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We're Done Going Back: Shifting Sides on Lost

Do our actions or our intentions define us? Once someone has given themselves over completely to the dark side, is it possible for them to cross back over? Do we each have the potential, inside ourselves, for redemption?

This are some of the questions raised by this week's episode of Lost ("The Last Recruit"), written by Paul Zbyszewski and Graham Roland and directed by Stephen Semel, which showed yet another restructuring of the tenuous alliances maintained by the castaways as the battle for the island--and possibly the world at large--begins once more.

Since the beginning of its run, Lost has always circled around the notion of belonging as various factions within the group sprung up over time, typically around the division between Jack and Locke, the ultimate man of science/man of faith dichotomy. In recent weeks, Jack has displayed a major departure from his scientific leanings, approaching the island and his purpose with the sort of singular grace and faith that marked John Locke--dead but far from forgotten--for so many seasons.

So what did I think of this week's episode? Draw yourself a map, sign in to reception for the fifteenth floor, take a dive in the ocean, and let's discuss "The Last Recruit."

I have to say that I liked "The Last Recruit," but I didn't love this week's episode. I was engaged the entire time but it didn't leave me with the sort of rampant excitement and awe that mark the very best episodes of Lost. Instead, it answered some questions in a very matter-of-fact way, featured a reunion several seasons in the making, and reshuffled the deck as to where the castaways are, who is controlling them, and whom they are loyal to. (The latter of which is typically: themselves, always.)

I had my doubts that Sun and Jin would ever reunite, given that it seemed as though some mystical force had contrived to keep them separated for the last few seasons. (And not just then either: the two spent a good deal of Season Two apart as well when Jin ended up with the tailies after the Others destroyed the raft and kidnapped Walt.) But despite the fact that it look thirty-odd episodes to bring these two back together again, I found their reunion to be almost entirely devoid of emotion.

Which is weird, as I like Sun and Jin a lot but I wasn't emotionally moved by their reunion scene and the fact that Sun finally regained her voice as a result. It should have been a bigger, more powerful sequence but I didn't really feel like it met up with other previous reunions. I can't quite put my finger on why this didn't do it for me, either. It just felt a little hollow, and not just because their tender scene together was cut short by Zoe.

Elsewhere, the group once again split off and reconfigured themselves. Sawyer hatched a plan to steal Desmond's sailboat, the Elizabeth, and use it to get to Hydra Island and away from the Man in Black. But, uh, philosophical differences between Sawyer and Jack lead to him being ousted from the group while crazy-haired Claire tagged along and Sayid may have switched sides, again.

New York Times' David Izkoff said earlier today on Twitter, "Lost is like watching a fist-fight in a foreign country's parliament - no idea how it got so factionalized and no clue who to root for," and I'd have to agree. I'm not sure who I am rooting for or why. Jack seemed to finally have a revelation about their purpose on the island, only to wind up back in the clutches of Jacob's Nemesis; Hurley's plan to go see Locke may have reunited the group but lost them the person who might be the ideal candidate to succeed Jacob. All of which is a little head-scratching, really.

While each of the castaways returned to the island for a specific reason--most of which haven't changed since the beginning of Season Five--there's a lot of back and forth here, which--while it ramps up the tension in the short-term--also begins to erode the drama a little bit. Answers are being given but they're often so matter-of-fact that it eliminates any sense of revelatory surprise. (I'm thinking specifically here of learning that the Man in Black was masquerading as Christian Shephard for several seasons.)

Christian Shephard/Man in Black. Speaking of which, yes, we learned this week that the ghostly appearances of Christian Shephard that have dotted the series' narrative since the beginning didn't reflect any resurrection of Jack's dead doctor daddy, but rather another manifestation of the smoke monster, given his ability to take on the shape of those who have died.

However, I'm still not entirely sure how this resolves the mystery of where Christian's corpse went to after the plane crash--or that Lost Moments webisode from Vincent's perspective that had Christian appearing to the dog and telling him to wake up his son ("He has work to do"). Nor does it explain Christian's appearance at the hospital to Jack in Season Four...

The Man in Black claims that he appeared to Jack as Christian because Jack and the castaways needed to find water and he wanted to help them. Whether this is true is unclear as the Nemesis is a master manipulator and often doesn't totally speak the truth. He further claims that he was always trying to help the castaways leave but that Jacob wouldn't allow it as they had been chosen and were therefore trapped on the island by their purpose.

