I’ve watched most of LOST’s episodes two or three times by now. But tonight’s was one that made me wish I’d done a little more rewatching in the past few months. Because boy, were there a lot of references to earlier episodes here. Incessant! I caught most of them, I think. One I didn’t catch was Aldo. He seemed a little familiar to Dad; I couldn’t say he really did, just that I thought, “Oh, goody, another snark-tastic character.” Once he announced to Kate who he was, I remembered the scene, of course; the old “Wookiee prisoner exchange.” But I can’t say the character made much of an impression then. This time he did, though. Very abrasive, but amusing at the same time. One thing that struck me was what an ordinary, contemporary kind of guy he seemed in comparison to the likes of Lennon and Dogen (who, despite Lennon‘s dry claim to the contrary, does have a subtle sense of humor; favorite line of the night: “What’s that?” “It‘s a baseball.”). But then, he was originally with Ben’s Others, so he hasn’t been a Temple-dweller all that long.
Aldo entertained me, and I thought that he might make a good verbal sparring partner for Miles down the road. But I really liked Justin, who seemed like a genuinely decent guy (and who reminded me of Hagrid with his tendency to be a little too forthright in offering information). But why did he have to be so secretive? I suppose he didn’t want Jin to know about Ajira 316 because he didn’t want him going after Sun. Was that also Aldo’s reason to keep Kate in the dark about Claire? I was wondering what all the hush-up was about when Justin mentioned that Danielle was long dead; after all, Kate knew that already. But Claire, like Sun, would provide motivation to go away from the Temple rather than returning.
In many ways, this truly was a Kate-centric episode, though Jack and Dogen’s showdown was probably the most riveting element of the episode. In the beginning, I found her behavior most alarming. In that taxi, she was mean. Of course, she was in a panic, with the cops hot on her tail, and Arzt holding up the works was hilariously frustrating. A comedy of errors. And I also half-wondered if Arzt was going to wind up splattered across the pavement. If Kate had taken control of the wheel just then, I can’t help thinking he might have.
Up until she walked up to the mechanic and demanded the removal of her handcuffs, she seemed much more hard-edged than the original Flight 815 Kate. At least we got to see her smile a bit in their exchange, which was both funny and dangerous and reminded me a little of Anton Chigurh and the gas station attendant in No Country For Old Men. I don’t really think that Kate had any intention of killing the guy. But if I were him, I sure wouldn’t want to make a false move. I’d be doing exactly what the crazy armed chick told me to do. On the other hand, one might argue that he relinquished the upper hand by removing her handcuffs for the promise of a couple hundred bucks. So he must not have felt completely threatened by her. Her flirtatious charms may have blinded him a bit.
It wasn’t until she looked in that bag that we saw the Kate we know and love really begin to emerge. I couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity as she not only returned Claire’s bag but offered her a ride to the adoptive couple’s house, then went up to the porch with her, then took her to the hospital and checked her in. She goes from jabbing Claire with a pistol and kicking her out of the cab to suddenly becoming like the big sister she never had. Claire and Kate’s lives were always meant to entwine. I thought Claire was about to go into labor, early as it was, and that Kate would help deliver the baby once again. Not quite, but I’m sure that these two haven’t seen the last of each other.
We saw almost as much of Claire here as Kate. She seemed very vulnerable and insecure, not at all equipped to handle herself in the world on her own. Shocked by Kate’s aggression (though willing to overlook it in light of her later kindness). Polar opposite of the jungle girl we saw at the end of the episode. With so much Claire in the sideways storyline, it was a natural lead-in to finally finding out what happened to her on the Island. I’m a little disappointed that the ending didn’t shock me, but then - despite trying my best to avoid spoilers - I read something from Damon or Carlton months ago indicating that when Claire showed up again, she would be very different, and more like Danielle. Even if I hadn’t read that, though, I don’t think I would have expected to see the same old Claire suddenly back again. She was acting mighty strange when John saw her in 2005, and how would three years in creepy Christian’s company have affected her? And after Dogen’s announcement to Jack, I can’t say I was shocked to see Claire again in the final scene. Still. Very weird to see Claire gunning people down. And I wish she’d spared Justin. But just how dark is her “heart of darkness”? After all, she did just save Jin’s life.
Didn’t see much of the rest of the gang in the sideways storyline. Just a glimpse of Jack - and it seemed like Kate had a flash of recognition when she saw him, beyond just realizing she’d seen him on the plane (and stolen his pen, which I didn’t catch until that pop-ups on the enhanced episode informed me of that fact). But there was Ethan. Dr. Ethan Goodspeed, which should have been his name all along; the practical reason for his name change would be that in season one, his back story presumably hadn’t been written yet, and that the sole purpose of his name was to be an anagram for “Other Man” for those clever enough to catch it. In retrospect I suppose we can just say he gave them a fake last name, though I question why he would bother.
