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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 “The Greater Good", which originally aired on May 4th, 2005.
Previously on LOST: Boone dies from the injuries he sustained after inspecting a crashed plane for Locke.
Like “Whatever the Case May Be” and “Hearts and Minds”, “The Greater Good” is the closest thing to filler you’ll find in the first season of LOST. I suppose it’s fitting that both “Hearts” and Good” are episodes that heavily-feature Boone and Shannon, the brother-sister duo are two of the least-developed characters on the show. Not to speak ill of the recently-deceased, but Boone was never able to escape the long shadows cast by Jack and Locke, who he most-often spent played the role of sidekick to. And Shannon? The writers have done even less with her, painting her as little more than a pampered princess. This of course is the downside to having an ensemble cast, as the writer’s interest inevitably tilts towards certain characters and storylines and the ones that are ignored fade into obscurity. While it was awful to see Boone die, his loss is one that the audience easily moves on from. This makes it hard for us to invest in the fallout from his death, and perhaps that’s why this episode ultimately falls flat.
"The Greater Good" opens with Shannon mourning her brother at the caves, before taking us to Boone’s beachside burial. Even the makeshift funeral drives home just how insignificant Boone was to the overall story, as everyone struggles to find words to share before the young man is covered in sand. Sayid, who for much of the season has served as a romantic rival to Boone, finally finds his voice, but it’s the unexpected appearance of John Locke that steals the show. Locke sings the virtues of his disciple while still wearing a t-shirt soaked in Boone’s blood, all while the rest of the survivors stare with either rage or disbelief. Jack in particular is not happy to see Locke, as his refusal to disclose the true nature of Boone’s injuries contributed to Jack’s inability to save his life. He accosts Locke in front of the entire camp, rebuffing any attempt to explain what happened.
Jack is hellbent on interrogating Locke, but that plan goes awry when Kate drugs him with sleeping pills. Seriously, these two have the most dysfunctional relationship. But while Kate’s actions are without question shady, her motivation for knocking Jack out is admirable. The camp’s doctor is exhausted, both from a lack of sleep and donating blood to Boone, and he’s in no shape to confront anyone at the point. What Kate doesn’t know is that dosing Jack’s juice will open the door to potential tragedy, setting up the episode’s climax.
Locke attempts to make peace with Shannon on the beach, but as soon as he’s moved on she approaches Sayid with the request that he “make the situation right”. His background as an interrogator inspires Sayid to launch an inquisition on Locke, convincing the island’s prophet to take him to the twin-engine plane that stole Boone's life. In an attempt to win Sayid’s trust Locke confesses that it was him that assaulted Sayid back in “The Moth”, ruining the opportunity to locate the source of Rousseau’s transmission. Sayid responds by holding Locke at gunpoint, his anger clearly putting him on the edge of pulling the trigger. Sayid demands to know about the hatch, but Locke continues to play dumb. Locke is not only obsessed with opening the hatch, he’s also quite possessive of it. The hatch is his property, a secret that if shared would rob him of something that makes him feel unique and special. When it comes to the island and all the mysteries found there, John Locke’s selfishness knows no limit.
Believing that Boone’s death was indeed an accident Sayid spares Locke’s life, news that Shannon doesn’t take well. We finally see her take action by stealing the gun case key off Jack while he's drugged, and by the time Sayid, Kate, and Jack reach her in the jungle she has Locke at gunpoint. Sayid tells Shannon that she has a choice, but all pleas to put the gun down are ignored and he’s forced to tackle his girlfriend. But Shannon manages to get a shot off that graces Locke’s face, adding a laceration to his left temple to compliments the scar over his right eye. Jack watches the exchange with mixed emotions on his face, his need for answers requires Locke to remain alive, but there’s no missing his enjoyment in seeing his rival both wounded and humiliated. And in a way Jack is just as responsible as Shannon for the standoff, as his aggressive words at Boone’s funeral certainly inspired her to confront Locke. No matter how you feel about Locke there’s no denying that Jack’s accusations at the funeral were reckless, and that he needs to be more aware of his role as a leader. The on-island events conclude with Sayid telling Locke that he only spared his life because he feels Locke is important to the camp’s survival, an obvious stroking of the ego. Sayid then demands Locke take him to the hatch.
The flashback in “The Greater Good” are centered on Sayid, who finds himself captured at the airport by the CIA. Racial profiling aside, there’s a specific reason he’s been targeted: he has a past association with Essam, a potential terrorist that’s on their radar. While they can’t force him to help them they do dangle the location of Nadia in front of Sayid, and his desperation to find her serves as the proper motivation. He uses trust to infiltrate the terrorist cell, but nearly backs out when the authorities tell him to convince his friend to go through with an attack. The flashback’s climax sees Sayid confess to Essam that he’s an informant, which inspires Essam to shoot himself in the head. Probably the most-interesting part of this episode is how this mirrors the Locke-Boone relationship, as Sayid has to sacrifice Essam in order to get something he wants. This chapter of Sayid’s backstory closes with him demanding a flight change so he can claim his friend's body, a choice that puts him on Oceanic Flight 815.
“The Greater Good” isn’t an awful episode, but it certainly isn’t efficient. There are some important story threads that move forward here, but it feels like there could’ve been better ways to do so. It doesn’t help that the episode takes a couple detours that are both uninteresting and time-consuming, while Sawyer being the only voice that can lull Claire’s baby to sleep might be cute, the subplot gets way more screen time than it deserves. We also spend a few moments watching the raft’s construction, which is nearing completion. Walt continues to express hesitation towards leaving the island, but at least he hasn’t lit raft 2.0 on fire.
Next week on LOST: “Born to Run”, which by the title is obviously a Kate episode.