All of which makes me very suspicious. While he might claim to be a sheep in wolves' clothing, I don't trust the Man in Black at all. After all, he's spent the last few centuries looking for a loophole to escape his island prison and, hell, he has killed several of the castaways so I hardly think that he's quite as helpful as he claims to be. He needs these people just as much as Jacob does. They're the rocks placed on the scales. In order to escape, he needs to tip the scales towards black and he needs these specific people--former and current candidates to replace Jacob--for his own devices. Is it possible that both Jacob and his Nemesis are selecting their replacements from the same candidate pool?

The Final Recruit. The titular character would therefore appear to be Jack Shephard, who could arguably be described as the central character within Lost's entire mythology. The Man in Black's expression at the end of last week's installment seemed to point towards some major tipping point when he saw Jack enter the camp. While the Nemesis claims that he needs all of the castaways in order to make his escape from the island, he seems to have an especial interest in Jack Shephard. It's Jack, and not Hurley or anyone else, that the Man in Black wants to catch up with and he immediately begins to spin him a web of (possible but likely) lies about dead fathers, water sources, and providing an unseen assistance to the castaways in their early days on the island.

Is it possible that Claire is correct and Jack became the Man in Black's catspaw as soon as he heard the first word from his mouth? Can his voice really have that much power over the castaways? After all, Sawyer has proven to have no such compunction about selling out his supposed lord and master, even after speaking with him multiple times. Can one word rob you of your free-will and destiny?

After all, Jack does opt to take a dive off of the Elizabeth and swim back to the island rather than attempt to leave. He knows just what fate will befall him once he returns to the "real world," a place of anguish for him where he ended up a drunken, broken man at the end of his tether. On the island, he has a purpose and, other than Hurley, he seems to be tipped towards being the ideal replacement for Jacob. But, in choosing to get off the boat, he places himself back int he path of the Nemesis... and Widmore's artillery shells. Thrown through the air when one explodes on the beach where he's just been found by the Nemesis, his life is saved by the Man in Black, who carries him off the beach and into the thicket.

While the Man in Black is allegedly forbidden from killing Jack, couldn't he have just let him get killed by the shelling of the beach? In theory perhaps, but that presupposes several things: that he doesn't need Jack and that he can stand by and watch as he dies. Both of which would appear to be wrong. After all, he could have let Sawyer die several episodes back when the rope ladder snapped but he saved his life, which makes me believe that both Jacob and his smoky counterpart need these individuals and need them alive. The island isn't done with them yet, after all...

So is Jack on the Man in Black's side now ("You're with me now") or is his loyalty still up for grabs? I'm leaning towards the latter as I don't see him siding with the darkness or the smoke monster in the upcoming battle. Jack knows that his purpose is to safe-guard the island and his lack of wanting to leave would point towards his willingness to take over for Jacob, now that John Locke is dead.

Sayid. Interestingly, Sayid appeared to change sides as well. He seemed quite prepared to murder Desmond, who was alive but stranded at the bottom of the well but Desmond managed to be quite convincing in his defense, awakening a realization in Sayid that, even if the Man in Black was able to follow through on his promise, that Nadia would still turn from him after seeing the blood on his hands. (It's also interesting that Desmond seems, while lacking fear, to have a Zen-like calm and precise reason about him. His arguments are not emotional but rational, and he seems to win over Sayid.)

So does Sayid shoot Desmond? It doesn't seem that way, especially as we'd be privy a scene in which the highly pivotal Desmond, you know, died. Instead, Sayid returns to the rendezvous point with the Nemesis and tells him that he followed through with his mission. Not only does Sayid issue a bare-faced lie but the Man in Black believes him. It's an important turning point for Sayid because it's proof positive that the Man in Black is not omnipotent or infallible. He fell for his lie quite easily in fact. The glimmer of a smile on Sayid's face points towards dawning realization as well as the knowledge that he can perhaps trick the master trickster.

In doing so, does Sayid take the first step on the long road to redemption? It does appear that way, especially if he didn't kill Desmond. Which means that there might still be another candidate out there, one that can bring together Jack and Desmond and reunite the entire group for the first time in what seems like a zillion seasons.

Claire. And then there's Claire. She too seems to be far too gone to even hope for any chance at happiness or redemption. Her suspicious nature and hatred of Kate allow her to get the drop on the escapees as they attempt to board the Elizabeth. Claire isn't quite as mentally unstable as she initially appeared (though I'd have to question the sanity of anyone owning a squirrel baby); she's aware of the fact that the Man in Black pretended to be her father and seems also aware that he isn't John Locke either (despite the fact that she calls him John), but instead follows him because he was the only one who didn't abandon her.