In any event, the hospital scene with him felt very similar to Maternity Leave, with congenial Ethan obviously a capable doctor and evidently bent on making Claire as comfortable as possible - but without the sinister overtones. So far, I feel like there’s reason to hope that in this sideways world, he can just be the excellent doctor he’s capable of being, without all of the dark factors conspiring to make him such a menace to the castaways. For one, he’s presumably been off the Island for decades, so I’m guessing he didn’t lose his wife and unborn baby in childbirth, the event that most likely fueled his obsession with kidnapping Claire and figuring out how to bring her pregnancy to fruition. (Similarly, I can’t help wondering if Ben lost a wife and child just before the abduction of Alex.) Anyway, it seemed for a moment like some weird stuff was happening in that hospital room, so Ethan may still be involved in shady dealings, but maybe not. Perhaps this sideways world has been kinder to him, and he, in turn, has been kinder to it.
Another parallel here was the naming of Aaron. In both cases, Claire had no idea what she was going to name him, until an apparent disaster arose and the name suddenly sprang to her mind as she cried out for his protection. On the Island, this happened in Exodus, and Charlie was the one who had to do the rescuing. Here, ironically enough, she appealed to Ethan, the very man Charlie killed to protect her. We still don’t know what’s so special about Aaron. I have a hard time seeing how we can get real understanding on that point, since he’s only a small child. But maybe we’ll get the scoop on his significance second-hand, from someone acutely tied into the mythology of the Island, since Aaron seems to be a potential key player in this great drama. Or maybe he’s just a bit of a red herring. And speaking of unusual kids, please tell me we’re not completely finished with poor Walt...
Back on the Island, I was reminded of several more episodes. The epic bear hug Hurley lavished upon Sayid was like the one he gave Sawyer in Tricia Tanaka Is Dead (still an episode I consider greatly underrated). Dogen’s bizarre tests, aside from giving me Princess Bride flashbacks, immediately made me think of Solitary, even before I watched the episode; the snippet in the promo was eerily similar to the preview for that episode, which made me wonder for a while whether LOST would be too horrific for me to handle. Danielle’s “torture chamber” turned out to be not nearly as scary as those few seconds made it look, but still... Not pleasant. And here again the torturer was tortured, but not for the purposes of interrogation. Whatever Sayid told them, he did so unwittingly, and not with words. Also, this scene washed away any doubts I had that this could have been Jacob using Sayid as a vessel. Jacob barely flinched when Ben killed him; Sayid was yowling in anguish. And he was utterly perplexed, while I’m inclined to agree with Ben that “I seriously doubt that Jacob was ever confused.”
Another major parallel, which my dad pounced on right away, was the fact that when Sawyer left, he told Kate not to follow him - just like Jack told her not to come back for him after the whole polar bear cage debacle. So, of course, Kate went after him. In both cases, she found their hearts hardened against her, and discovered how deeply they’d bonded with Juliet. Kate was still running in this episode, still resisting bending to any authority figure. I was bummed to hear her admit that she had no intention of returning to the Temple, but that’s her style. And, much to Jack’s disappointment, it was time to bounce back to Sawyer. Way to give the guy a little space to grieve. No wonder he shot her down. I can’t feel too sorry for her, though. She’s really brought nearly all of her relationship troubles upon herself.
While the brilliance of Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson is hard to beat, I have to say that Josh Holloway almost made up for their absence in this episode. I hate seeing Sawyer so miserable, and it was especially disheartening to hear him make his “every man for himself” speech toward the beginning of the episode. (I also thought of Brigadoon in that scene, as Dogen begged him to stay; I almost wondered if the Temple would disappear if he got beyond its boundaries.) His caustic reflection on Sayid’s resurrection - “He’s an Iraqi torturer who shoots kids; he definitely deserves another go-around” - makes it plain he thinks it completely unfair that Sayid got another shot at life while Juliet didn’t. His spiel to Kate toward the end, when he showed bitter regret for the loneliness that prompted him to persuade Juliet to make a go of it on the Island, was completely compelling and tragic. And the furious ring toss at the end invited yet another comparison, with despondent Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes. (Incidentally, where did Sawyer get the ring? Is there a jewelry shop in Dharmaville we don’t know about? Did he sneak off to see Ellie?)
I guess we can now say that the Sickness is, in fact, a real phenomenon, and not just a figment of Danielle’s crazed imagination. Sayid has it. Claire has it. Does this mean that Ben has it? I’ve been wondering whether the Man in Black might have somehow staked a claim on Ben as a child, and that‘s why Jacob has kept him at such an arm‘s length. After all, it seems likely that he impersonated Ben’s mother, which drew him into the jungle for his first meeting with Richard. But Richard is on Jacob’s side... In their initial encounter, Richard asked Ben if his mother died on the Island. I wonder if the Man in Black can only impersonate people for whom this is the case? If that’s so, how do we explain his mother’s presence? Anyway, it seems we at least have the beginnings of an explanation for this mystery that’s been around since we met Danielle, but there’s still a lot that doesn’t make sense. I love that Hurley asked Sayid if he was a zombie - largely, I suspect, as a nod to the long-fabled “zombie season” of LOST. I don’t quite think that’s the answer. But maybe it’s not so far off the mark...
