Thursday, May 14, 2009

"It Only Ends Once. Anything That Happens Before That Is Just Progress."

Wow. "Cataclysmic conclusions," indeed! This was some episode. If not for that one horribly disheartening scene, I might be prepared to call it my favorite finale. On the whole, The Incident delivered for me in a big way. In preparing for the finale, this time I decided to make bingo cards, with each square listing something that could happen in the finale. As I was watching, I kept thinking, "Oh, I should've put that!" - "fish," "fistfight," "familiar character played by new actor," etc. Out of 120 predictions that were on my cards (several of them contradictory), about 30 were correct, by some interpretation anyway. Big stuff like Sawyer saving Jack's life; small stuff like the appearance of an Apollo bar. Several of the items were things that couldn't be conclusively determined by the end of the episode; silly me to think we might actually get an answer or two as to where we were headed next! And several - "Jacob does not exist," "Hurley meets Liam" - were wildly off the mark.

I made 5 cards, and each had a different prediction regarding Jacob. Technically, none of them was correct - and, oddly enough, none of them was "Jacob dies." I mean, the most startling assertion from the last episode, aside from Richard saying he saw everyone die - a statement that didn't gain any clarity in this episode - was John admitting he planned to kill Jacob. But for one, while I thought that Jacob probably did exist, I found it hard to think of him as an entity who could be killed - and if he could, I convinced myself that Richard or Ben would put a stop to it. Probably the closest I came to a right answer on that one was the grossly inaccurate "Jacob is John" - by which I mean anti-Jacob (henceforth to be called, for convenience's sake, Esau), who was apparently posing as Jacob in The Man Behind the Curtain, is New John. Old John, alas, really is dead, and a season later, I guess it's time I mourned him properly. Unless he and everybody else who's died is zapped back into life by the hydrogen bomb...

But let's talk about Jacob, because I've been itching to find out about this guy ever since Ben mentioned "Him" in season two, back when he was still posing as Henry. The more hints were dropped, the more anxious I was to get some answers. But I was also afraid that if we saw Jacob as a flesh and blood person, it would detract from his mystique. Somehow... It didn't. And any doubts I had as to Jacob's benevolence were wiped from my mind almost immediately. I never thought that tonight would be a Jacob flashback. I never thought that we'd see him off the Island (unless he and John or Christian were the same person). And I can't say I expected to fall so utterly in love with him. Doc Jensen has maintained for much of this season that five is analogous to two, and to some extent Jacob's flashbacks are a reflection of that. They completely immerse us in an important character only briefly touched on before. I didn't fall in love with Desmond until Live Together, Die Alone; it's probably still my favorite finale.

If anything bugs me about Jacob - aside from his interaction with Ben, which I'll get to later - it's the way he talks. Jacob and Esau are sitting on the beach in the 1800s, watching the Black Rock head their way. They've obviously been on the Island for a very long time even before that. Yet they both talk like modern Americans. There is nothing in their accent or lexicon to suggest antiquity. I can maybe buy him adapting with the times. But why is he talking that way two hundred years ago? Oh, and I bopped over to Lostpedia last night trying to find out the name of the actor who played Jacob, as IMDb doesn't list him at all, even under a character pseudonym, and discovered that what Jacob was filleting in the first scene was a red herring. What does this mean? It would seem that the show is leading us astray about something, but what? Could it mean Esau's physical appearance, perhaps? Though I don't know that I really expected to see him again in that form. Jacob looks the same year after year, but as soon as I realized he had a nemesis, I figured we might have met him before and not realized it. (The red herring could also be our impression of Jacob as Ultimate Good Guy. After all, Esau accuses Jacob of just causing strife in trying again and again to prove... that people are good, or redeemable, or something of that nature. You could argue... But no. I won't make that leap. I'm sufficiently convinced Jacob truly is good and will be very annoyed if the show turns that on its head. Or maybe the fact that it's a red herring being cooked on a black rock is significant. Like we've been thinking the Black Rock is a lot more important than it is? Or that's not really the Black Rock sailing toward the beach? Or maybe it's just a fish that happens to be red.)

