"What Others? What is the Black Rock?" -Sayid-
"I hear them. Out there in the jungle. They whisper." -Rousseau-
"There's no such thing as monsters." -Rousseau-
Turnabout is clearly fair play in LOST, Season One, Episode 9, Solitary, a title with a clear allusion to both solitude and imprisonment.
"Gen-u-ine I-raqi" Sayid Jarrah, as previously announced by Sawyer, is effectively tortured by Frenchwoman Danielle Rousseau, a woman shipwrecked on the island as part of a science team sixteen years earlier. This is our first physical introduction to and encounter with the Frenchwoman first heard in a transmission in Pilot (Part Two) here. No need to decry questions are never answered on LOST. Not true. In fact, Solitary is considered the first episode to truly establish LOST mythology though several seeds had been planted along the way. Personally, this writer was hooked with the monster in the Pilot.
The torture focus of this entry is juxtaposed quite nicely against last episode, Confidence Man, whereby Sawyer was tortured by the former Iraqi Republican Guard "Communications" officer. Sayid is now on the receiving end of said torture.
Sayid's flashback story as a torturer/intelligence officer is indeed the largest focus of the story in concert with his actual on island torture at the hands of the French(woman) no less. The flashback is also primarily concerned with Sayid's connection to a former love, Nadia.
Interestingly there was a terrific Japanese anime by Gainax called Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water (1990-1991) whereby a series of episodes took place on an uncharted island involving its main character Nadia.
And speaking of anime for those cultural nitpickers out there, actor Naveen Andrews isn't a genuine Iraqi in real life at all. He was born in London, England from parents of Indian origin. Like the folks out there that went over the top on whitewashing casting cries for anime Ghost In The Shell (1995), was there ever an outcry over casting here? No. But hey, it's none of my business.
As noted earlier Solitary is steeped in classic double entendre as it also illuminates Sayid's self-imposed, solitary exile following Sawyer's torture. The title also refers to our latest singular, solitary, anthology-based back story centered on Sayid as well as confinement of prisoners.
Finally Rousseau's name echoes that of the French Enlightenment philosopher who believed in the solitary nature of man and self-preservation versus the organization of community by others. The Rousseau character represents a woman acting in this fashion, somewhat primitively in nature.
The episode makes mention of a phrase we would hear again in future installments when Sayid informs Rousseau, "you'll see me in the next life, if not in this one."
These writers were clearly at the top of their game.
Highlight: Fans of science fiction rejoiced at the return of Yugoslavian born actress Mira Furlan. Furlan once portrayed Delenn of the Minbari in Babylon 5 (1993-1998) and became on screen wife opposite Bruce Boxleitner's character, Captain John Sheridan, on that aforementioned J. Michael Straczynski series.
Any fan of Furlan's stellar work on that series will relish her performance here in LOST as a recurring character. Furlan is clearly one of the best in the series as Danielle Rousseau.
The creepy Ethan is also a worthy recurring character addition to the series in this same episode, but Furlan's manic, edgy Rousseau truly shines.
In fact, some of the exchanges between Rousseau and Sayid actually allude to the Others for the first time. Eerie island whispers ("Why only isolate him?") build upon the suspense and the supernatural mystery of LOST in arguably the most intriguing Island-centric episode since the sounds of the island monster were suggested in the Pilot here.
Trust and cooperation was already a fragile balance for our survivors. Suddenly Solitary throws in the concept of the Others. Questions of trust will be put to the test by this new variable. You can liken the idea of human Cylons in Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009). These topical concepts of terrorism and freedom play within the confines of the island. Who can we trust? And the idea of a philosophical belief in self over others, the former embodied by the likes of John Locke. Rousseau, as noted earlier, remains solitary and in a state of nature seemingly at odds with the Others and the idea of building any kind of community.
Additional curiosities strike a chord such as an alleged disease by the Others that impacted her science team which led to their execution at her hands. There are elements here that echo some of the ambiguous creepiness of a book like Jeff Van Der Meer's Annihilation (2014) and yet LOST pre-dates his Southern Reach Trilogy by a few years.
Also, Rousseau's daughter Alex Rousseau is missing. Fortunately one can expect she is confined to the island prison.
Solitary is filled with the kinds of intriguing storytelling and suspense that would make shows like Game Of Thrones so delicious years later and of course point back to progenitors like LOST.
Direction by Greg Yaitanes is notable. It's worth mentioning his work on another series. For those unfamiliar with the eight episode series Quarry (2016), get familiar. Yaitanes directed the entire series and it is a riveting drama worth your every minute.
Beyond the highlight of this episode's focus on Danielle and Sayid, the other characters have some alternately light moments (Hurley's golf course) to peel LOST away from the sometimes encroaching darkness.
Solitary ups the ante and stands alone as yet another Season One highlight amidst a long string of already solid character writing. This writer was certainly not alone in this assessment.
Writer: David Fury (Fringe, Hannibal, Homeland).
Director: Greg Yaitanes (Quarry, Damages).
And Mira Furlan As Delenn (Babylon 5)