On a flashback-heavy episode of ''Lost,'' Michael makes a deal with the bad guys to hand over four fellow castaways in order to free Walt

”Lost”: What the Others did to Michael

Shall we dispense with the quibbles first? Yes, let’s.

”Here’s some mysterious serum for you and your baby. Inject it into yourselves. It’s good for you. I’m weirdly sure of it.”

”Say, aren’t you the chap who tried to steal this very baby a few days ago?”

”Yup, that’s me, the quasi-clean horse addict with the voices in his head. But the smack’s history, doll. I’ll be throwing all those Heroin Marys in the drink later today, soon as the wonderdog shows me where they are.”

”Just checking. Okay, sure! I’ll take a crate. And let’s let barely bygones be barely bygones. Put her there, no-longer-estranged pal!”

Yes, Charlie and Claire are tight again, after Mr. Hugs Not Drugs made her the gift of some Dharma vaccine and a fancy pneumatic injector. She happily accepts the gesture (chicks totally flip for pneumatic injectors), instead of asking the usual boring questions. (What is this stuff, anyway? What’s it for? Are you high right now?)

Then there’s suddenly pubescent Walt, but hey, what can you do about biology? (Stunt your child actors with growth-retarding ”Urkel juice” is the answer, but it’s not a pretty one.)

Yes, it’s flashback time on the island again, but we’re zooming back only 13 days now. Michael’s ”lost time” is finally laid out, front and center. He was taken by the Others almost immediately — in fact, he was back in the trees when Jack and Zeke were haggling over captured Kate. (Even with that bag over her head, Kate really ought to have heard Zeke say, ”Gag him,” and known a prisoner — most likely Michael — was in nearby. But, as we’ve lately noted, Kate’s no longer the hard-edged survival artist she was in season 1.) A salient detail: Alex is Michael’s proximate captor. Alex — crazy Danielle’s long-lost daughter. Alex, from ”Maternity Leave,” Claire’s savior in the medical hatch. Alex, who wants to know if Claire’s all right, if the baby’s a girl or a boy. (Tania Raymonde, quit playing with my fragile emotions!)

So Michael’s taken to Camp Others, a ratty Potemkin village wedged between a rocky jetty and a steep escarpment crowned by an odd rock formation. They take some blood, they talk in circles. A Ms. Clue comes forward and works Michael, asking him questions about his son — questions he can’t answer because he wasn’t around for Walt’s early childhood. She’s clearly out to manipulate him, but he’s too keyed up to sniff it out. Finally, after more than a week, she gives him what he’s been screaming for: Walt. For three minutes. He says they make him take tests. He says they’re ”pretending.” Ms. Clue threatens to send him to ”the room,” then ejects him after allowing a carefully choreographed show of emotion. (Is it possible Walt’s in on this?) Michael’s ready now. He’s capable of anything — even making a supremely stupid deal. He says he’ll deliver Jack, Kate, James ”Sawyer” Ford, and Hurley. (Poor Locke! Looks like he didn’t make the cut after all, despite what Henry told him. But don’t cry for him — his leg is already electro-healed.) Michael also says he’ll free Henry Gale. He doesn’t say he’ll kill two people and shoot himself in the process, but clearly, he’s making this up as he goes along. His supposed prizes: Walt, freedom, and a boat. But how will he collect? What possible reason might the Others have for holding up their end of the bargain? Clearly, our Michael’s not thinking straight. He’s no longer rational raft-building Michael. He’s from-the-gut artist Michael. And he’s half-mad father Michael, first and foremost.

So now Michael wants a handpicked crew to storm the Others’ fake settlement. He insists on a small group, and he insists that small group include certain people. Jack doesn’t seem to find this odd — in fact, he acquiesces to all of Michael’s demands. (Even if he doesn’t suspect Stockholm Syndrome, don’t you think Jack would realize he’s dealing with disturbed mind here?) But Sayid scents treachery. And ”an advantage,” if he can keep Michael thinking he’s in charge of this ”op.”

Sawyer, meanwhile, is dealing with the aftereffects of having a semi-functional soul. He’s pretty crushed over the death of Ana Lucia, his onetime roll-in-the-hay. Heck, he’s so upset, he’ll turn to Jack, the man he suspects of ”netting” his true love Kate in the woods. (Jack, clearly enjoying himself, is doing little to disabuse Sawyer of that suspicion.) But maybe it takes a little grief to clear the head: Congrats, Sawyer, for being the first to point out that Sayid is the only castaway with actual military experience and might therefore be useful in a fight. In fact, it’s Sayid’s planned participation — and Michael’s vociferous opposition to it — that tips off the former Republican Guardsman to the trap.

And then there’s Hurley — with murder in his eyes. He’s set on vengeance for Libby, incited, naturally, by Michael, who wants him along. At the double funeral, emotions are building to quite a pitch when…a boat sails up. Yes. A boat. A boat that quite a few have speculated belongs to Desmond, he of the race around the world. (Can we assume he’s lost by now?) And so, much like last season’s finale, this episode has the Losties facing war on the island and uncertainty on the high seas.

And Eko, the fan favorite, has become the new prisoner of the Hatch. He’s abandoned his church, his charge (Charlie), and his old calling. He’s a bona fide button pusher now, but I get the feeling he’s got an angle that Locke missed. He looks like he’s actually working at that Apple IIE — not just waiting for the next countdown. So what’s he doing? Tax time’s over.

Maybe my Eko theories are just wishful thinking. I want him going places, not stuck in the Geodesic Dome of Character Inertia. Especially after he’s delivered the best speech of the show — the best speech in weeks, actually. I speak of the Hell Story, of course, the story he tells Michael about the boy who killed the dog. This is shortly after he padded quietly into the Hatch, leaving his shoes outside because he’s now convinced it’s sacred ground. Michael, a little improbably, asks about the existence of hell. Eko talks about a boy who confessed to him that he’d killed a dog because it maimed his sister. Eko tried to articulate the doctrine of forgiveness, but the boy wasn’t interested. He was simply afraid that if he went to hell, ”that dog would be waiting there for him.” Hmmm…a dog from hell. Like, say, Cerberus the Smoke Monster? Chills. Now that’s some good Lost right there.

What do you think? Will the castaways fall into Michael’s trap? What is Eko going to do in the Hatch? And what was less plausible: Claire trusting Charlie or Sawyer confiding in Jack.

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