Jack: “This is what he wanted. This is what he’s been waiting for. Everything that he has done has been to get us here. He wanted to get us all in the same place, at the same time–a nice, enclosed space where we had no hopes of getting out of.”
• Notice that Jack’s words here directly mirror Anti-Locke’s words to Hugo from earlier in the episode. When Anti-Locke was describing “Widmore’s” plan, he was actually describing his own plan. Devious.
• Jack and Sawyer’s confrontation over the C4 is explosive stuff (see what I just did there?!). I’d argue that it’s the heart of the episode in terms of some of Lost’s larger themes. Jack wants Sawyer to believe in him. Sawyer’s done believing. Their confrontation arguably mirrors the argument between Eko and Locke over the pushing of The Button in Season 2. Interestingly, it also reinforces Jack’s overall position on The Button from that season – if they don’t touch it, nothing’s going to happen.
Jack’s faith in the un-exploding explosives is due to his experience with Richard in the Black Rock, where the dynamite he’d lit failed to kill them. This scene is, essentially, the Richard-and-Jack-in-the-Black-Rock scene all over again. Jack, filled with a strange new confidence, is utterly convinced that he’s right about what will and won’t happen, and thanks to our ringside seat during the Black Rock dynamite scene, we know that he’s probably right. The bomb can’t go off unless they do something to meddle with it. What I love about this moment is that, despite our relative-certainty that Jack’s got the right idea here, it makes perfect, crystal-clear sense for Sawyer to do what he does – because he doesn’t trust Jack, thanks to Juliet’s Jughead demise. The fact that Juliet chose her own fate doesn’t matter to Sawyer, as it probably wouldn’t matter to me in his place. But what pushes all of this into a kind of “moral tragedy” for Sawyer is the fact that Jack has gone a long way toward restoring Sawyer’s trust with his actions this season.
• So….how do these Rules work, exactly? We’ve seen that the Candidates impliedly cannot kill themselves, and we’ve heard that the Man in Black can’t harm them directly. How does planting a bomb on Jack fit with those vaguely-explicated ideas? Some folks voiced some confusion over how all of this fits together, so here’s my take: The Candidates cannot choose to kill themselves proactively (that’s why Jack’s jump attempt in Season 3 is interrupted, and why the dynamite fuse burns out). The Candidates cannot be directly harmed by the Man in Black. That’s it. Why is it then, if the Candidates can’t kill themselves, that the timer speeds up and the bomb explodes once the wires are removed? Because that action wasn’t predicated on a choice to kill themselves – it was a choice to try and save themselves.
The Rules, at least in part, keep the Candidates from leaving the board of life by themselves, and keep the MiB from making them leave it. But in between those parameters, the Castaways are free to hurt and murder each other all they want. That’s how I understand it. And Jack backs me up on this:
Jack: “What if he’s trying to get us to kill each other?”
That’s ultimately the crux of all of this, and its part of what makes this season, and the show in general, so interesting to me. Despite the presence of these pseudo-supernatural entities in the lives of the Castaways, the Castaways remain the architects of their own suffering. They are responsible for, and to, each other.
• Sawyer was damn ticked when Jack got Juliet killed. How’s he going to deal with feeling responsible for the deaths of at least three people?
Jack: “Why are you telling me this?”
Sayid: “Because it’s going to be you, Jack.”
• Just before Sayid makes the choice that defines and reconciles his entire story arc, he downloads a mouthful of important information straight into Jack’s ears. Desmond is still alive, he’s still trapped in the Well, Anti-Locke is going to want to kill him, and Jack must stop him. Why is Sayid telling him all of this? Because it’s going to be Jack. And what does that mean? Well, let’s revisit Ilana’s riddle: What lies in the shadow of the statue?
He who will save us all.
Does this mean that Jack is the true Candidate? Have Anti-Locke or Desmond shared that information with Sayid? It’s unclear, but strongly implied. For now, I’m content with Jack potentially being the “he” that Ilana’s riddle refers to.
