Last week I accused Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof of lying. In an Entertainment Weekly article, he had guaranteed “no Ewoks” in the final episodes of Lost. But with “Across the Sea,” the series threatened to shift towards a Return of the Jedi-type ending.
Now, after watching “What They Died For,” I’m reconsidering. Maybe I was wrong to say little Ghost Jacob is like an Ewok. Did Lindelof ever promise anything about Munchkins?
Last night viewers finally got to see the meeting they’ve been waiting for — Jacob’s ghost talked with the remaining candidates (surprise, Kate’s still in the running!) and tried to answer their questions. And while watching this, it occurred to me that we’ve seen this before.
It’s been nagging at me for weeks now… back when Jack and Sawyer teamed up so they could escape from Fake Locke. Something about the two of them together, fighting for the same cause… these two heroes — not exactly sidekicks, but not rivals, either. One’s the all-American good guy, one’s sort of a rogue. One’s the all-star athlete while the other’s a cowboy.
How many times have we seen this combination? Sawyer isn’t just Batman to Jack’s Superman. He’s Han to Jack’s Luke.
Who’s the real leading man here? Can there only be one?
When I was a kid, my younger brother and cousin often ran into this dilemma while playacting. If we had all decided to put on a performance of Star Wars for our parents, one boy had to be Luke Skywalker and one had to be Han Solo. It was always the same debate.
When it came to me and my much younger female cousin… well, the roles were easier to dispense. Youth won out every time. She would be Leia. I would be Darth Vader.
The play would usually consist of the four of us making a journey around a basement pool table, on some imaginary road. The road was the story, I suppose, in our 7-year-old minds.
But maybe we borrowed this approach from playacting The Wizard of Oz — a story that actually utilizes a physical road. Just as with Star Wars, the same debate would ensue. Who would play the Scarecrow? And who would play the Tin Man? (Nobody ever wanted to be the Cowardly Lion. We’d scoff at the mere suggestion.)
When it came to the female roles, I had a few more options: Dorothy or the Wicked Witch. We sometimes tried for Glenda, but she doesn’t get much screen time in the movie, so she eventually got ruled out. I’d try to con my younger cousin into playing “cute little” Toto, but she usually tired of walking on all fours. So, yet again, I’d have to play the villain.
By age 9, I circumvented this situation by writing a script for an original play. It was a detective story. I tried to give the two boys equal parts. I made my 5-year-old cousin a femme fatale/piano bar singer.
The play did not work out well. Despite my rehearsals, they couldn’t memorize the lines. In the final performance, they started improvising to make it funnier. The boys resorted to slapstick because they didn’t know what sort of hero to play. The problem was the two equal roles and lack of a villain — I’d unintentionally written a buddy comedy.
Usually when we staged Star Wars, my brother got to be Luke. And when we did Oz, he was the Scarecrow. He was a pretty hyper, wiry kid, so maybe that was part of it. But I think there’s more to it than that.
The real question is this: Can a man play Odysseus and Romeo at the same time? Even kids can’t do it.
Last night, we saw a definite brainy Scarecrow in Jack. And a compassionate Tin Man in Sawyer. And, needless to say, a (formerly cowardly) Lion in Hurley. And a rebellious Dorothy in Kate. And the wizard? Well, Jacob wants them to essentially kill the Wicked Witch of the West.
If the rest of the story follows suit, in the finale we’ll find Kate saving Jack’s life when MIB somehow threatens it. And she’ll do so by revealing MIB’s hidden weakness, something even Jacob doesn’t know about.
Of course, that might be a stretch. But maybe not, considering Lindelof’s self-proclaimed love of Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He’s used this stuff before (think Hurley asleep in a field of poppies, "The Man Behind the Curtain," etc.).
Could the light/"source" be the yellow brick road? Is the Sideways world kind of black-and-white like Kansas, while the island is in Technicolor? Will Kate wake up in her bedroom, telling Aaron all about the strange dream she had… ?
No, no, anything but that. Despite how often the writers show characters waking up on this show, viewers are shouting now, more than ever, “I don’t want it all to be a dream!”
But more on that later.
Fittingly, “What They Died For” begins with a familiar shot of Jack’s awakening eye. He opens it slowly this time, without that eyes-wide-open kind of anxiety we usually see with him.
Maybe it's because in the Sideways world, when Jack wakes up, he’s still not truly “awake.”
And in case we forgot about his lack of enlightenment, the writers then placed him in front of his bathroom mirror — he's one of two Sideways characters who gaze into mirrors this week. When he sees his reflection, Jack is surprised to find another cut on his neck, in the same spot as before (on Sideways Flight 815). But he has no time to fully examine it — his life is too busy for that.
