Well, that was quite an opener. As if LOST wasn’t confusing enough already, we now have two different sets of the same castaways to keep track of! There’s still a war to fight, but now, presumably, we also have to find some way of making the timelines merge. Except the Island is completely submerged in the world of 2004. So are we to assume that the bomb was the undoing of the Island? One wonders how many other things changed. Hurley’s luck, for one. That Mr. Cluck’s Chicken commercial from Comic-Con really was a reflection of his reality. Hurley did win the lottery, but things have gone well for him since then. For another, Boone returned from Australia without Shannon. Also missing from the plane as far as we know: Michael, Walt and Vincent, all of the Tailies except Bernard, Nikki and Paolo... But most of the folks were there.
And what a squeal when I saw Desmond sitting there next to Jack! I didn't recognize him at first; his easy manner, tan complexion and use of the word "mate" made me think they were introducing a new character from Australia. But then it hit me. The implications here are huge. What is he doing on the plane when he is supposed to be pushing the button in the hatch on the Island that is now on the bottom of the ocean? And where did he go so suddenly? I didn’t catch what book he was reading, but I’m guessing it wasn’t Our Mutual Friend. He looked quite calm and collected, not at all on the brink of deepest despair. But did something happen so that he just blinked out of existence? And how much of his history changed? I presume he didn’t go on that boat race after all, unless he did and simply sailed on through to the finish without getting marooned - in which case, he and Jack may have actually met. Is Jack simply remembering that meeting, and Desmond just happens to be more memorable than Jack, or is he tapping into something deeper? Maybe something in his subconscious is whispering that he is indeed seeing Desmond in another life. He only really seemed to have that flash of recognition with Desmond, but then the rules don’t apply to Desmond, so that could have something to do with it if he’s getting a glimpse of an alternate reality.
I also caught a bit of a vibe from Rose as though she knew that something substantial had happened when the turbulence didn’t bring them down. It reminded me of Guinan in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which the ship was propelled into an alternate reality and she was the only one who realized something was askew. For all her talk of being a bad flier before, Rose was a lot calmer than Jack was. Her joy at seeing Bernard seemed amplified, and her sense of serenity as the plane ride smoothed seemed to carry with it the voice of wisdom. And Bernard’s remark about how he almost died in that bathroom, and next time he’d hold it, cracked me up, especially since I imagine he many times berated himself for going to the bathroom when he did in the original timeline.
Aside from those two, I’m not sure if I got the sense from anybody else that they might have a hunch that something had changed, but I was fascinated by the many ways in which the various castaways came into contact with one another throughout the plane ride and in the airport. Jack meets Rose. Jack meets Desmond. Jack saves Charlie’s life (again). I actually thought he might die in that bathroom, just an indication that Charlie was always doomed. Will he die again in this timeline? I wonder... Kate and Sawyer forge a wordless connection on the plane, to be acted on later when she is once again a fugitive. Sawyer and Hurley converse. Arzt comes in out of nowhere to pester Hurley for his autograph; I wonder if that scene was a bit of a dig at fans who sometimes become intrusive in pursuit of a photo or signed object? At any rate, it cracked me up to see him, and even more to see Frogurt again, acting every bit as obnoxious as in the mobisode and last season‘s premiere. And John and Boone really seemed to connect, as though a master-apprentice relationship between them was destined, even though John was lying about his walkabout.
There were a lot of interesting nods to past episodes on the plane ride. Jack saving Charlie was extremely reminiscent of the season one scene, right down to Charlie’s less-than-grateful reaction. I thought it was interesting that Sawyer offered friendly advice to Hurley and helped Kate escape in the airport; it was “every man for himself” in the aftermath of the crash, but he seems like a more considerate guy in this past. Jack, meanwhile, came across like a man of faith with his assertion to John that “nothing’s irreversible” - and that phrase seems like a major question hanging over this last season. How much did the bomb really undo? Will these people end up in roughly the same place anyway? Locke’s conversation with Jack reminded me of their conversation in White Rabbit, with Jack trying to come to terms with his father’s death. Locke got all metaphysical on him, in what was meant to be a comforting thought about his dad having an existence beyond his used-up body. What did happen to Christian, though? The body’s disappearance, which also happened on the Island, must be significant. I also loved how the last shot of the first part of the premiere was John leaving the plane in a wheelchair; we were left wondering up until the last minute if he still was paralyzed, and the big reveal felt like the end of Walkabout in miniature.
