Monday, April 23, 2007

"Catch-22"- Anaylsis

I may have been a bit quick to judge in my instant reactions – hey, I'm no Brian – and I've realized there was a lot more going on here than I first thought. It's one of the innumerable qualities I (and I assume most fans) love about the show; the more I think about it, the more I enjoy and appreciate it. As popular as the theory that writers are making things up as they go along may be, I still find myself struck how well minute details appearing now tie into episodes written more than 3 years ago. “Catch-22” was a great example of this, so let's end the extraneous exposition and get to the meat of the episode.

Character Development: Too often, especially with Jack and Kate, it feels like the writers are really just spinning their wheels when it comes to driving along the roles of, motivations for or story behind so many of the island's inhabitants. How many times do we need to see Kate running away, or Jack being too dedicated to his job? But this time, we managed not only to get a good deal of information about someone through their back story, but a good deal of information about different characters and the role(s) they play on the island.

So this wasn't as revealing as his first flashback, and wasn't as insane as his second. But it was a great story about a man Lost in life, willing to abandon any and everything to follow what he believed was his path in life. We also got to see how he met Penny, a scene I don't think could have been done any better.

Obviously, the big reveal of his flashback - other than why he calls everyone brother - was the Easter egg we saw on the monk's desk:

Beyond working in a jewelery store, it's not really clear who this woman is, and until now, it wasn't even that clear whether she was a real person, or just a figment of Desmond's imagination. But the fact she's connected with the monk, the man who helped send Desmond down a path that eventually led him to the island, is fascinating. Were we shown this picture to remind us of Desmond's last flashback, to let us know that maybe he can change the past/future depending on what actions he takes? Was Penny going to be the one who landed, until Desmond saved Charlie's life?

For the last one at least....probably not, since we saw the Portuguese version of "Catch 22" prior to Charlie being saved, which is much more likely to have been in the possession of a Portuguese parachutist working in conjunction with the Portuguese men we saw on the submarine at the end of season two, rather than the Australian Penny.

But it's interesting they would have a reveal that may tie into the very nature of the show that would be impossible to have noticed were it not for the die-hard fans.

I know three's not one of the magical numbers, yet it's one that holds biblical and cultural significance nonetheless. Desmond's now revealed himself as the third significant character guided more by his beliefs than an overwhelming sense of logic or practicality (like a Sayid or Sawyer).

Locke was first, and his faith has led to: Boone's death, the destruction of two stations and a submarine, and a betrayal of the Losties.

Eko's faith in his own path, and a refusal to waiver from or repent for it, led to his death.

But it seems like Desmond betrayed his faith, a faith that had led him to believe he would be granted the one thing he wanted more than anything else in the world – the safe arrival of Penny on the island. But by betraying the will of the universe, he did the right thing, and saved Charlie's life. So is faith, in anything, the wrong way for the survivors to go? Or was this merely a test of faith that he passed? After all, the monks he lived with bottled a wine named after the land where God tested Abraham (Moriah), it's hard to say whether the decision to spare Charlie's life was Desmond betraying his faith, or passing a test laid out by it. Even if it was the latter, he's still the first of the three to pass any real test of his faith on the island.

Beyond that, it’s curious what role Desmond plays among our survivors. Until now, he’s always been the outsider who participates in but isn't really a member of the island’s society. He wasn't even on the plane with them! Sure, he’s saved Charlie’s life a few times and hunts boar, but until this episode, he’s never been in any kind of position of leadership. We saw him lead an expedition into the jungle, and rescue the latest person stranded on the island. With the growing rift between Jack and Sawyer, it’ll be interesting to see whether Desmond might step into a position of power. But even if this mantle were to fall upon Desmond, could he handle it? We already know Hurley’s got his back, just as he did with Jack, and later, Sawyer.

Which leads us to…

Hurley: Who was the one to figure out Ethan was a fraud? Who has been the one best suited to trigger good relations between the survivors? Who’s easily the most popular-and well-liked person on the island? Who’s the “man-behind the curtains” leader, the one responsible but not accountable for a lot of major events on the island?

This season alone, we’ve seen Hurley con people into a number of things because he felt they needed to happen. In “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” we saw him coerce Jin, Sawyer and Charlie into helping him with the van. In “Left Behind,” he manipulated Sawyer into a leadership role; this time, we saw him manipulate Jin into coming along for Desmond’s camp-out, again, for the greater good. But he’s never led these people astray, as opposed to Jack, who got three of the survivors kidnapped, or Sawyer, who until recently has only been using people for personal gain.

As negative an effect faith seems to have had on the well-being of everyone once aboard flight 815, Hurley seems to have had a positive. Everyone, in some way, is better off because Hurley is in their midst.

