While Locke and Ben succeed in their mission to displace the Island, we learn why only the Oceanic 6 escaped, why they lied, and why Jack feels the need to go back
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''
The season finale of Lost was a major leap backward for the show, and I mean that with a big wink and much admiration for a powerful conclusion to a bold, winning season. ''Rewind'' was the operative word for ''No Place Like Home (Parts 2 and 3).'' An orientation film mysteriously looped back on itself. Old moments were revisited and re-examined, if not reinvented. Heck, the whole show was rebooted from the beginning, with Jack the Hero falling from the sky and rising to action and building a community out of lost souls, just as he did in the pilot. The final moments even ironically echoed the first season's famous twin cliff-hangers, with a raft at sea and two men peering into the abyss of a dark box — the coffin of one Jeremy Bentham, who looks a lot like a certain boar-hunting bald man we've come to know, love, and fear the past four years. ''No Place'' wasn't the magic act of last year's flash-forward fake-out, but it was more meaty, more emotional, more epic, and, with a gulpy leap into WTH? sci-fi, maybe more ballsy.
''OH, AND ONE MORE THING: YOUR BEARD SMELLS LIKE WET VINCENT!''
Here's what I mean by rewind: The episode began where last season's flash-forward fake-out finale left off, with Kate driving away from Beaver Pelt Jack, and then — screeeeeeeeeeech! — the former fugitive came to an abrupt stop and floored it in reverse. Apparently, Kate had a few things she wanted to get off her chest — stuff she forgot to unload on Jack in last year's finale. She told him that his ''we have to go back!'' crap was galling, especially in light of what happened on their final day on the Island; that a man they both knew — the man in the obituary, one Jeremy Bentham — had come to her a few days earlier and tried to make the same wacko ''going back'' argument; that Aaron still doesn't quite understand why Jack isn't around anymore to read Alice in Wonderland to him before bedtime. She slapped him and told him to keep his distance and then drove off in a heartbroken huff.
I'll keep the Wikipedia-informed digressions to a minimum in this TV Watch, but a couple words about Jeremy Bentham, another classic loaded Lost name. Bentham was a 19th-century philosopher associated with utilitarianism and liberalism. He also designed the ''panopticon,'' a cylindrical-shaped prison that requires minimal security and facilitates intense paranoia. He was also buried in a bizarre box designed for public display called an ''auto-icon.'' Bizarre. Clearly, one must consider comparing and contrasting philosopher John Locke to philosopher Jeremy Bentham, but one should consider those things when one is not falling asleep at his computer at midnight.
More interesting to casual Lost fans is this: The name Jeremy Bentham all but confirms as legit the obit text that has circulated throughout fandom since last year. There are many more curious details in this notice — including the suggestion of suicide that was raised by Sayid later in the episode — but why don't you go over to lostpedia.org and read the obit yourself. We'll analyze the implications next Friday in my last Doc Jensen column of the season.
FREIGHTER BOMB = ISLAND?
Desmond, Jin and Michael tried to prevent an intricately wired bomb from going boom by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. We learned that the explosives were linked to a dead man's switch strapped to Keamy's arm. If his heart stopped beating, the bomb would explode. In other words, Keamy had forged a symbiotic relationship with the freighter — kinda like the way the Island has formed a symbiotic relationship with all these castaways who it won't let die until they complete their destined service. And how about all that ice? Later in the episode, we saw that the massive gears in the bowels of the Island were covered in frost. Was that ancient machinery deliberately frozen to keep the Island from going ballistic, as with the freighter bomb?
EXIT: FREIGHTER MERCS
The cliff-hanger from the previous episode resolved itself pretty quickly when Richard Alpert and the band of merry Others ambushed Keamy's men and liberated their once-exalted leader. Did you hear the Whispers start their whispering just before the Others made their move? (We'd hear them one more time in the episode, and in a more unexpected, unprecedented locale.) I liked Keamy's Hacky Sack action with the grenade, expertly kicking it over to another mercenary, who was then blown away by it. Ultimately they were all subdued, with Sayid taking down Keamy in a nicely choreographed mano a mano struggle marked by quit cuts and bloody loogies — but it ultimately took the last-second intervention of Alpert to settle the matter. ''Thank you for coming, Richard,'' said Ben, sounding a touch surprised that Alpert even bothered. After all, last season, Richard tried very hard to manipulate Locke into taking over the Others from him. Indeed, and judging from his halfhearted acceptance of Ben's salutation, Alpert wasn't wild that the devilish Dharma kid was still in the picture. But he'd get his regime change soon enough.
