Welcome to the beginning of the end.
With only three episodes (but four hours, hooray!) left in Season Three, we currently sit at the edge of the season ending story rush. In Season One, this was the point where Boone died, causing the Locke vs. Jack action to kick up, leading to the discovery and opening of the Hatch. In Season Two, this was the episode where Libby and Ana-Lucia died, revealing Michael’s deal with the Others, ending with the kidnapping of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer and blowing up the Hatch. Basically, it’s traditionally the point in the season where the episodes stop feel like they’re “treading water” and start racing forward, leading to a climatic finale.
This season, it’s a little different – because those “treading water” episodes really seemed to be limited to the first half of the season. You could argue that “Expose” or “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” fit the bill of “filler episodes”, but I even found those quite enjoyable. So how scary is it to think that Lost is about to get even better than it has been for the past two months (perhaps the best stretch of Lost episodes ever)? The answer here is “very scary”.
However, equally scary to some is the fact that we’re also at the beginning of the end of Lost as a series. It’s expected that the “end date” for Lost will be announced at ABC’s upfront presentation on May 15th, in a move that some feel will give viewers a warm and fuzzy feeling that the writers know what they’re doing, and that there is actually an ending line, rather than a never-ending series of questions upon mysteries. For me, it means that the writers will have proper warning to begin their plotting, giving the story resolutions the time and attention they deserve, without having to rush through or stretch stories to meet network requests. It’s really an unprecedented writer’s dream.
Since the start, the show’s producers have claimed they originally planned out a “five or six season story arc” for Lost, meaning that smart money is on Lost lasting two more seasons – which would put it nicely over the 100 episode mark (helpful for making the big bucks in syndication). If that’s the case, we’re just past the midpoint of Lost as a series, which makes the current stretch of episodes a turning point for the series. In my mind, this means that some big answers are right around the corner… or upon us.
As much as Lost has continually puzzled me over the years (as evidenced by the question to statement sentences ratio in each Blog post averaging 3:1), I’m really – and probably foolishly – getting a feel for the “big picture” of Lost. While “The Brig” didn’t feature any huge reveals, it gave me just enough hints to validate some of the long lingering theories that have been floating around in my head. But enough talk of the future, let’s focus on what happened this week.
Sawyer. “The Brig” featured yet another instance of having the resolution to a story that was introduced so long ago that most casual viewers had probably forgotten about it - Sawyer finally confronting the man indirectly responsible for the death of his parents. However, once again, I can’t fault the writers for waiting so long for the resolution, because there is no way it could have been addressed any sooner. It just makes my faith in the writers that much stronger. Lost is telling a BIG story - so complex, so slowly, that unless you pay attention and remember each and every episode, you’re not going to be able to keep up.
In the case of Sawyer, he finally got the revenge he had been looking for all his life, in a cruel example of the Island giving you exactly what you need. For those Sawyer fans out there, this should be cause for concern… on a show like Lost, with its heavy “redemption” symbolism, tying up a dangling storyline from Season One might seem like the kiss of death for Sawyer. In my mind, the bigger kiss of death for Sawyer is the fact that he is seriously in love with Kate. Even more so than wrapping up a mystery from his past, his honest to goodness affection for Kate shows that he has grown as a person and learned to love someone, con-free. It certainly seems like he’s gotten rid of all the emotional baggage that seems to keep our Survivors on the Island and not in the ground. With a potential battle with the Others coming up, hot-headed Sawyer might be a likely casualty of war.
Cooper. So the long-running suspicion turned out to be true - the Real Sawyer turns out to be Locke’s Dad. It’s the kind of unbelievable connection that would be absurd on any other show, but that we willingly accept on Lost. It’s useful to remind ourselves again here that our Survivors all ended up on the Island due to a random act of chance, not a predetermined game plan, aside from spiritual concepts like “fate” and “destiny”.
I took everything that Cooper said at face value. I never got the impression that he was making up his story, or trying to trick Locke and / or Sawyer. He thought he was dead. He thought he was in hell. He exhibited the same callous confidence towards others as he did in Locke’s flashbacks, showing no remorse for his actions. As I said in my Instant Reactions, Cooper’s very logical arrival on the Island wasn’t due to special powers, wish granting genies, or a magic box – it was a product of the power that the Others / Dharma / Hanso have in the real world. We’ve seen them gather vast information about each of our Survivors, seemingly orchestrate the death of Juliet’s ex-husband, and now cause a car accident that gave the opportunity to kidnap a person with direct ties to two of the Survivors on the Island.
The real question is “why”? Why did they bring Cooper to the Island? For the purpose of tormenting Locke? For the purpose of giving Locke or Sawyer closure on their tormented pasts? As a bargaining chip in their crazy plans? I think the answer lies in the relationship between Locke and Ben.
