'Lost' recap: Taking Charge
”Follow The Leader,” the episode instructed, but what are you supposed to do if your leaders are off-their-Jacob-rockers crazy? Here’s Jack Shephard, wild-eyed destiny zealot, determined to detonate an H-bomb hidden in the ancient tunnels of the Island in order to produce a paradox that will rewrite history. Crazy. And Kate let him know it, revolting and vowing to work against him, though he gained an ally in ”My Life Sucks” Sayid. Here’s John Locke, glowing with a supreme, even ethereal self-confidence that felt downright disconcerting, driving his tribe of wilderness-wandering Others toward a face-to-face meeting with their mercurial and never-seen god, Jacob. Crazy. And Richard Alpert and Benjamin Linus were freaked out about it — but Sun was willing to roll behind Locke if he could lead her back to Jin. (But will he? Does he even want to? Who is this creepy man-thing dressed up in John Locke’s skin?) I loved the beat before the final BONG!, when Ben threw Alpert under the bus and pretended to pledge allegiance to Locke — classic Ben, trying to gain control by sowing seeds of doubt and chaos — only to have Locke blow up his scheming by dropping the J-bomb on him. I’m gonna go kill Jacob. Ben’s bug eyes practically popped out of his skull. On one hand, it was thrilling to see Jack and John large and in charge. They acted like heroes…but we were left with the unsettling possibility that their respective endeavors will make them out to be horrible, misery-producing villains by season’s end. And there remains the haunting prospect that both are actually being played by puppet masters hiding in the shadows…or even walking among them in plain sight.
”Follow The Leader” deftly mobilized bunches of characters and established at least three juicy conflicts — Jughead, Jacob, and the jealousy-drizzled submarine sandwich that is Sawyer, Juliet, and Kate — that should make for many fireworks in next week’s two-hour finale. At the same time, the episode kept things so cryptic, I really have zero clues where the heck this season is going to land — and boy, do I like not knowing. (Attention Lostfan108: Stay the frak away from me, or I swear by Jacob’s Flickering Beard, I shall hunt you down and beat you to death with Montand’s stiff, severed arm.) Moreover, the episode was steeped in veiled references to yet another fabled fantasy about young heroes stumbling into an enchanted otherworld — presuming, of course, that ”Follow The Leader” is indeed a direct nod to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. The game of the same name is central to the story line of the author’s play and book; a song of the same name is part of Walt Disney’s beloved 1953 animated musical adaptation. These various versions intersect with Lost in any number of ways: magical islands inhabited by peculiar tribes of people working at cross-purposes, death and resurrection, ticking bombs, lost boys, never-aging enchanted beings, and more. Peter Pan gives us ”The Peter Pan Complex,” describing maturity-challenged adults who can’t deal with reality and so try to change it (see: Jack), not to mention ”The Tinker Bell Effect,” which according to Wikipedia ”describes those things that exist only because people believe in them” — things like ”a rule of law” (see: Horace Goodspeed, ”We have a rule of law!”) and ”deities” (See: Jacob).
Lost loves citing fantasy literature like this at the end of the season (see: Season 3, Alice in Wonderland; Season 4, The Wizard of Oz), so it’s not too farfetched to consider the prospect that Peter Pan might hold a clue about the tenor and texture of how Season 5 will end. I would say you’d find such a clue, appropriately, in Chapter 5, entitled ”The Island Come True,” in which Tinker Bell plays ‘follow the leader’ with Wendy, and guides her to a relatively safe part of Neverland following an attack by Captain Hook…where she betrays Wendy horribly by setting her up to be killed by the Lost Boys. (Tink, you see, was intensely jealous of the hold Wendy had on Peter’s heart.)
And so, of the great many things that ”Follow The Leader” put into motion for next week’s finale, consider the possibility that a brutal and bloody betrayal might be one of them. Will it be Eloise Hawking (1970s wet hottie edition) double-crossing Jack? Will it be Ben screwing over Locke? Or might the fiend be Lost‘s only certifiable enchanted being, the Island’s own Tinker Bell, and the one character who played leader to both Jack and Locke in last night’s episode? Yes, Richard Alpert, I’m calling you out. Don’t let those gorgeous eyeliner eyes and that beleaguered countenance fool you, my friends. He’s playing a game. I know he is. But what the hell is it?
