Monday, February 23, 2009

S5Ep6 - 316

Hello my dear friends -

Some of you may remember this article I linked to last fall in which Lost writer Brian K. Vaughan (one of the creative team members who signed my Season Four DVDs, yay for me!) proclaimed that Season Five was "definitely going to be the strangest thing that’s ever been on network television. Ever.”

I think we can confidently say at this point that he wasn't exaggerating.

"316" brought it. And that means there's a lot to discuss. Let's take things in order this time around, shall we? Or, almost in order. As the opening moments of the episode were replayed at the end of the hour, I'll address them later and instead begin with the meeting in Ms. Hawking's lair... or what we now know is/was actually Dharma's Lamp Post station.


Anyone who took part in this past summer's "Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project" (an online game that gave hints for the upcoming season) had already gotten a glimpse of the logo for the first off-Island Dharma station we've ever seen: The Lamp Post. There have been shout-outs to C.S. Lewis before (most notably in the form of Charlotte Staples Lewis), and now we've witnessed another -- in The Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia (written by Lewis), a lamp post serves as a gateway of sorts between two worlds.

Hawking explains that The Lamp Post was built by the Dharma Initiative over an area of intense electromagnetic activity in order to find the Island. They had apparently gathered "proof" that the Island existed, but didn't know how to reach it. At some point after the station had been completed, "a very clever fellow" realized that by way of a series of exceedingly nerdy equations and a Foucault pendulum, they could figure out where the Island could be found at certain points in time in the future. As we've long suspected, the Island is also on an electromagnetic hot-spot and is continually moving.

The obvious question is: who's the "clever fellow"? (I'm calling him "CF" from here on out.) While my knee-jerk reaction was "Daniel Faraday," after thinking about it for a while I'm not entirely positive that theory could work. Here's why: the CF must be someone who would've been around in the outside world before Dharma landed on the Island in the 1970s.

When we saw Faraday in "Jughead," the year was 1954 and the Island had obviously already been found by the U.S. military. Someone on the Island at that point in time took this picture and then ended up bringing it to Dharma as proof that the Island existed. It was hanging behind Hawking on one of the chalkboards in The Lamp Post (and its date is almost exactly fifty years before the Oceanic 815 crash on 9/22/04):

When we saw Daniel in a Dharma uniform at the beginning of the season, we know that the time period was the late '70s (and there's reason to believe that's where the group is stuck now). In order to be the CF, Faraday would have to pass off his equations to someone in the outside world who was alive before Dharma ever came to the Island or go back in time himself while off of the Island. That doesn't seem likely, as we've never seen anyone time travel to a point decades in the past and off of the Island simultaneously. I guess I should add "yet" to that last sentence, huh? (Maybe, just maybe Daniel could turn the FDW and get thrown back in time to the outside world, but it doesn't seem like anyone would want to mess with the FDW ever again on purpose.)

I'm not totally ruling out the possibility of Faraday being the one who helped Dharma find the Island, mind you... obviously we've seen him writing down notes and equations before and he's certainly the character who seems to know the most about what's going on with the space-time phenomenon. However, right now I can't see how the timing could work out. If I'm missing something here, I'm sure you'll let me know...

So who could be the CF if it's not Faraday?


Let me begin this section by saying that a lot of the information I'm going to reference comes from "The Lost Experience" online game, which filled out the backgrounds of a few characters that were otherwise only briefly mentioned in the show itself. So don't be worried if you don't recall some of the things I'm about to bring up... you're not suffering from the effects of watching too much time travel on TV, you probably just aren't as big of a Lost nerd as some of the rest of us. And that's certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

So back to the possible identity of the CF. We know that Widmore was on the Island in 1954 and was part of the group of Others who wiped out the American military's presence there. We also know that Widmore ended up leaving/getting kicked off of the Island and has been trying to find it again ever since. He was most likely back in the real world by 1970, and therefore the picture that's in The Lamp Post could've come from him.

As he was hellbent on finding his old home again, he could've hooked up with Alvar Hanso (who, as reader DML reminded me, was a munitions dealer during WW2... hello, Jughead bomb) and persuaded him to get some scientists working on the effort. Let's not forget that: 1) Widmore may have witnessed Locke disappearing in the middle of his talk with Richard, and/or 2) Ellie could've told him that Faraday said his group was from the future... which she'd probably be very inclined to believe once they all disappeared in front of her eyes. Armed with that information, Widmore could've realized that the reason the Island was so hard to find was because something funky was going on with its location on the space-time continuum. He could've told Hanso that an "out-of-the-box" approach must been taken to finding the Island because it might be moving through time.

Enter the DeGroots... scientists from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) who founded the Dharma Initiative in 1970 thanks to financial backing from Alvar Hanso. We've seen them briefly before in some of the hatch orientation films. On a related note, Dr. Chang/Halliwax/Wickmund/Candle is probably also connected to U of M, as he stated in the video aired at last year's Comic-Con that he was an astrophysicist from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The shakiest part of this whole theory is why Widmore would specifically go to Alvar for help once he left the Island. That I can't really explain. We do know that Alvar was the great-grandson of Magnus Hanso, who the Hatch Map tells us was buried on the Island and was possibly a crew member (if not a commanding officer) of the Black Rock. Perhaps Widmore knew this and that's the reason he connected with Alvar back in the outside world.

Regardless, I'm going with either Alvar Hanso, Gerald DeGroot or Pierre Chang as being the clever fellow who built the pendulum in The Lamp Post. I get the sense that a lot of this season is going to revolve around the history of Dharma, so it fits that any of these three characters might appear on the show again soon.


Yikes... after all that, we're still only a few minutes into the episode.

So Ms. Hawking is blathering on about the Island and Desmond is having none of it. He starts stomping around the room and saying that Jack and Sun are crazy for wanting to go back, and that Hawking's already caused him to lose four years of his life. His take was that he and the O6 are just pawns in a game that Ben, Hawking and others are playing. He's probably not too far off, is he? But quite frankly, I couldn't really concentrate on his rant because I was so nervous that the swinging pendulum was going to knock him over, American Gladiators-style.

Thankfully, that didn't happen (though it would've been hilarious). After delivering Faraday's message (to which, oddly, Hawking had pretty much no reaction), he stormed away, despite being warned that the Island "wasn't done with him."

