Written by Matt Baker
Wednesday, 17 November 2004 14:41
If you watched Sayid's torture of Sawyer last week and thought, "Good, the bastard had it coming," you probably missed the point. Instead of punishing Sawyer's character, the torture scene darkened Sayid's. This week, he pays his penance and I didn't feel too sorry for him.


We've finally returned to interesting backstories. It's one thing to say Sayid was in the Republican Guard, but quite another to show him there, to have a sympathetic character shown doing the things he does. Try for a moment to imagine that it is 1944, you're listening to Little Orphan Annie (Remember to Drink Your Ovaltine!) on the boulder-sized radio in the living room, and Annie befriends a German soldier. You, the listener, are expected to like this German, even though your country is busy trying to bury his. We're a long way from 1944. The current war is nothing like that one; propaganda is nothing like it was then; U.S. sentiment for the war is nothing like it was then. But regardless, it still takes balls to make one of the sympathetic characters of the show a former Iraqi torturer. And to pull it off is near genius.

I did find his scenes with Nadia (Andrea Gabriel) to be convoluted, constructed purely to show his inner chaos about doing the things he does, with no regard as to how plausible the scene comes off. Old school friends or not, I don't buy him sitting down and having a casual conversation. But that turmoil is important, and the sacrifice he makes, shooting himself in the leg to allow her to go free, ties it up somewhat and takes the heat off those earlier, dubious scenes.

The "solitary" of the episode title refers to three things: Nadia's detainment in the flashbacks, Sayid's sojourn across the island, and Danielle's (Babylon 5's Mira Furlan) sixteen years alone. Yes, we meet the woman behind the French voice on the distress signal. We are led to believe she is slightly, if not certifiably, dangerously insane. She rigs up a Wile E. Coyote-like rope-trap and captures Sayid, then straps him to a couple car batteries. She wavers between outright malice and motherly coddling. She mentions "the others," voices who whisper in the forest. Her insanity is questioned, however, when Sayid eventually gets away and hears the voices himself. How much of the other things she babbled about vacant-eyed will make sense later?

Danielle spews a lot of information, and raises far more questions than she answers. But two things she did say caught my attention. When Sayid and Danielle hear noises outside her hovel, she says that hopefully it's just "the bears." Assuming those bears are polar in nature, it makes the encounter the survivors had in the pilot with the polar bear less bizarre. It's hard to believe that polar bears are a regular occurrence on a tropical island, but here, of course, anything goes. And there's the distress signal, which "broadcasts from somewhere else."

I keep thinking while watching this show that the plot twists and character developments we see in each episode would be season finale cliffhangers on any other show. Lost is better than almost everything else on television right now, and its important to keep that in mind. While I need to point out its missteps, this show surpasses most others.

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