Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lost - Maternity Leave



***½ / ****

There was this great passage of time where Claire was gone. Charlie was hanging and nearly died. Ethan had taken Claire some place. The question was where. And for an extended period of time, this entire back story was kept from us. What happened to Claire? What about Ethan?

So Maternity Leave was a big episode for me personally. I was dying to know what happened between Raised by Another and Special from the first season. Maternity Leave gave us some closure (well, somewhat) on specific details regarding pregnant Claire and how Ethan actually saw after her during the pregnancy, seemingly injecting her with a vaccine to keep her baby from attaining a type of supposed virus/infection that Rousseau indicated took hold of those scientists with her when arriving on the island. Rousseau returned to this episode, and her character was included in a key memory involving Claire. I like how the show continues to sparingly involve Rousseau in certain episodes that almost always feature very big developments, significant and special. She isn’t just a device or show prop but her inclusion in the overall story arc of the Oceanic on the island seems to almost always tie to the Others in one way or another. Rousseau’s child being taken from her is an evolving story arc in and of itself, with a really neat surprise in Maternity Leave involving a teenager named Alex (Tania Raymonde) who seems to have been the catalyst in Claire’s “escape” (even though she seemed okay with staying with Ethan and the Others) up to a certain point. Rousseau is revealed to have been involved with Claire’s ultimate return to the Jack and company’s camp.

Claire’s baby has a rash and fever. Poor Aaron is sick and crying, when Claire remembers just slight, brief snips of memory when at Ethan’s Dharma bunker. This bunker had a special room for Claire’s baby. Ethan injects Claire with a needle of vaccine. Claire appears to be okay in the examination room, with Ethan looking as he was a type of doctor (or perhaps scientist). Quite different from the menace that throttled Jack and seemed to be a human weapon Charlie unloads bullets into in the big episode, Homecoming. Lost has the uncanny ability to present a character one way (perception isn’t always altogether accurate as this show proves) and then alter him or her to startling / surprising effect. Ethan infiltrates the camp because at that time Hurley hadn’t tied each of them to the manifest. He bonded with Locke, going hunting with him. Ethan doesn’t appear to be some dangerous individual who would harm those among the Oceanic. Then when his identity is discovered and Claire is kidnapped (and Charlie is left for dead), Ethan emerges as a serious threat. Attempt to take Claire, Ethan will be in the way to make sure that doesn’t happen. It takes someone inside the Others’ camp to get Claire out. That very well could be Rousseau’s daughter. Rousseau learning this from Claire as her memories return is like this salve for her ache.

Mira Furlan is tasked with disguising motivations yet remaining a proposed ally of the Oceanic camp. Her Rousseau has been considered by the likes of Charlie and Jack as perhaps unhinged or dangerous. Kidnapping Claire’s baby certainly didn’t help matters but in the tortured psyche of a mother whose child was taken from her, Rousseau felt this was the means to get Alex returned to her. It obviously didn’t work. Sayid has been perhaps Rousseau’s champion, but even he has questioned her merits. Furlan must somehow juggle maintaining audience sympathy with keeping us a bit at arm’s length. She needs to still remain somewhat an enigma, coming and going in the show when further story development involving folks from the Oceanic is provided. Claire offers her hope, while also providing Rousseau with reason to breathe a little easier because Alex had proven to be the source of escape before the “baby could be cut out”.

