Oh, but this show knows how to throw curve balls. I think this episode of "Lost" is jarring because the many plot developments that were just thrown at us for the most part seem so darn...straightforward. It must set a record for a "Lost" episode in the characters' use of clear and explicit language.
Before we get to the review of the Big Moments and Great Lines of this seg, "This Place is Death," let's think about some space-and-time questions. Not so much the specifics of all the time traveling we've been doing this season, but the time frame for the milestone moments of the "Lost" chronology as we know it so far.
The Dharma Initiative is a 1970s-era invention (or does it go back to late '60s?). Rousseau and her team land on the island in 1988. Desmond and Faraday meet up with each other at Oxford in 1996, which would seem to be around the same time that Faraday runs out on Theresa Spencer. The 815 castaways arrive on the isle of mystery in September 2004. Desmond gets there a few years earlier, right? From the "Jughead" seg, we know that Richard Alpert and his band of hot-tempered followers were there in 1954. And we believe the Black Rock pirate ship goes back to the heyday of sea-farin' men in the 1800s, right?
I'm thinking there's generational tectonic shifts going on with the island, at least in the modern era. It seems that every 10-15 years something mega happens. I wish I could place the time frame of Ben's gas attack that kills the Dharmas. Gotta be '80s, right, like maybe just before the time Rousseau arrives?
To me, the most interesting thing about this most interesting episode -- written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and helmed by Paul Edwards -- is the return of Christian Shephard. Onward Christian Shepherd. (I try hard not to overuse that one more than once a season.) He just pops up like the proverbial bad penny in the strangest places.
After revisiting most of season one last year while waiting for season five, it struck me that a case could be made that the whole crazy mess starts with Jack's courageous, principled decision to blow the whistle on his father for getting behind the scalpel after having a few too many at lunch. That incident strips Christian of his medical license, and sends him spiraling into the bender that takes him to Australia, and eventually to the pine box that his bitter progeny has to come collect. And we all know what happens on the return flight.
Christian seems to be at the very least a free-lancer for the Grim Reaper. He starts hanging out with Claire on the island when she goes off into ...wherever. He appears to Michael on the freighter last season when he's finally ready to go kaboom. Of course, don't forget Christian also appeared in Jacob's cabin to Locke once before too. That's why Locke appeared to recognize him when he made his hard landing at the bottom of the well, that happens to be just around the corner from the donkey wheel that regulates time travel (I think?).
Christian tells Locke that he's there to "help you the rest of the way." He also gets off one of the better lines of the night in scolding Locke for letting Ben do the wheel-turning in the season four finale. "Since when did listening to him get you anywhere worth a damn?"
Christian can't be bothered to give Locke a hand to get up even when he's hobbled by a really nasty implement of some kind gouging into his leg (same place as the bullet wound, I wonder?). But he does spill it all real fast about a woman in Los Angeles named Eloise Hawking that Locke needs to go see once he's rounded up the Oceanic 6 posse. And he finds the right words to console Locke as he really really really comes to grips with the fact that he's going to have to die to make it happen.
"I suppose that's why they call it sacrifice," Christian says (sounds like maybe the kind of crummy thing he'd say to young Jack when he was bailing out on a baseball game or school play, etc.)
Christian's last line to Locke about "say hello to my son" reminded me once again of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost symbolism that creeps in every now and again in this show. Jack is Jacob? Jack is Hamlet? I don't know -- but I do know I love John Terry in this role. Christian's line probably gets Locke's wheels turning, because while he doesn't get the Jack-Christian connection, he gets the hint that Christian's son is someone Locke will encounter.
He's so confused in the early going that my head hurt for him. He has a brush with Smokey (who needs some WD-40, very creaky), watches poor Nadine die a horrible death, sees Montand lose an arm, sees Rousseau lose her mind and Montand and the two other French dudes lose their lives. And then flash-bang, he gets the joy of a backslapping reunion with Sawyer but then is sent on the roller-coaster of being told his wife is dead, and then being told she's alive, to making the painful decision that no matter what, Locke should never, ever bring Sun back to this godforsaken place. And all of this with a really nasty sunburn.
Jin's scenes with the Frenchies are very interesting in what they suggest about Rousseau and Co. No way these people are benevolent Greenpeace-type scientists. Montand, the guy who loses his arm, seems very rough and ready. Even Rousseau knows how to handle a gun. I wonder if, given the 1988 time frame, they're on a mission to see what's up with the Dharma Initiative? Or maybe even to figure out why no one's heard from them in a while, because it's after Ben's gas attack?
Whatever drove Rousseau nuts, it happened to her pretty quickly, because she's still preggers when she shoots what appears to be the last of her crew, and the father of her baby. Things must be pretty bad for all of them because of course Rousseau's beloved (Robert, i think?) tries to shoot her as soon as he sweet-talks her into dropping the rifle she's pointing at him. Oh boy. (I noticed that Rousseau's trademark cargo pants look new in the 1988 scenes, as they should.)
Interesting also that Jin, Rousseau and Co. come across a temple-like stone structure as they're looking for the radio tower. Have we seen that before? I was pretty sure it was the Orchid station all along, but in the more recent times the Orchid is much more in ruins than it is in 1988. I couldn't really tell what time period we were in when Locke and Co. finally make it to the Orchid area and find the well that Locke shimmys down. Perhaps the most unsettling scene of the whole seg was the post-flash shot of Sawyer holding onto the rope leading into the muddy ground. Like a Luis Bunuel movie!
And like an absurdist tragicomedy, Locke sounds almost giddy as he prepares to jump down the Well of Destiny. "What would be the fun in that?" he says, eschewing Sawyer's offer to help lower him down into the blackness. Juliet takes a moment to thank Locke for his attempt to save them; somehow I think her gesture will be significant down the road, don't ask me why.
