Thursday, 28 February 2008

Lost - Eggtown

I tell you, not having a computer at home has made this very difficult. My beloved screencaps, which I take so much pride over, have had to be taken from YouTube, so the quality is a bit poo, but then to be honest this was far from my favourite episode. I had great difficulty mustering much enthusiasm for it, not helped by guessing what the twist ending would be as soon as I saw Kate giving Aaron the stink eye when Claire suggested she hold the baby. That is what I hear is known as "foreshadowing", which sounds like "flawshadowing", a word that, according to the Shades of Caruso dictionary, means, "Pointing out that something is going to happen later in a story either with some shaky writing or a sledgehammer-subtle visual". This is a genuine word. I didn't just make it up.

It was an especially disappointing episode as it was co-written by the hugely talented Elizabeth Sarnoff, who has previously worked on Deadwood and some of Lost's best episodes, including The Man Behind The Curtain. However, she did also co-write Stranger in a Strange Land, possibly the worst episode of Lost ever, so let's hope she only writes one of those a season and now Eggtown is out of the way we're back to the usual superb standards.

Sarnoff worked with another writer this week, a chap called Greggory Nations, who previously worked on Nash Bridges and apparently wrote the Lost show bible, which must have been a frustrating and time-consuming experience. On the production side of things, we were treated to the return of Stephen Williams and Cort Fey, who last shot the incredible Confirmed Dead. That was a visual tour de force, but this week was comparatively restrained, either because of the nature of the script, or because the shooting schedule didn't allow for more time to be expended on it.

This week was primarily about Kate bartering for information and freedom, either through trades or trickery. Hurley and Locke came off worst, with Miles and Ben doing fairly well with their own trade-off (Ben will give a tantalisingly exact amount of money to Miles so that he will keep his mouth shut, possibly by killing other characters, including C.S. Lewis). That theme was reflected in the title, which appparently referred to trading in the old West. That said, the definition was listed as fact on Lostpedia, and repeated around the blogosphere, but now it's missing from the Lostpedia page altogether. This was what it said, as far as I can recall:
Egg-town is a pejorative term that refers to the days of bartering during the Great Depression. A traveling salesman would have to barter his candy or tobacco or shoelaces for different commodities. A poor exchange would be for eggs, a relatively common item that was also highly perishable. Nobody wanted to trade for eggs from a traveling salesman because they had their own, so the salesman who accepted an egg in exchange was forced to accept a bad deal. Salesmen would tell each other things like, "If I were you, I would stay away from Bogart. That's an egg-town." Of course, salesmen often didn't trust each other, and it was likely that one salesman would lie to another about the quality of a town's customers to keep them for himself. Invariably, the second salesman would venture into Bogart only to find it truly was an egg-town. He was either persuaded to not visit a town that had good customers or was tricked into visiting a town that could only offer eggs. The term "egg-town" represents a deal with undesirable outcomes in either case.

That they have taken it down makes it seem like it might not have been true, or was a joke. Detached from the possibly genuine meaning, calling a place an egg-town sounds fake, like saying, "You wouldn't want to invest in that company. Those are pickle-juice stocks. They'll just quack your portfolio into a zinc-box." Of course, I could be wrong about this.

Whatever the meaning (many think it has to do with the eggs Locke brought Ben prior to killing the island's last chicken -- in which case, why wasn't the episode called "The Last Chicken"?), it was a Kate-centric episode, and much as I don't want to join in with the usual internet shrugging whenever the show concentrates on her, I often find it hard to give a damn about her and her woes. This has nothing to do with Evangeline Lilly, who I think is just fine in the part. However, she obviously has considerable charm and liveliness outside of her stinky Kate garb, as shown when she was interviewed by Letterman recently. Her tales of failing to travel to China due to oblivious disregard of international visa laws charmed his horrible white socks off, and us too. Why doesn't she get a chance to shine like that in the show?

To be honest, there are only two times she interests me. Firstly as an action lady, kicking ass and taking names, as shown here in a murky screencap of her knocking the shit out of a padlock while Miles watches in bemusement behind her.

Secondly, as a member of the Kate-Jack-Juliet-Sawyer quadrangle of loaded looks and occasional lust. This aspect of the show has often annoyed fans, but I started to enjoy it in the third season, mostly because I love Sawyer and was happy to see him receive some attention from the islander of his dreams. I still get choked up during the scene when he nearly gets killed by Michael Bowen and she pleads for his life.

