written by: elizabeth sarnoff and melinda hsu taylor. far and away the best episode written by either of them. the dialogue is intelligent, the stakes are clear, it's filled with nothing but forward momentum, and it's a beautiful counterpart to the companion episode, 'walkabout.'

directed by: tucker gates, who has only directed a handful of episodes: the ho hum kate wedding episode, 'i do,' kate's 'born to run,' the wonderful '..in translation,' and sawyer's great 'confidence man.'

director of photography: john bartley, career dp for 'lost,' shooting over 40 episodes beginning with 'special' in season 1. this ep has great shots in both the parallel and island worlds, and is also filled with subtle visual references to 'walkabout.' the cliff sequence was beautifully executed, not to mention the inherent awesomeness of smokeycam.

nutshell: we're back! this epsode is unbelievably good, and represents all the best qualities of the show. it had mythological density, emotional sensitivity - this episode succeeded in all areas 'what kate does' failed: highlighting character growth and major themes through the sideways world, while hurtling the island plot forward towards the endgame. it was heartfelt, sinister, thrilling, and will likely go down as one of the best episodes of 'lost.' this is the driving episode of the season i've been waiting for (like 'confirmed dead,' and 'jughead'), pointing the way toward the grand finale. it is a joy to be inspired to write this blog again.

major points:
  1. parallels in the parallel
  2. connections in the parallel
  3. scrawls on the walls
  4. jacob ghosts and monster ghosts
  5. the hatch all over again
  6. preboomer
  7. best moments

1. parallels in the parallel
in order to fully appreciate what's happening in the sideways world, it's important to look back and see just how altered the parallel locke's life is. yes, he was still denied a chance to go on his walkabout, but the details are different. in the original timeline, locke didn't keep the walkabout secret, and was teased by his boss randy about using vacation days to do it. here, locke needs those vacation days for his october wedding to helen (!) and so uses the conference to go on the walkabout, which he hides not only from his boss, but also from helen.

helen! i remember last year, watching 'the life and death of jeremy bentham,' how disappointed i was to learn that helen had died before locke returned to the mainland. it felt so unsatisfying and clipped-off that i suspected a larger conspiracy. i thought perhaps she was killed by widmore, or ben, to ensure that locke has nothing left on the mainland. but i see now what they had planned for locke all along: by denying him closure in the original timeline, by denying him everything in the original timeline, we now get to see his redemption in the parallel. what changed here? not only is locke still with helen (who in the original timeline, left him after he was unable to stop stalking his father). in 'walkabout' we see an incredibly sad, lonely and broken man who's deepest connection is with a phone sex operator he's named 'helen' out of desperation.
locke on the phone with 'helen,' the phone sex operator, in his crappy original timeline apartment

in the parallel world, somehow the sinking of the island has dramatically shifted locke's relationship with his father. helen says to him, in the midst of wedding planning, that they should go to vegas and ask his father to meet them there! in the original timeline, helen slapped anthony cooper across the face and never saw locke again. also, locke's father's unsuccessful murder attempt is what put locke in the wheelchair in the first place. in this timeline, locke has a photo of him and his father in his cubicle.

wha wha what!??

what happened? why did helen decide to stay with locke? did his father still push him out of the window? does this version of locke still have both kidneys? is anthony cooper still a bad person? or has locke just not discovered that he's bad yet? how will the show a) answer these questions and b) close out locke's story with so few episodes left?

i love the counterpoints that occurred in the sideways story: locke, upon returning home, falls off his wheelchair ramp, does a faceplant, and the sprinklers immediately turn on, soaking him. it's not just an example of the world shitting on locke, but it's a direct parallel to what happened to him on the island at that exact moment - a rainstorm came, and locke, now able to walk, soaked in the rain as a symbol of joyus cleansing and rebirth.

this time the 'rain' isn't cleansing at all, just an ironic underscoring of his disability. another cool detail is that locke's office is identical in nearly every way (even the sweater on the next chair is the same), except the subtly oppressive green color timing has been removed from the footage, indicating that while locke is still trapped in this office job, it's no longer quite the hell it once was in the original timeline.

here's locke's office in the original timeline:

and here's the parallel timeline, now with proper white-balance!

some other cool parallels i noticed between 'walkabout' and 'the substitute:'

in 'walkabout,' locke's desk calculator makes the same tika-tika noise as the smoke monster. in 'the substitute,' locke's alarm clock makes the same noise as the button's three minute warning sound.

