By Jeff Jensen
'Let me begin by guessing what most of you were thinking at the very end of last night's Lost: Harry Potter. Right? Add a lightening bolt scar and a British accent to that bespectacled pasty white cherubic mug, and young Benjamin Linus would have totally been the spitting image of J.K. Rowling's boy hero. Which is a rather provocative connection to make. Quick! Write me a mini-essay on all the ways Ben Linus = Harry Potter. Be sure to work in the words ''Parselmouth,'' ''chosen one,'' and ''I seem to recall a lot of people wondered if Harry might go bad, which is kinda like Ben, at least in the sense that so many people wonder if Ben is a good guy or a bad guy.'' Send your homework to JeffJensenEW@aol.com. Meanwhile, allow me to forge other connections between ''Namaste'' and Harry Potter that are probably totally irrelevant but somewhat amusing to consider. Didn't Jack, Kate, and Hurley's Dharma orientation feel very Sorting Hat to you? And didn't Sayid's incarceration have a certain Prisoner of Azkaban whiff? (Hey: That book had a time travel hook, too!) And now that I'm really going down the rabbit hole: Hippyish Horace Goodspeed = Professor Dumbledore by way of Michael Gambon; Snippy Radzinsky = Snappy Snape; Body-challenged Jacob = reincarnation-questing Voldemort. And are The Others = Death Eaters scheming to facilitate his reincarnation?
Oh, wait: You came here to actually read about Lost, not Harry Potter, didn't you? ''Namaste'' in a nutshell: Time travel trio Jack, Kate, and Hurley got assimilated into 1977 Dharma society. Time traveler Sayid was suspected of being a ''Hostile'' and got thrown in the Dharma detention center. And back in the present — which in Lost time is the year 2007 — Sun and Lapidus paddled to the big island and learned from Christian ''Dead Man Walking'' Shephard where and when the other castaways are. It was a transitional episode of Lost — an installment that cleared up some unfinished business and put everyone where they needed to be for the episodes to come. Coming out of the two-week break, ''Namaste'' was good for reminding us where we are in the larger season 5 saga.
A BRIEF WORD ABOUT TIMING
I know how the time jumping baffles some of you. So let's establish temporal context. It seems those Ajira 316 castaways and the Oceanic 6/Left Behinders are separated by 30 years of time. While there's always been some debate as to when exactly the Oceanic 6 left The Island, I'm going to take the conservative estimate and say it was late December 2004. They spent three years away from The Island before boarding Ajira 316 to head back. Hence: The Ajira/Hydra castaways are in 2007. The time travelers are in 1977.
Got it? I hope so, because we're moving on.
PROJECT: ISLAND RUNWAY
Our landing strip speculations were accurate, after all! Who says tracking arcane bits of Lost mythology is a total waste of time? Besides my psychiatrist and my neglected children, I mean? (Now you know where my Ben's face-slapping anger comes from.) In the opening sequence, we saw that after the Island beamed Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid off of Ajira 316, Captain Frank Lapidus spied a makeshift runway on Hydra Island and successfully executed a landing. (Alas, RIP his shish-kabobbed co-pilot.)
If I am recalling the Lost lore accurately, the Others were working on the landing strip during the time that Kate and Sawyer were stuck in the polar bear cages. In fact, I think Project: Runway was the hard labor the fugitive lovers were assigned during their imprisonment. Sure, the Others may have been making the strip for their own use. But I'm liking the idea that they were making it because they knew — or more precisely because Ben knew — that it needed to be there in the future for Ajira 316. It certainly fits my long-held contention that Ben's machinations have been informed by knowledge of future events. Of course, Ajira landed on Hydra Island roughly three years after Kate and Sawyer's Hydra drama. So it's also possible that the project was started/finished during that three-year span by...well, by someone. Or some peoples.
One more note about the Ajira crash sequence: Did you catch the expression on newcomer Illana's face when the turbulence hit? I couldn't tell if her nonchalance was because she's a frequent flyer who's unfazed by rough air — or if she knew exactly what was about to happen. And did you catch the name she muttered when Caesar shook her awake. I heard ''Sarah.'' What did you hear?
Captain Lapidus was a stud for landing his mystery ship on Little Hydra Island. But it bugged me that he abandoned his passengers so he could follow after Ben and Sun and then subsequently paddled over to the big island. Check that: It bugged me that we didn't get a scene where we saw him make that choice. Because it makes sense that Frank would go. Destiny was tugging at him. Clearly, Cap'n Lap knows that it can't be mere coincidence that he and the castaways have been brought back to the Island. Surely he'd like to know why. I would. Still, I wanted to see him crunch and process his reasoning on the show.
Anyway, it appears that Caesar was making a play for being the Jack of his castaway tribe. Does that portend good things or bad things for the Ajira redshirts? Debate.
