Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"You Can Always Bring People Back From the Dark Side. I Mean, Anakin...”

The Last Recruit was a different sort of episode than we’ve been seeing for most of the season. Truly, it wasn’t centric to anyone; quite a few different characters were in the thick of things. It wasn’t quite as violent an episode as I suspected it might be; aside from that explosion at the very end, nobody got hurt as far as we know, at least not yet. But the board is set; the pieces are moving.

Of course, there is one person who might be out of the picture now, and that’s Desmond. But that’s only if we believe that Sayid shot and killed him, as he reported to Smokey. Do we believe him? I don’t. I think there’s been an ever-so-subtle change in Sayid ever since he first laid eyes on Desmond. They were friends; he was one of three men who facilitated Desmond’s long-distance reunion with Penny in the midst of his temporal troubles.

He saved Desmond’s life by connecting him with his long-lost love. And now he’s going to kill that same man for a shot at reunion with Nadia? I don’t buy it. Desmond didn’t look like a happy zombie anymore, but he still came across as very wise, and I think he was right on target with his question. We’ve seen comparable consequences in the reaction of Walt to Michael’s murder of AnaLucia and Libby. Sayid doesn’t want another life on his conscience, especially one he knows so intimately to be noble.

In Sideways World, the two didn’t connect. Instead, each had run-ins with others from the Island. Sayid was planning to skip town, but in a very smooth move, Sawyer managed to bring him down. Who knew he could be so easily caught? I didn’t really expect such an easy apprehension. Desmond, meanwhile, reconnected with Claire, and I got the distinct impression that she was weirded out by him. I was getting a definite “Why is this guy stalking me?” vibe from her, and I was a little surprised that she conceded when he begged her to go talk to his lawyer. Then again, she must have been feeling scared and alone, and she knew she could use someone in her corner.

I must say that the sibling revelation didn’t quite go the way I expected it to. I didn’t think that Claire knew, in either world, that she had a brother; I figured that Jack would be the one to break the news. But Sideways Jack didn’t even know it yet himself, and Island Jack didn’t have a chance to spill the beans. Claire was already aware of their connection.

It was a nice moment, but for such a long-awaited payoff, it lacked a little punch for me, especially since, after three years of crushing guilt, what does Jack immediately do but go abandon her again. That frankly shocked me. Yes, listen to Sawyer on all other counts, but you do not leave your sister behind. Not this time. Not when you know she's alive. Not when you know how deeply entwined your lives are. Not when she’s got a massive abandonment complex that you helped give her. Come on, Jack. Epic fail.

So yeah, didn’t quite live up to the Luke and Leia unveiling. But the Star Wars references were flying. And now that we know for sure that Christian was Smokey, at least some of the time, I can’t help wondering if Smokey is the Darth Vader of LOST. I’ve wondered that before, and most of the pieces seem like they could fit. The previews gave me the impression that The Candidate may be a Smokey flashback, which will no doubt shed light on some very important matters. Putting all that together with Hurley’s line about people being able to turn from the Dark Side, I can’t help but feeling like in the end, Smokey himself might turn.

At which point the three people left standing can look forward to years pondering the futility of so many people spending the last six seasons trying to kill each other... No, I don’t think it will be that bleak. If Smokey embraces the Light, that will be a victory indeed, and there will be a few people around to enjoy it. While we’re still on Star Wars, though, how ridiculous is it that Sawyer, pop culture virtuoso who has distributed no fewer than four Star Wars-inspired nicknames and who pulled off “the Wookiee Prisoner Gag”, doesn’t know who Anakin is? Yes, I find that as patently absurd as Jack’s dismissal of Claire.

Kate and Sawyer are teamed up again in both realities, and they seem like a pretty natural duo (especially with the matching jackets), even though in one reality she’s his prisoner and in another they are in definite disagreement as to the proper master plan. I found her assessment of Sawyer’s treatment of her funny and impressive, and it also seemed a throwback to Left Behind, when she herself helped Cassidy, only to have the latter figure out it wasn’t so much an act of good will as an act of self-preservation. I found her appeal to Claire by Desmond’s boat to be touching and effective, especially with that swelling Giacchino music.

Just as anticipated as the Jack-Claire reunion was the Sun-Jin reunion, and it finally happened this week. Kinda took me by surprise. I was so preoccupied with other matters that it didn’t occur to me that Sun was headed straight for Jin, and it took me a couple of seconds after I saw him to realize what was about to happen. Only I had this awful thought that what was about to happen was that one or both of them was going to run smack dab into the invisible fence and find up with a pulverized brain, as it had not yet been turned off.