in 'walkabout,' locke encounters the smoke monster for the first time, and we see the confrontation from the monster's perspective. this camera technique is never used to depict the monster again until 'the substitute.' i can't get over the genius of that - in 'walkabout,' it shows locke looking into the face of the thing that will eventually destroy him. then, the next time we see through the smoke monster's eyes, five years later, it's because the monster has taken over locke's form. who knows if they had the story planned to this level by 'walkabout,' which was episode 4 of the show (i'm certain they didn't), but their ability to find this depth of perfect circularity in the initial steps of the path is thrilling.
another great parallel is how the introduction and opening of locke's suitcase of knives figures heavily in both episodes. in 'walkabout,' locke opens the case with his foot, proudly displaying his hardware, and sending the survivors into a frenzy of speculation about just who this military-esque tough guy must be. in 'walkabout' the suitcase reinforces locke's new persona, but in 'the substitute,' the opening of the suitcase is a sad revelation - the knives inside represent an unfollowable dream, an adventure that can never take place, a person locke can never be. i hope the show can keep up this kind of intelligent, character-based counterpoint throughout the parallel timeline.

the real beauty of this episode is that it reminds us how deeply locke's philosophy was transformed by the island's gift of mobility. on the island, locke has every reason to believe in destiny, fate, and the unknown. after 5 years, it's so easy to forget the power of what happened to him - but watching 'walkabout' again, it's so clear: locke is moved to a point of religious conviction by what occurred in those moments after the crash - really, who wouldn't be? but with that crucial moment removed from his life, locke has no reason to believe in miracles. even that fortuitous meeting with jack isn't enough to convince locke. his outlook is diametrically opposed to the person the island allowed him to become. for locke's story to have closure, i'm not sure that he needs to walk again (though it's pointing in that direction), but parallel locke will need to find fulfillment in his life - he must get his walkabout, whether or not it means he actually gets to walk. the most beautiful finish for locke would be for jack to attempt the surgery and fail. with their leadership struggle removed, these two characters possess the power to redeem each other. jack can open locke to the possibility of miracles, and locke could give jack the gift of finally learning to accept failure. whether or not jack's inevitable surgery on locke works, i expect i'll be crying my eyes out.

2. connections in the parallel
'lost' spent three years of flashbacks tying our character's lives together in subtle ways. a huge network of crossovers was established, and if you blinked, you would miss the reference in the season 1 episode, 'numbers' revealing that hurley actually owns the box company locke worked for, and that randy nations, locke's boss, was also hurley's boss at one point. with the parallel timeline, the show now has the opportunity to re-intersect the characters through trajectories initially established in those early flashbacks. genius! since hurley's fortunes are reversed, is tricia tanaka still alive? did the meteor hit something else?

lynn karnoff was the terrible psychic hired by hurley's dad in 'tricia tanaka is dead' to convince hurley that he isn't cursed. in the parallel world, she is equally inept as hurley's temp agency employee. fortunately, her boss is..

rose! rose and locke shared a connection in the island story - rose was the only person on the flight who knew that locke was in a wheelchair before boarding flight 815, and shared his knowledge of the island as a place of healing. even though it's a little bit shoehorned to place her as manager of hurley's temp agency (why were they both on the same australia flight? company retreat?), the scene was beautiful. now instead of rose and locke bonding over their mutual healing, their bond is about mutual misfortune, and accepting the realities of life. and i love that rose places locke as a junior high substitute teacher - given the way we saw locke interacting and teaching walt, this probably is the best job for him.
ben! best. reveal. evar. oh the poetic justice that someone as cunning and manipulating as ben would become a history teacher, and use his limited power to lord over an empire, however small, within the teacher's lounge break room. i cannot wait to find out ben's bigger story, and to see how his new friendship with locke plays out. (i never realized it before, but ben linus was actually my high school choir teacher: the most manipulative, emotionally damaging bastard to hold tenure.) will ben and locke become best friends? will locke forget to change the coffee filter, sending ben into a murderous rage? will ben kill locke a third time? i'm wondering if this ben was still shot by sayid, and still dipped into the temple - because if the timeline diverged at the incident, then these things could still be part of ben's life. did richard still visit locke as a child? i'm sure we won't know those timeline details until late in the season. looking forward to his full episode.

3. scrawls on the walls
and now the island story. wowzers was it packed full of info. i found myself riveted by every scene with nemesis-as-locke, because every eye twitch, every look and glance is now a clue to the truth of his character, the purpose of the island, and the patten of monster behavior we've witnessed for 5 seasons.

let's break down the major revelations in the island story:

  • jacob has 'a thing for numbers' and wrote the names of hundreds of people inside the candidate-cave, and gave each person an accompanying number.
  • at some point, jacob touched each person whose name appears in the cave, manipulating their free will, pushing them toward the island.
  • eventually, one of the remaining candidates will take over as jacob's replacement as protector of the island.
  • nemesis says that there is actually 'nothing to protect' on the island. it's just an island.
this reintroduction of the numbers as a mystical force was brilliant. it doesn't 'explain' the numbers, but it gives them deeper significance. the numbers started on the show as lottery numbers, and now we've learned that, really, that's all they are, on a cosmic level. hurley, jack, sawyer, jin (or sun), locke, and sayid became winners of the cosmic lottery when jacob assigned them those fateful values, who knows how long ago. were these the 4th, 8th, 15th etc.. names jacob wrote on the wall?

