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Someplace Better Than Here: The Castaways Take a Leap of Faith on "Lost"

I don't know about you but I am very, very worried about Penny.

Last night's episode of Lost ("316") seemingly achieved the impossible: sending the castaways back to the island on a wing and a prayer, something that I thought may not have happened until much later on this season. Trust Team Darlton to pull a bait and switch on us and actually start this week's episode with Jack, Kate, and Hurley surviving yet another plane-related mishap and waking up on the island.

I thought that this week's episode, written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, was absolutely brilliant, offering us some new mysteries to ponder (more on that in a bit) while fulfilling viewers' wishes (just like Jack's!) that the Oceanic Six return to the island. And while I still have some head-scratching questions, I thought that the return to the island was handled beautifully: a bit of haunting mystery, a wallop of blind faith, and a flash of white light.

So what did I think of the revelations of the aptly-titled "316"? Let's discuss.

Before we begin, just a note of caution: I don't traffic in spoilers nor do I enjoy them. The below thoughts are based on my theories and feelings about last night's episode and do not express any knowledge of future (or, ahem, future past) events on Lost. Whew.

The Lamp Post. Absolutely loved the reveal that the computer lab beneath the church was actually a Dharma station called The Lamp Post, a very fitting moniker for the station, which acted as a conduit between pockets of a specific type of electromagnetic energy. By tapping into these energy sources and using a Foucault pendulum, Eloise Hawking (and previously Dharma scientists) are able to predict where the island, which is in constant motion, will next appear. It explains why rescue never came for the castaways as they weren't long enough in one place for people to locate them, why the island is ALWAYS notoriously difficult to find, and why Penny had scientists looking for a specific type of electromagnetic energy up in the Arctic. So did the US military discover the island in 1954 (as shown by the surveillance photo on the chalkboard in the Lamp Post) because they were looking for it specifically? Or was it an accidental discovery?

And, given the complex equations and use of the Lamp Post, how did Captain Gault of the Kahana know to be in the right place at the right time then to find the island at the end of Season Three? Hmmm, that's an interesting question. And the only likely answer that springs to mind is that Hawking had to have given the coordinates to Widmore. Which does make me question Eloise's allegiances just a wee bit.

So why the Lamp Post? A clever homage to C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, where a lamp post acted as a landmark for the bridge between Narnia and the real world. (If you remember your "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," it's where little Lucy Pevensie meets Mr. Tumnus for the first time.) Therefore, it's a fitting symbol of a beacon in the night sky, a lighthouse pointing the way to the correct path. Unfortunately, for the Oceanic Six, they won't have the luxury of traveling to the island via an old wardrobe...

Ajira Airways. I'm glad that the clues about Ajira Airways have finally paid off with such deliciousness: the episode's title refers to a particular flight (316) that travels between Los Angeles and Guam, which will put the Oceanic Six (or, well, Five plus Ben and a few others) in the right position for the next event window. However, it's still very much up in the air (heh) whether or not Flight 316 actually crashed or whether Jack, Kate, and the others were pulled out of the timestream when the white light materialized. So far, there's no sign of the downed plane on the island but, as it's likely that Frank Lapidus will also wake up on the island, I do hope that the plane had an able-bodied co-pilot... (BTW, how awesome was it that Lapidus ended up piloting the flight, as he was originally meant to fly Oceanic Flight 815? Only wish ABC hadn't put Jeff Fahey's name in the credits!)

I'm very curious if this was the same means that Ben continually used to return to the island following his frequent off-island jaunts (as seen through his cache of passports and foreign currency). Did he often take Ajira and vanish off the plane in order to reach the island from various points in the world, based on knowledge gleamed from Eloise Hawking? It certainly seems that way, anyway.

Penny and Desmond. Speaking of Ben, I'm very, very nervous about how he ended up bloody on the docks prior to the flight and then turned up in the nick of time for the flight with his arm in a sling and his face covered in cuts. Could he have followed through on his promise to Charles Widmore that he would kill Penny in recompense for Alex's death? I certainly hope not but right now my mind is definitely fearing the worst: that Ben brutally murdered Penny (and possibly Baby Charlie too) and that she fought back with every ounce of strength at her disposal... and that we'll have to wait a few weeks in order to learn just what happened.