Throughout the series, I've tended to think of Jacob, the Smoke Monster and the Island apparitions as different aspects of the same being. But now it appears that the apparitions are a manifestation of Esau. I'm not sure if Smokey is too, or if he's a separate being, a "security system" as they say. But I don't think he's Jacob, and I'm not at all sure he's a "good guy," if he can be called a guy. If Smokey is Esau, what were the reasons for his past actions? Did he appear as "beautiful" to John because he recognized that he was the key to his grand "loophole"? Was the killing of Eko less about the refusal to repent and more about him realizing that he couldn't manipulate Eko as he did John? Did he spare Ben just so Ben would do his dirty work? It seems that, like Ben and Charles, Jacob and Esau are incapable of killing each other. So a willing murderer was needed. And all of this episode leads me to the conclusion that John really was not very "special" at all, that his delusions of grandeur - fed by Richard, informed by John, who was in turn informed by Richard who was manipulated by Esau - simply made him the ideal candidate to set up as a ruler. By the time that touching conversation between Jack and Richard occurred, in which Jack rather surprisingly told Richard, who was expressing his doubts about John's "special"-ness, "I wouldn't give up on him," I was thinking, "Well... Maybe you should." Real John wouldn't want to kill Jacob. And that exchange in which pseudo-John implied to Richard that he intended to kill the survivors of Ajira 316? Terrifying. That's not the John I know and love. Baldie may be a little unhinged, but he's certainly not genocidal.

It did occur to me back when John came back to life that he could be like Christian, Yemi, Boone and all of the other dead people who have popped up on the Island, memories intact. But John seemed so much more substantial than any of them, who we have only seen for moments at a time, and usually in strange, shadowy circumstances. We saw him eating fruit, for one, and savoring it with intense sensual satisfaction - rather, come to think of it, like Nicholas Cage's character in City of Angels. Did something happen to allow Esau to take a more permanent form this time? Then again, Esau must also have been Alex, so if he could change forms so quickly, maybe John's form wasn't any different. And Alex did beat Ben up. What, I wonder, made Jacob abandon the cabin, and when was the line of ash around it broken? It would seem that Jacob himself was never trapped; he's been coming and going freely for years. Was Esau imprisoned in there like the witch in the tree in The Magician's Nephew? How, then, was he released? Anyway, I was troubled but not entirely shocked when John's body tumbled out of the crate that Ilana and her cronies had been carrying around like the Ark of the Covenant. My first, mundane thought upon contemplating the crate at the beginning of the episode was that it contained weaponry of some kind. My second was that it was a body - though what happened to John's coffin? When I saw it again at the end, I pretty much figured that it was either Jacob's body or it was John's. The one consolation here is that we're probably still going to have Terry O'Quinn on the show for the bulk of next season. Except he's evil now, and our dear John is gone for good.

Charles wanted John to go back to the Island, but he said that John wouldn't have to die. So did he intend for John to be back on the Island, fighting the good fight, or was Charles an agent of Esau? What about Eloise? Did she have any inkling of what she was unleashing by sending John's body back? It really does seem now that the warnings that seemed to be about Aaron - "You're not supposed to raise him," "Don't you dare bring him back" - applied to John. But heads-up, PB&J; if you've got a crucial message to get across, it's best not to be so cryptic.

So I said I was going to talk about Jacob, and so far I've done little but discuss his nemesis. Jacob... Yeah, he had me hook, line and sinker. I was mostly there at the end of the first scene, which was so gloriously picturesque and mythic and had that epic score, my second-favorite music of the episode, which hinted at the time period much better than the dialogue did. But once he turned up again in Kate's flashback, I was completely sold. And how great was Kate's flashback? The most ineffective encounter, perhaps, but sweet and playful and just thoroughly enjoyable. My first comment was, "This looks like Iowa," so I got a kick out of the confirmation in the license plate. My second, upon seeing the toy plane, was "This is Kate and Tom." We'd never seen kid Kate before, aside from that photo in Sam Austen's wallet, and I thought she was terrific, though it was the adorable, frail-looking Tom I was especially taken with. I loved Kate's doleful glances after she was caught red-handed - and how hilarious is it that she stole a New Kids on the Block lunchbox? I feel like I was the only girl in my elementary school not to be obsessed with them during their heyday - and her grateful reaction to Jacob, whose nose tap was so wonderfully tender. Didn't exactly sway her from a life of crime, though, did it? As the episode emphasized by immediately cutting to her in handcuffs on the sub... Anyway, this was when I knew the episode would be Jacob-centric, and in a way reminiscent of the hundredth episode of Desperate Housewives, a show I don't watch much but boy, did they nail that one. The similarity was coincidental, though, I'm sure. And in this case, nobody knew just who it was they were interacting with except Ilana - but several of the others had a feeling it was someone pretty special.

