The episode started with a bang (I guess we can stop waiting for that Ilana-centric episode now), ended with a bang (that might send Locke right into the care of Jack Shephard), and dropped a minor "mythology reveal" bomb as if it was no big deal in the middle (so the whispers, all along, have had nothing to do with the Others?).
Boom goes the dynamite.
So what did we learn this week?
Ilana. As soon as Ilana started haphazardly throwing bottles of water on top of the dynamite in the bag, I said out loud "isn't that stuff supposed to be super unstable?" With that, my comment was instantly addressed with Ilana going all Arzt on us. Thankfully, Ben was there to put her death in perspective a few minutes later. Ilana completed her "mission". It turns out that it wasn't to protect our Survivors - but to reveal to them that they are Candidates. With that mission complete, the Island was done with her... and got rid of her. Pretty harsh, right?
The theme continued later in the episode with Michael, who told Hurley that he "can't move on" because of what he did. So... it sure does seem like it's not so much Jacob who is all-powerful, but the Island itself that is actually "controlling fate" and deciding who is living and dying - and to take it one step further, that is deciding whose souls can find peace and whose souls are trapped on the Island as punishment for their actions.
Are we sure the Island isn't purgatory?
The Whispers. The Whispers have been around since the beginning of Season One, and we finally got an explanation for what they are... in the most anti-climactic fashion ever. Hurley saying "hang on dudes, I know what these whispers are" and then revealing that they are the voices of those who have died on the Island. I suppose it makes sense if you look at them as being these voices from beyond the grave talking about what was happening to our Survivors on the Island, sometimes trying to warn them about danger, sometimes simply predicting what was about to happen. I suppose based on the dead character whispering, some could be positive, some could be negative, some could be indifferent about our Survivors.
Still - if you go back and review what the Whispers have actually said over the years, some still seem out of place: http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Whisper_transcripts
More on that in the Analysis.
Based on Michael's comment, it seems like there are some who were able to "move on", and some who were not. Is this the Island passing judgment on who is good and bad? Or is it more of a literal sense of who was able to come to the Island and leave alive, vs. those who died on the Island (or in its vicinity like Michael)?
Libby. Another week, another dead character in Reality #1 that "sees the truth" in Reality #2. This week it was Libby - who didn't need a near-death experience to have her epiphany, but just see Hurley and experience "love at first sight". On the other hand, it took a kiss from Libby for Hurley to experience the same epiphany.
IT's a little strange how the experience that sparks this epiphany changes from character to character. It's not something as simple as love - or else Desmond probably wouldn't have plowed his car into Locke (man, that guy just can't catch a break!). The real question is how Desmond has such a deep understanding of what matters most to each member of Oceanic 815 that he can give them a little "push" in the right direction to experience enlightenment (Hmmmm - a "push" in the right direction, who does that remind me of?). Both on the Island and off the Island (in both realities), Desmond seems to know more than anyone else - SmokeLocke included. How he arrived at this state of total knowledge is beyond me... but I'm hoping for an explanation of that at some point in the future.
Desmond. As for On-Island Desmond, he took a trip with Locke to an ancient well (although it didn't seem to be the same well that houses the FDW based on the preview for next week). However, SmokeLocke did tell him that there were a number of wells like that on the Island - and that they were dug - by hand - by an ancient people on the Island who were trying to figure out why their compasses went crazy in those locations. (Note: since the first magnetic compasses were around in 221 BC, the people who dug those wells - and perhaps created the FDW - could be really, really, really old. Like older than Jesus)
Initially, I was thinking that Locke was actually taking Desmond to one of these locations to expose him to the electromagnetic core of the Island in hopes of "cancelling out" his powers, overloading him with energy, or something else super science-fictiony. However, it looks like he threw him down the well simply as a way to get rid of him - at least for now. Why not just kill him if he's a threat (and not a candidate)? Is it just to keep him away from Widmore?
The bad news for SmokeLocke is that Widmore is looking for the same place that he hid Desmond - pockets of weird electromagnetic matter on the Island (remember the map with Jin a few weeks ago?) SmokeLocke may have unknowingly put Desmond in a place where he will quickly be found - or exactly where Widmore wants him to be... which makes you wonder if Desmond's "enlightenment" means that he knew exactly what SmokeLocke would do - and that was exactly where he needed to be?
One more thing - it seemed like Desmond was "done" with Hurley after he saw that he had his epiphany. He didn't come up to him and say "now that you see this world is a fake, let's go save the real world!" or anything like that. So what's the purpose of each Survivor coming to this realization? What will they do with this knowledge? These are the questions that will be keeping me up at night this week.
What did I miss? Another appearance by Young Jacob (maybe - was it the same kid as the first time? His hair looked darker, but that may have been the lighting), another annoying separation of characters (although conveniently, all the Candidates - plus Frank, who Ilana originally said "may be one" - are now together), except of course, Jin - because we can't have the Sun and Jin reunion before the finale, right?
Where is all this heading? Well, we've got three groups on the Island right now. Team SmokeLocke with Candidates, Team Widmore, and Team Alpert. I honestly don't know who is right, who is wrong, or how any of this is going to play out - but obviously someone has to get shot by Juliet at some point, right? I also find it interesting that it's clear that there is some serious advancement happening in the Flash Sideways storyline... but I can't figure out the end point for those either.
Good work Lost writers. I honestly thought by the time we hit the midpoint of the season, we would have some pretty good guesses about how the show would wrap up. But with six episodes left, I still have no freaking clue.