check out the lostpedia page on the candidates. it lists all of the visible names in the cave tracing back through all seasons and time periods of the show. brilliant.

i have some questions, though. when nemesis freed richard from the tree, he told richard 'i want what i've always wanted, for you to come with me.' then he tells richard that he looks like john locke 'because he was a candidate.' and richard says 'what do you mean, a candidate?' this means that richard knows nothing of jacob's candidacy mission to find a replacement. pretty odd, considering that the two minor others from last week both knew that jin was 'possibly a candidate.' how can richard possibly be so disconnected from jacob's primary goal? since richard is considered a series regular this year, i'm looking forward to those answers in his centric episode.

the other huge question about the candidates is where is kate's name? why doesn't she have a number? does this mean that she's going to die? i have full confidence that the show will kill a core character (sawyer, kate, jack) before the finale. the narrative device of the parallel timeline allows them to kill anyone while still giving the character a complete resolution. i just hope the show has the guts to surprise us by what they're willing to do. they've never played safe, but they've also never killed a central core character (save for locke, who they've retained through a resurrection device). sayid's death is imminent, like charlie's in season 3. i think we can expect his exit soon (probably in the same episode in which his parallel self is reunited with nadia, who will find her sunglasses ten seconds earlier and not die). but kate.. c'mon darlton.. do it.. do it.. kill kate! kill kate!!!

4. jacob ghosts and monster ghosts
this episode dropped another significant piece of information: the creepy bloody blonde boy. cbbb made two appearances, each with significant differences. the first time cbbb appears with special lighting, is bloody, is holding a pose, and isn't seen by richard. in this appearance, cbbb is only seen by nemesis.

the second time cbbb appears, he's no longer bloody, so he's just cbb. he also doesn't have any special lighting on him, and sawyer is able to see him. these are some important distinctions because since the beginning of the show, we have seen two different types of ghosts. jacob ghosts and monster ghosts.

monster ghosts:
  • yemi
  • alex
  • christian
  • locke
in order to be a monster ghost, the body must be on the island, and not properly buried.

jacob ghosts:
  • jack's dad when wearing a suit and sneakers
  • kate's black horse
  • walt's appearances to locke and shannon
  • jin speaking english to hurley in the hatch food pantry
  • claire appearing in aaron's room, telling kate not to bring him back
  • ben's mother, urging him to join the others
jacob ghosts are distinguished by skirting the line between being physical manifestations and merely visions. they are similar to nemesis ghosts in that they seem to originate from strong memories, and sources of guilt. kate definitely saw that horse running through the jungle, just as jack was nearly able to reach out and touch his father in 'white rabbit.' nemesis seems to know that sometimes it's just a visual, subconscious reach into your mind, and sometimes it's a physical thing you can chase, catch, and get something from.

there's also a third category of ghost, and i think those are the 'actual ghosts' hurley can see and interact with.

i don't think we're seeing any new phenomenon with cbbb. to add a new phenomenon to the show at this point would muddle the mythology. cbbb is the product of reaching into nemesis' subconscious, and pulling the image of what is probably jacob as a child. did they murder someone together? is the blood the boy's, or someone else's? as a physical form, cbb reminds nemesis that he must 'follow the rules' and that he 'can't kill him' because 'he's a candidate.' presumably he's referring to nemesis' plan to kill sawyer. in a direct echo from 'walkabout,' nemesis screams back at the boy 'don't tell me what i can't do!'

5. the hatch all over again

here's how i'm seeing the bigger picture..

the monster is evil. pure evil. and the island exists purely as a containment system for it. jacob's job is the same as desmond's - he is 'manning the station,' ensuring the safety and protection of the rest of the world, and like desmond in the hatch, jacob is waiting for his replacement to come.

i'm guessing that it was the egyptians who discovered the island's powers, built the donkey wheel, tricked the monster into coming, then pushed the wheel, trapping him there forever. the monster says there's nothing to protect on the island, because he is the purpose of the island. it's only true function is to be his prison, all of its time and space manipulation properties exist to keep the world safe from the dangers contained within - and the only person who can release him is jacob's successor.
i have a sneaking feeling that in the parallel timeline, desmond is jacob's sucessor, echoing his 'savior of the world' position in the hatch, and that his appearance on the plane, reading (just like jacob before meeting locke), he touches jack just like jacob during their handshake, and then his mysterious disappearance, were all jacob-style 'pushes' to bring about his replacement. somehow, in the parallel timeline, is desmond is back 'manning the hatch' on a cosmic level? though, seeing as how the island is underwater in this timeline, there are still a million questions to answer before any of that will fully make sense.

