Things I Noticed - Namaste
Transition episodes like Namaste are sometimes necessary to bring far-flung characters back into the main fold of the story. Some people raise the 'filler' warcry when this happens... if someone doesn't blow up or get shot these days it seems the episode is labeled a failure. I see it a much different way: roller coasters must go up to come down. Namaste is the click-click-click of the coaster making its upward climb toward the final run of episodes this season. The higher it climbs the better the ride, and I think, for those who took time to look around, we saw some very cool things on the way up. Thing I Noticed:
It's extremely cool that we got to see the Ajira Airways crash landing. It validated many things - including the runway - and it showed off Frank's kickass piloting skills. Still, watch what happens after Frank assumes control of the aircraft - he immediately jerks the control wheel into a diving right turn. Is he aiming for the flash? Or is he aiming to get away from it? This isn't the first time (or even the second) that Frank's flown into the time storm around the island. All during his one-sided conversation with the co-pilot, Lapidus seemed to be struggling with what he knew was inevitably about to happen. So once he took the aircraft off autopilot, did he embrace his perceived destiny? Or did he attempt to turn away from it? Because the plane seemed fairly level until Frank took the wheel.
Next we see the co-pilot's shock and surprise as they flash to daylight. This is similar to the helicopter rides to and from the freighter - either they gained or they lost a few hours during the time storm, just like Daniel's model rocket. It's interesting that the engines restarted just long enough to get the plane on final approach to the runway, and then just as suddenly the cockpit conveniently lost all power. Like most other inhabitants of the island, they've been summoned. Frank needs to get one of those hats that says "The Island is my co-pilot".
And finally, at long last: the runway. The existence of the runway is tremendous because it slaps us in the face with one big fact: all along, Ben knew that he'd need it. He'd instructed the Others to build it without telling them why, yet the whole time Ben knew he might require a more conventional way back to the island. Somehow Ben knew he wasn't getting the white-light teleport ticket... he was gonna have to take the harder ride. And while we're talking about the runway, remember when Pickett(?) said Ben was moving the project 'up two weeks' (can't remember the exact words). Was this an indication that Ben already knew something had changed? Did he realize the upcoming 815/Others battle royale was going to happen a little bit sooner than later? I think so.
Whatever Happened, Happened... Sort of
Now would be a great time for the vehement "nothing that already happened can be changed!" movement to explain why the original Dharma radio transmission is playing on the co-pilot's radio as he attempts his mayday call. Especially since Rousseau had changed the message in the mid-80's and had actually turned the message off about two seasons ago. Following the one time string theory, hearing that message in 2007 would be an impossibility.
Jack! You are Dealing with the Oddity of Time Travel with the Greatest of Ease!
As everyone plays three year catch-up it's amusing to see how out of place Jack looks in his suit and tie. Nothing much should shock any of the main characters at this point, yet Jack still struggles to wrap his head around being shot backward through time. It quickly becomes obvious that Jack never really thought about what to do next once he returned to the island. It seems like he assumed everyone would fall back into their old familiar roles. Yet suddenly here's Sawyer... and not just any Sawyer but quick-thinking, van-driving, head of Dharma security new-and-improved Sawyer. This throws Jack for way more of a loop than time travel ever could. It's a good thing nothing has changed with Juliet and his dad is still dead. Oops.
Sun is a Filthy Liar
This was the first title of my first paragraph of my first ever Things I've Noticed, way back at The Glass Ballerina. The statement still stands. Sun is a filthy liar, but it was still funny to see her whack poor Ben in the back of the head with that paddle.
For the past few weeks, I've really tried to rationalize why Sun would've been separated from the other group of characters. Maybe it's because she didn't fully recreate her circumstances on the initial Oceanic flight. Sun was with Jin then, and although she was holding his ring on the plane Sun still boarded Ajira alone (Sun even states this episode to Ilana "I was traveling alone"). Or maybe Sun wasn't sitting in one of the magical seat numbers, and the other 5 were? I've also theorized the island considered Sun 'tainted' by all her contact with Widmore, leaving her behind in 2007 for that reason. Finally this week, I examined Sun's killing of Colleen way back in the Glass Ballerina. At gunpoint, Colleen had told her "We are not the enemy. But if you shoot me, that's exactly what we'll become." Sun went on to (accidentally) shoot her anyway, and I wondered if this somehow mattered in the island's eyes. But later on I remembered how Sawyer glocked Tom in cold blood and Hurley ran Pryce down with the Dharma van... and that theory lost some steam. Truthfully, I'm open to ideas on this.