Just as intriguing was Ben's reaction to the arrangement Alpert had made with Kate and Sayid to secure their help in springing Ben: He had agreed to let them go. Ben affirmed the deal with a casualness that was almost glib. ''Fair enough,'' he said. Even Kate was shocked. ''We can leave the Island, and that's it?'' she said hopefully. Ben gave her one of his patented bug-eyed stares and line readings that suggest layers of meaning. ''That's it,'' he said, clearly not meaning a word of it. The whole sequence echoed the end of season 2, when Ben fulfilled the bargain his people had made with Michael. Ben is a shifty dude, but he does good by the people who risk their lives for his — even if he never quite fills them in on the fine print that stipulates that those who leave the Island never really leave it until the Island itself is through with them.
While the liberation of Benjamin Linus was under way, Jack and Locke met in the ruins of the old Dharma greenhouse to discuss ''leadership stuff,'' as Hurley put it. Once again — for the final time — the man of science and the man of faith had one of their super-heated philosophical smackdowns about design and chance, mysticism and science. The battle was specifically about the whole notion of miracles and whether such things were possible or credible. And wouldn't you know, it just so happens that season 4's author-philosopher in residence, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book called Miracles that tackled the empirical debate that Jack and Locke embody. I'll let you investigate that one at your leisure.
Spooky how Locke was able to see the dark road that lay ahead for Jack. He told his rival that he was going to have to lie about the existence of the Island and the remaining castaways, and he knew that doing so would eat away at Doc Integrity. I also thought this was painfully catty: ''If you do it [lie to the world] half as well as you lie to yourself, they'll believe you.'' Rrrowww! Frankly, it's that kind of insight — and button pushing — you usually get from Ben. Guess the Other is starting to rub off on John. The Jack-Locke standoff climaxed with their eyeballs blazing at each other. ''You're crazy!'' ''No, you're crazy!'' But I got the sense that something like doubt was beginning to creep into Jack's position.
One last observation: I have often made the mistake of articulating the ideological conflict between these two in ways that suggest Jack and Locke are exemplars of their respective stances. That's wrong. Rather, I think Lost has used each to dramatize the limitations of adhering dogmatically to either worldview. Jack is a humanist who believes solely and foolishly in his own agency, while Locke submits himself to an external, exotic agency he doesn't even understand. I love how Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn don't play the heady ideas but rather the desperate, murky psychology underneath them. Jack stubbornly refuses to believe in anything but himself, while Locke has a hard-on for the purpose and power his exalted Island status has brought him. For Locke, the moment at hand held the promise of rectifying an entire lifetime of being kicked in the nuts by that ''fickle bitch,'' destiny. ''Just wait until you see what I'm about to do,'' he declared. Be very afraid.
Damn, did that kid get big or what? There have been rumors that actor Malcolm David Kelly's real-life growth spurt has impacted the show's ability to use him, and now we can see why: There's no way he can play the Walt we knew when he left the Island. He can only make sense in the far-future flash-forward scenes, now the show's present, which happens to be our present: spring 2008. Chaperoned by his no-nonsense grandma, Walt paid a visit to Hurley in the mental hospital. ''I was waiting for one of you to come visit me, but nobody did,'' he said, sounding almost hurt, if not downright neglected, and I couldn't help wondering if some winky meta-resonance was intended in light of so much ''Where's Walt?'' wondering this season. The moment was brief: more cryptic Bentham name-dropping, more justifying the lie of the Oceanic 6 cover story. But it made me wonder if this scene was a setup for Walt's joining next season's Island search party. And we still need an explanation for the kid's spectral appearance in last year's finale. So hopefully not the last we've seen of Big Walt. PS: This is where you guys tell me about all the drawings on the wall I'm not talking about, like the ladybug painting, which, yes, I know, has been a recurring motif this season, but it's already 2 a.m. and I'm only this far into this freakin' thing. Another time, I swear!
THE FREIGHTER FOLK PUNT
As the last of the beach castaways were ferried to the freighter, we got some cryptic moments with the season's much heralded new arrivals, the freighter folk — scenes clearly meant to set up arcs for next season. Psychic hustler Miles Straume announced he was staying on the Island — all the better to give Lost someone who can make sense of the show's mounting infestation of poltergeists. Miles also confronted Charlotte on her big secret: that she's been to the Island before, and was perhaps even born there. (I let out a whoop when I heard that bit of business, as this has been my Charlotte theory all season long, dating back to my recap of the second episode.) When Charlotte played dumb and asked Miles what he meant, the quippy ghost whisperer responded with perhaps one of the best line readings in Lost history: ''Yes...what do I mean?'' We'll talk about Lapidus and Faraday in a minute, but allow me say, one final time, that the freighter-folk story line got screwed by the strike, but I'm glad that the show gave us reason to believe that these promising characters will get their respective due next year.