6. preboomer.

nemesis: so what do you say james? are you ready to go home?
sawyer: hell yes

this preboomer is more of a punchline than a jawdropper, which occurred (for me) during the cave revelation.

the final scene between nemesis and sawyer is eerily reminiscent of the scene between inman and desmond during the season 2 finale. desmond discovers that inman had been repairing his boat, and planning to abandon him, leaving him to push the button by himself. in their final fight, inman asks desmond to leave the island with him.
inman: want to come with me?
desmond: come where? what about the button?
inman: screw the button, man. who knows if it's even real?
desmond: that's not what you said when you were going on and on about dams and electromagnetics and failsafes!
inman: well, i was drunk.
desmond: why did you lie to me?
inman: i lied to you because i needed a sucker to save the world after i left.
desmond: you crazy old bastard! you stole my life!!
inman: oh, come on.
desmond: what else did you lie to me about?! what else? tell me?!

the same situation is echoed in the nemesis' struggle to leave the island. he needs those on the list to either die, join him (possibly the same as dying), or take over for jacob (and subsequently release him). in all circumstances, he must wait until the game is fully played out. it means that in order for the endgame to take place, both jacob and nemesis (and all parties affiliated with either side) are simply waiting for those final names to be crossed out. let me tell you, my excitement over this revelation nearly caused me to use allcaps here (though rob talked me out of it) -- finally, we finally have the true payoff to the 'you need to come back' storyline!!! all of it, all of it originates from jacob's search for a successor, and nemesis needing to place his man in that position. finally that huge gaping hole in the narrative drive of seasons 4 and 5 is filled!

(however, we still don't fully understand what ben's knowledge of the situation is/was. ben was a driving force in the 'we have to go back' storyline, and it seems now that he's totally unaware of the island's big picture mechanisms. ben's actions during that period are still kind of sketchy - why exactly did he need to kill locke? was it simply because they needed a christian shepard proxy onboard ajira 815? if the show answers those questions, i'll be really really happy.)

if nemesis can place sawyer as jacob's replacement, sawyer will release him - but since sawyer chose not to accept the mantle, perhaps nemesis now plans to 'infect' sawyer and use him as a disciple to facilitate a global pandemic. should be interesting.

7. best moments
i have absolutely no gripes about this episode. it was beautifully shot, an intelligent, subtle reflection of season 1, and it was filled with great moments. my favs:

  • ben's lie to ilanna about whether the black smoke also killed jacob. '..yes.'
  • ben's eulogy at locke's funeral - i loved this both for the honest performance by michael emerson, as well as the momentousness of burying this body that's been dead only two weeks, but took two years of storytelling to put into the ground.
  • 'weirdest damn funeral i've ever been to.'
  • the shot of the cliffs sawyer and nemesis climb down to get to the cave
  • helen asking locke 'what are the chances of meeting a spinal surgeon?'
  • locke telling helen that 'miracles don't happen.'

this week's episode, 'lighthouse,' is jack's, and it will likely be counterpoint to 'white rabbit,' in which jack first saw the ghost of his father on the island. in the flashback, jack learned of his father's death, and identified the body in australia. i expect the theme of 'lighthouse' will be reunification - in the parallel story, jack will have to reclaim his father's missing body, and on the island, will jack finally confront that pesky christian shepard ghost? apparently nemesis can no longer change form, so perhaps jack will instead see the jacob version of this ghost..

the success of this episode deepens my disappointment in 'what kate does:' what a lost opportunity to explore her character. hopefully the rest of this season can maintain this level of intelligence and sensitivity. once again this was inspiring, top notch television. while the show hasn't quite won back the full, implicit trust i once gave it, i have absolute faith that it can. i'm expecting to see everyone's best work, and i'm hoping we haven't seen anything yet.

written by: eddie kitsis and adam horowitz, who have a snarky writing style that suits 'exposé' and hurley's episodes, but not here, and not at this point in the narrative. too many jokes in the wrong places, as well as an apparent disconnect with the audience's investment and frustrations. now, if they'd had the guts to just run over dr. arzt, i'd forgive them.

directed by: paul edwards, who's first episode of 'lost' was 'what kate did.' here was his chance to close out his career with 'lost' on a high note, and come full circle. i felt like there was some mismatch here between director and writers - eddie and adam were writing an episode unlike the ones they usually do, and edwards perhaps didn't know how to properly handle their comic style.

director of photography: stephen st. john, who i think is new to the show. this week didn't give us any new locations, mostly taking place at the temple and the hospital, with a pit stop at the docks and the ruined dharma barracks. if the show is going to live up to season 1 on a cinematic level, it will need to find more moments to luxuriate in the locations, and it will have to be more visually brave than is has been. every time i rewatch the pilot, i'm surprised by how scaled down the show has become over the years.

nutshell: this episode made me realize the narrative potential of the parallel story, but it's unfortunate that the writing didn't live up to it. while i don't think it was a terrible episode, i understand why so many people were frustrated, especially after such a great start. sadly, perhaps the cleverest thing about it was the title.


