THINGS I NOTICED - The Candidate
In case it hadn't occurred to you yet, The Candidate was a slap-in-the-face reminder of one sure thing: the end is drawing near. It had thrills, chills, chaos and death, but it also had a pace that worked really well for how quickly it advanced the storyline. Also, for the first time in a while, there was a solid balance between on and off island... maybe because the alternate timeline scenes were totally excellent this week. Things I Noticed:
I'll See You That Mortar Strike, and Raise You a Hit-and-Run Accident
Maybe it's because the timelines seem to be merging, or pehaps it's because we now have six seasons of the show for comparison. Either way, the parallels and mirror image scenes on LOST have been increasing geometrically. Jack saving Locke's life off-island is reflected by Locke saving Jack's back at the beach, and that's without even going into the constant repetition of dialogue this episode.
Locke's guilt over his accident is holding him back, keeping him from believing he deserves a second chance. Later on Jack would hand him some sincere and poignant reasons for wiping the Tabula Rasa, but for right now Locke is content to keep things the way they are. That's when we see that maybe Jack hasn't changed at all. Although he's fixed the David situation, he still can't stop trying to save everyone. Locke's problem? He still hasn't learned to put himself first.
As we see later on, both of these characters need to let go. By still clinging to their old ideologies, they're still unable to 'see' the truth. For Desmond, it took a stark visual reminder in the form of Charlie underwater. But for Jack and Locke... throughout duplicated scenarios and repeat dialogue, these characters still don't get it. They're still blinded by the inability to break out of their old bad habits. They simple can't see the forest for the trees... despite Bernard handing Jack a chainsaw and practically pull-starting it for him this episode.
This Just In: Kate Austen is Officially Superfluous
Six years later, it's disappointing to see that Sawyer still hasn't learned. Every single time you hand the rifle back to someone after disarming (and humiliating) them, they're going to nail you right in the balls with it. In complying with "put the gun down", just for once I'd like to see Sawyer chuck it into the jungle, making the poor asshole have to go pick it up and saving his balls in the process. Nice disarm on doughboy though.
In all honesty, when Widmore first got to the island I thought he was going to be a refreshing change when it came to getting some direct answers. The way he spoke so frankly to Jin after capturing him seemed pretty legit, and I was hoping for some oldschool enlightenment. Turns out I was wrong. Charles Widmore is the same cryptic, dickish ringleader as everyone else, locking our heroes in a cage at gunpoint without even a hint of explanation other than the old standby: "It's for your own good."
His only real contribution so far? Bringing Desmond to the island. That, and letting us know that Kate never had any true purpose on the island at all. Either this makes her character totally redundant, or she's still somehow flying under everyone's radar. The jury's still out on that one, but I really want to know why Jacob touched her nose.
Bernard's Face: Full of Smug, Knowing Answers or Just Bonelessly Creepy?
The answer is BOTH. Not only are Bernard's facial expressions creepy in a horrified Gumby sort of way, but the man is also totally in on things. The dialogue he shares with Jack lends assloads of credence to my original theory that both Rose and Bernard know what's going on... both on the island during The Incident and off the island in the flash-sideways timeline.
"You mind if I ask you why you're so interested in Mr. Locke... Jack?" Listen to Bernard casually add Jack's name to the end of that sentence, as if they're old island buddies. Also watch the knowing smile that crosses Bernard's face immediately afterward, as Jack searches for the answer to his question. "Oceanic 815. Pretty weird huh? Maybe you're onto something, here."
It's more than obvious that Bernard knows. Just as he couldn't stop Juliet from marching off to her death by giving her direct answers, he can't tell Jack exactly what he needs to know. "I can't break patient confidentiality and tell you something I shouldn't. This is a punch-to-the-gut metaphor for "I can't pull back the curtain Jack, you need to do that yourself." Bernard does skirt the line however, sending Jack in the right direction by writing him a quick prescription for the truth.
In many ways, the whole situation is reminiscent of Locke's words to Charlie, all the way back during The Moth. Bernard could take his knife, gently widen the opening, and allow Jack to go free. If he did this however, Jack might be too weak to survive. The struggle - in this case, the struggle for personal growth - is the very thing that strengthens the person in question. It prepares him for the world outside the cocoon... or in this case, outside the realm of the island.
There's also one recurring thread woven throughout the alternate timeline, and it gets mentioned again here by Bernard: 3 years. Everything important that happened in our character's lives seemed to have occurred three years ago. Since the flash-sideways timeline presumably takes place in 2004, that puts Locke's accident somewhere in 2001, and this means little to us. Yet if we believe this person to be our Bernard - the lovable dentist who remembers spending three years on the island with Rose, Vincent, and a shitload of canned goods - then to him it's actually 2007 right now.