Why does any of this matter? Easy – the last time Hurley was talked into a trek across the jungle, that time by Jack, the end result was a major game-changer; three people being taken to Other-prison. This time, the end result was the appearance of someone (seemingly) sent to the island with the sole purpose of rescuing Desmond. She even brought along a satellite phone! Sure, it’s dead now, but there’s got to be a charger somewhere in Otherville, and if not, it won't take Sayid more than five minutes to get it working again. I think we're supposed to view this episode as being just as significant as the Season two finale.

Jin: Now that Hurley seems to be taking on a more significant part in the Island hierarchy, is Jin the de-facto comedic relief? In the first season, we saw him nearly beat Michael to death over a watch; now we have him telling Korean ghost stories? I don't really have much more to say about this, I'm probably reading too much into simple character development, but after the learning-English-from-Sawyer scene outside of Roger Workman's van, he's definitely been getting some of the show's funniest moments.

Sawyer: After being appointed leader-in-absentia by Hurley, and going against Jack by stalking down Juliet with Sayid, Sawyer is looking more and more like he's going to be the head of a rebel group of Survivors, fed up with Jack, who's actions have led to his, Sawyer and Kate's kidnappings, and now, allowing a traitor to live in their midst. But he'll never usurp Jack; he'll always be the second-string leader, the go-to guy when people are tired of Jack. Sort of the way Kate only slept with him again because she was jealous of Juliet. He's not the first choice, but sometimes, he's the best you can do. At least he can beat him at Ping-Pong. Like I said before though, his afternoon delight comment was priceless.

Beyond the character development, we saw, arguably, the most significant thing to happen to the survivors since they've crashed on the island: the arrival of the outside world. We've known since the finale of season two that Penny's been looking for, and possibly found, where Desmond's been all this time, but there's been no allusion to this until now. It seems pretty obvious that the parachutist is only there because she was looking for Desmond - she had his picture, read Portuguese, and knew his name.

The big question though is this - if she was really sent by Penny "If you have enough money, you can find anybody" Widemore, why was she all alone? And where/why/how did her helicopter crash? It looked like she was flying over the ocean when it went down, but that doesn't explain how she ended up in the middle of the jungle, sort of the same way Jack did when their plane crashed. Is there some kind of barrier around the island? Does not pushing the button cause some kind of signal to go out that destroys anything electrical in its path?

When Desmond didn't push the button, flight 815 crashed. After Locke destroyed the Swan Hatch, Ben said they lost communication with the outside world. I'm guessing whatever force released by the magnet is incredibly destructive, but not in a way that currently affects human beings. When it was being pushed, it allowed the island to remain hidden; now, it's sending out a dangerous, electronic signal that allows people to locate, but not safely travel to, where it is. But since we don't know anything about how the parachutist arrived, it's impossible to say. Since the next episode looks as though it will center mainly on what's happening back at the beach, we're probably not going to learn anything more about her for three or four weeks.

Overall, this was an incredibly well-done episode, packed with humor, plot and character development, and a healthy dose of "what's really going on here?" moments. It gave us a lot more questionsThe few flaws that stuck out immediately still bother me - I really hated that Kate slept with Sawyer because of her jealousy of Juliet, and I wish Charlie had died. I've heard there's going to be a lot of "significant" character deaths...why couldn't we have gotten one out of the way now, and let it be him, instead of someone worthwhile?

I'm sorry for the lateness of this post - I was without internet all weekend - and I've had to put it all together this morning at work. Good luck to everyone else filling in for Brian, even though I had to rush this, I still enjoyed it a lot. See you in the comments section!

Also - thanks Alec - here's a link to the message boards.



Anonymous said...

You did an awesome job. Great analysis. You've set the bar very highly for me next week.

Anonymous said...

Greeeeat analysis James. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

Very nice reading

Anonymous said...

Bravo, brutha!

Anonymous said...

One detail that may be indirectly relevant is in the seasons opening episode....when we see the Others watch flight 815 crash in they are portrayed as NOT being surprised....barely any emotional reaction was displayed as Ben, Juliette, Ethan, etc watch a huge plane break in two! Why weren't they we would be if it were us witnessing this disaster? I would seem evident that flying objects (planes, air balloons, hellicopter, etc) exploding over the island is not an extraordinary sight.

Savaron said...

as far as I know you don't jump out of a helicopter, and you don't wear a highpressure-(no idea how it is calles in english) that normaly pilots of aircrafts uses..

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback. Good point about the plane crash, anonymous 1:21. I always thought it was an odd scene, and the fact that Ben seemed to have a contigency plan on how to deal with it makes me suspect they've either dealt with this kind of thing before, or knew it was going to happen.