Perhaps the most puzzling of Jacob's flashbacks was Sawyer's. He offered comfort to Sawyer... and he gave him the pen with which to write his note. The note that served as a constant reminder of his thirst for vengeance. It was Sawyer's uncle, not Jacob, who warned him not to spend his life obsessing over the past - but maybe Jacob facilitated that conversation. Sawyer would have finished the letter later, anyway; giving him the pen drew his uncle's attention to what he was doing and prompted a conversation that would have great resonance years later. Realizing that Sawyer could have undone his parents' death, or at least tried, I found myself surprised he didn't attempt it. But Sawyer didn't want to reboot. If he'd succeeded, what a different life he would have led! And he almost certainly wouldn't have been on that plane.

Ever since Ilana abducted Frank, I've been mighty suspicious of her. She was pretty scary in Sayid's flashback too. I pretty much figured she was one of the bad guys and was building an army against our friends. And Frank's point about the good guys not generally identifying themselves as such seemed a fair one. But once I saw that Jacob had specifically enlisted her help, I trusted her. One might say this was the most illuminating flashback - aside from the opening scene, of course. (Oh, and I think I owe Caesar an apology. I liked him at first, then he went rummaging for guns and I became suspicious. But it's looking like he really did die from that gunshot wound, and he really was just trying to help. Poor guy.) Questions: What happened to Ilana that she was all wrapped up in bandages? How did she know about Peter Avelino? By the way, he is listed in the IMDb credits, so are we supposed to figure that he was the one driving the car that ran over Nadia? That would be odd since it was someone Ben told Sayid to kill, but not the one he claimed was responsible for her death. I've been kinda figuring Ben had no idea who killed Nadia. But it can't be just coincidence that one of the guys on his hit list actually did kill her. Anyway, perhaps the most compelling question is, How do Ilana and Jacob know each other? And if she's so much in Jacob's inner circle, why don't she and Richard know one another? We don't know the exact timing of this flashback, but it must have been fairly recent. Jacob knew trouble was coming. I wonder if that means he wanted Sayid back on the Island; it would seem that perhaps she apprehended him on Jacob's command. The Sayid flashback was the most depressing; Jacob saved his life, but he had to watch his wife get mowed down. Who would want to kill Nadia, and why? And was Jacob really doing Sayid a favor when he's been completely miserable ever since, save a brief stint in Build Our World? I found myself wishing he'd stopped Nadia instead, but if the driver really was after Nadia, I don't suppose that would have done any good. But how sad... And I found myself thinking of Forrest Gump and Bubba's last words as she begged Sayid to take her home.

After the wedding tip-off, I did a lot of contemplating as to whose wedding we might see in this episode. I considered Sun and Jin, but I didn't find it likely, since we've already seen the events immediately surrounding their wedding. Still, the scene didn't feel stale. I loved the vows, and Jin's seemed especially appropriate given what would befall them later. And I loved Jacob's gentle and astute blessing, and Jin's being so impressed with his command of Korean. Jacob, it appears, it a polyglot extraordinaire. Of course, he's apparently had centuries (millennia?) to pursue the study of languages. This was the most romantic flashback. The shortest was John's; Jacob barely said anything at all. But there were a couple of very interesting things about it. First, John looked dead; I don't know if Jacob resurrected him or if he merely brought him out of unconsciousness, but either way, it seems likely that John wouldn't have survived without Jacob's intervention. Was Jacob also responsible for the healing of his legs once 815 crashed? In healing / resurrecting John, did Jacob know he was paving the way for Esau's re-emergence? Was he setting the ultimate showdown into motion? A glance at the cover of the Flannery O'Connor book he was reading tells me yes. A dove being pierced by an arrow... That's pretty powerful imagery there. I think Jacob expected to be killed.

