Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"LOST" RETROSPECT: (2.14) "One of Them"

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"LOST" RETROSPECT: (2.14) "One of Them"

I have a confession to make. There have been certain episodes from "LOST" that I had either ignored when they first aired or paid scant attention to them. In the case of the Season Two episode called (2.14) "One of Them".

I have a second confession to make. I had never bothered to watch "One of Them" for many years after it first aired. Even after I had purchased the Season Two DVD box set. I cannot explain what led me to ignore the episode for so long. Nor can I explain what led me to finally watch "One of Them" after so many years. But after my recent viewing of it, I now realize that I had wasted a lot of years avoiding it.

"One of Them" is a Sayid Jarrah-centric episode that focused on the character's past as an Iraqi soldier, the origins of his position as an interrogator/torturer and how it related to his time on the island. The episode began with Sayid's encounter with fellow Oceanic 815 survivor, Ana-Lucia Cortez, who informs him that she may have found one of the Others lurking in the jungle. The person in question turned out to be long-time castaway, the French-born Danielle Rousseau. Sayid learns from Danielle that she has captured a stranger in one of her traps. The man claims to be one Henry Gale, who had found himself stranded on the island with his wife, while they were traveling by hot air balloon. Danielle claims that the man is lying and shoots him in the shoulder with her crossbow, when he protests. Sayid takes "Gale" back to the Swan Station to be treated by the survivors' leader, Jack Shephard. While Jack and fellow survivor question the validity of "Gale's" story, Sayid takes matters into his hands by interrogating the stranger inside the station's armory.

The episode's flashback focused on Sayid's experiences as an Iraqi soldier toward the end of the First Gulf War. Sayid and his fellow soldiers are ordered to destroy documents by their commander, Tariq, when they are captured by a platoon of U.S. Army troops led by Sergeant Sam Austen, stepfather of survivor Kate Austen. The Americans are looking for a missing helicopter pilot and believe that Tariq knows the former's location. Sayid is manipulated by an Army intelligence officer named Inman to interrogate Tariq. At first, a loyal Sayid refuses to help Inman. But when the latter presents evidence that the Iraqi officer was responsible for subjecting Sarin gas to an Iraqi village - where some of Sayid's relations lived - Sayid becomes willing to interrogate his commander.

After my latest viewing of "One of Them", I must admit to feeling some regret that I had paid scant attention to it in the past. It is quite good. Let me rephrase my comment. Actually, it is a first-rate episode. I do not consider it to be one of my favorite episodes from Season Two, but I cannot deny that it is excellent. The episode featured another excellent portrayal of Sayid, whom I consider to be one of the series' more complex characters. The flashback gave viewers a peek into how he became a torturer in the first place. More importantly, "One of Them" moved the series' main narrative in a major way with the introduction of an important character - namely "Henry Gale".

As I watched Kevin Inman manipulate Sayid into interrogating his command officer, it occurred to me that one of the consistent aspects of the Iraqi's nature is that he can be manipulated into violating his own moral compass whenever someone he cares about is harmed or threatened. Kevin Inman managed to easily manipulate him into torturing Tariq, after revealing the latter's role in the deaths of some relatives. Also, Sayid's grief over Shannon's death made him willing to torture "Henry Gale" during the interrogation inside the Swan Station. I was also impressed - somewhat - at how cinematographer John S. Bartley and the visual effects team led by Kevin Blank re-created the last days of the First Gulf War in Iraq . . . despite the episode being shot in Hawaii. This episode also featured the continuing deterioration of Jack Shephard and John Locke's relationship, as the latter refused to cooperate with the former regarding the armory and Sayid's torture of "Gale". Although Locke called himself hoping that Sayid would learn the truth from "Gale", his reluctance to cooperate with Jack over the combination to the armory's lock.

But the one aspect of "One of Them" that stood apart for me, were the performances. Naveen Andrews gave an outstanding and intense performance, portraying Sayid during two periods of his life - as the hardened island survivor grieving over his dead lover and the young and wary Iraqi soldier, whose experiences with American soldiers changed his life. Another intense performance came from Mira Furlan, who continued her excellent portrayal of the tough, yet slightly off-kilter castaway, Danielle Rousseau. Both Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn were superb as usual as the castaways' two philosophical rivals - Jack Shephard and John Locke. The episode benefited from some first-rate performances from its guest stars - especially Clancy Brown as the quiet, yet ruthless military intelligence officer, Kevin Inman; and Marc Casabani as Sayid's arrogant commanding officer, Tariq. Michelle Rodriguez was not in the episode long enough for me to comment on her performance. But Michael Emerson was. "One of Them" featured his introduction as the elusive and manipulative stranger, "Henry Gale", who tries to convince Sayid and the other castaways that he is one, himself. Emerson's performance proved to be the first of many excellent ones for the series' remaining four-and-a-half seasons.

One would notice that I had not comment on Josh Holloway and Jorge Garcia's performances as castaways James "Sawyer" Ford and Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, who were featured in the episode's "B" plot. That is because I was far from impressed with this infantile subplot about Sawyer's determination to seek some island frog that was disturbing his peace. I could assume that the frog's noise represented Sawyer's guilt for the con job he had pulled on his fellow castaways in the previous episode, (2.13) "The Long Con". But honestly? The subplot seemed so irrelevant that I merely dismissed it.

Aside from a nothing "B" plot about Sawyer's search for a frog, I must say that I was more than impressed by the rest of "One of Them". It is a first-rate episode filled with suspense, tension, great characterizations and some excellent performances - especially from Naveen Andrews and Michael Emerson. More importantly, "One of Them" pushed the series' narrative in a major way that I found very satisfying.

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