Lost's Last Call: Letting Go

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May 6 2010, Published 4:33 a.m. ET

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The title of this week’s episode of Lost, “The Candidate,” was misleading … it led viewers to believe they’d finally see which remaining castaway would replace Jacob.

But instead of being an episode about claiming a job (and despite the demise of four major characters), it was an episode about the importance of letting go — a phrase uttered so many times throughout this series by Christian Shephard to his son, Jack, and one viewers haven’t heard for a while.

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It’s apt advice. After all, we’ll be letting go of this 6-year-old show in only a few weeks. But this was the first episode that depicted Jack actually giving this advice. (Well, Sideways Jack, that is, a slight mutation of the original.)


The Lost writers have typically placed this catchphrase in Christian’s dialogue at very inopportune times. He said it when Jack accused him of sleeping with his wife. He said it again in response to Jack's confrontation at his AA meeting. We’ve even heard the phrase on the island: When Ben was keeping Jack captive in the Hydra station and Juliet was questioning him, Christian’s voice crackled through a broken intercom: "Let it go..." And then Jack abruptly ended his hunger strike, if only to stop the hallucinations.

Whether that was truly Christian or the Man In Black, pretending to be Christian, remains to be seen. It’s a topic up for debate since “The Last Recruit,” in which Fake Locke told Jack that he had appeared as Christian on the island.

I’m not convinced that MIB would have known that phrase or its importance to Jack. It’s as good an argument as any that Christian’s ghost has indeed been hanging around.

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And, by the way, it’s not like Christian was totally misguided in continually telling Jack to stop holding onto things. It’s just that, like Dr. Frankenstein, he was trying to tame his own creation.

When Jack was a child, Christian told him that he could never be a leader like he was because he didn’t have “what it takes” to deal with failure. He was trying to protect him, in his own insensitive way. But young Jack misunderstood that and focused on that one line: “You don’t have what it takes.”

So thanks to his dad’s callousness (and, perhaps, his alcoholism), pre-island Jack personified persistence. He spent his life trying to prove his father wrong, which meant trying to show that he was a leader. That he could be decisive and make things happen. That he could “fix” things.

The one time Christian seemed to recognize that fact was just before Jack’s wedding to Sarah (the spinal surgery patient Jack miraculously saved). Jack told his dad that he was concerned that his devotion to her wasn’t so much about love as it was about his need to rescue people.

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Christian’s response? "Commitment is what makes you tick, Jack.The problem is you're just not good at letting go."

The irony of Christian’s insistence that he wasn’t like Jack, that he could “let things go,” is that it wasn’t true. A man who drinks himself to death in an alley after losing his job and his son’s respect is not good at letting things go. A man who can’t call his son on the phone to confess how “weak” he is, and instead confides in the con man (Sawyer) sitting at the end of the bar, is not good at letting things go.

As I’ve mentioned in the case of Juliet and Sawyer, when a loved one passes on, people often take on some of their characteristics — depending on how close the relationship was, how closely tied it was to the person’s psyche. So when Christian died, things changed drastically for Jack. He's been learning how to let go ever since, in very dramatic ways.  He had to let go of three, maybe four, friends in this episode.

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When Sideways Christian died, things changed for Claire, too. As seen in this week’s episode, she inherited a mysterious music box from her father, a man she had never met. When she brings it to Jack, he can’t explain the meaning of it because, as he says, if he hadn’t even known about her existence, he definitely wouldn’t know anything about the music box. Then Jack tells Claire how Christian died. Strangely, his life ended the same way in the Sideways world as it did in the island world. But Jack’s guilt over it seems to be absent this time.

In the Sideways world, Dr. Jack Shephard can put a quarter into a vending machine and get the candy bar he wants with no struggle whatsoever. Pay attention to that. It’s going to be important.

Who else guessed that Claire’s music box would play “Catch a Falling Star”? How could it not? It’s the song Christian sang to Claire when she was a baby, the same one both she and Kate sang to Aaron. Is it at all possible that Claire did in fact meet her father in the Sideways world and he did sing that song to her, but she was too young to remember it? And maybe he still said some of the same horrible things to Jack? Maybe they just don’t remember any of it because these characters are blissfully ignorant to a lot of things. The Sideways world is kind of like The Truman Show.

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I said earlier in this blog that the Sideways characters live more consciously than the island versions because they are always staring at themselves in mirrors and they seem to make better, more healthy choices. Later, in my “Happily Ever After” post, I revised that statement.  I said I was wrong.  It turns out that the "love" that helps the Sideways characters is not the passionate, soul-mate-type love that makes someone feel truly alive. Without that (or a near-death experience, apparently), the characters aren’t able to get in touch with their spirits. They are staring into mirrors longingly, not able to see the world on the other side.