Jack's was the first flashback of the second hour. When I saw him in surgery, I said, "Oh, I bet we're going to see the counting to five thing!" So I was glad when we did. When he told Kate the story, he didn't acknowledge anyone calming him down; he implied that he collected himself on his own. I figured at first that Jacob would be the one advising Jack to count to five, but when it was Christian, and when we saw nothing but Christian throughout the scene and its continuation, I started to think that maybe Christian really was Esau, and all of the flashbacks for the second hour would involve him. Thankfully, that wasn't the case; I'm pretty sure that Christian really was just Christian when he was alive, and, for all his faults, wasn't such a bad guy. How do we explain Jack seeing Christian off-Island last season, though? Hurley, via Charlie, told him someone was coming; does that mean Christian wasn't Esau? It seems likely that he can't go off the Island, for one thing. But then does that mean Jack was really seeing his father? Or was Christian a hallucination, and Charlie referring to someone else? Of all the encounters, the Jack-Jacob encounter seemed the least significant. All he did was give him a candy bar (I was excited to see Apollo, and now I want to try a Humdinger) and say, "Maybe all it needed was a little push." But I guess that was his way of telling Jack that his dad was trying to help. And maybe a bit of foreshadowing about the "little push" needed for the bomb? Though of course that involved Juliet, not Jack. Juliet, whose flashback felt completely jarring. It's a shame, because it was a well-done scene and helped us understand her motivations in the present. But unless they really want to draw attention to the fact that Juliet wasn't visited by Jacob, it was completely out of place. Now, maybe they did. Maybe that will play heavily somehow into season six. Maybe it has to do with Juliet making a conscious, grand self-sacrificial gesture without having been touched by Jacob. Or something. But if there's no special significance there, then it should have been left out or altered because it just seemed really strange as it was.

Once I realized that this was, essentially, a Jacob-centric episode, my hopes for a Hurley-Liam meet-up dimmed considerably, though I still held out a bit of hope. Alas, no Liam. Nonetheless, I loved the Hurley scene. For one, it ran incredibly parallel to the Desmond prison release scene in the season two finale, with Hurley getting his personal effects back from a guard who seemed rather annoyed with him and getting into a car, in which sat a man with a gift and some life-changing advice. Hurley was surprised in his meeting with Jacob, but he didn't freak out like he did with John and Abaddon. Instead, Jacob seemed to have a calming effect upon him. Indeed, Jacob came bearing news that Hurley, far from being cursed and crazy, had been blessed with a very special gift and was needed back on the Island. Hurley wasn't nuts, he just convinced himself he was, and his state of being took a downward spiral. Jacob snapped him out of it. There was such warmth and affection flowing from Jacob to Hurley in that scene, no wonder he decided to take that flight after all. Hurley's connection with the Island has always seemed very strong indeed, and it seems very fitting that Jacob would specifically recruit him like that. Also... Maybe that really is the guitar that Charlie had on the Island. Did he leave it with Hurley just because of the thing about recreating the conditions of the original flight, or was there another reason? Or maybe there's no guitar in there at all. Could there be something else inside of mysterious significance?

We got a lot of Jacob flashbacks. There were notable omissions, however. Richard. I've maintained for quite some time that he probably came from the Black Rock, and when the ship showed up on the horizon in the beginning, I was thinking, "Oooh, here comes Richard!" But now that we know that Jacob and Esau had been on the Island for ages, it makes me wonder if Richard has been around even longer than the Black Rock. Still, that scene seemed to suggest that they were the only two on the Island. Maybe among everyone on that ship, Richard displayed an unusual wisdom, fortitude and grace, prompting Jacob to appoint him his deputy. Surely we'll delve more into Richard's past later. I'm over my initial bus accident-inspired suspicions and can't help but feel I really like the guy. The other major omission was Ben. I felt sure that just before Ben had to decide once and for all if he was going to kill Jacob, we would see a flashback indicating that Jacob had made some sort of extraordinary impact upon Ben without his knowing it. It could be, of course, that Jacob healed Ben after he was shot - though I have an uneasy feeling that isn't the case. Ben had already encountered Esau, I presume, in the form of his mother. And I'm guessing it was Esau who healed him, and that's why the consequences were so unfortunate. Richard says you don't go to Jacob, and anyway Jacob resides near the statue, not in the temple. Smokey's in the temple. But why would Jacob's right-hand man consort with the enemy? And is this why Jacob has been ignoring Ben all these years? Is Ben somehow off-limits, Esau having staked his claim on him?