I think the 2004 storyline is going to be a lot of fun, especially since so many of the characters made connections with each other on the plane anyway. But how will it connect with 2007, especially since the Island is underwater, presumably negating the possibility of them all boarding Flight 316 in three years? Will we get to see Daniel in this timeline? Charlotte? Juliet? I don’t care so much about Frank and Miles since we have them back on the Island. At any rate, it will be very interesting to see how these characters interact with one another back in the real world, having only had brief contact with each other.
Back on the Island, Kate waking up in the tree reminded me of Bernard‘s arrival on the Island. Cleverly, they waited quite a while to show us Jack, so for a while it seemed that maybe some people had been zapped to 2004 while others were zapped to 2007. Sawyer’s primal ferocity was fearsome to behold. I really hate to see him regress yet again. At least, after he’d had a little while to calm down, he didn’t want to kill Jack anymore. I have a feeling that he might just have beaten him senseless at first if nobody had been there to intervene. I was surprised that Juliet was still alive after her ordeal, but I figured she wasn’t long for the world. She and Sayid were both in terrible shape. I was intrigued by Sayid’s question to Hurley regarding the state of his soul. Was that why the water in the Temple was so cloudy and why the Others said he couldn’t be saved - because he was irredeemable?
I had a hunch, or maybe just a hope, that Jacob would speak to Hurley at some point in the season. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. But when he told Hurley to take Sayid to the Temple, that got my attention. Isn’t that where Richard took Ben? What are the risks of such a procedure? And did Sayid really come back to life? My initial guess was no, that Jacob had somehow commandeered Sayid’s body, so that he and his nemesis would both be heavily involved in the conflict to follow, but in different bodies than we saw in that opening season finale scene. Which made me think Jacob planned for this all along - that Hurley’s main purpose in returning to the Island was to serve as a messenger in this perilous mission. (I didn’t expect we’d find out what was in the guitar case so soon either. And my main thought was... What excessive packaging!)
And it made me question Jacob’s benevolence just a bit, though I do think that Sayid was about to die anyway. And my first thought was that Jacob was concerned about Sayid's soul and wanted him to be somehow purified, even if he did end up dying. But what happened in the Temple was very strange, and what’s stranger still is that the Others had no idea Jacob was dead, possibly changing the purpose of the ceremony. Just following orders I guess. Perplexing. I suppose that for whatever was happening, he needed to stay submerged for that exact length of time. There was definitely a baptismal feel to that scene.
If the new Sayid actually is Sayid and not Jacob incarnate, might there be hope for him to follow a more redemptive path this season? I hope so. I mulled over the situation quite a bit, and I think I've finally decided that Sayid really did return from the dead (or, perhaps more accurately, Mostly Dead - whereas Juliet was beyond hope because she was All Dead, not to mention apparently not one of Jacob's chosen few). For some reason, Sayid is very important to Jacob's plan. I have a feeling we won't be seeing Mark Pellegrino again for a while, but that we will before the end of the season.
I loved Hurley's gentle condolence to Jacob for dying and the way he took his instructions to heart and really took charge, leading the group into the Temple while Sawyer and Jack were rendered helpless in their grief and remorse. He didn't hesitate; he knew just what needed to be done and took a leap of faith, and Jack meekly followed along. Good thing he had his wits about him once they reached the inner sanctum or they really would have been in trouble. Hurley has nudged others in certain directions before, but maybe for the first time, he truly felt like a leader in this episode.
Speaking of which, what is up with Mr. Samurai? He was incredibly intimidating as well as disdainful; I loved that Hurley was observant enough to pick up on the fact that he actually understood English. That guy seems like someone from centuries ago. Could he be like Richard? Does he seem so anachronistic because he actually has been in the Temple for hundreds of years? I love the community they have there. It looks pretty idyllic, a sort of Island Shangri-La. The hippie-ish translator interested me just as much. He seems likely to have defected from the Dharma Initiative; he reminds me a bit of both Horace and Oldham. I wonder if they have a record player in the vicinity of the Temple? I couldn’t help noticing there was no pop music in this episode, nor was there in the finale. We did see Hurley with headphones on but didn’t get to listen in on his music.
