Eggtown (S4, ep. 4)

Ben: “I’ve already read it.”
Locke: “You might catch something you missed the second time around.”

Every cowboy sings a sad, sad, song; roses have thorns and all that stuff; you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Nothing’s perfect, in other words, and that’s certainly the case with “Eggtown,” an episode that ain’t eggxactly eggcellent. Maybe I’m just cranky today, but “Eggtown” rubbed me the wrong way, and resulted in a pretty ornery column overall. Even the episode’s title bothers me. “Eggtown”? Come on. Yes, it’s a reference to a depression-era saying, but it’s not a GOOD reference, and it means little to the narrative as a whole. That’s kind of an apt summary of this episode, actually. There are some interesting references, but on the whole this episode feels inconsequential. To top things off, the writing/storytelling in “Eggtown” cheats like a bastard, too – something I’ve never been able to abide.

Thoughts:

• Locke pulls the Philip K. Dick book, “VALIS,” off the shelf and brings it to Ben with breakfast. The word “VALIS” is an acronym for “Vast Active Living Intelligence System,” and while I haven’t read Dick’s novel, it sounds like one weird ride – as well as a clue that my crazed theories about (1) the Island as a living thing and (2) the potential importance of Gnosticism/Manichaeism to the narrative aren’t as crazed as I think them to be. Here’s some potentially pertinent detail to chew over:

According to the summaries I’ve read, “Valis” is a “semi-autobiographical novel” in which a character that is also more-or-less the author claims to have experienced a kind of transcendence – an awareness of and connection with an intelligence and power that dwarfs his own; a Vast Active Living Intelligence System that communicates with humanity on behalf of an alien culture. For our purposes, there are some details about the novel that are very much worth pointing out. The VALIS intelligence (or whatever’s behind it) seems to communicate through dreams, visions and holograms, reminding me of my theory that the Island itself creates the ‘ghosts’ that we’ve seen on the show in order to communicate with/influence the castaways. Philip K. Dick claims in the book that he achieved a kind of “anamnesis” – what he called “the loss of forgetfulness,” a state in which he remembered things that he did not know he had forgotten. In a show where the possibility of eternal time-loops has not been disproven, this state of “anamnesis” seems potentially meaningful.

On another interesting note, the narrator of the novel eventually discovers a character named “Sophia,” who is, in the Gnostic tradition, the representation of ‘wisdom.” Moreover, the ‘intelligence’ that Dick claimed to have communed with called itself “Thomas,” and as I comment in my column on Gnosticism (see the link above), one of the most famous early Gnostics was St. Thomas, author of the Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas – both non-canonical Biblical texts. St. Thomas was accused of being a follower of “Mani” – of being a Manichaen or Gnostic believer who dressed those beliefs up in early Christian belief. Thomas is name-checked overtly in the Fifth Season of the show.

Dick’s quest over the course of VALIS is to find a cure for “what he believes is simultaneously a personal and a cosmic wound,” a quest that echoes a myth that we’ll be talking about in this column soon enough (seen that Jeff Bridges flick I mentioned yet?). All of the above may seem a little disjointed to you – I blame myself. I’m not familiar enough with the source material to make concrete connections, but I hope to explore this particular novel more in the columns ahead.

Bailiff: “Katherine Anne Austen, you are charged with fraud, arson, assault on a federal officer, assault with a deadly weapon, grand larceny, grand theft auto, and murder in the first degree. Ms. Austen, how do you plead?”
Kate: “Not guilty.”

• Kate’s trial irritates me. I’m not a trial attorney, but the entire thing is just beyond implausible to me (and I’m not typically a guy to get miffed by ‘implausibility’ in my entertainment). Lost is typically a very smart show, and it’s very good at coming up with clever solutions to the questions it creates. So why does the resolution to Kate’s fugitive storyline feel so anticlimactic?…

Lawyer: “If you go to trial, Kate, you’re looking at twenty years on each count, not to mention a life sentence on the murder charge.”

….Well, for one, it’s just so easy. Kate’s crimes are many and varied. She’s racked up an impressive number of charges across many US states, and has fled over international waters to attempt escape. The Federal Marshall who worked to bring her in presumably built a file on her. Despite his death there are, realistically, other law enforcement folks who could testify against Kate. There’s also her friend’s family, who could testify that she’d gotten their son killed. I mean, there’s no small amount of substantive evidence against Kate for any number of the crimes she’s been charged with – and the crimes she’s been charged with audibly on the show aren’t nearly all the crimes she COULD be charged with.

So why is it that her mother’s refusal essentially destroys the Prosecution’s case? Even without the prosecution’s “star witness,” there’s still the anticipated TWENTY YEARS ON EVERY OTHER COUNT. Her mother wasn’t even involved with most of those charges, thus affecting the DA’s case on those counts not one iota.

It feels sloppy, to say the least. Genuinely, irritatingly sloppy. There are far two many loose ends to the resolution of Kate’s fugitive storyline – none of which would really matter if the court scenes were exciting. They aren’t. Evangeline Lily is gorgeous throughout (I doubt I’ve ever seen her looking more striking on the show) but she and the other actors are left with an eye-rollingly convenient etch-a-sketch trial scenario that doesn’t make a lick of sense and provides for little, if any, actual tension. Let’s not even talk about the attempted defense – Jack’s testimony that Kate was a really good person while they were wrecked on an island so all this other criminal stuff she did doesn’t count.

BOO.

Locke: “Hello, Kate.”
Kate: “You got blood…”
Locke: “I just killed a chicken. What can I do for you?”

