Hurley: “Things are gonna work out.”

• The off-Island scene between Locke and Hurley at the box company might be my favorite of the episode. This Locke has changed in some ways – he’s engaged, he seems to have some relationship with his father – but in other ways he hasn’t changed at all. He used a business conference as an excuse to try and go on his Walkabout and lied to Helen and his company about it, echoing the way he lies to her about his father (and making me wonder yet again what that relationship between them might be). He’s still prickly and defensive and bull-headed about being told what he can do. Watching him try, unsuccessfully, to lower his wheelchair ramp into the side of Hurley’s Hummer was probably the most amusing moment of the episode for me. It’s such a human, specific choice, and it illustrates that this Locke is the same man we’ve known, with altered circumstances.

It also serves as a sly demonstration of Hurley’s new “good luck.” The Hurley of Season 1 would have somehow had his Hummer destroyed by crazed bikers or something long before Locke got there. Here, his garish yellow chariot goes without a scratch. I’m an unabashed fan of Lost’s resident slacker-Buddha, and his off-Island fate feels enormously satisfying as presented so far. There’s something very Jacob-esque about the way he spins Locke off to connect with Rose at his temp agency.

• Cutting straight from Hurley’s reassuring line to Locke’s dead body (Frank: “He’s gettin’ pretty ripe!”) is blackly hilarious.

• Ilana tells Sun that if Jin’s on the Island and alive, then he’s at the Temple. Which he’s not. He’s off probably being tortured by a Rousseau-ified Claire in the jungle somewhere. Sun and Jin’s constant separation throughout this series something of a running gag at this point, and you could argue that it’s become simplistic by this point, but I don’t know that I’d agree. I like the fact that their goal on the show is clear-cut and instantly relatable. Jack wanted to re-set reality, Sun and Jin want to finally spend five freaking minutes together.

Best Exchange of the Night:

Sawyer: “You ever catch up with the kid?”
Anti-Locke: “What kid?”
Sawyer (Pauses): “Riiight.”

• The creepy blond kid reappears, and it’s confirmed that Sawyer can see him (interestingly, Richard could not – and even more interesting, Anti-Locke doesn’t already know that Sawyer can see the boy, which you’d think he would, since Sawyer’s a “candidate”). No blood on the hands this time, but the boy’s wearing basically the same outfit (one very reminiscent of Pan’s Lost Boys) and he’s older now. As I see it, there are three potential origins for boy-ghost: (1) He’s actually the “ghost” of Jacob in a younger form, (2) Anti-Locke is somehow “summoning” the apparition from his own memories, (3) The Island itself (or whatever lies within the Island) is creating this “ghost.”

Young Jacob(?): “You know the rules. You can’t kill him.”
Anti-Locke: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

• I don’t read the Jeff Jensen and AV Club Lost columns (my favorites) until I’ve finished my own musings on the week’s episode. Maybe its silly/stupid, but I like working through an episode on my own and offering my observations to you folks before I go and see what other people thought. It allows me to offer my opinion without the very smart, very entertaining people I just mentioned influencing my initial impressions. That said, I’m willing to bet that both of them took note of Anti-Locke’s very John Lockeian moment here, and I’m willing to bet that in general there’s a lot of speculation going on right now about whether or not the Man in Black is starting to take on various traits and attributes of the “real” John Locke. That’s a nifty development if it’s true, but I’d like to suggest an alternate/augmentative explanation as well: What if the MiB was “drawn” to Locke because of their already-present similarities? Locke’s frustration, bitterness and anger all serve as mirrors for the frustration, bitterness and anger we’ve seen the MiB display in both his Titus Welliver form (S5 finale) and his Anti-Locke form. In a sense, the MiB has always sounded a lot like the John Locke of old – but one whose dreams of fulfilling something “special” have gone unrealized. We still have no idea what Jacob and this man’s relationship was initially. Was the MiB potentially once a John Locke-type as well? Did his desire to “mean” something somehow trap him on the Island? And has that desire for meaning now curdled into a contempt for the very idea of “meaning”? Just spitballin’. But it certainly would fit the portrait of an existential nihilist I painted above, and the irony would be delicious.

