June 20, 2010

LOST S6E17/18: The End

Filed under: Lost,TV — DB @ 7:21 pm

Aloha friends. The extremely belated arrival of this message probably falls into one of three categories for you:

1. Don’t Care Anymore
2. Never Cared to Begin With
3. Dude, What the Fuck?

Whichever category you fall into, an apology is appropriate. For those of you in number three, I’ll spare you my excuses, legitimate though they may be. I’ll merely say that this was a challenging one to write, and I got so irritated a few times, unable to get across what I was attempting to say, that I had to shut it down and walk away. It didn’t help that I wasn’t doing the usual recapping. There was always more of that than I’d ever intended anyway, and the point was to look at what had already happened in an attempt to figure out what was coming next. But now there is no next. So I’ll offer some thoughts and opinions, simple and unsophisticated as they are (and all over the map – this is the most disorganized write-up I’ve ever done), and that will pretty much be that.

Once more into the breach…

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked a question more often in the span of a day or two as I was asked on the post-finale Monday and Tuesday what I thought of the episode. Even people who don’t watch the show asked me. My reputation is known. The short answer was that I liked it, I was happy, it was an emotionally satisfying conclusion. But there’s a longer answer. A much, so much longer answer…and lucky you, that’s what you’re about to get.

I did like the finale. In fact, I loved it. At the end of the previous write-up, I laid out my hopes and dreams for The End. A finale that has my heart racing with suspense? Check. A finale that’s surprising? Check. Brings back old favorites? Check. Answers some of the big questions? Umm…we’ll come back to that one. Carries the story and the character journeys to an emotional and thrilling climax worthy of the six spectacular seasons that got us here? Megacheck.

It had me at hello, with the opening scene cross-cutting between the characters on the island, their SidewaysLand-selves and the coffin of one Christian Shephard arriving in Los Angeles – a development which I didn’t expect, since it was Desmond who called Jack in the previous episode to inform him of the coffin’s impending arrival. But there it was, and my curiosity was further piqued (and hopes slightly raised) when Desmond had the body delivered to Eloise Hawking’s church, Our Lady of the Electromagnetic Pocket-Detecting Pendulum. The episode also made me smile early on by giving top billing not just to the current cast, but to all the returning and recurring actors as well, from L. Scott Caldwell and Sam Anderson (Rose and Bernard) to Maggie Grace and Ian Somerhalder to John Terry (Christian). It was a classy move that honored their indelible contributions throughout the life of the series.

I’m not quite sure where to begin since I’m not following the usual pattern, so why not start right at the major “what happened,” because even now it still seems to be a matter of uncertainty for some. I can’t say that I was in the Writer’s Room looking at the final script, but I can say with confidence that no, they did not all die when Oceanic 815 crashed on the island. Everything that they experienced on the island was real, from Jack waking up in the jungle to Jack entering his final sleep in the same spot after Ajira 316 soars overhead carrying Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Richard, Miles and Lapidus (Lapidus Lives!!!!) away to safety. Presumably. We really don’t know what happens to them – do they stay on the necessary bearing that allows them to break out of the island’s hold and enter real airspace so that they can make their way back to civilization? Do they have enough fuel? Working radar and radio to keep them from flying into other planes? Imagine being the air traffic controller who gets the call that the lost Ajira 316 is suddenly back in action and looking for a place to land…without most of its original passengers. But I digress. Naturally I believe that Ajira makes it home safely; that Kate helps Claire re-adjust and become a mother to Aaron; that Sawyer gets to meet his daughter Clementine; that Richard invents a line of cosmetics for men; and that Miles and Lapidus do anything that allows them ample opportunity to fire off dry, sarcastic, awesome one-liners.

And while they’re all doing that, Hurley and Ben preside over the island. Though I’m not sure I can claim it as an accurate prediction, I think I earn some points for suggesting halfway through the season that Hurley would be the ideal guardian for the island. The scene in which Jack passes on the responsibility to him was one of the episode’s emotional highlights, thanks largely to Jorge Garcia’s vulnerability, a skill that has always kept him from being mere comic relief. I did wonder about the fact that while Jack gives him water from the creek, he does not recite the incantation that Jacob did when passing on guardianship, or that the Woman in White did when anointing Jacob. Does that mean that the water from the creek alone is what gives the island’s guardian his power? Is the incantation just for show – a verbal Ring of the Schwartz? (Spaceballs? Anyone? “Forget the ring! The ring is bupkus! I found it in a Cracker Jack box! The Schwartz is in you, Lone Star! It’s in you!”) Was there any power associated with the island guardians at all? Perhaps Jacob’s long life and special abilities came from someplace else, and Jack – in his brief stint as the protector – had no such gifts. So without the incantation, did Hurley have any special protection to aid him in his…protection? And why do I suddenly feel like I’m writing a condom commercial?

Whatever the case, the implication is that Hurley remained on the island, with Ben as his second-in-command. Of all the great duos Lost has given us, each worthy of sitcom spin-offs – Hurley and Sayid, Hurley and Miles, Miles and Sawyer – I’d never thought of Hurley and Ben. I was surprised that Ben even survived to the end. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d long been expecting him to die a noble, sacrificial death. When he pushed Hurley out of the way of that falling tree in the bamboo field, I thought my prediction had come true. Obviously Hurley, Sawyer and Kate – with a little help from the shaking island, I think – managed to free him, but the effort was there. In the moment, Ben put himself in harms way to save Hurley. And later he chose to stay on the island when escape was a viable option. I think we can safely say that Benjamin Linus completed his transition from Machiavellian manipulator to good guy, and I like the idea that thanks to Hurley, he was given a real sense of purpose on the island for the first time. With the Man in Black gone, I wonder if Hurley and Ben oversaw an era of peace on the island or if there were difficult times. With Jacob gone, I wonder if people kept crashing into the island. Probably not, just like it might have become easier to get away from the island (based on Ben’s remark, “That’s how Jacob ran things. Maybe there’s another way.”) We don’t know if they were able to get Desmond home to Penny and little Charlie, but we know there were at least a handful of others left on the island to keep them company: Rose and Bernard (and Vincent, another long lost friend who returned) as well as any of the Others who had left the Temple with Man in Locke and survived Widmore’s mortar attack (hopefully Cindy the Flight Attendant and kids Zack and Emma). Apparently the DVD is going to include an extended epilogue that shows us a glimpse of Hurley and Ben’s reign on the island. That will certainly be worth checking out.

Going back to Desmond, I’m not sure I grasp how his storyline played out. When Widmore brought him back to the island and exposed him to the electromagnetism, his consciousness went on a journey that took him into SidewaysLand. I don’t think I even want to go down the rabbit hole of how his mind was now traveling not between time periods – as it did in The Constant or in Flashes Before My Eyes – but between life and afterlife. But however it happened, he made the connection between the two worlds when he found Penny at the stadium. And when he woke up back on the island, he carried with him the knowledge of SidewaysLand’s existence – and apparently he carried understanding of what it meant as well, since in SidewaysLand he immediately set out to find and unite the Oceanic 815 survivors and friends. Okay, so far so good. On the island, he is possessed of a new calm and lack of fear, apparently because he believes that nothing happening on the island matters anymore…a sentiment he explains to Jack before he is lowered into the tunnel of light.

Desmond goes down to the heart of the island – to what the Woman in White called “the source” – and he steps into the pool of water, which immediately begins to flash wildly and bubble up. The effect is much like what Desmond experienced in Widmore’s shack when he was caught between the two solenoids. But despite the pain he expresses, he keeps walking to the center of the pool, where he removes that long stone pillar that acts as a stopper. (One can’t help but think of Jacob’s wine bottle analogy to Richard: “The cork is this island. And it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.”) Would anybody else have been able to withstand the energy that Desmond had to move through in order to reach that stone?

Here’s what I’m getting at. Man in Locke tells Ben of Widmore’s confession, “He said Desmond was a fail-safe. Jacob’s last resort in case, God forbid, I managed to kill all of his beloved candidates. One final way to make sure that I never leave this place.” And Man in Locke believes that only Desmond can help him destroy the island – which would suggest that yes, only Desmond could have withstood the energy in the water. Meanwhile, Jack tells Sawyer that he believes Desmond to be a weapon. So does Desmond serve all of those needs? Did Jacob somehow make it that only Desmond would be able to survive going down into the light and removing that pillar, which does begin the destruction of the island (“It looks like you were wrong,” Man in Locke says to Jack) but which also strips Man in Locke of his invincibility (“Looks like you were wrong too,” Jack says in return)? And if so, why doesn’t Jacob tell Jack about Desmond when he makes Jack protector of the island? Jack makes a point of telling Sawyer that Jacob didn’t mention Desmond having a role to play. And did Desmond simply misunderstand his own gift, thinking that once he did his task in the tunnel he would die, knowing what awaited him in SidewaysLand? When Jack goes down the tunnel and finds him, Desmond says that putting out the light didn’t work, and that he thought he would “leave this place.” He says he has to replace the stone – that it has to be him and that Jack will die if he tries. Of course, since Jack is already dying, he sends Desmond back up the rope and remains at the bottom to take care of business.

So I get all the individual pieces. I’m just not sure what they add up to in terms to Desmond’s intended role. How was he Jacob’s last resort to keep Man in Black from escaping? Would Jacob have seen the island destroyed rather than allow Man in Black to leave, in which case the last resort would be for Desmond to enter the tunnel and the remove the pillar, thus initiating the sinking of the island and, as I’m sure Jacob assumed, the Man in Black with it? Or was it that by removing the pillar, Man in Black would become human again and therefore he could be killed? And if he became vulnerable to an ordinary death, would he have still posed the threat to the outside world that he apparently posed with his powers intact? We never really did understand what would happen if Man in Black got off the island. None of it matters now, I know. Whatever happened happened. But this is just one of the vague shadows left in the show’s wake.

If Desmond’s role on the island remains a bit hazy for me, his role in SidewaysLand couldn’t be much clearer: find his old friends and help them remember their former lives. The episode made it clear to what end he was on that mission. Simply put, as he said to Kate in the car outside the church and later to Eloise during the concert, he wanted to leave. And by the end of the episode, we had an idea of where to. The season-long mystery of the sideways-flashes was resolved with the revelation that in that timeline they were all dead. I hesitate to call it purgatory, as my interpretation of that word carries a somewhat negative connotation. I think of purgatory – perhaps incorrectly – as a limbo between heaven and hell where you face a final judgment that will determine which arena you ultimately enter. That’s not what this was to me. It was a better place – a place that, according to Christian, they made so that they could find each other. But it was also a place where they could make themselves and/or their circumstances better. Jack had lived in a constant state of insecurity instilled by his father, with whom he had a relationship that, while not devoid of love or affection flowing in both directions, was definitely challenging. In SidewaysLand, he gets to be the supportive, nurturing father he didn’t have. Sun and Jin get to escape from the reach of her father (and Jin doesn’t need the island’s power to solve his infertility and knock up the boss’ daughter). Hurley coasts on an endless wave of good luck. Ben gets to be a positive influence in people’s lives, most importantly Alex, who pretty much loathed him in life but who regards him as a father figure in SidewaysLand.

Others, for whatever reason, still had to endure some of the darker events that marred their real lives, but got to explore a more positive side of themselves. Sawyer’s childhood remained tarnished by the murder-suicide of his parents, and though he still seeks revenge, he channels his energy into being a cop instead of a criminal. Sayid sacrifices his happiness so that Nadia can have a better life and a family (that didn’t entirely work out, but I think a case can be made for the nobility of his actions). Locke is still in a wheelchair, but he has a healthy relationship with his father and holds onto Helen. He has love in his life instead of loneliness and abandonment.  Then there’s Kate, whose sideways circumstances didn’t seem much different. Maybe that’s because she never believed that she did anything wrong in the first place, so her sideways-self didn’t turn away from her original actions. Still, if they all created this place for themselves, you have to wonder why she would have put herself through the hassle of always being on the run. But I’m probably looking at it too literally. We can’t really examine it too closely, because the how’s and why’s of this afterlife are thinly constructed. They created this place so that they could find each other again? Okay, but how does that work? How did they create it, and what accounts for specific circumstances like Jack and Juliet having been married? Did Sayid’s spiritual entity or subconscious or whatever part of himself contributed to the “creation” of SidewaysLand actually determine that Nadia would be married to his brother, or did he have nothing to do with that?

One of the earliest and most prevalent theories of Lost was that the survivors of Oceanic 815 were not survivors at all, but had in fact all died in the crash and that the island was purgatory. The creators always said that wouldn’t be the case, and it wasn’t. But cheeky monkeys that they are, they took the notion and twisted it on its ear to fit their needs, using the idea to draw the show toward its conclusion without negating everything these characters had experienced over the course of six TV seasons. I kinda love that they did that. They got to have their cake and eat it too by affirming that all the events on the island were real – including the many casualties we had to endure – yet finding a way to bring comforting closure by taking us to a place where things were better for all of them and where we could see them embark on a new journey that would be free of the turmoil and heartache that touched their troubled lives. We experienced the hard times with them, and then said goodbye knowing that it was all behind them and that happiness lay ahead. Damon and Carlton always maintained that death had to be for real on the island or else we could never invest in the character’s fates, but in the end we got to rejoice in the reunions of Charlie and Claire, and Sawyer and Juliet, and feel elated rather than cheated. And to those who might argue that this whole Sideways thing is a hokey device typical of a show limited by its sci-fi/fantasy genre, I’ll remind you that grittier, more realistic shows like The Sopranos and Homicide: Life on the Street (precursor to The Wire) offered up similar storytelling devices during their respective runs.

Stories don’t have to be perfect to be great. Lost is one of the greats, but its imperfections are many and must be covered. I loved the finale, and the show itself takes its place in my top five favorite TV series ever (really just a top four, I guess, since I’m not sure what the fifth would be. Lost, The Sopranos, The Simpsons, Seinfeld and…Cheers? The West Wing? Arrested Development? The Larry Sanders Show?). But I’ve always been quick to point out the show’s missteps and mistakes, and now that it’s all over, the problems have to be talked about, for they will always be there. Everytime I go back and re-watch the series – and I expect I’ll revisit Lost many times over the years – these failures will remain, and at the same time that I love the show I will feel a sense of disappointment. It’s kind of the same feeling I get when watching a movie or performance that was screwed by the Academy. I can’t watch Donnie Brasco without being angry that Pacino wasn’t nominated, or Traffic without being angry that it lost Best Picture (despite wins for Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor and Editing. C’mon, are you kidding?!?). I know, these are two completely different types of circumstances – one is an outside factor having nothing to do with the work itself while the other was totally in the hands of the creators. But what can I say?

So what was the flaw in the plan? The way I see it, the flaw was that there wasn’t enough of a plan. No, I don’t think they were making it all up as they went along, but it wasn’t plotted as meticulously as we would have liked either. Season One was the only one which had real involvement from J.J. Abrams, and his fingerprints were all over it. Abrams has famously talked about his love of mystery (read his 2009 essay from the Wired Magazine edition he guest edited) and more specifically the concept of the “mystery box” (included in this 20 minute presentation he made in 2007 at the TED conference), and the beginnings of Lost were built on these ideas. A mysterious island with a large, unseen, tree-shaking, airplane-pilot-chomping monster. An island with runaway polar bears. An island from which a French woman’s radio transmission has been emanating for 16 years. And an island that literally had a giant, mystery box in the form of a hatch buried in the ground. Classic Abrams. But that kind of mystery won’t work over the course of a years-long TV series. Eventually, we need to see that monster. We need to find out why that polar bear is there. We need to learn about the French woman. And we need to see what’s in that hatch. (Bad examples, maybe, since we did get answers to all those questions. But you get the point.)

Who knows at what point they figured out that a guy named Desmond was down there, and that he crashed on the island during a solo race around the world sponsored by the wealthy father of his ex-girlfriend who himself had once lived on that island, or that the hatch was one of many on the island built by a group called The Dharma Initiative, which was the brainchild of University of Michigan graduate students Gerald and Karen DeGroot and was funded by The Hanso Foundation. But as the show went on, more of these mysteries started cropping up and fewer of them were getting resolved. So we entered this final season with high expectations of resolution, and we didn’t quite get it. I know that answers are more important to some than to others. For some, it was enough to have a show which was thematically rich and had engaging, complex characters that we came to know and love. Answers weren’t necessarily important or required. And if I agree with those viewers about anything, it’s that not every question needed answering and not every mystery needed solving. Some things are more important than others (although we surely all have our own opinions as to what we wanted explained and what we were willing to overlook). Plus you want a show like Lost to leave you thinking and debating. I wouldn’t have wanted it all wrapped up in a bow.

But there’s a middle ground somewhere in there, and the show failed to deliver on promises it made. For all the viewers described above, there were those for whom the mystery was everything. What kept them coming back week after week, season after season was the promise – the expectation – that all the WTF plot twists and fascinating but frustrating developments would be paid off. They wanted their patience to be rewarded, and instead they got majorly blue-balled.

So said the Woman in White to Claudia, biological mother of Jacob and the Man in Black, before crushing her skull with a rock. That may be true…but does it mean you can use it as an excuse not to answer questions that you’ve not just posed, but repeatedly teased us with?  I’m no Robert Stack, but let me attempt to walk through some of the unsolved mysteries that Lost left hanging.

