"Stranger in a Strange Land" is the ninth episode of Season 3 and the fifty-eighth produced hour of the series as a whole. It was originally broadcast on February 21, 2007. Jack bargains with Ben to save Juliet while Kate and Sawyer struggle with the consequences of their escape.

This was one of the series's most poorly received episodes. The negative fan reaction even prompted ABC to let the producers set the show's end date.[1]


Previously on Lost[]

  • Ben asks Jack to perform surgery on him and remove a tumor from his spine. During the operation, Jack purposely cuts a small incision in Ben's kidney sac and tells Tom that Ben has an hour to live. ("I Do")
  • Juliet tells Jack she will help Kate and Sawyer escape if he finishes the surgery. Danny is about to kill Sawyer when Juliet appears and kills him, shooting him several times in the chest. ("Not in Portland")


3X09 JackAcharaSex

Jack and Achara, having sex in his room. (promotional still)

Jack leaves his hut on the beach in Phuket, Thailand, admires the scenery, and is greeted by a Thai boy whose only English seems to be, "Doctor Jack want soda?" Jack buys two sodas and gives him a tip. He starts to assemble a kite, but struggles to put it together. A Thai woman on the beach, amused at his predicament, walks over and helps him put together and fly the kite. She introduces herself as Achara.

Later, Jack and Achara eat at a restaurant where her brother Chet serves them food, calling Jack "very brave" for trying the local delicacies. She asks Jack why he doesn't know how to fly a kite and he starts to tell her about his childhood and his father, but she stops him, saying some things are personal. She asks if he is in Phuket to find himself. They are interrupted by a Thai man who gives Achara a thick envelope which she puts in her purse after exchanging the Thai Wai greeting (similar to the "namaste" salutation), and explains only by saying she has "a gift."

While Jack is sleeping, Achara sneaks into his room, undresses, and slips into his bed as he wakes up. She asks if he has a question for her and he says it might be nice to know something about her after a month of her coming and going. She says, "There are things that happened here that he would never understand," possibly referring to her powers. They roll onto the floor kissing and she suggests he stop asking questions and try to have fun.


"A great man"

Jack later follows Achara to what appears to be an exclusive private tattoo parlor. She says this is where she works and that he shouldn't be there. She says she is not a tattoo artist, that her gift is her ability to see who people are, and the tattoo defines and marks her customers with her vision. Jack demands to know what she sees about him, but she protests that she is not allowed to use her gift on an outsider. He insists, and she reveals that he is a leader and a great man, but this makes him lonely, frightened, and angry. Jack makes her tattoo him, even though she claims there will be "consequences."


Chet sees Jack's tattoo.

The next day Jack exits his hut, but this time the Thai boy, who usually gives him soda, runs away from him. Chet and a group of Thai men approach Jack, uncover his tattoo, and mercilessly beat him. Chet orders him to leave the beach and the country. He spits on Jack and the group of men walks away with Achara as she is moved to tears.

On Hydra Island[]

Tom enters the aquarium in order to move Jack, but Jack accuses him of using it as a euphemism for execution. Tom asks him what kind of people he thinks the Others are, and Jack rattles off a list of their crimes. Tom asks if Jack wants some stones for his glass house, and suggests he cooperate. Jack acquiesces and is escorted out by Tom and two Others. As he is led out, he passes Juliet being led into the aquarium with her hands in cuffs and restrained by a group of Others. As they pass, Juliet says to Jack, "Hey." Juliet stares at Jack from her cell as Tom confers with a female Other.

3X09 JackTomCell

Jack is escorted out of his cell. (promotional still)

Tom brings Jack lunch in the bear cage, and Jack asks who the mysterious Other woman was; Tom refers to her as the figurative sheriff. Jack asks why they moved Juliet and Tom tell him she's in trouble. Jack is told not to start any trouble, and Jack says he knows about the cameras.

Juliet is escorted to Jack's cage so that she can request that Jack help Ben with an infection around his stitches. He asks if she wants him to help Ben so she can go home, but she reveals that she is doing it to get out of trouble for killing someone. Jack refuses to help Ben or her.

3X09 IsabelCage

Isabel visits Jack at his cage.