Eloise remained unruffled after Desmond's departure and handed Jack a binder containing information on various flights that would be on the right course to catch "the window" back to the Island. I'm not really sure the binder was necessary, however, as she told him that they really only had one option: Ajira 316 (so much for my 316 bearing theory). Maybe we were just supposed to notice that the binder's colors were maize and blue and it had a very University of Michigan-looking seal on its front? Maybe binder design is one way the DeGroots chose to show their love for the Wolverines? Hail to the Victors, baby!

Next, Hawking takes Jack into another room -- alone -- and gives him Locke's suicide note. Since he's so freakin' stubborn, he of course does not rip it open and read it immediately like any other normal human being would do. Consequently, we're left to wonder what the note said... and, perhaps more importantly, why Hawking was the one who had it.

The last bit of advice the mysterious Eloise doles out before Jack takes leave of The Lamp Post is that he must do his best to recreate the original conditions of Flight 815, and that he could start by getting something of his father's to put in the casket with Dead Locke.


Still reeling from the ridiculousness of the conversation he just had, Jack busts out of the station and finds Ben in the attached church. Ben avoids Jack's questions about Hawking by instead explaining the meaning behind "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" painting that's displayed prominently on the wall. Kudos to reader SKID, who left a detailed comment last week about this piece of art after it had been briefly shown in "This Place is Death." Clearly, there are parallels to be drawn between Jack and ol' Doubting Thomas, enriching and complementing the comparisons that have already been made between Locke and Jesus. I'm really wishing I could remember more of went down in Sunday School right about now...

I was also cursing my memory in the next scene when Jack went to visit what turned out to be his grandpa. Before Jack ever addressed the older man as "granddad," I was going crazy thinking that I had somehow blanked on who this character was. Turns out we've never seen him before (though he was briefly mentioned in the mobisode "The Watch").

The bunnies in the retirement home's "magic show" and the comment that Grandpa Ray made about going somewhere that "they won't ever find me" definitely made me think of the Island... and of course it was pretty darn weird that Ray just so happened to have a pair of Christian's shoes in his suitcase. Is this yet another Shephard who's been to the Island before? Will he come into play again in the future? Will he ever find out that he has a great-grandson (Aaron)? Will all four generations of Shephards ever be on the Island at the same time? I have no deep thoughts on this subject, but I can't shake the feeling that Ray wasn't inserted into the storyline simply so Jack could get a pair of his dad's shoes.


We've now arrived at my least favorite scene of the episode. Jack's back at his apartment for what could very well be his final night in a real bed. He's like, "Ah, what the hell... Ben took all my pills -- one last little drinky-drink couldn't hurt, right?" But his Party of One gets busted up when he hears strange noises coming from elsewhere on the floor. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who braced for another Zombie Dad appearance -- or something even freakier. Instead, it was Kate, who not only refused to tell Jack where Aaron was, but also made him swear he'd never ask her about the boy previously known as her son ever again. The Mad Doctor's all, "Aaron who? Let's get it on!"

Now, I could easily go off on a long, long rant right now. But there's still too much more of the show left to cover, so I'll keep my disgust with this scene to a few short comments:

1) Less than 24 hours earlier, Kate accused Jack of only pretending to care about Aaron in order to get her to the marina to reunite with the rest of the O6 and Ben. Quite frankly, I think she was on to something. If he's willing to forget all about the existence of his nephew in order to score one more notch in his off-Island bedpost, he probably never cared about poor Turniphead in the first place.

2) As for Kate... well, I don't even know where to begin. She should know that just because Jack shaved off his hillbilly beard does not mean the reasons she broke off her engagement to him are no longer valid. The Oxycodone bottle's not even cold yet, for God's sake. And you can't tell me that part of the reason she's going back to the Island isn't to help save Sawyer... so, um... what did she need from Jack? A last-minute romp in order to "compare" the two again after she has her inevitable reunion sex with Mr. Ford? Somebody has issues!

And where does all of this leave poor Aaron? The prevailing theory right now is that Kate saw another vision of Ghost Claire, who warned her yet again not to bring Aaron back to the Island and/or gave her some other instructions. Kate realized -- especially after Ben's harsh reminder at the marina -- that she'd never be able to keep up the charade with Aaron over the long-run, so she took him to Claire's mother. I'm on board with this theory simply because I would hate to think that Claire's mom showed up in the series again solely to throw Jack and Kate off the trail of the lawyer's mystery client for less than half an episode.

Kate's weird behavior does (kind of) support this theory, too... if someone had forcibly taken Aaron from Kate against her will, I think she would've been frantically begging Jack for help. Instead, she seems resigned and distant -- like she's given up after an exhausting fight and did something that broke her heart because she knew she had no other choice.


The next morning, Jack and Kate share an awkward breakfast -- he's clearly not having any regrets about their tryst, but she seems less than thrilled to be there. They have a stilted conversation about Christian's shoes and we finally learn why Zombie Dad had been wearing those godawful white Keds around the Island. Why/how he later changed out of a suit and into the more comfortable duds we saw him sport in both Jacob's shack and the FDW cave, however, remains a mystery.

Kate sees her chance to leave when Jack's phone starts ringing, so she does just that as The Mad Doctor becomes preoccupied with his call. It's Ben, who says there's been a change of plans and that Jack must go retrieve Dead Locke. What Jack doesn't know -- but we do -- is that Ben looks to be back at the marina and has been delivered a severe beat-down. I gotta tell you, I wasn't expecting to see the little guy so bloody and swollen. It made me realize that -- even if Ben turns out to be playing all of the Lostaways and is truly, truly evil -- I'll be thoroughly depressed if he ever dies. Because I was certainly distraught over seeing him in such a bad state.

The most obvious theory about why he's so messed up is that the "loose end" he had to take care of was the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: he found Penny and took her life in order to both fulfill his vow of revenge on Widmore for murdering Alex and give Desmond a reason to chase him back to the Island, since apparently Des was supposed to return, too. Ben could be battered because Penny put up a fight or because Desmond and/or some of Widmore's goons intervened.