I loved most of this episode, but I hated the Ben-Jacob confrontation. Oh, it was powerful, and Michael Emerson was particularly compelling, but I was so frustrated with Jacob for evidently having refused to acknowledge Ben all his life, or, if the impression was false, for not showing Ben he was mistaken. I wanted an explanation for Jacob's distance or evidence of his involvement. I got neither. There was something very Job-like about all this talk of patience, and the sense of Ben being a devoted (albeit sadly substandard) servant with misery heaped on him for no known reason. I can't blame Ben for being frustrated. But I was furious with him. As Jacob said, he had a choice. And I so wanted it to be the right one. I'd managed to convince myself that we were building toward Ben's great redemption by way of refusing to kill Jacob. It was clear from his staggered response at the end of the last episode and his misery in this one that he didn't want to do it, but that he also had all of these bitter emotions swirling around inside of him. There, too, it took just a little push - Esau's wheedling (and I think things might have gone quite differently if Ben had realized this wasn't John) and Jacob's lack of response - for something major to happen. Majorly bad in this case, and which Ben completely brought upon himself by killing John. I am sorely unversed in Latin, but Lostpedia informs me that the translation for Richard's response to Ilana's riddle was “He who will protect/save us all.” And now Ben went and killed him. Nice. Going. Ugh. I don't think it's going to take him very long to realize he's made a massive mistake. But now that he's made his irrevocably awful decision, has he lost any shot at redemption? Did he ever have one? If Jacob's death was necessary for a final season apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil, was this heinous crime actually ultimately a good thing? Ugh. I don't know. I just know that I spent the whole episode longing to give Jacob a bear hug, and this scene made me feel like Lucy witnessing Aslan's execution. Ben, you have let me down. (Unless, in my desperation to make Ben Snape, I entertain the possibility that Ben has been acting completely ingenuine; that he knew John was Esau; that he has been in communion with Jacob all along and has been using his supreme lying skills to play us all for fools; that Jacob asked him to kill him, knowing the ultimate battle for Good could be won through the efforts of Jack and company. And the one lie we know he told in this episode, that he was a Pisces, was his subtle tip-off that he was a disciple of fish-filleting Jacob, a fish in the sand for Jacob-loving viewers. Oh, yeah. I think I like that far-out theory better. And after all, it isn't as though Jacob offered any kind of significant resistance...)

So let's move from my least favorite scene of the finale to my favorite. Rose. And. Bernard. (!!!) So... yeah, I was really excited to see them again. I was fairly convinced they'd died out in the jungle (or in the caves); I figured surely they would've turned up by now otherwise. I wasn't terribly optimistic. But there was still that shred of hope... I loved Sawyer's exuberance as he embraced Vincent and ruffled his fur, and then that familiar voice... Well, it wasn't the warmest of welcomes, was it? But once they took Sawyer, Kate and Juliet back to their humble abode (which they, apparently, built themselves), it was all pretty cordial, and I'm not sure I could imagine a better way for them to have been integrated into the episode. It was a stunning oasis in the midst of mass chaos. The score throughout this scene was gorgeous - and had definitely better be on the soundtrack. One of my favorite pieces of LOST music ever. (I was surprised at the total lack of diegetic music in this episode. And yeah, I totally just learned that word from consulting Lostpedia as I wrote my review of the first soundtrack. But if this is our last week in the seventies, it might have been nice to give the ol' record player one more spin. Oh, well. Speaking of the score, I found myself really digging the recurring walking music with Team 2007.) I loved the quiet retirement Rose and Bernard built for each other, their calm contentment with their lot in life, their gentle words of advice with Bernard's hint of "live together, die alone," their willingness to offer the needed information despite their Bombadilian detachment. I loved that they shared this life with Vincent. I loved Rose's derisive comment about everyone always finding new ways to kill each other. I loved the fact that Sawyer and Jin had searched for them diligently. I loved Bernard asking them in for tea, which felt especially wistful because this may well be the last time they meet. I even loved Bernard's scraggly beard. It was just a perfect scene. And while I very much hope to see them again, I could possibly be all right with us leaving them here, with this being our last impression of them. For this, Damon and Carlton, thank you, thank you, thank you. And hopefully Whoopi is satisfied as well...