In “The Candidate,” Sideways Jack and Claire exemplify that obliviousness. They dismiss the meaning of the music box when they can’t figure it out quickly enough, not paying any attention to their intuitions. This is an episode where Jack interacts with his long-lost sister, an emergency room patient and that patient’s dentist, only to discover that each person was on Oceanic 815, the flight that lost his father’s body. Does he bat an eyelash (or many eyelashes, as Matthew Fox tends to do when Jack gets upset)? Maybe a little bit. But not nearly enough.

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The only really interesting part of the Sideways world now is watching these characters have these moments — these little flashes of recognition, déjà vu, memories, whatever you want to call it — where they become briefly aware of the parallel island world. It happens to Sideways Locke a few times in this episode.

When he awakes after his surgery, he recognizes Jack. He says, “I know you!” It doesn’t seem like he’s only referring to their baggage claim meeting in LAX. Later, when Jack visits him in his hospital room, Locke talks in his sleep. The first thing he says sounds an awful lot like “Boone.” Then he says, “Push the button.” And then, “I wish you had believed me.”

Eerie. And nicely done by the writers.

So are we meant to believe that the Sideways characters can get in touch with the island world in their dreams? It certainly seems like Desmond was aware of the Sideways world when he woke up on the island after his Charles Widmore-induced “electromagnetic experience.”

How do you think things will play out for Sideways Locke and Jack? How odd is it that a plane crash caused Locke’s paralysis in this world while the crash of 815 healed him in the other one?

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Matthew Fox and Terry O’Quinn are so powerful in that final scene:

Jack: You can punish yourself as much as you want and that’s never going to bring him back. What happened, happened. And you can let it go.

Locke: What makes you think letting go is so easy?

In the Sideways world, Jack has definitely replaced Locke as the man of hope, if not faith. Just like the ease with which his candy bar falls through those vending machine springs, Sideways Jack doesn't need "a push." He can accomplish things in this world without that old sense of trepidation, without the need to prove himself. Maybe his relationship with Christian was vastly improved in this world. He sticks to his convictions just like John Locke did back on the island.

That one line of Jack’s, “I wish you’d believe me.” Locke pauses after it. Is that another flash of island memories for Locke? Was all of this Desmond's reason for running him over?

Other examples of inter-world consciousness (what else can you call it?) in this episode: Bernard (Sam Anderson) seems very spiritually aware. Maybe this is due to his finding Rose (L. Scott Caldwell) in both worlds. Locke’s dad, Anthony Cooper, is mentally checked out. Is this karma for what he did to Locke in the island world (even if Sideways Locke isn’t aware of it)? And despite her blissful ignorance, Sideways Claire finds redemption with her music box.

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The only other Lost character with a music box attachment was Danielle Rousseau (Mira Furlan). Given to her by her husband, it represented her connection to other people, to family. When Ben stole Alex from her, he knocked her music box off the table, presumably breaking it. It wasn’t until she captured Sayid that she could find someone to fix it for her. It wasn’t until the music box could play again, 16 years after she landed on the island, that she could once again feel connected to the world.

Matthew Fox

Island Claire has gone through something similar. She’s been called “the new Rousseau" this season by many reviewers. But her Sideways counterpart gets a working music box and she finds a family at the same time — Jack invites her to stay with him. If the island version of Claire could find this, if she had caught her falling star (Aaron) and held it in her pocket, maybe she wouldn’t be in such a mess (or nuts).

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So why was she so easily manipulated by the Man In Black? Why was Sayid? Doesn’t it seem like those two are the only ones he shows his true colors around? Why is that? Is it because both of them really are dead?

At least we can say for sure now that “there is no Sayid.” I don't mean because I won't miss Sayid, just that it clarifies things more. Jack has to put it that way because he can’t quite say “Sayid’s dead" for the second time. What did everyone think of Sayid’s sacrifice? Can it really be called a sacrifice if he was sorta, you know, undead? Does it make up for all the people he killed?

I loved that scene in the beginning with Jack waking up in the outrigger, kind of like he was in a coffin (like Locke’s coffin? Christian’s?), in the black of night on the beach. I can’t say much more than I already have about Widmore and his goons, shown directly after that scene, because it’s still nonsense as usual with those people. Why is Widmore so obsessed with timing that he can’t even notice what idiots he’s hired?

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Widmore’s lines still aren’t much more believable than they were a few weeks ago. And how did Widmore acquire the list of names? How would he know which candidates are left? Despite Sawyer’s doubts, I believe Widmore really is trying to protect them by putting them in the cages. And of course, he’s very unsuccessful at doing that. Man, how did this guy get to be a billionaire?

