Lost: Do No Harm   Rewatch 
May 25, 2023 7:01 PM - Season 1, Episode 20 - Subscribe

A death; a birth.

S1E20: Do No Harm (Lostpedia | transcript): air date 6th April 2005 • writer Janet Tamaro • director Stephen Williams • days 41-42 on the island • Jack flashbacks

Boone, mangled • Jack, doctoring • you can still back out, Jack • I’m going to fix this, I’m going to save you • hey, mamacita • overzealous work ethic • veins are like a wet noodle • sea-urchin spine • John said not to tell about the hatch • hopes, not expectations • I can’t deliver this baby • somebody bloody has to • pant-legs in the pool • you’re a doctor, not a writer • cargo-door guillotine • babies know that stuff • you can’t save him, Jack, you just can’t • all messed up inside • tell Shannon… • Life and Death montage • he didn’t die, he was murdered • Jack’s going… TO FIND JOHN LOCKE

Louise MacGregor, The Cutprice Guignol: Lost S1E20: Do No Harm
I love to see Jack up against it, because it’s when Matthew Fox is just at his most commanding on-screen — Jack losing control is by far the most compelling version of him that we have. Frantic, self-destructive, and irrational, it’s amazing what a little adversity can do to switch up a character, you know?
Nate Owens, The Rumpus Room: Re-Lost: Do No Harm
Jack can’t give up. He can’t let someone go. He has to fix them. This need to fix ends up being one of the key aspects of Jack’s character, and it certainly shows here, both on-island and in the flashback, where Jack readies his vows to marry Sarah, a woman whom he saved on the operating table. Jack relates to everyone around them through how he can help them. Matthew Fox even plays Jack this way, as a man of few words. He’s all business, not much for small talk or thinking. He has to know right now, so that he can act accordingly. That same single-mindedness will make Jack a frustrating character later on, but it's pretty basic to our understanding of who he is.
Emily St. James, Vox: The Lost Interviews: Do No Harm
Damon Lindelof: “Matthew is, I think, underrated. That is sort of reductive in the way of talking about someone's performance, because it's a way of saying they should have gotten a lot more praise than they ended up getting. But I was always constantly blown away by his level of engagement in the show. Lost was an exercise in tone, because the show was so ridiculous.

But Matthew Fox, because he was the center of all that, and because he was the lead, he is the guy standing in the middle of the poster. He never behaved as if he was on the most ridiculous show in the world. He behaved like all these things were really happening. From the moment that he comes stumbling out of the jungle to the moment that he closes his eyes, he was absolutely 100 percent committed to the fact that this was all really real. That's why we kept going back to the Jack well, because he was so convincing. You can't have characters turning to the camera and winking on a show like this. You have to go all in.

I think the degree of difficulty in selling Lost as a real thing that you're supposed to care about really fell on Matthew from the first frame into the last frame in a way that was disproportionate, I think, to the other characters.”
Rewatch companion: THE STORM: A Lost Rewatch Podcast - S1, E20: "Do No Harm" with Emily VanDerWerff
Dave Gonzalez: “Do we have any thoughts as to why Jack just thinks it’s acceptable to not roll up his pant legs when he's hanging out with his feet in the pool?”
Joanna Robinson: “Did he just put his pants in the pool?”
Dave Gonzalez: “Yeah. In my notes, I'm like, uh, cold feet metaphor too literal.”

Emily VanDerWerff: “I think no show has done what Lost did as well as it did it. Lost obviously is building atop things like Twin Peaks and The X-Files and all of that. But listen: it’s The Love Boat. It is one of my little pet theories is that the sci-fi shows that really are successful are built atop the structures of other genres. So like I’ve always said: Star Trek is a western. And The X-Files is a 70’s cop show. And Lost is really built atop that 70’s travelog ensemble show, which is why I invoked Love Boat. It’s Love Boat on a spooky island. They didn’t have new characters coming in every week, but they came in often enough that the ensemble got refreshed. And it has in there elements of other genres. There’s a lot of hospital drama in Lost, weirdly. And then they really turn that into this unique meditation on a whole bunch of different themes, but most especially atonement, forgiveness, learning to be okay with yourself. Which is one of those things that TV was struggling to talk about in the 2000’s.

