ABC’s promo department sabotaged this episode with the claim that we would get three major answers in this episode. The ad people, aware of the growing restlessness of answer-demanding viewers, threw that in the ad to try to assure them that something will happen. Only problem is the core of this promise: three major things weren’t answered. Jack’s tattoo’s were partially explained (I guess they thought they were going to do another episode), but did anyone really care? Jack’s tattoos were a mystery some producers hyped and most viewers ignored. Now that we know, does it unlock any major answers into the island or mythology?
The second thing we learned was where the people went after The Others took them. The return of Cindy and the kids felt tacked on from another episode. They show up, speak with Jack for a few moments, not really saying much, and disappear. It doesn’t make any sense. All we get are vague statements like “you don’t understand” or “they’re in a safe place”, which considering the episode’s hype, could be considered anything from irritating to down right teasing. I’m also guessing “where are the kids” and “what happened to Cindy” were supposed to be two answers, but no one bought it.
It isn’t fair for me to fault the whole episode on the advertising debacle. The creative team doesn’t work with the ad team, so the results can have too many spoilers or misrepresent the episode among other problems. When “Lost” is in syndication and even when it comes out on DVD, this ad problem should not be an issue to viewers and critics, but considering the negative reaction, “Lost” simply failed to make up for the ad screw up, resulting in a sub-par episode.
The chronology of Jack’s flashback is puzzling. Considering how many he’s had, there are several points where Jack would want to head to Phuket to “find himself”; after his marriage fell apart, after the confrontation in “A Tale of Two Cities”. Not being able to fit it in the chronology hurts the context because we don’t know which event spurred Jack to go on his vacation or his unreasonable anger.
Achara, played by Bai Ling, apparently was going to be featured in three episodes. Considering the overwhelmingly negative response this episode received, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see her again. This is reminiscent of another Bai Ling role, when she guest starred on “Angel” seven years ago. Her character then was supposed to be featured in several episodes, but was quickly jettisoned after poor responses as well. You have to feel bad for her with that track record.
Considering how many flashbacks Jack has had, it’s important that they continue to incorporate new elements to Jack’s character and develop him further. Unfortunately, the tattoo flashbacks don’t do much of that. We know Jack is a leader and is often lonely because of that, but what else? Ultimately, the flashbacks serve only as a parallel to the current state where Juliet gets marked.
Because she killed one of their own, Juliet is now branded with a mark that looks like an upside down version of the Scientology logo. This type of punishment seems fitting with older customs The Others have, but why would they put her mark in the same place coeds get tattoos on spring break? If they really want her to be branded as an outcast, why wouldn’t they place where it is harder to hide?
The most obvious reason would be so Jack and Juliet can have a tender moment while he tends to this new mark. They have made a connection and since Jack knows she wants to leave the island, they have a mutual goal. Obviously his feelings for her earlier in the episode were what provoked him to sway Ben from executing her, as he doesn’t even care for sympathetic Others like Tom.
A big problem with this episode is the introduction of “The Sheriff”, Isabel. Unfortunately for a show that has had such a great track record with its actors, this actress just doesn’t cut it. While the monotone may be channeling Hannibal Lecter similarly to the way Ben speaks, it just comes off as robotic. I’ve seen her in other work so I know she isn’t a bad actress, but she doesn’t quite fit on “Lost”. Perhaps Klugh was supposed to fill “The Sheriff” role, but the actress had other engagements and this role was meant to be temporary.
One element in the episode that deserved a lot more exploration was Ben’s apparent slow healing. It’s been shown that the island has been able to heal Locke’s paralysis, Rose’s cancer and (maybe) Jin’s infertility. However, Ben can’t heal quickly from his surgery and is rather weak (the brief shot of Tom holding the umbrella over Ben’s head was intriguing). In fact, the infection is getting worse. Maybe this episode would’ve been better had they focused on Ben and hallucinations he had while taking the drugs for his infection.
Leaving the Hydra Island effectively ends this introductory phase of the season, one that has been harshly criticized for not featuring much of our beach castaways and focusing too heavily on The Others. This shift in the narrative, with the promise that The Others prefer the main island and live there full time (if that was supposed to be the third mystery solved, then that makes the promos even worse), is certainly welcome to those who stuck through this one.
It was clear in “Not in Portland” that there were some bumps in Kate & Sawyer’s relationship. Sawyer knew it as she emotionally retold the “Count to 5” story. Kate’s insistence that they return to Hydra Island (which Karl informs them isn’t where they live) is a clear indicator that although Kate slept with Sawyer, her affections are still split between the two men. As for Sawyer, hurt by this, tries to brush off their intimacy by saying that it only happened because she thought he would be dead soon, which may be partially true
Karl and Alex’s relationship develops more. Of the romantic relationships, this one seems pure in its “puppy love” nature, which makes it more endearing. You feel bad for Karl seeing him sob over his lost Alex and smile when Sawyer convinces him to go for it, even if he may die in the process. There is a certain star crossed quality to it as their feelings override many of the politics meant to keep them apart.
This episode came at a bad time. Following the hiatus, people complained about the show’s direction while praising the new hit show “Heroes” (a show with similar attributes. I won’t go into any comparisons here). They had two good episodes, but this episode may have been enough to tilt some viewers to stop watching. This episode taught them some major lessons in how delicately you need to treat some fans, or else the situation will become a full fledged fiasco. Despite its faults, it is forgivable considering many of the above average/excellent episodes later in the season.