Ms. Charlotte also has a lot to say in this episode, and for a change, she didn't annoy me. I wouldn't bet money on her being dead after all those time flashes, and all that nose-bleeding, though she sure looks it. "This place is death," she warns Jin.
She finally does something worthwhile for someone else by serving as a translator for Jin who desperately needed whatever clarity Sawyer and Faraday could provide. (Miles delivers a beauty of a line when he mistakenly thinks that he, rather than Charlotte, is being asked to translate: "He's from Korea; I'm from Encino.") So interesting that Charlotte's linguistic skill comes as a surprise to Faraday (Charlotte's best line ever may be her response to his question about what other tongues she speaks: "Just Klingon."). That would seem to cast some doubt on the theory in the Lost-blog-o-sphere that I very much bought about Faraday somehow being her father. Or not, if he was an absentee dad.
As it appears that she's dying, Charlotte finally levels with Faraday that she is a child of Dharma who grew up on the island but left it -- did she say as a young teen? I didn't quite catch that -- with her mum and "never saw my dad again." She also seems to be doing some consciousness traveling in her own mind, speaking as if she were at different ages in her life (like Theresa Spencer, remember?). At one point she says something to the effect of not being sure about how someone would react to "marrying an American."
And then she floors Faraday with her story of the "scary man" who told her she had to leave the island or she'd die. I actually felt for her when she told Faraday: "I think that man was you." Wonder if Faraday was shooing her away from the Dharma Initiative to spare her from Ben's gas attack? Hmmm.
"That's where we leave science behind," Faraday admits to Charlotte when she asks him why Locke is so convinced that getting to the Orchid station will solve their time-skipping problem. Oh boy.
All of the Jin-Rousseau-Charlotte-Locke-Christian stuff makes the action going on back in L.A. seem a little less exciting by comparison, though episode opens with beautifully composed shot of an anguished Sun partially in shadow. I certainly got the vibe in the opening that Sun was about to make off with Aaron as she sat in her car, watching Kate, Jack, Sayid and Ben getting into it - especially after she told her own daughter on the phone that she "met a new friend for you in America" named Aaron. (Memo to Sun: NEVER leave a kid in a car alone, for a second.)
But Sun does confront Ben, puts the gun to his neck and lets Kate bail with Aaron. Jack is once again a non-factor for the most part. He's so emasculated it's just sad. But Sayid -- now there's a man of his own mind.
"I don't want any part of this," he declares at the marina, and warning Jack and Ben that they should take care to avoid him in the future or "it will be extremely unpleasant for all of us." I for one would not mess with Sayid. Ever.
Ben of course pushes Sun's buttons with the news that Jin lives, and that gets her to go with him to see Eloise Hawking at a church in L.A. (And we learn that even the almighty Ben can't fight L.A. traffic.) It's not made explicit but it sure seems like Eloise is Faraday's mom. And I'm sticking with my theory that Eloise is Charles Widmore's sister, rather than lover or mother of his children. (My deep conviction on this can only mean I'm wrong.)
During the car ride, Jack apologizes to Sun for leaving Jin behind on the freighter. Sun seems like she's barely listening to him ("Why are you telling me this now?"), focusing her fury on Ben. "Drive," she growls after Ben pulls a classic reverse-sympathy trick on them, sniveling that if they knew of all he's done to keep them and those back on the island safe, "you'd never stop thanking me." As Variety's Justin Kroll points out, the fact that Ben has the ring that Jin gave Locke indicates that Ben's the one who bumped off Locke, no?
By the time Desmond walked up to Jack, Sun and Ben on the grounds of the church, it was not so much of a surprise. We knew his boat was headed L.A.-way. And Des was surprisingly clear with his former friends and
adversary (Des doesn't know Ben, as others have pointed out):
"You're looking for Faraday's mother too?"
Eloise Hawking didn't waste any time either - I guess the clock is ticking on that 70-hour time limit. Certainly the folks back on island are feeling it with the nosebleeds and what have to be merciless migraines.
"All right, let's get started," Hawking says.
At the end of the seg my mind wandered off to a strange question: When will we run into Matthew Abaddon again? At the downtown L.A. lockup cleaning up Hurley's mess, perhaps?
Charlotte as we learn in this seg has an interesting reason for becoming an anthropologist -- to find the island where she grew up after her mother decided to deny its existence. But I humbly submit that the greatest anthropologist I've ever known, Dr. C. Scott Littleton, aka my father, has an even better backstory.
Scotty was a 17-year-old U.S. Army grunt -- his rank was "cannon fodder," I think -- who was shipped off to serve in Korea early on in the conflict in January 1952. He was freezing and miserable (it's awfully cold in Korea in the winter to a kid from Hermosa Beach) and desperate for any distraction. He came back from duty one day to find that some service org had sent a box of books to his unit. But by the time he got to the box it had been picked almost clean. The only thing left was a book on anthropology, "Patterns of Culture," by Ruth Benedict, which he reluctantly took back to his tent.
The rest is history, recorded in the diplomas and accolades on the walls of his office. The G.I. Bill took my dad all the way to a Ph.D in anthropology from UCLA, a 40-year career as an anthro prof at Occidental College, two Fulbright scholarships (among other grants and awards) and books and articles about everything from King Arthur to the rituals of celebration to the entry in the World Book encyclopedia on mythology.
In recent years, since he retired from teaching, he's written a memoir ("2500 Strand," about growing up in the South Bay during World War II) and a sci-fi novel ("Phase Two"). I owe my love of sci-fi and fantasy to my dad, along with just about everything else.