I went through a bit of analysis of the Man In Black in my “Last Recruit” post, so I won’t bore you with it now. I’ll only say this: The writers have done a wonderful job of trying to convince viewers that this guy might actually be a good guy, and it served an important purpose.

This season, the viewers have had to transform their perspectives, just as the main characters have had to. This episode in particular hit on some long-running themes in Lost, namely, the practice of letting go (as mentioned earlier) and the ability to make decisions on faith. If viewers had been using their gut instincts (as Desmond recommended in "Happily Ever After"), they would have been able to tell by now that MIB has been evil all along. Making decisions on faith is something John Locke always preached, so it’s interesting that the castaways have to use that same method now to decide whether or not to believe the Man In Black, the entity possessing Locke’s body.

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Ugh, the whole thing makes my brain hurt.

I mean, how surreal was it when Jack pushed Fake Locke into the water (as Sawyer had instructed, knowing that MIB could potentially melt like the Wicked Witch ... although water only seems to slow him down a little)? Jack tells MIB that John Locke told him to stay on the island, but he says it while clobbering someone who looks exactly like the man he's defending!

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't analyze him again, but I just can't help it. Another fascinating thing about the Man In Black is that not only can he look at someone and imitate their behavior and speak as they do in an effort to manipulate them, but he can convince them to hate someone else. Every single thing he says in this episode about Charles Widmore could easily be applied to himself. He says that he doesn’t trust Widmore’s intentions. That he doesn’t believe he’ll get a straight answer from him. He says Widmore wants to get them all into an enclosed space, one they can’t escape, so he can kill them.

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He’s giving the castaways the play-by-play of what he’s about to do to them. It’s kind of like when he told Richard Alpert that he had to go kill Jacob because he’s the devil.

Does that make the Man In Black the real devil? Maybe we’ll find out next week.

Did anyone think that bomb on the Ajira plane was put there by MIB? He takes that goon’s watch before boarding it. Why would he do that if he’s unaware of the bomb? He would have had access to the plane this whole time — he explains how Widmore's sonar fences weren’t surrounding it.

As much as I loved "The Candidate," it had a couple things I could do without. One example is Lapidus’ cornball remarks. I am sorry to see him go … but I'm sad that just before he had to go, the writers had him say things like “Nothin’ personal” while hitting a guy and “Aw, hell” about the door that explodes onto him. If main characters die on the island after finding their redemption does that mean minor characters die after acting more annoying? Probably.

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Another thing: Hurley tells Jack on the submarine that he can’t find a first aid kit and moments later, there’s a shot of the kit right behind Lapidus’ head.

I can’t say much about that submarine scene because I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t take notes! No, but seriously, it has to be the most compelling scene ever on Lost, rivaled only by the Swan station implosion ... or maybe the potential Swan station explosion.

Sawyer still can’t blindly trust Jack. He still can’t let go. Can you blame him?  Jack's decision-making led to Juliet's death! Do you think the bomb would have gone off if Sawyer didn’t mess with it? As I said two weeks ago about Jack's decision to leave the sailboat: Sawyer is continuing on his road to becoming more like Jack at the same rate as Jack is becoming more like Locke.

I still can’t understand how Jack figures out that MIB “isn’t allowed" to kill them. That statement seemed like a stretch to me. Even Matthew Fox didn’t seem like he bought it when he delivered that line.

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The Jin and Sun death scene was completely unexpected, brilliantly played and sob-inducing for so many viewers. Their hands clasped in front of the red blinking light, just before pulling apart ... the Lost death music in the background … the Charlie-esque martyrdom (they die so Jack and Sawyer can live, essentially) ...

Anyone disagree with Jin’s decision to stay behind with her? Now Ji-Yeon will be an orphan!

Of course, Sideways Jin walks by Sideways Locke in the hospital immediately following this scene, which is meant to quickly bandage the wound of losing both Jin and Sun simultaneously, not to mention Sayid and Lapidus.

My prediction, as sad as it might sound: It won’t be long before we’re saying goodbye to the rest of them on that island. Maybe one might survive. Maybe Jack. But I think that Sideways world is there to dull the pain, no matter what happens. Which is a shame, because the Sideways world is pretty dull.

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I’m not a huge fan of talking about the promos, but, holy crap, does next week’s episode look absolutely unbelievable! The backgammon game. The two sides. The dark. The light. The good. The evil.

I hope a lot of questions are answered next week. Like, what the heck happened to Richard, Ben and Miles?

As usual, any questions, comments and (hopefully) answers are welcome below. Especially if you weren’t too sad to say goodbye to “Doughboy.”

And just in case we've lost Lapidus for good, here's a tribute:  a flashback to Jeff Fahey's Miami Vice days.  He's pretty Sawyer-ific, if you ask me.


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