One other possible explanation that has nothing to do with Desmond and Penny is that Ben and Sayid had it out -- there was obviously some sort of bad blood between them for reasons we don't yet understand. This may be why Sayid now has a police escort. It doesn't really explain why Ben would be calling from the boat docks, however. Besides, let's face it, if Sayid and Ben ever got into a physical fight -- even for a few seconds -- I don't think Locke would be the only one returning to the Island in a casket.


Jack follows Ben's instructions and goes to get Dead Locke, and we see Jill again for a few moments. I forgot to mention this little tidbit in earlier posts this year, but Jill's place of employment is "Simon's Butcher Shop." We had learned in the episode "Fire + Water" in Season Two that Charlie's dad -- Simon -- was a butcher. Is there a connection? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm certainly always looking for reasons to keep hope alive that the illustrious Darth Hoodie will grace the show with his presence once again.

When Jack was alone with Dead Locke in the freezer room, I had to cover my head with my blanket because I was so scared that Locke's eyes were going to fly open and he was going to jump up and attempt to eat Jack's brain or something. I mean, that's what zombies do. So that may have been the only time that I was actually glad Locke stayed dead.

Even though I thought the whole "recreate the 815 flight" mandate from Hawking was kind of lame (more on that shortly), I did enjoy watching Jack put his father's shoes on Locke. It was weird on so many levels -- and I'm glad that they had Jack acknowledge it out loud. Can you imagine what filming that scene must have been like for Terry O'Quinn and Matthew Fox? I hope the Season Five DVDs have a few outtakes for us -- I can't imagine that both of them didn't burst out laughing at least a few times.

Next, we see Jack in line for Ajira 316, and much like what happened when he was at the counter for Oceanic 815, he is questioned about the coffin he's escorting. What I found oddly touching was that when Jack was asked his relationship to the deceased, he said, "a friend." Just a few days earlier when the Hoffs-Drawler funeral home manager had asked Jack if he was "friend or family" of Locke/Bentham, Jack had replied, "Neither."

Finally, Jack's done with check-in and turns all aww-shucks when he sees that both Kate and Sun showed up. So much so that he kind of disses his co-star in Vantage Point, who was trying to "offer his condolences" about Jack's friend in the coffin.

But those aren't the only four who will be getting on the plane...


When the gate agent announces that there are a ton of open seats on the flight, it's revealed that Hurley is also in the waiting area. He'd been reading the comic Y: The Last Man (created by Brian K. Vaughan, who I mentioned at the beginning of this post), but jumped up to ensure that his purchase of the seventy-eight remaining seats on the flight had gone through. As Hurley looked around at those hoping that they'd get to ride standby -- whose lives he was probably saving --that's when it really hit me: "Holy crap, they are going back!" It also hit me that Hurley's pretty much the only 100% decent (meaning in no way selfish or evil) character left on the show. OK, so maybe Aaron and Ji Yeon are still fairly innocent, but seriously, that's about it. I think even Vincent has a devious master plan to outlast everyone else at this point.

As we know that Ben's lawyer was already planning to spring Hurley from the slammer that morning, the biggest question around Hurley's presence at the airport now becomes: who/what convinced him to show up, since he was previously so opposed to going back?

Most people believe that Dead Charlie paid Hurley a visit (again) and that's why he's not only on the flight but also lugging around a guitar. It may even be one of Charlie's old guitars, thus serving as a proxy for the Drive Shaft bassist. Hurley didn't listen to Dead Charlie's past pleas to help those left on the Island, however, so I hope we get to eventually see exactly why the multimillionaire changed his mind and decided to take the fateful flight.

On a related note, do you think that Dead Charlie and Ghost Claire got together to develop a strategy for scaring Hurley and Kate into returning to the Island? I do. To reward themselves for a job well done they're now eating off Invisible Peanut Butter at the Spirit Café -- ah, just like old times... kind of.


Just before the plane pulls away from the gate, Ben huffs and puffs his way on board, much to Hurley's alarm and Sayid's surprise. Oh, that's right... I almost forgot -- though he didn't utter one line in this episode, He of the Black Tank Top and Overflowing Chest Hair was also along for the ride. We don't know what kind of crime he would've had to commit that would warrant a police escort to, uh, Guam... but hey, let's just roll with it.

So here's how the circumstances of Flight 815 were recreated for Ajira 316:

- Five of the Oceanic Six were accounted for. But some of them may have also represented other people besides themselves...
- Kate, who had just lost Aaron, was much like Claire, who was preparing to give In Utero Turniphead up for adoption. Further, shout-out to reader AS who told me about the theory that Kate may be pregnant from the previous night's hook-up with Jack... which I pray is not the case but would indeed make her even more similar to Claire's situation in September of 2004.
- Jack now represents Locke, as he's clearly made a leap of faith about the need to go back to the Island.
- Hurley had been reading a comic book -- as he also did in '04 -- and now has a guitar with him, presumably in honor of Charlie.
- Sayid's in handcuffs and has a police escort just like Kate did.
- Ben showed up in the nick of time, just as Hurley had, and didn't have full use of all of his limbs, like previously wheelchair-bound Locke.
- Dead Locke's wearing Christian Shephard's shoes.
- Sun is separated from her husband, as Rose was separated (on the plane) from Bernard (that one's a stretch, but hey, I'm just reporting the ideas out there...)

And then of course we learn that good ol' Frank Lapidus is in the cockpit. If that's not a course-correction, I don't know what is. He was supposed to be the pilot of Oceanic 815, after all. If we find out that something went drastically haywire in the Lostaway's return, I'm blaming it on the fact that Frank shaved his beard. Certainly the universe prefers him a little scruffy, just like we do.

To me, the biggest missing piece is Aaron. If he wasn't supposed to be "raised by another," what's going to happen now that he's not making the trip back to his birthplace?

As I alluded to before, I think this whole "recreate the circumstances of 815" thing was kind of forced... there were a ton of other people on 815 (Michael, Waaaalt, Boone, Shannon, Ana Lucia, Eko, Libby, Frogurt, Scott, Steve, Artz, Nikki, Paulo, the kids, etc., etc.) that are not represented (on that note, why shouldn't Waaalt have to return, too?). I would've probably been even more blown away by the Ajira scenes had we been left to come to the conclusion ourselves that the conditions of 9/22/04 were eerily similar to what we were seeing in "316" rather than having the idea so explicitly forced into our minds by Hawking.