• Richard appears to Sawyer after Anti-Locke goes running after the Pan (Bangarang!) and I have to say that as much as I love cool, calm and collected Richard, I’m loving wild-eyed, slightly-goofy Richard even more. Over the course of three episodes, Lost has stripped Richard of much of his seeming importance, and made clear just how little Richard knows about the “Great Game” between Jacob and the MiB. One thing Richard does seem scarily aware of, however, is the threat posed by the Man in Black. Can Richard’s warnings be trusted? No, they can’t. And yet, I do believe him. Whatever the Man in Black’s true end-game is (and I’m inclined to believe him when he says that he wants “freedom,” though I’m not sure what that actually means), it feels genuinely ominous. Even if Jacob himself isn’t to be entirely trusted, as this episode hints over and again, that doesn’t ipso facto mean that the MiB SHOULD be trusted. Especially if he wants “everyone” dead. That desire for total annihilation, for nullity, for the absence of life, again draws a parallel between Anti-Locke/MiB and the Anti-Grail King of legend, as well as the legend of the Fisher King/Wounded King in general.

Weirdo Lady: “What kind of animal would you describe yourself as?”

• A Smoke Monster! Oh, wait, that’s not an animal…..A polar bear!

• Rose makes her second appearance off-Island, where she’s working as a supervisor at Hurley’s temp agency. I loved the way in which Rose uses her no-bullshit attitude to dismantle Locke’s prickly “don’t tell me what I can’t do” attitude, and it made me hopeful that if this IS the “actual ending” of the show per the Second Snake theory, we’ll get to see John Locke forge a good life for himself and achieve “good being.” What is good being? According to Aldous Huxley, it’s the result of discovering who you are not, and because of that, discovering who you really are. That’s exactly what Locke is experiencing here. He isn’t a construction foreman. He’s a man in a wheelchair. And that comes with limitations. Acknowledging those limitations must be agonizing. But by acknowledging them, Locke seems to arrive (literally as well as figuratively) at a place where he can be at peace, find contentment, create happiness.

Sawyer: “My favorite’s Steinbeck. ‘Of Mice and Men.’ You know that one?”
Anti-Locke: “Nope. A little after my time.”

• That’s such a great line. Such a great, sly line. If the MiB has been on the Island since the 1800s, as S5’s finale implies, then the MiB hasn’t read a new book (other than what’s been brought to the Island, maybe, but do Smoke Monsters really read?) in centuries.

Anti-Locke: “What I am is trapped. And I’ve been trapped for so long that I don’t even remember what it feels like to be free.”

• Anti-Locke’s claim that he’s trapped, that he’s been trapped for so long that he doesn’t remember what it’s like to be free, suddenly upends our expectations a little. Anti-Locke’s line of patter makes it seem as if he’s been imprisoned, as if Jacob has wronged him in some terrible way. And maybe that’s the case. We know nothing of Jacob, and Lost isn’t in the habit of turning out characters who are solely “good” or “evil.” But that also means that Jacob probably isn’t “evil,” and that the Man in Black is, like every other character on this show, probably “the cause of his own suffering.”

We know the MiB is trapped on the Island, but there’s no explanation as to why. After all, he seems to be able to turn into flying smoke (that ability calls to mind the character of Ariel in Shakespeare’s the Tempest, Prospero the Magician’s “spirit slave,” and Lost has referenced the play previously). That’s kind of the definition of freedom, in a way. So what’s keeping him on the Island? Here’s a wacky idea: Maybe he’s trapped in the Temple. Maybe he’s physically/spiritually imprisoned there, either in a cell/chamber or in a “well of souls” beneath the Temple. Maybe he’s (at least part of) the electromagnetic energy that the Island contains. He may even be partially responsible for the energy powering the spring, giving the Others a parasitic quality that I’d love. And maybe freeing that energy means destroying what contains it – the Island. That would explain why they’ve barricaded the Temple, and why the MiB would want to get inside it.

