“The Little Prince”
February 4th, 2009
“It is the time you have spent with your rose that makes your rose so important…”
The last time we spent a great deal of time with Kate off the island, we were in the midst of her legal battles. It was quite literally a loose end: they needed to deal with her pending trial, no question, but in doing so they were forced to dredge up parts of her past back stories which felt overplayed, and to play with Jack’s lies in a way that couldn’t be investigated within that narrow time frame. The episode, “Eggtown,” was amongst the most frustrating of Season Four primarily because it never felt like there was something bigger at stake: here was Kate with this gap of time we don’t understand and with a future ahead of her, and we’re diddling around in her past and eventually, only eventually, putting together that Aaron was one of the Oceanic Six.
There was reason to be concerned that “The Little Prince” would be much the same, but it was actually quite the opposite. Working within this new broadly drawn character-focused episode structure, this is not just an episode about Kate: yes we spent a lot of time with the show’s female lead, but we spend an equal amount of time with the man who is back on the island, still in love with her to this day. The episode draws a line between Sawyer and Kate that is able to transcend time, dropping each of them into the other’s story when it feels like their connection could be severed.
This, more definitively than the other episodes of the season, is the one that shows just how beneficial this new format is. Not only do we avoid being too one-dimensional in our focus, extending it to other characters like Sawyer, but the episode delves into a substantial amount of island mythology, flashing around in time on multiple occasions and never letting those left behind to catch their breath. The urgency of the island is palpable, which keeps the momentum going from an action perspective, whereas what’s happening off the island is both emotionally resonant and questionably manipulative to the point where it maintains that momentum even without the same sense of urgency.
To draw on the above line from The Little Prince, the story on which the episode’s title is based, we can draw numerous conclusions: not only is it a key phrase for the island’s newest mystery (where time spent is an important variable), but it’s also a reminder that all the time spent building these characters has made episodes like this one operate on a shorthand that can’t be beat right now. Combine that with the episode-ending shocker of sorts, and there is no question that this episode shows the continued promise for the season ahead.
When I read that particular quote about The Little Prince, I knew that it had to have at least a tangential connection to the episode’s most compelling bit of island mythology: we learn that, as some had speculated, the nosebleeds that people suffer from during flashes and the like are in some way related to the amount of time that you have spent on the island. It’s understandable: Desmond, of course, was the first to suffer from them, having been there for a long time manning the station. But where it really counts is for those currently on the island: in succession, Charlotte, Miles and Juliet all begin to experience the symptoms.
Now, we’ve put together that Miles is likely Marvin Candle’s son, the one we saw at the start of the season premiere. Charlotte, meanwhile, has a bunch of theories thrown around, but she believes herself to be born on the island and showed no interest in leaving when the chopper was taking off. And Juliet is the most prevalent of the Others to have been there, so it makes since she would be the next to start to suffer the side effects. It’s not clear how much longer it will be before Sawyer and Locke begin to suffer the same fate, or whether or not Faraday’s season starting time travel was the result of this CURRENT series of flashes or a PAST series of flashes. We haven’t placed that in the timeline so that is thus far unclear.
What I have questions about however is George Minkowski, the radio man aboard Widmore’s boat, who was suffering the same fate. There is an implication there that he was, in fact, on the island before he arrived on that boat. If his nosebleed, like Desmond’s, was set off by entering into the water around the island at the wrong coordinates, then how long had he been there before? And, more importantly, when are we going to get to meet him? It does explain, though, why Widmore isn’t able to go looking for the island himself: it appears that he knows what will happen, considering his unwillingness to stick around.
Either way, this mythology was woven nicely into the various scenes, as the island group were really the more interesting one to watch this week. This is primarily because Sawyer really is emerging as the group’s major character: Locke is fairly one-minded in his plan right now, admitting that his personal pain was in the past and brought him to where he is today, but Sawyer is still going through some personal pain. Alan Sepinwall’s review of the premiere placed a lot of emphasis on Sawyer, which I didn’t see at the time: here, though, Josh Holloway is given a lot to do and does it extremely well as he begins to come to grips with how these time paradoxes are not going to be kind to his poor heart.
Meaningful for more reasons than one, considering that the off-island activities center around Aaron and his lineage, seeing Kate helping Claire deliver her child is incredibly meaningful for Sawyer. They are really two people trapped with time between them, and it was incredibly powerful for Sawyer to realize while talking to Juliet that he was close enough to touch her, wanted to do so but couldn’t in the end. Sawyer is reluctant to share this, but Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell doesn’t get much character stuff, but she’s been good foil for Faraday and Sawyer both) is able to pull it out of “James” (she and Locke both usually call him that, he must be annoyed). It’s not a coincidence that it was that night, where Kate helped birth Aaron and when Boone died sending Locke into an interpersonal tailspin, that they found themselves in: these are not random moments in the history of the island, but important moments.
Take, for example, the various time periods we find them in here. The first flash takes them to a time when there is no one on the beach but they were there right beforehand, and where the Zodiac is gone but two long canoes with Indian airline water bottles are on the beach. We ask ourselves some questions here: who was in the canoes? How did they get there? Who went in the Zodiac, and will we ever get to see how Rose and Bernard are handling themselves back on the beach through all of this? And yet, the episode doesn’t stop and let that sit there: instead, it’s paddling off into the ocean, waiting as the other boat catches up enough to fire some shots at our heroes.