Mini-Jack( I mean, David) shows up in his bathroom doorway, so excited to start the brand new day with his best friend, his dad.
He’s starting to remind me of that new Saturday Night Live sketch, wherein a nerdy adolescent prefers her parents’ company to spending time with her peers.
It’s not normal. Especially since up until recently, this kid couldn’t stand to be around his father.
Besides the missing booze in Sideways Jack’s apartment, has anyone noticed how his artwork is different, too? Island Jack had a painting in his dining room that was abstract, almost cubist. It featured a very shadowy figure in the middle of it. Sideways Jack is still a fan of abstraction, but he’s chosen a swirly, circular piece. There’s no human figure in it. Sideways Jack also prefers pitchers of milk to cartons. And, as I said two weeks ago, he can get his own candy bars.
I don’t think I much like Sideways Jack and his smug, “Making cereal isn’t the same thing as making breakfast.” Do you?
Does it seem kind of odd to anyone that Claire, still a relative stranger, is staying there?
The real star of that scene, the Super Bran cereal, has to be some kind of Easter Egg. Anyone get an anagram on that? Here’s what I got, from most logical to least: reap burns; pure barns; urban reps; paner rubs; bane purrs; and saner burp. Could it just mean “Super Brain”? Because Jack will be the new “super brain” of the island? At least we know now what Sayid meant two weeks ago on the submarine when he said to Jack, “It will be you.” Maybe he had tapped into that same enlightenment Charlotte and Juliet had when they were close to death.
All I know is that real Super Bran enthusiasts couldn’t possibly be this anal retentive in their attention to detail. I doubt Sideways Jack would be.
Seems Sideways Jack always gets interrupted by things, doesn’t it? In the middle of breakfast, he gets a phone call from Desmond, who’s apparently able to disguise his accent in the Sideways world.
How does Desmond know about the coffin, brotha? Not that he’d call you “brotha” anymore — he seems to have neglected that habit.
I liked last night's callback to the pilot episode, when Jack sews up Kate’s wound on the beach. But while getting stitched up, Kate doesn’t talk about “counting to five.” She starts plotting murder.
I also liked the irony of the two or three life preservers washing up onto the beach. Sawyer looks out so despondently at them. And the winner for best transition between island scenes and Sideways scenes (to date)? Jack tells everyone that Locke wants Desmond dead. And then we see Sideways Desmond, revving up to run over Locke a second time.
Another great parallel in this episode was provided by the Ben storyline.
In the island world, he appears to have reverted to his old ways. Does he shoot Charles Widmore because of his nagging rage? Michael Emerson did a fantastic job of reminding the audience of this. Remember, the last time Ben saw Charles, he had turned the donkey wheel, left the island, gotten Sayid to assassinate Widmore’s employees and visited Charles in his bedroom to threaten revenge for Alex’s death. He hasn’t seen Widmore since then and didn’t know he was even on the island. So he reacts purely emotionally to Widmore's presence (despite Ben’s penchant for hiding his true emotions).
Basically, we know by now that anytime Ben gets into that creepy, monotone speaking voice, he’s up to something. Do you think he truly wants to go with MIB’s plans and kill everyone? Has he become MIB's assassin, like Zombie Sayid was? Or is he conning him, a la Sawyer?
Ben’s behavior doesn't change much after MIB enters the barracks. So it's likely that he's conning him. For example, when Ben shoots Widmore, it could be because of his anger towards him, but it could also be because he wants to stop him from revealing things to MIB that could get everyone else killed. Maybe Ben thinks Widmore’s a necessary sacrifice in that situation, for the greater good.
Back in the Sideways world, Ben’s still a good guy. After getting beaten up by Desmond (which provides flashes of his island world beatdown — one of many — when he shot Desmond on the piers and Desmond fought back), Ben encourages Locke to do what Desmond said: to let go. This message, in turn, sends Locke to revisit Jack and tell him he’s “ready to get out of the chair.” And Ben’s injuries get sympathy from Alex, who asks him over for dinner with her mom, Rousseau, who insists, even if she has to “kidnap” Ben (a nice wink there), that he must join them. Rousseau strangely thanks Ben for everything he’s done for Alex, for being a father figure, which would be bittersweet for Ben if he was aware of his island existence.
Is he aware? He gets pretty choked up over this.
How funny is it that Alex tells Ben he looks like Napoleon, by the way? This episode's filled with darkly humorous moments like that and not just from the usual candidates.
Best funny moments:
1. While the long-lost Miles, Ben and Richard walk towards the barracks, Miles says, “I lived in these houses 30 years before you did, otherwise known as last week.” (Despite this not really being accurate — Ben was a child in the 1970s and technically living there at the same time as Miles — this was still pretty funny.)