NEXT: Kate walks away from Jack
THE END OF THE AFFAIRS Jack and Kate; Eloise and Charles?
The Jughead plan is totally ridiculous. I finally realized that last night. Jack Shephard is going to save the day by…detonating a hydrogen bomb? Seriously?! It would be nice if the show gave Jack one moment of ironic detachment to acknowledge: I can’t believe I’m doing this. I used to be a spinal surgeon. Now I’m freakin’ Dr. Strangelove. Still, I’m totally in. This is what happens when ordinary people get sucked into Wonderland or Neverland or Narnia — they do extraordinary things. Some fantasy heroes wage war with magic swords; others use thermonuclear weapons. Same dif. I also think the Jughead/paradox gambit meshes well, if ironically, with how Lost has used time travel in general to enhance and embellish its core theme of redemption…but I intend to expound on that next week.
Regardless, Jack’s zealous pursuit of meaning is totally reminiscent of early Lost Locke, the guy so desperate for significance he could see grand purpose in…pushing a button every 108 minutes. Which actually ended up having a grand purpose. Still: crazy. Just like this Jughead thing. Even Kate thought so. In fact, if the former fugitive/current parole breaker does wind up with Sawyer, I’ll bet you 1,000 Monopoly dollars that we all look back and say that this was the pivotal point in that decision-making process, inasmuch as finally giving up on Jack. His rationale for finishing what Faraday started broke her heart.
JACK: What if this is our one chance to put things back the way they were supposed to be?
KATE: And what about us? We go on living our lives as if we’ve never me?
JACK: All the misery that we’ve been through, we’d just wipe it clean. Never happened.
KATE: It was not all misery!
JACK: Enough of it was.
For Jack, history is not just a terminally ill pet that needs to be put down — it’s a mutant runt that was never supposed to be. He would rather take a gamble on a new world he doesn’t know than the crap world that he does know. His plan is Quantum Suicide by Oppenheimer — ”Behold, Doc Shephard, part Shiva, part Dr. Kevorkian!” From his narrow perspective — one clearly scarred by all the folks who’ve died on his watch as Castaway Moses — rebooting time would bring back all those he lost. Boone. Shannon. Ana Lucia. Libby. Charlie. Michael. More. But his haunted self-involvement is so epically solipsistic and myopic, he can’t see what his mad quest for a historical clean slate would cost those still living — especially his would-be girlfriend. For Kate, the castaway adventure has been painful and hard — but it has also given her so much, from a community of friends to the experience of mothering Aaron to Jack himself. To hear him blather on about obliterating the events that brought them together — I mean, that’s almost like a boyfriend breaking up with you and bitterly saying, ”I wish we had never met — and now I shall ask my magic genie to make it so!” (To Jack’s small defense, he is proceeding from a point of view that Kate never really dug old Jack’s cheese; see ”Whatever Happened, Happened.”)
Moreover — and I think this idea is richly twisted — Jack’s plan would take away something even more important to the castaways. From the very beginning of Lost, we’ve been encouraged to consider these characters as fallen people desperate for redemption, or at least a fresh start. Jack’s plan is a shortcut to absolution. It would also negate the redemption and happily-ever-afters that his castaway friends have achieved. (See: Sawyer and Juliet.) But Jack did find an ally in self-loathing Sayid, who popped up just in time to pop a cap in one of the Others who wanted to shoot Kate lest she skip back to Dharma and spill their secrets, such as the aquatic entrance to the Tunnels. Sayid had previously tried to collapse the time-space continuum by killing Big Bad Ben, and he proudly boasted of accomplishing the feat to Kate. But then she went and punctured his balloon with the whole I-saved-him thing. ”Why would you do that?” he asked sadly. And so he joined Jack’s crusade to finish the job he started. I was glad to see Sayid back; I was worried there for a sec that Season 5 was done with him. I was also glad to see that at some point during his days on the lam in the jungle he had lost that purple shirt.