At any rate, Sun following Ben into the jungle made for an interesting scene. It should be recognized that Ben could've easily lost her if he wanted to - if he hadn't called out to Sun she wouldn't have found him. But he did, and Ben very matter-of-factly tells her where he's going. When Sun asks if Jin is on the other island Ben could've easily lied. Instead he replies "To be honest, I don't know". Ben IS telling the truth here, as I've said before. At this point in the story, Ben is in completely unknown and uncharted territory. For once in his life he doesn't know what's going to happen next. Nothing could be better evidence of this than him getting boned in the back of the skull with that canoe paddle.
Just before that, Ben's comment to Lapidus was hilarious: "Yeah, how'd that work out for everyone?" This episode was full of glib, funny dialogue that referenced past knowledge and events. But Ben's comments helped Frank decide to abandon the Ajira beach and go with Sun to the main island. Even Frank knows that the important stuff, the cool kids, and the big party is over there. I'd imagine Ben's purpose at this point is to find Richard and the Others, something he wouldn't exactly need Sun to do. I'm not going to say he asked Sun along out of friendship, but maybe Ben did feel a guilty obligation to bring her along considering he'd broken Locke's word to Jin.
And the Very Important Baby is...
...Ethan? Huh? To me, that was a pretty big letdown. Ethan's character doesn't seem all that important in the grand scheme of things, especially since we already know his fate. Or do we? :)
I also had to chuckle at how Juliet's demeanor changed once she heard that she was holding Ethan. She put him down quickly as if he had the cooties. And her words to Amy regarding having a baby with Sawyer "The time has to be right" - sure does. Because right now time itself isn't exactly right at all.
She's Only on the Island a Few Hours and Already Kate gets Leied
And by Sawyer no less. Symbolism? Hell yeah, but I think it was just the writer's twisted way of messing with us. Calling her Kate and not Freckles was a big step for Sawyer, and him wanting to be called Jim seems another attempt at detachment from his old life. Of course, Sawyer not wanting or needing Kate will probably make her chase him even more... especially once she sees that her chiseled badboy renegade has gone all respectable and leader-like. All the good qualities of Sawyer *and* Jack rolled into one? Juliet was either really stupid or really smart to move Kate into the house next door. She must be following that famous mantra: Keep your friends close, and your boyfriend's ex-girlfriends closer.
Don't Forget Your Mop and Bucket
In setting up the work assignments Sawyer blasted Jack's credentials to shit, and I'm pretty sure it was intentional. Putting Jack in charge of waxing floors was a great way of keeping him out any position of authority. It also might've been Sawyer's way of humbling him a little bit. Jack even laughed a little when he was told what his job would be, as if he knew what Sawyer did. It was also cool how Sawyer put his buddy Hurley in the kitchen. And did Juliet place Kate in the motor pool so she could keep an eye on her? Signs point to Yes.
The real question here is why would someone as important as Dr. Chang be relegated to checking in the new janitorial recruits? Shouldn't he be supervising those hammerheads drilling inches away from the donkey wheel - the ones who almost ended all existence as we know it? His appearance seems pointless: Chang's dialogue wasn't all that important, other than to mention the birth of Ethan.
Hi Jack, C'mon In... Grab a Beer... Oh and by the Way... You Sucked Four Seasons Straight
In the second most awesome scene of the week, Sawyer schools Jack in the ways of planning, leadership, and strategy. He does this holding a book, wearing glasses, and looking the most cool and collected he's ever been. Sawyer's not talking down to Jack here, he's just talking fact. And yet Jack's defensive reactions only give Sawyer reason to sigh, as if trying to explain the most elementary of concepts to a small child.
While it may seem like Sawyer is a little harsh on him, the stark reality is that for once, James is 100% right. He holds a mirror up to Jack's past methodologies and shows him how badly they've played out. As a leader Jack never really planned anything: things would just happen to Shephard's flock and Jack would react. Did Jack always have the group in mind? Sure. He was an unselfish leader, and he meant well with almost everything he did. Jack even made sacrifices at times, such as trying to save Kate and Sawyer while performing Ben's surgery. Still, this was only one of the few times Jack used his head. The rest of his leadership consisted of knee-jerk reactions to really bad situations, and many times his inability to step back and 'read a book' might've hurt the people he was trying to protect. Sawyer shows him this, and maybe Jack actually realizes that he's right. Even Jack didn't seem to believe his own weak argument of "I got us off the island".