• It strikes me, yet again, that Locke is not a very good leader. We’ve seen the depleted state of his fridge. We know he’s given the last two eggs to Ben. And now we know that he’s killed a chicken – presumably the source of those now-uneaten-and-smeared-on-the-wall eggs. Is this how a leader behaves? Shouldn’t Locke be worried about food and necessities instead of slaughtering the animals that can make more food? It seems not. And it’s little details like these that add up to a portrait of a man whose idea of leadership doesn’t extend very far past the idea of it. He and Kate have a small but interesting exchange on the idea of dictatorships, and despite his vague words to the contrary it’s a dictatorship that Locke has begun running.

This sense – that Locke is dangerously out of his depth – is one of two or three things that keeps me from genuinely disliking the whole of this episode.

Great Hurley Line: “You just totally Scooby-Doo’d me, didn’t you.”

• The second element that keeps this episode from being more-or-less a wash for me? Miles. Ken Leung is playing the holy hell out of this character, and he’s funny and freaky in equal, admirable measure during this episode. If you want my opinion, I’d say that Leung has the second-most expressive eyes on the show next to Michael Emerson. It’s a real pleasure to watch him work.

• Could Claire seem less affected by Charlie’s death? It’s been what? 24 hours since Hurley gave her the bad news? Of all the characters this season, it’s Claire that I’m most bewildered by. She goes from being weirdly serene in the wake of Charlie’s death, to smirking and acting disturbing in “Jacob’s” cabin to vanishing completely over the course of this season, and I’m really hoping that there’s some reason for the 

Hurley: “So…what do you wanna watch? Xanadu or Satan’s Doom?”

• I think it’s worth pointing out that “Satan’s Doom” isn’t a real movie, which is weird, because Xanadu is.

Sawyer: “I know it’s in a box, but, uh, it’s pretty damn good wine. I tested it.”

• I love that Dharma makes boxed-wine. This is the third element of the episode that works for me.

• I’ve just realized that Kate is to Bella as Jack is to Jacob as Sawyer is to Edward. They ARE the Twilight love triangle. That triangle reaches what is for me an insufferable level of I-don’t-care during this episode. I don’t care who Kate chooses, whether she stays at the barracks with her hunky bad boy or goes back to the beach with her brooding beau-Doc. All I want is for the game of Kate-pong to stop, please. Either go all the way in the sixth season and make Sawyer a sparkly vampire or resolve this, permanently. Please. Have pity on us all.

• Sawyer and Locke play some Backgammon, marking another appearance for the game that first popped up in the first episode of the first season – “two sides, one dark, one light.”

Ben: “What makes you think I have access to that kind of money?”
Miles: “Do not treat me like I’m one of them! Like I don’t know who you are, or what you can do!”

• Miles’ gambit – attempting to extort exactly 3.2 million dollars from Ben Linus, was something I genuinely didn’t see coming when I first watched this episode. 3.2 million is exactly double the price that Naomi is paying Miles for his skills. As for Miles’ comment regarding what Ben “can do”? That’s still very much up in the air, although we’ve been shown that Ben has access to cash in all sorts of differing currencies and amounts (as seen in the safe-room scene from “The Economist”).

Charlotte: “Time. Okay, tell me. What do you remember?”
Daniel: “Uh…queen of diamonds? Then we…six! Of clubs. Sorry. And then we have the red ten of…hearts, maybe?”

• The experiments that Daniel performed on himself have left his memory shattered, as this simple memory game illustrates. We’ll get more into Daniel’s experiments as the show does.

Charlotte: “They left last night! Frank took them up in the helicopter.”
Regina: “What do you mean they took off? I thought the helicopter was with you.”

• The weird time-dilation effect that surrounds the Island is about to be explored in a major way. For now, we simply get a tease – the knowledge that, even though the helicopter left the Island almost 24 hours ago it has yet to reach the freighter. That’s a significantly-greater difference in time than we were shown during Daniel’s rocket experiment.

Locke: “Open your mouth.”

• A great scene, on two levels. On one level, it shows a Locke that’s seems significantly changed – a dictator who is tired of everyone having a voice. It’s a foreboding note to strike, and it comments directly on the ways in which we’ve seen Locke’s personality shift. Yet, on another level, it reveals just how little Locke has changed. There isn’t any explosive inside that grenade – Locke’s gesture is an empty threat from a man who can’t commit to the sorts of icy-tough decisions that Ben seems to have no trouble with at all. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s to the show’s credit that I honestly don’t know the answer – I just know that John is better at playing a tough guy than at being a tough guy, and that disconnect will become more and more prominent as we continue on.

Aaron: “Hey mommy.”
Kate: “Hi, Aaron.”

• For all my grousing about the episode as a whole, this ending is still terrifically effective. I like that there’s an element of creepy uncertainty to things – why is Aaron calling Kate “mommy”? What’s with the look on Kate’s face as she hugs him? The shot toes the line between emotional and sinister in just the right amounts for a first-time watcher.

• An ugh overall. The first tepid episode of the season. Let’s wash the taste of “Eggtown” out of our mouths with the cool, refreshing flavors of “The Constant.” It’s up next!

*****

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Missed a column? Catch up here:

Season 4

• The Economist (S4 ep. 3)
• Confirmed Dead (S4 ep. 2)
• The Beginning of The End (S4 ep. 1)

Season 3

• Through The Looking Glass (S3 ep. 22 & 23)
• Greatest Hits (S3 ep. 21)
• The Man behind The Curtain (S3 ep. 20)
• The Brig (S3 ep. 19)
• D.O.C. (S3 ep. 18)
• Catch 22 (S3 ep. 17)
• One of Us (S3 ep. 16)
• 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)