Which brings Claire to a crossroads. She can attempt to stop the castaways from taking the boat and thwarting "John's" plan or she can go with them. Ben lay the first brick of the road of redemption when he was forgiven by Ilana. Here too Claire's soul seems up for grabs as Kate holds out an olive branch and suggests that Claire come with them and be reunited with Aaron, her sole reason for coming back to the island in the first place.

It all comes down to a choice and it always does: the path of righteousness or destruction. In getting on the ship and seeing Kate not as an enemy, it's appears as though Claire has too switched sides. Now let's just hope that Desmond had a hairbrush and some face soap on that boat....

Sawyer. I found it interesting that Sawyer's argument to Kate about rescuing Jack after he jumped off the boat was that they're done going back, a clear reversal of Jack's battle cry of "We have to go back!" from the Season Three finale. Sawyer never escaped the island. He's been there for years at this point and doesn't have the benefit of Jack's experience of what happened when they left. He believes that he's done with the island but he's still thinking in terms of self-preservation. He's not ready to make the leap of faith that Jack has. While it seemed as though Jack was playing skeptic to Locke's believer, it now seems as though the ultimate skeptic is Sawyer himself. Convincing him that he may have to sacrifice himself in order to save the island--and the world--is not going to be easy. Especially when he's just as hell-bent as the Man in Black in getting the hell off the island.

Widmore. Never con a con man... but that's just what happened to Sawyer here. In attempting to play Widmore and the Man in Black against each other, Sawyer foolishly believes that Widmore will keep up his end of the bargain. But now that he has his hands on nearly all of the castaways--save Jack and Sayid--his plan has changed dramatically. Just what does Widmore want with them? Is he willing to kill all of them--as he was in the past--in order to prevent the Man in Black from having a means of escape? Or is Widmore after something else entirely? Is it power? Reclaiming the island and his destiny? Hmmm...

Lost-X. This week's flash-sideways showed the tightening of the web as the castaways found themselves being drawn closer and closer: Sawyer interrogates Kate before he and Miles pursue Sayid for the restaurant killings; Sun and Jin arrive at the hospital, just as Locke is being wheeled into the OR; Desmond brings Jack, Claire, and Ilana together before she's able to take her adoption meeting. (Could it be that in this reality, Claire does manage to raise Aaron after all?)

Intriguingly, there's a moment of frisson as Sun seems to recognize John Locke as they're both being taken inside the hospital. Recognize is putting it lightly; she's actually terrified of him, saying "It's him, it's him" to Jin. I'd posit that Sun has begun to become aware of her memories of the other timeline. Her recognition of John Locke isn't that he was a passenger on their flight from Sydney but something far worse. In that moment she sees not John Locke but his alternate reality doppelganger, the Man in Black. Sun is therefore tapped into a multi-dimensional awareness; the aphasia and bump on the head transferred her lack of English to mainstream Sun while that Sun sent something back: a memory of Jacob's Nemesis. (Though, please be aware, I'm not suggesting for a second that Lost-X Locke is the Man in Black because that's patently untrue.)

I'm interested to know just how Desmond knows Ilana Verdansky, here the Los Angeles attorney overseeing Christian Shephard's estate. Gathering Jack and his son David for the reading of Christian's will, it seems an act of fate that Ilana should come face to face with Claire Littleton, whom they had been looking for after she was bequeathed a portion of Christian's estate in his will.

Desmond seems particularly charming and silver-tongued here. Despite her reticence about seeing a lawyer, Claire is finally convinced by Desmond to see his friend, who owes him a favor... only to discover that she's been reunited with her family. As I said before, I can't help but wonder if this Claire decides not to give Aaron up for adoption after all. Desmond seems to indicate that she could be taken advantage of and her sudden introduction to her half-brother Jack might deter her from taking that meeting after all.

Jack, meanwhile, is called away to operate on none other than Locke, whose life was--rather ironically--saved by his wheelchair. Jack recognizes him as he begins his surgery, likely restoring Locke the ability to walk... as well as a belief in the miraculous power of destiny. Everything, as they say, comes back around...

All in all, an interesting if not show-stopping episode of Lost that offered some insights and solved a few mysteries while keeping the action humming along as the various gamesmen are moving their pieces into place. With only four episodes remaining until the series finale, I anticipate some major revelations ahead as the Final Battle gets underway.

