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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 “Homecoming", which originally aired on February 9th, 2005.
Previously on LOST: Claire resurfaces in the jungle, weeks after being taken hostage by non-survivor Ethan.
A big part of what made LOST so unique when it initially aired was how well the show was able to juxtapose the past and present. The flashbacks and on-island events so often compliment one another in a way that mixes the two timelines together in such a beautiful way that they become intertwined, enriching one another in powerful ways. “Homecoming” is the first episode this season that fails to pull off this magic, and this chapter of LOST feels particularly sour as a result.
Last week’s “Special” ended with the return of Claire, who appeared deep in the jungle to Locke and Boone. They return her to camp where she loses consciousness, and when she awakens the survivors discover that she can’t remember anything about the plane crash because of…amnesia. It’s at this point I figured that this wouldn’t be the strongest entry in LOST’s maiden season, what a tired troupe to use on a show that has proven to be quite clever. While everyone expresses concern for her unexpected condition, Charlie takes her memory loss particularly hard as the two had finally become close prior to their abduction at the hands of Ethan.
The survivors aren’t done with the mysterious “Other” though, as Charlie and Jin are assaulted by Ethan while alone in the jungle. After knocking Jin out Ethan grabs Charlie by the throat and easily lifts him off the ground, once again displaying the superhuman strength the antagonist appears to have. He tells Charlie that if Claire isn’t returned to him he’ll start killing one survivor per day, prompting the group to set up a security perimeter around the beach camp. Kate approaches Jack suggesting that it might be time to distribute the four handguns they found in the marshal’s case (it’s fitting that these two mediocre episodes are connected), but Jack feels putting guns in the hands of untrained people is an invitation for disaster.
He changes his tune the following morning, which sees Ethan make good on his threat by killing Scott, not only breaking the man’s neck but also his arms and fingers for good measure. Finally grasping just how dangerous their adversary is Jack passes out handguns to Locke, Sayid, and Sawyer, keeping the final one for himself. They’re able to talk Claire into serving as bait, which does indeed draw Ethan out prompting round two of the fistfight he had with Jack in “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”. It’s Jack that gets the upper hand this time, although he manages to lose his pistol as the two man exchange blows in the rain. With the assistance of the other ambushers he takes Ethan hostage, but before the stranger can answer any of the many questions the group has for him Charlie uses Jack’s lost gun to kill Ethan.
While the island events are successful in driving the story forward, it’s the flashback that narratively handicaps “Homecoming”. There’s so little that is relevant here that it's difficult to dive deeply into this latest chapter in Charlie’s backstory. I’m not even sure why he was flashback star this episode given that Claire is at the center of this chapter, perhaps the showrunners were scared of exploring her past given her unexpected amnesia. Basically this flashback is little more than a reminder that Charlie is at the height of his heroin addiction, which is now inspiring him to be a criminal. He meets a woman at the bar, knowing that she is the daughter of a wealthy man, in order to steal from her family in order to buy more drugs. He’s caught of course and the promising relationship is ruined, with the young lady telling Charlie that he will never take care of anyone. I guess this is supposed to provide justification to his murder of Ethan, but given all they could’ve potentially learned from him it comes across as a selfish decision. The flashback makes Charlie difficult to sympathize with or even like, and to paint the shooting of Ethan as his way of “taking care” of someone makes the character look borderline psychotic.
The fact is, when you have a twenty-five episode season there’s going to be some duds, and while “Homecoming” has enough meat on its bone to be a must-watch episode the flashback is all fat and gristle. Charlie’s addiction issues have already been explored, I’m just not sure what the point of further demonizing the character was, if the goal was to make his execution of Ethan heroic the writers failed miserably. Here’s hoping for a better effort next week.
Next week on LOST: “Outlaws”, which shifts the focus onto Sawyer for the second time.