It’s nice to know that Cindy, Zack and Emma are at the Temple, living comfortably as Others. I figured as much, but it was good to have confirmation. Now that the Temple crew are barricaded against Smokey, when will the two groups meet? Jin and Sun are at least in the same time now, so hopefully a reunion is imminent. I have a feeling, though, that it won’t happen until near the end of the season. It was really a fairly violent season opener, with Jacob, Juliet and Sayid succumbing to wounds from the finale and Bram’s crew getting ripped to shreds by the Smoke Monster.
Who is, in fact, the Man in Black. Which Ben didn’t know before. “I’m sorry you had to see me like that” - classic! I don’t think he knew that there was a Man in Black at all, and he certainly didn’t realize that it wasn’t John he was following until well into the episode. The shock on his face when Richard dragged him over there and shoved him at John’s corpse... To say nothing of the limp expression of confused despair when the passion of the moment wore off and he realized the enormity of what he’d just done in the moments after Jacob’s death. The depth of treachery disturbed even unflappable Ben - not to mention the effect of unleashing the Man in Black on the world, without Jacob there to “save us all”. Jacob’s resigned explanation to Hurley of what happened seemed more wistful than bitter. He called Ben an “old friend”; would Ben have thought of himself that way? Did Jacob keep himself at an arm’s length all of Ben’s life for the very purpose of driving him to such a desperate action? Or maybe he meant the Man in Black, which makes more sense, since those two have such a profound relationship. With Ben, I'm fairly certain that Jacob knows all about him and has been watching over him all these years, but if Ben was unaware of it.
Another “old friend” was Richard, to the Man in Black. And evidently he does know about him, since he took one look in his eyes and recognized him, despite the fact that he was still walking around as John’s doppelganger. How old? The Man in Black said something about it being nice to see Richard out of chains, which seems to support my Black Rock theory. Was Richard a slave on that ship? Or does their association with each other go further back than that? Did they arrive at the Island together? I'm wondering whether Richard's ageless status will change now that Jacob is dead. Is he going to start getting really old really fast? One of the biggest mysteries introduced tonight is where “home” is for the Man in Black. Perhaps he is some sort of fallen angel; there certainly seems to be something supernatural about these two. Or an alien. Maybe his home is the Temple, but even though it's very close, he's been denied access for hundreds (thousands?) of years.
But I’m sure not inclined to like him much; he seems to have a very cruel streak, as evidenced by his mirth in reliving John’s utter confusion at being murdered by a man who just talked him out of suicide. And he did quite a number on Richard, though I presume he didn’t injure him permanently. Poor Richard; we saw quite a range of emotion from the usually serene leader, from anger to fear, though he mostly maintained his cool, and I so wanted Ben to respond positively to his gesture of plaintive friendship.
But no. I imagine that at this point, he figures the only way to survive is to do whatever Pseudo-John tells him to do. For some reason, the Man in Black thinks he is worth keeping around. The tables have turned in terms of Ben’s manipulation of others. That was especially clear in his accusation of, “You used me!” and the reply that he didn’t make Ben do anything. It reminded me a lot of his conversation with Michael about killing Libby and AnaLucia. “Not my fault,” said Ben. Now he knows how it feels. I also frequently thought of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with the Man in Black in the role of the White Witch. Edmund repented, and Aslan returned. Is it too much to hope for a similar outcome here?
That underwater scene was almost headache-inducing; one friend I watched it with said it reminded him of the opening of Beetlejuice, and I can definitely see that. Lots of twists and turns in a truly eerie landscape. Similarly, the initial scene in the labyrinth leading into the Temple gave me a touch of vertigo. Very spooky, with a touch of Indiana Jones and also Blair Witch Project as the friends got separated and I kept fearing one of them would suddenly appear, horribly mangled. And now that it seems Smokey is firmly on the side of evil, I feel a certain sense of loss, and it makes me want to go back and rewatch other Smokey scenes and try to puzzle out the motivation for the attacks, or lack thereof. I also find it interesting that the Man in Black knows what John was thinking when he died. How? Could that be somehow connected to Miles’ abilities? After all, he can’t simply have a conversation like Hurley can; he just picks up on that person’s last thoughts. Juliet's? "It worked." The bomb, I presume. How could she know that?
I’m delighted with how many long-gone characters we’ve already seen in this episode, and I feel sure that more will follow as the 815-ers scatter and return to their families. Back on the Island, meanwhile, calamity looms. How many more revelations will follow as the war between two ancient beings heats up? When will we see Claire, Rose, Bernard and Vincent again? What exactly is the deal with the Whispers? I don’t know. But I’ll be watching...