One of Us (S3, ep. 16)

Juliet: “I want to go home, Ben. Can’t you please just let me go home?”
Ben: “No.”

Can you feel that? That faint-but-growing sense of speed? As we barrel along toward Season 3’s justifiably-lauded finale things are starting to move faster, and that sense of running-in-place I’d mentioned in the last column is beginning to fade. “One of Us” makes for a terrific (almost) hour of television.

Thoughts:

• A moment of appreciation for Hawaii: the decision to film on location there adds so much character to the show. The shot that opens “One of Us” is a great example of this.

• One of the things I find most frustrating about this show is the way it’s characters stubbornly refuse to fill each other in. Take Kate and Jack’s conversation; a normal person in Jacks position would have maybe almost have been downright eager to share information with his fellow castaways about the Others – especially when that person had spent the preceding weeks practically begging for an Others-smiting smackdown. Jack is not the only character who inexplicably clams up, far from it.

I can typically roll with this bizarre lack of real communication but there are times when it irritates. This is one of those times.

• Count on Sayid to pop up directly after I have this thought for the express purpose of asking the kinds of questions a normal person would ask. Way to go, Sayid.

Rachel: “Just promise me you’ll bring her back in one piece.”
Richard: “Well, we’ll do our best.”

• I can’t help thinking, as I’m watching Richard Alpert and Ethan Rom run around pretending to be associated with a Bioscience company, that Ben has fallen prey to one of the temptations that lead him to exile Widmore from the Island, namely: frequent trips off-Island. Granted, Alpert and Ethan are the ones doing the actual traveling here, but they’re clearly working Ben’s will.

Jack: “She’ll answer your questions when she’s ready. And you’ll wait, until she is. She’s under my protection.”

• Jack, you’re a surgeon who likes to get into pissy shouting matches with your dad. Sayid is a member of the Republican Guard who enjoys SHOVING BAMBOO SHOOTS UNDER PEOPLE’S FINGERNAILS. That situation’s got ‘handing your ass to you’ written all over it. And here, my frustration returns. Jack’s weird n’ hostile edict gives the writers an excuse for Juliet to hold off on answering any of the questions that sane people would want answered here. Above and beyond that, where does Jack get off snapping at Sayid like an out-of-line private?

Richard: “What I can tell you is that you’ll see things there that you’ve never imagined.”

• The airline that Juliet, Richard and Ethan won’t be using for their trip calls itself ‘Herarat,’ an anagram for ‘Earhart,’ as in ‘Amelia Earhart,’ seemingly hinting that Earhart’s disappearance somewhere over the Pacific ocean during a 1937 flight around the world could have been Island-related. Earhart is supposed to have vanished near Howland Island, which is located between….Australia and Hawaii. Did you know that it’s also an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the United States? Neither did I.

• Alpert’s initial creepiness doubles with the introduction of the orange juice/tranquilizer cocktail he brews up for Juliet. The Others are more-or-less kidnapping Juliet, promising her that she can return in time for Rachel to give birth, but having no intention of letting her go at all from what we can see.

• Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, Juliet takes a special drink in order to pass through the necessary door to ‘wonderland.’ Is it coincidence/a nonexistent connection created by an unhinged mind, or does Juliet’s exit from the sub resemble Alice’s passage through the rabbit hole in reverse?

• Ethan straps Juliet down on her submarine cot during the journey (a journey that we still haven’t actually seen, and given the quality of the submarine FX from the end of last season I’m perfectly happy with that) because ‘the last lag is a little bumpy,’ but I’m immediately reminded of the straps holding Minkowski down in his bed – a detail we’ll learn about next season. It seems to me that Juliet is strapped down as a preventative measure – to keep her from running around if she wakes up during the trip and begins to experience consciousness-traveling the way that Minkowski did. It makes “sense” (as much as any of this can be said to ‘make sense’), given what we now know of the Island’s ‘time corridors,’ that the Others would want to knock Juliet out for the duration of the trip. If she’s unconscious, her consciousness can’t be affected by the strange force that will cause an unrecognizable Zoe Bell to wrap herself in chains and jump from the freighter. The use of a submarine also makes sense for reasons of stealth/security.

• Once Juliet exits the sub and leaves the dock with Ben, an anonymous Other shuts the hatch on the top of the submarine, implying that Ethan and Richard are remaining off-Island for the time being.

• It’s verging on legitimately sweet to see Sawyer instigate the hug between him and Jack.

Ben: “You’ve been here for six months. You’ve done extensive work-ups on all of us. Have you seen even a trace of cancer?”

Juliet (from later in the episode): “The mother’s body turns on the baby – treats it as a foreign invader.”

• These two lines jumped right out at me last night, waving their arms and screaming “Hey! You! Lookatme! LookatmeLookatmeLookatme!” Cancer, the growth of foreign, invasive cells within the human body, can be seen as a kind of dark mirror of childbirth – it’s the creation of life, life is hell-bent on destroying its host as it grows. It seems to me that the absence of cancer and the death of pregnant women can be seen as connected. In both cases, the mysterious Island force that has healed Rose and Locke, that has kept Ben’s people C-free for what feels like quite some time, is preventing a ‘foreign invader’ from being created.