As for Desmond, I'm glad that he said that he was finished with the island, even if the island hadn't finished with him yet. Just how will he get back to the island? And what if Ben had rigged things so that he didn't have any choice in the matter? Color me very worried.

The Proxy. I was a little skeptical when I first heard Eloise say that they had to approximate the same circumstances as the original crash but I love the symmetry of Jack transporting Locke's body (wearing Christian's shoes) and that of Christian's body on Flight 815. I've been waiting for that payoff since I first heard of Ben's plan. And just like Christian, Locke will be resurrected once he returns to the island... but will he have corporeal form? Or is that what makes Ben so special, so unique? That he can literally transcend death, not in spiritual form, but in the flesh?

Still, I came round to Eloise's way of thinking: after all, life can be explained as a mathematical equation, so it does make some sense to try to keep whatever variables you can in place... otherwise the end result can be very "unpredictable." So then, we get echoes of Charlie's guitar (carried this time by Hurley), a Spanish-language comic book, a prisoner and a federal agent (Sayid and his female companion, played by Rome's Zuleikha Robinson), a wedding ring (Sun toys with Jin's band, just as Rose did with her own in the pilot), and a last-minute attendee on the flight (Ben, echoing Hurley's mad dash to the plane). Loved that Hurley bought out 78 seats on the plane, in an attempt to minimize any, er, collateral damage from their journey back to the island.

Hurley. So how did Hurley know about the flight to Guam and make it out of jail? For one, we know that Ben's lawyers at Agostini & Norton were getting the charges against him dismissed, so it's easy to make the logical leap that he was released from custody. But how did he know about that exact flight? Easy: Hurley is in constant contact with the island itself, as evidenced by his frequent conversations with dead people. I believe that "Charlie" appeared and told Hurley that he had to get on Ajira Airways Flight 316 and carry a guitar with him, possibly one that Charlie himself had used in the past. Loved that Hurley was reading yet another Spanish-language comic book, this time a translation of "Y: The Last Man," written by Brian K. Vaughn... who just happens to also be a writer on Lost. (Nice shout-out, that.) But why is Hurley so visibly upset at Ben's appearance on the plane? And why is Ben "not supposed to come" back?

Aaron. It's clear that Kate has been through hell by the time she gets on the plane, making a decision that will likely haunt her for the rest of her life. So where is Aaron then? I believe that she went back to the motel to see Claire's mother... and left Aaron with her. It's perhaps the most difficult thing Kate has ever had to do and it makes me believe why Ben arranged for Kate and Jack to see Carol Littleton in the first place. Still, given Aaron's uniqueness, I'd be surprised if that's the last we see of the little one. And, as he was one of the Oceanic Six, shouldn't he have had to return to the island as well? Especially as we're told that Desmond will need to at some point. But then again: I've been wondering for a while now why Walt doesn't have to go back to the island...

Sun. Out of all of the castaways, I thought Sun would be the hardest to convince of this plan, given her hatred of Ben and desire to kill him in order to avenge Jin's death. Yes, she learned that Jin wasn't dead but would she really leave behind Ji-Yeon in order to return to the island without once questioning if they'd ever come back again? It was perhaps the one thing that frustrated me about last night's episode: that no one ever thought to ask if the trip to the island was permanent, if they'd ever be able to leave again, and if there was any going back. Yes, Sun wants to see Jin but at the cost of her daughter? I at least wanted to see some questioning going on. (But then again, no one even asked Ben how he got shredded in the few hours since they last saw him.)

Sayid. Just how did he end up in protective custody? And what makes me think that this federal marshall isn't all that she appears to be? Hmmm... I'm confused why a federal marshall would be taking Sayid to Guam, of all places, but it is possible, given the US military presence on the island, that he could be en route to a federal detention center there. Still, I think there's definitely more to this arrangement than meets the eye, especially as Sayid doesn't seem all that surprised to see everyone on the plane. So is the the first trip to the island for the marshall and the man who offers Jack his condolences? Or is it a return trip for them too? Curious.