NEXT: Eloise’s pain
Jack’s Jughead quest also provided some insight into the combustible interpersonal dynamics of the Other’s reigning power couple, Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore. It was pretty clear which one wore the pants in the relationship — and it wasn’t the dude with the curly girly hair. The most interesting scene between the two was the one we weren’t allowed to hear. You noticed that, right? It came soon after Eloise asked Alpert for some privacy while she and Widmore paid their last respects to Daniel; I got the sense that either ageless Richard and whatever he represents wasn’t welcome to observe this human, mortal moment, or that Eloise simply needed an excuse to discuss something important with Widmore outside of earshot. As an exasperated Alpert untied Jack and Kate, Chuck and Ellie argued in whispers. Asked to explain the relationship between the two Brits, Richard said, ”Well, let’s just say that love can be complicated.” Not only were we not permitted to listen, but also at one point, the camera dollied behind an Other, conspicuously blocking our view of them. My guess is that we will soon revisit this conversation, and we will hear what they said, and we will realize that something of great significance went down in that moment. My prediction? This was the moment of their break-up. Eloise wanted to pursue Operation: Jughead; Widmore told her he’d dump her ass if she did; and so it went. CREEPY OBSERVATION OF THE WEEK! Was it just me, or did you, too, get a brother/sister vibe from these two, too? I like to think they were once akin to the Narnia/Pan/Potter kids, who fell into this enchanted world and never wanted to leave…but not only did that not work out, staying as long they did came at a spiritually corrupting cost.
Confronted with the revelation that she had just killed her own son, Eloise agreed to help Jack destroy the timeline in hopes of rectifying her mistake. Interesting: She told Jack and Kate she was 17 years old when she escorted time-traveling Faraday at gunpoint to the Jughead drop zone back in 1954. That would make her 40 years old in 1977. So I’m going to say that Boy Daniel Faraday was alive back in the year of Adult Daniel Faraday’s death on the Island. Moreover, remember the 9-year-old Faraday playing the piano in last week’s episode? I’m going to say that that moment happened right after the Dharma-times events depicted in the last few episodes. In my recap of ”The Variable,” I wondered why Ellie entered the room in tears. Perhaps that scene represented the first time she had seen young Faraday since killing older Faraday; and perhaps her tears were an indication that her attempt at eradicating her mistake by helping Jack blow up Jughead had failed. We shall see next week.
The Jack branch of ”Follow The Leader” terminated in the underworld of the Island. ”The Tunnels,” Richard called them. Like the underbelly of the Temple, the walls of this labyrinth were covered with hieroglyphics. Egyptian, presumably. Lost cryptographers, start your decoding and get the results posted, ASAP. Eloise explained that she and her fellow Others had stowed Jughead in the Tunnels after Team Faraday’s visit — in a spot that now sits directly below Dharmaville. (So much for my ”in the shadow of the statue” guess.) I suddenly recalled ”Dead Is Dead,” and the scene in which Ben crawled the corridor behind his glyph door, unplugged that basin, and yelled down the pipes to…someone. Someone who might have been making their home in the very room where Jughead was chillin’ like a villain back in ’77. FUN FACT! The episode was called ”Follow The Leader” — and ”leader” is another word for the drainage pipe or downspout that’s attached the gutters of a house. So maybe, like, there’s an ancient ziggurat under Dharmaville, and Ben’s secret bedroom corridor actually runs along its the roof. Or something.
NEXT: Sawyer turns his back on the Island and his friends
There was much intrigue generated around the whole issue of how the Others got Jughead down there. It certainly wasn’t through the tight canal of that under-the-waterfall entrance. ”It’s a 12-foot long, 40,000-pound hydrogen bomb,” quipped Alpert. ”No, not through the pool.” So: Where’s the secret wide-mouth hatch that the Others used to get Jughead into the Tunnels? How about…in the shadow of the statue? I’m telling you, one way or another, I’m gonna make this work!