This may solve the single biggest problem most people have with assuming the real and sideways universe can't be running concurrently: the fact that they're separated by three years. Yet when you start viewing things from the perspective of someone like Rose or Bernard, it actually synchs up the two timelines nicely. These people have already lived those years, and even characters who've died (Charlie, Libby, Keamy, etc..) may have also experienced that same amount of time go by. Perhaps it somehow is 2007, and the rest of our characters have yet to realize it.
That whole theory's pretty kooky, and it admittedly still needs lots of work. I'm open to anything that supports it or tears it down, but either way, the repeated reference to 3 years is definitely something we should explore further.
Welcome... To HYDRA ISLAND!
That seemed kinda off, didn't it? I guess with all the canoe-trips and flip-flopping between storylines (and timelines), the writers felt the need to explain exactly where we are these days. And while we're on the subject of flip-flopping, let's talk briefly about the difference between night and day.
Continuity errors aside, there has to be something up with the passing of time on the island. Over the past several weeks we've watched night turn to day in a just matter of hours, and vice versa. This week's episode was no different, and these huge gaps in time are getting to the point where they're actually pretty distracting.
As Sawyer tells Kate, it feels like we're running in circles. Timewise, those circles now seem to be getting smaller and smaller. If this is intentional, perhaps the island is shifting or moving through time, as we saw way back in season four with Daniel's rocket. Also remember how night turned to day when Frank flew the chopper to the freighter, and how the same thing happened when Frank flew Ajira 316 back to the island. Day and night mean very little when it comes to the time storm surrounding the island, and if that storm is moving (or the circle of the island's influence slowly closing) it could explain many of these changes.
Back on the beach, the dark man flat out lies to Jack's face - and Jack almost seems to know it. Unfortunately he doesn't fully piece everything together until later on, when he sees the bomb. "I could kill you Jack, right here, right now", the dark man tells him. "And I could kill every single one of your friends, and there's not a thing that you can do to stop me."
Examine Terry O'Quinn's mannerisms and you'll see a lot of suppressed frustration here. As viewers, we already know his words aren't true. The MIB can't touch the candidates directly, as the boy in the jungle has so laughingly reminded him. Flocke has had to play follow the leader for most of this season, and at this point his patience is wearing very thin. Just as he thought the game was over, he's had to come up with yet another loophole - this time one to kill off the candidates - and now on top of this, Jack suddenly doesn't want to leave the island. We already know the man in black is way past the point of wanting to still play games, and yet countermoves are somehow still being executed against him.
One more thing about this scene: the top half of Locke's scar is gone. Maybe it's nothing, or maybe it's something... but it was very, very noticeable. Going out on a limb, maybe it somehow represents the merging of timelines - the transition of scar-free LAX_Locke back to the island. Or maybe (if you're still on board with the whole Jacob/MIB being two halves of a whole idea), Jacob's essence is slowly healing that scar. Kind of far fetched, but it did stick out in my mind.
Two Dozen Sonic Fence Posts? Check. Pair of Giant Donut Magnets? Check. GPS-guided Mortar? Check. Backup Generator? Uh oh...
And so, in the end, Charles Widmore's master plan is foiled by a complete lack of foresight. In the blink of an eye, his once sharp-looking crew of monster-hunting veterans are reduced to a bunch of panic-stricken freshmen, shooting rifles into the jungle that may just as well have been water pistols.
So I'm watching this scene thinking: "Wait... are Widmore's people really shooting at the smoke monster? Really???" Yup. And again, this kinda sucks. While the monster scenes are always cool to watch, I was expecting a hell of a lot more out of Widmore. Unlike Bram or Illana, Charles spent a lot of time on the island. You'd think he should know better. At the very least though, smokie's infiltration of Widmore's encampment paves the way for a rather predictible and joyous upcoming event: the death of Zoe (let's hope).
It All Comes Back Around... Especially If You're Anthony Cooper
Jack's tireless efforts to fix things, tempered by Bernard's gentle elbow to the ribcage, puts him at the nursing home of Anthony Cooper. Helen tries talking Jack out of continuing his investigation with: "You saved John. Why can't that be enough?" And Jack, speaking for all of us, answers back quite simply: "Because it's not."
Damn straight, Jack. At this point, nothing is enough. With only a few hours of LOST left, I expect each week to be a whole avalanche of answers. And if you're going to introduce yet another strange mystery (i.e. how Locke and his dad got hurt), you'd better answer that mystery within the same damned episode, just like you did right here.
Anyway, as Helen wheeled a catatonic Anthony Cooper into view I was reminded sharply of two things. One was Captain Pike of the original Star Trek. The second? The guy sitting in the old chair back at Jacob's cabin, the one who eerily called out "Help me..."
