Newbie
Ill-at-easiness.

If last week’s season premiere of "Lost" was at once ebullient and heartbreaking, tonight’s follow-up was blunt and unsettling. We met four new characters, none of them the least bit soothing. Well, except maybe Frank (Jeff Fahey), a good ol’ salt-of-the-earth drunkard who nonetheless can pilot with the best of ‘em.

FaheyBut Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies), though nice enough, is a stammering bundle of nerves. Miles Strom (Ken Leung, coming off that memorable guest appearance last year on "The Sopranos") has anger issues. And Charlotte Lewis (Rebecca Mader) doesn’t exactly win our trust.

Considering how many new questions were raised, we should take note of what we saw in the teaser: the bulk of the Oceanic 815 aircraft is underwater, south of Bali. Or, it will be – because that revelation comes in the series of flash-forwards that kick off segments of the episode. (Or for the alternate explanation, see the update at the bottom of this post.)

But that’s tomorrow’s news.  Tonight, in watching the episode, which is focused on trying to piece together why the four in the helicopter were coming to the island ("Rescuing you and your people, can’t really say that’s our primary objective," Dan says), the overall experience is like a dream going in a direction you can’t control and can’t be much of anything but apprehensive about.

Add on to that the lingering presence of the King of Unease, one Benjamin Linus.  Locke’s splinter faction is dragging him along, and Sawyer is all too aware of how problematic that is. "It’s only a matter of time before he gets us, Johnny," Sawyer says. "And I bet he’s already figured out how he’s gonna do it."

Eventually, it all comes together.  In what has to be an old school "Lost" flashback (although time-travel questions are dogging my thoughts – or is that just my own paranoia?), it’s confirmed that Matthew Abaddon (Lance Reddick), mysterious visitor to institutionalized Hugo last week, had commissioned an ambivalent Naomi (Marsha Thomason) to go to the island. "This is a high-risk, covert op in unstable territory," she says. "It’s dodgy enough
without having to babysit a head case, a ghostbuster, an anthropologist
and a drunk." That covert op, we finally learn, is to get Ben.

Miles
And Ben knows it.  In fact, Ben, per usual I suppose, knows everything.  Knows about their mission, knows about their backgrounds.  Knows about their boat, and knows to have a man on it.  And this knowledge is enough to spare him from cold-blooded execution by Locke for the time being, although the one thing perhaps we don’t know is if Ben is the problem, why is saving him the solution?  Not that I generally advocate firing squads.

Those of you who know my biases won’t be surprised that an episode more plot-driven than character-driven isn’t going to be a "Lost" classic in my book. But tonight kept me sufficiently on the edge of my seat – the whole shebang carried the affect (with an a) of Ben – and with that groundwork laid, I’m eager to see where things go.

Highlights: Sawyer, after learning that Locke got instructions from Tall Walt: "You didn’t ask any follow-up questions?" And, Jack being bummed that Kate didn’t pick up on his wink.

Lowlights:
Why does (or how could) Charlotte wait until broad daylight to cut herself down from the tree?

Truths I’m willing to wait to find out, that you’re probably on your way to figuring out:
Who gets firsties on the helicopter? What is "it" that Miles finds hidden away upstairs with the bag o’ cash at Grandma’s house in Inglewood? Why are polar bears not just on the island, but in Mednine, Tunisia? What kept Frank from piloting 815? And just how good a weatherman can Locke become?

– Jon Weisman

Update: I watched this episode twice, and both times I thought that the introductions to the helicopter team were all flash-forwards, except in the case of Naomi.  But now I’m reading other pieces on the Internet and reflecting, and seeing that people are treating them all as flashbacks … and that the scene of 815 underwater was something concocted at the time of the crash, as opposed to something that hasn’t happened to the remains of the craft yet. Is that the definitive reading? Maybe it makes more sense, but can we count on it?   

Update 2: Colleague Brian Cochrane has more in his post on the episode, "Excuse me, but is that my Dharma Beer you’re drinking?"

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