It had to happen eventually. Season 4 has been all sunshine and roses (well, for the viewers) and the economics of TV Land has, for decades, proven that the better an episode is, the worse what follows it will be. Last week’s episode was jam-packed with plot developments and direction for the cast, so it’s only fair that this week, things almost entirely grind to a halt.
And why do they grind to a halt? Well, because it’s time for a Jack episode, and Jack’s only relevance to the plot at this point is in being an irritating, gurning fool torn between two inexplicably attractive women who somehow want to get horizontal with him. Never before has a TV show has such a bizarrely repellent lead as Jack from Lost.
This episode really stretches Matthew “Racer X” Fox’s range. He has to make that weird face where it looks like he’s in pain, but he then has to make it look like he’s actually in pain, so you get this twisted, contorted, barely-human expression on his mug that renders any scene he’s in virtually unwatchable. As if his face wasn’t enough, Jack insists on making himself television’s least likeable character by being such a control freak that he wants to talk a qualified medical professional through his own appendectomy. Unfortunately it’s too painful for the little baby, and he gets chloroformed to stop his crying. His finest moment, it is not (and, plug time: look soon for an article on TV Doctors that will illustrate his finest moment.)
Meanwhile, in the future, Jack and Kate are living together like a happy couple some time after Kate’s trial but before Jack’s famous “we need to go back” rant from the end of Season 3. In far more interesting developments, Kate is executing a promise she made to the now-absent Sawyer, which of course Jack is ecstatic about. In true Lost fashion, we’ve got no idea what it might be, or even if Sawyer is still alive, though we do know he made good on his wish not to leave the island one way or another. The conflict between Jack and Kate is, unfortunately, getting very old, and it’s a pity that you can pretty much guarantee it’s not going to go away any time soon. I had hoped Juliet might introduce a more genuine 4th side to the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle, but even she seems aware that she’s just a diversion for Jack rather than a serious contender for his affections.
The episode’s not all terrible – the return of Rose and Bernard to the supporting cast is always a welcome moment, and makes what may well turn out to be a major plot point – Rose points out that people don’t get sick on the island, they get better – so why does Jack have appendicitis? Could it be that the “sickness” Rousseau mentioned isn’t one specific ailment, but a collection of problems suffered by people that the Island is punishing? Kind of makes me wish they’d checked that with her before she died, really.
Also interesting is a glimpse into the downward spiral of future-Hurley, who has been placed in isolation and is becoming this sort of Colonel Kurtz figure for Jack. He alludes to frequent conversations with the otherwise dead Charlie that suggests there’s still a lot more to discover about just what happens to people who die on the island.
Speaking of which, Jack (and Claire’s) father is back. Sitting in a hospital lobby. Wandering around the island. Taking Claire off in the middle of the night, leaving Aaron perched neatly on a tree. Later, the quite probably living-on-borrowed time Jin makes a deal with Charlotte to make sure Sun gets off the island, even if he doesn’t. Those two scenes are this episode’s only real plot developments in the island time frame, but they’re not nearly interesting enough to redeem the episode. Part of the problem is that the really interesting characters – Locke, Ben, Desmond and Sayid – are entirely absent from this episode.
Once again, though, we’re back to the economics of TV Land. With four of the best characters not appearing in this episode, you can be damn sure that next week’s is going to be a hell of a lot better than this snooze-fest. I can forgive one bad episode in Season 4 after so many great ones, but the goodwill is going to quickly evaporate if next week’s isn’t a return to the quality Season 4 has led me to expect.