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Of course you knew Michael was coming back. The writers had promised he'd return, and Michael's portrayer, Harold Perrineau, has been in the credits for some time now.
In boxing terms, this is like a fighter pulling his right hand way down to his hip to throw a haymaker; it's telegraphed long before it arrives, and the recipient is more than ready for it.
Talk about misdirection.
Michael/Kevin Johnson were the least of the reveals in this episode. The big trick of the episode was narrative; the blending of flashforwards with flashbacks. We've already seen both devices used this season; “Confirmed Dead” brought back the flashbacks, and “The Constant” showed Des flashing back while, according to Cuse and Lindelof, Minkowski flashed forward (although we're not privy to Minkowski's flashes). In “Ji Yeon,” we get both flashforwards and flashbacks at once, for the first time. This could be a new narrative device we'll see again, used to keep us guessing throughout an episode; maybe we'll see some development of the technique where we can't quite tell which is which over the span of a few episodes (which wouldn't be a bad way to lead up to a finale). It's something to watch for.
The use of both devices at once was interesting just for the irony/build-up/pay-off standpoint, but it does something else that plays back into a greater theme of Lost. There were four ostensible narrative time-locations in this episode: two present locations (the freighter and the beach), the flashforward, and the flashback. By having all three exist at once in the same episode, we're getting another perspective on the idea of spacetime. With literary references like Watchmen, Slaughterhouse-Five, and A Wrinkle in Time, and other references like Stephen Hawking and David Lewis, we know that we're dealing with a particular interpretation of spacetime that says all points in time — past, present and future — exist at once, just like all physical locations in spacetime exist at once.
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