lol from a day after its airing... note that the majority of my opinions have CHAENG'd at this point
In Namaste, I found little to be terribly compelling. Admittedly, the characters' actions were consistent, which is no fault in itself, but among the consistency lies a horribly muddled feeling that spans across the episode. Strengths of the episode hardly belong to the actors' accomplishments, although the performances are typically solid. Though the subplot isn't terribly interesting (save for the final scene), the '77 plot, continuing directly from LaFleur, works well in places, continuing its hints at the social aspects of Dharma society. The main tribulations one will find lie, mainly, in the transition the episode encompasses, the effective great sprawl of it.
Truth be told, I can't fault the writers for how the characters were handled. In building the Dharma Initiative plotline of the season, they've let the characters grow from themselves, and all the actions are entirely… honest, with the exception of Sun, that is. Sun's not being terribly consistent is explainable, if only due to her being so alienated from us at this point in her character. The desperation in her attempt to find Jin rings through her every action, and the shocked response she gives, though reasonably abridged in the episode, in her finding out the answer is good, perhaps boding well for her plotlines in the next few episodes.
The acting isn't awful, aside from the first few '77 scenes, but there are no stand-out performances. At least, given the episode's plot, it doesn't appear that there needed to be. The performances, for the most part, lend themselves to the immersion, the actors appearing to mirror how the characters would react with distinct clarity, all considering the exception of Holloway, who seems a bit… unsure, throughout the episode.
Plot-wise, the episode, in handling the O5 (4, now) existing in '77, has no major blemishes. It does what it needs to do: show various features of the island that hadn't been built in that time, conveniently involve Dharma's recruits into a scheme to merge Jack, Kate, and Hurley with Dharma, and show the Barracks in their glory. The main plot, if that would be it, is simply done. No real complications arise and nothing at all really occurs beyond it. Nothing terribly offensive.
In the b-plot, however, the episode shines however it can. Sayid, being viewed as a Hostile, is apprehended by Radzinsky, brilliantly shown, for the first time in the show's history, as a member of the Flame station, building a model for the Swan. The plot is reasonably suspenseful, and is never boring, but, at times, frustrating, as it has to be, given the circumstances that surround it.
The effective 'flashback' plot involves Sun, Frank, and the crash of 316. The CGI in the opening scene being terrible, though showing 316's crash on the runway, makes it a bit of a conundrum in terms of judgment. After the crash, there's no sense of disorientation. The survivors of 316, in a seeming attempt to be stopped from being a distraction to the plot, are faceless and one-dimensional, the group as a whole being dealt with rather than the individual. This is understandable, though, given that the focus can no longer be on every flight member of 316. It's irrelevant, ultimately… They're dealt with for a few minutes at most. The plot then follows Sun going to the actual island with Frank and meeting Christian, who explains to her the time-travel. I having enjoyed Christian's appearances as Jacob's Messenger (I imagine) so far, expected to relish this scene, but it instead struck me as a bit poor in execution.
The strengths of the episode, beyond this, are the subtleties with which some of the material occurs. Whether it's the referencing "14-J" from The Shape of Things to Come, involving a model of the Swan, or mentioning Faraday's absence, the episode really gets its points from them.
One notable problem, though, is in the rest of the season. Initially, our characters living in Dharma struck me as a brilliant development for the show, but, now, I'm not looking forward to it (or anything, really, aside from Sayid's plot). We have enough characters to continue a melodramatic love quadrangular shape, and this doesn't interest me at all. The progress the characters made throughout their three years off the island (with the characters on-island seeming to have made genuine progress) seems to have been pulled out from under them, with Jack returning to the resident position of self-righteous prick and Kate pining for Sawyer. Perhaps it is just within the context of their situation; obviously, making a decision to essentially return to the island for a time period of what would likely be forever (or until the Purge, which they've been made aware of), has given the characters an opportunity to revert back to their more primal, core ways, but, like much of the episode, that doesn't make it more compelling. So much of the episode is challenged by the circumstances surrounding it that I can't look upon the coming episodes with optimism.