At night, the older Other woman approaches Jack and speaks Chinese, explaining that she is reading the characters (鹰击长空) in Jack's tattoo. She comments that the meaning is ironic and then asks Jack if he knows what it means, since it can be hard to translate. Jack insists that he does. Introducing herself as Isabel, she asks that he come to a room in the Hydra so she can ask him some questions. They pass Alex, whom Isabel firmly suggests should visit her father. Isabel faces Jack as Tom and Juliet look on. Juliet is sitting on a chair with her hands bound. Isabel asks if Juliet asked Jack to kill Ben. Jack denies it, saying he made it up to gain an advantage. Isabel asks him why he is lying, and he requests to be returned to his cage.

Jack wakes in the morning to a group of Others watching him. A woman approaches, and he recognizes her as Cindy, the flight attendant from Flight 815. He asks her why she is with them. Cindy responds that "It's not that simple," and claims that they are here "to watch." A young girl unknown to Jack, Emma from the tail section, approaches and has Cindy ask Jack how Ana Lucia is doing, which angers Jack, and he yells at Cindy to go. She and the Others leave, including a young boy, Zach, who hands his teddy bear to his sister Emma.

3X09 CindyEmmaCage

Cindy and Emma, now part of the Others.

After the crowd disperses, Alex throws a stone at the security camera outside Jack's cage and breaks it. She asks Jack why he would help Ben after what he did to Jack. Jack demands to know what is going on with Juliet. Alex explains that they are reading Juliet's verdict. They are strict about killing their own, demanding an "eye for an eye." She reveals that Juliet killed Danny to help Kate and Sawyer escape. In return, Jack tells her that he helped Ben simply because he said that he would. He asks if Ben is still in charge. Alex says he is, and Jack tells her to get him out of the cage and take him to Ben.

3X09 JackBenAlex

Jack talks to Ben, with Alex watching them. (promotional still)

Jack storms into the operating room and warns a make do nurse in the room that they aren't treating Ben properly. Ben's wounds are seriously infected and it's possible he might not walk again. Jack says he'd be more impressed if they had a proper surgeon, and Ben says they used to have one—Ethan. Jack bargains with Ben, offering him proper treatment in return for him commuting Juliet's death sentence. Ben warns him that whatever Jack thinks Juliet did to help him, she's still "one of us." But Jack presses on, and Ben prepares to write down his orders.

Jack and Alex storm over to the deliberation room, where a group of Others are readying to give Juliet's verdict as she looks on. Tom grabs Jack, but Isabel stops him and takes Ben's orders from Alex. Ben has commuted Juliet's sentence, as 'the rules don't apply,' but also ordered her to be "marked."

Later Juliet, looking gaunt, but stoic, brings Jack a grilled sandwich with toothpicks to him in his bear cage. He asks to see her mark, and she reveals a brand with a small circle and eight radiating lines on her lower back. He points to an aloe bush and gets her to bring him a leaf, which he applies to her raw brand. She asks why he helped her. He says he did it so that Ben would keep his word to let both of them leave the Island. She asks how, and Jack says "together." Juliet informs him that they have to go back to where they live because Jack's friends will come to the Island to look for him. Jack asks where, and she says that Ben calls it "home."

3X09 JackBoat

Jack making his way to the Others' trawler.

The Others are gathered around a boat, and Isabel tells Jack his tattoo reads, "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us." Jack says the Chinese letters may say that, but "that isn't what they mean". Jack, Ben (on a stretcher), and two others row out to a larger boat.

Later, Alex looks up sadly at the same night sky that Karl looks at at the same time as he sits in his camp on the Island. Juliet looks at Jack as they and the Others travel through the night on the larger boat.

On the Island[]

3X09 KateKarlCanoe

Kate listens to Karl, who is still under the influence of room 23. (promotional still)

Sawyer sings to himself while he and Kate row back to the main island in the canoe with an unconscious Karl. Kate tries to convince Sawyer to turn around so they can rescue Jack, but Sawyer, incredulous, says it's too dangerous, and a semi lucid Karl agrees that the Others would kill them. Karl mutters a phrase from the room 23 video and falls back asleep.

Sawyer and Kate continue to bicker on the canoe; Sawyer is rowing towards the nearest part of the shoreline, but Kate wants to row all the way to the main camp to get help from Locke and Sayid. Sawyer becomes angry and points out that they have no food, no water, and no map, and that he can't steer in the dark. He tells her if she wants to contribute, she can gather firewood, and without waiting for her reply, snaps "Glad we agree." Kate gives him an angry look as they continue to shore.