MOVING THE ISLAND: ''EXOTIC MATTER,'' INDEED
We come now to what will probably be the most debated parts in the finale, as it involved sci-fi stuff that I know scares a chunk of the viewing audience. Deep below the dilapidated greenhouse (how deep? ''Deep,'' Ben said) lies the laboratory level of the Orchid, a Dharma station devoted to time travel. This whole sequence was dotted with great humor the Ben-Locke bit about not knowing what anthuriums look like; Ben sitting Locke down in front of the TV to watch the orientation video while he loaded metallic objects into the Vault — all the better to ease us gently into the weirdness to come.
The newest orientation film included a laundry list of sci-fi buzz terms: Casimir effect, space and time, electromagnetic energy, negatively charged exotic matter. All of these are necessary ingredients for wormhole theory. Or in the quippy-smooth words of Ben, it means ''time-traveling bunnies.'' The most baffling part of the orientation-video experience was how it stopped and rewound before the narrator, Edgar Halliwax, could demonstrate how the machine was used. But this is a staple element of all the Dharma videos: the possibility of mind-game tomfoolery, which invites the viewer to question the legitimacy of the narrative.
Before Ben and Locke could get down to moving the Island, an interruption. A not-dead-yet Keamy crashed the party and tried to flush Ben out by bragging about his bomb and mercilessly taunting him about his daughter ''bleeding out.'' Ben cracked, allowing emotions to get in the way of ''command decisions'' (or so he claimed; you never know with this guy), and beat and stabbed Keamy. The merc died soon after, activating his heart-monitor detonator. Locke castigated Ben for dooming the freighter, which may have been his intention all along. ''So?'' Ben said. (My wife wanted to know why, when Keamy passed, Locke didn't just quickly transfer the heart monitor to his own arm.)
After coming to his senses, Ben dropped a whopper on Locke. Yes, while Jacob may have told Locke he had to move the Island, Ben reasoned that the actual work fell to him, because (1) Jacob never told Locke how to do it, and (2) ''moving the Island'' has a consequence to the mover — he or she must leave the Island — and Ben figured Locke, being Jacob's new golden boy, was indispensable. He told John his destiny was to become his replacement as leader of the Others, a coronation that would bring a proud, dangerous smile on Locke's face later in the episode but in the Orchid made him a little angry. Wasn't it his job to move the Island? Once again, Ben had pushed him aside. ''Goodbye, John,'' says Ben. ''Sorry I made your life so miserable.'' That's pretty provocative wording for all of you who've speculated that Ben and his minions have been using the Dharma time machine to meddle with Locke life since the beginning.
Ben then donned a Dharma parka and descended further, into a subterranean region that was either ancient (the remains of Atlantis?) or extraterrestrial (the engine room of a big spaceship?) in nature. Maybe it was both. Inside an icy cave, Ben beheld something that came as no suprise to him: a massive stone wheel embedded in a glyph-spotted wall crusted over with frozen snow. Spitting some bitter words to an unseen Jacob, Ben started pushing on the wheel, activating energy on the other side of the wall. As he did, Ben whimpered, and for the first time ever on Lost, I found myself not totally convinced by Michael Emerson's performance. Then again, maybe I'm just not used to seeing Ben playing big emotional moments that are unquestionably genuine, especially when he's pushing on giant sci-fi donkey wheels. But basically, it was a breakup scene; the deep, profound symbiotic relationship he had with the Island, apparently already weakened by his faithlessness, was now being severed.
Anyways, there was a big sound and a blinding flash and the Island disappeared, and with it a whole bunch of people, including Locke and the Others. Combined with the freighter explosion, that left a lot of characters in drastically changed circumstances:
Sawyer sacrificed his spot on Lapidus' chopper to make it lighter to save fuel. But before he jumped into the drink, he tasked Kate to execute an errand for him in the real world — presumably, I think, checking on his daughter, Clementine — and then planted a big kiss on her. And now we know why the ladies love Sawyer. As an added bonus, when he returned to the Island, he emerged from the surf sans shirt. (The yin to this yang: plenty of Kate cleavage shots for the guys.)
Juliet stayed behind to help everyone get to the freighter — then had a front-row seat on the beach to watch it blow up. Last seen chugging rum with shirtless Sawyer. You sense a setup for romance next season?
Faraday was last seen taking a raft of castaways to the freighter when the Island disappeared. Since the smaller Hydra Station island also disappeared, I have to assume that the move extended beyond the Island into the ocean. So I'm betting Faraday got caught up in that.
Jin was last seen on the freighter when it exploded. But if he survived and swam into the circumference of the move, he too could be wherever — or whenever — the Island is now.