All I can figure is that we needed to understand that since not exactly everything on Ajira 316 is as it was on Oceanic 815, the end result of the aircraft flying over the window to the Island is going to be "unpredictable."


Just because I wasn't all that interested in the 815/316 comparisons doesn't mean that I didn't get a big thrill out of watching the Ajira flight scenes. I loved them. What I appreciated in particular was how tense it was when the flight took off... then things seemed normal for a bit there and everyone relaxed -- Ben's reading, Kate and Jack are having a nice chat -- and then, BOOM. The turbulence hit and it was on.

Before all hell broke loose, here are a few things I took note of while our Lostaways were cruising the friendly skies:

- Jack was supposed to read Locke's note, dammit! It was going to keep finding its way to him one way or the other. While I was expecting it to be a very long letter chock-full of critical information, it was quite the opposite. "I wish you had believed me." Wow. What a stab to the heart! Absolutely perfect. It gave me chills.

- We saw a shot of Ben's choice of in-flight entertainment: Ulysses (a novel with several obvious parallels to Homer's Odyssey). I won't repeat what I said back in my write-up for the Season Two finale, but if you haven't been with me for that long, you may be interested to review this theory about the entire series being an Odyssey-type adventure revolving around Desmond. (Since the publish date of that post we have even been delivered a cyclops... in the form of Patchy.)

- Staying with Ben for a moment... did you notice how nervous he seemed, not only about the suicide note but also about what Hawking had told Jack during their alone time? He was like a little boy feeling left out of the Cool Kids' Club: "What did she say to you -- huh, huh, huh? What's that letter -- huh, huh, huh? Can I play with you guys at recess -- please?" Here comes the most obvious statement you'll read all week: Something is definitely up with Ben. I'm sure he knew about The Lamp Post. I'm sure he knows the circumstances of Locke's death. I'm sure he knows exactly what happened on the Island once he turned the FDW. As I've said before, I'm confident he's inserted himself into this whole process of getting the O6 back to the Island because he wants to go back. So I'm dying to understand more about his relationship with Hawking, and her possible relationship with Widmore, and how all of these off-Island Others interact... and how The Economist and Abaddon fit into everything.

- That dude (Saïd Taghmaoui) who was Matthew Fox's co-star in Vantage Point (and who was also in Three Kings and more recently Traitor, among other things) is obviously going to be seen again. I have absolutely no idea what his story could be except that perhaps he was sent by Abaddon. The good news is that he's a great actor, so I'm excited he's on the show and very pleased I hadn't read that casting spoiler beforehand.

- Sun was a little too happy for my liking. She was sitting there, playing with her wedding ring and smiling as if she was on her way to a romantic weekend with Jin at Club Med in Turks & Caicos. Um, helloooooo.... did you not leave your daughter behind? Do you not realize that you probably won't ever see her again? How exactly are you going to explain all of this to your husband if/when you see him?

It's too late for Sun to reconsider her actions now... because the turbulence that the O5 and Ben were expecting did come to pass. But this time, we didn't see a plane get ripped in two. We didn't see anyone get sucked out of their seat and into the ether. We didn't see passengers bloodied and bruised by falling objects and runaway drink carts. Instead, we were delivered the scene that many of us thought we wouldn't see again until the final episode of the series: Jack, splayed out on the jungle floor in a suit and tie, opening his eyes in dazed confusion.


But this was no crash-landing all over again. Jack knew where he was and still clung to part of Locke's haunting last words to him: "I wish." I liked that quick shot of those two words, because one of my favorite aspects of the show over the years has been when things have gone right for some of the characters only after they really, really, really believe/wish/hope/pray for them to happen. Like how Jack seemingly willed Charlie back to life after Ethan hung him from a tree... or how Walt wished it would stop raining so that they could look for Vincent and then the downpour ceased... et cetera, et cetera.

Jack sprung into action just like he did when directing the troops in the midst of burning 815 wreckage, only this time he was saving someone he already knew -- Hurley. Not too far away was Kate. All of them had the same question: what just happened?

KATE: The plane... where's the plane?
JACK: I don't know. After that light, I... I woke up in the jungle.
KATE: So this is it? It's just us?
JACK: I'm not sure. Do either of you remember crashing?
HURLEY: Crashing? No. One second, I'm being tossed around. The next thing I know, I'm in the lagoon.

For about two milliseconds after this scene I reconsidered the Role-Playing/Virtual Reality Game Theory that first cropped up in Season One, but then batted it out of my head. That's because there is a critical difference between what happened to Flight 815 and Flight 316. Flight 815 was brought down by Desmond, who failed to enter in the numbers for the Countdown Clock o' Doom in time. This caused an electromagnetic build-up that was enough to pull 815 off-course. The producers confirmed this in the Season Three DVD extras.

Ajira 316, however, was directly in the path of a space-time window that was open above the Island. It might still be on its way to Guam, for all we know. I believe it's possible that the Island could've just -- for lack of a better term -- plucked certain people it wanted out of the plane while they were within the bounds of the window. OR... there could be a crashed Ajira aircraft on the Island... in a different year. Remember that the Ajira water bottles we saw in "The Little Prince" were at a point in time clearly after 2004 because the Lostaways camp was still there. So someone who was on an Ajira flight landed in that timeframe. Whereas, judging from the final moments of the episode, Hurley, Jack and Kate clearly didn't.


I don't know who I was expecting to get out of that Dharma van, but it wasn't Jin. While his split-second half-smile of recognition -- the very last thing we saw before the credits rolled -- was awesome, I'd argue that the looks on Hurley, Jack and Kate's faces were even more priceless.

Maybe I'm just getting way too used to writing and thinking about time travel, but to me what's going on is pretty clear: when Locke turned the FDW, the remaining group took one last jump through time and landed in Dharma's heyday on the Island in the 1970s. They've infiltrated the Initiative and are just trying to blend in and learn as much as they can while they wait to find out if Locke had any success back in the outside world. This explains why we saw Daniel in a Dharma jumpsuit at the beginning of "Because You Left," and why Jin's in the same get-up now.

