
• I Do (S3 ep. 06)
• The Cost of Living (S3 ep. 05)
• Every Man for himself (S3 ep. 04)
• Further Instructions (S3 ep. 03)
• The Glass Ballerina (S3 ep. 02)
• Season 3 Premiere
• Season 2 finale
• Three Minutes (S2 ep. 22)
• ? (S2 ep. 21)
• Two for The Road (S2 ep. 20)
• S.O.S. (S2 ep. 19)
• Dave (S2 ep. 18)
• Lockdown (S2 ep. 17)
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
• One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
• The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
• Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
• The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
• The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
• What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
• Collision (S2, ep. 8)
• The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)