Season 1, Episode 5
Date of airing: October 20, 2004 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 16.82 million viewers, 6.3/16 with Adults 18-49, 10.5/16 in Households
Follow the white rabbit into the wilderness of the island, and maybe, just maybe, you will survive the experience, find a cave with fresh drinking water and an empty coffin, and all of a sudden things are a little more complex. LOST continues to walk down the road that will define the show in the long run, while also trying to create plot devices pushing it into a rather unexpected genre. Before the show premiered, audiences were most likely thinking about it being a survival drama slash thriller, maybe a character-based show. But it turns out it was quickly going towards a particular genre show, and all of a sudden it was a survival drama going the extra miles, and you had to be attentive while watching.
People keep saying that “Walkabout” was the episode that transformed LOST into the juggernaut television show it would become, and while that is true when it comes to the twist and turns the writers dropped on us like atomic bombs, when it comes to the surreal and supernatural narrative, this episode takes the cake and defines the show. In a way, both “Walkabout” and this episode put a defining spin on LOST, and from here on, the writers were able to go with the show wherever they wanted. The supernatural aspect was already played at for two consecutive episodes, and the life-threatening dangers are already part of the characters’ lives. All we need as viewers is pretty much a bit more fleshed-out characters, so we would actually hope they would survive. Or in Boone’s case, die a terrible, horrible death, because he freaking deserves it after what he pulled during this episode.
The superhero leader of the show is the third character to get his flashback episode, which one could believe it’s against the flow of writing television. Normally, you would get your hero all the screentime in the world, to make sure that the hero is the hero, and that he or she is the main character of the adventure you’ll be watching for many years to come, but here is the fifth episode, finally getting into some past elements of Jack Shepard, and none really involved his own life. Now, LOST is an ensemble drama, which means Jack is not the main character, but there is definitely a case to be made that Jack, alongside Kate and Locke, were supposed to be the frontrunners of the show (especially now that the writers have found Locke’s voice after last episode’s reveal). Sure, characters like Sayid, Charlie and Sawyer have been focused on as well, but in a way they have been quite one-dimensional after five episodes, with their flashbacks episodes still in the near future. After all, Sayid is the tech guy, Sawyer is the hater who doesn’t like hanging with people, and you wouldn’t even know Charlie had a drug addiction, if you hadn’t watched the second part of the 2-hour pilot. But Kate is the character with a potentially dark back story, ready to get the hell off this rock and continue living under the radar (although it’s hard to buy that Kate wants off the island in an urgent matter, just so she can continue running away from law enforcement), and Jack is the conflicted character who is being thrown into a leadership position while having to deal with his personal demons. And it was clear before this episode that his personal demons were holding him back. It’s such a shame though that this episode didn’t deliver any of these personal demons, as his conflict with his father seemed rather generic. Besides that, if you don’t like your father, it’s gonna be this easy for the mother to talk her son into buying a plane ticket to another continent to pick up said father? I guess the writers really needed Jack in Australia quickly.
Still, Jack’s flashback story brings color and depth to his present narrative, as he is hunting down the white rabbit in the form of his father, shining a light on characters potentially turning into crazy people over the course of the series. Because when you can’t trust your main hero of the show, the conflict with other characters, certainly those with a sane mind (like Locke, who is way too sane in this episode after the insane stuff he went through recently), becomes more interesting. But LOST being a five-episode show at this point, turning Jack crazy might have been too much.
Meanwhile on the beach, Claire was dry, Boone was a fucking asshole ready for a deserved beating, and the characters lived their lives knowing they didn’t have a leader to fall back on. Damn, Jack was gone for less than a day, and the folks on the beach already didn’t know what to do with themselves. They lost the water, they made a mistake in blaming Sawyer for the theft of the water, and they never even thought about looking for water themselves. There were about 40 people on the beach, and all of them huddled around ill Claire, and wondering which one of them stole the water. You know, if you take a handful of people and have each of them walk into a different direction of the island, water can be found quickly. Can this faulty behavior be explained through post traumatic stress for the characters, which is normal after surviving a plane crash? Would that explain why Boone was so fucking dumb taking the water and not returning it when he misjudged the potential fallout of the disappearance of the water?
Best part of the episode: It’s the fact that the writers seemed to have figured out already what LOST wants to be in the long run. What the unseen monster is is unknown at this point, so it can be anything from a dinosaur (yes, I know they’re extinct) to a serial killer in a trench coat, or even someone from the show THE LOST WORLD having gone mad and hungry, which means the genre aspect of that plot device has yet to be found out. But the supernatural aspect of visions and hallucinations and potential ghosts has fired up with the previous episode, and became a life-saving plot device in this episode. And viewers can be certain that those kind of supernatural elements in future episodes will either continue to save the lives of the survivors, or cause them more trouble and harm. Fact is, it’s now part of the show’s DNA, and it took the writers only five episodes to get there. Most shows can’t even do that within a year.
Worst part of the episode: Boone, you fucking idiot. You have no clue about life, and you were obviously not thinking when you decided to keep the water for yourself, for protection. The kid behaved like he accidentally murdered someone, shrugged it off, because he thinks no one will care, but everyone made a BIG FREAKING DEAL about the murder, so Boone stepped back and let the shitshow hit the fan. It’s even more worse when you think that Boone could have indirectly killed Claire. How can this kid even be trusted from here on?
Weirdest part of the episode: Boone, the sequel. Didn’t he mention during the pilot he was a lifeguard? Judging by this episode, he must have neglected to mention he was fired from lifeguard duty, after some of the beach or swimming pool patrons died under his watch. Besides that, why did the writers need to make a mess out of Jack by no saving the woman? Couldn’t that have been Boone’s very own story, giving him at least some depth, and steering the focus away from I-don’t-wanna-be-a-leader Jack? It would have been a good idea, considering Boone turned into the most-hated character of the show right now. Which, of course, was an intent, or the writers wouldn’t have dropped the dialogue exchange between him and Sawyer by the end of the episode.
Player of the episode: All hail Matthew Fox, who portrayed the seemingly gone-crazy Jack Shepard on a professional level. The scene in the cave can be considered proof that the casting directors did a job well, and found the actor who could portray the role’s emotionally charged actions convincingly.