Then, when Ben tells the other two about the whereabouts of the explosives, Miles says, “Let me guess — cookie jar!” To which Ben replies, “Don’t be ridiculous. It’s in my secret room behind the bookcase.”
2. Sideways Sawyer and Miles show off their usual banter in this episode. Sawyer asks Miles, “What’s with the getup? Did somebody die?” This is funny considering Miles’ island world powers.
3. When MIB hurls Richard into a tree by his neck (is Richard dead now? Can Richard die? And why does he always grab him by the neck like a kitten?), Ben turns around and slowly walks back to the front porch. He then offers MIB a glass of lemonade. While sitting on Ben’s porch, MIB proceeds to file his nails with a knife. With a knife! Part of me wonders if Terry O’Quinn came up with this on the spot.
4. Not the funniest moment per se, but the most smile-inducing one for sure, is when Sideways Desmond enters the jail and greets Kate and Sayid. He says hello to each of them with a broad grin on his face, almost like he’s as delightfully surprised by this plot twist as the audience undoubtedly is.
What does everyone think will happen at this concert? Surely Faraday and the Widmores will be there, with Daniel performing along with Jack’s son. Who else? Could Juliet be Jack’s ex? Will Sawyer end up attending with Miles? How will Sun and Jin get there? And Locke? Will Farraday play “Rocket Man” and give everyone Stendhal Syndrome/flash of island memories?
Or maybe “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” would work better. Perhaps his music is so beautiful, it will make everyone time travel.
All joking aside, here are a few of the mysteries left to be solved in the finale — some just introduced this week (good Lord):
1. Why was the Smoke Monster summoning Ben all those years? In “What They Died For,” he finally reveals what that weird toilet bowl-summoner thing was doing (in, as Miles says, his “secreter room.”)
2. What does Widmore mean when he tells Ben that if he shoots him, his last chance of survival will be gone? Is he bluffing?
3. Do you think Jacob really visited Widmore? Will we ever be able to find the answer to that now?
4. Why does not talking to the Smoke Monster render that person pointless (as MIB says just after he slits Zoe’s throat)?
5. And this is a big one: How do you protect the light from the monster? (Incidentally, this was the first episode where anyone even calls him that.)
6. And an even bigger one: How do you kill the monster?
7. Will Jack and the others be able to kill him because they don’t have Jacob’s limitations (his mother made it so he couldn’t kill MIB)? Does the person who kills MIB have to be someone who has yet to speak to him? Does this mean Miles will save the day?
8. How does Hurley know who Ana Lucia is at the end of this episode? Does island enlightenment entail remembering every single part of the island?
9. How will MIB use Desmond as the key to destroying the island? Was destroying the island part of his plan all along? Did Claire help Desmond out of the well?
And finally, some theories:
As Desmond is resistant to the electromagnetic material that made the Smoke Monster, he (if not Miles) might be the only thing that can kill him.
Jack’s induction as island protector happened too easily. Will he really survive and protect the island? Something tells me one of the others might replace him. Maybe Sawyer. He’s got less to lose. Oh, except for the fact that he has a kid! Just like Kate! Anyone else find that kind of sexist? How about the cute little dress Desmond has ready for her to put on?
Kudos obviously go to the writers and Mark Pellegrino for that moving fireside scene that’s been so long in the making. Matthew Fox was very believable as well. At this point, though, I’m more interested in Sawyer and the guilt he now feels over potentially causing Jin, Sun and Sayid’s deaths. I think the writers will do a lot with that in the finale.
And, no, I don’t think it will "all be a dream." It can’t be. The best part of this entire show is that it reawakens the child in everyone… when the castaways land on the island, they become the innocent child Jacob once was. They lose the limitations of adulthood. The world is wide and they can become anything they want to be. That doesn’t happen quite the same way in the Sideways world. I think the electromagnetic-resistant Sideways Desmond is serving as a tool to enlighten them in that world and will use his unique reactions to light to save people on the island. In the Sideways world, most characters are all still asleep, just like many of the viewers, who are inspired by this show to stop “sleeping” through their lives. It’s a common occurrence and one all too hard to avoid.
So, we invest what remains of our childlike whimsy into shows like this, written by people inspired by other works of literature, cinema and art.
So, it can’t all be a dream. It just can’t be.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once said that writers are incredibly important because they are our “myth-makers.” They created the myths of our leaders, so we should “pray that they be humane.”
Be humane, Damon and Carlton. You’ve reacquainted us with our childhood myths. At this point, it’s the least you can do.
As usual, all comments, questions and (hopefully) answers are welcome below. See you in five days! Enjoy the finale!
And if you want to email me personally, you can reach me at Laura.Carney@okmagazine.com.