The Oceanic 6 present their cover story to the press but have to face their old demons; plus Ben and Locke try to move the island
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''
Ominous signs of impending doom abounded in last night's Lost. There was Flash-Forward Hurley's T-shirt, the one that said ''Ace of Spades'' — the death card, the card of war. There were also his accursed Lotto numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42), taunting him from the speedometer of his symbolically loaded Camaro, causing the soon-to-be loony-bin returnee to run like a proverbial madman. And there was the Orchid, our newest Dharma station, also known as ''the greenhouse,'' perhaps the most foreboding omen of all. Operation Greenhouse was the code name for America's A-bomb testing program in the South Pacific during the 1950s — a terrifying allusion in an episode where we learned that the freighter is a ticking bomb and that ''moving the Island'' could be a perilous, possibly catastrophic endeavor. ''Doing it is both dangerous and unpredictable,'' said a glibly cryptic Ben. ''It's a measure of last resort.'' Whatever it is that the Orchid can do, it was enough to cause Faraday to make an I-think-I-just-peed-myself face: ''We have to get off this island,'' he told Charlotte. ''Right now.''
It's probably premature to be jumping to conclusions about what any of this could mean: We've only seen part 1 of ''No Place Like Home''; the rest of it will air in two weeks. Then again, since when have these recaps been governed by common sense? ''No place like home'' comes from The Wizard of Oz, of course, though the line is actually found in (Numbers alert!) chapter 4 of L. Frank Baum's book, not at the end as in the Judy Garland movie. The title of that chapter? ''The Road Through the Forest.'' Perfectly fitting for an episode that saw much jungle trekking and emphasized the importance of following carefully marked if treacherous paths, be it the route from freighter to beach or the scripted lines of the Oceanic 6 cover story. The episode ended with Ben getting knocked out in the greenhouse — and whaddya know, if we continue to use the Numbers as a guide, chapter 8 of Oz, ''The Deadly Poppy Field,'' finds Dorothy passing out in a field of flowers. Perhaps the two-hour finale will correlate with chapter 15 (could ''The Discovery of Oz the Terrible'' = Jacob?), chapter 16 (could ''The Magic Art of the Great Humbug'' = Ben's twisty, tricky secret plan?), chapter 23 (could ''The Good Witch Grants Dorothy's Wish'' = Charlotte fulfilling her promise to Jin to make sure Sun gets away), and chapter 24, which is 42 backwards (''Home Again'' is clearly a reference to reincarnation/eternal-recurrence theory — I mean, clearly). (You're going to miss me during the impending hiatus, aren't you?)
Factoring in the flash-forward story, the second to last episode of the season mirrored the second episode of the season, ''Confirmed Dead.'' Where that story whooshed into the near pasts of five new characters (Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, Lapidus, dead Naomi), ''No Place Like Home'' whooshed into the near futures of five familiar faces: Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, and Sun. Moreover, each of their scenes was tethered to iconic life-trajectory markers. We had Hurley's birthday. We had the Sayid-Nadia romantic union. We had pregnant Sun's fortune-making career move. We had Jack eulogizing his dead (?) father. ''No Place Like Home'' cycled through the whole circle of life — and, possibly, beyond, if I'm reading the winks and clues correctly. I'll explain as I recap.
THE MEMBATA AIRLIFT
The episode began with the Oceanic 6's turbulent flight home. I'm not talking about the choppy air: I'm talking about the underlying tension aboard that Coast Guard rescue plane. From the jittery copilot rubbing his rabbit's foot because of his bad-luck passengers (''the cargo back there...bad mojo'') to antsy Jack almost conspiratorially coaching his fellow Oceanic 6 members on the press conference to come. Jack seemed desperately invested in the bundle of lies the Oceanic 6 was about to spew. Why? As for the others, they were admittedly shell-shocked by...something. What? For a bunch of rescued castaways, their saggy body language screamed defeat instead of euphoria. There was also a slight whiff of disappointment with Jack. I wonder: In the denouement to come, will Jack's sweaty, desperate zeal to fulfill his exit-strategy oath lead to shocking choices that will cost him their respect?