Jack, Kate and Hurley landed back in the '70s, too, or else they couldn't be face-to-face with Jin. As for the other passengers of 316... well, I'm assuming we'll find out soon enough where/when they are. I definitely don't have enough brain-power left to imagine how the slew of characters could ever reunite if they're currently all on the Island but spread out across several points on the space-time continuum. So I'll leave that for Faraday to figure out.

I stated in my first post of this season that I wasn't going to nitpick any of the time travel stuff because I simply don't care if it doesn't all make sense. That's still how I feel. For me, there's really only one huge mystery that I hope gets resolved: was there a single action or a single decision by one character that set off the course of events that Richard, Ben and Hawking all deemed to be catastrophic for the Island? And if so, what in the hell was it, and why do they think they can change it? Are we watching the "first" iteration the Lostaways' actions, or is what we're seeing in the show the ten millionth time Ajira 316 took off with the O5 and Ben on it -- possibly all for nothing? If Ms. Hawking was right and the universe always finds a way to course-correct, then why is she one of the people so freaked out about everything that's transpired?

I could go on and on listing out questions... but there's not much point in that. Every episode this season has been great and so I'm content to just enjoy the ride. While I won't mention any specifics since I know several of you out there avoid the "Next on Lost" previews, I dare say this coming Wednesday's installment will blow the lid off of everything Season Five has dished out to date. As Hurley would advise, "Dudes... You might wanna fasten your seatbelts."


JACK: [To Ben] Did you know about this place?
BEN: No. No, I didn't.
JACK: [To Eloise] Is he telling the truth?
ELOISE: [Chuckling] Probably not.

JACK: [Putting shoes on Dead Locke] Wherever you are, John... you must be laughing your ass off that I'm actually doing this.

JACK: And the other people on this plane--what's gonna happen to them?
BEN: Who cares?

JACK: How can you read?
BEN: My mother taught me.

LAPIDUS: ... Wait a second. We're not going to Guam, are we?

Until next time,
- e

Monday, February 16, 2009

S5Ep5 - This Place is Death

Hello my dear friends -

"This Place is Death" served up the climax of "very bad things" that came to pass on the Island once the O6 left. The time flashes hit with increasing frequency, forcing Charlotte to, uh, resign her post as President of the Bloody Nose Club just as Sawyer became a card-carrying member. Locke, thanks to a tip from the fading Ms. Lewis, completed the first part of his mission to bring back the Lostaways who departed: he successfully turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel, but not before being reprimanded by Zombie Dad for letting Ben do it the first time around. Now the stage has been set for us to see exactly what transpired when Locke returned to the outside world.

Speaking of the outside world, I'm going to kick off this post with a look at the L.A.-based events, so let's head to the Long Beach Marina...


It was indeed Ben that Sun was gunning for (pun intended). After we were treated to our first glimpse of two-and-a-half-year-old Ji Yeon thanks to an ill-timed phone call, Sun busted out of her car and went straight for the man who had finally wrangled all but one of the Oceanic Six together. He's like, "Cool your heels, sweetie. I didn't kill your hubby, and I can prove it." Kate -- still fuming from the realization that Ben was the mystery client paying lawyers to pursue her -- did the right thing by getting Aaron out of there. As Kate's leaving, Sayid also decides to wipe his hands of the situation. He warns Ben and Jack that he plans to create an extra-special Breakdancing Move o' Death for the next time he runs into either of them, and then ends with, "Jarrah, OUT!"

That left Sun and The Mad Doctor as the only ones willing to take a ride with Ben in the Reincarnation Van.

During that ride came my fourth favorite scene of the episode. Sun and Jack were all, "I'M going to shoot Ben first... No, I'M going to shoot Ben first! OK, let's both shoot him at the same time, because that's how much he sucks!" and Mr. Linus was having none of it. He swerved off the road and delivered an intense verbal smackdown to his stunned passengers. "Dammit, Jack... just because you shaved your beard doesn't mean you're not a frickin' crackhead. As for you, Sun... well, once a floozy, always a floozy. If you both don't shut up, as God is my witness, I will find a way to bring Smokey to L.A. and sic him on your ungrateful asses!"

I enjoyed Ben's little tirade not only because it was hilarious, but also because it gave me hope that Ben is indeed trying to do the right thing after all... that he's a "good guy." Yes, I'm still positive that he has his own agenda for bringing back the O6, but his van rant proved to me that he at least believes he's trying to help the 815ers, too. Ever since we first met him in "One of Them," we've seen Ben dole out critical information only when he has absolutely no other choice. Now he's at the peak of his frustration because he knows he has to be exceedingly careful about what he chooses to share with those upon whom his own return to the Island depends. Unfortunately, he's lied to them so much that they have every right to question his motivations.


Ben finally stops the van and reveals the "proof" that Jin's alive. He gives Sun her husband's wedding ring.

SUN: How do you have this?

BEN: John gave it to me.

JACK: [interjecting] You said John never came to see you.

BEN: That’s true, Jack, I went to see him. [To Sun] Jin gave it to him before he left the island.

SUN: Why did he not tell me himself?

BEN: I don’t know. Maybe he never had a chance before he died.

There are a few important things we can take away from this scene, assuming (and yes, it's a huge assumption) that Ben's not lying:

1) Ben knew that Locke had left the Island long before Locke ended up in a casket.

We were already aware that Ben has off-Island Others working for/with him, so perhaps he's had these people monitoring the O6 ever since they returned home. My guess would be that when Locke started visiting members of the O6 and pleading the case for them to return, Ben's people saw it and reported back to him.

2) Ben went to see Locke -- not the other way around.

This one makes me more than a little nervous. Neither Undead Christian Shephard nor Ageless Richard ever mentioned one word to Locke about needing to involve Ben in the mission to get the O6 back to the Island. In fact, it seems like Ben was never supposed to turn the FDW or leave the Island in the first place. So to hear that he tracked down Locke and most likely inserted himself in whatever plans Locke had made spells trouble in my mind. While I've said before that I think Desmond's interference with Charlie's death might have been what kicked off the disastrous turn of events on the Island, I'm now starting to wonder if ignoring Ben from the start would've also resulted in a better outcome for everyone. If Lost is a story about each of the 815ers coming to terms with where they've gone wrong in life, then perhaps the key for Locke will be learning to trust himself rather than Ben. So when is he going to start doing so?