So it was a great relief when they reached each other and clung to each other and Sun suddenly remembered how to speak English and Frank was touched and all was right with the world... until Zoe cocked her gun again and the touchy-feely montage moment was cut short. And now we have to worry about what Widmore intends to do with Sawyer and company. (Speaking of Sawyer, did anyone else find it strange that Smokey said something to Jack about "Sawyer" taking the raft? Hasn’t it always been “James”? Why switch names now? Or does he figure that Jack doesn’t know Sawyer’s proper name?)

Our friends on the Island are in peril, as are several in Sideways World. Sun has survived, and apparently the baby is okay too, though again, I don’t see how this baby can be Ji Yeon, so it seems like it’s going to have to be one child or another, and Sun’s going to be forced into a wrenching sort of Sophie’s Choice. And why did Sun so completely freak out when she saw John? It seemed as though Island Sun had slipped into her in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

While Ben was absent from the Island storyline, Dr. Linus was wonderfully attentive to John, and so encouraging in his assurance that he would be marrying Helen after all. I was surprised that he didn’t know John’s first name, though. John did introduce himself by his full name in The Substitute, and considering that they clicked, I’d think Ben would’ve recalled that. I’d also think that as a history professor, the name would ring a bell with him, making it easy to remember. There seem to be some rampant cognitive issues on the loose in this episode. I hope it’s indicative of glitches introduced as the timelines bleed together and not simply of sloppy writing. I guess I can give Ben a pass here, though, in any case; he's had a lot on his mind...

Of course, that ambulance ride is sending John straight into Jack’s care, and near the end of the episode we finally get to see Dr. Shephard perform the spinal surgery of a lifetime. And he recognizes John. But first, Jack and David, wearing matching suits and enjoying a sense of warm companionship, went to hear Christian’s will read, and there they met Claire and discovered a deep family secret. Why wasn’t Jack’s mom there? And will we be seeing this meeting take place after the surgery?

The most interesting part of all this for me was the introduction of Ilana as a stylish lawyer complete with a last name (Verdansky). And judging by her association with Desmond, my guess is that she’s connected with Widmore. Might that be true on the Island as well? Her cover story for Sayid did involve getting justice for Peter Avelino, supposedly in league with Widmore. Anyway, after her explosive end last week, it was nice to see her happy and whole in the Sideways World. And that was the only startling character appearance in the episode.

I liked Sawyer’s description of Frank, along with their conversation on the boat. A little less thrilled with what he had to say about Sayid and Claire. Look how far you’ve come, Sawyer; is it so hard to believe that these two can make a turnaround too? Of course, Sayid has seemed really off the deep end, and Claire remains seriously unhinged. Still, I thought that Sawyer might be more compassionate toward the confused young Aussie he once risked his life to protect. Then again, it was apparently her attack on Kate that was the deal-breaker for him, so it is affection driving his distrust. Whether or not they end up together - and I tend to think they won’t - Sawyer and Kate share a powerful bond.

Speaking of powerful bonds, one of my favorite moments in the episode was when Jack says, “Hurley - this was your idea. You all right with me talking to him alone?” And I also liked Jack standing up for John to Smokey. He points out that John was a believer, and though Smokey derisively calls him a sucker, the conviction Jack inherited from John is strong enough to compel him to jump Sawyer’s ship and head back to the Island, where he’s sure he still has work to do. (That swim, by the way? As epic as Sawyer’s in the season four finale. All that time on the Island has worked wonders for their endurance.) I liked that he apologized to Sawyer for Juliet; that’s clearly still in the back of Sawyer’s mind, and he connects Jack's faith in fate with her death. But I bet that Jack’s onto something when he says Sawyer feels it too, and he’ll come to the rescue before it’s all said and done.

Unfortunately, Jack has landed right in the arms of Smokey - who, I see, managed to find a handy use for his stick this week. It’s walkie-smashin’ time! I wonder if he had other plans for Desmond that were thwarted by the early arrival of the still-annoying Zoe, with her perpetual sneer and scratchy voice. He knew Desmond wasn’t dead; why didn’t he take care it right then and there? Or was he always planning to sic Sayid on him shortly after getting back to camp? Sayid had more personality in this episode than we’ve seen from him in a long time. Maybe he's coming around, and he and Jack can thwart Smokey together. But at the moment, they both seem rather at his mercy. I’m counting on Desmond to lend a hand.

So next week we have The Candidate, and based on that preview, I’m guessing it’s a Smokey flashback, which is super-exciting and portends something of Ab Aeterno proportions, but stretching even further back. If this is the case, it could turn a lot of what we think we know on its head. It will certainly give us considerably insight into one of LOST’s most cryptic characters. The Last Recruit was perhaps the least character-centric episode of the season, as there was so much happening all at once that we couldn’t spend much time with any one person. That allowed us to cover a lot of ground at once. But in two weeks, I’m ready to dig.

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