Ben. It didn’t immediately register with me as I watched the episode, but the more I thought about it, the more the character of Ben started to make sense to me. Even thinking back to last season, Ben’s actions suddenly are making a lot more sense. Up until this point, I had theorized that Ben intentionally allowed himself to get captured by our Survivors as a way to observe them up close, with his focus on the spinal surgeon Jack who could save his life. While I still think it’s a part of the explanation, I think a much bigger one is now becoming clear – to observe… and maybe even try to take out John Locke.
Think back to the episode of “Lockdown”, where Ben tells Locke that he “came for him”, then proceeds to lie about entering the 108 Numbers. This lie always puzzled me. If Ben’s purpose was to get the Survivors to stop entering the Numbers, he could have simply not entered them himself while Locke was trapped under the Blast Door. If Ben’s purpose was to have our Survivors continue to enter the Numbers, then why lie about what happens when you don’t enter them? The only logical explanation is that Ben wanted the Survivors to stop entering the Numbers… just not while he was around to get imploded. Ever the master manipulator, Ben put the put the seed of doubt in Locke’s mind to start him down the path to not entering the Numbers. Unfortunately for him, Locke survived the fiasco. Why would Ben want to take out Locke? It’s simple – he’s a threat.
Locke. A very important point that was mentioned in passing this episode was that the Others were all very intrigued by John Locke, someone whose paralysis was cured almost instantly by the Island. Apparently this type of “instant cure” is not common among the Others, making Locke “special”. It seems that Ben’s status in the Others is tied to his communion with the Island – he’s the one with the power, the connection to Jacob, the ability to make things happen… but it’s all a sham. Without giving away too much of my preview for next week, let’s just say I’m betting that there is no real Jacob on the Island, and it’s just a figure created by Ben to keep people in line, afraid, and believing in the magic of the Island. I think it’s more likely that Ben is one of the last of a dying breed of “Island Originals”, who are keeping the secrets of the Island to themselves, while adding to their ranks with “outsiders”, who are easily tricked by the apparent “power” that Ben seems to have due to his communion with the Island. Much more on this with next week’s episode…
However, Locke’s ability to walk trumps anything that Ben has ever shown or promised the Others, which makes them start to question Ben’s real power. Like religious cult-ish sheep, they want to start following John Locke in hopes of gaining the same communion with the Island to fix whatever ails them or give them super powers. Ben, trying to make sure this doesn’t happen, realizes he needs to knock Locke down a peg – make him less appealing to the Others. When “Operation Blow Locke Up in the Hatch” failed, he sent Alpert to collect Cooper and bring him to the Island, knowing this is truly Locke’s greatest weakness. His flashbacks have shown how Locke’s Dad has continuously ruined his life, and yet Locke continues to come crawling back to him, looking for acceptance and love.
When you look at the creepy scene with Ben prodding Locke to kill Cooper from this perspective, it makes sense. Ben wanted Locke to murder his father to show the other Others that he was a slave to his emotions, a murderer, and not worthy of their adoration. Unfortunately, Locke didn’t have the guts to go through with it. Ben, always thinking, spins the situation to paint Locke in a negative light anyways, proclaiming to the Others that Locke was too weak to get over his past hang-ups with his papa and is still a slave to his emotional baggage. It was a catch 22 situation (previous Lost episode title pun intended) – no matter what Locke did, Ben was going to make him look bad, securing his place of power among the Others.
Unfortunately, he didn’t count on Richard Alpert.
Alpert. Maybe he’s in cahoots with Ben, and this was all part of some elaborate scheme I’m not seeing – but I think Alpert went behind Ben’s back to provide Locke with the dossier on Sawyer. Alpert realized that once Ben had convinced the Others that Locke was weak, the only way for Locke to gain face with the Others was to actually kill Cooper. It seems extreme for a religious cult consumed with who is “good” vs. “bad”, but the Others have demonstrated before that they are willing to die / kill to preserve their cause / secrets on the Island. Once Cooper was identified as being a “bad person”, perhaps their laws allow for swift capital punishment. Alpert saw in Sawyer a person strong enough to carry out this Republican vengeance on Cooper, and put the thoughts in Locke’s head to make it happen.
Why? As Alpert said, he thinks there are more important things on the Island than obsessing over making babies. Remember at the start of the season when Juliet seemed to be a bit of a rebel among the Others, talking about free will and disagreeing with Ben? Who’s to say that Alpert isn’t in the same boat, wanting to return to the historic roots of the Island rather than following Ben’s agenda? We’ve seen that Ben seems to be healing faster outside the Dharma Barracks, maybe already an indication that the true “power” of the Island is tied to health, healing, and life. Factor in Patchy’s apparent resurrection from death by ear bleeding, and some form of “living in paradise for eternal life” might be that big secret that the Others have been hiding, and are willing to do anything to protect. As I’ve said before, there has to be something very special, very powerful about the Island, and if it’s not granting wishes or turning water into Skyline, some sort of “living forever” becomes the most likely candidate. Maybe it’s too simple of an explanation, but it certainly is the most logical at this point.