Michael the castaway traitor earned his redemption by staying with the bomb. Moments before the blast, however, he heard the Whispers. Looking around, he noticed what appeared to be a videocamera in one corner (was it on?) and the ghost of Christian Shephard in the other. ''You can go now, Michael.'' Then: Boom!
As for Ben, we now know how he wound up in his Dharma parka in the Tunisian desert at the start of ''The Shape of Things to Come'': Apparently, that's where he landed after he moved the Island. The date: October 24, 2005, or about 10 months from when Ben moved the Island. So...where did the Island go? Nowhere. My guess is that it's in the same spot where it's always been — it just rematerialized in reality 10 months in the future, just like Ben.
It is now 4:10 a.m. Pacific time as I write these words, and I am denying the East Coast early birds the chance to get on these boards and start discussing. So let's blow through the rest of the episode quickly:
THE CREEPY KATE DREAM (?) SCENE
According to a sound file sent to me by reader Russ Boyd, the backward voice on Kate's phone said, ''The island needs you....You have to go back before it's too late.'' The dream encounter with Ghost Claire — who told Kate, ''Don't bring him back'' — suggests that each of the Oceanic 6 is getting a ghost to haunt him or her. Kate and Aaron get Claire; Jack gets Christian; Sun would get Jin (though I hope not); Sayid would get (?) (he's clearly the flaw in my theory); and Hurley has Charlie and...
''CHECKMATE, MR. EKO''
My other favorite line of the night — even Sayid seemed to smile. In Hurley's second flash-forward scene, Sayid killed a mystery man keeping tabs on Hurley and persuaded the troubled castaway to come with him to a safer location. Hurley asked him if he was taking him back to the Island. Sayid said no. Was he telling the truth? Unresolved Season 4 Hurley Mystery: In the season premiere, Hurley told Jack he wished he had stayed with him instead of going with Locke. Now that you've seen all of season 4, if someone asked why Hurley felt that way, how would you respond?
HERE COMES THE SUN KING
The season finale included two great Sun moments: her out-of-her-skull hysteria over watching Jin's apparent death and her attempt to form an alliance with Charles Widmore in the flash-forward future. (We finally got confirmation: Mr. Paik and Widmore are buddies. How much did Sun's dad know about the Island before his daughter crashed there?) The anguish clearly established a lady with desire for vengeance — but who is she really after? Widmore? Ben? Jack?
After getting to the freighter for fuel, and then following the most suspenseful gas-pumping scene in recent pop-culture history, the Oceanic 6 (plus Lapidus and Desmond) took to the sky to escape the soon-to-explode freighter, then watched the Island disappear in a flash of light, and then crashed into the water. Everyone survived, thanks in large part to Jack. Repeating his lifesaving from the pilot, the good doc revived a waterlogged Desmond. Later that night, amid yet another conversation about miracles in which Jack flat-out denied the extraordinary event his two eyes had beheld earlier, the Island's disappearance (this guy is as stubbornly scientific as Dana Scully), Lapidus spotted a boat approaching, evoking the Others' tugboat advancing on the raft at the end of season 1. The castaways would soon learn that the boat belonged to a much friendlier entity, Penelope Widmore, setting up an emotional, smoochy reunion between the two time-tossed constants. But before that happened, Jack came around to Locke's way of thinking: They would have to lie. About everything. The plane crash, the Island, their friends. I had a little trouble following the logic. The primary motivation for covering up is to protect their friends. But how can they even be sure if their friends still exist? I just wish Jack had rallied around the best, simplest argument for lying: No one would ever believe the truth. Of course, there's a whole psychological theory for why someone like Jack would concoct this lie — but that's analysis for another day.
Why is Locke in it? Why is he calling himself Jeremy Bentham? How did he get off the Island? Did he really kill himself? What happened on the Island after he left? How are Ben and Jack going to motivate their friends to go back to the trippy tropics — with a dead body in tow, no less? What are Ben's ideas? And was it me, or did Ben did look unnaturally Alpertesque young? Do ex-Islanders start aging backward once they leave?
My mind, as you can tell, is now mush. I'm going to let it congeal, then think anew and return next week with more cogent analysis. It's been a blast TV Watching with you this season; I hope to see you again in this space in eight months.
Until then, a prediction: I'll bet you 20 bucks that either the teaser or the final scene of the season 5 premiere episode will feature one character — I'm betting Sawyer — renewing one of the oldest Lost mysteries by repeating the iconic question of the pilot episode. As they wrap their minds around the riddle of their mysteriously displaced Island, Sawyer — or someone — absolutely must say:
''Guys...where are we?''