Walt – This is number one with a bullet for me. We got tantalizing glimpses in Season One that Walt was in possession of certain abilities that made him…special. Special, in fact, was the name of the episode that showed us Walt’s life before the crash (and Michael’s). In Season Two, after he’d been kidnapped from the raft, he appeared three times to Shannon, dripping wet and speaking unintelligibly. I’ve never been sure whether those instances were extensions of his own abilities or whether it was the Island doing that, but I mention them here anyway. Walt’s talents were further alluded to by the Others a few times at the end of the season, but then he and Michael boated away before we got to learn anything of substance. Walt appeared a few more times – on the island to Locke after he’d been shot by Ben, and off the island when he visited Hurley at the mental institution and was himself visited by Locke outside his school. He didn’t appear in the final season at all, other than in a brief flashback moment.

The Walt question was among the most frequently asked by fans, and last October, Damon addressed it yet again in an interview with USA Today (I included this quote in my first pre-season write-up back in January):

“I think a lot of people are justifiably frustrated by the Walt of it all. We said he has this special ability, and the Others obviously grabbed him and studied him for awhile, then they got freaked out by him and decided to let him go. I think that there are certain stories on the show that feel like dangling participles based on external factors. For us, we were incredibly limited by the fact that Malcolm David Kelley was growing at an exponentially faster rate than the show was progressing. So, you know, when we showed him in Season 5 and Locke is trying to recruit members of the Oceanic Six, the only way that it worked was to see him three years older. But hopefully, why Walt was special and the role he played on the show will have a new significance when all is said and done. And I’m not sure we really need the character of Walt to explain the significance.”

Well guys, all is said and done, and there is no new significance about why Walt was special and the role he played on the show. And don’t try to hide behind the growth thing. What did you think was going to happen when you cast a pre-pubescent kid on a show about a bunch of people trapped on an island? Here’s a mystery I can solve for you: kids grow up. If the creators chose to build a story like this around Walt, then they should have factored in the inevitable aging that would occur, rather than pretending five years later that it caught them by surprise. The fact that they never re-visited the storyline was even rubbed in our faces during Season Four. By then, the show had long moved on from the Walt storyline, but they brought it back to our attention in the minisode Room 23 (taking place during the events of the first three seasons, the minisodes were created as content for Verizon subscribers but then made available online and on the Season Four DVD set). Sure, they weren’t widely seen, but they were canonical contributions to the story. So why go back and remind us of Walt’s powers if there was to be no payoff? (I made the same complaint at the time…and in commenting on last season’s finale…and probably several other times.)

They could have found ways after Walt left the island to bring him back into the story more prominently than with the cameos he had after the Oceanic Six returned to society. Walt could have played as important a role on the island as Desmond was supposed to play if they had chosen to go that route. When I heard that Harold Perrineau was returning to the show in Season Four, my theory was that Jack was going to enlist Michael and Walt’s help in getting back to the island, playing on Michael’s guilt for the murders of Libby and Ana Lucia. But they went in another direction (I’ll talk about that later too), and again this season they ignored an opportunity to bring Walt back and address the mystery of his Shining. Last season, when Eloise Hawking told Jack, Sun and Ben that they had to re-create the conditions of the Oceanic 815 flight as closely as possible, I thought they were going to get Walt to come back with them. Once again, I thought wrong.

Eloise Hawking – And speaking of Eloise, she’s right on Walt’s tail, given that all the intrigue surrounding her never went anywhere. We first met her in Season Three’s Flashes Before My Eyes, the first episode to explore Desmond’s time-traveling consciousness after he turned the failsafe key in the hatch. She appeared to be the proprietor of a jewelry store, but in fact knew who Desmond was and what was happening to him. She went on to appear in a number of episodes, one of the most notable being last season’s 316, in which she instructed Ben, Sun and Jack on how they could return to the island. We also met her as a younger woman, living on the island – first in the 1950’s and later in the 1970’s paired up with Charles Widmore – and came to know her as Daniel Faraday’s mother. There’s no denying that this dame was plugged into the mothership in a pretty singular way. And yet nothing about her was ever explained. How did she have the unique knowledge that she did of the island and the way to access it? How did she come to be running a Dharma station in the basement of a Los Angeles church? What was her history with Widmore? What were her goals in relation to the island? There were many things that she did or said in individual scenes that were mini-mysteries in themselves, so cryptic that they seemed certain to pop up again, and yet they never did. She was a fascinating character who was key to the Lost universe, and yet we never got to understand how or why.

The Cabin – Originally built by The Dharma Initiative’s Horace Goodspeed, “Jacob’s cabin” was the site of some freaky paranormal activity and the home to a mysterious wide-open eye. Oh, and it liked to move around the island. Whether the cabin was ever used by Jacob we don’t know (Ilana and her team did go looking for him there), but we eventually learned enough to know that it had been occupied by the Man in Black in the island’s more recent days. Maybe we’re supposed to infer that the eye belonged to him. But inference doesn’t cut it in this case. What was up with this place? If it was meant to keep the Man in Black trapped within, which seems likely based on the circle of ash that surrounded it, then how was he able to travel around the island in other forms (Smoke Monster, Christian Shephard, etc.)? Why did it change locations on the island?

Death by Pregnancy – So much was made during the first three years of the show about the fact that pregnant women died on the island. It was the reason that the Others brought Juliet there. It was the reason they kidnapped Claire (and planned an attack to kidnap the rest of the women). It was a danger hanging over Sun. Eventually, it was a source of tension between Ben and Richard. And yet after all the emphasis paid to it, the plot point disappeared entirely and was never explained in the slightest. I guess we have to chalk it up to a storytelling miscarriage.

The Dharma Initiative – It’s not that there were burning mysteries around Dharma, but more that there was so much to know about it that remained unexplored. Eloise Hawking explained in the Lamp Post hatch in Los Angeles that the Dharma Initiative had “gathered proof that it [the island] existed. They knew it was out there somewhere, but they just couldn’t find it. Then a very clever fellow built this pendulum on the theoretical notion that they should stop looking for where the island was supposed to be and start looking for where it was going to be.” She references the “clever fellow” a few more times, yet we never learned who it was. And why was the Dharma Initiative looking for the island at all? How did they know about it? Once it was established there, what was happening back in Ann Arbor, its off-island base? Why were food palettes still being dropped 30 years later? Why did Dr. Chang appear under a series of related false names in the orientation videos (Marvin Candle, Mark Wickmund and Edgar Halliwax)? Why did Ben…like…kill them all? (There was an online multimedia game during the show’s early years called The Lost Experience, which delved into some of the Dharma backstory and even offered up an explanation of the Numbers, referring to them as the Valenzetti Equation.)

The Others – The earliest incarnation of the group we saw was in 1950’s, when it was led by Richard and included Eloise “Ellie” Hawking and Charles Widmore in their late teens or twenties. Other than being a little defensive, protective and all-around intense, they seemed a far cry from the vicious and cruel Others who operated under Ben’s rule. (Actually, strike that – they launched an attack of flaming arrows that barbecued some of the castaways, which does fit the “vicious and cruel” mold. But Richard, at least, seemed like a reasonable leader when he met captives Faraday, Charlotte and Miles, or when Sawyer talked to him at the Dharma barracks after the apparent Truce violation.) But going back to that early group in the 50’s – how did Ellie, Charles and the others come to be there? Were they brought by Jacob? How did Widmore and Ellie eventually come to power? How did Ben get Widmore banished and get the remaining Others to acknowledge his authority? Did Ben know Eloise on the island? We always heard about The Others making lists and working off lists, and eventually those lists were tied to Jacob, but if you go back and watch those first few seasons, the way the lists are talked about and even some of the specifics of who was and wasn’t on them does not sync up with what we learned about Jacob’s list in this final season.

Secrets of the Island – We eventually got an explanation of the whispers in the jungle (something else I’ll discuss later), but what about all the strange sights that were seen around the island? We already talked about Walt’s appearances to Shannon. There was also the horse from Kate’s past that she (and Sawyer) saw; Harper Stanhope, the Other whose husband Goodwin had an affair with Juliet, suddenly appeared out of nowhere to Juliet to deliver a message, then disappeared into thin air; Ben’s mother, who appeared to him during his childhood, prior to his first encounter with Richard; Richard’s wife Isabella, who spoke to Hurley and then to Richard;  Young Jacob, inexplicably popping up in front of Man in Locke, Sawyer, Desmond and Hurley at various times; and maybe there are others that I’m forgetting. Were all of these actually the Man in Black, taking on those forms just as he took on Christian Shephard’s? (That couldn’t be the case with Young Jacob or Isabella, but maybe the rest?)

And random apparitions in the jungle are not the beginning and end of the island’s mysteries. How was it able to hold sway over people, such that despite all of Michael’s efforts to kill himself back in New York, the island wouldn’t let him die? And what was the deal with the source of light on the island? When we follow Desmond and Jack to the bottom of the tunnel, we see a vast cavern with openings in the walls that look like small caves. There are more Egyptian-looking markings and structures down there (the island’s many ruins being another unexplained feature). And what’s with the pillar plugging up the hole in the bright pool of water? The pillar which, when removed, begins to destroy the island? And on the topic of island holes and electromagnetism, how does the Man in Black make the leap from “we have discovered places all over this island where metal behaves strangely” to figuring out that by inserting a big wheel-crank into a wall beside this energy, he’ll be able to leave the island?

Finally (at least for my current purposes) there were the things that the show did explain…but not quite. It gave us a pretty cool storyline about why Libby was in the mental hospital…except that it was in SidewaysLand, and did not explain why she had been there when we first saw her there, before she and Hurley had ever been to the island. We found out that the Black Smoke was actually a metaphysical incarnation of the Man in Black…but the fact that it made a grinding mechanical sound like a chain being rapidly retracted by a winch, or the fact that it flashed images of people’s lives, were never dealt with. And I already mentioned Jacob’s lists – explained in the final season…but not consistent with information from previous seasons.

I could go on and on and on about ideas, subplots, etc. that played out on the show without ever being explained. And again, those of you who aren’t as infatuated with the mystery-aspect of it all may be asking why everything has to have a reason. Well as I’ve admitted, it doesn’t really. Looking at these last several paragraphs, the further down the list we move, the less closure is probably required. The unanswered questions about Walt and Eloise are the only two that, for me, are egregious omissions. The rest of the list represents a lot of things, big and small, that were thrown at us and never resolved. Okay – they didn’t all need to be…but if the show was going to keep introducing these mysterious elements, then I do believe it should have dealt with more of them than it did. And if it wasn’t important to answer any of those questions, then it probably wasn’t important to introduce many of them in the first place. But the writers kept thickening the plot, even after the show was well established and they knew – and had embraced – the rabid fan base they were dealing with. How could they not expect people to read into things, to build up plot points in their minds, to expect more resolution than they gave us?  At what point do you stop saying, “Oh we don’t need to explain everything” or “Oh, only obsessives need every little thing explained” and admit that maybe there was some sloppy storytelling going on? Storytellers have a responsibility – to the integrity of the story itself, and to their audience. I believe there’s some obligation to account for mysteries that you put into your story if so much of your story is going to thrive on those very mysteries.

It’s all the more frustrating because they could easily have dealt with some of these things. The final season felt rushed at times, but it didn’t have to be that way. Each of the final three seasons was abbreviated. The typical network TV series lasts for 24 episodes. But Season Four of Lost was only 14 episodes, while Seasons Five and Six were 17 (Season Four would have been 17 as well, but the writer’s strike threw a wrench in the gears). When faced with writing this final season, surely Damon and Carlton could have asked the network for a few more hours to wrap it all up. Do you really think ABC would have said no? We wouldn’t want them spinning their wheels like The X-Files did in its final years, but Lost could have benefitted from a little more time. Like Marty McFly going back to 1985 earlier than planned so he could warn Doc about the Libyans, so too could Damon and Carlton have taken advantage of the time available to them….1.21 gigawatts not required.

There is a ray of hope on the horizon. There are rumors that the aforementioned DVD-exclusive epilogue about Hurley and Ben’s time on the island may yet address some of these lingering mysteries and curiosities – even the one around Walt. That will be cool, but it will also be a consolation prize.

While I’m taking Damon and Carlton to task for things they denied us, I must drudge up a few things I wish they’d denied us, for as excellent as Lost’s story arcs usually were (even if they weren’t always complete), there were some that they just flat-out botched. Three, in particular, come to mind.

Michael – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it one more time: they blew it royally with Michael. So many opportunities to bring that character back in smart and meaningful ways, and they went the lamest route every time. His return in Season Four seemed like a half-baked afterthought, a gesture that reeked of Damon and Carlton feeling obligated to the fans who kept asking what happened to him and Walt when they left the island…as if people weren’t going to want an answer to that. They could have brought him back the way I suggested earlier; the way I thought they would bring him back: having Jack approach him for help getting back to the island. Instead, they saddled him with estrangement from Walt, suicidal tendencies and a deadly mission aboard the freighter. Okay okay, the whole freighter thing…that could have worked. He comes back to try and make up for his betrayal, and finds himself once again living with the people he left behind. If he’d been thrown back into situations with Jack, Sawyer and Hurley, etc., there could have been really great material to mine from his guilt and their feelings toward him. And eventually, they could have built him up to a true redemption. Instead, after he’d barely been back, they shoved him in a room full of C4, blew it up and tried to sell us a bullshit story that he had come back and sacrificed his life for his friends. True? Technically, sure. He died trying to buy them time to escape. But really, it was a total flame-out; the fitting capper to a clumsy storyline and a gross missed opportunity.

They had one more chance this season to repair the damage and give Michael the send-off he deserved – if not in the context of the story itself (since he was already dead), then at least for the fans via a cool SidewaysLand arc. Instead, they fucked him and us again. He got only two brief scenes in one episode – yelling at Hurley (next to Libby’s grave, no less. The gall!) and then telling Hurley that he’s trapped on the island as punishment for what he did. Are you serious? Sawyer killed people in cold blood out of a years-old desire for revenge – one of his victims being the wrong guy, I might add – yet he got to make happy with Juliet in SidewaysLand. They all did bad things – that was the whole point. Yes, Michael killed Ana Lucia and Libby…but he was a father desperate to save his boy, who saw no other way out. I’m not condoning his actions (and surely I’m not taking this to heart and talking about him as if he were a real person, because that would be absurd), but come on! What wouldn’t a parent do to save their child? Michael should have been given the chance to atone properly, and then he should have taken his rightful place in SidewaysLand instead of being relegated to eternal damnation on the island. That shit ain’t right. His absence from that final scene in the church will always sting.

And while we’re talking about disappointing resolutions, the jungle whispers are a chorus of island dead?? I guess that’s not such a bad idea, but it would be easier to accept if it made any sense. When Hurley, out of the blue, solves the riddle of the whispers, Michael tells him, “We’re the ones who can’t move on.” Okay, the island has deemed some souls too corrupt to move on to a happier place, so it keeps them there as eternal punishment. So they roam around the island as a collective, chattering in the leaves at appropriately ominous moments? When Ben kidnapped baby Alex from Rousseau, he gave her a warning: “If you want your child to live, everytime you hear whispers, you run the other way.” What was that supposed to mean? What would have happened if she heard whispers and didn’t run the other way? Was there some kind of pattern to when we heard he whispers? I can’t remember now. All I remember is that when we finally found out what they were, it was a letdown.

And then there’s Christian Shephard. Obviously a big figure in Jack’s life. Also Claire’s father. He traveled to Sydney with Ana Lucia. He drank with Sawyer. He helped Locke move the island. He showed Sun where (make that “when”) Jin was. He was there when Michael blew up. All along it seemed like Christian had a purpose that would factor into Jack’s endgame. Instead, they copped out and revealed that all those times we saw Christian on the island it was just the Man in Black. Nevermind that Christian continued to appear on the island after Man in Black had taken on Locke’s form, even though we were told that once he took Locke’s form he was stuck with it. Look, I’m not a well-paid writer on one of TV’s most creative shows, so I can’t tell you what the truth about Christian Shephard should have been. All I can tell you is that it should have been better than Man in Locke saying, “Oh, that was me. My bad.” Another lame avoidance of dealing with story points they had been unspooling all along without proper foresight.

The one other significant complaint I need to lodge is that given how everything was resolved, the sideways timeline was emphasized too heavily. The sideways flashes were central to the final season, but not to the series overall – yet they wound up being a huge part of the show’s ultimate destination. I remember being disappointed by the finale of Friends because it focused too much on getting Ross and Rachel together for their inevitable Happily Ever After (spoiler alert?) at the expense of storylines for some of the other characters. The Ross and Rachel stuff should have been resolved a few episodes earlier so that the finale could focus on the group of six as a whole and what was happening next for them. By the same token, the finale of Lost was too preoccupied with resolving the sideways-flashes than with ending the story of the island itself. Now given what SidewaysLand turned out to be, it was only fitting that the show end there. For the ending they wanted to deliver, it had to be that way. Yet if the show had run for a few more episodes and if more time had been taken to wrap up the island stories, the time devoted in the finale to the resolution of SidewaysLand wouldn’t have felt like it came at the expense of other subplots and mysteries.