Naomi. Speaking of logical, I’m going to go the totally logical route with Parachutist Naomi as well. Although her phone was super-futuristic (and quite similar to an iPhone), and our all-knowing Others could easily have planted the picture of Desmond and Penny, I’m taking her story at face value as well. The Widmores are the kind of super-powerful rich people that could hire people with the most advanced technology to find a missing person in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Her “I’m not alone” comment simply means that there are others in her search party, that are going to come looking for her now that her helicopter has crashed. Her appearance also seems to dismiss the ever-popular “funky time” theory of the past year, since she has knowledge of the crash of Flight 815 (something that you would remember shortly after it happened, but wouldn’t stick in your mind years down the road).
However, the fact that she couldn’t see the Island, and then crashed as soon as she did, would seem to indicate that there are still some funky magnetic powers on the Island – pulling things towards it, making them crash, and masking the Island from standard forms of radar / communication. This means that the Hatch Implosion from last season didn’t really “burst the bubble”, but rather gave a quick release (picked up by the Portuguese Scientists in the finale) before returning to normal levels.
Naomi’s explanation of her “there were no survivors from Flight 815” also makes total sense – if the wreckage was found four miles underwater off the coast of Bali, it would be quite easy to plant fake bodies (that would be difficult to recover and run DNA tests on) that would make everyone assume there were no survivors. No survivors means that no one would come snooping around Lost Island looking for them. It’s all quite genius really.
(The only problem is – I’m no pilot, but Bali doesn’t look to be anywhere near the flight path of an airplane going from Sydney to Los Angeles. Check out this Google Map – Bali is the arrow, Sydney and LA are the circles, and the I’ve drawn my assumed flight path – Bali is seriously out of the way… for a show that gives so much attention to the slightest of details, this seems a little off. Weird.)
Of course, the Others’ ability to kill people, kidnap people, and plant fake plane wreckage brings up a very interesting point – where in the world are they getting the funds and connections to carry these missions out? I’m thinking the “purge” with Dharma wasn’t so much a battle, but a merger – with the Others somehow becoming part of Dharma and getting their hands on Hanso money and power. But I’m getting ahead of myself… much more about this next week.
CFL. Lastly, this episode featured an almost hilarious interaction between CFL and Locke inside the Black Rock. The last time we saw CFL, she was tearfully watching Alex from the distance inside the Dharma Barracks, but her collection of dynamite this episode would seem to indicate she’s ready to take some sort of action against the Others. If you ask me, thus far CFL is the storyline that makes the least sense on Lost (yes, even more confusing than Smokey). Her appearance / disappearance can be chalked up to crazy, sure – but her claims about her knowledge (or lack thereof) about the Others from earlier seasons seem absolutely absurd now. On the other hand, no part of me thinks she is in cahoots with the Others, so I’m not sure why she would lie. Also, you can’t bring up CFL without thinking about the “sickness” that she claimed came over her crew – another storyline that was seemingly introduced and then went nowhere.
I remember back to Season One’s “Deus Ex Machina” analysis, when I was thinking a battle was already brewing between our Survivors and “Others” (although at that time, we really had no idea who or what the Others were). I remember thinking that CFL was the type of wild card who would swoop in and save our Survivors right when it looked like they were goners – a “god from machine” saving, if you will. But as we all know, that battle never happened… at least not yet.
Why is CFL gathering TNT? If there is some sort of cataclysmic battle between our Survivors and the Others that seems to be approaching, wouldn’t it be the perfect opportunity for CFL to exact her own revenge on the people that stole her baby sixteen years ago and made her live a life of crazy solitude? I can see a scene playing out where our Survivors look to be in a hopeless situation, dominated by the Others, when suddenly… BAM – CFL comes to the rescue, redeeming herself, saving Alex, dying in the process, something like that. This scene felt really weird and out of place in this episode… but in a few episodes, I think we’ll look back and realize its importance.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this week. I tried to come up with a plausible double con that Jack and Juliet might be pulling on Ben, but I don’t think we have enough evidence to make any good guesses. I also couldn’t figure out if Ben intentionally gave Locke the tape recorder as part of a triple con to foil Jack and Kate’s double con, or if Locke somehow miraculously stole it from under Ben’s nose. Thinking about it makes my head hurt, so I’m going to let these dangling plot lines hang for another week. Also, I’m not really sure how I feel about Locke having Sawyer do his dirty work – doesn’t this make him just as guilty of the murder of Cooper as if he did it himself? It seems like he’s skating by on a technicality to keep his hands clean (and perhaps maintain favor with the Island). The end of the episode, featuring him carrying Cooper on his shoulders (which would be impossible, by the way) once again is playing heavy into the “Locke as Christ / Savior” theme… but I’m pretty sure that JC never had someone else kill Joseph for him. It’s a mixed bag, and I’ll be very curious to see how the Others react to Locke’s actions.
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