Regardless, these preoccupations were washed away when the plane reached Hawaii and the castaways met their families. The theme song could have been Paul Simon's ''Mother and Child Reunion,'' for it was the moms who got most of the love. Sun and her mom. Jack and his mom. Hurley and his mom. Cheech got an affectionate pat, but Mr. Paik didn't even get a glance from Sun. Sayid was sidelined, though not for long; Hurley shared his family with him. But Kate and Aaron — poser mother and orphan Island child — stood alone and awkward. (By the way, I loved the wink-wink of the Oceanic Airlines publicist's saying, ''They're referring to you as the Oceanic 6. It's not the best branding as far as we're concerned, but it's catchy.'' For those of you who felt ABC didn't play fair with its O6 puzzle marketing — Aaron wasn't technically an Oceanic 815 passenger! — consider this your apology.)
HITLER WAS WRONG
''The Big Lie'' is a propaganda conceit — attributed to Hitler — that argues that the bigger and more perverse the lie, the more people are likely to believe it. (Yes, I have reason for dragging Hitler into this; the Oceanic Airlines publicist, Mrs. Decker, shares her last name with Nazi flack Will Decker.) But the Oceanic 6 spin strategy went the other way: presenting a credible substitute for their utterly incredible situation. Decker gave us the overview. Oceanic 815 crashed in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. Eight people survived and made it to an uninhabited island called Membata. According to one online dictionary, ''membata-bata'' in Indonesian means “ambivalent.” As in The post-rescue demeanor of the Oceanic 6—profoundly conflicted; hearts divided — is a compelling definition of ambivalence. On day 108, six of them made it to the inhabited island of Sumba. And that was that. Not one word of ghosts, polar bears, or smoke monsters. (Interesting fact about the inhabitants of Sumba: They're known for their megalithic burials, in giant stone crypts. Megaliths usually bear symbols called ''cup and ring marks,'' pervasive throughout prehistoric cultures; they resemble a series of concentric circles, just like the Oceanic Airways logo, or a spiral, just like the Orchid logo, spotted in Faraday's notebook. These symbols reflect the belief of earlier cultures that there is spirit inside earthly substance, that all is connected, that time is eternally recurring. Or these markings could be some early Martha Stewart's good idea of sprucing up a crypt.)
The Oceanic 6 had some curious things to share personally, too. Jack embellished the cover story with some survival-at-sea detail. Hurley defused a question about their healthy appearance by humorously accusing the reporter of commenting on his weight. (He also boldly announced he was giving up his restored lotto winnings.) Sayid flatly denied that any of the other castaways had survived. Sun seemed to struggle the most as she reluctantly, bitterly claimed that Jin never made it off the plane. But Kate's lie had the most readily apparent implications. She claimed Aaron was her child — and tacitly confirmed a reporter's conclusion that she was five or six months pregnant when she got on the plane. One would think that this claim could be easily disproved; time will tell if anyone investigates. Just as intriguing, Kate's story messes up a lot of fan theories — including my own — that the Oceanic 6 would leave the Island by way of the anomaly and move forward in time. But who knows? Maybe when Locke reboots the space-time continuum with Orchid magic, we'll get a new timeline that helps Kate's yarn — and saves our theories.
A STITCH IN JACK'S SIDE = A STITCH IN TIME?
One of my favorite scenes in the episode was the sequence in which Jack and Kate stopped for a water break as they chased after Lapidus' chopper. Kate noticed that Jack was bleeding from his appendix suture. He tried to pass it off as a harmless routine infection. Kate nailed him with that great line about Jack's knack for lying like a politician by looking you straight in the eye.
But the scene started getting really interesting when Miles stumbled into it, resulting in a guns-drawn encounter that echoed their first meeting in ''Confirmed Dead.'' Then Sawyer came bumbling in carrying baby Aaron. In the span of a couple lines, Sawyer quoted the concept of ''déjà vu'' and likened Jack to a ''broken record.'' Given how reincarnation and eternal-recurrence theories gained considerable traction last week with Richard Alpert's Dalai Lama test of John Locke, hearing '' déjà vu'' and ''broken record'' in a sequence that deliberately echoed another scene in a previous episode — well, it's enough to make you wonder if Lost was trying to tell us something. Or maybe it was just playing with us. Or maybe just me. Maybe Lost is a lot like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, duping people into thinking his city is made of glittering emerald by making them wear dazzling, green-tinted glasses. In truth, his city was made of plain old white marble. I just got severely depressed writing those sentences. Back on with my crazy glasses!
Seriously, though: None of this has to do with why I loved the scene. I dug the Jack-Sawyer tension as much as anyone. How about Sawyer rubbing it in Jack's face about how Locke was right concerning the freighter people? And how about Jack striking back by accusing the rogue of running away? But I dug it even more when these two put the sniping aside, find common ground, and play Superman and Batman together — in this case, saving Hurley from mad Island mystics Ben and Locke. I've always been a sucker for the rivals-who-become-allies arc in any kind of story. Rushing off to help Jack, Sawyer quipped, ''You don't get to die alone.'' Perfect.
