March 18th, 2009
At the very beginning of Lost’s first season, orientation was a common relationship for all of our characters: all of them had their own baggage, their own identities, but all of them had in common that struggle to reorient their lives in such a way as to fit into this new island structure. We see Jack trying to associate his pre-island struggles with his father and with medicine with his new role as a leader, to uneven success, just as we see Kate come to terms with her crimes and her culpability in the wake of what is essentially a fresh start. Even if some people oriented themselves faster than others, or more successfully than others, everyone had to start at that basic point.
But in “Namaste,” that balance is entirely skewed – if the term means “I bow to you,” then many amongst the show’s cast have no idea who, or what, to bow to anymore. There are three sets of people on the island in these two different time periods: one set who has been there for three years and has become part of the culture (Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Jin), one that has been there before but finds this new territory disturbing regardless of the time period (the Oceanic Six, Frank, Ben), and those who are experiencing it all for the first time (Caesar and the group left back by the Hydra). The problem is that, for the first group, they are part of the culture: they went through orientation, they saw the videos, and now they are integral parts of the structure of this island and its history. Everyone else, meanwhile, is starting anew, but for some of these characters you can’t just stop yourself from recognizing a new captive as an old friend, or reacting when you first see an old lover for the first time.
This isn’t a mind-blowing episode of Lost in terms of major revelations, but it fills in some key gaps that we hadn’t quite pieced together in the last few episodes, and draws attention to our central conflict. The show is purposefully trying to reboot itself in the middle of a season, knowing full well that it’s impossible – that impossibility is embodied by the characters, the characters who are either trapped separated by decades from the people they came to see or those trapped in the distant past with no clue as to their mission. Just as they can’t forget about the past, pretend like nothing happened, neither can I, and this kind of narrative disconnect in fact sends us back to these characters, and even back to past events in previous seasons, to get a real sense of what has changed.