Jughead Jack didn’t have the monopoly on dangerously crazed leadership in this episode. Over in Dharmaville, Radzinsky bumped wimpy hippie Horace Goodspeed aside and established himself as the Colonel Custer of this far west Dharma Initiative outpost. Hellbent on warring with the Others — ostensibly to rescue Young Ben, though I get the sense Radzinsky would just as soon as see the Island’s indigenous ”Hostiles” purged altogether — Mad Rad beat Sawyer bloody in order to get him to cough up the Others’ jungle address. Yet for all of Radzinsky’s knuckle sandwiches and security-monitor face smushing, Sawyer gave the follically challenged tyrant nothing but quips. ”I want a lawyer,” he joked. But he changed his tune once his old stooge Phil — pissy from spending an episode tied up in Sawyer’s closet — began slapping Juliet around. (Importing some misogyny from actor Patrick Fischler’s Mad Man stint as caustic comedian Jimmy Barrett.) And so Sawyer cut a deal: the location of the Others in exchange for passage off the Island for both himself and Juliet. (Shades of: Sawyer selling out another inmate to get an early release from prison in the aptly named Season 3 episode ”Every Man For Himself.”)
The sequence in which Sawyer and Juliet strolled down the pier toward the sub had a gut-twisting, walking-the-plank kind of suspense. I kept waiting for something bad to happen — for one of the Others to renege on the deal and kill them, or perhaps just split them up, letting Juliet join the women and children in evacuating the Island but forcing Sawyer behind. But then, after insisting that Juliet board the sub first like the southern gentleman that he is, I was gripped by the notion that he was going to kick the lid shut and stay behind of his own accord. After all, Sawyer was basically abandoning Miles, Jin, and Hurley to an uncertain fate at the hands of Madman Radzinsky, and he would never do that. Right? What was it that Hurley said? ”We have to save him, because Sawyer would never leave us behind.”
But he did. Sawyer made a show of muttering ”Good riddance” toward the Island and then descended down into a sub, thus sealing the deal on the apparent sell-out of his castaway friends. I say ”apparent,” because I refuse to believe Sawyer — who had been heroically born again as a hero and leader during his Dharma idyll — would really leave his pals high and dry. I’m guessing Mr. LaFleur, being Dharma’s security honcho and all, knows the sub’s departure protocol — and I’m betting that it includes a stop at Dharma’s underwater Looking-Glass station before it leaves the Island’s vicinity. I’m thinking it’s here where Sawyer will make his move. And given how in sync he and Juliet are, I think Mrs. LaFleur knows exactly what her super-cool common law hubby has in mind. ”Don’t worry,” Hurley said. ”Sawyer always has a plan.”
Besides, he’s gotta go back and make good on his threat to kill Phil. Nobody slaps Sawyer’s girl around. Nobody.
This is thinking the romantic best of Sawyer. The other, less flattering possibility: Sawyer got onto the sub with no master plan to save his friends and with every intention of putting the Island behind him — but Kate will tell him about Crazy Jack’s H-bomb gambit, which will inspire Sawyer to reverse course and initiate Operation: Looking-Glass, which Juliet will go along with because she, too, ain’t that heartless, but the whole thing will cause her to doubt Sawyer’s loyalty to her, thus putting in motion the inevitable implosion of their relationship, which has to happen, anyway, because… well, if you know what I mean, then you know what I mean. And if you don’t know what I mean, then you’ll certainly know by next week.
NEXT: Locke takes his (rightful?) place with the Others
”To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
? Peter Pan
The John Locke arc was chockablock with cryptic bits of business ripe for message board discussion — many of them pertaining to the ageless enigma that is Richard Alpert. For starters, we saw him building a ”ship in a bottle,” a type of mechanical puzzle known as ”an impossible bottle.” The moment will surely feed the well-heeled theory that Alpert is either a descendant of the Black Rock castaways, if not a miraculously death-challenged survivor of the slave ship’s crew. (Or one of the imprisoned human cargo.) Or perhaps it’s merely a metaphor for himself: something ancient, trapped inside the timeless bottle that is the Island. FUN FACT! ”Ship In A Bottle” is a famous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode from its sixth season in which an unreal Holodeck character — Professor Moriarty, enemy to Sherlock Holmes — takes over the Enterprise and conspires to find a way to exist in the real world. ALSO SEE: Doc Jensen’s first Lost theory, The Evil Aaron Hypothesis, which put forth that a powerful, disembodied supernatural agency had taken control of the Island and has been conspiring to bring about his or her physical incarnation.
