Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lost Week: Ranking the Mobisodes

All right, the nerding out continues right now as we get into a minutia only the best of Lost fans will appreciate.  In between seasons three and four of Lost, we had a little bit of a gift from the creators of the show-a series of 2-3 minute videos (thirteen in all) that showed our favorite castaways (and not just side characters-the likes of Jack, Ben, and Hurley were in the videos) on ABC's website to tide over the starved fans waiting patiently for Season 4.  Referred to as the "mobisodes" but officially titled Lost: The Missing Pieces, the shorts are considered canon, and as a result I couldn't let them go by without a discussion.  Below I decided to rank them from best to worst-if you have the Season 4 DVD, they're on disc five-catch it now and comment below:

13. The Watch

Mobisode Order: #1
Featuring: Jack and Christian
Overview: The only mobisode to take place off the island and before Oceanic 815 (and as a result, didn't get great reviews from fans who had waited so long for The Missing Pieces to take place), the episode is a relatively lackluster installment, with Christian giving Jack a watch that his Grandpa Ray had given to Christian when he got married.  Christian's strange relationship with his future daughter-in-law makes this episode particularly questionable, and of course we know that Jack won't have kids with Sarah (or anyone, at least in real time), so the comments about being nicer to a hypothetical child is meant more as a way to soften Christian, who at this point was largely beyond repair, partially because he was scummy and partially because it was hard to know where Christian ended and the MIB began.

12. The Envelope

Mobisode Order: #12
Featuring: Juliet and Amelia
Overview: The episode is strange compared to the others in the sense that it ends on a cliffhanger, and that it was in fact a deleted scene and not something scripted specifically for The Missing Pieces.  We see Juliet prepping for book club (how the island has enough copies of specific books in order to have a book club is another unsolved mystery-is there a Barnes & Noble hatch no one discussed before?), and Amelia comes in and is concerned and perhaps a little naive to the fact that Juliet doesn't want Ben to be making advances on her.  Juliet is about to show Amelia the contents of an envelope when the doorbell rings.  This would be an infuriating mobisode (we don't need more mysteries from these-just clues and back story!), if we didn't already know that Ben's X-rays were in the envelope.  As this gives us little new information and really is all just lead-up, it's not a standout episode and probably should have just remained a deleted scene.

11. Buried Secrets

Mobisode Order: #8
Featuring: Jin, Sun, Michael, and Vincent
Overview: Coming in as the longest of the mobisodes and with one of the bigger casts they assembled of the bunch, this features a heartbroken Sun via Season 1, and the most ardent acknowledgement of the love triangle that was only hinted at between Michael/Sun/Jin.  Here Sun and Michael almost share a kiss, but Vincent interrupts them while in the jungle, and that's probably the end of it.  I'm kind of glad that they didn't make more of the Michael/Sun storyline as Sun was already cheating on Jin on the mainland and two love affairs seemed a bit much.  Overall this is one of the more emotionally-impactful mobisodes, but not one of my favorites if only because it fed a story line that at this point in the series was completely closed and in some ways nearly forgotten.

10. Room 23

Mobisode Order: #6
Featuring: Ben and Juliet
Overview: The shortest of all of the mobisodes, we do get a peak behind a different sort of mystery, that surrounding what was happening to Walt before Ben went into the jungle and was trapped by the Others.  Juliet and Ben are fighting over Walt, with Juliet telling Ben that they should simply bring him back to his father (they're clearly on Hydra and looking in on the Clockwork Orange-style Room 23).  This is pretty throwaway were it not for a look into why Ben was willing to give up Walt despite him clearly having extraordinary powers-it seems he simply couldn't handle what was being tossed his direction.

9. Operation: Sleeper

Mobisode Order: #5
Featuring: Juliet and Jack
Overview: Proof that the actors on the show didn't mind bringing it even if it wasn't going to air on the actual TV series, Elizabeth Mitchell rocks out dramatic Juliet as she confesses to Jack that she is under Ben's control, but needs to figure out a way off of the island, particularly to find a way to get Sun off the island as she knows she'll soon be dead if she can't find a way to get her to escape.  The episode itself is largely one long monologue, and it sort of calls out how Jack found out that Ben was still in the picture for Juliet, and more to the point that he didn't know when he brought her to beach (which makes the showdown he eventually has with Kate over trust a little easier to swallow).

8. Arzt & Crafts

Mobisode Order: #7
Featuring: Michael, Jin, Sun, Hurley, and Arzt
Overview: The mobisode with the most characters with speaking parts (five here, though don't you wish they'd gotten more parts for women in these mobisodes-were Claire, Kate, or Rose not available?), this is another funny mockery of Dr. Arzt, with him once again ragging on Jack for being the leader he can't be, and then an appearance of the Smoke Monster (at least his sound) at the end making Arzt look like a fool.  There's no new information here (and quite frankly, there's a continuity error as Michael at this point, at the very least, should have known that Jack was planning a move to the caves), but it's still funny and we get a humorous conversation between Jin and Sun arguing over whether Boone-and-Shannon are lovers or siblings (it turns out, in a skeevy moment, that they are both right).

7. Tropical Depression

Mobisode Order: #9
Featuring: Michael and Arzt
Overview: If you aren't going to provide a clue to a mystery with a mobisode, at least go ahead and give us a background nugget about a side character, in this case Dr. Arzt, and how he went to Australia to meet a woman he had been dishonest to in regard to online dating, much to Michael's chagrin (I know I bag on Michael quite a bit, but Harold Perrineau really brought it in these mobisodes and I loved his exhausted look when it comes to having to listen to Arzt sad, pathetic little tale).  The mobisode is valuable particularly in hindsight because unlike a few of the clue episodes, we actually get a hint of something we never would have learned about in hindsight.  I wish they had done these every season on the show, quite frankly, as this would have solved some of the nagging quesitons of the side characters I already postulated yesterday.