And my second-favorite scene: Sun discovering Charlie's ring. Almost made up for the lack of Liam. I've been waiting and waiting for someone to find that thing, but Sun was the last person I would have expected. Of course, it made a convenient segue into her wedding flashback, but more than that, I think it was powerful that it was her because it symbolizes a move from vengeance to forgiveness. I really wasn't a fan of Black Widow Sun and was glad to see that aspect of her dissipate once she learned Jin was alive. Charlie wronged Sun pretty badly, so finding that ring and gazing on it with fondness signals that she has forgiven Charlie, and if she's moved on from that then she can move on from other things too. (Although I'm really worried about Sawyer. I've loved his character arc through the last couple of seasons, and if Juliet is indeed dead, I feel like he could be in for a massive regression yet again, which I would really hate to see. As far as revenge goes, though, who would he go after? I don't see who he could legitimately blame, except maybe Jack, and Sawyer made the decision to go after him.) Anyway, I'm thrilled that Sun has the ring now, and I'm guessing next season she will have an opportunity to present it to Claire. And maybe Hurley will give her the guitar as well. The Hurley-Jacob scene is probably my third-favorite. And that opening scene was really cool.

I wasn't all that surprised to see Sayid get injured, but the shooter was a bit of a shock. Of course, it made perfect sense; Sayid shoots Ben, so Roger shoots Sayid. And all Sayid really accomplished by attempting to kill Ben was potentially getting himself killed. It's nice that he still managed to be helpful after that, but he seems to be on his last legs. Unless time resets and his injuries are rendered moot. It really was important to have him on board at this stage of the game, though; I don't think Jack could have made much sense of Daniel's instructions. That is, if it turns out to be a good thing that they detonated the bomb. Which it might well not be. Phil definitively kicked the bucket, in one of the single grossest moment LOST has given us. The guy was a pain, but yecch. Radzinsky, it seems, lives to terrorize another day - and if this has set history into motion instead of changing it, no wonder he offed himself, realizing what his mad scientist ambitions wrought upon the world. I don't think he's exactly a bad guy, just a powder keg, and a real inconvenience right at the moment. We saw how Dr. Chang mangled his arm - and Miles' heroic efforts to save him. And wasn't that the first time he called him "Dad"? Anyway, it was a terrific moment for a character who really got the short end of the stick last season but has been building toward greatness this season. And oh, how I loved Richard taking action, knocking Eloise out to save her from herself in the biggest show of aggression we've seen from him, mirrored later by his extreme agitation but frustrating inaction in response to pseudo-John's plan to take Ben with him to see Jacob.

This was a rough episode for Sawyer. There he was, on his way to domestic bliss with Juliet, when Kate had to come along and mess everything up by insisting they go stop John - though of course, they ultimately ended up helping him instead, even after Sawyer and Jack had that whopping fistfight in which each seemed equally likely to kill the other, except I was sure they wouldn't let it come to that. If Sawyer had a problem with Old Jack, he's got an even bigger issue with New Jack, and I thought his baring his soul to Jack about his parents, in a bit of a reversal of telling him about his encounter with Christian back in season one, was a cathartic moment. But despite his reservations, he still went to the trouble of busting in on the Swan site and saving Jack's life. I'm glad he took it pretty easy on the sub captain, and that the captain was pretty compliant. Shooting the radio was a decent way to cut off communications without hurting anybody. He seemed stunned and mystified to see Rose and Bernard. Thrilled, but pretty bewildered that they'd chosen to evade him for years. And not long later, absolutely gutted that Juliet has decided that it's best they never meet at all. (And really, even after Sawyer explicitly reminded him that Kate would wind up in prison if his plan worked, shame on Jack for his sulky "I can't have Kate so let's erase the last three years" stance.) Then, of course, trying so valiantly to save Juliet (who I really think he does love as much as he insists, even to the exclusion of Kate) in a scene that reminded me a lot of Sam and Frodo in the Cracks of Doom in Return of the King, but ended much differently. Talk about anguish, much like Sun watching Jin apparently die in season four... Though for Juliet, it was a moment that very much mirrored Desmond's heroic season two decision to "blow the dam", especially when she manually detonated the bomb, causing the entire screen to go white, with the black LOST in a striking inversion of the norm. Which makes me wonder how much of the next season is going to show things being the opposite of what we're used to... And whether Juliet, like Desmond, will emerge miraculously unscathed early in season six.