We also learned Alpert’s title. ”He’s a kind of…advisor,” Ben told Sun, a long pause preceding that word ”advisor.” ”And he has had that job for a very, very long time.” In other words, Richard is kind of like Tinker Bell, an Island sprite that serves the lost boys (and girls) who wash up on the island of Neverland and aspire to become its next Peter Pans. FUN FACT! Tinker Bell’s name, according to Barrie’s book, is a reference to ”tinkers” — artisans charged with fixing broken pots and pans. Is that what Richard is trying to do? Fix something? The Island? Jacob? Then again, maybe Alpert is Pan himself — specifically, the Greek god Pan, who, like Tinker Bell, was a sidekick to bigger gods. To the Greeks, Pan was the god of shepherds, which fits Alpert. To older traditions, Pan was an attendant or agent — an ”advisor,” if you will — to Cybele, the great mother goddess. FUN FACT! There’s a maze of tunnels under the Island — and there’s a Guillermo Del Toro movie called Pan’s Labyrinth that includes a fairytale about an underworld princess who escapes her realm and dies, and yet leaves her father with hope that she may be resurrected and live again, forever….
See? Isn’t this fun?
Quickly: Locke tracked down the Others and brought a gift of boar for their supper. (Season 1 John The Hunter, back in the hizzee! — Did I really write ”hizzee”?) Richard was agog by Locke’s return. From his relative position in the time-space continuum, he hadn’t seen Locke since he vanished after Ben turned the frozen donkey wheel — and that was three years ago. ”There’s something different about you,” Alpert said. It was as if he could smell the underworldly aroma of resurrection wafting off him — and it smelled scary and wrong, like one of the critters that crawled out of Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery. Locke just beamed. ”I have a purpose now,” he replied, and asked Alpert to join him on an important errand?Ben, too.
BEN: ”What’s wrong, John? Afraid I’ll stage a coup?”
JOHN: ”I’m not afraid of anything you can do anymore, Ben.”
BEN, dripping sarcasm: ”Well, in that case, I’d love to come.”
Hilarious. The Ben and Locke Comedy Hour was in full, droll effect.
NEXT: The continued saga of Locke and Ben
Locke took the former Others power couple out to the drug plane so they could bear witness to a miracle: The sight of time-traveling Locke stumbling out of the jungle, wounded from Ethan’s gunshot. New (But Improved?) Resurrected Locke instructed Alpert to tend to Old Wounded Time-Traveling Locke and pass along his compass and some crucial instructions, like the whole thing about needing to die to save his castaway friends, and in this way one of the trippy mystery moments from the season’s fragmented first episode was rounded out and given context. Ironic: ”Follow The Leader” gave us one arc in which Jack in the past schemes to produce paradox, and also gives us another arc in which John hustles to prevent paradox from occurring. (Specifically, Locke was trying to avoid what is known as a ”bootstrap paradox,” involving the acquisition and replacement of objects and the receiving and imparting of information from future to past to future again. You can investigate at your leisure over at Wikipedia.)
Then, there was this loaded exchange.
BEN: ”This must be an out of body experience for you.”
LOCKE: ”Something like that.”
It spoke to the moment but made me wonder if Lost was also foreshadowing something to come. After all: Isn’t Jacob a disembodied phenomenon? And haven’t many speculated that Jacob will wind up being Locke himself?