• Ben promises to cure Rachel’s cancer, which he claims has come back. More than that, he claims that “Jacob said he would take care of it himself.” I’m not sure what to make of this, especially given Ben’s apparently-tenuous relationship with Jacob. The simplest explanation is that Ben lies – that he mocks up tests designed to show that Rachel’s cancer has returned in order to keep Juliet under his thumb – so that, when he shows Juliet footage of Rachel and her child he can claim to have ‘cured’ her.

• Goodwin shows up again, and is revealed to have been a fellow doctor, as well as Juliet’s lover on the Island. Who knew the human back was so…attention-grabbing?

• By the end of the episode we learn that Juliet is lying about the cause of Claire’s sickness, but we know that she’s telling the truth about the pregnant women on the Island. This split between truth and falsity makes it difficult to tell whether she’s being truthful about the medicine given to Claire to help her carry the pregnancy through to term. As for her claim that kidnapping Claire was never part of the plan – there’s some evidence for this during the episode ‘Maternity Leave,’ where Tom, the most outwardly kind/humane of the Others, talks to Ethan about changing the plan.

• Ben is finishing up Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ when Juliet tells him about the “large tumor surrounding your L-4 vertebrae.” He seems pretty gripped by the book, which makes me wonder whether Michael Emerson made the acting choice to have Ben verbally dismiss King’s book, but also be seen engrossed in it while in private.

• Juliet’s accusation that Ben is scared by his tumor is fascinating. Again, consider the possible link between cancer and pregnancy. Ben’s tumor and Claire’s successful birthing of Aaron both fall in the same general time period, and would seem to suggest that something about the Island and/or it’s energy has changed. It’s still not clear what that is.

• The symbol on the tree which marks the location of Juliet’s medical supplies is similar to the brand on Juliet’s back. It has no independent, verifiable meaning that I’ve been able to suss out, though I have compared it to the Rosicrucian cross and the eight-spoked Dharma bagua. Apparently, it’s also very similar to the alchemical symbols for ‘Union’ and for ‘Sal Ammonac.’ According to the ever-reliable (except when its not) Wikipedia, the ‘Union’ symbol represents the alchemical process of transmuting a ‘lesser’ substance into a ‘higher’ substance. The ‘Sal Ammoniac’ symbol represents a form of ammonia that sublimates at low temperatures – sublimation being the act of moving from a solid to a gaseous state without becoming a liquid. Both of these seem to fit with what I’ve been assuming to be part of Jacob’s plan/goal – the transformation/refinement of humanity. Everything that rises must converge. Or sublimate, if you will. 

Juliet: “You know what’s interesting? That you two are now the camp’s moral police.”

• Juliet dresses Sayid and Sawyer down with an efficacy that would make Ben envious, and she says something potentially revealing: she refers to the man Sawyer “gunned down in cold blood” the night before the flight. Most of the information that the Others seem to have about the castaways appears to come from databases – police files, hospital records, marriage certificates, educational summaries – but it strikes me as implausible that the police would have linked Sawyer to the shooting in Australia in the time between the murder and the crash (at which point we’re shown Mikhail already beginning to pull information on the plane’s passengers). We can just assume that the police make that link eventually, and that the Others are monitoring for information updates on the plane’s passengers, or we can wonder whether someone has been watching certain castaways (the ones that Jacob touched?) more closely than we’re yet aware of.

• The look on Elizabeth Mitchell’s face as she walks away from Sayid and Sawyer is a wonderful choice on her part as an actress. Letting us see the fear that Juliet conceals connects what we’ve seen of her personality in flashback with the strangely cold woman she’s becoming on the Island.

• I love the way that Ben yells out to Mikhail over and over as they’re approaching the Flame Station, implying that our favorite Russian Cyclops has an itchy trigger finger, and that Ben may have ordered him to shoot anyone who attempts to approach the Island’s communication station – an order that makes a good deal of sense when we consider how hard Ben is working to keep people on the Island disconnected entirely from the outside world.

• We learn that, contrary to Mikhail’s claims in ‘Enter 77,’ the Flame Station is very much operational. We also learn that Rachel is still alive, and that she has a son she’s named ‘Julian,’ in honor of her sister. Emerson and Mitchell do a hell of a job with this scene – rendering Juliet’s loneliness and isolation alongside Ben’s pride and control.

• A moment of appreciation as well for Michael Giacchino’s wonderful score. The choices that a show’s composer makes can transform a scene completely, and the cuts between shots of Juliet erecting her tent on the beach alongside shots of her meeting with Ben are helped immeasurably by Giacchino’s ominous score. Rarely does the cinching of a knot evoke feelings of dread. Thanks to Giacchino, that’s just what comes across as we learn of Juliet’s status as a spy, and of the presence of an implant in Claire.

*****

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Missed a column? Catch up here:

Season 3

• Left Behind (S3 ep. 15)
• Exposé (S3 ep. 14)
• The Man from Tallahasse (S3 ep. 13)
• Par Avion (S3 ep. 12)
• 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

• 
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)