What did you think of this week's episode? Wonder what Widmore is planning? Did Sayid turn good again? Will Claire betray the group? Agree with the above theories or disagree? Still have questions? Head to the comments section to discuss, ponder, probe, and more.

Next week brings a repeat of "Ab Aeterno," so we'll have to wait a fortnight for our next brand-new installment. In two weeks on Lost ("The Candidate"), Jack's suspicions about Locke make his decision more difficult after he is asked to complete a difficult task.

Comments

I second the comment that "I liked it but didn't love it." The last seasons have seen a similar pattern. Three or four episodes from the end, everyone separates. I have a lot of faith for what's coming; I'm sure it will be awesome.

So this war they were talking about, is it between Widmore and Smokey Locke?
rockauteur said…
So at this point... all all the original Others now dead? Including Cindy and the kids? It looked like mostly everyone was blown up on the beach except for Locke and Jack, leaving only Ben/Richard/Miles elsewhere on the island. I'm at least hoping the Cindy and the kids survived. Time to repopulate the island!

I think MIB was lying about being Christian at the beginning of the series. You point out a lot of inconsistencies with this and I think you're right. Though if its not him, is it Jacob? Even though Jacob was alive the entire time in the foot of the statue? And who really was talking to Hurley both in Los Angeles at the insane asylum and on the island? Actually Michael? MIB as Michael? Jacob as Michael? Ditto with Charlie. Confusing.

And who convinced Locke to turn the wheel? Because the wheel not only stabilized the island, but it allowed for passage of Locke from the island. Did MIB as Christian manipulate Locke as Jacob's best replacement and island protector to leave the island, hoping he would never return? Did he know he would die and thus be able to use his body as a loophole? Or was that Jacob as Christian (or some other force) that needed Locke to turn the wheel so that Ajira could land on the island, thus bringing back the candidates? And we still need explanation on why some of the candidates ended up 1977 and why Sun et all didn't.

Also surprised that The Elizabeth was still in good shape over the past three years, following Keamy's assault on the island, the island "moving through time," and the Others hanging out at the Temple for three years. There's still a lot of blanks of time when the island moved that I hope we get explanation for (did the Others move through time, why not? Was moving the island meant to move the island through time?)

I actually thought it was a great episode though! And thought Jin and Sun's reunion was awesome!
FoosRckKona said…
When you pointed out how much Sawyer wanted off the island it clicked and I drew comparisons of MiB to Sawyer and then Jacob to Jack. Sawyer wants off the island as bad as MiB and Jack knows (to a certain extent) that it would be a bad thing if MiB got off the island. Maybe?
sg911911 said…
Great recap! The Sun and Jin reunion didn't move me either, but the look of heartbreak on Sawyer's face as he looked on, did.
Ridolph said…
I was a little underwhelmed by the episode. I definitely noticed that the Jin and Sun reunion wasn't as emotionally strong as it should have been. Writing/Pacing issue? Lost-X counterparts interfering with the portrayal? Maybe if they lost the baby on that side there would have been more contrast.

But why doesn't someone just say: "Hey, Smoke Monster, what the fuck are you anyway?? Where's home? If you kill everybody, can we get their stuff?"? Hurley could list a whole bunch of powers and see if he had them. Go off on a Darkseid rant.
Kimonoface said…
I agree, I was VERY disappointed by the reunion. I wanted running, jumping, spinning and some really passionate kissing and squeezing. When the Ajira folks were reunited with the 70's crew... now that was a powerful reunion, marked by it's quiet tension and emotion.

I'm also of the mind not to trust Flocke... I don't think he was Christian the whole time. Either way we still don't know why exactly "Christian" took Claire. Anyone?

I believe the dark side peeps can 'redeem' themselves and come back. Though I'm sure crazy Claire will show her colors again before this show is over.

Also, did anyone else catch the nurse telling Jack Locke's "Girdle sac" was in rough shape... nice call back to the first episode where Jack describes his "count to 10" scenario when he sliced open the girls "girdle sac" during his first surgery. Symbolic?
Kimonoface said…
Excuse me: it was a 'Dural Sac'... and he counted to 5 not 10.
pan said…
As for Fake Locke being Christian - wasn't it Christian who appeared to Michael on the freighter telling him that the island was done with him as the freighter blew up?