And Savaron, I was wondering the same thing, but thought it might have a been a military-grade helicopter, which would sort-of explain the outfit. Although since this doesn't seem like a detail the producers would screw up...I'm really not sure why she had it on.

Alec said...

Nice job.

Does anyone know how the heck one would eject out of a helicopter without getting pureed by the blades?

If you like your comments fancy and hi-falutin', feel free to come on over to the forums.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you! Posting this at work!
(pot, this is kettle!)

Anonymous said...

yeah, agreed that the hellicopter, the gear the pilot was wearing and the reality behind ejected from this type craft would not be details the producers and writters could or would miss. It would seem that the pilot didn't actually eject herself but simply jumped with her parachute and was taked to the Island. Good other point James in how Ben instantly had a contigency plan, dispatching Ethan and Goodwin, before the plan even hit the ground....this goes beyond "leadership" that we know Ben posses but likely portrays experience in handling this type event in the past. Amazing how all the Others were shown to barely blink or be the slightest bit phased when a major commercial aircraft split in two mid-air. This clearly was no oversight from the director to the actors and presumably will be explained directly or insight will be gained indirectly as we learn more about these mysterious inhabitants.

Anonymous said...

Savaron! Great Point!
That's not a helicopter suit.. unless she was expecting some kind of potential trama and needed to protect herself.. or she was at a high altitude... or it was need to hide her identity to the end of the eispode, so that detail be damned.

It does make me wonder a bit though about altitude... why would she be dressed that way? The hot air balloon and planes could have been at a rather high altitude, but the helicopter was much lower.. probably less than 1000 feet. Does this mean anything?

I also wonder why she would bother to pack catch-22 and a hula girl.. well, the hula girl could be for good luck, but the book? Did she think she would need the entertainment? Or is this the book she wanted to read before it was all over, ala Desmond.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Does anybody know if ABC will be doing an ARG between Seasons 3 and 4 like they did during the Lost Experience? What will feed our hunger during the hiatus?

Anonymous said...

Do we know she was the only person in the helicopter? Maybe she jumped out, maybe she was supposed to jump out to get to the island thus the suit? Oh and, have they received any shipments since the hatch exploded?

Myriam said...

loved the episode, loved your analysis :)

Anonymous said...

Well done... and well written! :-)

I, for one, agree with you that Charlie could/should have died this episode. We're left with the same question -- "Did Desmond's actions affect who fell from the sky?" -- regardless of whether Charlie lives or dies.

Desmond strays from his envisioned plan, Charlie lives, a non-Penny human falls from the sky, and Desmond thinks, "Hmm, maybe my actions do matter".

Desmond follows his envisioned plan, Charlie dies, a non-Penny human falls from the sky, and Desmond thinks,"Hmm, maybe my actions don't matter".

Anonymous said...

ALTHOUGH, taking the helmet off to reveal Penny was never part of his vision in the first place... just wishful thinking? so, nevermind...

Anonymous said...

so...on a completely unrelated matter to Catch 22, who does everyone think Jacob is?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if ABC will be doing an ARG between Seasons 3 and 4 like they did during the Lost Experience? What will feed our hunger during the hiatus?

Anonymous said...

Just because Charlie didn't die in Desmond's test doesn't mean he won't later. I think it's almost certain he eventually will. In fact, I'm leaning towards thinking that Desmond is *supposed* to save Charlie for now, so that he can die when he really is supposed to.

DCrowley said...

There IS at least one helicopter design that entered production with a useful ejection seat: the Russian Kamov Ka-52.

In the event of an ejection, the helicopter's rotor blades are released, and Newton's First Law / centrifugal force (depending on your frame of reference) ensures the blades fly out and away from the helicopter. Once this has happened, the ejection seat functions normally, since there's no longer any overhead danger.

This doesn't mean the helicopter was necessarily Russian, it's just an example that ejecting safely from a helicopter not only can be done, but has already been done.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely done! Brian would be proud!

Stef said...

Nice analysis. You're a really good writer! :-)

Anonymous said...

Charlie obviously has a more important role to play than dying in this episode. So.. keeping him alive... for now.. is probably best for our survivors chances as a whole. I only say this as otherwise, he's be dead already.

Also, you can't eject from a helicopter. you COULD jump.... but to jump offshore like that, you'd better hope that the winds are blowing in your favor!

Anonymous said...

Charlie dying I think is inevitable. "The universe has a way of time correcting itself" (or something like that) was a compelling line spoken with certitude. "done well"....can't wait to see episode preview for tomorrows' show!

Anonymous said...

Very well done, reading was lots of fun! As I´m in Ireland at the moment and not online everyday, I read it today and liked the part about Hurley the most. A very nicely written recognition, and the show would definitely not work without him. Before they kill Hurley, a lot of other characters could go first! Hope to read from you comments to upcoming episodes again...