pop culture | no politics
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 “Solitary", which originally aired on November 17th, 2004.
Previously on LOST: After he tortures Sawyer for information, Sayid leaves camp on a self-imposed exile. Jack had led a portion of the survivors inland where a series of caves offers fresh water and shelter.
“Solitary” feels like the second half of a two-part episode of LOST, the closing chapter that shows us the fallout from the events we witnessed in last week’s “Confidence Man”. We’re immediately reunited with Sayid Jarrah as he sits in isolation on one of the island’s gorgeous beaches. The filmmaking here is brilliant as the camera tilts up to reveal the clear waters of the ocean contrasted against the sand, with the only blemish on its beige palette being Sayid himself, as he attempts to come to terms with his recent actions. The fact that anyone can feel such regret and sorrow in such a beautiful setting speaks volumes as to how much pain Sayid is currently in, which builds sympathy with the character despite what we witnessed him do in the previous episode.
There’s little time for self-reflection though as Sayid soon discovers a strange cable buried in the sand. It runs inland from the ocean, and with no boat available the only direction he can track it is by heading into the jungle. Sayid has spent a good portion of his adult life as a soldier, and when his keen eyes detect a tripwire he manages to avoid it. But whoever set the trap was savvy enough to rig a second one that Sayid is ensnared in, and he suddenly finds himself dangling upside down with a chunk of bamboo stuck in his leg. Perhaps this is karmic punishment considering that he recently shoved bamboo slivers under the fingernails of an innocent Sawyer.
After he’s cut down and taken to some kind of bunker Sayid finds himself on the receiving end of torture for a change. His unknown captor interrogates him on several subjects, most-notably asking about the location of someone named Alex. We’re as confused as Sayid is by this question, there’s been nobody that goes by that name on the show so far and it’s difficult to believe that such a big deal would be made out of a background characters. The situation gets even more bizarre when it’s revealed that the person asking Sayid questions is none other than the French woman responsible for recording the sixteen year old broadcast Sayid has been chasing. Her living quarters are full of things you wouldn’t expect to find on a deserted island, even coming equipped with electricity which opens the possibility that there might be more technology found here than the survivors expect.
Sayid and the woman, whose name is Danielle Rousseau, spend some time bonding and eventually build up enough trust that she allows him to repair her beloved music box. As he works she reveals that she was part of a scientific expedition that crashed on the island, and that a group she refers to as “The Others” carried some kind of disease that infected the rest of her crew which resulted in their deaths. Actress Mira Furlan does as great job conveying Rousseau’s instability to the audience as the character babbles on about whispers in the jungle, a performance that Naveen Andrews plays off of as Sayid clearly questions the sanity of this strange woman.
Sayid is eventually able to escape when Rousseau is distracted by a mysterious noise, which simultaneously sounds like a bear and the island’s monster which we haven’t heard from in several weeks. He takes this opportunity to escape, leaving the bunker with one of the rifles he finds there. His inexperience in this part of the jungle leads to him being caught again, and after Rousseau reveals that the gun he has doesn’t work he pleads with her to let him go. In the exchange that follows Danielle reveals that while the rest of her crew contracted a disease it was her that killed them, which causes Sayid to once again worry about how much mental damage Rousseau has suffered due to almost two decades of loneliness. She does let him leave though, but not before she reveals that Alex was the name of her daughter. The experience helps Sayid realize the dangers of living a life of isolation and he heads back to the survivor camp, but on the way he finds himself experiencing the whispers Danielle spoke of. The camerawork in this scene is fantastic as we circle Sayid, who spins around in confusion as he searches for the source of the sounds. Perhaps Danielle isn’t as crazy as we all thought…
The episode’s flashback gives us a taste of Sayid’s time in the Iraq military, where he’s forced to interrogate a childhood friend. The woman’s name is Nadia, and we see that she’s important enough to him that he still carries her photo with him on the island. His superiors demand that he extract answers from her but Sayid simply can’t hurt this woman, and he quickly finds himself at a crossroads where he must choose between duty and love. He eventually picks the latter, helping Nadia escape while also killing an officer. Nadia’s ultimate fate remains cloudy as all Sayid is willing to reveal to Rousseau is that he’s responsible for her death, and given how much screen time she gets in his flashback we can expect to see her play a large role in his story.
While all this is going on the cave survivors find themselves mentally falling apart. Jack is frustrated by his dual workload of leader and camp doctor, the latter of which finds him now dealing with hypochondriacs. It’s the lovable Hurley that saves the day by realizing that life can’t be all about work, that they needs some kind of relaxation to look forward to if they’re going to turn this island into something resembling a home. He cobbles together a makeshift golf course, and while the initial reactions are negative everyone soon finds themselves having a good time, even the always-surly Sawyer. When I watched this episode in 2004 my reaction was “what a waste of time”, but fourteen years later I finally get it. Hurley is the true hero of “Solitary”, he understands that joy is an essential ingredient in the cocktail that is life, that we can’t spend every waking moment moving rocks or slicing our way through the jungle. Our souls deserve a reward for our labor.
“Solitary” is one of the most-thematic episodes found in the first season of LOST, not only does it rely on its Sayid-focused flashback to flesh out his character but also his interactions with the mysterious Danielle Rousseau. The two characters share so many similarities, they’re both in isolation throughout the episode and perform acts of torture in the name of acquiring information. The interesting part of their relationship is found in their contrasts however, in his flashback Sayid clearly participates in interrogations against his will while Danielle gladly electrocutes him as she searches for Alex. And the same goes for their mutual solitude, Danielle is alone against her will and her loneliness has clearly impacted her mental state while Sayid’s is by choice, a punitive action he’s taken against himself for behavior he deeply regrets. These two characters are now intertwined, and you can be assured that we haven’t seen the last of Danielle.
Next week on LOST: “Raised By Another”, an episode focused on Claire.