Jack. Love that Jack woke up in the jungle (love that eye effect), clutching a shred of Locke's suicide note with the words "I wish." Just like fate, no matter how hard Jack tried not to read that note, it had a nasty way of materializing again and, just like Thomas the Apostle's final acceptance of the resurrection, it does make Jack believe. Is it that moment more than the others--the willingness to return, the placement of Christian's shoes on Locke's corpse--that allows them entry to the island? Does all it take is being in the right place at the right time and believing? Is that what allows a wardrobe to become a portal to another realm, a flight to be a pathway to the island? Is it the acceptance of destiny, the erasing of skepticism? Opening up one's heart to the possibilities of magic?

Saint Thomas. It's interesting that reference is made to Saint Thomas the Apostle, who dictated that Jesus' disciples should follow him to Judea, even if their deaths were all but certain, yet disbelieving the resurrection and needed physical proof of Christ's wounds. Just like our own doubting Thomas, Dr. Shepherd, no? When he opens the coffin and stares at John Locke and replaces his shoes, it confirms the fact that Locke is dead. So when Locke does spring back to life on the island, it will provide concrete evidence that Locke did cheat death somehow. Think of it as one larger-than-life proof.

Jin. Love that it's a Dharma-jumpsuit wearing Jin who encounters Kate, Jack, and Hurley at the lagoon. He appears to be wearing a station emblem that sort of resembles a five-pointed sheriff's star, which makes sense as he seems to be patroling the island and responds to some sort of alert to their presence. The Dharma VW van also points to the fact that they are now all clearly in the 1970s period in the island's history and have caught up to the timeline established in "Because You Left."

Lost Literary Allusion of the Week: In addition to C.S. Lewis, there's also the use of James Joyce's "Ulysses," which Ben reads ("my mother taught me")
on the Ajira flight. Joyce's novel is about a single day traveling through Dublin, seen through the eyes of the book's protagonist Leopold Bloom, itself an allusion to the travels of Homer's mythological hero Ulysses, who finds himself fighting to return home to his dutiful wife Penelope. (In the novel, Molly Bloom subs in for Penelope.) How apt then that the Ulysses story could also relate to Desmond and Penny (Penelope Widmore)?

Best line of the evening: "We're not going to Guam, are we?" - Frank Lapidus

What did you think of this week's episode? Why was Ben all bloody? Just what do the castaways have to do now that they are back on the island in order to save the world and those they left behind? And will they be trapped in the past forever? Or is there a way for them to return home to the present day and their everyday lives? Discuss.

Next week on Lost ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"), Locke's fateful mission off the island as Jeremy Bentham is finally revealed.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Loved last night's episode. My theory is that since Eloise told Desmond that the island wasn't done with him... Ben did in fact murder Penny. I think he first fought with Desmond and knocked him out somehow and then went onto finish Penny (that's how he got the wounds). Desmond will eventually go back to the island to kill Ben and that's when the island will be finished with him. Poor Penny.
rockauteur said…
I disagree about Sayid... I actually think he WAS surprised when he sees Jack on the plane... His eyes got a little bug-eyed but he couldn't let the marshall catch on... I think he was as suprised as Jack was to see Hurley...

Leave it to Team Darlton to allow the Oceanic 6 to return to the island... and allow for flash backs to come back to the show! So many questions and new backstories to be answered... not only from our existing characters but also our new ones too... And I too was wondering why they didn't need Walt to come back to the island with them.

