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Returning to the Sea of Love: Lost Questions, More on "The Candidate"

Welcome to this week's second look at Lost, which only has four and a half hours left before it fades to black. (Or white.)

Once again this week, I'll be taking a second look at this week's episode of Lost ("The Candidate") by answering reader questions submitted via comments, Twitter, and email.

While I discussed "The Candidate" in full over here (along with theories about the Man in Black, Sayid, Claire, Widmore, and more) and dropped by this week's episode of Instant Dharma, it's time to dive deeper and get to some further theories, doubts, and questions that we're all thinking about.

So, without further ado, let's prepare to board the submarine and head down to Davy Jones' locker.

I don't know about you but I'm still getting choked up just thinking about "The Candidate" and the number of major deaths that the episode contained. While I'm somewhat sad to see Sayid and (possibly) Lapidus go, it's the final haunting image of Sun and Jin, united one last time in death, that sends me reaching for the Kleenex every time I think about it. For a series that's had such a huge body count over the past six seasons, the fact that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse--and episode writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Jim Galasso--managed to make the married couple's reunion-in-death so poignant and memorable is a testament to both the well-crafted writing on the series and actors Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim.

Even with only a handful of episodes left, they'll be missed... and we can cross off 42-Kwon off our own personal cave wall/lighthouse wheel.

Lots of questions to get through but make sure you stick around until the end where I discuss an interesting theory raised by reader HipHopAnonymous about the possible end of the series.

Man in Black. Frank1569 asked, "If last night, plus the preview, doesn't nearly confirm my theory that Jacob is the wolf in sheep's clothing and Smokey's the good guy, well... See how upset Smokey was when he realized the sub sank? That was not his plan..."

Oh, Frank1569, I love that you believe so much in your theory about Jacob being the evil one and the unnamed Man in Black being the good guy but this week's episode went out of its way to disprove your theory. There's no possible way that Smokey is good as it was absolutely his intention to sink the sub and kill everyone on board. Hell, after he realized that his time bomb had failed to kill all of the candidates, he picked up his rifle and set out to finish what he started. He absolutely intended for that submarine to explode and sink to the bottom of the ocean, thus killing everyone on board.

He may not have detonated the bomb itself--though he put it in Jack's bag and meant it to be found--but his intentions were clear. He shared them with the group, putting the blame on Charles Widmore: he wanted the candidates in a contained space, with no chance of escape, and then he wanted them to DIE. That's not goodness, that's pure malevolent evil to me.

Furthermore, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse went so far as to clarify any false beliefs that the Nemesis was a white hat, with Cuse telling Entertainment Weekly, "There is no ambiguity. He is evil and he has to be stopped... There will be very little debate at the end of this episode that [Fake Locke] is evil and bad and has to be stopped. The main narrative reason for him killing our main characters is to establish how much of a bad guy he is and to clearly identify him as the antagonist rolling into the end of the series."

I've never doubted that for a minute. Sorry, Frank1569!

Frank Lapidus. Tempest, wrote, "I am... still peeved about the death of Frank Lapidus. I am going to live in denial about that one until I hear otherwise. Yes, I know logic isn't really on my side. That's never stopped me before." (An anonymous commenter also wanted Frank to survive the blow to the head and likely drowning in the sub: "That silver fox was a nice side character and I have yet to believe he's dead until it is officially confirmed. Hopefully he'll either show up back on the island (who's gonna fly that plane?! maybe a Widmore lackey...) or he's seen in Lost-X.")

Ah, Frank Lapidus. A lot of readers held out hope that because Frank was killed "off-screen" it meant that there was still a chance he managed to escape the wreckage of the sub and swam to another beach somewhere. Alas, I don't think that's really the case. For one, Sayid was killed off-screen as well when the bomb blew up and there's no way he survived that and he's been a series regular since the pilot episode. Plus, Frank was cracked in the skull by a huge bulkhead in a compartment that quickly filled with water.