• Sayid’s sacrifice directly mirrors Charlie’s sacrifice in The Looking Glass, and much of the Sub scene in general evokes Season 3’s heartwrenching finale. I find it all-too-believable that Sayid would choose to die in an act that might, in some way, redeem him in the eyes of Fate/God/his fellow Castaways. It’s a fitting end for a conflicted character, and I’d love to say that his ending brought me satisfaction as a viewer but I’m not going to sugarcoat things – Sayid’s ending lacked the impact it might have had, had I truly understood what the heck was going on with him all season. Carlton Cuse explained in the Jensen interview I linked to above that “Sayid’s entire season-long arc has basically been, if you tell him that he is evil, you can convince him he is evil. But if you tell him he is good, maybe you can convince him he is good.”
That strikes me as kind of…dumb, because that’s really NOT what Sayid’s season-long arc has been about, at least to my eyes. Arguably, that’s what his character’s series-long arc has been, and as such, Sayid’s decision here really is a moving ending for the character. Sayid’s series-arc has been a struggle to define himself to himself against overwhelming odds. He’s been told, over and over and over (and over) that he’s a killer, that he’s dangerous, and that he’s a torturer. He’s been placed in awful situations where any choice he might have isn’t much of a choice at all (nicely echoing the ways in which Jacob’s choices have been similarly difficult, and thematically playing up the idea that, in life, the really important choices are just as difficult). He’s allowed those opinions to shape who he is. This kind of behavior is, in a very real and applicable sense, the opposite of the kind of “Good Being” that I’ve argued is so central to this show, and the opposite of the sort of self-definition that the show’s Existentialist heart keeps beating by. By allowing Others to define who he is, Sayid has given up control of his own life.
Desmond’s down-the-Well chat with Sayid appears to have awoken Sayid from his sleepwalking state, appears to have reached him in a very real way and for good reason. There’s a terrible, beautiful simplicity to what Desmond says to Sayid, and there’s a profundity to the moral and ethical situation that Sayid finds himself as a result of their conversation. As I’d written previously: How can Sayid be with the woman he loves if he isn’t honest with her about what he’s done to be with her? And if he’s honest about what he’s done, how can the woman he loves be with Sayid?
If that’s all there were to Sayid’s journey – a man realizing that he ISN’T willing to be what he’s expected to be in order to get what he wants – I’d call Sayid Jarrah’s storyline a stunning success.
But that’s not all there is to his story, and here’s where I get tripped up/genuinely irritated. The above refers to his series-arc. And that series arc is satisfying. But Sayid’s season-arc has not just “basically been, if you tell him that he is evil, you can convince him he is evil. But if you tell him he is good, maybe you can convince him he is good.” It’s been far more spooky, seemingly-supernatural, and obtuse. What of his inexplicable resurrection? What of the fact that he had “a darkness” growing inside him – one that began growing before the Man in Black ever spoke with him? What of his undeniably zombie-ish behavior over a good 8 or so episodes? What about the notion of “infection,” which was so blatantly, intriguingly brought up over and over and over again?
NONE of that is answered inside the show itself. Instead, what we seem to be getting is what I’ve been guessing at for a number of weeks now – Sayid was, in name if not in fact, a Philosophical Zombie. He was a man zombified by a philosophy that controlled him courtesy of a promise to return to him what he wanted most in the world. And while I can totally get behind that idea (and in fact, quite like the idea, since the notion of becoming “infected” by ideas and by philosophies is very much in keeping with Lost’s themes and interests), within the show itself we are never given a clear indication that this is the case. Instead, we’ve gotten what amounts to an enormous build-up over Sayid’s “dark side,” only to see him swiftly switch horses midstream and decide “Hey! I’ll be good again!”
More problematic still, at least for me, is the fact that I’d begun associating Sayid’s “infection” with the other “infections” and “sicknesses” that have popped up throughout the run of the show. Whether it’s right or wrong to do so, it certainly feels natural to conflate the two – especially when we’re in the final season, and are expecting some answers to the mysteries that have come before. Basically, I feel as though the superstitious/creepy aspect of infection was so played up throughout the show via Rousseau, the Swan mural, the hazmat suits, the inoculations, Sayid’s resurrection, testing and diagnosis, and Rousseau’s beachside stand off, that the idea of “thought infection” needs to be confirmed or denied or in some way addressed within the series itself in order to make sense of the past and to makesense of what we’ve learned. Otherwise, all of that wonderfully eerie window dressing essentially means nothing. Speaking for myself, I need a connection between Robert’s attempted matricide/infanticide and Sayid’s condition, or an explanation as to why or how they are different.