Okay, I don’t want to harsh on the show too long. My overall feelings are definitely positive, not negative. But it is interesting – many things seem so stubbornly unresolved that you almost wonder if they did it to see if they could. Could they wrap this up without dealing with a lot of the mysteries, but tell such a satisfying story from a character point of view that people would still feel like it was all worth it? We may never know their intention, but for me, the answer is yes. As much as I think the show failed to give us answers we were owed, I was fully swept up in the emotional conclusion, enough so that the lack of finality did not leave too bitter a taste in my mouth. I know there are some on the other side of that fence; I randomly stumbled upon this blog from a guy who was so disappointed at the ending that he’s re-editing the final season to remove the sideways storyline completely. I’m not sure what that accomplishes; cutting out SidewaysLand doesn’t magically create the answers he felt cheated out of. But the point is, I’m sure this guy is not alone. And if the paragraph above suggests that I didn’t like the whole sideways angle, nothing could be further from the truth. I dug the concept from the moment it was introduced.

With a couple of exceptions, the finale’s most emotional moments came via SidewaysLand, which is no surprise given the reunions to which we were treated. When Sawyer and Juliet reconnected, the guess made by me and many others that some of her dying words in the season premiere (“We could get coffee sometime. We can go Dutch.”) would come back into play proved correct, and of course had me wondering how a near-death Juliet was able to see into SidewaysLand, causing her to speak those words to Sawyer as he cradled her broken body. (Also, I liked how when he unplugged the vending machine and then plugged it back in, releasing his stuck candy bar, she said to him, “It worked” – the same thing she was attempting to say to him on the island when she breathed her last.)

But of course no reunion for me could top Charlie and Claire’s. Emotion was already welling up when he was onstage at the concert and spotted her in the audience, knowing her only as the woman from his vision of true love which he had described to Desmond earlier in the season. His stares were not lost on her, and taking in his gaze almost seemed to jumpstart her labor. Aaron’s birth and its triggering of both hers and Kate’s memory of the island was a great moment, but then when she realized that she knew Charlie and took his hand, and then he remembered her and started to cry…well the tears on display in my living room weren’t just on the screen. Even though they didn’t recognize it through all of Season Four, when the writers had Claire completely forget about Charlie, they remembered here what a sweet and special relationship they had in those two and made their reunion the episode’s emotional highlight, next to the closing scene.

Nice but not quite as successful was Sayid finding Shannon. It would have been better if Shannon got to play a larger role, but their meet-up felt oddly abbreviated and sort of vaguely arranged. Hurley had apparently found Boone and somehow gotten him to remember the island, then sent him back to Australia to get Shannon and bring her back to the states (not sure how all that could possibly have transpired in the limited amount of time this all happened in, but oh well). I would have liked to see Boone make the connection, and I would have liked more time with both him and Shannon, but brief cameos (including their presence at the church) was all we got. I think it also felt strange because people in SidewaysLand were reconnecting with their true loves, and yet most people would probably agree that for Sayid, that would be Nadia and not Shannon. He and Shannon had a nice little thing going, sure, but weren’t Sayid and Nadia really the ones who belonged together? I wanted to see Maggie Grace return as Shannon, but it should have happened in a stronger way than this.

Of course not all of SidewaysLand’s reunions were romantic. The pivotal encounter came between father and son. After the disappointment of learning that Man in Black had been impersonating Christian Shephard on the island, I thought that was it for the character. But as played by John Terry, Christian was always one of my favorite things on the show, so having him make a final appearance was huge for me. He was there to live up to his name (so overt in its religious connotations that when Desmond tells Kate early in the episode the name of the man whose coffin they were looking at, her skeptical reaction was, “Christian Shephard? Seriously?”), even though the finale didn’t play into one particular religious belief. The room where Jack and Christian meet has images from Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and possibly other isms that I missed or can’t recall. I liked that while Jack kept experiencing flashes back to the island – first after Locke makes his own realization post-surgery, and then when he arrives at the concert and Kate kisses him – he seemed almost determined to suppress them whereas everyone else’s flowed freely. But Jack’s didn’t come until he touched his father’s casket. And then it all came pouring back. It always seemed like Jack was destined for some kind of final encounter with his father, and while I always expected it to happen on the island, it turned out to be in the afterlife.

As I said earlier and as the clip presents, Christian describes SidewaysLand as a place they all made together so that they could find each other, adding that the most important part of his life was the time he spent with them. “Nobody does it alone Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.” They were each others’ best hope for redemption and they became a family after real family had failed them. I’ve always loved the cosmic interconnectivity of the Lost universe, and the ways that characters crossed paths off the island. There was always the implication that they were bound to each other, and these scenes at the church were a beautiful, final reinforcement of that notion, bringing them all back together so that they could travel to the next plane (no, not the kind of plane that corralled them all in the first place). Although we’re told that they created this place themselves, I like to think that it was Jacob’s final reward to all of them – his way of thanking them for the role they (mostly) unwittingly played in his game. There are no clues to suggest that, but I like thinking of it that way. And if I knew more about religion, there might be other theories to explain it. Reader Denise B. shared an interpretation involving John the Baptist, but you’ll have to research him yourself if you’re so inclined.

Of course, seeing everyone together in the church can’t help but make us think about who wasn’t there. We already covered Michael, who’s stuck whispering in the jungle. I assume Mr. Eko is there with him, having met his end in the wispy yet firm grasp of the Smoke Monster. Ben remained outside the church, choosing not to move on with them – maybe because he didn’t feel he had really earned a right to be there with them, maybe because he wanted to enjoy the better experience of his sideways life for a little while longer, or maybe for some other reason. I wish that Faraday, Miles, Charlotte and Lapidus had been there. None of the 815ers got to spend much time with Charlotte on the island, but Daniel, Miles and Frank each had strong bonds with some of them, which would have made their presence welcome and appropriate (it still bugs me that Lapidus never even showed up in SidewaysLand). It was Faraday – or make that Daniel Widmore – who helped Desmond make the connection between the island and SidewaysLand, even if he hadn’t quite finished making it himself. But Desmond doesn’t return the favor, telling Eloise that he’s not going to bring her son with him. There are some others that were absent from the church – like Richard and Ana Lucia (the former having been described by Desmond as “not ready”) – but maybe their absence is due to them never having been as closely tied into the group. And of course Walt wasn’t there. But, you know…the producers didn’t expect him to grow up, so…what can you do?

-After Jack’s eye closes and we see the final appearance of the closing L O S T credit (nicely done this time as a slow fade-in rather than the usual crash), the credits rolled over images of the Oceanic 815 wreckage on the beach. Ever looking for an angle, many of the fans took this to have some kind of meaning, and thought it really was a way of saying that none of them survived the initial crash. But ABC soon confirmed that they added this, and that no meaning should be taken from it.

-The previous couple of episodes left us wondering about the respective fates of Lapidus and Richard, so of course I was happy to find them both alive in this episode. But I also like that Miles, the guy who’s gifted and cursed with hearing the thoughts of the recently deceased, is also the guy who finds Richard and Frank alive and helps them continue their journeys. (And I haven’t talked about it yet, but the whole sequence with the Ajira plane getting fixed and then taking off was just stellar.)

-I like that Sun’s memory of the island was triggered by Juliet giving her an ultrasound, though I wasn’t sure how Jin’s memory was jogged, since it seemed to happen when he saw the baby on the monitor. He has no corresponding experience from his island life, so it seemed more a matter of necessity and convenience than one of logic. Even less logical? Why he has absolutely no accent once he’s made the connection. Daniel Dae Kim was using his normal voice, which lacks any kind of accent.

-The episode had a lot of clever dialogue that either harkened back to previously used words and phrases, or else came loaded with foreshadowing. When Jack tells Kate that he took the job from Jacob because he had ruined everything in his life and the island is all he had left, Kate tells him that he didn’t ruin anything. “Nothing is irreversible,” she says – the same thing Jack told Locke about his spinal cord injury when they met at Oceanic’s lost baggage desk in SidewaysLand. As Jack and Man in Locke hover over the edge of the waterfall in the tunnel, waiting for Desmond to do what he goes down to do, Locke tells him that when the island drops to the bottom of the ocean, he’ll realize this had all been a fool’s errand. Jack replies, “Well we’ll just have to see which one of us is right then,” – a line which I am positive was used previously, I think by Man in Locke, but I can’t recall when it happened. There were even visual examples of this, such as the shot that showed Man in Locke and Jack peering over the edge of the waterfall in the tunnel as the camera descends, a shot which evokes the last image of Season One, with the two of them peering down the newly-blown open hatch as the camera retreats from them into the abyss.

It all makes you wonder how much of a Usual Suspects element there is to the show, in that re-visiting it from the beginning with the knowledge of how it ends might give certain lines or scenes new meaning. Will it be a new experience watching the show all over again? Probably not too new, since so much of the mythology was ultimately ignored, but I’ll bet more allusions like the ones mentioned here pop up along the way. I suppose it’s possible that at least a second viewing of the final season will reveal lots of clues within the dialogue. For example, in Lighthouse, when Jack approaches his son after tracking him down to a conservatory audition, he tells him that as a boy he was told by his father that he didn’t have what it takes. “I spent my whole life carrying that around with me,” he says. Now that line totally works on the surface of that situation. But another reading could also place it in the past tense. If Jack said, “I have spent my whole life carrying that around with me,” it would be clear that up to that moment in his life he has carried the comment with him. But “I spent my whole life…” could be taken to mean that he’s not alive anymore. Semantics? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it will be fun to eventually look for similar clues.

There are also the ironic lines peppered throughout the episode, like Jack telling Locke just before his surgery, “I’ll see you on the other side,” or joking with him that the surgery could fail and that he could kill him…which, on the island, he does. Or when Jack tells Sawyer that it doesn’t matter if they find Desmond or if Locke finds him, because they’re all going to the same place. And later, when Jack tells Hurley he’s going into the tunnel to undo whatever Desmond did, and Hurley says he’ll die. “I’m dead already,” he explains, obviously referring to the knife wound in his gut. But by the end of the episode we know that the line also carries a less literal meaning. Surely there are more of these that I missed or can’t recall.

-Did anyone else get a strong Star Trek II, Spock’s-sacrifice vibe from Desmond entering the pool, the electromagnetism blazing all around him, and removing that oblong rock from a hole in the center? Once again, the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one, brotha.

-If Eloise knew what SidewaysLand was, why did it bother her that Desmond was trying to make the others aware as well? Was it because she wanted to continue existing in a place where she hadn’t killed her son and where he was healthy and happy? Wouldn’t she understand that it could not be a permanent resting place for any of them, herself included?

-I feel like I must have missed something here, but I never felt like we got an explanation for why the island was on the bottom of the ocean in the beginning of the season. Sideways Flight 815 flew over the island and continued on toward Los Angeles, and then we plunged into the depths of the ocean and found the island resting on the ocean floor. But what was it doing there? In reality, Jack prevented the island from sinking and we are left to assume that it continues to exist under the leadership of Hurley and Ben. Are we supposed to think that it sinks at some point in the future, so that in SidewaysLand the island is “dead,” just as they all are? Are we supposed to think that it sank sometime during the course of their sideways lives? Remember that the island did exist in SidewaysLand, as Ben and his father made reference to living there and being part of the Dharma Initiative during Ben’s childhood. Obviously the image of the island under the sea was a bold beginning to the season, but again, unless I missed something, it was a provocative notion that went absolutely nowhere. Anyone?

-Not to be forgotten, here are the final installments of Lost Untangled with Muppet Dr. Chang, as well as Lost Slapdown with special guest Kermit the Frog.

-As you know, the season finale was followed by a special episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, featuring several cast members and some funny alternate endings. If you don’t want to watch the full episode, linked above, here is just the alternate ending portion of the show.

-I’ve mentioned the epilogue that will be featured on the DVD set, but if you’re interested in seeing what else the DVD’s have in store – both the Season Six set and the Complete Series set – take a look here. Of course I’ll need to get that complete series collection, and will be selling my individual season sets to help offset the cost. If any of you who don’t plan to splurge for the big set happen to be interested in buying the previous season sets, let me know. Or feel free to just send large donations my way. The set hits stores on my half-birthday. Just sayin.’

“Alright, y’all go ahead to your heart of the island and I’ll go get the magic Leprechaun out of that well.” – Sawyer

“I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape.” – Miles

It’s now been four weeks to the day since the finale aired, and I still haven’t read everything I wanted to read or watched everything I wanted to watch before sending this message. For all the time it’s taken me to deliver this, I wish I could say that I had some deep, thoughtful comments to make about the series as a whole, but I really don’t. Flawed as it was in the end, I really do think it was one of the greats, ambitious on levels that most shows don’t even reach for. Just in the six years that Lost has been on the air, its influence has been seen in others shows, from Invasion to Heroes to Flashforward, but none have had even remotely the same impact. It’s truly rare to have a mainstream show so filled with ideas. Beyond the cool twists, the character drama and the humor was a show that actually made people think about more than just the story unfurling in front of them. We always hear that TV rots the brain, but Lost was exercise for the brain, a pop-intellectual endeavor that gave us puzzles to solve and inspired people to read and learn about subjects that the writers intricately wove into story. For years to come, college courses in literature, philosophy, religion and even quantum physics will be taught through the prism of Lost, and books on the same subjects will be written. You can’t say that about many programs.

I’ve spent a lot of time in these messages praising the cast, and the actors that have come through the series over the years – as regulars and as recurring and guest stars – have comprised one of television’s great ensembles, and one of its most international. Terry O’Quinn was truly a revelation – a character actor who we knew from numerous movies and TV series, but who found the role of a lifetime in John Locke. Nothing he’d done before gave him the opportunities that Lost did, and he excelled at every one. He brought such grace, subtlety and nuance to the character, and just when you thought he had outdone himself, he came along and set his personal bar even higher. I can say without hesitation that his performance stands up to the best I’ve seen in the movies. And he wasn’t alone. Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Elizabeth Mitchell…I could literally list every actor’s name. I hope they can go on to more great work that allows them different types of characters and challenges.

I was thinking that for most of the last decade, I always had three pop culture obsessions going on at any give time. Early in the decade it was The Sopranos, the Harry Potter books and the Lord of the Rings films. Then the Lord of the Rings ended, and within months Lost arrived. And during the run of Lost, The Sopranos aired its last and the final Harry Potter book was written. Now Lost is over, and nothing has yet grabbed me in the way that any of those works did. I’m sure something will eventually, but Lost holds a special place. You watch your favorite shows for years, and they get to be like friends you invite into your home on a regular basis, so when one ends it’s only natural that you miss it. I had been watching ER for nearly half my life when it ended. Lost was only six years, but it was a full six years. I watch a lot of TV, but I don’t write about it all like I did about this. Lost invited that kind of examination, rumination, consideration, deliberation that I’ve been doing here for half its run. The six years I’ve been watching this show happen to have been the most unstable, unpredictable and uncertain of my life, and like the best of art and culture, it has provided a vivid and welcome escape that I can’t imagine not having experienced. You might say (if you were an incredibly large dork) that Lost has been my constant. Now it’s time to move on to the next thing, or as Desmond might say to me, “to let go.” So thanks for hanging in there with me through these weekly mind scrubs. I feel lucky to have been part of the worldwide community of fans who got to witness Lost in the moment, and to have had a few people like you who, for some unfathomable reason, were interested in what I had to say about it. And here I thought I was sick.


May 23, 2010

LOST S6E16: What They Died For

Filed under: Lost,TV — DB @ 2:19 pm

Now that’s more like it. After the interesting and yes, important, but nevertheless ill-timed diversion of last week’s mythology-heavy installment, we were back on terra firma for the final hour-long “standard” episode of Lost. Ever. I can’t believe it will all be over in a matter of hours.

When Jack wakes up and looks in the mirror, he finds a cut on his neck. It’s in the same spot as the knick he found in the Flight 815 bathroom during the opening minutes of the season premiere, though this time it’s bleeding more heavily. What’s causing this cut, which seems to be from the battle to detonate Jughead in last season’s finale, to keep appearing in SidewaysLand? Jack has breakfast with David and Claire, and confirms that he’ll be attending David’s concert that night.  The meal is interrupted by a phone call from an Oceanic rep saying that his lost cargo has been located and will be in L.A. by the end of the day. But deception is afoot, for the Oceanic caller is revealed to be Desmond. The Scottish rogue continues his efforts to bring the Oceanic 815ers together, being so bold as to return to the high school parking lot where he ran down Locke. Once again he sits in his car and watches Locke roll across the parking lot toward the school, but Ben spots him and calls him out on what he did. Desmond gets out of the car and proceeds to bang Ben’s face up against the hood. Ben says he won’t let Desmond hurt Locke again, to which Desmond replies, “I’m not trying to hurt him. I’m trying to help him let go.” Then he begins punching Ben in the face from above, until Ben has a flash of the other timeline: Desmond punching him on the dock after he shot him and almost shot Penny. Desmond leaves Ben to deal with the meaning of this vision.

While being treated for his injuries in the school nurse’s office, Ben receives a visit from Locke, who heard there was an altercation in the parking lot. When Ben tells him who it was and what happened, Locke pulls out his phone and starts to call the police. But Ben says that he believed his attacker when he said he wasn’t trying to hurt Locke but was trying to help him let go. This stops Locke, who hangs up the phone. Later that day, he goes to Jack’s office and recounts the coincidences that began with the two of them being on the same flight and continued through his would-be assailant using the term “let go,” just as Jack did the last time he and Locke met. Jack advises him not to confuse coincidence with fate, but Locke is less interested in semantics than he is in finally agreeing to the surgery that could restore the use of his legs.