Is it possible for a human being to survive all of that? Theoretically, maybe there's a small, infinitesimal chance that someone could. But honestly, I think Frank's a goner. At least in this world. (I still wonder if perhaps he was flying Oceanic Flight 815 in the Lost-X timeline, rather than Seth Norris.)

The Candidate. asked, "Couldn't replacing Jacob be Sawyer or Hurley's destiny, or perhaps they will govern by committee? Live together."

Yes, the idea of living together and dying alone has been pervasive since the beginning of the series and a core thematic idea that has powered a lot of the conflict and inter-character dynamics in every installment. But I don't know that a group of people could succeed Jacob. While the rules about the island are still tantalizingly unclear, it seems as though it has to be one person's responsibility and that they have to sacrifice their own life in order to do so, promising to protect the island and act as the Nemesis' jailer until someone takes over for them, repeating the cycle.

Could the ultimate candidate be Sawyer or Hurley? In theory, sure. But it seems fairly certain that the last man standing should be Jack Shephard. The series began with him alone in the jungle, his eye opening with dawning realization, and I think it will end the same way, Jack alone, where he is meant to be.

Which isn't to say that the other two individuals aren't important or vital to the endgame of Lost, because they clearly are. If, for example, we believe in repeating patterns, the love triangle between Jack/Kate/Sawyer could shed light on the rivalry between Jacob and his Nemesis. Did they too tangle over the love of a woman?

Hurley has been acting as Jacob's mouthpiece since his death on the island and, even prior to that, Jacob placed an enormous amount of responsibility on Hurley, sending him back to the island with a list of the candidates... and continually reappearing to offer Hurley advice. Could it be that Hurley might serve as Jack's Richard Alpert? Hmmm...

The Bomb: Boom or No Boom? Patrick wrote, "It's been established that MIB can't kill the candidates but also that they can't kill themselves. If they had let the counter run down to zero after Sawyer pulled the wires, I don't think it would have blown because that would have amounted to Sawyer killing himself."

I think it all comes down to intentions. In removing the wires, Sawyer didn't intend to kill himself but to SAVE himself, an important distinction. The dynamite didn't explode when Richard lit the fuse because he wanted to die, not to live. Sawyer hoped to live, therefore it negated what I'll call the "death quotient" of the bomb. In removing those wires, he sought to protect the candidates and that provided a loophole that the Man in Black was able to use. Just as he knew that Sawyer would shut him out of the submarine, so too did he know that Jack would not be able to convince the skeptical Sawyer that the bomb wouldn't blow if they did nothing.

I think that Jack was right, however: the bomb wouldn't have gone off if they left it alone, just as the dynamite failed to explode. But tamper with the device for the RIGHT reasons and you can still get the WRONG outcome.

You might say then that Sayid killed himself. Which again, would be wrong, because Sayid didn't kill himself out of desperation or fear. Rather, he sacrificed himself in order to save the group. He achieved redemption in those moments, placing his own needs and continued existence behind those of the greater good. He served his purpose to the island and died a hero once more. He didn't kill himself but he did sacrifice himself, an important distinction that points towards the significance of self-sacrifice within the series' mythology.

Rose and Bernard. An anonymous commenter asked, "I don't think we've seen him or Rose this season, right? Where the hell are they?!"

Good question. Just where are married couple Rose and Bernard and where have they been this entire time. Last time we saw them they were living a semi-comfortable life of retirement in the jungles in the 1970s, having traveled through time with the rest of the castaways who didn't leave the island.

So where are they? I still say they are the Adam and Eve skeletons in the cave which the castaways found in Season One, buried by followers of Jacob in accordance to the beliefs of the island: with those black and white stones that indicate a balance between good and evil. Or they managed to move forward again in time to 2007 and are hanging out with Vincent somewhere.

Flight Numbers. Andy asked, "How many people really remember their flight number a week after the flight? I usually forget the flight number by the time I leave baggage claim (after having looked it up when I got there to figure out which carousel has my suitcase), and I'm a math nerd!"