3) Locke may or may not have visited Sun.

Sun's "Why did he not tell me himself?" could be interpreted two ways:
1) Why didn't he tell me himself... when he visited me?
2) Why didn't he ever come talk to me?

If Locke tracked down Sun and relayed how Ben killed Keamy -- causing the freighter Jin was on to explode -- that might explain Sun's level of rage and determination to bring Ben to justice. However, I don't really see why Locke would visit Sun just to tell her that.

Based on Ben's comeback to Sun that perhaps Locke didn't say anything to her about the ring because "he never had a chance before he died," I'm inclined to believe that Locke and Sun didn't meet after he left the Island. I think he wanted to hold true to his promise to Jin (which I'll revisit later in this post) and therefore thought it would be safer if he just stayed away from her entirely. She'd have enough reason to hate Ben without Locke sharing the full story behind the freighter's explosion.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is: what did Locke tell Ben about Jin?


Locke could have kept Jin's secret. He could've told Ben that Jin washed up on the beach and that they buried him. If Locke intended to die in an attempt to convince the O6 that they needed to return, and if he shared that plan with Ben beforehand, then he could've said something to Ben like, "Hey, once I'm gone, make sure Sun gets this ring so that she has some closure." Ben could actually have no idea that Jin's really still alive. He probably doesn't care either way -- he just knew he could use the ring as leverage to get Sun's cooperation.


Locke could've told Ben the truth in the hopes that Ben would do the dirty work. Remember when John was supposed to kill Original Sawyer/Daddy Locke in "The Brig" but (with Richard's help) got Sawyer to do it instead? I think Locke might be pulling a similar stunt with Jin's ring. He could've spilled everything to Ben and given Ben the ring as a means to motivate Sun to return with the group. Then the Island (which is what Locke cares about above everything else) would be saved... while he never directly breaks his vow to Jin. For Ben and Locke it's a win-win situation.

I'm banking on the hope that we'll eventually get to see all of Locke's off-Island adventures... so for now, let's return to the scene outside of Hawking's Headquarters...


Sun decides that she will stick with Ben, and they (along with Jack) prepare to go talk to "the woman who can help them" return to the Island. Then, wouldn't you know it, Desmond strolls up at the exact same moment and asks if they're also looking for Faraday's mom. I would've loved it if this scene was in slo-mo and there was a soft breeze blowing Des's hair back from his face as he walked toward the group and then the camera panned to Ben as his mouth drops open, ever so slightly (still in slo-mo). I can picture it perfectly in my mind.

Did you notice that upon seeing Desmond, Ben suddenly appeared remotivated? He almost ran into the church to show Hawking who'd come for a visit.

All I can figure is that:
- Ben knows of Desmond's "uniqueness" regarding the rules of time travel on the Island, and thought that his presence might more than make up for the fact that four of the Oceanic Six weren't along for the ride. Or...
- Ben hadn't been aware that Hawking was Faraday's mother, but now that he knows, he has even greater hope that his mission can succeed as Hawking will be extra-motivated to save her son. Or...
- Ben did know that Hawking was Faraday's mother, but didn't realize that Daniel must have convinced Desmond -- while still on the Island together at some point in the past -- to attempt to save those who had been left behind. Ben is obviously willing to accept any extra help he can get and is heartened to hear that he's not the only one working to prevent the destruction of the Island (and those on it); across space and time, Daniel is, too.

So everyone goes into the church, and Lost fans who never watched any of the past "enhanced" episodes finally got their first confirmation that Ms. Hawking's name is Eloise (we'd still never heard her last name spoken until the end of this episode when Zombie Dad mentions it). I'm not going to repeat everything I wrote before about Ellie, the young woman who captured the Freighties in "Jughead" and who most likely grew up to be Ms. Hawking/Daniel's mother, but if you want to review those theories, the two relevant sections begin here.

Clearly, we're soon going to learn exactly how the group must go about returning to the Island. As the next installment is entitled "316," my guess is that Ms. Hawking has figured this number to be the bearing the O6 have to follow to catch an "opening" in space-time... a wormhole of sorts that will close once seventy hours have passed. Other bearings have been 325 (which Ben gave to Michael when he left via boat with Waaaalt) and 305 (which Daniel gave to Lapidus when he headed back to the freighter, and which was also referenced on Eko's Jesus Stick: "Lift up your eyes and look north John 3:05"). In "The Lie," Daniel told everyone that he'd have to calculate a new bearing if they were to attempt to leave the Island via Zodiac -- but he never did so as the flashes kept messing with everything.

Then of course there's the Bible verse, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Seeing as how Lost's John has just left the Island and has often been viewed as a Savior-like character on the show (the parallels between John and Jesus will be even stronger if Locke does indeed "rise from the dead"), the next episode's title could be a religious nod as well. But I'm still going with "316" being the bearing needed to return to the Island.

Let me end my coverage of the Los Angeles scenes by saying how much I loved Desmond's "What's goin' on here, brotha?" look when he first saw Hawking. In the next episode I hope we actually get to hear his reaction to discovering that Daniel's mother is the same strange woman who tried to stop him from buying an engagement ring for Penny all those years ago.

Now, on to the Island...


There must have been a Korean/English dictionary floating along with Jin during the time he was stranded at sea, because he sure was talking up a storm with Rousseau's crew. He was able to ask her what year it was and then confirm that there was a radio tower on the Island. It's fair to guess that without Jin, Rousseau may have never recorded her infamous transmission. Once she had to kill off all of her friends and her husband, she might have given up hope had she not known there was a radio tower within walking distance.

Another thing Jin clued everyone into was the fact that the bizarre noises they were hearing in the jungle were being made by the "monster."

Yes, Smokey was back in all his glory. We got quite a good look at him this time around, too. He finished Nadine off Oceanic Pilot-style and then gave Montand a scenic -- albeit bumpy -- ride back to his lair. A lair that's apparently beneath the unseen-until-now Temple.

Rousseau's group wasn't going to give Montand up without a fight, though. The snarky Frenchman found himself playing the role of the rope in a Smokey versus Science Team Tug of War match. The loser of this game was Montand's arm. In the span of a quick, gross cutaway, one of my five biggest pre-Season Five questions was answered.