Sun's hostile takeover of Paik Industries In one of the evening's most surprising developments, we learned that Flash-Forward Sun leveraged her settlement from Oceanic Airlines to buy a controlling interest in her father’s company. Her motivation: getting his respect. and possibly revenge. She held him responsible for Jin's death and for putting both of them on the plane. Depending on how you interpret her lines, she seemed to imply he deliberately conspired to kill them, as if he knew the plane was going to crash. (She also said that Paik was one of two people she holds responsible for Jin's current corporal status, whatever that might be. Do you think she meant Paik was/is in cahoots with someone else? Maybe Charles Widmore?) But in the words of my own father, who watched the episode with me last night, ''that must be one big freakin' Oceanic settlement.'' It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Sun is receiving additional financial support from other sources, like Ben, or even Hurley. Heck, maybe the Orchid isn't hiding a time machine like everyone thinks. Maybe the dirty little secret of Dharma was that it was actually a secret gold-mining operation, and the Orchid was where the finished bricks were stored. The Oceanic 6 found the gold, took it, and are now drawing upon it to rebuild their lives and settle old scores with wretched enemies.
''Jesus Christ is not a weapon'' This line, from Hurley's mother, just as he was about to club her — and his surprise party guests — with a gold-plated Jesus figurine. ''Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?'' Hurley muttered to himself over and over again, evidencing an aspect of psychological ambivalence: the divided self. But what was up with the blinged-up Jesus? It conjured memories of the heroin-stuffed Virgin Mary idols, themselves complex allusions to Marx's idea that religion is the opiate of the masses. So was ''Jesus Christ is not a weapon'' a political statement? A reminder in an election year that Christianity should be a pursuit of spiritual experience, not a party platform or fuel for neo-imperialism? Or maybe it's a clue — a marker, pointing to the possibility that the Island throbs with life-after-death resurrection power. Or maybe it means nothing. Just askin'.
''When have you ever been entirely truthful?'' This line, from Locke, was my second favorite line of the night. It came just as Ben, Hurley, and Locke arrived at the Orchid and Ben confessed that he happened to know exactly why Charles Widmore wants possession of the Island. (My theory: Orchid time machine = key to eternal life.) ''I haven't been entirely truthful,'' Ben said. Then came Locke's retort, which was followed by no response from Ben. I couldn't tell if Ben was just ignoring Locke, or if his silence spoke volumes. But this is the fundamental question about Ben, isn't it? Why does he does do what he does? Is he some kind of Machiavellian Ben Kenobi, ruthlessly molding his Luke Skywalker for a showdown with a phantom menace that Locke was destined to fight? (I definitely got a Star Wars vibe as Ben almost heroically walked into the greenhouse to create the distraction needed for Locke to get into the lower levels of the Orchid.) Then again, maybe Ben is just plain evil. Maybe he's leading Locke to destruction by bringing him to the Orchid — just like the evil magician Professor Hinkle led Frosty the Snowman to his death by trapping him inside a greenhouse, melting him down so he can steal back his enchanted hat. Or maybe his motives are more self-destructive. Maybe Ben wants out of the crummy Island life that was always meant for Locke — so he's manipulating Locke toward changing history and negating his own timeline with the Orchid's much-speculated time machine. Can I spin one more theory for you, this one inspired by the greenhouse scenes from In the Heat of the Night and Minority Report? No, you say? Move it along? Oh, well. Maybe next recap.
Other momentous things happened. Jack capped off an episode of telling lies to himself and others by saying he loved his father and missed him. Seriously? So much for honestly processing and exorcising the daddy demons on the Island. There was also that great scene when he met Claire's mom and learned that Aaron's mother was actually his half sister. What was going through Jack's mind at that moment? How about I'm guilt-racked over leaving so many people behind. Some of them intentionally. And now I learn one of them was my sister? I am scum! I triple-loathe myself now! We saw Jin and Sun reach the freighter and have a tense reunion with Michael. We learned that Keamy rigged the boat with explosives; most likely, that gizmo he taped to his arm last week will set it off should his pulse stop pulsing. And Richard Alpert and the Others popped out of the woodwork like the cavalry-cum-Robin Hood and his Merry Men! In short, a lot to talk about — so get talking. And see you in two weeks.