• parallel timeline:
  1. kate
  2. claire
  3. ethan
• original timeline:
  1. sayid
  2. dogen
  3. jack
  4. claire
• primary gripe
• preboomer

• parallel timeline:
lets hope this is the 'end' of arzt. har har..

the challenge with the parallel timeline structure is that we were all asking 'why should we care about the sideways story?' but done well, the sideways story reminds us who these people were at their core, without the island. it shows us how they've grown and changed over the years by directly juxtaposing who they were with who they are now. it's doing the same thing that the flashbacks once did. but it also demands that the writing be rock-solid because the parallel stories must be driven almost entirely by character choices, rather than outside plot elements.. at least until our patience pays off and darlton finally unload the mysterious connection between the parallel and original timelines.

the best episodes this season will be the ones that deal honestly with the characters, pointing them on trajectories that are logical and in line with who we discovered them to be during the first three seasons of flashbacks.

i think this is an episode that probably worked much better on paper. eddie kitsis and adam horowitz, promoted to executive producers last year, are mythlogical drivers of the writing staff. they love to bring minor background characters to the forefront, expecially dr. arzt, frogurt, and little known others (hence the ludicrous expansion of aldo from season 3). they also have a specific writing voice that works great for hurley's episodes and more tongue in cheek episodes like the excellent 'expose.'

unfortunately their sarcastic humor was deeply misplaced in this episode, dropping too much self referential humor, the stuff with aldo (remember him?), the arzt stuff, the zombie joke (hurley asks sayid if he's a zombie) was a fun shoutout to fans of the podcast (damon and carlton have been promising for years that season 7 of 'lost' would be the 'zombie season'), but didn't quite work in the context of the episode.

1. kate
well, what does kate do? i suppose the parallel story is meant to hinge around her decision to return to where she kicked claire out of the cab and help her out in some way. in concept, it's a cool juxtaposition - with the plane crash, it takes kate more than three years to go back for claire, and here she sees a photo and does it on the very same day.

what i don't know is where they plan to go with kate's story from here on out - she has claire's credit card, so she's somewhat trackable. how will her story be woven in with the other characters after this point? has she served her parallel universe purpose with claire by suggesting that she keep her child, thereby uniting claire and aaron in at least one universe?

i like this interview with evangeline lily because she talks about the differences between the parallel kate, and the island kate so clearly. unfortunately the actual writing and directing of the episode don't demonstrate that at all. critics of her acting would say that you can't actually tell she's doing anything different as an actress, but i happen to be of the camp that thinks she is great. i want the show to give her the same narrative drive that she expresses here: island kate is completely over jack, she's gone to trial for her crimes, has spent three years raising a child, mostly by herself, and cares only about reuniting that child with his mother. by contrast, lily describes parallel kate as an overgrown childish thrillseeker who gets off on the danger of being on the run and courting risky situations.

where is the parallel story going to take this kate? to jail? to trial? death? will it reunite her with jack somehow? the seeds are there - kate has his sister's credit card..

2. claire
here was a fantastic opportunity to reintroduce us to claire, who we haven't seen in over a year - it was also a missed opportunity to refresh our memories about her bigger story; the boyfriend who walked out on her, the psychic, richard malkin, who freaked out and then insisted that she raise the child herself, then mysteriously decided that it would be ok for her to give the kid up for adoption if she gave the child up to a couple in los angeles.. claire's assessment of the situation was that malkin knew the plane would crash and deliberately placed her on the plane to ensure that she would raise the child herself.
so the question is - how does the absence of the island affect malkin's intentions? what is malkin's relationship to the island? was he once an other? did malkin just deliberately set claire up with a flaky couple? was this simply an adoption-gone-wrong? in this universe, is it still important that claire raise the child herself? they wasted a great opportunity to satisfactorily handle these questions.

one way they could have done this would be to have ethan behind the door of the mysterious couple wanting to adopt aaron. this would have been a much creepier and interesting choice than the hospital setting. instead give ethan a monologue about how his wife died, and he just can't take on the responsibility of raising a child.. which would echo his story from the missing pieces about how his wife died in childbirth.. but introducing this lindsey baskum character (an anagram for 'used by malkins' hrm), and then giving her an irritating, teary monologue is not a satisfying way to close out the biggest mystery of claire's original story. also: making characters cry a lot is not a good way to recall our memories of season one.

the mysterious relationship between the timelines is hinted at when claire mysteriously 'knows' that the child's name is aaron. and there's also a brief reaction shot of kate that seems to register some recognition in her face upon hearing the name as well.