Now there's a new mystery: what in the hell happened once Montand was dragged underground? Immediately after his arm landed with a quiet thud on the jungle floor, we hear Montand crying for help. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but all I could think at that point was, "Oh, no... this is just like that crap in The Ruins that left me sleepless for two nights." (For those of you who haven't read Scott Smith's disturbing bestseller or seen its film adaptation, in it there are evil vines that are able to impersonate human voices.)

The rest of the science team eagerly climbs down the hole to rescue Montand -- except for Danielle, who is stopped by Jin. So now we know why Danielle was the only one from her group who didn't get "the sickness." Jin saved her.



Next, a flash carries Jin to a point in time just a few months later -- the Temple area is now deserted, except for Montand's decaying arm. Back at the beach, Jin finds that members of Rousseau's team have been shot and killed. He also comes across the music box that Sayid will end up fixing for Danielle in the future. Did you notice the instrument cases that were lying around? They were shown pretty prominently... which means we were meant to notice them.

The first thing that popped into my head was: instruments = musicians = one of these French peeps was the one who ends up programming the musical code in The Looking Glass. Now, why a French person would choose "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys to base a code on is beyond me, so I doubt anything will come of this little idea. But as always, I thought I should mention it just in case. I have no idea how any of those guys could've gotten down to The Looking Glass in the two months or so before they were killed by Rousseau, and I also don't think the jamming of communications on and off of the Island would've begun in 1988 -- but stranger things have happened in this series. For the record, I still think Charlie was the one who programmed the code. Don't ask me how this could work or why I think this, because it's just a gut feeling I've always had -- nothing more.

Anyway, back to the beach. Hearing an argument nearby, Jin creeps toward the voices until he spies Danielle with her rifle pointed at her husband, Robert. Scenes like this one are, in my opinion, the best examples of Lost's brilliance. In Season One, Rousseau told Sayid how she had removed the firing pin from her husband's rifle before she killed him. So it's not like we didn't know what was going to happen as we watched everything transpire from Jin's point of view. Still, I was absolutely on the edge of my seat as the Rousseaus' last conversation went down. It was especially sad now that we got to see what a loving guy Robert had been before Smokey had his way with him.

What we could gather from Robert and Danielle's argument was that ever since the team entered Smokey's lair, they had all been "different." Different enough for Danielle to fear for her life (and rightly so, as Robert had intended to kill her and their unborn child in the process). Robert claimed that the monster was simply a "security system"... a piece of information that Danielle would end up passing along to the Lostaways in the Season One finale. But regardless of whether or not they learned anything useful about Smokey from their experience, the French science team members were adversely affected by whatever happened to them under the Temple.

Could they have been instantaneously brainwashed by Smokey or otherwise possessed by whatever else was down there? Is this what would've happened to Locke if he had successfully been dragged underground by the monster back in Season One? I really have no idea. Even though this was the first time we've seen the Temple, we have heard about it before. It's where all of the Others had been sent once Ben and Richard learned about the threat from Keamy's team; Ben thought it might be "the last safe place" on the Island. He had a map that showed the Temple as one of the Dharma stations. It obviously wasn't a place that all of the Others were familiar with, however, because Karl and Alex had no knowledge of where it was. Further, Ben had said that it was OK if Rousseau took cover there, but that "it wasn't for" any of the 815ers. Alas, as we know now, Karl, Rousseau and Alex never made it to the Temple that fateful day.

But back to 1988... after Rousseau shot Robert, she was about to do away with Jin, too, figuring that he also must be "sick" as he disappeared in front of her eyes a few months prior. Luckily, another flash saved Jin in the nick of time... and Danielle, as far as we know, went on to live the next sixteen years in isolation after having Alex stolen from her by the Others. Wouldn't you agree that Danielle is definitely in the running for the Saddest Life Story Award?


Next, Jin finds himself alone again... but not for very long. My third favorite scene of the night was when Sawyer realized who it was that he'd just captured in the jungle. The joyous reunion hug he had with Jin was awesome and served as a much needed high point in an otherwise dark episode.

To get Jin up to speed on what was happening with the flashes, Charlotte displayed her fluency in Korean (shocking those who hadn't heard it before... which was everyone except Jin).

Shortly thereafter, our favorite redhead takes a turn for the worse, and the rest of the group has no choice but to leave her with Daniel and continue on to the Orchid in the hopes of stopping the torturous flashes. But before the group splits apart, Charlotte has a spine-chilling freak-out where she starts yelling in Korean to Jin and then ends with, "Don’t let them bring her back. No matter what – don’t let them bring her back! This place is death!"


The look on Jin's face was one of pure horror, which made the scene all the more unbearable.


The group finds the Orchid, but then another flash brings them to a year before the station was built. Charlotte's clue about "looking for the well" helps Locke find the hole he must descend into. However, Jin heeds Charlotte's warning and blocks Locke's way until he promises that he won't bring Sun back with him if and when he returns. Locke give Jin his word, and then down he goes.

It came as no surprise to me that another flash occurred before Locke reached the bottom of the cave. My second favorite moment of the night was when Sawyer completely lost it as the earth closed up beneath his feet. I mean, was that heart-wrenching or was that heart-wrenching? I've always enjoyed the dynamic between Locke and Sawyer -- it was interesting before "The Brig"... and infinitely more fascinating after the two men were bound together by their roles in Original Sawyer/Daddy Locke's murder. Since we still have no idea where Rose, Bernard, Vincent or any random redshirts are, as far as Sawyer is concerned, Locke was the last of the Flight 815 survivors left with him on the Island. I was beyond crushed when he started digging furiously in the ground and hollering for the others to help.

On that note, I've really been struck this season by the complete one-eighty Sawyer's attitude has taken. Remember his "Every man for himself" motto and how he hoarded all of the goodies right after the crash? Now he's saying things like, "It don't matter what I want" and jumping out of helicopters and crying over ol' baldy. I love it.





So Locke lands with a sickening crunch at the bottom of the chamber and realizes that he's now all alone. Or is he? After a very nas-TAY shot of Locke's leg bone sticking out through his pants, we see a shadow moving toward him. There's no shame in my game, so I will freely admit to almost wetting my pants during that scene. I really had no idea who in the hell was going to materialize and was bracing myself for the show to finally delve into the world of goblins and demons and whatnot. At the very least, I thought we'd finally get to meet Jacob and that he'd be some gnarled, ancient, wizard-looking dude.

