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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 “House of the Rising Sun", which originally aired on October 27th, 2004.
Previously on LOST: After wandering through the jungle, Jack discovers a series of caves that not only offer shelter, but also fresh water. Michael finds that any attempt to interact with Korean couple Jin and Sun not only results in miscommunication, but also conflict.
“House of the Rising Sun” is a change of pace episode for LOST, and while the main story will advance some it’s very much a character study on a pair of survivors that have remained in the background up to this point. While Jin and Sun Kwon got a fair share of screen time during the show’s first five episodes, they simply haven’t done much more than fish and keep to themselves. If anything, they’ve served mostly as a narrative device to move the Walt-Michael story along, so it came as a bit of a surprise when the audience was handed an episode focused on the pair. Not only does this give us something different, we gain some important insight into two characters that will go on to play huge roles in LOST’s story.
The flashback dominates the episode and it opens with Sun at a party, coyly accepting a glass of champagne from a waiter that turns out to be Jin. The two meet up in secret to reveal that they’re in a relationship, one that clearly wouldn’t be met with approval by Sun’s powerful father. There’s a purity to their young love in this scene, which stands in stark contrast to what we’ve seen from them on the island. Not only has Jin failed to display any affection for his wife since the plane crash, he’s been downright overbearing. Whether he’s ordering Sun to button up her blouse or demeaning that she follow him around, the Jin we see in this first flashback bears no resemblance to the man we’ve already met.
It’s not long before Jin proposes, having gained the approval of Sun's father by agreeing to work for him. Sun’s reaction to this news is mixed, while she’s elated to be engaged there’s something about her father’s business that she obviously disapproves of. From here we’re forced to bear witness to the demise of their relationship as Jin’s job demands long hours, leaving Sun neglected in their little apartment. Jin attempts to make up for his absence by getting his bride a puppy, which serves as an effective narrative device to visualize the passage of time as the pet grows into a rather large dog (that bears a strong resemblance to Walt's yellow lab Vincent).
One night Jin comes home and immediately heads to the bathroom, and sensing something is wrong Sun follows. She finds her husband furiously washing his hands, which along with his shirt are painted crimson with blood. His refusal to offer an explanation frustrates Sun to the point where she slaps him, to which Jin responds by letting her know that he does whatever her father tells him to do. It will be quite awhile before we find out what Jin was up to that night, leaving us as confused and scared as poor Sun.
Later on the burden of Jin’s mysterious behavior becomes too much to carry, and Sun decides to leave her husband. She’s told to escape from him right before they board Oceanic Flight 815, and as the camera takes us to the airport we share in her tension as she wrestles with the decision to stay or run. Sun is a woman that hates her situation but loves her husband, and a glance over to Jin, who shows her a flower he has purchased for her, is enough to make her choose to stay with him. The performances of both Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim can’t be understated in this episode, they successfully elevate a pair of second level characters to become stars on the ensemble show.
While the on-island events don’t get as much time as usual this week, that doesn’t mean they’re not significant. The Jin/Sun flashbacks are juxtaposed with yet another conflict between the two and Michael, this one escalating into a physical altercation. Jin instigates the fight by attacking Michael for seemingly no reason, assaulting him badly enough that Sayid handcuffs him to some plane wreckage. Sun eventually reveals to Michael that she has been able to speak English the entire time, letting him know that what set Jin off was the wristwatch that Michael is wearing which Jin had been transporting to Los Angeles.
The main plot revolves around a power struggle between Jack and Sayid, the former believes the recently-discovered caves should be adopted as a living space while the latter thinks the survivors should remain on the beach. This is the first major conflict between A-list characters on the show, and will result in the group fracturing as some follow Jack while others believe in Sayid. What’s great about LOST is that there’s rarely a clear-cut correct decision: the caves make more sense given the shelter and water they offer, while abandoning the beach is essentially giving up on the hope of rescue. Jack is thinking scientifically while Sayid remains focused on not only being rescued, but of maintaining the camp’s diminishing morale.
Jack, Kate, Locke, and Charlie have a mini-adventure as they search the caves, which include everything from a run-in with some bees to the discovery of two mummified bodies. Locke proclaims the pair are “our Adam and Eve”, and their identities will go on to become one of the longest-running mysteries on the show. Charlie and Locke eventually end up on their own, giving Locke a chance to confront the rockstar about his heroin addiction. He tells Charlie that he will be running out of drugs no matter what and that he now has a chance to actively quit. We get a small glance at the spiritual connection John Locke has with the island as he tells Charlie that the island can provide what he wants most, as long as he offers a sacrifice. In this case Charlie trades heroin for his guitar, and the pure joy on his face upon finding the musical instrument is one of the episode’s highlights. But there are dark times ahead for Charlie, as navigating the cold waters of withdrawal will require him to discover a strength he’s been unable to display up to this point.
Next week on LOST: “The Moth”, a Charlie-focused episode.