Follow The Leader (S5, ep. 14)

Jack: “What if this is why we’re here? What if this is our one chance to put things back the way they’re supposed to be?”



• Hey – is there an echo in here?

Lost’s seasons have the habit of appearing to reflect, or “mirror” each other, in terms of character behavior, plot developments, references and dialogue. Season 2 and Season 5 mirror each other. Season 3 and Season 4 do the same. I would be very, very surprised if Season 6 doesn’t return us to the Oceanic flight that started it all, and if the final season doesn’t heavily mirror and reference the first.

“Follow the Leader” is chock-a-block with just these sorts of mirrored/echoed moments. Let’s talk about a few of them. Season 5’s “Follow the Leader,” like “Season 2’s “Three Minutes,” is the penultimate episode of the season. During the events of Three Minutes, the Other known as Mrs. Klugh informs Michael that, in order to get his son back and get off the Island he’ll need to bring a specific group of people back to the Others. This directly mirrors Anti-Locke’s instruction to Richard during “Follow the Leader” that the ‘real’ Locke must bring everyone who left back to the Island. Note that all of the people Michael brings to the Others will eventually end up back in the Island’s past.

Michael spends the majority of “Three Minutes” assembling the people he needs to take with him, as does Anti-Locke during “Follow the Leader.” Where Michael brings ‘his people’ to see Ben, Anti-Locke brings his people to see Jacob.

“Three Minutes” takes its name from the three minutes that Michael was given to talk to Walt during his time in the Others’ camp. In “Follow the Leader,” Anti-Locke tells Richard that he has three minutes to talk to the real Locke before the flashes take him away again.

The imagery of Locke leading the Others out of their camp recalls Jack leading the castaways from their camp in the Season 1 finale, “Exodus,” a kind of ‘bleeding mirror,’ as the mirroring of Season 5 and 2 ‘bleeds’ into the Season 1/Season 6 mirroring to come.

• Just who is the “leader” that the episode title refers to? It might be Jack, former leader of the castaways. It might be Anti-Locke, now the supposed leader of the Others. It might be Jacob, the “true” leader of the Others. It might be all of them. “Who is the leader” can be found written in hieroglyphics on one of Lost’s final season promo posters. What does this mean? I think I know, and we’ll talk about it tomorrow in “The Incident.”

• I love the shot of Alpert building his ship in a bottle. It brings to mind the Black Rock, obviously. It also serves as a possible metaphor for the way that Anti-Locke creates his own legend in this episode. He pulls off the equivalent of creating an “impossible bottle” using very long tools indeed.

Locke: “I brought dinner.”

• Locke, Ben and Sun have gone to where the Others are now camped – in their signature-style canvas tents. The Others have gone back to the way things were, pre-Dharma. Locke carrying the boar into camp recalls the Season 1 episode Walkabout, as well as the way Locke carried his father’s body to Richard and Ben. 

Locke: “What’s wrong?”
Richard: “There’s something different about you.”
Locke: “I have a purpose now.”

• What is that purpose? I’ve suggested that Anti-Locke/the Man in Black might represent the spirit/consciousness of the Island itself. If that’s so, Anti-Locke’s purpose may be to achieve freedom. I suspect, however, that the Island itself is bigger than either Jacob or his scowly, disguise-wearing friend. If that’s so, then the secret war between the two of them may center around their designs for the Island – how it is to be “used,” treated, served by the Others.

Richard: “Yes, I was here 30 years ago. And I do. I remember these people. I remember meeting them very clearly, because… I watched them all die.”

• Err…what? Richard’s words here imply that he’s seen the aftermath of the Jughead explosion, and that it wasn’t pretty. What does this mean, really?

It could mean that Jack and Co. died in the explosion. People have been claiming from the beginning that the castaways were stuck in literal purgatory, and while the show has seemingly confirmed that everyone’s alive, it’s also gone way out of its way to reference and hint at the idea of purgatory in a bunch of different ways. Will we finally get the long-promised “zombie season” of Lost? Doubtful.

It could also mean that this show takes place in a “quantum” universe. We’ve watched one version of events in one “universe,” and in that universe, in this time loop we’ve seen, Jack and Co. die. Will Tuesday night pick up in an alternate reality, showing us another version of events?

It could also be a subtle hint that the “progress” Jacob refers to in The Incident is underway. From Richard’s perspective, who says those words at around the same time that Jack and Co. are preparing to drop their bomb into the Swan, perhaps Jack and Co. HAVE died – maybe killed by Radzinsky trying to get the bomb to the mine shaft, or maybe eradicated in the explosion. But if people can act as variables like Daniel suggests, perhaps we’re watching Jack succeed now, effectively changing the past that Richard remembers in a way comparable to how Desmond wakes with a memory of Daniel Faraday freshly apparent to him. In The Incident, Jacob will say that “it only ends once. Everything that happens before that is just progress.” Are Richard’s words here an indication of that progress in action? Or am i just doing that whole overthinking-things thing again? The latter, almost definitely.