3. ethan
while i think he would have been better placed as the adoptive parent, the most interesting revelation of the episode was ethan's presence at claire's hospital (amazingly, it's a different hospital from jack's!), and that his name is now ethan goodspeed, rather than ethan rom. remember ethan was born on the island, delivered by juliet, and was the child of horace and amy goodspeed. it seems that in this timeline, after ethan was evacuated from the island, it sunk, and he had no place to go back to. he was never recruited by the hostiles (who changed his last name, though they didn't see any need to change ben's last name), yet still continued a career in prenatal care.

there was some interesting misdirection during the ethan scene:oh no! is ethan still bad? oh no! is he going to do something bad to claire? oh no! was aaron meant to be born on the island and nowhere else? now that would have been interesting.. imagine if this had turned into a grisly death scene for claire, the one we feared would happen to sun if she didn't get off-island in time. ethan could redeem himself by heroically attempting to save her. the scene raised all of those possibilities and paid none of them off. is this going to be the happy fun time timeline?

there's a fun juxtaposition where ethan says 'i don't what to stick you with any needles if i don't have to.' of course, the irony is that he spent a good deal of season 1 sticking needles into claire (see photo above).

what else remains to be said about the parallel timeline? i think we're just going to have to be patient. it looks like this season is unraveling the episodes in roughly the same character order as season 1 - which means it goes kate, locke, jack, sun, charlie, sawyer, sayid, claire.. so tonight's episode is locke, which should mean a generous unloading of mythological data as well as a fairly intriguing parallel storyline.
oh yes, much has been made of this screenshot showing the date on claire's sonogram as october 22, 2004, pushing the date of flight 815 up by a month. well, gregg nations, script coordinator for the show has essentially confirmed that the date was yet another prop error, making two for two this season after sayid's botched passport in the premiere (the fine print says iran instead of iraq. oops). i'm really astonished because it takes a considerable amount of effort to create these props, and to shoot the closeups. plus, anyone on the crew knows that the show is designed to be freeze-framed and analyzed. i mean, to mess up sept 22, 2004 is, like, messing up one of the numbers. someone on props should be fired.

original timeline:
this portion of the story was equally frustrating. the high point was a good performance by josh holloway, though the logistics of that wedding ring have me puzzled. he buried the ring in the floorboards of their house? when was he planning on digging that up and proposing? he never felt like mentioning the whole marriage thing during events leading up to the incident? if they knew last year that the ring was in there, it would have been a great teaser to show his desire to get back to their house one last time before leaving on the sub. instead this felt like a plot element shoehorned into the narrative to give the character a physical trinket to cry over. if i wasn't hung up on these details, if it felt like the proposal was something organic that he'd genuinely been planning (or that the writers had genuinely been planning), i could have taken the emotional journey. but instead i felt somewhat manipulated. it's that 'this is a crying scene' kind of manipulation that makes me worry about what we're in for the rest of the season. especially when the showrunners talk about it being 'like season 1.' i pray that this isn't what they think season 1 was about. it was about characters, not crying. hopefully this is just an early misstep.

usually the second episode (or, hour 3) unloads the big exposition for the course of the season. in season 4 we got the excellent 'confirmed dead' that introduced us to the freighter science team. last year at this time was 'jughead,' both definitive episodes for the arcs of the seasons. so it was disappointing that at this point in the show for season 6, it doesn't feel like we've seen 'the thing' that's going to define the ending of the show/season. that may be because they're following the first season character order, and it just didn't make sense to shoehorn 'the thing' into kate's episode - we didn't see any of the beach/statue story, so tonight's episode will likely not contain any temple, typewriters, baseballs, or pills. whew.

1. sayid
another missed opportunity: torturing sayid. having dogen begin by blowing ash over sayid was a dramatic mistake. this action made it obvious that the intent was to diagnose, and that the diagnosis would have something to do with smokey. rather than identifying with sayid's horror at being tortured, i found myself on dogen's side, studying sayid's reactions to see if he betrays any signs of smokey or jacob's nemesis. i also found myself making whimsical note of the irony of seeing sayid tortured.. not the best way to structure that scene. it should have been shot from sayid's perspective, not dogen's, and it should have felt like truly random torture of the exact style he once administered himself. we should have wondered if these temple people are actually in the business of enforcing poetic justice, and then surprised to discover the true purpose.

we still don't know what sayid is now. or rather, what he's going to become when 'it reaches his heart.' all that we've previously seen on the show of the infection is rousseau's team, who seemed to appear totally normal and then would suddenly try to kill her. if sayid starts doing that it could get interesting.

