There are two ways to look at the narrative structure of “Ji Yeon,” tonight’s episode of Lost: extremely clever or extremely frustrating. There’s really no way of getting around it. The whole “flash forward/flash back” intercutting, meant to make you think Jin was on his way to Future Sun when in fact he was simply Former Jin running errands for Papa Paik, left you speechless with delight or shouting phrases not fit for a website such as this.
I think a lot of this has to do with how much you assumed Jin would be one of the Oceanic 6. I tried to place odds on the possible remaining members of the group, and since Sun ranked highest (no way this show kills a pregnant woman), I marked Jin down decidedly lower. Why? Well, for a very good reason: none of the Oceanic 6 are remotely happy about having left the Island. Jack’s a pill popper, Kate’s left raising Claire’s baby, Hurley’s anxious for a return to the psyche ward, and Sayid’s off being Ben’s weaponized errand boy. It would be weird now to show Sun, Jin, and Ji Yeon chillin’ at Bed, Bath and Beyond, no?
The mythology freak in me was trying to piece together the puzzle: Why is Sun seemingly packing for a trip to the hospital, then surprised to go into labor? Why does Jin need a panda so frickin’ badly? Why does Sun NEED Jin to be there? During commercial breaks, I feverishly entertained this theory in which Sun and Jin were being watched by Team Abaddon, planned to stage a miscarriage and then sneak the baby out of the hospital via the panda. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why they only let me recap the shows, not write them.
Instead, of course, we got the show’s first dual timeline, off-Island narrative, in which Sun gives labor after leaving the Island and Jin is still a wet-behind-the-ears lackey for Mr. Paik, with nary an idea of ever becoming a father himself. And all that’s left of Jin in a post-Island world is the name he gave his unborn daughter. If you knew your Chinese Zodiac, you probably picked up on this right away, as the last Year of the Dragon was between February 5, 2000 and January 23, 2001. The show’s essentially counting on the majority of us to be ignorant of that fact, and you know what? We are pretty ignorant people as a whole, so it worked. (Incidentally, that was not only the Year of the Dragon, but in particular, Year of the Metal Dragon, which pretty much makes that the Coolest Year Ever.)
So while you may have thought Jin was the sixth and final member of the Oceanic 6, you’d be very wrong. While the promos for Eggtown seemed to indicate that Aaron was the fifth member of the group (thereby making Sun the 6th), the show itself has not yet made this claim. Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley, and Sun have all been explicitly identified as members of the group, and until we get a similarly concrete moniker bestowed upon Aaron, I maintain this group is not yet complete.
If you noticed the date on Jin’s gravestone, you saw 9/22/2004 as the date of his death: the day of the crash. This could mean that Jin is one of the two passengers that survived the crash but later died (in Jack’s fictional narrative of post-crash events) or could simply be considered to be one of the unlucky ones at the bottom of the ocean. In either case, as far as the world at large knows, Jin never lived a day beyond the crash. This ties into other elements we’ve seen so far this season, such as Hurley disavowing any knowledge of Ana-Lucia in this season’s first episode. What can we make of this?
A piece of the puzzle may have fallen into place thanks to an incredible monologue delivered by Gault, widely feared captain of the freighter. Said monologue starts with the reveal of the supposed black box on Oceanic 815, supposedly procured by Charles Widmore, which supposedly proved that Benjamin Linus staged the crash of Oceanic 815. I hedge everything in that narrative because it won’t be long, I’m sure, before we hear the exact same story from Ben Linus about Charles Widmore staging the crash. That will be one epic “he said/he said,” people.
Whatever the true version, Gault confirms that the discovery of the plane preceded the freighter’s arrival offshore of the Island, which to me is an important element to nail down. I think back to Abaddon’s insistence to Naomi in “Confirmed Dead” that, “There were NO survivors,” and wonder exactly just why the existence of the Oceanic 6 rattles Team Abaddon so much. But while it’s important, it’s not necessarily illuminating.
After all, if this is true, that established a timeline in which, over the course of three months, a plane went down, an exhaustive search was conducted, a STAGED VERSION OF THE CRASH was discovered, a crew of people with specific skills was assembled, specific scientific instruments were obtained, a freighter left shores for parts suddenly known, and oh yes, there’s the little bit about Michael changing his name and getting a job aboard the very ship currently parked off said Island. That’s one incredibly busy twelve weeks.