There are a lot of ways to explain Cooper's vegetative state, but none of them are definitive. It's entirely possible his condition is purely physiological; the result of Locke's bad pilotage. Still, I can't help but think of George Minkowski, or Daniel's girlfriend Theresa. The Anthony Cooper we see here has a strangely haunted look to him, as if a large part of him were missing. With so little time left we might never really know, but in the back of my own mind I keep hearing that guy in the cabin calling for help. And if anyone on LOST deserves to be time-stuck in some kind of jaunt-like limbo hell, we can all agree that it's Coop.
Somebody Set Us Up The Bomb. Still Not Sure Who It Was
The Ajira plane has always been a bone of contention with me. It's never sat well that LOST could end with our main characters just flying off into the sunset, and if Frank were at the helm the whole thing would be even more campy. At times I could even picture him pulling back on the control wheel just as he ran out of runway, open shirt flapping wildly, landing gear skimming the tree-tops as Frank wiped sweat from his brow and made wisecracks about things being "too close for comfort". Ugh.
So yeah, I for one was happy to see the plane wired to explode. But who exactly did it? Widmore's people would be the most logical answer of course, but it seems pretty silly for Charles to think he could just blow up the smoke monster. And since I never once believed the man in black would escape the island by airplane, I can only assume Widmore would be thinking along those lines too.
So did Flocke wire the plane to go off? Makes sense, if you think about it. He wants all the candidates dead in one fell swoop, and by wiring the explosives to the electrical system he's allowing them to kill themselves by powering the airplane up. Maybe once Jack announced he wasn't leaving the island, Flocke decided on a whole different plan - the submarine. He does take the dead guy's wristwatch before 'discovering' the explosives, and on the fly, quickly improvises a bomb.
Could've also been the Ben/Richard/Miles triple-threat, but I'd imagine they would've set the bomb off right away rather than rig it to go off later on. Who the hell knows. One thing's for sure though: when Locke talks about Widmore "gathering everyone in one spot" and the trying to kill them? He's actually talking about his own plan. Coming out of the airplane and immediately showing off those bricks of C-4 was a great way to gain the trust and credibility Flocke would later use to manipulate everyone onto the sub.
In the Alt-Universe, That Vending Machine Works Just Fine
In the LAX timeline we're shown a tremendous array of parallels and mirror images, including a shot of Jack and Claire even looking into a mirror together. Jack's Apollo bar falls this time, no push needed. Catch a Rising Star plays on a Claire's new music box. The two of them have a "Wow we took the exact same flight from Sydney!" moment, which in my opinion is getting pretty stale by now. Jack even offers Claire a family-friendly invitation to stay with him, in an effort to make up for lost time.
The most interesting things we get however, are the semi-conscious rantings of John Locke. His island experiences are crossing over to the LAX timeline, including memories of pushing the button. Locke even utters the phrase "I wish you had believed me", directly from his suicide note.
Things are moving faster and faster in the alt. Almost every single scene contains a parallel to some prior event or line of dialogue. Just as things on the island are accelerating, the same is happening in the off-island world. I think that's what they're trying to show us with all of this recycled imagery.
Sayid Can Snap the Most Necks, but Jack's Got the Meanest Rifle-Face, Hands Down
"John Locke told me I needed to stay." It was an awesome line, made ten times more awesome by Jack following it up by shoving the MIB into the water. I was pretty sure all hell was going to break loose after that, and of course it did. But after the many references to his aversion to water, I also expected the dark man to be a lot more affected than he seemed to be. Instead, he just got wet.
Apparently Jack's not a man who believes in cover. As we saw from his A-Team days in Dharma, Jack's reaction to being shot at is pretty standard: march toward your enemy with a sneer and an outstretched arm, firing the whole time. It's almost as if Jack knows he's invincible, or doesn't really care. All that matters to him at this point is getting his friends off the island.
The ensuing shootout took place exactly the way Flocke wanted it, all the way down to the very last detail: Sawyer locking him out of the submarine. It stands to reason that the MIB knew of Sawyer's distrust the whole time, even after he'd thanked him outside of that airplane. Understand that the dark man's been playing these types of games for centuries, unwillingly or not. Over hundreds of years and with an advesary like Jacob? He's gotten very, very good at manipulation.
His last move is a good one: planting a bomb that can only be triggered by the person who is holding it. This is where the MIB finally puts Sawyer in checkmate... as much as Sawyer mistrusts the smoke monster, his distrust of Jack is equally great. After what happened to Juliet, Sawyer's not one for letting things just 'play out'. This is why he can't watch the bomb's timer count harmlessly down to zero, and this is why he triggers the real bomb by yanking out the fake battery leads.
It's Jack who figures things out, and he actually does it in time to save everyone. Logically, the whole thing is pretty simple: if the MIB wanted them all dead, he would've killed them if he could. Why go through the trouble of a hastily rigged bomb when he could just smoke anyone at any time? "What if he hasn't killed us because he's not allowed to?" Jack asks his captive audience. "What if he's trying to get us to kill each other?"