• I love the way that Michael Emerson plays Ben in this episode. He’s got such a bristly, wounded quality.

• Jack gets a roundhouse kick to the face, courtesy of Patrick Swayze err…I mean…”Erik the Other.” For my money, you can’t have too many roundhouse face-kicks in an episode of anything. They improve everything. American Idol with face-kicks? Better! Grey’s Anatomy with face-kicks? Much better!

Kate: “It was not all misery.”
Jack: “Enough of it was.”

• They’re both right. The thing of it is, so much of Jack’s misery was entirely self-created (he’s been the cause of his own suffering from square one). Will Jack get the chance to do all of this again? I’m thinking yes, and that we’ll either pick up on the original Oceanic flight that brought them to the Island, or we’ll find that Jack and Co. have landed in the “present,” alongside once-dead castmembers (See past columns for more detail on this, as if it’ll matter in 48 hours).

What kind of bothers me on a thematic level about that possibility is it threatens to negate the seeming-point of many of Lost’s character arcs. What’s the point of struggling like a moth to kick your gnarly drug habit if Jack’s going to reset everything? Charlie’s a junkie again, not a hero. Kate’s a convict, not a ferocious mother. Their emotional and psychological journeys get wiped away.

That is, unless I’m right about the purpose of the explosion. We saw Daniel experiment with the rat Eloise in The Constant, sending her mind into the future and back again, giving her knowledge of how to run her maze before Daniel had ever taught her how. He achieved this by combining electromagnetism and radiation – the two elements that Jack and Co. will combine at the Swan. Will the detonation send their memories of post-Oceanic-crash life back in time? Will the Oceanic passengers experience a feeling of “déjà vu/past lives/reincarnation” as they land safely in LA? A sense that they have a “destiny” to fulfill, and now, the subconscious means to fulfill it?

Jack: “Your son came back here because he had figured out a way to change things. He doesn’t have to be dead. You don’t have to have killed him. If we do what’s written in that journal… none of this will have happened.”

Jack’s messianic drive shifts into full force during the events of “Follow the Leader.” He preaches Daniel’s figurative gospel to several people over the course of the last two episodes, with a fervor fueled courtesy of dead John Locke.

JULIET: “Stuart, please. We have known each other for three years. We are not bad people! We are not here to hurt you!”

Juliet’s words here mirror Ben’s claim in Season 2 that “you can’t do this – I am not a bad person.” We’ve come full-circle, having now witnessed some events on the Island from the perspective of each of its groups – the castaways, the Others, and now Dharma. Having done this, a kind of ‘enlightenment’ occurs, and we’re granted an almost god-like perspective over these people, reminding us again of the philosophical ideas that the show has included (Othering, Hegelian dynamic, Existentialism, humanism). Is this how Jacob experiences/has experienced the world?

Phil: “I can make him talk.”

• Is there anyone who didn’t want to kill Phil after he smacked Juliet? Even Radzinsky, King of Assholia, flinches when Phil puts his hand to her. This is dark stuff.

Great Exchange:

Dr. Chang: “What year were you born? What year?”
Hurley: “Uh… 1931?”
Dr. Chang: “You’re 46?”
Hurley: “Yeah. Yes, I am.”
Dr. Chang: “So you fought in the Korean War?”
Hurley: “There’s… no such thing.”
Dr. Chang: “Who’s the President of the United States?”
Hurley: “All right, dude, we’re from the future. Sorry.”

• Hurley predicted he’d be asked who the President was when they first joined Dharma, once again illustrating Hurley’s awareness of his own limitations – even suggesting that these characters have a vague recollection of doing all of this before. Also, it’s really funny.

Dr. Chang: “It’s true then? You are my son?”
Miles: “Yeah, it’s true.”

• There’s not a lot of meat to Miles and Chang’s storyline, but it’s surprisingly effective for what it is. Again I’m wishing that this season were 22 episodes. It would have been nice to have seen Miles perhaps connect more with his dad.

Richard: “The man you’re asking about, Jack, is Charles Widmore. He and Eloise are… well, let’s just say love can be complicated.”

• How complicated? Brother-and-sister complicated (ewww)? What does Richard’s comment here mean?

Locke: “Well, Richard, you’re just about to see where I disappeared to. And after we’re finished with that, I’d like you to take me to see Jacob.”
Ben: “That’s… not how it works, John.”
Locke: “Is that true, Richard? Is this gonna be a problem?”

• This confirms for us that past leaders of the Others have been able to meet Jacob, and that Ben was not given that permission. Is this because of the “healing” that Ben underwent in the Temple? Is it because Jacob knew he’d have to alienate Ben Linus in order to ensure that Ben would kill him and fulfill his part in Jacob’s grand plan?

Locke: “Now just listen. This is the important part. You’re gonna need to tell him that he has to bring everyone who left back to the Island. And when he asks how to do that… You tell him he’s gonna have to die.”

