As usual, Sawyer cuts through the haze and gives voice to one of the key questions that viewers have had about "Lost" for a long time now.
For sure, "Lost's" stormy, sensational return with No. 9 of this season, "The Shape of Things to Come," written by Brian K. Vaughan and Drew Goddard and helmed by Jack Bender, was one hell of a Big Ben episode, a tour de force for thesp Michael Emerson.
But it was also a big night for Sawyer, who demonstrated the kind of courage and resolve under fire that only those with the highest moral character, integrity and compassion possess. First he does a "Saving Private Ryan" and risks all to save Claire as the invasion begins. Then he tries to do the same for Hurley, only Hurley won't let him. Sawyer, we always knew you had it in ya.
"Lost" scribes surely did give us a lot to process in tonight's return after the five-week, strike-hangover hiatus. Let's review the apparent tangibles before we dive into the 'what the #$%^&?' issues.
**We know that Ben kept up with news coverage of the early days of the Iraq war, more than a year before Oceanic flight 815 crashed. Shock and awe, indeed.
**We know that Sayid reconnects with his beloved Nadia after he gets off the island, no doubt because of his notoriety from being one of the Oceanic 6. And we know that Nadia is killed in L.A., three blocks away from the intersection of La Brea and Santa Monica. Don't tell me they were having lunch at the Formosa Cafe? Pink's? Shopping at Target?
**We know that Ben was lying in the episode before to Locke about not knowing what the smoke monster really is. It sure looked like he summoned it toward the end to fend off the invaders. I don't believe we've ever gotten quite as good a look at Smokey as we did in this seg.
**We know, or were told, that Hurley is now an important key to connecting with Jacob. He "knows where the cabin is," Ben sez more than once (I think?) in this seg. Friday afternoon update: After chewing on this, I'm starting to think that Jacob is something that comes to different people at different times, and people see different things in Jacob and the cabin. Kind of like the essense of spiritual belief. It's about the believer, not the deity.
**We know that Jack and Kate, et al, now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the landing party has evil intentions. Faraday told them as much. I'm starting to want to strangle him by that skinny tie of his. And I still can't stand Rebecca.
**We know that ABC severely tried our patience in the first half-hour with three commercial breaks less than 10 minutes apart. They seemed to be a little bit better in the second half-hour, but please, Alphabet gurus, have mercy with all the breaks.
Now for the most perplexing parts, mythologically speaking:
**What's up with the doctor -- the Mitch Pileggi look-alike -- turning up on the shore with his throat cut?
**"He changed the rules" -- Ben sez in his shock after the
Widmore boat captain bad guy from Widmore's boat, Martin Keamy, kills Alex. He sez it again at the end when he's confronting Widmore in his hotel suite and vowing to kill Penelope. "I'm going to make you wish you hadn't changed the rules." Friday afternoon update: I'm not smart enough to have grasped this after one viewing last night, but the theories I've read on line make a lot of sense. We know that the time-travel business is rooted in certain rules, i.e. Star Trek's prime directive. Me thinks Ben had seen a future in which Alex was alive, which was why he went through the bluff with Keamy, because according to the "rules," Alex had to live.
**Ben singles out Hurley as the key to finding Jacob's cabin again. But as the invasion of New Otherton begins, he also tells Locke "it's very important that you survive."
**Sayid says "Benjamin, it was an accident" in the flashforward in Tikrit after Sayid kills the supposed hitman and Ben convinces Sayid that there's a fishy connection to the island and Nadia's death. What's an accident? The murder of the hitman, or is Sayid settling some other score? When last we saw Sayid and Desmond on the boat in the seg "Meet Kevin Johnson," he was so disgusted with Michael for going to work for Ben that he turned "Kevin" into Keamy as an agent of Ben's.
**"I know who you are and what you are," Widmore tells Ben in their confrontation. "Everything you have you took from me." And a few seconds later Widmore further needles him: "That island's mine. It always was and it will be again." Oh, do tell...Friday afternoon update: And as for Ben saying "you know I can't kill you" to Widmore, I believe that it again harkens to the idea that time travelers can't change the future. Perhaps Widmore has to live, at least in the moment of that bedroom confrontation, so that Ben can prevail in the future. Another theory has it that Ben and Widmore are each other's constants. Which is very provocative.
I could be wrong but it seemed like this was the first time we'd seen Vincent in a long time, in the opening scene when Bernard finds the doctor washing ashore. Dog's beautiful and blond as ever.
Loved seeing Locke, Sawyer and Hurley playing Risk, with Hurley bouncing Aaron on his knee. Brought back memories of many an afternoon spent strategizing on how to protect the Eastern theater. Loved Hurley's line about "Australia's the key to the whole game," which seemed fraught with import. It also dawned on me just then that of our core castaway ensemble, Claire is the only one who's actually from Oz.
The first flashforward scene of Ben landing in the Sahara desert -- with a parka on, no less -- made me think of "Lawrence of Arabia," don't ask me why. Friday afternoon update: Can't believe I missed the symbolism of Ben landing with a thud in the Sahara desert. Time travel, duh! And can't believe I didn't see that his parka had the name of Halliwax on it.
Found it interesting that Locke hesitated to act but Hurley did not during the attack when Sawyer was running around with Claire in his arms looking for an open door. Got a kick out of the fact that after all the shooting and explosives lobbed into New Otherton, Miles rang the doorbell of the house when Ben, Locke, Sawyer and Hurley were bunkered in to deliver the walkie-talkie.
After Locke and Sawyer put their guns down and decide not to shoot each other, Sawyer shows his true feelings about Hurley. "If you harm one hair on his curly head...so help me God I'll kill you," he tells Locke.
And finally, in the sparring between Widmore and Ben at the end, there's no better way to move us along than plain and simple language Widmore uses to taunt the master psycho-emotional manipulator.
"The hunt is on," Widmore assures Ben.