Now he can't get to Hydra without a boat?
Sazbo said…
Was anyone else distracted by the fact that Jin and Sun were running towards each other from opposite sides of the pylons only seconds after Widmore's team made the call to have the pylons turned off? The emotion of the scene was lost on me because as soon as they embraced each other I was sure they were going to start foaming at the mouth and bleeding out the ears a la Mikhail.
Ridolph said…
Sazbo,

Actually I was distracted by that as well.
kilmooni said…
I agree with your thoughts on Sun and Jin's reunion.

Unrelated, what do you think MiB reasoning would have been for killing Eko way back when? Something to fear there?
Unknown said…
Gotta say I'm likin' the new Jack. He's got a new peace about him - not quite as zen as Desmond perhaps, but peace nonetheless.

He follows Hurley because Hurley says, "Trust me," even though he knows Hurley is lying about seeing Jacob.

He literally takes a leap of faith into the ocean because leaving the island doesn't feel right, and Sawyer won't turn back.

It's like he knows that whatever is supposed to happen will happen as long as he follows his heart. The man of science, who always felt the need to fix things, has become a man of faith. And he is at peace with that now.

I've heard the final scene of the series is supposed to show two people sitting together. I'm bettin' it's Jack (as Jacob's replacement) and MIB-Locke (whose schemes to escape the island have been thwarted); just as Jacob and the previous incarnation of the MIB sat together many times.

I'm seriously hoping that the real Locke in the Lost-X time-line will get to do something significant to make things right, because he was the original man of faith when it came to the island (and, ironically, was in opposition to Jack who once lacked this faith).

(Plus Locke is one of my favorite characters!) :o)
HKL said…
Okay, since only a couple of episodes are left, there is not much time left to come up with new, creative, and entertaining theories. Therefore, I will start presenting some wild guesses now.

MiB/Smokey: I remember MiB saying that he was human once, not so different from the people on the island now. This gives rise to my following wild guess: MiB was a human once, was brought to the island by Jacob as a candidate.
Then at some point during his candidacy, for something (unknown) special that happend, Jacob turned him into what he is today.
This means that actually Jacob created Smokey. Maybe it was some kind of deal that MiB initially agreed to, but later changed his mind when he found out what it really means and includes being bound to the island forever.
Then he started hating Jacob for that. In fact, maybe what happened is that he was a candidate that passed the test and was chosen.
Maybe the chosen candidate's destiny is to become like smokey.
Maybe there have been other smokeys before the current one?
At least some smokey was depicted in a cave drawing inside the temple, which looks like being a couple of thousand years old.
When MiB sees that Jacob continues to bring people to the island,
fooling around with their lives and finally doing to them what he did to him, MiB becomes very angry ("Do you know how very much I want to kill you right now?").

Jacob: He is the one who created smokey, and he is the one who has been bringing people to the islands for thousands of years.
What is he, and what are his intentions for all this?
Okay, this one is really wild: Maybe Jacob is an alien and the island is his spaceship (would explain the electromagnetic anomalies nicely, would also explain how it can sink to the ground of the ocean, would also explain how it can suddenly disappear and travel in time, would also explain the donkey wheel as part of the ship controls).
Either he is sent by his species to assess if and when humans are ready to make contact,
or maybe he is an individual that somehow uses human emotion to survive. If he is sent by his species, maybe he is searching for a candidate to make contact with his people. Waw, this is just too much off, hehe.

Boy in the Jungle: Maybe Jacob has an automatic respawning mechanism.
If he is killed, he automatically respawns as a child, but it takes some days or weeks before he reaches his grown-up state and can fully materialize. Maybe he is some kind of holographic projection by his spaceship, similar to the doctor in Star Trek Voyager, or Braniac in Smallville.

Widmore: Somehow, Widmore found out about who and what Jacob and the island are. Maybe he is coming to the island to keep Smokey from leaving the island and uncovering Jacob's Secret to the world.
Maybe Widmore even is a secret son of Jacob and one of the women he had brought to the island.
(Do we know anything about Widmore's parents?)

Eloise: She also seems to know an awful lot about the island, its purpose, and how to get there.
Maybe she is also a secret child of Jacob?

I hope you find some of these wild theories entertaining. Let's see how things work out.
Perry K said…
I still believe the island is or was Atlantis. If I remember some of the legend, there could have been a war. Which could explain that statue and the paints on the walls under the statue.

Jacob could be trying to prevent the MIB from spreading (maybe their technology) across the globe and thus becoming to big an influence on the world. Maybe Jacob wants to keep free will in the world.

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