THINGS I NOTICED - EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED HAPPENED
For some reason, these lack of action type episodes seem to go by faster than those where everything's happening quickly. Whatever Happened Happened was a good episode, presented in our well-loved oldschool LOST flashback format. It's also now my favorite Kate-centric episode. Things I Noticed:
Do You See What I See? Probably Not.
Not me, mind you... but the characters on LOST. Know what they see? Only what they need to see. Or more specifically, only what they need to be shown. Which is why when Jin turns little Ben over, the bullet hole in his zip-down hoodie is now on the exact opposite side of his chest - on the other side of the zipper. It's not even close, it's a complete mirror image of the spot where Sayid drilled him precisely through the heart.
Continuity error? Maybe on 24. But this is LOST, and we're seeing exactly what the island wants us to see, through Jin's eyes. But through the eyes of Sayid? For him the bullet went right through the kid's heart - no need for a coup de grace. And this, my friends, is how the island isn't so much manipulating the events or happenings we see from week to week. What's being manipulated are the perceptions and experiences of the characters on LOST, and yes, even the flashbacks. I'll go further nuts on this at the end of my review, but for anyone still dangling from that last thin thread of the continuity argument? It just snapped.
Kate shows up to Cassidy's house listening to more Patsy Kline, showing me that the island's record collection is about as extensive as its liquor cabinet. "The only thing different, the only thing new" - extremely telling, considering that this episode goes to great lengths letting us know that nothing is different, nothing is new. By the end of the episode it's been purposely drilled into our heads that everything that happened well... happened. Even the next line of the song could be applied to Kate's future situation regarding Sawyer and Juliet: "I've got your picture, she's got you".
And so Kate sing-songs her way up to Cassidy's front door, looking a lot like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and carrying Aaron instead of Toto. Again, she's singing the song that Claire's dad used to sing to her - the same song on Aaron's baby mobile. In this flashback Kate's just settling into her comfortable off-island dream world, she's got fistfuls of money, no one's chasing her, and she's getting ready to set up house with Jack and Aaron. She has no idea that her off-island world is a complete fabrication, one that will dissolve quickly away once the island summons her back a few years (or yellow bricks) down the road. Look around: even Cassidy's neighborhood seems impossibly bright, neat, and picture perfect - it's no wonder Kate's singing.
Here Cassidy seems to be the voice of reason in a world of fantasy. She rains on Kate's little Sawyer parade, and balks at Kate's big string of lies. Kate begins to tell her partial truths, hoping that this will appease her, but Cassidy's way too smart for that. Time spent grifting with Sawyer has rubbed off on her, and she tosses Kate's main lie, which is of course Aaron, right back in her face. The little play kids blocks on Cassidy's table almost spell out the word 'Stop' (actually BTOP but the 'B' looks like an 'S' when obscured by the cactus, and the 'P' is misaligned) - perhaps a message left by the same person who slapped the "I was here moments ago" sticker on Charlie's guitar. Whether this was to stop Cassidy from grilling Kate, or to stop Kate from lying, or whether I'm just reading wayyyy too much into a couple of plastic blocks, I don't know.
If He Dies... He Dies.
Jack finally says "no." Man, I thought that rocked. I loved it that Jack goes all Ivan Drago on little Ben's mysterious moving wound, and it's about time. The reverse roles are getting crazier and crazier, with Jack shrugging uncaringly much the same way Sawyer did when Jack tried to shake him down for Shannon's asthma inhaler. Kate even looks at him the same way she looked at Sawyer back then, a combination of incredulity and disgust. But this time we can't blame him: Jack makes a pretty good argument for not wanting to help Ben, even as a young kid.
Not much to say here, because Jack put it all very well: he's been here before. He's already operated on Benjamin Linus to save his life. He's already taken that shower that he's about to take, he's already stepped out in that towel and been reflected in that mirror... we've heard this song already. The only difference is that this time, Jack's on the Locke side of the coin. "Maybe the island just wants to fix things itself" - this is something S1-4 Jack Shephard would never have said. Months, years of trying to deny the impossibilities of what's been happening to everyone has finally give Jack a front row in the first pew of the church of faith - not science. This, plus his talk with Sawyer seems to have sunk in: Jack's taken the time to examine all the actions he's taken since flight 815 crashed, and he's determined that nothing he did really accomplished anything. Whatever was going to happen would be unfazed by Jack's intervention... and when Jack did intervene, it was simply because he was meant to. Totally maddening. Imagine realizing such a total loss of control - that nothing you ever did, or would do, really mattered at all. THIS IS WHAT JACK'S MEANT TO THINK. This is what the island has been trying very, very hard to show him. When Jack mentions he'd been "getting in the way" it's because he HAD been getting in the way.
