This episode of "Lost" was a study in contrasts. The leadership skills, character styles, motivations and powers of persuasion of the show's original alpha-male pillars -- Jack, Sawyer and Locke -- were deftly dissected in an hour that was already so full of action and intrigue it made my head spin more than once.
A lot of it came together for me after I looked up the title of the seg on the ABC press site: "Follow the Leader." All in all, a hell of an episode from writers Paul Zbyszewski and Elizabeth Sarnoff and director Stephen Williams. It worked on many levels and demands multiple viewings, especially because it involved all of our key main characters. We're on the runway for next week's two-hour fantasmic finale fer sure.
Thursday update: A second viewing was incredibly helpful, particularly for all of the Locke stuff.
So what'd we learn tonight?
** Jack can't get Kate to put her faith in him for nothin'. And really, can you blame her?
** Sawyer has finally grown up enough to be a do-right, all-night man. (Of the many great versions of that song, it's the Flying Burrito Brothers' rendition that puts a lump in my throat every time. Thanks Gram.)
** Locke has more faith than sense. (OK, we already knew that.)
** Richard Alpert and Ben are still somehow in cahoots toward some common goal, or common enemy. Of this, I have faith.
It was disconcerting in several scenes in this seg to see the magical, mystical Richard Alpert looking very, very confused. (I'm confused about how his stubble manages to grow in such a perfect line across the bottom half of his face. Radiation side effect?) Ben describes him as an "a kind of advisor." Yeh, like Rasputin was to the Romanovs.
With Jack, it was interesting to see him come completely out of his post-Ajira 316 crash angry shell to be motivated to devise a plan to completely erase the effects of the crash by detonating Jughead to counteract the event that made Oceanic 815 crash in the first place. Jack believes that's their "destiny," and that's why he Kate, Hurley and Sayid went back to the island, and ultimately watched Faraday get shot by his own mum in last week's seg.
Kate, of course, calls him on it, pointing out that he sounds like Locke and that they both agreed Locke was nuts. Just wait til they see him strutting around big as life in 2007. Jack is so dense, he didn't get it earlier when Kate also questioned why they would want to wipe out everything that happened because of the crash -- which for her would include her motherhood stint with Aaron and presumably her love affairs with Jack and Sawyer. "It wasn't all misery," Kate says. "Enough of it was," her sometime-lover replies. And Kate's right to be skeptical. After Sayid shows up (in the nick of time to save Kate), Jack and Kate inform him that he did not take out Benjamin Linus.
Locke also wants to change the natural order of things by leading the Others on a pilgrimage to -- gasp -- kill Jacob. Locke too is also convinced that his level of faith is the overriding factor in any decision. It was the exchange between Ben and Richard in the scene where he invites the little people of the Others (still haven't seen flight attendant Cindy or the kids) to join him on the trek to Jacob that made me realize that those two are connected more than we know, but that Richard really doesn't know about Ben's off-island adventures.
"I'm starting to think John Locke is going to be trouble," Richard says to Ben out of the corner of his mouth as the Others trudge across the beach with Locke. "Why do you think I tried to kill him?" Ben replies, to Richard's surprise. Whether Jacob exists anywhere but Locke's head or not, the process of slaying the dragon (or not) should be interesting. It was almost like a "Lost" commentary of the cult of personality and the willingness of some to put their faith in a higher power, even one that claims extraordinary powers and the ability to boss others' (Others) around. So complicated.
Sawyer and Juliet, meanwhile, are not terribly complicated. They love each other -- of this I have complete faith. Sawyer was ready to even give up Kate to ensure that he and Juliet got away from their captors. He even asks Juliet before he agrees to swap info for two seats on the sub. Best moment of levity of the episode was Sawyer telling Juliet: "We'll buy Microsoft. We'll bet on the Cowboys in the '78 Super Bowl."
The scene of him being marched down the dock and stepping into the sub was nicely shot to add to the suspense. The expectation was that Sawyer was about to pull a superhero move that would find him overpowering the Dharma guys. But no, he took one last look to bid his idyllic-looking island surroundings "Good riddance."
For bonus contrast of how not to lead people, we were shown Radzinsky's tryrannical outbursts, in which he tries to commandeer control of the Dharmas from Horace and Dr. Chang. Those two are smart enough to treat him like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum -- ignore it and go on doing what you need to do. Its' certainly no wonder Radzinsky wound up living underground in the Swan on button-pushing duty. Nobody wanted him around above ground!
And then there's Eloise. She didn't know about any of the future stuff in 1977 after she shot her son, but she was open to believing, after the memory of her first encounter with Faraday and the sight of her own handwriting on her dead son's notebook. She's a believer, but in what? What's her motivation? She's confounding in any era -- 1954, 1977 or 2007. Interesting to see her be the boss of Charles Widmore, at least in 1977. Granted, his machismo at that time was severely handicapped by a bad wig.
Dr. Chang's realization about Jin, Hurley and Miles was an interesting scene too. It made me think about the previous episode when Faraday confronts him at the Swan construction site, and then Faraday later tells Miles that Chang is right on sked toward ordering the evacuation. So is everything going to nature's cosmic plan, including Faraday's death, or is it every man for himself? And why do I think that the submarine is going to slam on the brakes a few minutes in to next week's finale and turn around?
There's so much more, but my brain's scrambled. A few more points before I turn in.
** The ship in the bottle that Richard is building in his opening shot in the episode looks familiar. Maybe it's something in Widmore's office?
** Was Richard genuinely unclear on how Locke spent his time away from the island? Seems like he'd have a way of keeping tabs.
** "I have a purpose now" Locke tells a startled-looking Richard. They hint in the scene that Locke's purpose is to reunite Sun and Jin and reunite with the remaining 815ers. But the ending begs the question of whether his purpose is freeing his "people" of Jacob's sway?
** When Richard tells Sun "I watched them die" when she shows him the group photo, does he mean he saw their demise in 1977, or the 1992 purge, or what?
** Locke tries to throw Ben off by declaring "I'm not afraid of anything you can do." But does he mean it? Ben looks like he's straining to look humble and meek, but inside he's the conniving brute he's always been. He can barely disguise it. The more Locke needles Ben ("You've never seen Jacob, have you?"), the more Ben seems to be slowly wresting back his control.
** I can't remotely explain why Locke had to bring Richard to the spot where he would come out of the jungle with a gunshot wound and Richard would bandage him and then tell him he had to die to save the island. It was a great scene nonetheless, and explains Richard's comment about "well, you will tell me" about the gunshot wound. But I've so lost track of the time track by now. I thought that the replay of this scene indicated that suddenly Richard and Locke et al were back in 2004, but as a reader points out, what it means is that the first time we saw that scene, Locke was bouncing around in time and had actually landed in 2007. Makes sense...right?
** Glad to see Sayid turned back up, and with such a dramatic entrance. Not so thrilled to see Jughead make a cameo. He's unstable!
** Existentialism by way of Sayid: "If it works, it might just save us all. If it doesn't, at least it will put us out of our misery."
** Oh, those Others. They're Luddites. They live so primitively in their tents with their campfire cooking set up and lines of dried fish. What drives these people?