Ben’s afternoon unexpectedly brings him to the home of his favorite student, Alex, and her mother, our old friend Danielle Rousseau. With Ben’s arm in a sling, they offer him a ride which turns into a dinner invitation. I gotta say, it was pretty damn weird to see Rousseau as a member of normal society, wearing a dress, smiling. After dinner, she thanks Ben for the interest he’s taken in Alex and tells him that with Alex’s father having died when she was two, Ben is now the closest thing she has to a father. The compliment chokes Ben up, and he and Rousseau have themselves a little moment. A moment! Ben and Rousseau! I guess his newly-opened window to the island timeline has not yet opened so wide for him to recall getting Alex killed or stealing her from Rousseau.

Desmond, meanwhile, goes to Sawyer’s precinct and asks for him specifically. He turns himself into Sawyer, admitting himself to be the suspect in a hit-and-run and an assault. Sawyer brings him into a holding cell…which is occupied by Sayid. Kate lies on a cot in the adjoining cell. Desmond looks from one to the other, and couldn’t be happier. Later in the day, when the three of them are loaded into a van to be transported to county, Desmond tells them that he can get them out of there but in exchange he’ll ask them to do something which they must promise to do. Thinking him to be crazy, Sayid readily agrees and Kate is game to play along. But both are surprised when the van does actually stop and its driver – Officer Ana Lucia Cortez – comes back, uncuffs them and lets them out. Hurley drives up in his yellow humvee and hands an envelope with $125,000 to Ana Lucia (who he recognizes now, accidentally addressing her by name even though she doesn’t know him). When she drives off, Hurley asks why she’s not coming with them. “She’s not ready yet,” Desmond says – the same thing Eloise Hawking said to him when he visited her a few days earlier at the museum where she was organizing an impending benefit event.

And it would seem that that’s where they’re heading. Hurley’s Camaro is already parked where they were dropped off, and he tells Desmond everything is inside. Desmond says Sayid is to go with Hurley in the humvee while Kate comes with him. He holds up a nice cocktail dress and tells her they’re going to a concert. This concert, it appears, will be the point of convergence for all those connected to Flight 815. Miles told Sawyer just before Desmond’s arrival at the precinct that he was attending a benefit that night at his dad’s museum – the one where Eloise’s benefit was being held. (When Desmond visited Eloise at the museum, it seemed like the event was only hours away, and this is obviously happening days later, yet I have to assume this is the same event. The stars seem to be aligning that way.) So assuming I’m right, in addition to Miles and Desmond’s foursome being there, it feels likely we will see Eloise herself, along with her husband Charles Widmore and his daughter Penny. And let’s not forget that Daniel Faraday – Daniel Widmore in this timeline – was to perform at this benefit along with Charlie’s band, Drive Shaft. Charlie ran off after driving Desmond off a pier, but will be turn up? We could see the museum’s Dr. Chang and Charlotte at the event, and I think we can safely assume that the concert David Shephard is performing in is the very same, meaning we’ll see Jack and probably Claire there as well. We’ll meet Jack’s ex-wife, David’s mother, who I’m guessing is Juliet. Maybe we’ll see Dogen turn up, as his child was previously seen at a music audition with David. How will the other key characters factor in? Will Sawyer show up, having been invited by Miles? What about Locke, Sun, Jin and Ben? Will Hurley bring Libby? Will Rose and Bernard be there? A few surprise guests perhaps <*cough Shannon and Boone cough*>?

I can not wait to see how this goes down.

Not that there aren’t big to-do’s happening on the island, but I’m kinda more excited by the sideways story at the moment. I think that’s just because I love the narrative device of interconnectivity and seeing seemingly disparate figures come together toward an endpoint. That, and the promise of seeing some old favorite characters. But things on the island are coming to a head as well.

Jack stitches Kate’s wound and along with Hurley and an even more emotionally-wrecked Sawyer – if that’s possible – they head off to find Desmond. On the way, Sawyer admits that Jack was right about the bomb, though Jack is quick to say that he’s been wrong before. “I killed them, didn’t I?” Sawyer asks. I love that Jack quickly and firmly says, “No. He killed them,” not wanting Sawyer to carry that burden. After the Jughead explosion left them all on the island, the grief-stricken Sawyer was enraged at Jack for getting Juliet killed. I suspect that now he feels guilt not only for his role in the deaths on the submarine but also for his earlier attitude toward Jack, now that he knows the feeling.

As Kate and Hurley follow behind, Hurley sees Young Jacob, who demands that Hurley hand over the sack of ashes – adult Jacob’s ashes – that he took from Ilana’s things after she blew up. The boy grabs the bag and runs off. (I wondered why the kid seemed so angry, but then I reasoned it was because he knows he’s going to grow up and unleash a monster made of black smoke which will ultimately kill him. And he’s still got to deal with puberty while living on an island with no access to women other than his loopy mother. I’d be pissed too.) Hurley pursues him and comes upon adult Jacob, sitting by a small campfire. Jacob says his ashes are in the fire and that once it burns out, he’ll be gone for good. “You better get your friends,” he says. “We’re very close to the end, Hugo.” Hurley brings the others back, and they finally meet Jacob…

…and learn his reasons for bringing them to the island.

I’ve heard from a few of you that this scene was a disappointment, particularly because of Jacob’s seemingly casual comment to Kate about her name being crossed out. But I didn’t have a problem with it. I think he makes it clear what the people he brought to the island over the years had in common, and his remark to Kate isn’t saying that his choice of her was insignificant but rather that his reason for ruling her out was instinctual. I think the “why he chose them” is much more meaningful than the “why he crossed them out.” His answer tells me that once a potential candidate had found what he saw as a sense of purpose, protecting the island no longer needed to be that purpose.

I would have liked Jacob’s reasons for choosing them to be a little more developed than they were, or to learn more details about what exactly he did to get them all there, but with the show’s time constraints (self-imposed though they may be – a topic I’ll address in my final write-up), I was satisfied with the scene and liked how it played out. Still, the reasons Jacob gives for choosing them focus on their adult lives despite the fact that he has been watching them since childhood. His off-island encounters with Kate and Sawyer happened when each were young (with Sawyer, maybe you could argue that his flaws had already begun and would just grow more consuming as he aged), and although Jack was already a doctor when they met, the lighthouse mirror revealed an image of Jack’s childhood home, from which we can infer (just as Jack did before smashing the mirror) that he had been watching since Jack’s childhood. So at some point, he must have made a somewhat random choice to watch them, right? Or do his mysterious powers extend to being able to see a child and know their future? I’d consider the possibility of Jacob having identified the candidates as adults and then going back to points in their past to touch them, thereby guiding them to the island, but I’m not sure if that theory holds up. And what about Hurley and Sayid, who were touched by Jacob after their rescue from the island? Did they have another brief, random meeting with him earlier in their lives before going to the island, or were these post-rescue encounters their first run-ins with him?

I also was hoping that Jack, Kate or Sawyer would recognize Jacob from the earlier encounters, but then I had to remind myself that their meetings were just everyday happenings in their own lives. Jack, especially, met Jacob for all of five seconds one day. Sawyer and Kate had more significant encounters with him, but both were young and would never recall the face of a stranger from so long ago. Kate probably remembers that at roughly age 10 she tried to steal a lunchbox from the store and was almost turned in until a nice man showed up and paid for it. And Sawyer might recollect that on the day of his parents’ funeral he began writing his Dear Mr. Sawyer letter on the church steps, where a man approached him to offer condolences and a pen to replace the dried out one he was using. But would either of them recognize Jacob now as the friendly stranger? I wish it were so, since I would have liked to see that, but it’s probably not realistic…which is kinda funny since in this world, an island jumping through time is realistic.

Anyway, with Jack having agreed to be Jacob’s candidate, Jacob leads him across a stream and performs a simple ceremony similar to the one the Woman in White performed the night she made him accept the role of island savior. Jack swallows a cup of water instead of wine, but the liquid itself must matter less than the invocation Jacob recites prior to offering the drink. With the ritual complete, he says to Jack, “Now you’re like me.” And like him, Jack may have to figure out the secrets of the island on his own, since Jacob doesn’t seem to share any of them – not even the words he spoke over the water in case Jack ever needs to find his own replacement. He does tell Jack where to find the tunnel of light (not far from the bamboo field in which he woke up from the 815 crash) and says that’s where the Smoke Monster is trying to go. On the other side of the stream, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley watch them. “And I thought that guy had a God complex before,” Sawyer says flatly, acknowledging a moment later that it’s a low blow. “I’m just glad it’s not me,” Hurley says, and I couldn’t help but wonder in that moment what his role will be in the endgame. Hurley’s not a fighter, so seeing him engage in a physical battle or even a gunfight seems unlikely. But I feel like circumstances will transpire that call for Hurley to step up. He’s done it before – his heroic Dharma van rescue of Sayid, Jin and Bernard from the Others on the beach in Season Three’s finale is one of the show’s classic moments. But what will he do against the force of darkness that is the Man in Black?

Elsewhere on the island, we reconnect with Richard, Ben and Miles, last seen splitting from Team Jacob at the burning Black Rock so they could travel to New Otherton and locate more explosives for the Ajira plane. They are still en route to the barracks when we pick up with them (which doesn’t really make much sense given that the Man in Locke will be joining them shortly. In the time since they departed, Hurley’s crew has made it to Locke’s camp, fled Locke for Hydra Island, been captured, busted out and been on the sinking submarine – a full day or two’s worth of events before these three have even made it to their destination. But who’s counting…)

They arrive at Ben’s house (outside of which Miles has one of his sixth sense moments over the spot where Richard says he buried Alex) and enter his hidden secret-agent-man room, where they load a backpack with at least six bricks of C4 before hearing a noise out in the kitchen. They emerge to find Zoe and, much to Ben’s surprise, Widmore. He sends Zoe to the dock to retrieve their things from the canoe, and Ben asks him how he got back to the island. “Jacob invited me,” Widmore answers. Ben says Widmore has never even met Jacob, but Widmore counters, “I most certainly have. He visited me, not long after your people destroyed my freighter. He convinced me of the error of my ways, and told me everything I need to know for this exact purpose.” (To be fair Charles, it was your guy – Keamy – who destroyed the freighter, by rigging it with explosives. Although Ben did kill Keamy knowing that doing so would trigger those explosives, so there is that.)

They’re interrupted when Zoe comes over Widmore’s walkie and reports that Locke is rowing up to the dock. He orders her back to the house and says they need to hide. Not that he’s warming up to his old nemesis, but Ben offers his hidden room. He refuses to hide himself, however, preferring to face Man in Locke and bring this all to an end. Richard says that all Locke wants is for him to join him and maybe if he does he can buy the rest of them some time. Not digging any of these options, Miles decides to make a run for it in the jungle. Before he goes, Ben takes Widmore’s walkies and gives one to Miles. “In case I need you,” he says, keeping the other one. Widmore and Zoe go into the hidden room while Ben follows Richard out in front of the house, where the Black Smoke promptly tears into view and rams into Richard, lifting him off the ground and tossing his ass into the jungle. Is that it for Richard Alpert? Has the ageless island aide finally been killed (and if so will he face the devil, as he feared over a hundred years before), or has he merely been knocked out of commission? If that was it for him, it sure was quick. I don’t need a long, drawn out, overly-theatrical death scene with lots of stumbling around and gasps for breath, but something a little more weighty than that would have been nice. We’ll see…

After watching Richard get thrown like football from the hands of Tom Brady, Ben sits in a chair on the porch and waits. Man in Locke approaches and sits down next to him, pulling out a huge knife and turning it over in his hands while telling Ben that there are some people he needs him to kill. He promises that once he leaves the island, Ben can have it all to himself. Ben accepts the offer and when Man in Locke asks whose canoe full of crates is down at the dock, he gives up Widmore and leads Locke into the secret room.

And so ends the still mysterious life of Charles Widmore. I can’t say we got all the answers about him and his relationship with Ben that I wanted, but I’m not feeling too hung up on that right now. But I was intrigued by his comment about Jacob showing him the error of his ways, and would have liked to know more about that. Do the errors he refers to go all the way back to his time on the island, or are they limited to more recent activity like sending the freighter? And why is it that Ben was able to kill Widmore so easily when in Season Four’s The Shape of Things to Come, he found a way into Widmore’s penthouse but said “We both know I can’t do that” when Widmore asked if he’d come to kill him. And a small point here, but why was Widmore unwilling to explain the details of Desmond in front of Ben?

I don’t know how the rest of you interpreted this, but I firmly believe that Ben is lying to Man in Locke. I don’t think he has any intention of killing anyone for him. Shooting Widmore was the settling of a personal score, but it also allowed him to earn Man in Locke’s trust. I’ve long maintained that Ben would choose the right side in the end and would die a noble death trying to help the good guys, among whom he always counted himself.  I remain convinced that his arc will play out that way, and that he will attempt to thwart Locke in the end, possibly even enabling Team Jacob’s ultimate edge – if they’re to have one. And I think the fact that he gave Miles a walkie-talkie is definitely going to come into play. Are both devices turned on? Is he letting Miles hear everything he and Man in Locke are up to? Ben once told Locke (the real Locke), “I always have a plan.” He seemed to lose that mojo once Man in Locke came into the picture, but I think he’s got a plan again…and like many of his plans before, this one involves him playing Locke like a fiddle.

Locke leads Ben out to the well where Desmond should be dead, but is greeted by a different sight – one which elicits a surprising reaction.

Hearing the line at the beginning of the clip about why Locke walks rather than puffs and billows, I was reminded of the antagonist of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, which J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse always cited as one of the major sources of inspiration for Lost. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but the line brought back memories of Randall Flagg, who draws followers to his side for the ultimate battle between good and evil. His nickname was The Walkin’ Dude.

So Man in Locke intends to destroy the island. That answers a question which popped into my head earlier in the episode, which was why the Man in Locke would go after the light at the center of the island. Jacob says that it needs to be protected from the monster; that that’s where he is headed. I wasn’t sure why at first, since that’s where he came from and I was more in the mindset that he just wants to leave the island. But I can’t really say more without re-visiting my Man in Black II theory from the last write-up, which is highly susceptible to deflation…as are most of my theories. And I know that at least a couple of you had a different take on what happened to Man in Black in that tunnel. So let me just say that my Man in Black II theory comes from two things: 1) having to guess, like we all did, about what happened in the tunnel; and 2) taking at face value Carlton’s comment from a few months ago that Terry O’Quinn is playing a character who wouldn’t be seen until the final episode. Maybe plans changed, maybe I misinterpreted the comment or maybe it was a red herring, but I took it for what it was and came to the conclusion that the Black Smoke is not just what remains of the Man in Black, but something or someone else. But some of you think, and it probably makes more sense, that the Black Smoke is essentially the Man in Black’s soul; that Jacob killed him, or his body at least, and he floated into the tunnel where some force that was already in there latched onto the freshly killed body and extracted his soul or lifeforce or whatever you’re inclined to call it; or that somehow the soul simply broke free from the body, and that Man in Black continues to live on in this way, even though his body is dead. (This doesn’t address any of his abilities, like taking on other people’s form or projecting images of their lives, but for this discussion it doesn’t need to.)

Okay, so assuming that Man in Locke/Smokey is what’s left of the Man in Black, then his desire not just to leave the island but to destroy it is easy to understand. All this time later, he still carries resentment that he was unable to locate the heart of the island after the Woman in White first took him there, and he may still even harbor curiosity about what is down there and about how he became what he did. Not to mention that for ages the island has been his prison. He probably believes that by destroying it once for all, he will be free…and will have the last laugh in the process. Unless he truly is unable to leave the island; is in fact inextricably linked to it and therefore can not destroy it without destroying himself. I like that idea. I like the idea that the Man in Black thinks he knows what he’s doing, but at the end of the day will learn that his understanding of the island is incomplete or incorrect – just as Jacob learned when he threw his brother into the tunnel. Of course, I’m not sure if I should like the idea of the island being destroyed, since it goes against what the Woman in White told the boys when she first took them to the tunnel: that the light is the same as the light that is inside every man, and that if it goes out here it will go out everywhere. But maybe that’s not true. Maybe the island needs to be destroyed. Maybe Jacob has come to realize that. And maybe the job of protector that he passes onto Jack isn’t really about keeping the island safe for more centuries to come, but about keeping it safe long enough for some unknown final act that needs to happen there before Man in Black gets what he thinks he wants.

Or maybe not. Maybe Man in Black isn’t linked to the island and he can destroy it. Maybe the only way he can get off the island is to destroy it, and if he does then the light will be extinguished all over the world, causing everyone to die – which is what we keep hearing will happen if the Man in Black gets off the island: everyone will die.

Oh hell, I don’t know. I just like the concept of the Man in Black thinking that destroying the island is his ticket to freedom when in fact it will seal his doom.

I keep going back to the season premiere and the image of the island at the bottom of the ocean while Oceanic 815 safely soars above. That riddle will surely be addressed in the finale, and I wonder: is it down there as a result of Jughead’s detonation, or as a result of what the Man in Locke is about to do? Or something else? I keep trying to come up with a scenario in which the sinking of the island unifies the two timelines; that it is somehow the end of one timeline and the beginning of another, or something like that. But I can’t. And it hurts my brain to try.