Ben asked a burning question: How exactly did New (But Improved?) Resurrected Locke know that Old Wounded Time Traveling Locke would be arriving at this particular moment in Island history? ”The island told me,” Locke said. But then he added, with a dollop of snark: ”The Island ever tell you anything?” It was one of several moments in the episode where I couldn’t tell if Locke was just sticking it to Ben — call it Operation: Humiliation, a continuation of Ben’s humbling that began with his judgment by Smokey in ”Dead Is Dead” — or if he was surreptitiously fishing for information about the extent of his Island powers. Conversely, I couldn’t tell if Ben was genuinely shell-shocked by Locke’s words and actions or if he was feigning surprise and thus feeding his ego in order to smoke out his true agenda. Indeed, the more Locke talked, the less surreal and more human he became. He demanded that he be taken to Jacob. Then, he poked at Ben with this: ”You’ve never seen him. Jacob. You’ve never seen him, have you?” Ben was struck speechless — or was feigning speechlessness. I think it’s very possible that Ben was running a con of cluelessness on Locke. He’s come back to the Island with a Jacob fixation. Why? Give him the reactions he wants — make him feel in control and powerful — which will only embolden him to reveal more and more…
Back at the Others’ teepee village, Locke did just that. He spoke to the Others and asked them if they’d be interested in joining him in visiting this never-seen god named Jacob who orders them around the Island via the proxies of Ben and Richard? ”Now, I’m sure there are very good reasons why his whereabouts are a secret, I just don’t know what they are,” Locke said. ”And to be honest with all of you, if there is a man telling us what to do, I want to know who he is.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but did we just witness the completion of a profound role reversal on Lost? Because Locke’s rhetoric is that of the rational skeptic, demanding empirical proof before committing his trust to some great and mighty Oz. Jack is now the man of faith; Locke is now the man of science.
NEXT: Who is Locke now really?
Then Sun scampered up to him and delivered one of the cheesiest acting moments Yunjin Kim has ever committed to film: ”This man, Jacob? Can he tell us how to bring Jin and the rest of our people back here?” Locke: ”Absolutely!” It felt so forced I thought she and Locke had staged it for effect. When Locke finished, more cornball followed as he passed through the Others ranks, earning hammy head nods and cheesy back slaps from his admiring flock.
Maybe not the greatest scene Lost has ever staged, but at least it had a pretty killer kicker:
RICHARD: I’m starting to think John Locke is going to be trouble.
BEN: Why do you think I tried to kill him?
Watching Ben and Richard watch Locke’s rise to power, I found myself recalling Season 3, when Ben offered Locke leadership of the Others, provided he could pass the rite of initiation: killing his father. At the time, Richard was all for the idea — he had grown wary of Ben’s leadership due to his fixation with curing the Others’ procreation problem — and when Locke refused to slay his pop, Richard helped him along by planting the idea of making Sawyer do the deed for him. Why was it so important to Richard that Locke kill his bad dad? The answer, it seemed, was that Locke needed to fully exorcise the demons of his past — most of which were bound up in his father — before he could become the Island’s newest Pope.
Since Season 3, Locke has seen and experienced much, to the point where he seemed to be at peace with himself. In ”The Little Prince,” he told Sawyer he had no interest in changing the past because ”I needed that pain to get to where I am now.” And initially, it seemed that this strange new Resurrected Locke represented the completion of Locke’s redemption project. But now, we must wonder. In the final moments of ”Follow The Leader,” Locke not only confessed his Kill Jacob ambition, he admitted to Ben that he had lied to Sun; he has no interest in reuniting with the castaways or even saving them. Presuming he was being genuine with Ben and not running a mindgame on him, who is this new Locke really? Is he his own man? Are the same old issues that have always roiled his soul — the fury of being duped by fathers and cheated by fate — still fueling him? Or is he just a vessel controlled by other powers, some kind of Trojan horse created to infiltrate the ranks of the Others and assassinate their leader. But on behalf of whom? We are reminded again that there are ”teams” and ”sides” being drawn on the Island — and that wayyyy back in Season 2, Ben insisted to Michael that his Others ”were the good guys.” So which side is Locke on: the side of angels or the side of demons? The side that will win — or the side that will lose?
What have I overlooked? A lot. I didn’t talk about Pierre Chang and Miles. I didn’t talk about the evacuation of the Island. I didn’t talk about the LOL funny history quiz administered to Hurley. I didn’t talk about why Dharma wants to drill into the electromagnetic anomaly at the Swan site. I didn’t discuss further the oddly quiet year for Sun and what it might have to do with the time travel novel entitled The Year of The Quiet Sun. And I didn’t discuss Alpert’s claim that he watched all the time traveling castaways die right before his eyes back in 1977 — a claim that I suspect is either totally bogus or doesn’t really tell the whole truth. But please, feel free to discuss these things for me in the boards below — and come back next Wednesday for very special year-end editions of Doc Jensen and ”Totally Lost.”