Over a camp fire while it's still light out, Sawyer offers Kate fruit, which she refuses. Karl tells them they shouldn't fight, because they are lucky to be alive. Kate asks Karl about the Others. He reveals that they live on the main island and only work on "projects" on the smaller island. As for the children that were kidnapped, they "give them a better life." Kate asks "better than what?" "Better than yours," Karl tells her pointedly. He predicts that there won't be a moon that night, and says that when he and Alex were younger they used to lie out at night in their backyards and make up their own names for constellations.

3X09 KarlSawyerTalk

Karl and Sawyer's "man talk".

Kate wakes up and sees that Karl has disappeared. She shakes Sawyer awake, and they begin to search for him. But they hear Karl nearby crying and Sawyer tells her he will deal with him: "Boys only." Sawyer punches Karl in the shoulder and tells him to "cowboy up." Sawyer comforts him and suggests he go back for Alex, though Karl says they would kill him this time. Sawyer suggests that for a girl he would "name dumb stars with," it might be worth it.

Kate argues with Sawyer about him letting Karl go. She complains about him ordering her around. Sawyer says she is just angry because she feels guilty, not about leaving Jack, but for having sex with Sawyer. He says that she only did it because she thought he was going to die. A speechless and hurt Kate simply tries to brush off the comment, and the two move on.

Later that night, Sawyer looks sadly after Kate as she leads the way as they head back towards their camp; elsewhere, Karl sits by a fire and looks up at the stars.


  • This is the last Jack-centric flashback episode that is centric solely to Jack. Although it could be argued that "316" contains one long flashback instead of a flash-forward, his only other flashback is in Jacob-centric "The Incident, Part 1".
  • Jack's tattoo does not literally translate to "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us," as Isabel explains. It translates correctly in Chinese to "Eagles high, cleaving sky."
    • The tattoo is a real one, owned by the actor Matthew Fox, in addition to one on his forearm.
    • In the flashback, just as Achara is about to tattoo him and he is shirtless, the tattoo appears to be either covered or perhaps for the scene the film was horizontally flipped in editing.
  • There are several references to the stars, with Karl and Alex's constellations, Juliet's star brand, and the stars on Jack's tattoo.
  • Like Ben and Tom in "A Tale of Two Cities", Isabel (when talking to Jack) does a subtle version of the Namaste bow.
  • This is the first Jack flashback episode where his father, Christian Shephard, does not appear.
  • This episode is rated TV-14.

Production notes[]

  • No character or actor who appeared in the previous episode appears in this episode. This episode and the previous one are the only times this happens in the series.
  • Jack's kite was designed by Buteo Huang and is known as the Starbird.
  • Damon Lindelof later admitted this is the least favorite episode for fans, but "Homecoming" was his least favorite: [1]

What is your least favorite episode of Lost?

Damon Lindelof: Oh, my god. (Pauses) I think my least favorite episode is this episode that we did the first season called "Homecoming." It's when Claire comes back from having been in the jungle for a couple days after she was abducted by the Others, and Ethan comes after her. The backstory is Charlie is trying to go straight and he's selling copiers. At the end of the episode, he shoots Ethan. I wrote that episode, and it's my least favorite episode of the show ever.

I'm surprised by that answer. It's not an episode fans usually name as their least favorite.

The episode fans bring up most often is "Stranger in a Strange Land," which is the episode with Bai Ling and Jack and his tattoos. And basically, I feel like it's unfair to bag on that episode. Am I a huge fan of it? No. But at the same time, there were so many different circumstances that led to that episode that needed to be written and so many ideas that didn't work. The fact that it all coalesced ... There was a bad casting decision made. There was a bad premise decision made. There was a bad flashback story. Just everything that could go wrong did, but I don't think it was because the script was terrible. "Homecoming," I think, was flawed on almost every single level that an episode of Lost could be.

  • At 9:20am on the 8th of February 2011, Damon posted the following message to his official Twitter account [2], possibly indicating he has changed his mind:

On further reflection, I'm willing to admit that STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was little bit pitchy.