Another thing that damaged my potential affection for the character came early on, when we found out she was on the run from the law. It's a horrible cliche in TV and film that if we're going to side with a character who is a fugitive, they either have to be innocent, or guilty of one of the "lesser" crimes (car theft, or self-defence murder). A friend could never enjoy Con Air, as even though Cameron Poe killed a man defending his pregnant wife, it was still murder, and he couldn't get past it. It doesn't bother me anywhere near as much (and certainly didn't affect my love for Con Air, which is a classic half-spoof/half-full-on actioner filled with flights of absurd genius), but it can be very obvious. In the first season, Kate was shown doing some incredibly stupid and reckless things, getting the love of her life killed and robbing a bank just to get a memento of him back, but her first crime was left unexplained. I suspected it would be something to do with killing someone who abused her, and it struck me as a reasonable way to have her be a fugitive but still be accepted.

However, it turned out to be a horrible cliche, and a total non-surprise, and smacked of a lack of imagination, as if her character hadn't been fully thought through. Her flashbacks have been less revealing than anyone else's, featuring only the odd cool moment (her "good dad" knew Sayid in Iraq!). This meant I was less than invested in her flash-forward, and if the big moment of the episode was the shocking reveal of her "adoption" of Aaron, then that got spoiled too, so we were totally onto a loser.

Even worse, the trial scenes were rushed through so fast that they were littered with illogicalities. Though I was glad to see Big Love's Shaun Doyle defending Kate, he seemed to get her off with some bizarre tactic that involved going on and on about being a hero. Never mind the fact that she was involved in at least two deaths and a bank robbery. Never mind that she spent years on the run. Never mind that the US Marshall escorting her died in the 815 crash (that really doesn't sound at all dubious). She looked after a bunch of people on the island. And we only have Jack's word for it! No testimony from Hurley or Sayid, though that might be because Hurley is in an institution and Sayid is hunting The Economist, and the sixth survivor (if Aaron counts as number five on that list) is hiding until the forthcoming reveal. Also, I didn't like her hair during the trial. She looks better with it down. [/catty]

While watching it, we were incredulous that the prosecutor asked Jack if he loved Kate. Would that really be a question during a big murder trial? "Do you have noogy-oogy-boo-boo feelings for the defendent? Remember, you're under oath!" It struck us as silly, but thinking about it now, knowing that apparently the prosecution only had one bit of proof up their sleeve (Kate's mom's testimony), and the defence only had one thing to exonerate Kate (Jack's shifty testimony), I guess they really needed to crush him with some hardcore legal manoevering. Even so, it was a weirdly awkward moment in Lost history.

Good job Kate's mom finally tried to revoke her Lost-Gupta status by changing her mind, although seemingly doing it so she could see Aaron was a bit of a screw-up. The character has long annoyed me. I might not like Kate's backstory much, thinking it the least fleshed out of all the Lost characters still living (let's not get into the Shannon/Boone stuff), but it did have that frisson of featuring some rare mother issues in a show so dominated by father issues. Sure, Kate had those too, but her mother was particularly nasty, so seeing her soften in this episode was a welcome change. Beth Broderick played the hell out of her short scene, showing a mixture of contrition, indignation and bemusement. Kate's rejection of her was all the more affecting for it.

In the past few weeks I've tried to look at the visual choices made by the directors, but this week, as I mentioned before, was rather muted. That said, while going over the YouTube clips, I noticed a lot of third-person shots throughout Kate's scenes. Sometimes it was subtle...

...and sometimes it took over the frame.

I guess it's to do with Kate's connection with those around her, especially the men in her life. For a lot of the episode she is trying to figure out if getting off the island is a good idea or not, and so is doing her own thing. She needs Sawyer's help, but it's her plan, and she gets what she wants, though perhaps she isn't going to be too happy about what she finds out. Not to mention having to put up with Miles's lame come-ons.

Nevertheless, while she's seeking an answer to her questions, Jack in the future and Sawyer in the past try to (benevolently) impose themselves on her, and as such crowd her in the frame. She acts reluctant to let them in, but she is in the frame too, just to show her complicated feelings for the men.

In one scene, while she is alone in the frame, ostensibly visiting Sawyer to discuss the outcome of their plan to get Ben and Miles together, we can see her reflection in a mirror behind her, together on the bed with Sawyer. It's as if we're seeing what's in the back of her mind (i.e., some sweet island sex with her hott bad boy).

Of course, by the end of the episode she pushed Sawyer away and leapt on his relief over her non-pregnancy so she had an excuse to leave (not to mention Locke banishing her from the Barracks in an echo of Juliet's branding and shunning by the Others). Well, that's one reading. The other is that she wanted to be with Sawyer, but on her own terms. Sadly, he didn't see it that way. That certainly seems to be the case with Jack in the future, so obviously besotted with her but unable to do what she wants out of some unknown reticence over her adoption of Aaron. These hott men just won't let her be herself, and she's willing to be alone if necessary, and by the end of the show the only male sharing the frame with her is Aaron.