THE SMOKEY-CHRISTIAN CONNECTION
Sun and Lapidus took one of the Hydra Station outriggers and paddled their way to the Island. As they approached, we heard Smokey's distinctive rattle — and then the monster retreated. Arrrgh! Who dares waddle onto my beaches?! Oh. You guys. Yeah, you're all right. Welcome back. Help yourself to the Dharma beer in the barracks. A supernatural entity will be along in a minute to download some crucial intel. And sorry about the mess. Mercenaries, you know?
Said spectre was Jack's poltergeisty pop. Although Ghost Shephard seemed to be slightly more tangible than your typical Casper, didn't he? And interesting how he turned on the lights in that cabin and then led the way with the flashlight into the old Dharma orientation center. Does Christian actually need that light, or was he just being hospitable for his more conventionally humanoid guests — part of his duty as an otherworldly psychopomp, lighting the way for afterlife travelers? (PYSCHOPOMP! PSYCHOPOMP! PSYCHOPOMP!)
One other thought: Was Lost trying to suggest a connection between Christian and Smokey by having the two in the same vicinity at roughly the same time? Could Jack's father be the monster in human form? We'll explore the question in next week's Doc Jensen column.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSANDS WORDS...AND ABOUT 30 YEARS
So there were framed photos of old Dharma recruiting classes on the cabin wall, including the one featuring Jack, Kate, and Hurley. ''You have a bit of a journey ahead of you,'' Christian told Sun. Spooky. Kinda reminiscent of The Shining, but I wondered if the reference was more Back to the Future-ish: Will the time travelers disappear from the photo if they do something in the past that negates the future, which brought them there? (Please tell me that made sense.) But what I really want to know is this: Was that picture even there when John Locke's freighter 'fraidy cats were bunking in the barracks last season? Or did that version of the picture not yet exist yet because the castaways in question had not yet traveled back in time? (Ouch. That one hurt my brain to write.)
Meanwhile, back in 1977....
Sawyer got over his speechlessness enough to receive a bear hug from Hurley, exchange a cordial handshake with Jack, and share an awkward embrace with Kate. Then, they exchanged mindscrews.
JACK: ''John's dead.''
SAWYER: ''Dead? How?''
SAWYER: ''We're in The Dharma Initiative.''
JACK: ''They came back?!''
SAWYER: ''No, we came back. And did you. It's 1977.''
HURLEY: ''Uh... what?''
HURLEY: ''Dude. Your English is awesome.''
JACK: Sun was on the plane.
While Sawyer dashed off to get clothes for the cover story he was hatching for the Oceanic 3, and while Jin went searching for an airplane he would never find, Jack and co. chilled on the bluff.
KATE: So the woman who told you how to come back — did she mention it was going to be 30 years ago?
JACK: Nope. No, she left that part out.
KATE: So what are we supposed to do now?
JACK I'm not sure yet.
Which is a new look for Jack: Bemused calm in the face of utter Island weirdness, playing it cool, letting the situation come to him as opposed to him trying to control everything. Good for him. Doc Shephard has clearly made some changes, one that might make him a more effective leader here in his second tour of Island duty, though as we saw at the end, Sawyer wasn't ready to forget — or forgive — the old Jack. More on that later.
During the ride to the barracks, Hurley asked the question we were all mulling two weeks ago: Aren't the castaways sweating the Purge that's ultimately going to wipe out Dharma? ''I ain't here to play Nostradamus to these people,'' snapped Sawyer. ''Besides, Faraday's got some interesting theories on what we can and can't do here.'' Speaking of Daniel Faraday: Where is he? Sawyer either wouldn't say or didn't know. All the better to set up a future Faraday-centric episode, my dears.
THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, YOU WERE JUST A LITTLE BLOOD SMEAR ON THE CEILING
And so, at long last, we met Radzinsky, who preceded Desmond as Kelvin Inman's button-pushing partner in the Hatch and was the originator of the map of the Island that John Locke found on the blast door in season 2. The conventional wisdom about the map has always been that Radzinsky was somewhat clueless about the scope of the Dharma Initiative, and that the Map represented everything he had learned about its facilities and history during his own Island adventuring.
But this doesn't quite jibe with the Radzinsky we saw last night. Here he was, a fully-involved Dharma member, possibly someone in leadership, stationed at the Flame, Dharma's telecommunications center (I dug The Muppet Show clips playing on his monitors), creating a model of the geodesic dome structure of the Swan itself — perhaps the same model seen in the Hatch's orientation film. Clearly, this was a man who knew a lot, if not everything, about the Dharma Initiative. So, presuming Kelvin was telling us the truth about Radzinsky — including the fact that the egghead blew his brains out inside the Hatch — why paint that map on the blast door? Because I'm guessing Radzinsky didn't really need to paint the Map for his own edification. THEORY: Again, I am taken with the notion that perhaps much like the landing strip, the map was painted on the blast door simply because it needed to be there for John Locke to discover it in the future in order to preserve the time loop and avert paradox.