I was thinking about the way that people used to like to compare TV to novels at that period. Now we’ve kind of moved on to, well, it’s really a 10 hour movie, you know. But in the 2000’s it was very popular to say this is the ideal medium to adapt novels, or to tell novelistic stories. And of course the chief example of that is The Wire. Lost is always a little too ungainly to be a novel. But at the same time, if you look at a lot of shows with novelistic storytelling, they often feel like they’re stretching stuff out, they’re taking taffy and stretching it way out. Lost, you feel like they’re actively ripping pages out of the book as you’re reading them, throwing them in a fire. And you’re like, what? I wanted to see that. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of simultaneously being totally engrossed, totally confused, totally turned off and just totally willing to go wherever the show would go. Somebody said this in my replies, and I forget who it was, but they said even when it lumbered, it had grace. And that’s really true. Even when this show was bad, it was so watchable and it was so fascinating. And fortunately for us, we’re in the back half of season one, which is about as good as the show got. This section is just TV that goes from strength to strength. You have a lot of that coming up; if you’re watching Lost for the first time, there are a lot of places where that’s true of the show. But here at the end of season one we're just really like: the show's just really cooking.

So, Jack is kind of a whiny little baby. I don’t know if you all have noticed that, who are watching this show for the first time? I love Jack. I kind of love Jack. I love him even more now that I've been rewatching some episodes recently. There is something about him which is, like, so petulant about the way the world won’t bend to what he wants. It’s so white guy. But I think it’s a classic Lindelof hero. You know? Like Lindelof is really good at creating these white guys who are just constantly running up against the edges of whatever it is they want to do and feeling like, oh yeah, I should be able to do this, and then they’re held back. And I think the reason Lindelof is so good at that is because he externalizes forces of mental illness. Like the island in a lot of ways is trauma. The island in a lot of ways is depression. The island in a lot of ways is like social anxiety. The island comes to stand in for all of these deep-seated, hard to grapple with, religious, spiritual, philosophical, psychological — whatever you want to call it — these things inside of ourselves that we can’t quite get a handle on. You can feel in the early going of this show that both of the writers were playing with that idea. You can feel that Lindelof was a lot more engaged by it, and that really comes to the fore in the second half of season one. And I think this is an episode where it’s like really a big deal.

And I think that another thing Lindelof is really good at is turning tiny little events into stuff that feels huge and momentous and emotional. And granted, giving birth to a baby and somebody dying are pretty big events in somebody’s life. But they are — as the basis of an entire episode of a TV show about a mysterious island where there’s maybe a monster — that's not where you’d go to. I think that Lindelof’s great skill is in finding the human core of massive blockbuster type pop stories. And that is the sort of thing that a lot of these shows forget to do. A lot of the Lost copy-cats obviously forgot to do that. But even today, the more that a show trends toward spectacle, the more that the network is like: this show’s a big hit, we're going to give you whatever you want; the less they focus on those tiny human moments. Lost never stopped doing that. And like, Do No Harm, in the back half of season one, when this show is as powerful as it would ever be, when ABC would have gladly given them the Statue of Liberty, they’re doing an episode about a baby being born and somebody dying. There’s no footage of the monster. There’s no big mystery being revealed. We don’t find out what’s in the hatch. There are all these questions hanging over it. And this episode is content enough to say, okay, we’re going to pause and we're going to look at this extraordinarily human thing.

This is the year Lost won the Emmy, and this was one of their tapes. One of their tapes was Deus Ex Machina and Do No Harm, as basically a two-parter. And I just can’t imagine getting that tape and not voting for this show. It’s just like: it is the mystery weird side of the show. and then it’s the incredibly intimate and human side of the show. And that’s what made this show as good as it was. And that’s why I still love it.”

“Commitment is what makes you tick, Jack. The problem is you're just not good at letting go.”


posted by We had a deal, Kyle (3 comments total)
Currently streaming in the US on Hulu (subscription) and Freevee (free with ads); in the UK on Disney+; and available for purchase just about everywhere. Next episode will post at the weekend.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:01 PM on May 25

at the weekend

*hollow laugh*; I'm behind again.

A little metacommentary on state-of-the-rewatch here, in light of Mo Ryan's piece.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:02 AM on May 31

Too bad there isn't a "who was in the writers room that week" concordance.
posted by sammyo at 7:45 PM on June 1

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