• Anti-Locke is now trapped twice-over. He’s trapped on the Island, and now he’s trapped in Locke’s shape. I’m assuming that this is why the “ghost” of Juliet hasn’t appeared to Sawyer.

• Some folks were irritated by the fact that Ilana gives us the “he’s stuck this way” info, and that Ben (of all people) doesn’t follow up by saying “Wait – stuck this way? What the hell does that mean?”

Those people have a point. It makes no sense for Ben not to want to know more, especially given his exasperation. But (and I always have a big but, to mangle a Pee Wee Herman quote) by now, after five seasons of just this kind of maddening tease, it seems pretty obvious to me that this is the way the writers want to tell their story. It’s the way that they’ve always told their story. That doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t feel irritated by it, or that I’m making excuses for the show. It’s just being realistic, as Rose would say. It is what it is. For me, the artificiality of these teases is off-set by the fact that we know we’re getting answers, as well as the fact that I like being teased like that (why am I starting to sound like a dirty old man?). I enjoy the look my wife gives me after I’ve yelled at our television for not telling me what I wanted to know. It’s part of the ritual at this point, and I’d rather roll with it and let it contribute to my enjoyment.

Long story short: I agree that it’s ridiculous. But it’s consistently ridiculous.

Great Frank Line: “This is the weirdest damn funeral I’ve ever been to.”

• Ben’s eulogy is short and (semi)sweet. I’m hoping that Michael Emerson will get the opportunity to do comedy after this series is over. I love the way he plays “sinister,” but I’d love to see him work with someone of quality like Apatow, McKay, or even someone like Rian Johnson. He’s so funny, but so grounded.

• Continuing the “mirroring” of each season in a very literal fashion, off-Island Locke stares into a mirror before calling Jack Shepard’s office. Both Jack and Kate have also had a moment like this, and the ‘reflective’ quality of these scenes is a nice “meta” touch. I like and don’t like Locke’s desire to accept his situation. I admire, and am moved by, the way that his resignation leads to a kind of freedom for him. At the same time, I can’t help hoping that Jack will be able to heal John. Is Jack married in this reality? Has he healed Sarah? If not, might that mojo be in reservation for one John Locke?

If not, the sense of new life that’s granted through Locke’s decision here is a fitting Substitute.

• Locke’s honesty with Helen, and Helen’s understanding of Locke’s lie, represent another sharp departure from the past history we know. It also shows us again how the Locke we knew and the Locke we’re seeing now are still the same man, but with different circumstances. This Locke didn’t see his Walkabout as a spiritual quest – he saw it as an adventure. This Locke lies to Helen about his trip, but it’s because of his Wounded King status, not because of a longing for a higher purpose. And, more importantly, this Locke appears never to have lied to Helen about his father – because he and his father still have a relationship in this off-Island universe.

• Helen’s Peace and Karma shirt is cute. Karma is an Eastern expression that one could say largely replaces the idea of “God” acting in the world. Instead of our actions resulting from the interventions of a divine source (like, say, Jacob) our actions, and their resulting consequences, stem entirely from ourselves. It’s a very existential viewpoint, really.

Some Karmic traditions believe in a a kind of “God,” who’s role is essentially to “dispense the fruits of karma.” Others believe that this God can occasionally intervene (again, like Jacob). Buddhism, from which the show draws heavily, tends to espouse that Karmic law and the Scientific laws of causation are sort of interchangeable from a philosophical point of view. This kind of belief, interestingly, unites faith and science.

• Off-Island, John Locke is a man of science, not a man of faith. He tells Helen that there are no miracles. But Helen disagrees, a kind of yin to his yang.

Great Sawyer Line: “No offense, but you already died, so it’s great that this is not a big deal for you.”

• I love Lost’s patchwork-quilt of theology, mythology, philosophy and whathaveyou, but I also love it’s tendency toward “Indiana Jones-meets-a-super-cool-videogame” set pieces. Sawyer and Anti-Locke’s descent to the cave, and the cave itself, are perfect examples of this.

• Sawyer’s fall from the cliff mirrors Boone’s fall from the beechcraft plane back in Season One. Here, Anti-Locke saves Sawyer.