Thus continues LOST's dance with duality, as Jack and Sawyer have now fully switched roles. The weight of responsibility for keeping everyone safe now rests squarely on Sawyer's shoulders, leaving Jack with nothing better to do than get a good night's sleep and mop some floors tomorrow. "Now ain't that a relief?" Sawyer asks him, and genuine relief actually DOES flood over Jack's face. "Yeah", Jack answers. And for once, Jack does looks relieved. He's finally absolved of that massive self-imposed burden - the one he took on his own shoulders about 5 minutes into S1E1.
Examining LOST right now, this very episode, it's almost a mirror image of the original show. The 815'ers have now become the outsiders, sneaking into camp (almost in an Ethan-like way), with Sayid even having to flat-out admit that he's one of the Others. Sawyer's in charge, a character who originally used to shirk any responsibility whatsoever. Jack's role is now unimportant and carefree... not even his skills as a doctor are required. The change even trickles down to Kate; at one time such a vital character... yet anything important that she did seems such a very long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Sawyer and Sayid have even physically switched roles: Sayid is now Sawyer's prisoner where once, during the torture episode, it was the other way around. The Swan hatch and the Flame Station - both with a lockable storage room, both harboring a captured 'Other'. Benjamin Linus has gone from omniscient super-character to getting blindsided by a woman with a canoe paddle... but hey, at least the island is helping heal up his arm. It's almost as if this 1977 Dharma setting is nothing more than an image we're watching through the mirror of LOST.
Wake Up, James!
Unfortunately for Jim LaFleur, this dream scenario he's suddenly cast himself a role in cannot last forever. Somewhere deep down he knows this, evidenced by his inner frustration when Hurley mentions the upcoming Purge. LaFleur is a different man than Sawyer, in a different time, with a completely different life. He's grown to like this life, and probably would've been just as happy never to see the O6 again. When they do show up, among his first words to Juliet: "Bring em' in before they screw up everything we got here". His use of the word 'we' isn't just to comfort Juliet - he really means it. Also consider Sawyer's words to Jack: "My people" - not the Dharma people, but *my* people.
We're going to see Sawyer torn between his loyalty for the 815 survivors he spent three months with and the Dharma Initiative he spent three years with. If you're James Ford, how do you reconcile something like that? On one side you've got the 815'ers who never fully trusted you, and on the other... a whole society of people who trust you enough to make you head of security. Sawyer's already finding out Jack's leadership role is going to be full of hard choices.
Radzinsky - Graduate of the Douche Academy
I expected him to be eccentric, I expected him to be crazy... but right from the start Radzinsky exhibits douche-like qualities that I didn't foresee. As we waited for the Sawyer/Sayid reunion conversation, Radzinsky annoyingly wouldn't leave them alone long enough for us to get it. He's also a Muppet-lover, and I just can't abide that.
We learn here that the Swan hatch is most likely being built in hostile territory. This would explain why it's buried, and why the entrance door to the Swan is kept hidden. There's only one reason I can think of for Dharma to be building this station outside the perimeter of the sonic fence: they're building it on the 'magnetic anomaly'. Is this Jughead? Probably. Do they know it? Maybe, maybe not. I'm thinking the Others buried Jughead far, far away from their camp - this would make it easier for Dharma to bury an entire station beyond their truce-line without being found out. If Dharma registered a strange energy source coming from the ground they might build a station just to study it. And once they uncovered Jughead maybe they did an "Oh shit!" and ordered 200 tons of concrete mix. We'll have to see.
Spoiler: Snape Kills Dumbledore
That kid must be channeling Benjamin Linus... either that or he went to the Michael Emerson school of creepy vapid staring. No matter what, the young actor did an awesome job of bringing Ben's looks and mannerisms to his scene with Sayid. It was cool to see young, still innocent Ben - untainted by the island, the Others, Jacob, or anyone else. This was simply the case of a curious, innocent boy bringing someone a sandwich. Or was it?
It struck me that at this point, maybe young Benjamin Linus has already had his first encounter with Richard in the jungle. We're seeing him during the period of time in which, according to Richard, he has to wait and be patient. If that's true, maybe Ben volunteered to bring Sayid the sandwich because he'd heard that the captive was a hostile. Maybe he came in hoping it was Richard, or that Richard would have sent word for him. Not sure yet, but we'll find out next week.
Doesn't Frank Know the Monster Eats the Pilot?
