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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the LOST episode “Exodus, Part 1", which originally aired on May 18th, 2005.
Previously on LOST: Michael and Jin put the finishing touches on the raft, racing against the monsoon season that is threatening their chance at rescue. Jack, Locke, and Sayid discuss what to do about the hatch, as they weight the risks of opening it against the potential danger that might be inside.
“Exodus, Part 1” marks the beginning of the end for LOST’s first chapter, and what a fun ride this season has proven to be. Despite the fact that this is my third time experiencing it I’ve unearthed a few things I missed in the past, a testament to just how deep the writers dug when developing these characters and the unique situation they find themselves in.
The on-island events open in a rather creepy manner, as we see Danielle Rousseau wandering through the jungle with her bolt-action rifle. It’s early in the morning so everyone is asleep except Walt, who makes his way back to camp to alert the rest of the survivors. It turns out that Rousseau’s visit is born out of good intentions, as she tells everyone that “the Others” are coming. Rousseau has history with this mysterious group as they attacked her camp sixteen years ago, stealing her baby girl Alex. While this story itself is tragic it makes for a stressful situation for the camp as they too have a newborn baby amongst them. Rousseau tells them that the Others’ assault came a week after a column of black smoke appeared, and shortly afterwards Walt notices the same phenomenon in the distance. The Others have been an afterthought for over a month’s worth of episodes, but it would appear that’s about to change.
Jack, Locek, and Sayid take Rousseau to the hatch to see what she thinks of it, but it’s obvious that she has never encountered anything like it during her time on the island. Jack continues to believe that their only hope for salvation lies within, despite Sayid’s continued protests. Rousseau offers to lead the survivors to the Black Rock, a location she had previously mentioned to Sayid, telling them that there’s some old dynamite there. Dr. Artz, who despite only appearing for the first time last week, once again becomes an important character in this episode, preaching about the dangers of playing with expired explosives. He offers to join the group on the expedition, claiming his scientific knowledge will be needed to safely salvage the dynamite.
Jack and Sawyer’s complicated relationship takes another turn as the camp’s doctor gives Sawyer one of the pistols for his impending journey at sea. Sawyer reciprocates this generosity by finally telling Jack about the conversation he had with Christian Shephard at the bar in Sydney, the words clearly striking a chord. Daddy issues are a common theme on the show and nobody suffers from them more than Jack Shephard, so the knowledge that his father approved of him can’t be understated. In many ways, Jack has become the patriarch of the survivors, who not only look to him for medical care but for advice and leadership. Jack has clearly been unsure of how to handle these unfamiliar roles, and this unexpected revelation provides some much-needed relief for this emotionally exhausted man. It’s a shame that the father couldn’t express his true feelings to the son before he drank himself to death, but that would also make for a far less-interesting story.
Charlie roams the camp looking for any messages that the remaining survivors want to send on the raft, putting all that he accumulates inside a bottle. In the grand scheme of LOST’s story this act is the tiniest of blips on the radar, but it’s a touching scene that perfectly compliments the launching of the raft. It lends a finality to the events transpiring, and is an effective storytelling device that alleviates some of the dread from the Others' impending invasion. LOST has always done a fantastic job of not letting the audience get too high or too low, a balance achieved through tight pacing and smart writing.
In a rather sad moment Walt has to say goodbye to his beloved dog Vincent, and in an act of kindness the boy passes his best friend on to the still-grieving Shannon. You could make a strong case that Shannon has been the least-interesting of the main cast, and perhaps that’s sugarcoating it a bit. At times she’s been downright annoying, and while she proved useful in helping Sayid decode Rousseau’s map the majority of her stay on the island has been spent playing the role of high-maintenance diva. Here’s hoping that having a pet to take care of snaps the character out of her funk and leads to more interesting character development in future episodes.
After weeks (for us) of not speaking to one another, Sun and Jin finally reconcile right before the raft is to be launched. Jin reveals that his recent run of gross behavior towards his wife was because he’s convinced himself that his checkered past is what stranded them on the island, and that to atone for his sins he is determined to get his wife rescued. Sun hands him a list of phonetically written English words to help him communicate with both his fellow shipmates and any potential rescuers, and the two go their separate ways. Jin is a strong candidate for which character saw the most positive growth throughout this season, as the jerk we met in the pilot has been revealed to be a strong and sensitive human being.
The launching of the raft is a powerful scene, possibly the most moving moment of season one. Michael Giacchino’s uplifting score perfectly compliments the elation seen on screen, as the survivors get their first real glimmer of hope since their plane went down. For a handful of minutes it doesn’t matter that the odds are long that rescue will be found or that the Others could pounce at any moment, the camp has gotten a long overdue win, and all the smiles tell the audience just how sweet of a victory it is.
Meanwhile, Jack, Kate, Locke, Hurley, Rousseau, and the bumbling Dr. Artz make their way into the “Dark Territory”, on their way to the still-unseen Black Rock to acquire the dynamite. Artz gets cold feet halfway there and bails, but it isn’t long before the group hears his terrified screams. He emerges from the jungle in a panic, pursued by the mysterious smoke monster, and while everyone ducks for cover Locke stands tall and unafraid. The monster eventually leaves, and after it’s gone Rousseau reveals that it’s a security system, but doesn’t offer further elaboration. The Black Rock turns out to not just be a location on the map, but a old ship that somehow ended up in the middle of the island.
The flashback is a collaboration this week as opposed to focusing on a single character, with the events either happening the day of or day before Oceanic Flight 815. Walt is still unwilling to accept Michael as his father, and after annoying his biological dad by watching Power Rangers at five-thirty in the morning he tries to escape the hotel room with Vincent. Jack’s flashback segment sees him at the airport bar immediately after his heated exchange with the ticket agent, where he meets another passenger named Ana Lucia. Her seat is located in the tail section of the airplane, which explains why we haven’t seen her on the island. We’re reunited with Sawyer at a police station, where we saw him all the way back in “Hearts and Minds”. The big takeaway here is that his real name is James Ford, confirming that he did indeed adopt the name of the man that ruined his life. Kate is already in the custody of Agent Mars, who is busy explaining their situation to the airport authorities. There’s not much to be found here as the scene is little more than a reminder of Kate’s history with both the agent and the toy airplane, but Evangeline Lilly’s acting is enough to make it worthwhile. Shannon whines to Boone about needing a seat in first class, and if that wasn’t enough to convey how spoiled she is she also turns her future lover Sayid in to the authorities for good measure. And Jin and Sun are enjoying a meal while an American couple passes judgment upon them, completely unaware that Sun understands every word.
“Exodus, Part 1” is a fantastic episode, possibly the best of what we’ve seen so far. These characters have come so far in the last twenty-three episodes, and while the journey hasn’t been flawless it’s rarely been dull. This episode does such a great job of burying hatchets, as Jack and Sawyer gain an understanding of one another. We see how far the friendship of Michael and Jin has come, early in the season the two men had multiple beachside fist fights but now are sailing away on a raft they built together. LOST is so often about the importance of letting go, of moving on from past grudges, and I feel like “Exodus, Part 1” is a shining example of this motif. Just a beautiful chapter, and while it’s ignorant to believe the survivors' good vibes can last it’s nice to know that this slice of positivity exists forever through the magic of Blu Ray.
Next week on LOST: “Exodus Part 2”, the middle chapter of the season one finale.