My conclusion? Lots of events were set in motion long before September 22, 2004. Events planned by multiple, competing parties. Parties with separate agendas. Things including, but not limited to: getting players in the proper position (people to the Island, people on Oceanic 815) and obtaining the proper resources (a large freighter, a large number of cadavers), all in the name of the Island. Which one’s the good guy? Ben Linus? Charles Widmore? Both? Neither? All are in play at this point. But one of those men planted that fake wreck at the bottom of the Sunda Trench before Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island, and as such, what we’re witnessing on Lost is nothing less than people struggling helpless as forces they can’t see use them as pawns in game whose rules they don’t understand. And given Sayid’s confused, pained, helpless expression in “The Constant,” I’d say the Oceanic 6 aren’t much better off post-Island than they were on it.
As for Michael: I didn’t want to merely mention him and forget all about him, but thanks, ABC promo monkeys. And thanks, union-rules-that-require-Lost-to-constantly-show-Harold- Perrineau-in-every-opening-credit-sequence-this-season for completely ruining that surprise for us. I’ll have more to say about Michael and his Rampage of Destruction upon the freighter’s navigational systems and communication devices, but why would Ben Linus want this freighter to remain unable to leave the proximity of the Island? Curiouser and curiouser…
Moving away from the mystery that is “Kevin Johnson” for a moment, and mysteries in general, to celebrate the quieter, character-based moments that used to happen all the time in the show but have fallen to the wayside in recent years as new characters kept coming into the fold. Re-introducing Bernard to the show after weeks away was a beautiful stroke, as only Bernard could have quelled the raging fisherman that was Jin. His words produced not only a calmer Jin, but also produced the elusive kharma fish from the depths of the ocean. Not a bad fishing trip by any stretch.
As for Jin’s scenes with his wife…well, I’ve always been a sucker for their chemistry. One of my favorite all-time scenes in Lost history is their goodbye in Season 1, and so naturally it got misty round these parts when they reconciled in their tent, even while I managed to blurt out, “Dude, you’re so dead in the future, aren’t you,” through the semi-tears.
You also had to love all the “Juliet who cried wolf” material that preceded it, with her inability to prevent Sun from joining Team Locke forcing her to tell Jin about his wife’s affair. (See, this is why you should never learn a second language, people…it’ll only come back to haunt you.) Her Season 4 arc seems to be about redemption, which means I have her penciled in to die sometime before the end of the season. If you want to live on Lost, it’s best not to achieve peace with yourself. It only goes downhill from there.
Five more things I noticed tonight:
- Hi, Regina. Whoops, I mean bye, Regina. That was weird, even for this show. I can’t even imagine how the producers pitched that character. “She’s illiterate, she’s crazy, she’s Regina!” Does hanging near the Island give you a case of the freakies, maybe a lower dose version of passing through the electromagnetic anomalies?
- When Hurley asks Sun if anyone else has come, she says no, to which he replies, “Good.” At that point, was I the only one who expected them to start suddenly making out? Because for a nanosecond I went there, and that image will pretty much stay with me until the day I die. (But seriously: why is that a good thing that Jack, Kate, Sayid, and Player to Be Named Later didn’t show up?)
- Gault mentioned that Lapidus was off running an errand. Assuming he didn’t go on a Taco Bell run, where do you think he went, and to what purpose? Seems like he left after an awfully important meeting.
- “”Yi Jeon” apparently translates as “heavenly patience.” Is this a clue about the whereabouts of Jin and the others that didn’t make it off the Island? Is not only the date inscribed upon Jin’s tombstone a lie, but in fact his actual death?
- I’m no fan of lima beans, so I’m curious about the “problem in the kitchen” alluded to by Lapidus…part of Michael’s merry pranks? Something akin to the bloody wall? Or was there…an incident? (OK, probably not an incident. I doubt the freighter has an orientation film conducted by Marvin Candle about the proper procedures for making pancakes.)
- Sayid seemed convinced that someone was banging repeatedly on the ship’s pipes. I guess we can assume it was Michael, but towards what purpose? Ship destruction? Morse code? The construction of a giant Metal Dragon in honor of Jin’s flashbacks? In any case, I think we’re meant to wonder what was going on.
Very dense, sometimes frustrating, but overall rewarding episode. Things are movingly slightly slower than I’d like, but with the reintroduction of Michael next week, we should get right back into the narrative swing of things…just in time for a five week hiatus until new episodes can be produced. Thanks, writers’ strike. Thanks a ton.
But enough about my thoughts…let’s hear yours! Do we know all members of the Oceanic 6, or does one remain? Is Jin still on the Island, or truly dead? Do you think Ben really staged the crash, or is Gault lying? Heck, is Widmore lying to Gault? Leave your impressions about these topics, or any others you like, below! And be sure to check out more news, theories, and insight over at Zap2It’s Guide to Lost.