The other “huh?” thing I’m trying and failing to figure out is the whole Desmond factor. Widmore tells Man in Locke, who tells Ben, that Desmond is a last resort, designed to keep the Man in Black from getting off the island. Which means Jacob must have played a part in Desmond having the unique abilities that he does. So how is that to play out? Is Jacob aware of the sideways timeline? Does he know what Desmond is doing? Is Desmond doing what he’s supposed to be doing, or is he unwittingly interfering with a plan designed by Jacob or some other power player, like Eloise Hawking? And speaking of Eloise, I was remembering last season’s Faraday-flashback and how young Daniel was playing the piano when his mother came in looking like she’d just seen a ghost and told her son that he would have to put his interest in music aside and focus all of his efforts and energies on science and mathematics. And years later, she urged Daniel to accept Widmore’s offer of going to the island. In both cases, she seemed to know the course on which she was setting her son, and now I wonder if she was acting on instructions from Jacob himself, who eventually needed Faraday to be a guide of sorts to Desmond in his travels through space and time. If Desmond is Jacob’s failsafe, then maybe Faraday’s purpose in this cosmic game is to ensure Desmond can navigate the path.

Oh yeah, if Jack’s theory is correct, Locke wanted them all dead because only then could he leave the island. So is his plan to kill them all – or arrange to have them all killed, I should say – and then go to the tunnel and destroy the island? Do they have to be dead first? Why can’t he kill them directly? We’ve seen that he has no problem killing others – the bodies littering The Temple are among those who can attest to that. So why not Jack and company? I have to assume it’s because they’ve been marked by Jacob. Maybe that’s why they have to die before he can destroy the island – because they’re carrying a bit of Jacob’s protection and Jacob was in communion with the island. There’s a lot of Voldemort-ish stuff going on here, isn’t there? Let’s hope the finale is as satisfying as the final Harry Potter book.

-The Muppet Invasion continues with the latest editions of Lost Untangled and the Slapdown series, the latter’s focus for this week being on auditions for the Smoke Monster.

-There’s also this awesome video from Jimmy Kimmel, a huge Lost fan who has given the show a lot of attention over the years – spoofing it, visiting the set, bringing Damon and Carlton and the cast members on as guests, etc. On Friday night, in addition to Damon and Carlton being on, he ran a Lost version of a segment he apparently does every week, where he takes clips from a TV show and bleeps out lines that are totally inoffensive…but seem to become offensive based on the bleeping. Funny stuff…

[Note: The original clip embedded here was deleted from YouTube. This replacement is the same one, but as Kimmel notes, it was run around the time that the complete series was released on DVD…which was obviously after this post was published.]

-So in case you don’t know, here’s how it goes down tonight. From 7:00-9:00 there will be a series retrospective that I think is more than just the requisite clip show, but also will feature interviews with cast members and creators. Then the finale itself airs from 9:00-11:30. And then after the news, Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to Lost.

-It’s been reported that the DVD release of Lost – and I’m not sure if this is for the complete series set only or if it will also be on the stand-alone Season Six set – will include a featurette in which some of the show’s more minor, unsolved mysteries will be explained. That’s a cool little gift to the fans, so at least some of the less important (in the creators’ eyes) questions can be addressed for the sake of abating our curiosity.

-I wish I had the time to review every write-up I’ve done this season and to really spend time thinking about all that’s happened to get us to this point, but I don’t. And maybe it’s for the best. Too much overthinking, too much effort looking at all the pieces and trying to make them fit…for all my questions and attempts to understand, predict, make sense of, etc. it’s nice to just sit back and go on the ride. So I don’t have much to offer under this Loose Ends heading this time around. My mind is focused on what’s to come. In SidewaysLand, we have Desmond bringing everyone together at the benefit concert. On the island, we have Man in Locke trying to kill the remaining survivors and destroy the island. Where is Desmond? Does Jack now have Jacob-like abilities? Is Ben really with Locke or does he have a trick up his sleeve? What about the wildcards – Claire, Miles, possibly Richard and maybe-impossibly-but-I’m-still-holding-out-a-sliver-of-hope Lapidus? Where are they and what will they do? How will the two timelines reconcile? Who will live? Who will die? And for the love of God, will we finally find out what happened to Annie, the little girl who was Young Ben’s friend on the island?!? ‘Cause if they don’t solve that mystery…

Kidding. What I really want is a finale that has my heart racing with suspense (something every season finale has accomplished for the last six years), a finale that is surprising, brings back old favorites, answers some of the big questions and carries the story and the character journeys to an emotional and thrilling climax worthy of the six spectacular seasons that got us here. Am I excited? Hell yeah. Sad? Yup. A little worried? Afraid so. But as I said at the outset of the season, when it comes to Lost I’m a man of faith.

It will probably be a couple of weeks before I have a final write-up completed, but whether you like it or not I will be back one more time to infect your Inbox with my ravings. Until then…

Two, both courtesy of the always reliable quote-machine, Miles:

“Well I lived in these houses 30 years before you did – otherwise known as last week – and I have no idea where the hell we are.”

“What’s this, a secreter room?”

Tonight’s Episode: The End

May 18, 2010

LOST S6E15: Across the Sea

Filed under: Lost,TV — DB @ 3:30 pm

Okay, those babies are adorable, but I’ll still come right out with it: this episode, initially at least, pissed me off bigtime. Normally I would have waited until the next night, but I had to watch Glee immediately after in the hopes that some upbeat music and Sue Sylvester quips would wash the bitter taste of disappointment from my mouth. I have never once succumbed to the kind of frustration that led so many Lost fans to abandon ship around the time that Shannon saw soaking-wet Walt materialize in the jungle speaking devil tongue. I didn’t have a problem with Season Three’s extended Hydra Island, prisoner-in-a-polar-bear cage period or the seemingly unnecessary introduction of Nikki and Paulo – things that so many fans still complain about (seriously, was the Bai Ling episode really that bad?). The on-going mysteries that seemed to turn off many others only made me more jazzed to stick around and find out what it all meant. And I’ve waited patiently, enjoying each step on the journey with confidence that an amazing destination lay ahead. And I still feel that way. But I went into this episode with certain expectations of what I thought it would do, needed to do, etc. in getting us to that destination. Instead it did things that didn’t seem all that significant. Jacob and the Man in Black are brothers. Interesting? Sure. Revelatory? Not really.

I know the criticism is not entirely fair when there are still 3 ½ hours that may provide more context and payoff, and I didn’t want to judge the episode too harshly knowing that those hours are still due. But when it ended I felt like this episode which practically came gift-wrapped with the promise of answers instead delivered a whole lotta nothing. In bitching about it during the week with reader Denise B., she asked me if I would have felt better about the episode had it come earlier in the season. It was an interesting question, and my answer was yes, though for different reasons than hers. She said that having it immediately follow the emotional blow of so many deaths was a jarring interruption in the build-up to the finale. For me, earlier would have been better because I wouldn’t have minded so much not getting answers I wanted if I knew there would be several episodes left to address those things. But coming so late in the season, time is too short. At this point, there are too many mysteries from the last six years unexplained for me to have patience with new ones.

I’ll say more later, but for now I’ll stop complaining about what didn’t happen and turn to what did.

A pregnant woman of possibly Hispanic origins washes ashore on the island amongst the wreckage of a ship. She is found by a Caucasian woman wearing loose blue and white garments, who offers to help her and brings her to a cave where she apparently lives. They speak to each other in what I guess is Latin and the pregnant woman introduces herself as Claudia. She asks the Woman in White where her people are.

W: There’s only me.
C: How did you get here?
W: The same way you got here. By accident.
C: How long have…
W: Every question I answer will simply lead to another question.

That’s a nice acknowledgment from the writers to sum up Lost in one sentence. I’d have laughed a little harder at it were it not so frustratingly true at this point.

Claudia quickly goes into labor and delivers a baby boy who she names Jacob. But to both women’s surprise, there is another baby. The Woman in White delivers the second child, but Claudia says she only picked one name. After laying both children down, staring lovingly at them as if they’re her own, the Woman in White apologizes to Claudia and then bashes her head in with a rock.

Worst. Midwife. Ever.

Thirteen years later, Jacob and his brother are being raised by the Woman in White, who it appears was incapable of choosing a name for the second born, leaving us to call him the Boy in Black. The boys are close, and all seems well and idyllic, but the Boy in Black has a curiosity that worries his mother. Whereas Jacob is more innocent, accepting things at face value and believing what he’s told, his brother is inquisitive and wants to know why things are the way they are. He finds a box on the beach one day containing black and white stones and a board with drawings, and he and Jacob occupy their time playing this new game. “How do you know how?” Jacob asks the first time.

“I just do,” his brother replies, adding that Jacob shouldn’t tell their mother because she’ll take it away. But she gets it out of Jacob anyway and pays a visit to Boy in Black on the beach. (Later, Jacob will tease him about having made up the rules himself. “One day you can make up your own game and everyone else will have to follow your rules,” Boy in Black smiles. If only he’d known how far Jacob would take that…)

B: Jacob told you what I found.
W: Of course he did. Jacob doesn’t know how to lie. He’s not like you.
B: Why, what am I like?
W: You’re special.

She says she left the box so he’d find it, which disappoints him. He says he thought it might have come from somewhere else; from across the sea. She tells him that there is no place else. There is nothing across the sea. There is only the island. He questions where they came from, and she tells him he came from her and she came from her mother, who is dead now.

B: What’s dead?
W: Something you will never have to worry about.


While running through the jungle chasing a boar, Jacob and Boy in Black discover other men, the first people they’ve ever seen on the island. The boys go unnoticed, and urgently report their discovery to the Woman in White.

J: Where do they come from? They looked like us!
W: They’re not like us. They don’t belong here. We are here for a reason
B: What reason?
M: It’s not time yet.
B: Mother! What reason?
M: Come with me.

She says it’s not time yet more to herself than the boys, and hesitates before telling them to come with her. And then this happens.

“They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. And it always ends the same.” We’ve heard this before. It’s exactly what the Man in Black says to Jacob on the beach in the opening scene of Season Five’s finale The Incident, when we first meet both of them. She doesn’t directly answer…well, pretty much any of the questions, but specifically for now the one about why the other people would hurt them. She just says “because they’re people, Jacob, and that’s what people do.” Is this meant to imply that she is not a person? That she is perhaps another kind of being that has taken human form? Jacob and the Boy in Black must be human as they were born to Claudia, but it sounds as if the Woman in White has gifted them with certain powers or protections. How is she able to do that?

So what’s down that golden passageway? Is it Eden? Heaven? Iowa? The Genesis Cave? Boy in Black looks at it with lust, but not greed. The sight plugs directly into his yearning for discovery beyond the simplicity of the island, and a mysterious visit soon fans those flames: while playing the stones game with Jacob, he looks up and sees Claudia standing nearby. She calls out not to be afraid. Off Boy in Black’s startled stare, Jacob turns but doesn’t see anything. Boy in Black say he’s going to the beach alone and runs after Claudia, who tells him that Jacob can’t see her because she’s dead. She asks him to come with her so she can show him where he came from – a place across the island that he’s never seen. So she takes him to a hill overlooking a village and tells him that the people living there shipwrecked on the island thirteen years earlier, the day before he was born. He asks what a ship is, and she tells him it is a way of traveling from place to place. “It’s how we came across the sea,” she says, echoing the exact phrasing he used earlier to the Woman in White.

B: There’s nothing across the sea.
C: There are many things across the sea. You come from across the sea too.
B: No, that’s not true. That’s not what my mother told me.
C: She’s not your mother. I am.

Boy in Black returns to the caves in the middle of the night, wakes up Jacob and beckons him away. In the jungle, he says that he’s gathered their things and that he’s going to live with the people on the other side of the island and wants Jacob to come with him. Jacob repeats their mother’s argument that the people are dangerous, but Boy in Black said she lied to them and that she’s not their mother. That accusation makes the usually peaceful Jacob angry enough to tackle and punch his brother. The Woman in White shows up and pulls them apart, and Boy in Black lays into her with his new knowledge: that she’s not their mother, that she killed their real mother, that he belongs with the people who came from across the sea and that someday he’s going to leave the island and go home. Woman in White is surprised and saddened that he knows these things, but she does not try to refute the facts. She does, however, grab his shoulders and say, “My love, you need to know this: whatever you have been told, you will never be able to leave this island.”

“That’s not true,” he says. “One day I can prove it.” He asks Jacob to come with him one more time, but he says no. Later, Jacob asks Woman in White if she really killed his mother. She admits it, saying she had to do it so that Jacob wouldn’t grow up to be one of the bad people. When he accuses her of loving his brother more than him, she says that she loves them in different ways. So I guess we can add Jacob and the Man in Black to the nearly all-inclusive club of Lost characters with serious parental issues.

Jacob continues living with the Woman in White into adulthood, and he regularly visits his brother on the other side of the island, where they still play their game. In this meet-up, the Man in Black says he’s found a way off the island and intends to leave.

Jacob returns to the cave and tells the Woman in White, when she asks where he’s been, that she knows where. He tells her that his brother has found a way off the island. So she goes off to see him too, and finds him working alone at the bottom of one of the wells. The reunion brings out mixed feelings for both of them, and brings us back to one of the most mysterious locales on the island.

She gives a look of grave concern when he says that other people from his group saw the light, and when he yells at her that he doesn’t know because she wouldn’t tell him, I wanted to high-five him. As Lost characters go, this Woman in White is about as maddening as Ben when it comes to doling out cryptic non-answers. That night, she brings Jacob back to the tunnel of light for the first time since the first time, where a sort of ceremony takes place.

When Man in Black wakes up the next morning, he is back above ground outside the well, which has been knocked apart and filled in. He sees smoke nearby and follows it to find his village destroyed and burning and his people murdered. The rage on his face is frightening to behold, and he immediately returns to his childhood home and stabs the Woman in White with the dagger he used previously – the dagger which will later pass to Dogen and be used by Sayid in an attempt to kill Man in Locke. As soon as he removes the blade he feels regret, and asks her why she wouldn’t let him leave the island. With her dying breaths she answers, “Because I love you. Thank you…” She dies, and as he kneels over her crying, Jacob arrives. Man in Black is remorseful and tries to explain, but Jacob tackles his brother to the ground and punches him repeatedly in the face, just as he did once in their boyhood. Only this time their mother isn’t there to intervene. In his anger, he drags his brother back to the tunnel of light, where he seems to inadvertently release the island’s great evil.

Jacob goes to what might be another part of the same creek – maybe on the other side of the tunnel – and finds his brother’s body washed up on the rocks, tangled up in branches. He embraces him and carries him back to the cave, where he lays both bodies – the Woman in White and the Man in Black – side by side for their eternal rest, placing with them a pouch containing one black stone and one white from his brother’s game. Centuries later, Jack, Kate, Charlie and Locke will find the bodies, mere days after crashing on the island. Examining them, Jack is able to determine that one is male and one is female, and that they must have been there for a long time. “It takes 40 or 50 years for clothing to degrade like this,” he says

“Our very own Adam and Eve,” Locke muses.

Okay, so one big mystery was answered in this episode, and I thought it was a satisfying explanation, though I probably assumed – like many viewers may have – that the Adam and Eve skeletons would be a pair of Flight 815 survivors who wound up there through some trick of time travel. But the answers offered in this third to last episode of the series stopped there. Knowing that the hour would be devoted to the island, Jacob and the Man in Black, I thought we’d get more about Jacob’s master plan and the how and why around his years of bringing people to the island. I thought we’d learn about the cabin and the scary eye seen twice within. I thought we’d learn about Jacob’s connection to Ilana. I thought maybe Richard would appear and we’d get a look at how he functioned on the island from Jacob’s point of view. And I thought we’d learn more specifics about what could happen if the Man in Black gets off the island.

But we got none of that. Instead, we were left asking more questions. How did the Woman in White come to the island? Why does she tell Boy in Black that he’ll never have to worry about being dead? How has she made it that the boys can never hurt each other? (Which doesn’t turn out to be so true anyway.) Why can’t Jacob see Claudia but the Boy in Black can? Why does Woman in White tell Boy in Black that he will never be able to leave the island? How does she see the two boys: are they a means to the end? If she intends for one of them to protect the island, what does she expect of the other one? And what’s with the tunnel and the light and the black smoke? Why did she say “thank you” to the Man in Black when he stabbed her? Is she relieved to be relieved of her duty to the island?

There was another plotline I expected to be addressed which wasn’t: the Man in Black and his powers. But there was a surprising twist around this mystery. When we found out early in the season that the resurrected John Locke was really the Man in Black and the Smoke Monster, my reaction was okay, cool…so how does that work? I thought this episode might explain how the Man in Black changes to and from a billow of think black smoke capable of grabbing people and slamming them against trees, walls and cages or else surrounding them and projecting images of their lives in some expression of judgment. In addition, how is this Thing able to appear as other dead people? Obviously we didn’t find out about any of this, but we did find out that the Man in Black as we’ve seen him previously – on the beach with Jacob in The Incident and trying to manipulate Richard when he arrived on the island in Ab Aeterno – is not the original Man in Black. He’s the Man in Black II.

The original Man in Black, it would seem, washed up in the creek after his trip into the tunnel of light and was buried in the caves, where our protagonists found him safely decomposing years later. The Man in Black from The Incident and Ab Aeterno is someone or something else. But what? What happened when Jacob’s brother was carried into that tunnel? Whatever it was, it was quick. Was the power that resides in the Black Smoke always down there, trapped? Did the appearance of a human body somehow set it free? Has it ever been out? Was the Man in Black the first person to enter the tunnel? Was it the Smoke Monster who took on the form of Claudia? (That’s a reasonable guess, considering that most of the later appearances of dead people on the island are really Smokey.) And if that’s true, was the Black Smoke trying all along to lure the Boy in Black into its clutches? Is that why only he could see Claudia?