So, in retrospect, a frustrating episode, mostly treading water while setting up future episodes with Sun and Jin, showing Faraday suffering from a mysterious case of amnesia, and giving Ben something to do other than be tied up and sarcastic. I didn't hate it (it's an impossibility), but it didn't fire my imagination the way Confirmed Dead or The Economist did. Oh well, I don't expect every episode to be a masterpiece. It was still worthwhile, and Kate still had her good moments. For a start, she has finally removed the stinky clothes that have been dominating the screen every time she appears. Canyon was most pleased by that turnout. Also, she did get to be a badass (when the show started I often thought of her as Spock to Jack's Kirk, but that didn't work over time). I love that she is meant to be easily as tough (if not tougher) than the guys around her, and the most startling moment of the whole episode came as she reacted to Sawyer's snide taunting with a vicious backhand that knocked him across the bed.

He made a few good points, even though he was being unnecessarily spiteful. To be honest, the show is definitely featuring much more violent behaviour from our heroes, and the internets are buzzing with talk that the castaways are now far worse than the Others ever were. If it's not Hurley turning on his friends, Jack attempting to shoot Locke, everyone kicking Ben around as if he were a sneaky football, and Kate knocking Sawyer's hair flying, it's Locke turning into a pure psychopath by putting a grenade in Miles's mouth, a WTF moment that is running the risk of being purely absurd.

Hopefully that grenade is fake; otherwise Locke is crossing a line. Of course, the news that Miles won't be around in the last five episodes due to Ken Leung having other commitments makes me mad enough to look the other way on this. To quote Carlton Cuse:
We have one actor we very much need who is doing a play and another actor doing an HBO series. But we also have some opportunities. Nestor Carbonell, who played Richard Alpert last season, was on Cane. But now we'll be able to use him. Another unforeseen advantage is that we'll be able to respond to confusion the audience might have about the season so far.

Yay regarding Carbonell, but it sucks that Miles won't be around. I totally understand Leung's need to find work, though. This is mere frustration that this excellent character won't be around. Rumour has it the other missing actor will be Sonya Walger, who will be off obsessing about babies on Tell Me You Are Available To Finish Filming Lost Please.

Anyway, I'm still freaked out by Locke's utter craziness this week. I bet he killed the damn chicken out of fury. I'll even bet he'd named the thing Ben, and tore its head off in frustration. To make things worse, Locke's attitude to Miles' predicament was obnoxiously blase. He pissed me off with his little ring flip.

Man, just because Ben is being particularly accurate with his little barbs of disdain doesn't mean Locke can get away with being a jerk of this magnitude. That said, Ben sniffed at Locke bringing him a copy of PKD's Valis, saying he had already read it. Dude! That's a total masterpiece! It rewards further reading, and you should know that, you pouty douche. I'm conflicted!

Still, we get a break from the island violence and PKD-snubbing tonight, with the broadcast of The Constant. I saw a quick clip from it on YouTube while looking for these clips, and it looks like the most fascinating and headbending episode ever. Watch out for Minkowski's first appearance. It will drive the internet wild with speculation and worry over Desmond's fate, if it hasn't already. Speaking of driving people wild, we very nearly had a wardrobe malfunction in Eggtown. Sawyer was being more open than usual while wooing Kate in his bedroom. If you know what I mean.

It's at times like this that you really miss being able to get HD screencaps. I can imagine I just disappointed a lot of Sawyer fans with that crappy and frustrating image.


johnilf said...

Miles is being held in a small hut away from everything else and, if you ask me, a pyrotechnics dream. The small location of Miles is telling me the grenade is gonna go Kaboom while still attached to a mouth. Which brings to mind a small straight to video Rutger Hauer film called Wanted: Dead or Alive not that im comparing cheap shit to quality TV, mind. My fears for Locke are growing and im still desperately hanging on to the 'he's my fave character rope' but im slipping, John, im slipping.

Admiral Neck said...

Locke's behaviour is getting odder and odder, and he's enjoying being in charge way too much. Of course, he is wracked with doubt and is trying to hide it with some bravado, but it's coming off all wrong. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether Ben's imminent escape (because you know it will happen) will do to this false confidence.

Dude, I totally remember Wanted: Dead or Alive. Wasn't it Gene Simmons who ate the grenade at the end?

johnilf said...

Gene Simmons!! that's the one, wow. Do you remember everybody loved it! except maybe Gene Simmons who had silly make up to contend with. Whoops, this is a Lost blog not a Wanted:dead or alive blog or Kiss for that matter.

Go, Gene!

Oh, Lost rules!