2. dogen
there are so many 'leaders' of the others now that it's confusing. remember the 'sherrif' isabel, who branded juliet on her back for killing pickett? when she came into the show, ben said she outranked him. was she visiting from the temple to administer justice? where does alpert fall into this hierarchy? it seems like every season these people have another level of management to conquer. i would like an office-style organizational chart drawn up detailing who answers to whom, please.
the questions we're supposed to be asking about dogen: what was he typing before he found out sayid was still alive? why the f does he have a baseball on his desk? what is his relaitonship to jacob and his nemesis? does anyone at the temple have any idea what's happened at the statue? did the others run out of batteries for their walkie talkies? what are those plants growing in his office? why is it important that all the people on jacob's list remain at the temple? if sayid failed the test, why couldn't they just kill him and be done with it? what is in the pill? why does it have to be taken willingly? what would happen to sayid if he did take it? what kind of poison listens to your 'intent' before activating? i'm spiralling here people, help me.

3. jack
argh so many reasons to be frustrated by this episode, not least of all because the characters are also frustrated. the introduction of that damned pill just made my heart sink. not an interesting thing to make our beloved characters debate over for an hour. were they trying to do something like 'the button?' i can only hope that like 'the button,' patience will pay off and there will be interesting answers to what the pill is about.

it seems like jack is now just being argumentative for the sake of it. he's got a long way to climb this season if he's going to be a legitimate leader again.

one thing i've realized during this episode is that for the people who landed in 1977, only kate and jin have clear objectives. sawyer has nothing. sayid has nothing. jack has nothing. hurley has nothing. one of the inherent strengths of season 1 was that everyone was working toward the same goal, even if they were incapable of working together. the show needs to state its season goal quickly, or it's going to get tiring fast. fingers crossed for tonight.

4. claire
so claire is now setting traps similiar to rousseau's, and has apparently been 'taken' by the infection that rousseau's team fell to in 1988. well this raises all kinds of questions. was rousseau actually the sick one? how exactly does this sickness manifest itself, and how is it related to smokey/nemesis and his ability to take the form of dead bodies on the island? is this going to answer what desmond's injections were about?
the sickness was relatively low on my list of mysteries demanding answers, but if it ties into the bigger picture, i'm happy to see it addressed.. (you hear me, show? tie into something larger.) even if it's eventually going to tie in, if we don't have that assurance, this is when it feels like the audience is being fed filler. enough fans complained of this to prompt damon to address it in his twitter: "For those of you complaining of "filler." Seriously. PLEASE WATCH NCIS: LOS ANGELES. I promise not to hold it against you."

it looks like claire has been living in the jungle for three years - and after being 'infected,' probably was not flashing through time with the rest of the survivors. i'm looking forward to finding out what happened to her.. it's another cool throwback to season 1, where claire disappeared from the show for several weeks after being abducted by the others. here is the same story arc, only played out on a larger scale. looking forward to seeing exactly what happened.

• primary gripe
oh so many gripes. my major gripe though is the scenes with aldo that just did not fit. i'm not sure if the problem lies in the writing, the directing, or possibly a mismatch between writers and director. rob mcelhenny's cameo in season 3 was fine because he had almost no lines and was knocked out quickly, but here he was not only given lines, but seemed to be encouraged to reprise his character from 'it's always sunny in philadelphia.' i love that show, but that show does not belong in 'lost.' what should have been funny was groaningly bad, and took me out of the show completely. the scenes would have been much much better served by a mysterious badass other like ms klugh, friendly, mikhail.. anyone!!

• preboomer
rousseau'd claire steps out from behind the trees. nice wtf face from jin (essentially his same wtf face from meeting rousseau in 1988), as well as a corresponding wtf face from claire. but the real shocker about this preboomer isn't that claire has returned to the island story, it's that jin's leg is in a bear trap. oww, that totally sucks for jin. dip him in the temple pool, i guess, if it still works. please episode 4, reward our patience!

written by: damon lindelof and carlton cuse, of course.

cinematography by: michael bonvillain, who, between seasons of 'lost,' shot the very enjoyable 'zombieland.' some great shooting challenges here handled really well - duplication of LAX in hawaii, the amazing reveal of the temple (did they build that giant set??), and its inner chamber, and the (much larger than before, but i'll forgive it) hatch implosion site. also, excellent lighting reference to 'apocalypse now' in the way locke/nemesis is lit while speaking from the shadows. this ep looked great.

nutshell: this is what we've been building toward for three years: landing the plane, and seeing the paths of our beloved characters had the island never interefered. and after all the bellyaching about 'why should i care what happens if they're just going to undo it,' no one was more surprised to be totally enraptured by the alt story than i.. the subtle juxtapositions to events in season 1 are elegant and exquisite. what will make season 6 fly is absolute respect for the characters - show us what really would have gone down had the plane landed. for me the bar for the final season was whether the show could win back fans of season 1.. this device just may do it. i can't wait to see how it plays out. in short: my mind was blown, i laughed, i got teary, and i was in suspense. excluding the pilot, this was the best of all the season premieres.