• Let’s welcome our latest Area of Mystery: The Cave. It’s been striking me lately that many of these older “ruins” and structures correspond roughly to the Dharma Stations scattered around the Island, making me think that the Island’s ancient inhabitants (Black Rock and earlier) were sort of proto-Dharma groups. Each of these groups seems to have established a series of “Stations” for different purposes.

Is it coincidence that this episode, which highlights again the MiB’s perception of the Island as “nothing but a shadow” with no higher purpose, features a cave? Probably. But it’s fun to point out the coincidence. Conspicuously displayed on a table at the mouth of the cave is a set of scales, weighted by two stones – one black, one white. For the Egyptian Mythology nuts out there (you know who you are! Yes, you! Mr. Robert Stewart of Tempe, Arizona!) the scales might remind you of the Scales of Judgement, used by the god Anubis to weigh the human heart against a feather. We’ve seen Anubis pop up on the walls here before, and we’ve heard the concept of judgment regularly invoked.

Also on the table? What looks like an ashtray. I suppose if you’re immortal and/or a Smoke Monster, smoking’s not a big deal.

• Anti-Locke tosses the white stone into the drink, telling Sawyer that it’s an “inside joke.” If the white stone represents the potential for progress in mankind, then that explains the joke as well as the fact that the MiB tosses it away. It also hints at ominous things for the castaways on the Island. Someone in the Chud Season 6 thread commented that by removing the stone, the black stone sinks, which is true, and an interesting possible metaphor for the MiB’s possible “defeat.” But it’s also representative of the human heart, full of corruption, far outweighing the feather. In fact, Anti-Locke’s act symbolically tosses the feather away altogether.

• Off-Island, Locke’s status as temp coach and substitute biology instructor makes him a different kind of person – not a leader, but a teacher. And that makes perfect sense given what we’ve seen of Locke in the past seasons. He’s always been most comfortable as an advisor and instructor, teaching people how to track, how to survive, how to throw a knife. And his particular position here ironically echoes teenage Locke’s contempt for “science camp.” Also of interest: Locke’s subject is the human reproductive system which ties in again with the themes of Island fertility and personal fertility, as well as the Fisher King myth. It’s also got to be the single hardest class to ask a Substitute to step in and teach, given the penchant for giggling.

• Ben Linus makes his first appearance off-Island, and I have to say that I love the idea of the Island’s bug-eyed mastermind as a snarky but seemingly-warm European history teacher.

• Locke’s first line to Ben (“Actually, I was just hoping for some Earl Grey”), directly echoes Anti-Locke’s Season 5 line to Ben (“Actually, I was just hoping for an apology.”).

Anti-Locke: “Jacob had a thing for numbers.”

• Deeper within the cave, we get a huge “Island mythology” reveal. Names have been scrawled all over the walls and ceiling of a stony chamber – including the names of some of the castaways. Next to each name is a number, and the names of the castaways, Sawyer’s included, are accompanied by The Numbers: 4 8 15 16 23 42.

The Numbers, then, are somehow connected to each castaway, and I couldn’t help but recall the number 8 painted on the side of the rabbit that Ben Linus uses to con Sawyer back in Season 3. Have the castaways been labeled like test subjects? The direct connection between Number and name recalls the television show The Prisoner. Lost owes a great debt to The Prisoner, which explored many of the same themes of identity and redemption, of perception and “reality,” of conditioning and entrapment, and did so using an isolated locale from which there was no escape. Even Smokey can arguably be traced back to The Prisoner’s creepy security system.

• Interestingly, Kate’s name ISN’T in the cave, at least not as far as we’ve been shown. Who is? Sawyer, Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Jin and Sun, Littleton (which could mean Claire, or could mean Aaron, thus explaining his “special” status), Lewis (referring, I assume, to Charlotte Lewis, and implying that Jacob may have arranged her parents, and Dharma’s, arrival to the Island, again echoing the idea of the Fisher King arranging for the birth of the being who will heal the land), Troup (referring, I assume, to Gary Troup, a casualty in the initial Oceanic 815 flight, the fictional author of the Lost tie-in novel “Bad Twin,” and the supposed author of a book on the Valenzetti equation), Mattingly (no idea), Sullivan (no idea). Did you glimpse any others?