Will Jack be like this from here on out until the end? The island would certainly hope so. It's gone to great lengths to tear down Jack's whole belief structure, to put him in the place he is now. But in the end, I think Jack's going to rise back up - and it will be all the more dramatic when he does. Jack's got a hugely important role at the end of the story, and I'm pretty sure he'll need to be the old Jack in order to play it.
You Got Two Pints of Katie In You Buddy!
Ironically enough, Uncle Rico finally gets to (indirectly) see time travel. Last episode they had us feeling bad for Benjamin Linus, but in this one you couldn't help but lend some sympathy toward poor Roger. He's been dealt some pretty bad cards: not too smart, wife dies during childbirth, lured unknowingly to a better life that contained nothing more than a mop bucket. We saw the human side of him as he admitted his failures to Kate, who unknown to him could empathize with him over the difficulties of parenthood. Roger's problem is that he takes his life's frustrations out on the only other person in his life, his son. Yet after watching him this episode, we saw that he had genuine fear, worry, and love toward wounded Ben - even after he knew he'd taken his keys. A cool side to a tough character.
Miles + Hurley = Pure Awesome
If anyone should get a spinoff show, it should be these guys. Their conversation this episode rang with the clear echoes of the debate within LOST's audience: the people who believe that everything we see is predetermined and unchangeable, and those who believe that changes can, will, and may have already been made. "You're an Idiot", Miles tells Hurley, representing the Everything that Happened, Happened argument. But Hurley's response is equally cool: "Am I?"
Admittedly, it sure looks as if Miles' argument is winning - at least this episode. Miles' linear explanation of living life straight through, gaining memories, and of how going back in time wouldn't affect the future through death and dying... these ideas all seem very rational and well thought out. Hurley's question as to why Ben wouldn't have memories of Sayid when he meets him in the future is a good one, but then again Ben hasn't exactly been forthcoming with information since the day we met him. And Richard's hint at Ben "forgetting everything that's happened" seems like a very convenient (or bullshit?) way of explaining away this plot hole, if in fact it is a plot hole, which I'm pretty sure it's not.
Does this mean I've changed my mind about predetermination? Not even close. You've got to ask yourself why the writers would go to such great lengths to explain this in such detail... so much that they'd even name the episode this way. Convincing us that nothing can ever be changed is akin the island convincing Jack that nothing he really does matters anymore. It's akin to Hawking telling Desmond that his only destiny lies in pushing the button. It's a smokescreen, a curtain - it's just a big fat giant set up. They do this so that when things finally do get changed, or we get verification that things have already been changed, it'll be that much more a dramatic yanking of the rug from beneath our proverbial feet. Stick with me on this - you don't wanna be the ones flat on your ass while the writers are standing there grinning and holding the carpet.
There is one thing I'll eat crow on this week: my last week's assertion that Kate was going to try and convince Sawyer she came back to the island 'for him'. I still think the ABC promos screwed me a little on that one, but I'll say this: the character of Kate went a long way toward winning me over this episode. I'm also pretty sure the writers tried extra hard to create an episode that shed some good light on Kate, and they fully accomplished this. Kate's actions concerning Aaron were entirely unselfish.
And although Kate came back because the island summoned her, one cool thing to note is that Kate came back with a purpose: Claire. This seems pretty important considering that, other than Sun, no one else came back to the island with any sense of purpose whatsoever. Sayid came back unwillingly, and Jack and Hurley's most popular answer: "We just gotta go back".