Once the Black Smoke takes on the appearance of the Man in Black, how does Jacob come to understand what it is? How does his role go from guarding and protecting the light to keeping Man in Black II from escaping the island? How does he know what will happen if Man in Black II leaves?

In Ab Aeterno, Man in Black II rescues Richard from the Black Rock and tells him that the devil – Jacob – took his wife Isabella and that he must kill the devil in order to see her again. Man in Black II says that he was betrayed by the devil, who took his body and his humanity. But really, doesn’t it appear that it was him – the Man in Black II – who took the body and humanity of the original Man in Black? Throughout this episode, Man in Black expressed a desire – a compelling need – to leave the island; to go home. That was consistent with everything we’ve heard him say in his Man in Locke guise all season long (and in Ab Aeterno) except for the now-revealed hiccup that it’s been Man in Black II talking about wanting to leave the island and go home.

Are you with me? Cause I’m barely hanging on by a plot thread.

So how will this resolve itself? I mentioned in my Ab Aeterno write-up that at a press conference, Carlton Cuse had said that Terry O’Quinn “is playing a guy who we’re not going to see until the finale.” That seemed strange to me, since I thought O’Quinn was playing the Man in Black via Man in Locke, and we saw the Man in Black in Ab Aeterno. But now I get it. The guy we saw in Ab Aeterno was not Smokey’s true form, just as John Locke isn’t his true form now. So apparently, one thing we can count on in the final episode is an explanation around what or who Man in Black II really is. And hopefully the answer will be much more satisfying than Men in Black II. Cause that movie kinda sucked.

-It may or may not be important to note that the Boy in Black from this episode is not the same dark-haired boy who Man in Locke saw in the jungle when he was taking Desmond to the well. As I’ve pointed out before, it was in fact the same boy – same actor, at least – as the blonde boy that he saw first while going to Jacob’s cave with Sawyer. That actor is the one who plays Jacob in this episode. So is the Boy in Black from this episode supposed to be the dark-haired boy Locke and Desmond saw, and the role has just been re-cast? Or is the blonde boy from the Locke/Sawyer episode – who we now know to be Young Jacob – supposed to be the same boy in the Locke/Desmond episode, but with dark hair? And if so, why the change in hair color? And does it even matter? Why does Man in Locke keep seeing the boys in the first place? And what does it mean that Sawyer and Desmond saw them too (and that Richard didn’t)?

-The portrayal of Jacob in this episode once again reveals a different side of his personality, just as Ab Aeterno showed us his more violent, aggressive side when he kicked the crap out of Richard on the beach. Here, as I said, we saw him as an innocent, trusting what he’s told and demonstrating fragility even as an adult when he accuses the Woman in White of always having wanted his brother to be the protector of the island. How does he go from the sweet boy who represents goodness to the crafty, confident Dungeon Master of the island, playing a complex game of his own device (just as his brother told him he would one day) that involves bringing scores of people to the island and testing them? Is it the drinking of the wine and his acceptance of the protector role that begins shaping him into the unflappable island god who practically provokes his own murder by coldly saying to Ben, “What about you?” or by telling Man in Black II, “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress?”

The other unexpected aspect of Jacob we see in this episode is how little he understands about the island, at least at this point in his life. The Woman in White tasks him with guarding the island, but she never explains any of its secrets to him – secrets she possesses and which, oh, I dunno, would probably be important for him to know as he carries on her mission. So how can he be expected to protect the island when he doesn’t understand what it is? Throwing his brother into the tunnel demonstrates a total ignorance of the island’s powers, and suggests that he is actually responsible for the Smoke Monster’s release and for the additional task of having to keep it contained. And by the way, why is it that even the original Man in Black can’t leave the island – was told by the Woman in White that he would never be able to leave – yet Jacob seems to come and go freely?

-Why did Jacob physically age into young adulthood at a normal rate and then stop, living on for who knows how many hundreds of years without ever looking any older? Is that another possible consequence of drinking the wine? Did it stop his aging?

-All season long, Man in Locke has been trying to win over the castaways’ trust and sympathy by painting himself in terms of his humanity, calling on experiences they can understand. When Sawyer asked him on their way to the cave what he was, he answered, “What I am is trapped. And I’ve been trapped for so long that I don’t even remember what it feels like to be free. But before I was trapped I was a man, James, just like you…I know what it’s like to feel joy, to feel pain, anger, fear, to experience betrayal. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love.” Later, after Claire tries to kill Kate, he sits with the latter on a beach and tells her that his mother was crazy. “Long time ago, before I looked like his, I had a mother, just like everyone. She was a very disturbed woman. And as a result of that, I had some growing pains. Problems that I’m still trying to work my way through. Problems that could have been avoided had things been different.” I bring these examples up now because this episode casts them in a new light. While we didn’t know at the time if we could believe him or not, now we know that the things he says are true…save for the fact that they didn’t really happen to him. Or at least, the crazy mother thing didn’t happen to him…because he is Man in Black II and it was the original Man in Black who had the crazy mother. What he said to Sawyer about being trapped – that seems to fit, except that we don’t know who or what the Man in Black II really is, so we don’t know if he really was a man at one point or if he was born a poor black smoke billow. But when Smokey/Man in Black II took on the form of John Locke, it maintained possession of Locke’s memories, so maybe the things he says to Sawyer and Kate are based on his ability to preserve the original Man in Black’s memories.

Is all this babble about Man in Black and Man in Black II coherent at all?

-I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but I liked that the episode seemed to contain little allusions to Jacob’s game, like when the Woman in White gives him the wine and tells him he doesn’t have a choice. I interpreted that as part of his motivation for bringing people to the island as part of a game where choice is everything. Or there’s the bit where he’s playing the board game with Man in Black, who tells him that it’s easy for him to judge the people of the village when he’s “looking down at us from above” – which is exactly what he seems to have done with those he brought to the island: observe, judge, but not directly interact.

-I don’t know what’s up this year with the Lost gang partnering with the Muppets, but I am so not complaining about it. Here is Crazy Muppet Chang in the latest Lost Untangled, as well as another edition of the Lost Slapdown series, featuring Damon, Carlton and one of my favorites: the Swedish Chef. Ooondi foondi bloo.

-Damon and Carlton have been saying for a while that once the finale airs, they’re going on radio silence and will not be doing interviews or answering questions. Yet. They’ll probably talk about it down the road a bit (the complete series DVD set comes out August 24th and might be accompanied by publicity), but who knows how much they’ll ever be willing to explain or account for. I don’t think that Sopranos creator David Chase has any plans to explain the crazy, controversial, classic ending of that show any time soon. But in this last week of Lost, Damon and Carlton will be popping up here in there. They’ll be giving a live interview on Thursday evening that will be broadcast to select movie theaters around the country; they will be answering questions submitted by Lostpedia fans (though apparently those questions will not deal with the show itself); and they are slated to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live Sunday night, following the finale – which seems to go against the whole radio silence promise, but maybe their segment is being pre-taped. Or maybe they’re just doing ABC and Jimmy a favor.

So to circle back to my opening comments, this episode appears to be one of the most divisive in the show’s history and has generated a heated, love-it-or-hate-it response amongst the fans. The reaction is not lost on Damon and Carlton; Damon said in an interview with the New York Daily News, “We did this episode…some people don’t want to eat the peas in their dish, but it’s there because it’s good for you.” (Bad example. I would argue that the disgusting taste of peas outweighs any health benefits they might offer. But I digress…)

So obviously they feel that the information imparted in this episode is important for what’s to come, and in fairness I’ll say that the content of the episode itself isn’t what frustrated me. It just failed to accomplish what I thought it should, and with precious little time left to make up for that, I enter the final hours of the show with intensified expectations that are probably impossible to meet. Do I need to let go of my expectations and let the show do its thing? Probably. But on the other hand, I didn’t pull my expectations out of thin air. They were set for me, and now I want those who set them to deliver on them. As we return to the aftermath of the submarine trauma and the SidewaysLand coming-together, I’m ready to have my mind blown.

Let’s do this.

Tonight’s Episode: What They Died For

May 11, 2010

LOST S6E14: The Candidate

Filed under: Lost,TV — DB @ 3:30 pm

I don’t usually feel the need to say “spoiler alert” in these pieces since they reveal pretty much every detail of what happened. But in case some of you are a week behind and plan to skim this prior to catching up, let me say it now: crazy fucking spoiler alerts. Beginning in the next sentence.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think shows tend to kill off multiple main characters in a single episode; it always seems like the story is rocked at any one time by a death. But as we cross into the true homestretch of Lost, they laid out four, with two so quick and two others so emotional that I could barely focus my mourning in all directions.

There’s no way around it: this episode was brutal. Seeing these characters die is harsh enough, but to lose four series regulars in one episode? That’s right, four. Everyone’s crying over Sun, Jin and Sayid, but what about Lapidus?!? I suppose it’s possible that he made it out and we’ll see him come ashore, but the dude got knocked on his ass by a big metal door that was ejected at him like a bullet by the pressure of flooding water. That thing must have knocked him unconscious…on his back…in a hallway filling violently with water. I don’t see him coming back from that. I may be the only person who gives a damn about Lapidus, but I do. The guy rules, so his death was just as bad for me as the rest of them.

Let’s get into it….

At the show’s opening, Locke wakes up from surgery to find a familiar face standing over him: that nice spinal surgeon he met in the Oceanic lost baggage office a week earlier. Jack tells Locke that the surgery was a success, and adds that he was able to see the damage from the original accident that landed him in the wheelchair. He tells Locke that he is a candidate for an experimental surgery that could restore feeling to his legs and maybe even allow him to walk again. To Jack’s surprise, Locke politely refuses.

Unable to let go of his need to fix Locke, Jack learns that three years earlier his patient had received emergency oral surgery. So he seeks out the dentist who performed it, in the hopes of learning about the accident that paralyzed him. That dentist turns out to be Bernard, who tells Jack that he too was on Oceanic 815, seated – along with his wife Rose – right across from Jack. “Pretty weird, huh?” he says. “Maybe you’re onto something here.” Bernard, who has oddly clear memories of Locke’s incident, says that he can’t break his doctor-patient confidentiality in regards to Locke’s records, but he gives Jack the name of a man who was in the accident with him: Anthony Cooper.

Jack tracks Cooper down to a nursing home, and with some help from Helen, learns that he is John’s father. Cooper is wheelchair bound, gazing vacantly at nothing and drooling. He’s hardly the wily conman who pushed Locke out a window or was violently choked to death by Sawyer. Looking at him now, I actually felt sorry for him. And why not? He wasn’t a lying con artist in this timeline. Or was he? In this season’s episode Recon, we saw Detective James Ford trying to track down an Anthony Cooper who had conned his parents years ago. Is this the same Cooper? I doubt it matters at this point, but I wonder.

Back at the hospital, Jack stands over Locke, who is talking in his sleep. “Push the button,” he says first, followed by, “I wish you had believed me.” The latter statement was the lone line in Locke’s suicide note, written to Jack before he attempted to hang himself in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham. Jack glances up into the hall and sees Claire looking around. They sit down opposite each other in a lounge area, trying to navigate the awkward situation. Claire says she never even met their father (which answers my question from last time about whether or not this timeline echoed the original in that Christian and Claire met after her car accident). Claire opens a cardboard box which contains an elegant wooden music box, which is among the items left for her in Christian’s will. According to Ilana, there will be other things to come but Christian especially wanted her to have this. Claire asks Jack if he might know why, but he doesn’t. When she asks how their father died, Jack explains that he drank himself to death in Sydney. He says that he went down there to bring the body back and the airline lost it. When Claire comments that she just flew in from Sydney herself, he makes the connection that she was on Oceanic 815 too, which freaks them both out (though he doesn’t explicitly say that he was on that flight). Jack sits next to her and the mirror inside the music box’s lid reflects the newly introduced half-siblings. Jack says he’s sorry he can’t help her, and then asks her to stay with him while she’s in town.

C: Stay with you? I mean, we’re…we’re strangers.
J:  No, we’re not strangers, we’re …we’re family.

At some point later, Locke is wheeling himself out of the hospital when Jack approaches to say goodbye, and finally learns how he wound up in the wheelchair.

There’s that line again – “I wish you believed me” – only this time it’s Jack saying it to Locke. The way Locke stops when he hears it…I couldn’t decide if he was just considering the plea, or if the line touched off a memory of his Island-Timeline self (he also had a moment of pause when he passed Jin in the hall).

In the island timeline, Jack wakes up in an outrigger canoe. It’s nighttime and Sayid kneels nearby on the beach and informs him that Locke saved him from a mortar attack and they’re now on Hydra Island. He says those that weren’t killed scattered into the jungle. “It’s just the three of us now.” (So much for Cindy the Flight Attendant and kids Zack and Emma, I guess.)

Further inland, Widmore’s people have moved the pylons from the beach and are re-aligning them around the polar bear cages, which Sawyer, Kate and the others are being forced into by Pudgy Face. Having spent more than enough time in those cages, Sawyer refuses to get in, easily disarming Pudgy and turning the tables until Widmore shows up and puts a gun to Kate’s head. Widmore says he has a list of names that includes Ford, Reyes and the Kwons…but not Austen. He doesn’t care if she dies. Sawyer relents, and they’re all corralled into the cage. “You may not believe it, but I’m doing this for your own good,” Widmore tells Sawyer through the bars. “You’re right,” Sawyer says. “I don’t believe it.” Widmore’s men tell him that the fence won’t be live for an hour, but he insists they haven’t got that much time. “He’s coming,” Widmore says.

And so he is. Back on the beach, Locke returns to Sayid and Jack to report on the predicament facing Sawyer and the rest. I couldn’t find the full clip online, but here’s the first half:

The scene continues with Locke asking for Jack’s help with the rescue, since the others obviously don’t trust him. Jack asks why he should trust him. “Because I could kill you, Jack. Right here, right now. And I could kill every single one of your friends, and there’s not a thing that you could do to stop me. But instead of killing you, I saved your life. And now I wanna save them too. So will you help me?”

In the cage, Kate tells Sawyer that Widmore wouldn’t have killed her, but he says that her name was crossed out on the wall of the cave. “He doesn’t need you, Kate,” Sawyer says. There’ll be more to say about this later…

Those who felt like Sun and Jin’s reunion got the short shrift in the previous episode probably felt better seeing the couple catch up now. They talk about Ji Yeon, and then Sun slides Jin’s wedding ring back on his finger. (I was reminded that on her trip across the island to see Jacob last season, she found Charlie’s Drive Shaft ring in Aaron’s crib. She took it, and I hoped she would have a chance to give it to Claire. Guess that ain’t gonna happen.)

Suddenly the power to nearby lights and the pylons goes down, and the high-pitched roar of a pissed-off smoke billow is heard. Smokey roars into the clearing and starts pummeling Widmore’s men, including Pudgy Face, who it rams into the cage bars right in front of Sawyer and Kate (note that Zoe is conspicuously absent from this attack). Even all of Pudgy’s…pudge…couldn’t stop that from smarting, and he comes to rest in front of the cage. Kate tries to reach for the keys but Jack shows up and takes them himself, letting them all out. “I’m with him,” he says, nodding toward the Smoke Monster.

As they head through the jungle toward the plane, Kate asks Jack if he’s changed his mind about coming. Jack says he’ll help them get to the plane, but he’s not going with them. “I’m sorry Kate. I’m…I’m not meant to go.” Sayid catches up to them, having turned off the power generator to enable to Smokey’s attack, and together they continue toward the plane. Man in Locke is there already, and after taking out Widmore’s armed guards, he climbs aboard and looks around, quickly discovering four bricks of C4 in an overhead bin, wired to the plane’s electrical system. When the others arrive outside the plane, Locke comes out and shows them the C4 he’s removed. He says this is just what Widmore wants. “He wants to get us all in the same place at the same time – a nice confined space we have no hope of getting out of – and then he wants to kill us.” Afraid to risk that the plane hides more explosives, Man in Locke says they’ll have to take the sub instead, which seems to please Sawyer. But as they head away from the plane (Lapidus looking particularly disappointed; I think he was eager to fly again), Sawyer hangs back and talks to Jack.

S: Hey Doc, listen up. You don’t wanna leave this island that’s your own damn business. But I’m gonna ask you for one last favor. I don’t trust that thing one bit, so here’s what I need you to do. Once we get to the dock, you make sure it doesn’t get on the sub.
J:  How am I supposed to do that? You saw what it did back there.
S: Just get it in the water. I’ll take care of the rest.

They all take position in the bushes near the dock, where the submarine appears to be unguarded. They begin their approach, and Sawyer and Lapidus make it safely onboard, where they knock out one crewman and order the captain at gunpoint to get ready to launch. Locke hands Jack his backpack and grabs his own, and the two of them follow the others down to the dock, with Locke telling Jack as they go that whoever told him he had to stay on the island doesn’t know what they were talking about. Jack stops on the dock and says, “John Locke told me I needed to stay.” Then he shoves Man in Locke into the water. Kate suddenly takes a gunshot to the shoulder and topples. They’re under attack from behind and begin exchanging fire. Jack and Sayid help Kate onboard and Sawyer climbs up to the hatch and calls for Claire, who is determinedly shooting Widmore’s people. Locke climbs out of the water looking pissed and also shoots at Widmore’s men, glancing back menacingly at Sawyer as well. Sawyer calls for Claire one last time, but when she continues shooting, he closes the hatch and the sub begins to pull away. When she realizes, she runs toward it but Locke holds her back. His expression has changed to one of satisfaction. “No, trust me. You don’t want to be on that sub.”