Jin asked Radzinsky to use the Flame's tech to scan for crashed planes, which got Radzinsky's spider-sense tingling: What's up with Jin? Instead, the prickly Dharma dude found an intruder in Grid 325, which turned out to be Sayid running through the jungle, hands in cuffs as he was on the Ajira flight. Radzinsky wanted to kill Sayid, whom he suspected to be a ''hostile,'' because he had seen too much: That Swan model and the location of the as-yet not built station is very hush-hush/top secret. But then Sawyer arrived, got Sayid to play along with the Hostile thing by getting him to admit he was a Hostile (''We do not refer to ourselves as 'hostile,''' said Sayid, ''but yes, I am one of them''), which triggered terms of the truce which allows for prisoners of war to be spared instant execution.
All of this reminded me of my wild theory, proposed two weeks ago, that season 5 of Lost is running parallel to season 2. Because this bit of business totally evoked for me the Henry Gale story line of the show's second season, when the castaways nabbed themselves a man they suspected to be an Other. And they were right. Which leads me to my big theory of the column: I think that the Others/Hostiles got their hands on Sayid prior to his capture by Jin. I think they're blackmailing him into doing something for them that will prove detrimental to the Dharma Initiative and put Sawyer's standing at risk. And remember how Sayid was allegedly feuding with Ben? How he made that big show to Hurley about how he was never going to trust Ben ever again? Well, I'm entertaining the notion that that was all a ruse, too — all part of Ben's scheme to manipulate and herd the Oceanic 6 back to the Island. Crazy? Totally reaching? My guess is we won't have to wait too long to find out....
ETHAN That's the name of Amy's bundle of joy. If this is the same Ethan that will grow up to be the Other who infiltrates the castaway camp, abducts pregnant Claire, then gets killed by Charlie after he comes back to abduct Claire anew...well, that's interesting. And ironic. Ethan, of course, helped Richard in recruiting Juliet to the Island — and Juliet winds up traveling back in time to help facilitate his birth. It also means that Ben was not the only member of the Dharma Initiative to survive the Purge and join the Others. More on the significance of the Ethan revelation in next week's Doc Jensen.
BLUES IMAGE As in the sixties/seventies group, whose song ''Ride Captain Ride'' was heard when Sawyer brought Jack, Kate, and Hurley into the barracks. ''Ride, Captain, Ride, on your mystery ship/Be amazed, at the friends, you have here on your trip.'' Perfect.
BEN'S PEOPLE ''A Captain's first duty is to his passengers,'' Ben told Lapidus. ''But I have people to look after, too.'' But who are Ben's people now — the Others or the castaways? But then Sun smacked him unconscious, delaying his hero's/villain's journey for another episode.
DR. PIERRE CHANG He got pulled away from his lab to fill in for Amy in the orientation hut. Wonder what he was working on? Maybe some time travel project with Daniel Faraday. I was also intrigued by his reference to how things are so disorganized on the other side. Presumably, this would be the Dharma U.S. in Ann Arbor, MI. I wonder if we're ever going to visit there?
JACK THE JANITOR Chang assigned to him to workman duty — just like Ben and his father during their Dharma days. ''Based on your aptitude tests, you'll be doing janitorial work.'' Genius. Even Jack snickered at that one.
SAWYER AND JULIET I wished there had been time for a scene where we saw them more fully process Jack and company's return and the implications. But I have no doubt that scene is coming soon. It simply must.
JACK VS. SAWYER Old tensions surfaced during the evening tête-à-tête between Kate's would-be lovers. Jack provoked it, criticizing Sawyer for reading and drinking when he should have been sweating their next moves. Sawyer — sensitive to the dumb hick thing — boasted of the big brain that saved the day, and reminded Jack of his failures as a leader during his tour of Island duty. Jack took Sawyer's punches with a mix of bemusement and acceptance; my guess is that his recent enlightenment is such that he can't completely disagree with Sawyer. It kinda bummed me to see Sawyer get so bitchy with Jack. I wanted to think that the reconstructed Sawyer, as evidenced by ''LaFleur,'' was a little bit better than that. Again, as I said two weeks ago, it makes me wonder if the return of the very people he's been waiting for all these years will prove to be the worst thing to happen to Sawyer in a long time. Or at least, in three years.
And with that, I cede the floor to you. But before your do, check out the new episode of Totally Lost if you haven't already. And for those who have: I swear, if you ''friend'' that freakin' pig, don't say I didn't warn you when ''the quickening'' bites you in the butt.... http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1550612_20245769_20266554_4,00.html