Good point. It's a quibble but one that's a valid one, given the lack of surprise expressed by Jack as he begins to realize that everyone who keeps coming into his life in the Lost-X timeline was aboard Oceanic Flight 815. I never remember what flight I'm on, even when I'm flying on it but I'm going to say that this is just a writer's shorthand of getting to the point quickly and easily. These people recognize that they were on the same flight together. Having them remember the flight number just makes the point hit home more easily.

The End. Reader HipHopAnonymous sent in a very intriguing theory about the end of Lost, spurred on by my own theorizing and the fact that Lindelof and Cuse have been very vocal about not wanting to narratively allow for sequels or spinoffs:
Even if they destroy MiB-- whom I hope we can all agree now, is in fact malevolence incarnate...--if the island still remains this mysterious, magical place where miracles happen, then the story isn't really over. In a way, they already told us how the show was going to end last season when MiB says, "They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt; It always ends the same." To which Jacob replies, "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress."

Ergo, the yarn being woven here will come to an end when someone finally manages to break the above cycle of destruction and corruption on the island, perhaps by sacrificing themselves, or the island, or both. And given LOST's frequent biblical undertones, would it really be that surprising to see a finale wherein man loses paradise again?

Congratulations, HipHopAnonymous! You've managed to dazzle me by inverting my own theory about the ending. I've long believed that the Lost-X castaways needed to raise the island up and begin the cycle anew but you make a clear case about the importance of breaking repeating patterns.

You're right when you invoke Jacob's statement that it only ends once. If the island is a mythical place--call it Oz, Narnia, or Eden--than it would be fitting to see mankind lose access to the garden, be deprived of their Paradise (just call the series Paradise Lost then) and push them out of the kingdom of the magical and divine.

There has been a clear usage of religious motifs and metaphors throughout the six seasons of Lost but I also have a hard time wanting to see the series end on such a discordant note: for a series that has always asked its characters to make a leap of faith and believe in the impossible, to eliminate that possibility from their lives seems an awful downer of an ending.

Likewise, would the destruction of the island lead to the death of the Nemesis... or his release? Does there need to be a cork in the bottle, after all? Or does erasing the mystic potential of the island and the evil of the Nemesis balance the cosmic scales? By sacrificing its beauty and magic and its evil potential for destruction, do the possible actions of Jack and the surviving castaways (should there be any) allow for that balance? To allow the creation of a world where there is no "magic," but a mundane place where each of us must "let go" of our own issues and resolve them in order to achieve catharsis on our own, without the aid of a mystical island such as this?

Or would Lindelof and Cuse instead offer an ending that does allow for that possibility, for the belief that each of us can find our way back to Paradise, but that we'll each be tested along the way, by our previous actions and by our own attempts at redemption and prove ourselves worthy of both the journey and the destination?

Many questions to think about. I think that the finale will definitely see one or both islands change positions. There either needs to always be an island in the world or there can't ever be one ever again. The cycle will either start over again or be broken forever. Both of which are very, very intriguing possibilities to consider over the next few weeks. (Although I still think that island has to come up from the ocean floor.)

Come back Wednesday to discuss next week's episode and head to the comments section here to discuss any of the above thoughts, theories, or additional questions...

Next week on Lost ("Across the Sea"), the motives of the enigmatic Man in Black are revealed.


frank1569 said…
Oh. And also damn.

I stand humbly corrected. Didn't know the boys clarified Smokey's evilness.

I just deduced that, based on the level of clever... I mean, I would have flipped it... damn.

But there is still a Kwon alive - isn't there?

Keep up the great work, Jace.
AskRachel said…
I love your Lost reviews/theories and am thrilled that we're now getting them twice a week!

Yes, I too would like to know what happened to Rose and Bernard (and Vincent)! I used to think that they were Adam and Eve but now I'm not so sure. In a previous episode, Jacob brings up the MiB's parental issues. Could Adam and Eve be MiB's mum and pop?
Patrick said…
Good point about Sawyer pulling the wires to save himself and not to kill himself. I didn't really think about that distinction.