Because he has to treat Kate’s wound, Jack barely has time to be angry that Sawyer has ordered the sub away while he’s still on it. He tells Hurley to go find a first aid kit, but when Hurley comes up empty-handed, Jack goes into his backpack to find a something he can use to stop the bleeding. Instead of his own gear, he finds the block of C4 – wired with a digital wristwatch Man in Locke had removed from one of the dead Ajira guards. They have less than four minutes until detonation, and Jack realizes that they did exactly what Locke wanted. Jin gets on the phone to Lapidus, who is still holding the captain at gunpoint (and who is ironically standing in front of a first-aid kit), and tells him they have to re-surface. When Lapidus reports that it will take more time than they’ve got, Sayid tells them how they might be able to disarm the bomb. But Jack has a theory that they’ll be okay by doing nothing, which he attempts to explain.

With less than a minute to go, Sayid- whose sense of urgency and emotion has returned since his encounter with Desmond – makes a decision.

Lapidus exits the control room to find out what happened, but he lingers for a moment too long in front of a creaking door, which proceeds to fly off its hinges in a burst of water, knocking him down. The sub is rapidly filling with water, and Sun is trapped against a wall by a heavy piece of equipment. They’re enveloped in chaos, and poor Hurley can’t even comprehend what Sayid just did. Jack gives him an oxygen tank and tells him that he has to swim out with Kate through the hole from the blast. “I have to go after Sayid,” Hurley says.

“There is no Sayid!” Jack yells, sending Hurley on his way. Jack, Sawyer and Jin manage to move the wreckage that has Sun pinned, but they quickly realize that her legs are still caught behind some metal below the water. The sub shakes again and something hits Sawyer on the head, knocking him out. Jin tries to free Sun, but she is tightly wedged in. Jin insists that Jack get Sawyer out, which he finally does after sharing a meaningful look with both of them. Sun knows how this is going to end for her and she tells Jin he has to leave, but he refuses. He tries to free her, but they both know it’s hopeless. She says he can’t help her and that he has to go. “I won’t leave you,” he says in Korean. “I will never leave you again.” They hold each other and kiss while the water rises. As the sub drifts to the ocean floor, Sun and Jin’s hands separate while ours reach for a second box of Kleenex.

Dark has fallen by the time Jack pulls Sawyer onto the shore (though I’m not sure which island they’re on). Hurley and Kate stumble over, and fall to their knees over Sawyer, who’s breathing but unconscious. Kate looks remarkably okay for someone who took a bullet to the shoulder, hasn’t been treated and has had to swim out of cold, deep water – even if she was being half-carried. She asks about Sun and Jin, and Jack says they didn’t make it out. She starts to cry, Hurley sobs and Jack walks away to the edge of the water, overcome with grief.

Back on the submarine dock, Man in Locke calmly informs Claire that the sub has sunk. She jumps up, alarmed. “They…they were all on it! Everyone! What, they’re…they’re all dead?”

“Not all of them,” Locke answers, picking up his rifle and his backpack (or is it Jack’s backpack) and striding off. “Wait, wait where are you going?” Claire asks.

“To finish what I started,” he says, leaving her alone and staring after him.

I’m thinking about two things as he heads off to “finish what he started.” First, how does he intend to follow through on that threat if Jack is correct that he can’t kill them himself? Now that the cat’s out of the bag and his true motives are revealed, how will he manipulate them into killing each other, if that’s indeed the only option he has? Reader David Z. was thinking the same thing, and he e-mailed me a theory: “If Kate’s name is crossed out, then I would think FLocke could kill her without any ramifications for his ability to escape the island. Therefore, of the 4 remaining Losties, that makes Kate the only one who is expendable…Since FLocke still wants/needs to kill them, but can’t do it directly, he will need some way to manipulate Sawyer, Hurley and Jack. Enter Kate. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kate – especially with her injury – somehow fall into the hands of FLocke and see him use her to get Jack and Sawyer to fall in line.”

Second, and this speaks to something David’s comment gets at too, is why does Man in Locke leave Claire alive? Claire’s name is crossed off and he no longer has to pretend that he needs them all (again, assuming we believe Jack’s theory). So why doesn’t he kill Claire right then? Is it because he can’t? Why is he unable to kill them all himself, and does his decision to leave Claire alive mean that the rule applies to all of them, or just those still marked as candidates?


When Lost kills off its main characters, I find myself asking whether or not it felt necessary to do so. Each one hurts, but some are easier to understand than others. Boone was the first major casualty, and his death fueled storylines for Shannon, Locke, Jack and Sayid. It was sad, but it made sense. I’d say the same for Ana Lucia and Libby, for Shannon and for Juliet. There was significant dramatic mileage to be had from those deaths. But while watching Sun and Jin’s demise, it didn’t feel like there was a good reason for them to go. It seemed unnecessary and particularly cruel coming right on the heels of their reunion. But watching it a second time, I accepted that sometimes it’s necessary to deal an emotional blow to the audience, as long as it’s not used purely to manipulate their feelings. And this article featuring interviews with Damon, Carlton, Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim, which was posted on EW.com immediately after the episode aired, shed light on the decision to deal such a blow. (Excerpts from this also made it into the current print edition of EW, which adds that there were “other reasons for killing the trio, too – reasons that will become apparent by the time Lost fades to black on May 23.”)  Oh, and if they thought that showing us Jin in the next scene – the Sideways scene with Locke leaving the hospital – would soften the blow, they were wrong. Sure, everyone is still alive and will be seen again in SidewaysLand, but the island timeline is what feels most real.

Sun and Jin’s deaths were so emotional and drawn out, yet Sayid’s happened so fast that there was barely time to process it. The explosion causes so much craziness that I didn’t even get a chance to absorb what had happened to him (I know how you feel, Hurley). Just like that, after six years, poof! He’s gone. His death was a tad easier to accept initially, only because Sayid seemed fated to meet a grim end. I’ve referred to him before as the tortured torturer because Sayid never gets the happy ending. Shannon: dead. Nadia: dead. Hell, even Sayid himself died already, and when he came back to life, he still seemed to be dead. After killing Keamy in SidewaysLand, he tells Nadia – who he loves but won’t allow himself to be with – that he would have to leave and never come back. With everything that has happened to him, and given the number of people he’s killed, he seemed like the main character most likely to die by the end of the season. Not that that makes it any easier, especially considering that from a pure logic point of view, his death might have been avoided. He didn’t have to run down the corridor with that bomb. He could have chucked it down there and closed the door to the room they were all in. But instead he took no chances, sacrificing himself in a final act of redemption. Sure, it’s a more noble way to go, especially after learning that he didn’t kill Desmond…but screw that! I just want him to live! (Note, by the way, the similarity to Michael’s death. He too died on a boat, trying to stop an explosion from killing his friends). Also note the rare dramatic presentation of an Iraqi blowing himself up to save people rather than kill them. You don’t see that too often.

This logic aspect I spoke of also brought back memories of Charlie’s death. Even more so than Sayid, Charlie’s death seemed avoidable. He could totally have gotten out of that little radio room when it started flooding. He could have escaped the underwater Looking Glass Dharma station with Desmond, but instead he locked himself inside the room and allowed himself to drown, perhaps believing that even though he had accomplished his dangerous task, he still had to die in order for Desmond’s vision of Claire and Aaron getting off the island on a helicopter to come true. (It turned out to be one of Desmond’s only visions – of those we knew about, at least – that never came to pass.) So Sayid’s death echoed both Michael’s and Charlie’s, while Sun and Jin died just as Charlie did too. Even in death, these characters share cosmic connections.

And then there’s Lapidus. When I kept saying in recent write-ups that I wished the writers would give him something to do, I didn’t mean die. Considering that none of the articles or interviews I’ve read in the last week mention his death, maybe it really is possible that he swam out of the sub and will be seen again. But given how hard he went down, I’m assuming the worst. I’ll say this, though: if he does come back, they really better make it payoff, because he’s totally gotten the shaft. When actor Jeff Fahey joined the show at the beginning of Season Four, he was relegated to guest star status while Jeremy Davies, Rebecca Mader and Ken Leung – Faraday, Charlotte and Miles, respectively – came on as series regulars. Finally this season, Fahey got the bump to full time cast member, yet they gave him nothing to do other than flex his awesome-line-delivery muscle. To me, making a character a regular implies that their story is going to deepen, yet Lapidus had less to do this year than in either of the previous two. He hasn’t even shown up in SidewaysLand, though that could still change. (Like Lapidus, Ilana’s death on the island came before we ever got to learn more about her background and how she was connected to Jacob. Perhaps we’ll get some answers in tonight’s big Jacob/Man in Black/Island episode.)

As we work through our grief, I know that some of us are angry at Sawyer for his stubborn refusal to listen to Jack and leave the bomb alone…but let me play devil’s advocate by suggesting that you put yourself in Sawyer’s shoes; the last time Jack proposed a seemingly crazy, suicidal course of action and convinced them all to go along with it, Juliet wound up dead. So can you really blame Sawyer for not trusting him? Now, just as Jack carries the guilt of Juliet, Sawyer will have to shoulder the burden of the deaths caused by his actions. And surely that will propel him through the final hours of the show, for better or worse.

The hardest part about processing these deaths? Knowing that more are likely to come.

-Widmore says that he has a list of names including Ford, Reyes and the Kwons, but not Austen. Sawyer then tells her that her name was crossed out in the cave. That may be true, but we the audience never actually saw her name in the cave. We did, however, see it on the dial in the lighthouse, and it was not crossed off (see #51 below). In a previous write-up, I discussed my assumption that the list of candidates Jacob gives to Ilana and the list he hides in the guitar case that Hurley gives to Dogen must have been the same list, and that Kate must have been on that list since Dogen accepted her into the Temple (along with Jack, Jin, Hurley and Sayid). So were those two lists the same, or did Dogen merely keep Kate around due to her association with the others? Is Widmore’s list the same, or is he working off something different?  Why did Widmore send his people to capture Jin? If his list includes both Jin and Sawyer, why wasn’t Sawyer targeted for capture as well?

-Watching the scene with Jack and Claire at the hospital, I wondered if SidewaysClaire will give birth in the final episode, and if that will have something to do with resolving the two timelines. As I’ve mentioned before, J.J. Abrams said back during Season One that Aaron would come to play a key role in the overall story of Lost. Of course, J.J. Abrams hasn’t had anything to do with the show creatively since that time, plus I think we can all agree that they didn’t know what the hell they were doing in Season One as far as determining the show’s eventual course. So whatever was said about Aaron may not turn out to be accurate any longer, but I’ll be interested to see if he factors into the finish.

-Some fans have argued online that Lapidus must still be alive because he’s the only one who can fly the plane. Others have even said that SidewaysLocke having his pilot’s license will somehow play into the escape from the island. It does seem that the only obvious way off the island is the plane, although it may still be wired with explosives. And even if it isn’t, let’s not forget that Richard, Ben and Miles are still out to blow it up. In fact, could they have placed the C4 on the plane, as opposed to Widmore? I’d guess no. Richard just wants to blow the plane up, period. He seems less concerned with killing the Man in Black than he does in making sure it doesn’t get off the island, so I reason that he wouldn’t hesitate to blow the plane up immediately if he had the chance. And why couldn’t Man in Locke have executed his plan with the C4 on the plane? All he would have had to do is get everyone onboard ahead of him and tell Frank to fire it up while he took a last look around outside. Then boom, it would blow up with everyone but him inside and his plan (as suggested by Jack) would have succeeded.

But I digress. The point I started out wanting to make was that with the submarine gone, the plane seems like the only way off the island. Yet I propose that if something happens to the plane – or maybe even if nothing happens to the plane – there’s one other way that they can leave the island:

Twice this season we’ve been subtly reminded about this. When Jin first wakes up after being captured, Zoe shows him a map of the island and asks him to confirm that certain marked spots represent pockets of electromagnetism. Later, just before Man in Locke throws Desmond into the well, he tells him that this isn’t the only well on the island. So while I have no concrete reason to say so, I’d keep this wheel in mind.

-In last week’s write-up I talked about how we’ve been told that the Man in Black is stuck with the form of John Locke, and how that should mean that when we saw Christian Shephard talk to Sun and Lapidus last season, Christian could not have been the MIB. It occurred to me since then that there was another transformation that seems to defy the stuck-as-Locke logic: Alex. Last season, Man in Locke led Ben to the tunnels near The Temple. Ben fell through the floor into a lower chamber and Locke said he would go find something to help him climb out. But while Locke was gone, the smoke monster emerged from the tunnel floor and enveloped Ben. Then his daughter Alex showed up and told him to do everything John Locke told him to do, or else die. It was pretty clear that Alex was a manifestation of Smokey. But that should not have been possible, since Man in Black had already taken on Locke’s form. Maybe Man in Black did something specific after assuming Locke’s form that made him unable to transform again. If that’s the case, then it’s possible he could have become Christian and Alex before doing whatever that thing is. But I’m guessing this is just another unfortunate plot inconsistency.

-As Sun and Jin shared their last moments, there was no mention of little orphan Ji Yeon, who they did say earlier in the episode is back in Korea with Sun’s mother. Which would be sort of okay if that didn’t also mean that she was back in Korea with Sun’s father. Man, that poor girl is in for a seriously fucked up life.

-If you still feel in need of a Sun/Jin fix, here’s an interview with Yunjin Kim from TV Guide to supplement the one earlier from Entertainment Weekly.

-Alright, so here we are getting down to what Gandalf might call the end of all things, and it’s been a long time since I’ve spat out an ill-formed, half-baked, hole-riddled theory. But I’ve got one now – not fully developed, as usual, but I’ll give to you best I can. Reader Nick P. recently asked me if he had missed a scene where the light-haired boy in the jungle and the dark-haired boy in the jungle were seen walking together, because he thought one of my recent write-ups had included a picture showing that. I said no, the picture I included was a side-by-side comparison of the two boys, who were played by the same actor. Here it is again:

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t supposed to be two different boys in the story. After all, one is light and one is dark. And then I saw a still photo that I assume is from tonight’s episode, of two boys peering through bushes in the jungle (I couldn’t tell if either of them was the same kid as the one above). And then I got to thinking, is it possible that Jacob and the Man in Black are two halves of one whole? That they aren’t just a metaphysical yin and yang, but that they were literally one entity centuries ago and at some point in time, perhaps by a powerful hand, split into two? And that’s why they can’t kill each other? Obviously the light vs. dark theme is central to Lost, but the show has always explored the co-mingling of those forces – the idea that both light and dark exists in us all (not a unique premise, as everyone from George Lucas to J.K. Rowling can attest, but there it is nonetheless). I don’t really know where to go with this…really unformed ideas crowded my head involving Greek and Roman mythology, Adam’s Rib, the castaways being additional physical off-shoots of Jacob and the Man in Black…yeah, I dunno either. But rest assured that if something even remotely like any of this comes to pass, I’ll be trumpeting it like I knew all along and am a total genius.

-I dug that the title of the episode had nothing (overtly, at least) to do with what we expected it to.

-Although I was less able to see the humor after such a dark episode, here is the latest installment of Lost Untangled with Muppet Dr. Chang.

And if he’s just too much of a spaz for you, this Muppet-Lost mash-up might be easier to digest: Damon and Carlton getting sabotaged by a group of fans led by Rizzo the Rat.

-If you haven’t heard, the final episode has been expanded to 2.5 hours. An extra half-hour – or 22 minutes, technically – to wrap it all up. I still don’t think it’s enough, but I’m not complaining.

If there was one, I couldn’t hear it over the sounds of my gasps and tears.

Tonight’s Episode: Across the Sea


May 4, 2010

LOST S6E13: The Last Recruit

Filed under: Lost,TV — DB @ 2:30 pm

Right off the bat, let me say that I loved this episode, for the way it brought everyone together (in both timelines) as well as for the way it threw the tension into high-gear. My heart was racing for the full hour, which can only mean that the end of the season is fast approaching. Lost always amps up in a season’s final run of episodes…and with this being the end of the series, I have to assume that we’re heading into overdrive.

As I suspected, this episode’s trip to SidewaysLand didn’t focus on one character, but instead kick-started the process of drawing them all together, beginning with Locke arriving at the hospital in the wake of Desmond’s aggressive moving violation. (Locke is accompanied in the ambulance by Ben, and is able to talk to him lucidly during the ride). Another ambulance pulls up to the hospital just as Locke’s does, and this one carries Sun and Jin. Locke and Sun are wheeled in literally side by side, and when Sun turns sideways and sees Locke, she cries out, “No! No! It’s him! It’s him.” An interesting connection between the two timelines. And a creepy one.

Meanwhile, at his police station, Sawyer sits down to talk with Kate about the coincidence of them being on the same plane. “Almost like someone’s trying to put us together,” he says.  Their exchange crackles with the same antagonistic flirting that marked their early island days, and Sawyer is at first bothered by, then turned on by, Kate’s accusation/observation that he didn’t arrest her when he saw her handcuffs at the airport because he didn’t want anybody to know he had been in Australia. Their conversation is interrupted when Miles calls Sawyer away and informs him that there’s been a quadruple homicide at a restaurant. He mentions Keamy by name, and also mentions a female Korean gunshot victim and her non-English speaking boyfriend. They have surveillance video that shows Sayid leaving the restaurant.