We don’t find out who is in the other boat: is it some sort of time paradox and they’re facing off against Jack and the other returnees without even realizing it? Is it some sort of Others? We don’t get any answers because the show jumps away just as quickly, landing in the middle of an enormous rainstorm. And just when you think that the island part of the episode was about Sawyer and Kate, and Locke’s relationship with the past, and nosebleeds and the order in which people get them (Charlotte, by the way, waking up after 15 minutes asleep with a slight headache), they discover wreckage from French labels.
Cut to: a life raft, carrying french-speaking peoples. At this point, fans know the score: this is Rousseau’s crew, the French boat that we knew was there, the french men who would eventually put up the distress signal that Shannon would translate in the show’s pilot. This is the show’s legacy right here, and all fans knew what we were seeing at a very basic level. What I definitely didn’t expect, however, was that the body they pulled from a floating piece of wreckage belonged to a man we know as Jin. And then when they brought Jin to the beach, the son of a bitch was alive.
I admittedly was convinced Jin was dead, presumed that there was little value to having him alive here. But he now represents some sort of figure, able to interact with people from this other time and in a way where he knows who Rousseau is, and knows at least partially what he is currently experiencing. We have another narrative to follow, at the very least, and one has to wonder whether or not it is possible that Rousseau could serve as a constant for those who interacted with her at some point in the series. It’s a shocking inclusion, and one that I was genuinely surprised by: just when it appears that the show wasn’t trying to surprise, it throws me for a loop and makes me reconsider just where this story is headed.
Now, as soon as there were French people I knew where we were, so I was a little annoyed that the episode drew such attention to her being pregnant as if we hadn’t figured it out, or that we needed her name as a sort of punchline. The writers had said that we would learn Rousseau’s back story despite Rousseau being quite definitively dead, but now we see that her death was not so much a death in storyline purposes. The virus that claims the rest of her crew, and how Rousseau came to be Rousseau, are some compelling questions that I hope we get some considerable time to answer.
All of this was, essentially, the B-Story in many ways. We spent a lot of time dealing with the more pressing matter, as Kate’s life begins to unravel as the legal challenge for Aaron gets heated and she grows paranoid and worried about it. They had set this up to be so much like past Kate episodes that I wasn’t even looking for what would eventually emerge as the pattern, the idea that this had all been a web of manipulation organized by Ben in order to force Kate to take Aaron away to the island. I loved the way that played out: it makes total sense for it to be Claire’s mother, for these people to be coming after her, but it makes even more sense that Ben would be pulling the strings on all of it. This is not someone who takes things for granted, and he is certainly a stickler for detail.
You don’t put it together at first: that it was Ben who had Sayid attacked, both in the premiere and in this episode, in order to drug him and get him out of the picture long enough to be in control. It was Ben who made sure that the man at the hospital had Kate’s address, so Jack would be worried for her and have reason to fear for her safety. And when Ben and the lawyer meet, it’s one of those “Well duh” moments that drive us crazy. The off-island had its finest moment when, after Kate begins to put the pieces together, Ben shrugs his shoulders and frankly admits to an adamant Jack that no, she’s right: I did it. “Sorry” he says, with a sort of grin that shows he isn’t sorry at all. We sometimes forget how manipulative he really is, and watching this was a great reminder of how much fun watching Michael Emerson can be, and how enjoyable it will become when he gets back into the mix of things a bit more.
Of course, things are not so clean: everyone but Sun is apparently on board, or held hostage enough to be on board, but the woman has a gun and Aaron held hostage, and chances are she’s going to kill Ben before she does anything else. Sun’s motivations are not entirely clear, but now they are even more complicated: we know that Jin is alive, that she now has something much closer to a reason to go back to the island, but she doesn’t. She thinks Jin is dead, and is about to kill Ben over it due to the deal she struck with Widmore. There’s now an element of tragedy to this story that wasn’t there before, and it makes more sense now: Sun as a cold-hearted killer never fit even with Jin’s death, but his supposed death is just the right note to hit for the character.
This was just one of those episodes that offered everything that makes Lost tick: some really intriguing science fiction notions, some great character moments, use of past buildup for current events, and of course a couple of huge revelations. But what works so well about it is that we are experiencing everything: we’re not just talking about how Sawyer remembers Kate, he is SEEING Kate. The light from the hatch doesn’t crop up in Locke’s self-conscious, it stares him in the face. We’re not just going to learn from Miles talking to some corpses about Rousseau’s arrival on the island, we’re going to see it for ourselves.
And that makes this story so much more powerful, and eventually will make the rest of the season and the series feel that much more resonant. This is another great entry for the season, a notch above last week in my eyes and certainly a sign that more big things are ahead.
- Sawyer was a comic powerhouse all episode long, but his “THANK YOU GOD!” when the flash saved them from the attackers in the other canoe, followed by his “I TAKE THAT BACK!” when they ended up in the middle of the ridiculous storm that crached Rousseau’s boat, was comedy genius. Also great: that right afterwards back off-island, it started to rain at the hotel where Jack and Kate were dealing with Claire’s Mother, Mrs. Red Herring.
- One question: where are the Others in all of this? Alpert clearly doesn’t count like the others do, but are we to presume that Juliet is different from the rest of them in terms of her susceptibility? Are the rest of the Others all already incapacitated by their hemmoraging, or are they immune to it through some twist of fate? That hasn’t been made entirely clear, and it’s yet another narrative we might have to deal with eventually.
- The Numbers will never leave my head: they head to Slip 23 at the marina for the episode’s final off-island scene, and Sayid is out cold for 42 hours.