Other season finale parallels... Electromagnetic catastrophe a la season two, with metallic objects flying everywhere (and poor Jack getting knocked flat by a toolbox - ouch!). Hurley saving the day in his Dharma van a la season three. This time, he was taking instructions from Jack in a panic as he tried to make a clean getaway. Hurley driving the VW and Hurley post-prison release were practically all we got of him here; not nearly as much as I'd hoped, but what was there was fantastic. Frank freed from bondage a la season four (though he hasn't managed to do much with his freedom so far). Not much Frank here, but I loved his caustic "Terrific!" in reaction to seeing John's body (I was starting to think we were going to have to wait until season six to look inside that box ourselves) and objecting to the torching of the cabin (which was a good point, and made me wish we'd seen them extinguish the flames before they left). Also, what is he a candidate for? Leadership of an anti-Esau faction? As in the other finales, some crucial element of the season blew up. Third season finale to make some reference to Moses. First not to include Walt; first since one not to include Penny or Desmond. First one not to include somebody drinking alcohol - though Sun asked Richard if he had alcohol, and he replied, "I wish!" Four-toed statue a la season two was back with a vengeance. Ben says it's been just a foot for as long as he's been on the Island. If that's true (and Ben sort of seems too exhausted to lie in this episode, though I liked his dry assertion of "I lied. It's what I do."), I wonder what happened to it? Since Jughead, I've been kinda thinking the hydrogen bomb blew it apart. Maybe it wasn't the first or last bomb tested on the Island...

What didn't we see? The Humes. Not at all. But I'm worried that if the future changed, their idyllic life together may evaporate. No Charles, which surprised me a bit. Again no reference whatsoever to Annie, and she's now replaced Rose and Bernard at the top of the Characters-You-Better-Not-Have-Forgotten list. A reference to Horace, but he didn't turn up, nor did Amy and Ethan. Presumably they remained on the Island with him, though you'd think he would want to evacuate them. I suppose they could have left and come back. Or, of course, the future changed and they left, never to return, and Ethan never grew up to torment innocent Islanders. No Liam, Kelvin, Brother Campbell, Henry Gale or other minor character I postulated might pop up in some enlightening capacity. We did see Kate's Tom, Nadia and Rachel, and those were great scenes, but they didn't reveal any deeper connections. And, of course, no definitive idea of what's coming next season. Did Jack and his gang negate history or create it? Or something in between? Eight months is a long time to wait for this basic answer. If I have to venture a guess, I suppose I'll say that the '77 group ends up in 2007 just because it sure would be nice to have everybody in the same time period again, and in the same place.

So where does this leave us? At the conclusion of The Incident, Phil is dead, as, presumably, are several redshirts thanks to the O.K. Corral-style shootouts, while Sayid and Juliet seem on the verge of death, though that could be negated if Daniel's plan works properly. Rose, Bernard and Vincent are alive. Jacob exists and is benevolent but is dying. In flames. (But could that be a phoenix reference?) John is dead. Sigh. Pseudo-John is evil Esau, who seems likely to be responsible for the Island apparitions, and possibly Smokey. Ilana and Bram are on Jacob's side, and even though they knocked him out, they seem to like Frank. Richard will likely be a force to contend with (and presumably he and his group are the "they" Jacob refers to). Maybe he and Sun will team up. He's gotta be kicking himself that he let Esau pull the wool over his eyes. Ben is a villain and a victim, and I have no idea what he's going to do with himself now. Will Esau still want him for his stooge? Will self-preserving Ben accept the job? If time-zapping occurs, I imagine Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Miles, Jin and Hurley will all wind up in the future. But we really have no clue which of Daniel's assertions is true. Can you change history or not? Confusing. Maddening. Chilling. But on the whole, I'd say The Incident was exceptional.

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