If Ben did use Ajira before (which explains why Juliet knew about them too), then why also the use of the submarine, the boat, etc? They had other means to arrive and leave at their disposal, at least until Locke blew up the sub and Michael took the boat home (though The Elizabeth is still out there, as is Libby's backstory).
The CineManiac said…
I read somewhere, I think it was an interview with some of the writers, but it could have just been somebodies random theory, that the reason they dno't need Walt is that it's not the fact that they left the island, but WHEN they left the island that demands they return.
Also, could Ben be a proxy for Aaron, just as Locke is a Proxy for the elder Sheppard?
I loved the episode, especially how it begins in the same way as the pilot did way back in 2004.
Unknown said…
True, titillating perfection last night! So many new questions but I didn't mind since they all are bound to have fabulous backstories! I friggin hope Ben didn't kill Penny. I hope someone just beat him up a bit! :)
The opening scene with Jack was also genius. My mother and I were screaming with confusion at the tv!
And Frank Lapidus? God that was perfection! And boy did he look different without his beard!
There are still so many great questions and connections to be made and I can't wait for more!
Harleypeyton said…
A subpar episode in a great season. Primarily because so much of what occurred will make no sense until subsequent episodes. That's not a bad idea normally, and pro forma for the show, but in this case the sheer volume of unexplained incident got to be a little irritating. And at times, the pretzel logic required to make it work -- eg, Kate telling Jack never ever to ask her about Aaron -- didn't help much either.

Also, the idea that you can teleport out of a moving plane because you 'believe' or happen to be at the right map coordinates seems conceptually lazy in a way that the wheel in the Orchid Station does not. YMMV.
Anonymous said…
We don't know for sure that they teleported out of the plane. I'm sure their reappearance on the island will be further explained.

I thought the only weak point in the episode was Sun's willingness to return to the island and leave her daughter behind (as Jace said). Judging by how difficult it was for them to get off the island the first time (and the chaos that caused) it seems like Sun and friends are expecting this journey to be a one way trip. Would Sun really risk never seeing her daughter again? Or at least asking Ben if she would be able to get back to the "real world" once she found Jin?

Otherwise, I thought the episode was brilliant!
Anonymous said…
Okay kids, pay attention. Last night's episode twists back into important details about Ben from Season 4, Ep 9, "The Shape of Things to Come," and Season 4's finale, "There's No Place Like Home," Part 2.

Last night, Ben said that he was going to "meet an old friend." That was a hefty clue because "old" coming from Ben would suggest that the friend was a time traveler. "Old" to Ben is relative, so it could be someone from his childhood or it could be a reference to an ancient entity. It could be Jacob who seems to have some sort of a friendship with Ben. Or, it could be the smoke monster whom he summoned to avenge his daughter's death in "The Shape of Things to Come," (Season 4, Ep 9).

We know that the events in, "The Shape of Things to Come," took place on December 27, 2004, when Ben's daughter, Alex, is executed. This is 97 days after arriving on the island. In Eps 13/14 of the Season 4 finale, "There's No Place Like Home," Ben turns the crank and moves the island. The timeframe for this event also takes place in Dec 2004, 100 days after arriving on the island. We know that the Oceanic Six are rescued in Jan 2005. Keep the events and the timeframe of those two episodes in your mind because it appears that in last night's episode, Ben makes a quick trip back in time to revisit the events that took place during those episodes.

And, about Ben's injuries...We've seen him pummeled black and blue several times, but this time his injuries involved cuts and scratches, along with a shoulder injury. On his way to turn the crank during the Season 4 finale, Ben slips on the rickety ladder going down to the ice chamber and severely cuts his arm. When he got on the plane last night, not only did he have an injured arm, but it looked like he had time to receive medical treatment because his arm was in a sling.

In "The Shape of Things to Come," (Season 4, Ep 9) we see Ben waking up in the Sahara Desert in a parka with a cut on his right arm which is not in a sling. He fights a couple of local bad guys, and then travels on horseback to Tunisia to make contact with Sayid. The date is Oct 24, 2005. So, when he wakes up, he's wearing a parka, suggesting a connection with the events that took place in the ice chamber in Dec 2004. But, he arrives ten months later, and he still has an injured arm, which suggests that he is catapulted into the future when he turned the crank.

The injured arm is the key. Perhaps, Ben traveled back to meet Sayid in Oct 2005. In "The Shape of Things to Come," Ben was able to convince Sayid to assassinate the man he said killed Sayid's wife. Ben claimed that the man was hired by Penny's father, Charles Widmore. Perhaps, Ben went back to make sure that the events on this timeline stayed intact since Daniel was not traveling back to the island on the Ajira flight.

Ben would have had access to the time travel windows at the Lamp Post, and he could have made a quick trip before they all met at the airport.