How did the Man in Black stake a claim on Sayid? Did it have to do with the fact that he was immersed in the water shortly after Jacob’s death, and thus at a time when his adversary had the upper hand? Or was it a reflection of the darkness already in Sayid’s soul? If that’s the case, how could Claire, supposedly the epitome of innocence and purity, have been infected? It seems that Christian somehow led her to the Dark Side. Something about Dogen’s remark that this infection happened to Jack’s sister really reminded me of Star Wars, and Darth Vader’s threats regarding Leia. If Jack is our Luke, he’s really got his hands full now. He’s going to have to bring Claire back from the shadowy world where she now resides. Will his love for the sister he never knew be strong enough?
In life, I think that Christian was a pretty okay guy. Certainly not without his faults, but not evil. On the Island, I don’t know what he’s become. Is he simply a corpse who has been used as a preferred subject for imitation by the Man in Black? Is there only one Christian roaming the Island, or are there multiple versions of him? It‘s “Christian” who tells Vincent to find Jack in the moments immediately preceding the opening scene of the series. “Christian” who lures Claire away from Sawyer, Miles and even Aaron. “Christian” who tells John to move the Island, and who tells him he must die, which sets up his final move as the pawn in the Man in Black’s very long con. It’s starting to seem more and more that although he claimed at one point to speak for Jacob, he’s on the other team. If it somehow is Christian reanimated, not just an imitation, the Darth Vader comparison seems even more apt. I imagine we’ll be seeing John Terry again this season, and I’ll be very interested to finally get some answers as to how this deceased man is tied to the mysteries of the Island.
Along with the Star Wars, I’ve been getting a Narnia vibe from the season, particularly in the way that Jacob summons people to his Island. I would say he does this a lot more than Aslan does; he seems to have brought large groups in time and again, with only a few remaining from each cycle. But particularly with the Oceanic Six, the way they’ve been magically zapped through time and space, I thought of the Pevensies and other previous visitors boarding a train and suddenly finding themselves in Narnia in The Last Battle. In that last, apocalyptic adventure, only Eustace and Jill have much to do, but it seems that Jacob intends each of his chosen people to take an active role in this epic battle. It’s certainly no accident that they landed in the immediate aftermath of Jacob’s death.
Kinda nice to see Jack coming back to his senses in this episode. While I wanted him to be a Man of Faith and simply trust that Dogen knew what was best for Sayid and for everyone, it’s a good thing he maintained his skepticism (and very brave of him to test Dogen’s trustworthiness by swallowing the pill himself). It seems so strange for these Others to have gone through this elaborate ceremony to revive Sayid, only to want to turn around and kill him. (Interesting, too, that Dogen used the same line on Jack that Mr. Friendly used on Michael in Meet Kevin Johnson. A guilty conscience can be easy to manipulate.) But if Sayid is destined for such dark things, and there’s no hope now of his recovery, would it be better to nip that evil in the bud? We’re back to the same question we faced in He’s Our You, when Sayid shot pre-nefarious Ben, which is, of course, what led to him getting shot himself. Jack’s not going to go that route, especially since he doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Sayid like Sayid did against Ben. But it will be interesting to see how the power struggle plays out. He realizes that Dogen and Lennon are his allies and that to some extent he’s also at their mercy; at the same time, I don’t think they’ll want to harm someone so integral to Jacob’s plan, at least as long as he remains uninfected. I foresee a tense, complex but ultimately fulfilling relationship between Others and castaways here, at last a true communion of the long-antagonistic groups as they realize that they are, in fact, on the same side.
The next episode is entitled The Substitute. I saw Richard in the previews, which excited me; he’s finally going to give us some real info on just who the Man in Black actually is, from the looks of things. He’s one of the very few who’s in a prime position to know - though season five revealed that, as far back as his history may go, there’s still a lot that Richard is unaware of. Still, he’s one of the characters I’m most eager to see more of. And of course, anything with Ben and Fake Locke will be golden. Given the title, will we see the Man in Black try to be Jacob’s replacement? (Question: Why didn’t he assume the guise of Jacob after he burned up? Was that a stipulation in the “Rules”?) Or could it refer to Frank’s “candidacy”? Maybe it will shed some light on Christian and all that proxy business with Ajira 316. Meanwhile, who might we follow in the sideways story this time? I’m guessing John, or maybe Jack if Christian is involved. Maybe it will delve more into the idea that Ben's life on the Island was always intended for John, and that's why it never really worked out for him. As tends to be the case with Michael Emerson / Terry O’Quinn episodes, I’m guessing it will be fairly heavy on the mythology. If they want to toss in a little Desmond in Sidewaysland for good measure, I won’t complain; they’d better use him more in this season than season five. And so begins the long wait until next week...