Sayid goes back to Omer and Nadia’s and urgently packs his bag. He tells Nadia that things are going to be okay for her now but that he has to leave and can never come back. As she asks what he did, the doorbell rings. She gives it a moment before opening it and letting Miles in. Sayid sneaks out the back, but Sawyer’s on him like hummus on falafel, and arrests him. It seems like Sayid, with all of his training, would think to do something as obvious as look down before sneaking out the door, in case somebody happened to be there holding a hose for him to trip over. But that wouldn’t be narratively convenient.

Claire enters an office building that is home to an adoption agency. As she’s in the lobby signing herself in, Desmond appears beside her. She remembers him from the airport and he walks with her toward the elevators, saying that he noticed she was going to an adoption agency and advising her to have a lawyer with her. He says he happens to be going to see one right now who’s a friend and owes him a favor. Claire seems skeptical that this guy she doesn’t really know is so insistent, but he convinces her. They ascend to floor 15 and into a law office, where Desmond is greeted by his attorney friend – a non-blown-up Ilana. When she gets Claire’s name, she looks taken aback and asks Claire if she’s from Australia. She tells Claire what a coincidence her appearance is, as she’s been looking for her. When she asks Desmond if she can speak to Claire privately, Desmond looks as if he expected this to transpire. Which I suppose he probably did and that’s why he tried so hard to get her into the office: knowing that Claire’s visit to Ilana would put her in touch with Jack. Not sure how Desmond knows about Jack and Claire’s connection, but no matter.

Jack and his son David arrive at the same office building and proceed into the same attorney’s office, where they’re greeted by Ilana (Desmond no longer seems to be there). “Do you believe in fate?” she asks as she ushers them into a conference room and introduces Claire. (If you recall from Jack’s sideways-episode earlier in the season, he and his mother found Christian’s will…in which Claire was named.) “You found her,” Jack says to Ilana. “Actually, she found us.” When Jack asks Claire if she knows why she was in his father’s will, Claire answers that he was her father too (I’m assuming that she’s just learned about this from Ilana, though she may have already met Christian if in SidewaysLand she was still in an car accident with her mother. (It was under those circumstances, prior to getting pregnant, that Claire first became aware of her father.) Jack barely has time to comprehend the news that he has a sister; his pager goes off, summoning him to an emergency at the hospital. He tells Claire and Ilana that he’ll have to reschedule.

Sun wakes up in the hospital, where Jin tells her that she’s going to be fine and that the baby is safe as well. As they savor their good fortune, Jack and David pass by their room, still talking about Claire’s revelation. Jack leaves David waiting while he scrubs in for his surgery, realizing when he gets into the O.R. and catches a view of the patient – Locke – that they’ve met before.

What a perfect place to segue into the island action, which picks up right where the previous episode ended: Team Jacob’s arrival at Man in Locke’s camp. Locke tells Jack they have some catching up to do. Sawyer, Kate, Claire and Sayid seem quite fascinated by the arrival of Team Jacob and by Jack and Man in Locke taking off for some male bonding in the woods. They go off on their own, and another one of the series’ great Jack/Locke exchanges unfolds, even if this time Locke isn’t Locke anymore.

The one thing that worries me about the revelation that Jack’s vision of his father in the early Season One episode White Rabbit was really the Man in Black – which therefore leads us to assume that every time we’ve seen Christian Shephard on the island it was the Man in Black – is that it absolves the writers of having to deal with Christian beyond this point. Jack still has some daddy issues to work out and it has seemed for a while like he might have one last chance to hash them over with his father on the island. These issues have been deeply entwined in his journey, not to mention that Christian has been a huge part of the show all along, influencing not just Jack’s life but crossing paths with multiple other castaways as well. So as far as I’m concerned, we need to see actor John Terry return as Christian. He’s been too large a presence for this scene with Jack and Man in Locke to be the resolution. However he’s able to take shape or whatever spectral plane he exists on, we’re owed stronger closure on the curious case of Christian Shephard.

One hopeful sign is that according to the show’s own rules, the Man in Black couldn’t have been Christian every time we’ve seen him. If you recall, earlier this season in The Substitute, Ilana told Ben that the Man in Black couldn’t change his form again now that he had taken on Locke’s appearance. (It hasn’t been explained why that is, but the why is irrelevant to the point I’m about to make; we’ve been told that Man in Black is stuck looking like John Locke.) Yet I take you back to last season, when Ajira 316 crashed on Hydra Island and suddenly John Locke was back from the dead. Except we know now that it was the Man in Black.

Fast forward a few episodes to Namaste, in which Sun and Lapidus travel over to the main island and find the abandoned Dharma barracks at New Otherton. And what else do they find there? Christian Shephard, who shows them the picture with Jack, Kate and Hurley among the Dharma Initiative new recruits from 1977. Therefore…if the Man in Black can’t change his appearance now that he’s adopted Locke’s look, then he couldn’t have been taking on the form of Christian Shephard. So either the writers and producers have once again made a major continuity error – and frankly it wouldn’t be the first time – or there’s evidence to suggest that not every appearance of Christian Shephard on the island has been the Man in Black personally.

As Man in Locke and Jack make their way back, Locke senses someone following them. Claire steps out of the jungle, and casually says that she’s following them because Jack is her brother. Locke leaves them to catch up. “Did he tell you? That he was the one pretending to be our father?” she asks. “Yeah. Yeah, he told me.” So Claire now knows that Man in Black was pretending to be her father. When did she figure that out? It’s only been a few days since she was in her hut telling Jin that both her father and her “friend” told her the Others had stolen her baby. She kept referring to Locke as her friend, and still referred to her father as if she’d really been with him, yet now she seems to know that they were one and the same.

She tells Jack it’s good to see him, and they embrace – finally with the knowledge of their connection. She says she never had much in the way of family so she’s happy he’s coming with them. When he tells her he hasn’t made up his mind about that yet, she disagrees. “Yeah you have. You decided the moment you let him talk to you. Just like the rest of us. So you know, whether you like it or not, you’re with him now.”

I was glad that Claire’s return was acknowledged by those who hadn’t seen her since she’s been back. She had only a brief moment with Hurley, but that was all I needed. And speaking of Hurley, Sawyer tells him about the submarine and his deal with Widmore, while Kate shares the same with Sun. Sawyer tells Hurley that Sayid isn’t invited, having gone over to the dark side. Hurley cites Anakin Skywalker to argue that people can come back from the dark side. Sayid does seem pretty far gone, and yet…well, we’ll get to that.

Zoe, from The Fightin’ Widmores, marches into Man in Locke’s camp and tells him that he took something from them which they want back. Man in Locke feigns ignorance, just as Widmore did when Locke went to reclaim Jin. Zoe pulls out a walkie-talkie and asks someone on the other end if they have a fix on her position and to show Locke what they’re capable of. A missile sound is heard overhead and suddenly there’s a huge explosion just outside the camp. She tells Locke he has until nightfall to return what he took or the next time the explosion wouldn’t miss. She gives Locke the walkie and leaves. Locke drops it on the ground and smashes it. “Well,” he says, “here we go.”

He gathers everyone together and says that while this is happening a bit earlier than expected, Widmore’s actions have forced his hand and that they’re leaving for Hydra Island. What is it about everyone’s timeline being thrown off? When Zoe and her team kidnapped Jin, Widmore was upset because it wasn’t supposed to happen for days. Then the experiment on Desmond happened earlier than Zoe and Co. were prepared for. Now this. Why is the timing of all this so important?

Locke gives Sawyer a hand-drawn map and points out a spot where there’s a boat anchored. He tasks Sawyer with getting the boat and meeting the rest of them at another spot on the map for the trip to Hydra Island. Sawyer says he could use another pair of hands, and asks Kate to accompany him. Locke then calls Sayid away, and as they exit together, Sawyer approaches Jack and gives him the map. He says they aren’t meeting Locke. First chance Jack gets, he’s to grab Hurley, Sun and Lapidus and make for another point where there’s a dock. He says they’ll sail over to Hydra together and cash in on the deal with Widmore. Jack asks about Sayid and Claire. Sawyer says Sayid’s a zombie and Claire is nuts. “She gave up her ticket when she tried to kill Kate.”

Meanwhile, Locke instructs Sayid to go out to the well where Desmond is and kill him. (We’ll ignore the fact that Desmond’s head-first plunge into that well should have killed him already.) In their encounter, Desmond just looks up – still unafraid, but showing a little more emotion than he has since his incident in the wooden shack. Sayid, on the other hand, remains completely devoid of emotion.

Sayid doesn’t answer Desmond’s last question, or rather we don’t see him answer. But I like how the question recalls Michael and the way he alienated Walt by telling him about killing Ana Lucia and Libby (we never see that, but it’s referred to in Season Four’s Michael-flashback, Meet Kevin Johnson).

Also, we never did find out how Sayid came back to life and became infected with what Dogen referred to as “poison.” How did Man in Locke, who was nowhere near The Temple at the time, manage to infiltrate Sayid’s body with the illness Dogen diagnosed him with?

Although it happens later in the episode, the clip also includes the scene with Man in Locke finding Sayid, who may well have been on his way to rejoin Locke’s crew, though I got the feeling something else was afoot. He seemed to be looking up, at the trees. I’m sure the fact that we didn’t see the outcome of his encounter with Desmond for ourselves means we can safely assume he didn’t carry out his orders. And if we’re right, what’s his plan now? Did Desmond manage to reach the fading glimmer of humanity that might still be alive inside Sayid? Is it possible he even helped Desmond out of that well? My guess is that when Locke found him, he was looking for something that he could lower down to Desmond to help him climb out. (I was surprised by the outcome of their scene, considering that in the preview for this episode that aired the week before, Sayid fired his gun into the well. Maybe the “exploding bullet” effect was just added to the preview to throw us off.

As Desmond and Sayid are having their tense moment, Sawyer and Kate arrive at the shore near the boat. Sawyer lets her in on his plan, and she notes that his list of fugitives doesn’t include Claire.

S: She ain’t comin.’  The Claire you came back for is gone.
K: I promised I would bring her back.
S: That’s before she started drinkin’ Locke’s kool-aid. She’s dangerous; you really want her around Aaron?

Kate isn’t comfortable with the decision, but there’s no time to argue now. They head into the water and make for the boat – which, if you’re wondering, is Desmond’s boat – the Elizabeth. If you recall Season Two’s finale Live Together, Die Alone you may remember that the boat is named after Libby – who gave it to Desmond after a chance encounter in which she shared the story that her husband died before ever getting to sail it.

As Man in Locke’s group marches across the island, Jack asks Claire how long she’s been with Locke. “Ever since you left,” she says.” When he asks if she trusts him, she says yes, because he was the only one who didn’t abandon her. To which I just have to say – let’s be fair, Claire Bear: nobody abandoned you. Let’s recap what happened:

a) You walked off into the jungle with your inexplicably island-occupying father, leaving your baby behind. Sure, he probably cast some funky voodoo on you, seeing as he wasn’t really your father, but still.

b) Your friends, after failing to locate you, tried to get to the freighter, with the intention of coming back to the island on the helicopter to look for you. But then the helicopter got shot and was leaking fuel…

c) …which doesn’t matter anyway, because the island DISAPPEARED in front of their eyes. And then they crashed.

So while your circumstances are genuinely regrettable, let’s not be passive-aggressive toward your friends and family. The only abandoning that happened was you abandoning your baby – again, under the influence of a force powerful enough that we can’t blame you. And now that you know “Locke” was pretending to be your father and that he’s the one who lured you away from your baby, from your friends, from rescue…isn’t he pretty much the last person who deserves your trust at this point?

When Locke leaves the group to go look for Sayid, Jack – acting without having time to think, as he still hasn’t made up his mind about his intentions and what he thinks Man in Locke is up to – quickly gathers Hurley, Sun and Lapidus and leads them away from the pack unnoticed by all…except Claire, who watches with an understandable look of anger and hurt on her face: that, Claire, is being abandoned.

Jack, Hurley, Sun and Frank find Sawyer and Kate docked and waiting. As they board, Frank assumes they’re using the boat to get away, but Sawyer says they can’t do that without the proper bearing. For three years the only way Dharma folk got on or off the island was via submarine, so that’s what they’re doing. But they’re barely all onboard when Claire shows up, rifle pointed. Kate moves toward her and attempts to reason with her.

K: We’re leaving the island.
C: Then why aren’t you waiting for John?
K: Because that’s not John, and whoever he is, he’s not one of us. Claire, come with us. I can get you back to Aaron.
S: Wait a damn…
K: Sawyer, shut up. She is coming or I’m not. Come with us, Claire.
C: John promised me…
K: I’m promising you. I was there when he was born. And I never should have raised him. It should have been you. I came back to get you so you could be with him again. That’s the only reason I came back to the island, Claire. So please come with us. Let’s go home.

Claire agrees to go with them, allowing Kate to take her rifle. But she warns, “He finds out we’re gone, he’s gonna be mad.”

As they make for Hydra Island, Jack sits alone on the other side of the boat from the others, and Sawyer goes over to talk to him…

I think this may be the first time that Jack has ever called Sawyer by the name James. After Sawyer tells him to get off the boat, Jack looks toward Kate and then jumps anyway. When he and Sawyer square off in last season’s finale, Jack tells Sawyer that part of his reason for wanting to reset the timeline and stop 815 from crashing is that he’d had Kate and he lost her. When Sawyer reasons that they probably won’t even meet if the plane lands safely in Los Angeles, Jack just says that if it’s meant to be, it will be. So it’s a sign of his current state of mind that he’s no longer motivated by a desire to be with Kate. He’s now making decisions based on what his gut is telling him is right for him. He chooses the Island over Kate because he’s now being driven by a sense of destiny, or some other force inside him. (On the other hand, he told Kate in the same episode that detonating Jughead felt more right than anything he’d ever done. He knew it was what he was supposed to do…so that decision may have come out of both heartache and a sense of destiny. And we may yet find out he was right.)

Jack makes it back to shore, where Locke and a few of his people are standing. “Nice day for a swim,” he says, scanning the ocean. “Sawyer took my boat, didn’t he?” Jack confirms it. I wonder if Locke thinks that Jack came back because he’s chosen his side.

Sawyer and Co. arrive on Hydra Island, where the pylons run along the beach. No sooner have they stepped ashore do Zoe and some of Widmore’s team pop up pointing guns. Zoe recognizes Sawyer and radios Widmore. As this is happening, Jin arrives on the beach and he and Sun see each other. It’s been three years since they’ve been together, and they run into each other’s arms for a welcome reunion. Now I know many people feel that the reunion felt short. I’ve also heard comments that it felt anti-climactic. I didn’t think it seemed too short. What more could they have done really, other than strip down and begin making sweet love on the beach like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity?

I can go with the anti-climactic argument a little more easily. For me, the reunion was dampened by the fact that I was terribly afraid something awful was going to happen in that moment. I thought maybe the pylons were turned on to some deadly frequency like the full-sized ones near New Otherton, and that when Sun ran toward Jin and crossed behind them they were going to fry her brain and she would collapse in Jin’s arms, dead. Or that one of them was going to get shot. Or that a terribly animated CGI shark was going to jump out of the water totally unexpectedly and eat Lapidus.

There was a really cool moment that I missed upon first viewing: two brief shots of Sawyer reacting to Sun and Jin’s embrace. The second one, especially, is a great moment where Sawyer’s own loss crosses his face, and we see that while he’s happy for Sun and Jin, he’s heartbroken for himself and the fact that no similar reunion awaits him and Juliet.

Opinions that the reunion was anti-climactic might also have to do with Zoe receiving her instructions from Widmore and telling Sawyer and the rest to get on their knees. When Sawyer protests that he had a deal with Widmore, she tells him the deal’s off.  She then radios someone else, asking if they have a lock on Locke. She orders a fire, and back on the main island’s shore, Jack and Locke look around as a missile sound is heard. Jack leaps out of the way as an explosion rocks the beach. He lands in the sand, a little bloody and disoriented, and Locke runs over and pulls him out of the way before another explosion hits right where he was lying. Locke carries him just into the jungle and sits him against a tree, where he tells him not to worry. “You’re with me now,” he says reassuringly.

Wish I knew whether or not that was really so reassuring.

-So if the deal is off, what is Widmore’s intention with them? What are all of Widmore’s intentions? What was Desmond supposed to do for him?

-Damon Lindelof recently gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter in which he talked about the end of the season and said that while the finale will definitely serve as an end to the story, it will be open for interpretation and debate, just as Lost has always been. So whatever mysteries from the past six years get solved in the next few weeks, expect there to be one that we can debate and puzzle over for the rest of our natural lives.

-That link above contains this link, but I wanted to call it out separately. It has scans from a TV Guide feature with the final official cast photo of the show, along with a fun bonus of each actor naming another TV show to which their character might be well suited.

-A friend passed on this link to the Flickr page of an artist who has created posters for every single episode of Lost (or is continuing to create them. It looks like he’s only gotten about halfway through Season Five). These are pretty cool, especially if you can actually recall episode titles and what occurred in each given installment; or to put it another way, especially if you’re sick like me.

-And here is Muppet Dr. Chang with Lost Untangled’s breakdown of The Last Recruit.

If you just can’t get enough, this one is essentially a rap video about the life and times of John Locke.

These things are like watching Muppets on steroids.

-Will you please, for the love of GOD, give Lapidus something to do in these last four episodes?

“We’re gonna ditch Locke. You, me, Jack, Hurley, Sun and that pilot who looks like he stepped off the set of a Burt Reynolds movie.” – Sawyer

Tonight’s Episode: The Candidate

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