• Anti-Locke’s simple, significant instructions here serve to create a massive ripple effect. The return of the castaways to the Island will make possible Anti-Locke’s strange “resurrection,” and the passing of the compass will reinforce and largely help to create Locke’s legendary status on the Island.

As I watched this take place, I was reminded of a parable poem called “For Want of a Nail”:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

• Replace “nail” with compass, and you have a basic illustration of just how important this moment is to the Man in Black’s plans, to Locke’s story, and (I suspect) to Jacob’s ultimate end-game.

• Sayid’s reappearance on the show makes me smile, but it’s a wistful smile. By the end of the season he’ll be on his way to death’s door. If there’s an upside to successfully rebooting the timeline, it’s that we can hope to see if Sayid will find redemption.

Jack: “I’m not wrong, Kate. This is it. This is why we’re here. This is our destiny.”
Kate: “Do you know who you sound like? Because he was crazy, too, Jack. You said so yourself.”
Jack: “Well, maybe I was wrong.”

A monumentally-important moment in Lost’s narrative. It’s taken us five seasons to get here, to a place where Jack can finally utter the words “maybe I was wrong” – not just about John Locke, “crazy” prophet, but about the possibility of faith. Jack’s plan fuses faith and science together, uniting the philosophies of “men of science” and “men of faith,” and unites the two polar-opposite philosophical positions on the show. It’s interesting that Jack begins by saying “I’m not wrong,” and concludes by conceding “maybe I was wrong.”

It’s also interesting to note that we don’t have any real idea of whether Jack’s right, whether this sudden conversion to Locke’s way of thinking is the ‘correct’ thing. I’m assuming it is. We’ll know for sure in a maddeningly-short period of time.

Hurley: “Why is he yelling at her, dude?”
Miles: “It’s the only way he can get her to leave.”

• Miles has spent much of his adult life “othering” his father. But like Hurley, Miles has been granted the opportunity to know his father again, and to see that he is in fact a decent, loving man.

Great Sawyer Line: “We’ll buy Microsoft.”

Jack(FACE!): “If I don’t see you the other side, I won’t blame you.”

• Jack, Sayid, Richard and Eloise swim under a lake in order to access the hidden tunnels that run beneath the Island’s surface where the Jughead bomb has been stored. Are these tunnels a part of the reason why Dharma has been forbidden to dig past a certain depth? Do they represent one massive Temple beneath the Island? What’s the deal, basically?

• Jack’s words here remind me of Chang’s comment about the Dharma people “on the other side,” and of the “other side” that Jack is trying to activate.

• Apparently, the pool entrance was an “official” entrance or exit from the tunnels for the people who built them. The tunnel-side opening features steps arising from the water and hieroglyphic-strewn columns.

• We never learn how it is that the Others were able to move the bomb from its original site and to this location. Is it possible that they possess a means to transport themselves and other objects through time and space? We know that the Island makes this possible on a macro level (we’ve seen Locke jump off-Island through space, and end up further along in the timeline than when he left, meaning he traveled through time as well). Can it be done on a micro level?

Eloise: “All right. Let’s get started.”

• Eloise Hawking’s words here are an echo of the words she’ll utter to Jack, Ben and Sun at the church in California.

Locke: “Hello, everyone. My name is John Locke. I’ve been told that for some time, you all have been accepting orders from a man named Jacob. And yet, oddly enough, it seems that no one has actually seen him. Now I’m sure there are very good reasons why his existence and whereabouts are secret. I just don’t know what they are. And to be honest with all of you, if there’s a man telling us what to do, I want to know who he is.”

• Up until this exact moment, I’ve had thoughts very similar to the ones that Locke expresses here. As a believer in democratic government, the idea of following an unseen leader rubs me the wrong way. At one level, Locke essentially wants to meet with his congressman, and his words make perfect sense. Why shouldn’t the Others know who their leader is? Why shouldn’t they have a clear sense of their purpose?

But, at the same time, I’m also “a believer,” and so I’ve spent the majority of my life putting faith in exactly that – an “Unseen leader.” Faith requires a person to put trust in something essentially unknowable. And at the allegorical level, what Locke is advocating for here is an accounting from “God,” a very Luciferian position to take. 

• In a season already featuring some shakey effects work, the submergence of the Dharma sub takes first prize in the “terrible effects shots” awards category. Why did we need to see this? It adds nothing to the story, and it looks like a cartoon (I was about to write “a Saturday morning cartoon,” and realized that I am old).

Locke: “I know what I told her, but that’s not why we’re going to Jacob.”
Ben: “Then why are we going to Jacob?”
Locke: “So I can kill him.”


• Anti-Locke suddenly doesn’t seem to care very much about reuniting Sun with her people (so why is it that “Christian” instructs Sun to wait for Locke? Is Christian working for Jacob? Or does the MiB have other plans for her?). As “Follow the Leader” ends, we learn what the faux-leader of the Others truly desires: the death of “God.” That’s ambitious. And fascinating.


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