  • Later still, in 2014, asked to name "the worst episode of Lost, Carlton Cuse said[2]:

I mean, I think the episode where Jack gets his tattoos in Thailand. I think it's cringe-worthy, where he's flying the kite on the beach. It was not our finest hour. We used Matthew Fox's real tattoos. That's how desperate we were for flashback stories.

Bloopers and continuity errors[]

  • When Jack is at the beach with Achara preparing and flying his kite, the shorts he is wearing switch from being wet to dry and back again many times.
  • Just after Tom says the line "how about I get you some stones?" the sound of a door opening is heard and two Others walk in to take Jack away. However, the door they entered through was already open, so the sound should not have been heard.


The Season 3 soundtrack includes two cues from this episode. "Achara, Glad to See Me?" offers the first statement on a soundtrack of Jack's theme. "Ocean's Apart", the episode's closing cue, introduces Juliet's theme.


Recurring themes[]

Cultural references[]

Patience, stranger--
here in a strange land, poor man,
hate with a will
whatever the city holds in rooted hatred,
honor what the city holds in love.

Literary techniques[]

  • Achara states that Chet likes Jack in the restaurant, but Jack is later beaten badly by Chet. (Irony)
  • Isabel says she finds the translation of Jack's tattoo to be "a bit ironic." (Irony)
  • Jack shows Juliet affection, foreshadowing their future relationship. (Foreshadowing)
  • Kate says that "we have to go back" to Hydra Island, mid-escape, to rescue Jack. She disputes that very phrase when Jack says the same thing to her at the end of Season 3, when he realized they should have never left the Island. (Irony)  (Regularly spoken phrases)  (Foreshadowing)
  • The episode ends with a montage of Kate and Sawyer walking through the jungle, Karl and Alex looking at the stars, and Jack and Juliet on the boat. The orchestral score used in this montage is titled "Ocean's Apart" on the Season 3 soundtrack. All of these characters are "oceans apart" emotionally or physically. (Symbolism)

Storyline analysis[]

  • Jack bargains for Juliet's life. (Economics)
  • Ben commuted Juliet's sentence, saying the "rules do not apply". (Leadership)
  • Achara defined Jack as a leader and a great man. (Leadership)
  • Jack forced Achara to mark him, and is beaten for it. (Crimes)
  • Jack and Achara have sex. (Relationships)
  • Sawyer and Kate fight over the decision to leave Jack behind. (Relationships)
  • Jack shows Juliet affection when he treats her wound. (Relationships)

Episode connections[]

Episode references[]

  • Jack and Cindy remember each other from their meeting on Oceanic Flight 815. ("Pilot, Part 1")
  • On day 7, Jack playfully refused to tell Kate where and how he got his tattoos. ("House of the Rising Sun")
  • When Tom asks what kind of people Jack thinks the Others are, he recalls Claire's kidnap, Charlie's hanging, and the children being kidnapped. ("Raised by Another")  ("Homecoming")  ("Exodus, Part 2") ("The Other 48 Days")
  • On day 61, Jack told Sawyer he learned to play poker in Phuket. Sawyer also asked if that's where he got his tattoos, but Jack doesn't answer him. ("Lockdown")
  • Jack refers to Juliet's grilled sandwiches. ("A Tale of Two Cities")
  • Jack is aware of the camera at the cages after he found the surveillance room. ("I Do")
  • Sawyer thinks Kate only had sex with him because she thought he was a dead man. ("I Do")
  • Karl repeats the phrase from the room 23 video: "God loves you as he loved Jacob" ("Not in Portland")
  • Isabel asks Jack if Juliet really asked him to kill Ben. ("The Cost of Living")  ("Not in Portland")
  • Kate wants to go back for Jack, but Sawyer reminds her that he asked them to leave him. ("Not in Portland")
  • Juliet is punished for killing Danny Pickett. ("Not in Portland")

Episode allusions[]

  • Jack is moved to the cage Sawyer occupied before his escape. ("A Tale of Two Cities")
  • Ben tells Jack the Others had a good surgeon, by the name of Ethan, alluding to the fact that he was killed. ("Homecoming")

Unanswered questions[]

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: Stranger in a Strange Land/Theories
  • How have Cindy and the kids been "converted" by the Others?
  • What does Juliet's mark mean?
  • How did The Others learn it was Juliet who killed Pickett?