Alas, it was only Zombie Dad who peeked around the corner, holding an oil lamp -- just like Locke had done when he cautiously entered Jacob's cabin in "Cabin Fever." Was it just me, or did Undead Christian's voice sound a lot different than it did before? The whole thing was so damn weird, I really don't know what to make of it. The most important parts of their exchange were that Undead Christian scolded Locke for letting Ben move the wheel, wouldn't/couldn't physically help him to stand, told him that he must get everyone to come back and that he might have to sacrifice himself in order to do so, specifically instructed him to take the group to Eloise Hawking, and then casually passed along greetings to his son. I love how the scene ended with Locke shouting, "Who's your son?!?!"

There are so many theories about what's going on with Undead Christian that I'm never going to be able to cover them all, so I'll just stick to what I think:

- Christian is not Jacob. In fact, he's already told us that he's not Jacob. When Locke came upon Zombie Dad and Possibly Dead Claire in Jacob's cabin in the episode "Cabin Fever," Christian said that while he wasn't Jacob, he could speak on his behalf.
- I continue to believe that Jacob is just a weird spirit-thingy... like the spirit of the Island itself or something. He lets those who have died speak for him. Right now Christian is his main mouthpiece.
- Christian came to the Island in a casket... and Locke may be returning to the Island in a casket. So it's possible that Locke is going to take over as Jacob's right-hand man in the near future. I wouldn't like that at all, so I hope that's not what happens. But Undead Locke is better than no Locke at all, I guess.

While I can't wait to see exactly what Locke did while he was parading around in the outside world as Jeremy Bentham, I'm even more curious to find out when the Island went once the wheel was put back on its axis. I can only assume that there was one more time flash as Locke was sent careening to God-knows-where. Did the season premiere, as well as Charlotte's final scenes, give us some hints as to when the gang ends up?


Alone with Daniel in the jungle, Charlotte starts whirring through the years in her mind, and she confesses that she's been on the Island before. She spent some of her childhood with the Dharma Initiative before leaving for England with her mother (while her dad apparently stayed behind). That's how she knew to tell the others about the pre-Orchid Station well.

The other critical bit of information that Charlotte remembered was that a "crazy man" came to her during those early years on the Island and warned her to never come back after she'd left or else she would die. She knew now that this man had been Daniel. That reveal was my favorite moment of the night. I truly didn't see it coming. If I didn't like Faraday's character so much I probably would've laughed at Charlotte's memory of him as a scary freak. However, I do adore him, so it was heartbreaking to watch his facial expressions as he realized that he's going to keep trying to save Charlotte in his future (but her past)... and that it's not going to work. (And by the way, if any of you out there are really digging this unconventional "love story" between Charlotte and Daniel and you haven't read The Time Traveler's Wife -- one of my all-time favorite books -- you really need to read it. Like right now.)

Moments later, after uttering a most rockin' final line, Charlotte Staples Lewis dies.

Do I think that Charlotte will "stay dead"? It's hard telling with this show. I'm really hoping we get to see the scene where Daniel talks to her when she's a young girl (and since the season kicked off with Daniel in a Dharma outfit at the Orchid, I think we will). I'm also guessing that they wouldn't have highlighted Charlotte's Korean language skills again (much less ever) if that wasn't some sort of clue. The leading theory on this point is that she was once involved with Paik Heavy Industries (Sun's father's company). So maybe Adult Charlotte will appear again in a flashback. But if the past is able to be altered with a little help from Desmond, and another iteration of time occurs where Charlie doesn't un-jam communications and the O6 don't end up leaving the Island... then maybe the helicopter team will never arrive. Which may mean that we'll never see Charlotte again -- but we'd be comforted by the knowledge that she doesn't become unstuck in time and die on the jungle floor at age 25, right?

I'll wrap up with some quick thoughts about who Charlotte's parents might be. When we first met this redhead, everyone -- including myself -- assumed she could be the daughter of Annie and Ben (without Ben even knowing this). Now that we've confirmed Charlotte was once on the Island and that her mom left but her dad stayed -- and that they were a part of Dharma -- I think that theory is still in the running. We never did find out what happened to Annie, remember. There's also the chance that Annie ended up with someone besides Ben and that Charlotte is that couple's daughter.

Another strong possibility is that Charlotte's parents are Horace (redhead) and Olivia Goodspeed -- the ones who brought Ben and his dad to the Island. We know Horace died in The Purge, but we don't know what happened to Olivia. None of these options would explain why Charlotte has a British accent, though. Nor would they really jibe with a comment she blurted out as her mind was going berserk: "You know what my mum would say about you marrying an American." So of course we have to include the possibility that Eloise Hawking might have been Charlotte's mom (making her and Daniel full or half-siblings) or that Charles Widmore may have been her father. And I know that this may be the craziest theory yet -- but the identity of Charlotte's parents might not even matter and therefore may never be revealed. Seriously, if we never find out who they were, would that really impact anything? Right now, no.


ROBERT: You were on this island before?

JIN: You see helicopter?

MONTAND (In French): First a boat. Then a helicopter. Next thing you know he'll be talking about a submarine.

[Deep growling]

ROUSSEAU [to Jin]: Did you hear that?

ROBERT: What is that?

JIN: Monster.

SAWYER [To Miles]: You heard the man, translate.

MILES: Uh, he’s Korean. I’m from Encino.

DANIEL: speak any other languages?

CHARLOTTE: Just Klingon.

LOCKE: We’re here.

JULIET: Thank God! What are the odds that we would end up in the same time as this thing?

[Another flash occurs, after which the Orchid station is absent]

SAWYER: You just had to say something.

SAWYER [to Locke]: You’re going down there?

LOCKE: Uh-huh.

SAWYER: What exactly are you hoping to find?

LOCKE: A way off the island.

SAWYER: You expecting a subway?


CHARLOTTE [in a mischievous, childish voice]: I’m not allowed to have chocolate before dinner...

[Charlotte dies]

Thanks for reading...

Until next time,
- e