As for Bernard and Rose, I don't understand why we need more closure there. I think the scene last season where they were shown to be staying away from all the dramas and "retiring" on the island made their intentions very clear and I don't see why we need to see that again. There are no reasons for them to have stayed in the past so to me, whatever happens to the island during the season finale will tell us what happens to them without having to spell it out.
KenB said…
I don't know which I will miss more: watching Lost or reading this superbly insightful blog following each episode!

Let's not forget that Richard and Ben are still loose in the jungle (thank goodness!) As for mysteries, setting aside the ultimate mystery about the island for the moment, I am really hoping to find out about the the origins and development of the Others - for instance where does their language ability come from - and who are the backers of the Dharma Initiative?
HipHopAnonymous said…
Maybe destruction was too strong of a word on my part. Perhaps if the island were merely, say, 'moved' via donkey-wheel to the bottom of the ocean, this might have some adverse consequences for MiB, who apparently has a problem traversing water.

Is it possible that this has really been what Jacob and the island have been waiting for all this time? Not a replacement for Jacob as jailer, but as sacrificial lamb? Someone willing to give their life and sink the island in order to do what Jacob cannot, destroy MiB?

Just as MiB found a loophole in the 'rules' by manipulating Ben into killing Jacob on his behalf, perhaps the reverse might also be possible. But unlike MiB, Jacob wants his 'candidate' to do so of their own freewill, to work it all out on their own and make a conscious choice, rather than being coerced into it like Ben.

Er, I hope not. As you say, that would be kind of a downer... :-(
peg said…
you ask: "who's gonna fly that plane?! maybe a Widmore lackey.."

or, maybe alt-Locke who has a pilot's license and, i'd bet, serious issues about bad things happening right after take-off..?
Ok - hear me out on this one. What if cuse and lindelof are pulling the long con on us by 'revealing' smockey is really evil incarnate? What if the sideways-verse is only achievable by 'killing' the candidates on the island, only to 'resurrect' them in the alt world? If smockey is trying to leave the island and break Jacobs cycle of human competition brought on by the trials of purgatory on the island, what if the only way to in fact save them, was to kill them? Far fetched I know, but if it really meant ending the cycle for good, the consistent trials of Jacob testing redemption, how could smockey do anything else other than set them up for death if it actually meant saving them in the long run? I feel I maybe lost-paranoid, they have built me this way, but surely it's not beyond them to pull a huge twist like this after such an important episode? Especially when we see everything is more or less 'ok' in the sideways world. Getting there now seems like a simple case of good triumphing over evil, which we technically know has already happened if the flash sideways are to be believed. Hmmm. Brain itch.
Unknown said…
Although I think that hiphopanonymous' theory to be very interesting and delectably poignant, I still rely on Desmond's words to Jack at the stadium : You have to lift her up brutha. Somehow, this is the thing Jack has to do; lift up the island.
I feel that everything that is happening now is re-telling what happened at the bottom of the hatch with the three key players being Jack, Locke and Desmond. Kate was there as well but her significance, although great, is still unclear to me.
On the note of candidates (Can) and non-candidates (NCan), I think it is very clever of Darlton to make the NCan as important as the Can. That is, if in fact barring self serving intentions, Can cannot kill other Can, the NCan ability to kill Can is a key attribute.
Anonymous said…
Great second write-up, I always look forward to Parts 1 and 2 of your Lost insight

However, I really think the person to replace Jacob is going to be Desmond. Come on, his whole new Zen behavior is his acceptance of his future role. Jack will be the one who sacrifices himself probably in a way that is on the surface for kate but on a deeper level, for the island like HipHopAnymous said. It was the writer's idea to kill off the Jack character in the pilot, so something tells me they still think about it.

Also, i know this is totally off topic but JJ Abrams was one of the founders of this show. I wonder how he feels about where it has gone... just curious i guess

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