• We have it confirmed for us that the “candidates” are potential replacements for Jacob. In a mirror of Season 2, Anti-Locke’s questioning of the necessity for pushing The Button is echoed by Anti-Locke’s questioning of the necessity for a Jacob, for an Island. I talked about that mirroring back in the Rewatch column for the Season 5 finale, and it’s nice to see one of my kooky speculations seem to pan out. In Season 2, Locke comes to regret not pushing The Button. Will Anti-Locke experience a similar change of heart? Anti-Locke’s attitude toward the Island (which has stood in, metaphorically, for everything from the afterlife to life itself), along with his attitude toward the groups that Jacob draws to the Island, are what make him a nihilist to my eyes. Where the “real” Locke saw meaning, Anti-Locke sees meaninglessness. Where the “real” Locke sought to see the true “Form” of Kate’s figurative-horse in his communion with the Island, Anti-Locke sees only the shadow, and he just wants to get the hell out of Plato’s cave.

• Oh, irony. The Island’s “security system” has no interest in protecting the Island at all.

• Anti-Locke’s speech at the end of this episode paints Jacob in a troubling light, and it raises serious questions about the “meaning” of the off-Island reality. I’ve suggested that the off-Island reality might represent a kind of Karmic “happy ending” for some of the castaways, and that what we’re watching when we’re watching these “flash-sideways” is not an alternate universe, but is instead the end of the show’s journey, playing concurrently alongside the story of how that conclusion was accomplished. But this scene calls that theory into serious doubt. It makes me wonder whether we’re instead watching a reality in which Jacob never became involved in the lives of the castaways, and how that lack of involvement may have changed their lives for the better.

If that’s the case, it makes the Man in Black look like a kind of hero. If his escape from the Island somehow negates Jacob’s influence in the past, and that negation results in better lives for the castaways (as it seems to be, in at least a few cases), then the MiB isn’t wrong in his specific accusations. And there’s a more general heroism in the act of attempting to leave Plato’s cave.

But that just feels wrong to me somehow and with so much of the season left to be played out, I’m wondering if the show isn’t actively attempting to head-fake us all with that suggestion. After all, Locke suggests that Jacob came to Sawyer when he was most weak and vulnerable, and “pulled his strings” so that Sawyer would land on the Island. Only, that’s not what we’ve seen. All we’ve seen is Jacob handing Sawyer a pen. Sawyer wrote the letter. Sawyer conned those women out of their cash. He made the decision to fly to Australia, and he made the decision to kill another man. None of those choices were made for him. He’s the cause of his own suffering. So, methinks that Anti-Locke overstates his case. And it makes me think that I might be right about this mysterious man’s origins, insofaras I suspect he ‘damned’ himself to his circumstances through the choices he made, but would prefer to blame Jacob for offering him the pen.

What do you believe? Is the Island “just” an Island? Is Jacob “good”? “Necessary?” Is faith something worth protecting? Is Existentialim a load of hooey? Lost asked some pretty interesting questions tonight. What are your answers?

Time will tell. Is it next Tuesday yet?

Next Week on Lost:

Looks like Jack will be continuing the “reflective” theme, taking a long look at himself in the water and staring pensively out to sea. Jacob returns, and he’s smiling. Claire makes her return to the show and seems to have taken Jin in and its not clear if he’s restrained. Someone picks up an axe (yay!). Jack goes all Jack-face on Hurley (yay!) and smashes a pane of glass/mirror in what looks like a lookout/bell tower (on top of the Temple, I guess?). Was this how the Island’s first inhabitants lit the way to the Island in some way, like a proto-Dharma beacon? Are we watching Jack smash the mirror, existentially-speaking? Having confronted the Other (Others), has he now destroyed his mirror self and achieved good being? Do I sound like I’ve been partaking of Dharma’s special brownies?


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