If not, Sun should tell him. Instead she seems ready to forge ahead despite the obvious monster-like sounds and thrashings in the jungle growth. Oddly, it seems the monster always appears this way just after the island receives a new batch of people. Instead of appearing as smoke tendrils, it does the whole tree-ripping thing. This happened after the 815 crash, again after Danielle's crew arrived on the island, and now once more. Maybe that's the monster in protection mode? Dunno, but if I were Frank I'd be extra careful. The co-pilot *always* dies in the crash, and the pilot usually dies a day or so later.
Christian's Creepy Cabin of Cryptic Cinematography
By far, the BEST of ghost Christian's creepy entrances yet! "Oh, Jin? Sure, yeah - come on in!" I couldn't believe how easily Frank and Sun followed this gaunt, freakishly calm guy into his glowing haunted cabin. But I guess both these characters have been around long enough to know that when it comes to really strange things, you just go with the island's flow. Still, it was such a Scooby Doo moment. All that was missing was Lapidus shouting 'Zoinks'.
I'd like to think Christian's appearance marks some great significance, and here his goal seems solely to point out Sun's way. His words "You have a long journey ahead of you" seems to indicate two things: one, that Sun *can* get back to Jin. And two, that the O6 aren't considered 'back' until they're all back. Christian's agenda seems to involve Sun reuniting with the 1977 characters. Once again, the writers make a strong Stephen King reference here: Christian's pointing out of the 30-year old Dharma recruitment photo eerily parallels the final scene from The Shining where we learn from a similar photo that Jack Nicholson has *always* been caretaker of the Overlook hotel. Spooky, yet extremely cool. (Oh yeah, and they did this in 12 Monkeys too).
Also spooky; Frank's silhouette in the doorway as it swings in the wind. Smoke and mist seem to float around. Movement in the corner of the room reveals a woman (admittedly I didn't catch this the first time around) with what looks like blonde hair. Is it Claire? Is it the smoke monster? Is Christian the smoke monster, since he shows up just as the monster was stomping around in the jungle? And what did the whispers say?
I couldn't decipher the whispers, but I still hold that they're echos of the past (and sometimes future). Sun and Frank are standing in the exact place where, 30 years ago, a few dozen people were milling around looking for hamburgers. I'm pretty sure Christian's arrival creates some sort of temporary 'slice' in time, kind of like a tunnel backward to another place and era. Words and sounds echo through that tunnel in the form of whispers. And unlike the Verizon network, they don't come through crystal clear... they arrive jumbled and hard to hear, like two tin cans and a taut piece of string.
Another thing Christian points out happens so quickly I almost missed it: there's a 1978 recruitment photo on the wall too. Does this mean we'll see another year's worth of our main characters living in Dharma time? Originally the purge happened in 1992, but there sure didn't seem to be that many more photos on the wall. And of course I use the word originally, because...
It certainly looks as if things *have* changed. From the moment Sun and Faraday walk past the rusted lamps on the rundown Dharma dock to minute they arrive at the overly ramshackle barracks... something's way, way off. This isn't the way the Others left the barracks not-so-long ago, and it's definitely not the result of a few short years of neglect. Big trees grow way too close to the buildings, and everything looks extremely beat up. As Christian takes them inside the recruitment center, we see printed signs hanging at odd angles and the dust-covered photographs and recruitment materials used by the Dharma Initiative. We saw this place 10 minutes ago in 1977, and now we see it 30 years later... only it can't look this way because after the purge we know the Others lived here for a good decade or more. And when they did live here they kept shit neat and tidy - they kept the bushes groomed, the grass watered, and Ethan was pretty handy with a hammer and nails. It's not possible that the Others would live here without de-Dharmatizing the barracks, especially considering It would get a little creepy living somewhere surrounded by photos of people you mass murdered with poison gas. So what does it all mean?
It means of course, that something's changed. Someone has changed something in the past to create the timeline Sun and Frank are now seeing. This jives well with the original transmission still coming from the radio tower, and on a more extensive level it explains the subtle changes in scenery, decor, and circumstance that we've seen throughout the whole show. Faraday's theory appears to be wrong: things can be changed. The bigger question is this: were they changed for the better?
Was the purge avoided? If so, what happened to Dharma? What happened to the Others? Is the whole island dead? Is the whole world dead? Was the war Widmore predicted already waged? If so, did the right side win? And if something really terrible did come to pass, how can Sun, Frank, Ben and Locke fix it? Or is it up to the 815 crew to make those changes from their position in the past? BIG questions.
Oh, and One More Thing...
Keep a close eye on the Battlestar Galactica series finale tomorrow night. ;)