Bingo, yet Sawyer just can't see it. Jack's words of "nothing's going to happen" are echoed in season two, where he tells Locke the same thing about pushing the button. These words are repeated again that season by Locke when he loses faith in the button and tells Eko the same exact thing. In both those cases the button gets pushed anyway, just as Sawyer pushes another type of button right here, right now. And upon doing so, Sawyer inadvertently sends a few more people to the other side.
Pushing the proverbial button is and always has been LOST's ultimate test of faith. It defines what's real and what's not real. It separates the idea of unalterable fate from the power to actually write your own destiny. When you boil everything else down far enough, it's the essence of the entire show.
Because It's Going To Be You, Jack
I took Sayid's last words as pretty inarguable evidence that Jack is indeed the candidate. I'm sure someone will argue it of course, but definitely not with me.
It always sucks to see our main characters die, knowing we'll never see them in action again. Even on LOST, where the dead can show up at any time, losing someone we've known and loved for so long can really sting... even on a TV show. Sayid was certainly one of LOST's best characters. And although we probably lost him a half dozen or so episodes ago, it was good to see him go out doing something both redeeming and important. Martyring himself here, just as he and Essam had planned to do way back in season one, was certainly something Sayid did for The Greater Good.
It's also comforting to recognize that Sayid made it as far as he did. Knowing LOST will end in three weeks takes a lot of the sting out of losing even the oldest and most kickass of characters. Every time you get the urge to dust off your LOST disc set, it'll be nice to remember that no matter what happens you've got nearly six full seasons of Sayid. And in each one of them, he's snapping a bunch of necks.
Frank! You Could've Been a Contender...
Just as Lapidus almost kicked open the cage door this episode, his character almost mattered. Don't get me wrong, because I love Frank. He had lots of potential. The problem is, he was never really allowed to live up to it. As the story progressed and new people kept coming, they allowed Frank Lapidus to fall by the wayside. His once cool character degenerated into a syrupy mess of comedic one-liners, and along with it, any importance he might've once had.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I got the feeling the writers never really had a solid ending for Frank. At some point they just started using him to take the edge off the more serious happenings on the show. What sucks most is that Frank isn't even acknowledged at the end of this episode, when everyone washes up on the beach. Even Nikki and Paulo got a eulogy, but all Frank got was a "Where's Sun and Jin?"
RIP Frank. If you are on the other side, I hope you're drinking from a hollowed-out pineapple and wearing a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned down to your navel.
Sun and Jin...
Of all the main character deaths we've seen, I have to say I'm most satisfied with what happened to Sun and Jin. The actors did a fantastic job, and the scene was exceptionally well done. Most important of all, the whole thing just felt right to me. Much like the ring Sun puts back on Jin's finger earlier in the episode, their story had truly come full circle.
On-island, Sun and Jin's time was up. They existed only for each other, and once reunited they had completed their journey. Through marital troubles, infidelity, infertility and just about the worst father-in-law imaginable, the two of them eventually recognized that the most important thing was just being together. They stopped taking their love for granted, as Jacob mentioned at their wedding.
I also got the distinct feeling that because their transformation was complete, Sun and Jin were being taken "out" of the island's playing field. In short, Sun wasn't pinned to that wall by accident. There was simply nothing left for either of them to learn.
The final scene of Sun and Jin holding hands could've been a great way to end their story, but we were purposefully shown an image of their hands letting go. To me, this was representative of them not letting go of each other, but of the island timeline itself. It's comforting to know that Sun and Jin still exist on the other side, and that they're happy, content, and ready to start their new life with a baby on the way.
Maybe Everyone Should Just Stay Away From Planes For a While
As if the whole sub debacle wasn't enough, the last scene between LAX Jack and Locke just totally kicked ass. Jack is recognizing the need for both of them to let go of certain things: for Locke it's his guilt, and for Jack it's his constant need for control. The words they exchange are incredibly sincere, and Locke's story involving that plane crash was so well acted I almost believed it actually happened. It was another great scene, much like the one they shared at LAX.
"You go first." Right now, I'd like to predict that these are Jack's words to Locke in one of the final scenes of LOST. If Jack becomes the new Jacob and Locke becomes the new monster, the game begins all over again. Two players, two sides, and of course one of them has to make the first move.
Jack's parting words of "I wish you'd believed me" seemed to trigger even more memories for John, and it gave him a significant amount of pause. Locke also recognized and did a double-take upon seeing Jin in the hallway. I'm hoping these small flashes of recollection evolve into full-blown memories of island events, because in doing so it would bring our real characters full circle.
On island, Jack marching purposefully into the ocean and crying up at the sky seemed to say one thing: "Okay, I accept my position. But please, no more sacrifice."
Next week looks Ab Aeterno awesome.
THINGS I NOTICED - The Candidate