I thought Jack's father's shoes were a nice touch, since Locke was originally a paraplegic when he arrived on the island the first time. Shoes suggest walking, and this man who was incapable of walking the first time returns even more capable as he makes the ultimate journey back from death. The proxy Locke, a dead man, assumes the role of Jack's father as they travel again to the island, which is a commentary on Jack's relationships with both his father and with Locke.

This show just keeps getting better and better!
Brian said…
The clan didn't 'teleport' from the plane. Obviously they traveled back in time, before the plane crashes. This doesn't mean that plane didn't crash, just that we haven't seen it yet.
Anonymous said…
@Anonymous That's the most asine theory I've heard so far. Someone is drinking too much of the Kool-Aid.

@Harleypeyton They didn't teleport out of the plane. They were in the right place for the flash to occur. They moved through time when they were above the island.
Page48 said…
Two things that struck me about the plane passengers being in the right place for the flash to occur, which is the only logical conclusion based on what we know.

1)Why would Jin not be affected by the same flash? Jin was driving the VW and packing heat, as if he was on some sort of patrol? Would Jin not be subject to the same flash since he was clearly in the same area? His body language doesn't indicate that he just traveled through time seconds earlier.

2) Jack/Kate/Hugo (and presumably the other plane passengers) changed location during the flash. Up until now, every one enduring the flash only transports through time, not through space.

Additionally, how did Jack et al "land" on the island? It doesn't look like they were simply placed there since Jack was holding only half of Locke's suicide note when he came to on the island. That would indicate that they underwent some sort of trauma (although nothing comparable to being dropped from a few thousand feet out of a plane)
Anonymous said…
Fantastic recap. I was actually a little annoyed by the way they returned to the island. I thought it was a little too convenient, but describing it as more of an exercise in faith may have some legs. I'm liking how this season is evolving and I feel like things are happening. Very excited about the next Wed.
Linz McC said…
Page48- I thought the same thing about Jin. It looked like he was pretty established in his current time period. Not like he had just time-traveled when those on the plane experienced the flash of light.

Also, I had originally thought they just time jumped during that flash on the plane, but I have a hard time believing they just fell from the plane and landed where they did, without being hurt.

In addition, we don't know what has progressed (or how much time has passed) with those on the island, so maybe they aren't even jumping around anymore, since Locke turned/fixed the wheel.

I am anxious to learn more about what happened.
Anonymous said…
Wait a second... Ben's comment about learning to read ("My mother taught me") -- his mother died in childbirth, right?
Anonymous said…
Let me go you one better for the literary allusion of the week. "316" A reference to John 3:16. You know, about God's sacrifice of Jesus so that people who BELIEVE can have everlasting life?

Well, clearly JOHN is going to be resurrected, and the note he gave Jack said that he just wished that he'd BELIEVED.

That's your allusion of the week.
Anonymous said…
Earnest -- Loved your literary allusion of the week! I think you're right.

Uberedit -- Wow, good catch! Yes, his mother died in childbirth, but while growing up on the island with his father, he began to see visions of his mother.

eric -- I'm happily drinking the LOST Kool-Aid, as are others. Btw, I used to spell "asinine" like you do, but then I went to kindergarten.
Anonymous said…
@Anonymous It's called a typo, you moron. Your "theory" is the most ridiculous thing I've read all year. Apparently you didn't learn any logic or narrative storytelling after your kindergarten education. Keep drinking that Kool-Aid, dude. It's apparently rotting your brain.
Anonymous said…
@Anonymous and if you think that Ben learned to read from seeing visions of his mother you are an even bigger idiot than I thought.
Anonymous said…
I loved the episode.Absolutely brilliant,especially how they handled the return on the island.

Just a thought about the Proxies thing as it seems that the whole fandom is discussing about it:

Jack had a letter (Sawyer)
Hurley had a guitar (Charlie)
Sayid had a Marshall (Kate)
Locke was in a coffin(Christian)
Sun had her lost husband's ring (Rose)

We have one very important Lostie from flght 815 that seems to be missing: Claire.

Do you think that Kate could be Claire's proxy...and be carrying a Shephard baby? ;-)

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