Also important, it seemed Kate couldn't go back to the island until she'd resolved something: her lie. This was part of the whole redemption-before-getting-on-the-plane process. Jack, the inventor of the lie, had to finally (and besottedly) admit to himself that they weren't supposed to leave. Hurley spilled the entire can of island beans to his mom at the kitchen table, absolving himself of his own lie. Sayid's big lie was apparently trying to be a carpenter instead of a killer. And at the end of this episode, Kate finally tells Cassidy and Carole everything: all about the plane crash, Claire being alive, and how she assumed custody of Aaron. Her lie is now over, and that's when she gets on the plane. Maybe Sun ended up in 2007 because she never resolved her lie? Dunno.
Jack's Not Fully Clean Until He's ZestFully Clean
Whether Juliet was furious with Jack for not helping Ben, or whether she just wanted a look at little Jack, I'm pretty sure they've filled their quota of Jack coming out of the shower scenes.
Dharma Might Wanna Invest in a Portable Stretcher
The island's healing properties must be working overtime the way Sawyer's lugging little Ben through the jungle. When that 2nd van pulled up to the sonic fence, I thought for sure Jack was gonna step out of it. But when Sawyer did, it was pretty cool that he'd come to help Kate with Ben. Three years with Dharma have instilled him with old Jack-like qualities and sense of responsibility. And I don't want to get my hopes up, but Sawyer's words to Kate in the jungle seemed to put another nail in the quadrangle coffin. Aside from being changed, he does seem done with her.
He'll Always Be One of Us
Richard steps out of the jungle looking very Jeff Probst, somehow already aware that Sawyer's asked "his people" to bring Ben Linus to him. No coconut telegraph this time, Richard's gotten word of Ben's impending arrival from communicating with the island or perhaps from Jacob himself. He must answer to one of them, because as he tells his men, he certainly doesn't answer to Charles Widmore or Ellie.
"He won't remember any of this"... Richard's words here are intentionally non-specific. Obviously this means Ben won't remember being shot, but after his trip to the temple just how far back won't Ben remember? Could it be possible that Ben won't remember anything at all? If so, this would explain his long ago assertion that he was born on the island. But also if so, wouldn't this render his past childhood flashbacks of Annie null and void, making them useless in future Ben-centric episodes? And if Ben suddenly has no past knowledge of his life before the temple, would he still be able to seamlessly assimilate back into Dharma society, wait another 15 years or so, and then execute his role in the purge? Or is this HOW he does it, without any guilt or remorse, other than for Horace? Man, that's a lot of new questions.
In the past, I've mentioned that Ben's "I was born on the island" line has always struck me as the truth - not a lie. Whatever he remembers, I think after the temple Ben is given the standard issue island re-birthing package. Desmond got one after he turned the failsafe key, although I think his was a bit different. Christian got one, Locke certainly just got one, and maybe even Doc Ray got one but drowned shortly afterward because his didn't come with anything buoyant. Perhaps the crew of the Black Rock got one also, but Danielle was handy enough with a rifle to crash that party pretty quickly.
Regardless, Richard makes a point to tell Sawyer and Kate that Ben will 'always be one of them'. Unlike Juliet who could be easily excommunicated, Benjamin Linus would be forever initiated into the Others secret club. I get the impression that Ben is about to go through a subterranean, more personal version of island baptism than the rest of the Others have gone through (with Richard maybe being the exception). In exchange for his life, poor unconscious Ben is about to sacrifice his future ability to choose any kind of destiny all his own. Later on in life, I think Ben learns this might even be worse than dying.
This is the reason why, above all else, I've always believed Ben not to be evil. He's never been his own person, and has spent his life doing the island's work. Just as the old John Locke has always been a puppet whose strings are constantly being pulled and manipulated by others, Ben's own destiny has been unwantingly placed before him at an age where he could nothing about it. It sucks, and it's always sucked. He knows this, and I think it's why Ben shouts down the island with his whole "I hope you're happy" speech and leaves via the donkey wheel. He wants to change things. Ben is thoroughly finished doing the bidding of this fickle bitch - he finally wants to have his own life. But in order to accomplish this, I think Ben knew he had to sneak back onto the island via some very shady means. Ben's helping the O6 these past two seasons may have seemed to be according to the island's plan, but I think Ben just had to make it look that way.
As I've mentioned before, I'm pretty sure Ben has a plan of his own - one he can't tell anyone just yet. His plan probably sucks too, because for once in his life he's pretty much winging it. This is why he can't foresee getting blindsided with a canoe paddle. But my point here: Ben doesn't care about the island at all.