Put a different way: I see no reason at all for the writers to have “infected” Sayid in such a wildly-fantastic manner if the point of it all was to show him struggling between what he wants (Nadia) and what he’s willing to do to get it – unless it was also to try and answer the notion of “infection” generally. And so far, in my eyes, they haven’t done so
• Adios, Frank!….? What do you think? Did Lapidus die on the sub? On the one hand, getting beaned on the head by a steel door while you’re sinking in a submarine is not a recipe for continued health and well-being. On the other hand, we don’t see Frank’s body. I’m of the opinion that Frank stuck around this season to serve as a red herring – the pilot needed to fly the Ajira plane. Once that was revealed to be part of the MiB’s con, Frank’s usefulness disappears. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lapidus’ magnificent leonine mane break the water’s surface soon.
• It was just awful that Hurley couldn’t find the First Aid kit aboard the Sub, I mean…
Where could that First Aid kit possibly be???
Hurley: “I have to go after Sayid..”
Unintentionally Hilarious Jack Line: “There is no Sayid!!!!!!”
Jin (in Korean): “I won’t leave you. I will never leave you again.”
• Yes, I got misty.
What is there to say about Sun and Jin? Well, I’ll tell you what my wife said: “Yeah, that’s tragic, but they just left their kid to be an orphan.” My wife is smart. That’s pretty selfish. But I bought their decision, selfish or not, and the way that the whole sinking sub scene recalled the flooding of The Looking Glass, Sun and Jin’s drifting hands calling to mind Charlie’s drifting body, gave me chills.
Oh, and Lost? Showing us their hands slowly drifting apart in that final shot? Heartbreaking. Thanks, you miserable bastards.
• Jin reappears, moments after his demise, over in the off-Island universe. Does this make his death “less meaningful”/poignant? I say no. The off-Island Jin is not the Jin we’ve spent six seasons getting to know. If anything, to me, his existence in this Other reality reaffirms Lost’s interest in perpetuity – in cycles without beginnings or endings.
• I found Locke’s tearful confession of guilt to be very moving, and a powerfully-relatable motivator for the man to refuse Jack’s offer. Lost has been underlining, highlighting, and triple-starring the ways in which its characters punish themselves for what they’ve done. Those who’ve hurt others in turn hurt themselves. John Locke doesn’t think that he deserves to walk, because of what he “did” to his father. That’s tragic. Well done, Lost.
• As for Locke’s revelation that he’s an amateur pilot? I have no clue whether that’s going to become important to the show’s endgame.
Jack: “What happened happened and…you can let it go.”
Locke: “What makes you think letting go is so easy?”
Jack: “It’s not. In fact, I don’t really know how to do it myself. And, that’s why I was hoping that…maybe you could go first.”
• Jack’s off-Island maturity reflects the growing maturity of on-Island Jack’s outlook. There’s humility and quiet strength in Jack’s admission here – an honesty about himself that on-Island Jack has just begun to acquire. I love this exchange (I realize I’ve said that a lot in this column, but it’s the truth again), both because it recalls their Season 2 exchange about belief (paraphrased – Locke: “Why is it so hard for you to believe?” Jack: “Why is it so easy for you?” Locke: “It’s never been easy!”) and because it offers a sense of reconciliation for these characters – people who’ve stood in starkly-stubborn opposition for so long.
Jack: “I can help you, John…I wish you believed me.”
• The echoing dialogue in this scene – words and phrases repeated that were first spoken seasons ago – feels to me like the growing pound of Oceanic surf against the shore of consciousness. “Enlightenment” is knocking at the door for both of these men, and they’re close to answering.
• Yes, I misted up when Sun and Jin bit it, but I full-on teared up watching Hurley break down so completely. Where do we go from here, as Joss Whedon once asked (in song no less), with the same sense of Existential wonderment and fear?
LOCKE: “It sunk.”
Anti-Locke’s awareness, both of the submarine’s sinking and of the survival of some of the Candidates, emphasizes again his supernatural status on the Island. How does he know these things? Next week’s episode, which promises to be the most potentially-divisive and simultaneously-illuminating episode of Lost thus far, ought to help us answer these questions.
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