Libby has mentioned being a clinical psychologist, so Claire seizes upon her talents to “unlock” memories from her time spent with Ethan and the Others at the other Dharma bunker somewhere on the island. This episode skillfully establishes these “excerpts” of memory, staggering and jarring bits and pieces gradually revealed. They are defined and refined until we have a lot understood that once were perplexing. Like Claire, the viewer is fed little and throughout the episode more and more is opened to us. I think this episode is so pivotal in giving us important details regarding the Others, “unmasking” their mystique. Something definitely significant is Kate finding glue, costumes, and fake beard in a locker in the seemingly abandoned Dharma bunker Claire, Rousseau, and she locates eventually in the jungle. Hidden under a cleverly disguised tarp, this bunker has a door that leads into a tunnel eventually connected to corridors and rooms, one of which is where Claire was given the injections from Ethan, the other a “surgery” room that would have been the location of the “baby removal”. In perhaps one of the biggest reveals to me at this point in the show is Gainey, “cleaned up” and looking anything but sinister. Talking with Ethan, Claire is not quite privy to his conversation with Gainey’s character, but it clearly involves her. Seeing Gainey “clean shaven” (does the beard Kate found belong to him?) and softly talking with Ethan, he doesn’t look like some monster. But Ethan doesn’t either. To me this is really nifty in that it alters perception. It certainly reminds us of what we have come to expect: nothing is as it seems. A conversation involving Ethan and Claire regarding her leaving them and the baby staying reveals their intentions while also giving Claire a specific location that serves as a type of signpost (a bread crumb, so to speak). Again, these memory passages give us chapters in a mysterious back story we weren’t privy to and Claire had blocked within her mind. Libby, of all people, is the key to those memories being released from the locked vault in Claire’s mind.
 










Regarding the baby, there is a lot to unpack just in “present day” regarding Claire and her camp. Sun-Hwa questions her leaving Aaron to go and find the vaccine. There is something to this “a mother shouldn’t leave her baby behind” business in regards to Sun-Hwa. Kate goes to Sawyer needing a gun and he has to know why. Kate just can’t deal with his shit so she tells him, and Sawyer provides her with the gun. Kate will go with Claire, and they eventually find Rousseau. Jack is confident that Aaron will get over this illness and be fine but Claire is going to get that vaccine (or at least go to see if she can find it). Claire goes to Libby, wanting the memories unlocked despite being told that they could yield results she might not want to know…yet Claire isn’t backing down. Throughout this episode, Claire thinks of that child and nothing else. Her own well being is not what is most important. That touching scene where Claire looks at her baby and tells him that they will not be separated, despite the early intentions to give him up for adoption—accompanied by tears of love—is so absolutely touching. I had tears welling up, thinking of my own children. The episode builds to that scene as this mother wants what is best for her child…and whatever she might encounter doesn’t matter. This is indeed a definitive Claire episode.

If this episode wasn’t such a pivotal one for Claire, the secondary plot involving Henry Gale would be quite distinctive. I grinned when Locke tosses dishes off a sink cabinet because it appears Henry is playing him. Thing is Locke might even know Henry is playing him yet still those comments regarding Jack “being in charge” get under the skin and take route in his mind. Is that the cunning Henry might display throughout his time on the show? When Eko visits him, to alleviate the burden of murdering two men who dragged him into the woods [presumable the Others], speaking about the blood on his arms as Henry is bewildered at the conversation, I must admit it was quite incredible and still “huh?” Perhaps Henry still being an unknown to Jack, Locke, and those who know of his existence was the very reason Eko chooses him as the person to unload this burden to so he can cleanse himself of the taint of that experience. Just the same, Eko pulls that knife and clips off the small beard from his chin as Henry takes a deep sigh of relief. Emerson’s expressions I observe closely. I want to see how they change with any given shared dialogue, depending on the person in the cell with him. With Eko, Henry is baffled, scared, and ultimately relieved that it doesn’t detour into something terrifying. With Locke, Henry appears to slip in little asides to see if he will bite on them. Henry listens to Locke, commenting on the book left to him and the comparisons between Hemingway and Dostoyevsky. Henry wonders aloud when he will be let out as Jack and Locke converse about this. Jack does seem to determine Henry’s “prison term” as Locke asks him what they will do about their captive. The “button” in the bunker they continue to push on the computer is Jack’s go-to debate weapon when Locke questions judgment on certain action. So will Henry drive a wedge between them? It could be the means behind his release, so why wouldn’t Henry find a weakness and exploit it?

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