Perception, Illusion, and Bruce Willis
In all the movies and shows I've ever watched, my biggest holy shit moment came at the end of the Sixth Sense. I was lucky enough to see that movie without knowing the ending, and I'll never forget the shivers that shot down my spine during the big reveal. Even cooler, they spent the next minute or so going back to show me just how many clues I'd missed along the way - clues that seemed so obvious at the end, but not so obvious as the story was told.
LOST's ending is going to be exactly this way. There's going to be one big huge crazy no-fucking-way reveal, and when it comes it's going to make time travel look like a secondary sub-plot. Half the viewers will act cataclysmically pissed off, but to the other half I think it will be the most ingenious thing they've ever seen.
As I watch LOST, I look for these clues. I think back to my seat in the movie theater during the Sixth Sense, and I'm trying not to get fooled again. The producers and writers have strewn clues everywhere... all over the show. But they pepper these clues with red herrings, songs, book titles, and comedic anagrams to the point where we just chuckle and start to disregard them. Kind of like the word "Illusion" on the back of the boat at the dock scene this episode (and last episode). We've seen this dock scene three times already, and each time with suddenly different dialogue, just as the wound on Ben's chest suddenly has a different position, just as the picture frames changed in Miles' flashback and a whole host of other stuff.
Humor me for a minute, and watch Kate and Aaron in the supermarket. She asks where the juice boxes are, gets distracted by Jack's call, and then loses Aaron. Watch the look the stockboy gives her when she tells him she lost her son: as he says "excuse me" his facial expressions register confusion, not concern for someone who just walked by with a little blonde boy in tow. Rewind to when Kate first asks the question, and the stockboy never even looks at Aaron. In fact, no one looks at Aaron in the supermarket at all, except for Kate. As she frantically runs through the aisles the next scene is shown, not surprisingly, in the store's giant mirror.
Suddenly Kate sees Aaron again, this time seemingly being led away by Claire. We know Claire is supposed to raise Aaron, and the island is showing Kate this. It's slapping her in the face with the fact that she's living a lie. It leads Kate back to Cassidy's house, where Clementine answers the door. "Hi Auntie Kate!", she says. She doesn't say hi to Aaron. She doesn't even look at Aaron. Strange too, because Aaron apparently rang the bell.
Later on, Kate gives Carole a picture of Aaron on a tire swing. Immediately she asks "Where is he?" Kate answers her question with "two doors down", but Carole continues to stare at the photo. Where is he indeed.
Okay, let me back up a minute. Am I saying that I believe Aaron's nothing more than a figment of Kate's imagination, and that he never existed at all? Nope. Aaron is as real as reality gets - on LOST, anyway. There are lots of people who see and interact with Aaron - Cassidy for one. But I am saying this: Cassidy's words this episode were all about how Kate needed Aaron, instead of the other way around. The minute Kate began wondering if Aaron wouldn't be better off without her, he suddenly and instantaneously disappeared.
Yes, I know they used the whole curly blonde woman scene as a vehicle to influence Kate's decision to leave Aaron with grandma. The scene where she said goodbye to Aaron was also very touching. But what if perception plays more of a part in every single character's story than most of us are really, truly looking into? What if every time we're seeing something, we're only seeing it from the perspective of the person or people involved in that scene at the time?
S2E1 - Swan Hatch. Desmond's record player, the lamps, the shelves - it all looks one particular way. An episode later Desmond storms off into the jungle and the 815er's inhabit the Swan... and suddenly all these things have a subtly different look to them. What if these things never changed at all, but the way people saw them did? Sayid saw a bullet hole in the left side of Ben's chest. Jin saw it in the right side. And when Sawyer and Kate take Ben out of the van together, the wound is now lower down, much closer to his abdomen. Is this their own vision of where the wound is? Or am I batshit crazy?
Chew on that this week, as I chew on why Ben looked so surprised to see Locke alive when he woke up (I truly thought he'd have expected it).
Scene of the Week
Hands down, the best scene this week is next week's preview. For the staunch anti-spoiler fans who don't watch previews, all I'll say is you should bring a second pair of shorts. And maybe some towels for easy cleanup.