6. Jack, Meet Ethan.  Ethan? Meet Jack.

Mobisode Order: #10
Featuring: Jack and Ethan
Overview: Ethan is one of my favorite characters to obsess over, and this is the closest we get to some back story into his adult life, even if it's possible that this is a total lie (though it's backed up by the Lost Encyclopedia, for what it's worth).  Ethan has found a suitcase full of medicine in the jungle, likely either the hypochondriac Sullivan's or something that Ethan simply brought with to help those on the beach (does that jive with the Others m/o at that time, though?), and he talks about how Claire will need to give birth.  This would be a giant wink (of course we know that Ethan will soon kidnap Claire and that he is a trained physician like Jack, so his naivete around the medicine and its usefulness is chuckle-worthy), but we soon learn that Ethan was in fact married, and both his child and his wife died during labor, likely on the island as part of one of Ben's experiments.  This is a sobering reminder that there was a person behind this assassin, and how dangerous Ben was by not letting Juliet bring people off the island to give birth.

5. The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt

Mobisode Order: #2
Featuring: Hurley and Frogurt
Overview: If it weren't for the fact that this took place likely right while Libby was being shot by Michael in the Hatch, it'd be pretty close to perfect.  We finally, after much hoopla and a mention by Bernard in "SOS" got to meet Frogurt (excuse me, Neil), Hurley's rival for Libby and they get into a tug-of-war over the beautiful psychologist.  Jorge Garcia in some ways looks like he's about to break character every time that Sean Whalen comes back with some sort of unsupported manly bravado, and it's an interesting look at the ego-centric character that would eventually have his death played for a joke in Season 5 during the raid in 1954.

4. King of the Castle

Mobisode Order: #3
Featuring: Ben and Jack
Overview: The episode features Ben and Jack playing chess while Ben recovers from surgery, while at home in Ben's house in the Barracks.  The episode is notable mostly because it shows one of the few blank spots in Jack's time on the island, the portion when he starts to assimilate a bit with the Others (all we learn is that he and Tom have a football game).  The episode, like a few of the mobisodes, is a giant wink to those of us at home watching as we know at this point that Jack would, in fact, want to go back to the island after leaving, though that wink also comes with a foreshadow of what Michael would learn later in the season when he tried to kill himself-if the Island doesn't want you to go, you're not going.

3. So It Begins

Mobisode Order: #13
Featuring: Christian, Jack, and Vincent
Overview: Along with "The Envelope," this is the only mobisode that interjects a mystery into the story rather than just providing a clue, piece of information, or anecdote.  The problem here is that, while this is meant (I think) to be a throwaway nod to the beginning of the series and what happened to Vincent the dog, considering this is to be classified as "canon" (all of the mobisodes are), it opens up a few questions that are never answered.  Namely, why is it that Christian, whom we are to assume is the Man-in-Black refers to Jack as his son, what work does Jack have to do (is it just saving the passengers, or is there something more), and how can he commune so specifically with Vincent the dog, who has shown no such ability with any other person, not even Walt?  Is it a case that Vincent can actually commune with the ghosts of the island, thus this is one of (if not the only time) that we see the actual Christian Shephard on the island?  And if so, that lends a new angle to the series finale when Vincent is with a dead Jack.  Or is it merely a miss in the writer's continuity?  These questions are never answered on the show, which is infuriating, but I suppose they gain points for adding just another layer of mystery, this time somehow around the dog.

2. Jin Has a Temper-Tantrum on the Golf Course

Mobisode Order: #3
Featuring: Hurley, Jin, and Michael
Overview: Easily the funniest mobisode and really the best comic moment from Jin this side of learning to flirt from Sawyer, we see Jin having a complete meltdown on the golf chorus, with (of course) Hurley and Michael oblivious to what's going on around him.  Jin is still sporting his handcuffs, unfortunately, and just misses beating Michael at a round of golf, and then tears into everyone, proving that he knows Hurley and Michael's names (one of the only times I remember Jin ever saying Hurley's name, quite frankly), and the comedic asides from Hurley are priceless.  There's a touch of anguish here (it has to be awful for Jin to only have Sun as his interpreter on the island), but overall it's a great comedic set-piece from the usually stoic Daniel Dae Kim.

1. The Deal

Mobisode Order: #4
Featuring: Michael and Juliet
Overview: This mobisode gains mad points for doing something none of the others did-bringing together two main characters who had never had a scene together and giving us their chemistry as Michael and Juliet are never onscreen together again in the entire series.  That gives this scene a bit more urgency and gravitas, and boy do they both nail it.  This is still when Juliet is in her "never show your cards" mode, and we stand with Michael in terms of not believing her, even though we know she's telling the truth.  Such is the power of Elizabeth Mitchell.  It also shows the tactile and rather surface-level attitude that Michael has toward love and sacrifice in this episode when he doesn't understand why Juliet would hinder her own life in order to keep her sister alive-he would soon learn that he needed to atone not just to save Walt, but because he needed to become much nobler.  Overall, a home run.

Those are my rankings of the mobisodes, and I'd love you to weigh in as this is an undersung part of Lost yore.  Are you as confused as I by "So It Begins," or as in love with Jin's temper tantrum?  I'd love a discussion, so bring it to the comments section.

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