new storytelling device, new blog format:
  • the sideways timeline
    1. desmond
    2. charlie
    3. boone
    4. kate
    5. claire
    6. sun and jin
    7. hurley
    8. the tailies?
    9. jack and locke
  • the island story
    1. jacob
    2. jacob's nemesis
    3. ben
    4. juliet
    5. cindy!
  • minor gripe
  • another detail
  • preboomer

• the sideways timeline

cindy in the pilot episode on the left, and in 'la x' on the right. excellent hair reproduction, i must say.

many people are confused! first point of confusion: if the bomb reset the timeline, why is the island story still happening? second point of confusion: why is the island underwater in the sideways timeline? third point of confusion: are these flashbacks? when it whooshes, what exactly are we seeing?

here's what's happening:

there are two stories happening now. at some point, possibly when juliet ignited jughead, the timeline split into two branches. the show is simultaneously showing us a) what happens to our characters if jughead 'worked,' and b) what happens if jughead doesn't work. this is why we see her hit the bomb twice during the episode. it sounds confusing, but this will actually be much easier to keep track of than last year when we would essentially have 3 stories (1977, 2007, + flashbacks). this year is about showing us the consequences of choice - what is the larger price of setting off the bomb? did it remove jacob's touches from the everyone's lives? will rose die from cancer? will locke find his true redemption? what if they set off the bomb and nothing happened? what if they set off the bomb and it changed everything? is the entire parallel story a grand scale course correction, eventually leading to the exact same ending as the island story? the time time travel and paradox stories on this show are over. season 6 is about exploring the long and short-term consequences of character's choices by juxtaposing events in the sideways timeline with the original.

the sound effect that transitions between the parallel timelines is slightly different - it how has a higher pitched sound incorporated into the whoosh, that is reminiscent of the time flashes experienced by the survivors in season 5. in future episodes we'll be able to differentiate between traditional flashbacks and flashsideways by listening closely to the transitioning sound effect.
the shaving injury that transcends space and time.

damon and carlton are insistent on calling these flashes 'sideways' and not 'alternate.' they want us to understand that this is not a 'dream' outcome, or a 'possible' outcome. the events in the sideways timeline are real and have consequences. what we don't know yet is how these two timelines are related to each other. and to that damon and carlton have said: 'be patient.' we don't know what it is yet, but that cut on jack's neck is going to be a major link between the two timelines.

2007 (linear story): as expected, jack, kate, jin, sawyer, miles, hurley, sayid, and even juliet were timeflashed back to 2007, probably the exact moment jacob was killed, and the spring went dark. jacob knew this, which is why he just stood there when ben stabbed him. these are also the people he meant were 'coming,' not ilana's people on the ajira flight. i criticized the show last season for inserting a 3 year break into the linear island story (in addition to throwing time travel into the mix). we'll get a better picture of the season as a whole coming up, but it looks like we are going to have two linear timelines happening in separate universes, possibly making this the easiest season to follow, ever.

2004 (parallel timeline): we are entering into this sideways story from the same moment that the original pilot episode gave us our very first flashback: jack looking out the window of the plane. the differences are both subtle and obvious. jack is sitting in a different section of the plane - we no longer see the plane's wing out his window. his conversation with cindy is slightly different. she only gives him one bottle of liquor instead of two.. the turbulence passes and (gasp!), bernard returns from the bathroom! every moment of this sideways story was exquisitely crafted. this final season has so much potential - because it's really getting back to the core of who our beloved characters were in their flashback stories, before the crash. let's look at each person's similarities and differences in this new trajectory:

1. desmond
well, first of all, he's on the plane! what!? why!? how!? well, let's consider - if the island is underwater, desmond is totally free of his responsibility to push the button. he is also wearing a wedding ring. is desmond married to penny in the sideways story? penny must have been born before 1977 off-island, so she's out there somewhere, but did charles widmore make it off the island before it sunk? do desmond and penny still have a child? did they name their child charlie after her deceased father? also, jack seems to recognize him. did jack and desmond have the same meeting that once occurred at the stadium?
i'm going to say not likely. in the original timeline, when jack entered the hatch and first saw des on the island, he recognized him immediately. so, is jack having a deja vu from the sideways universe? did they still train together at the stadium, but not have the conversation? did desmond still need to race around the world in order to win the approval of charles widmore?

when jack returns from having saved charlie's life, desmond is gone. jack looks around and doesn't see him anywhere. rose and bernard were asleep. is desmond time flashing again? or, perhaps, universe hopping? is this what ms. hawking meant when she said the island wasn't done with him yet? this is a good sign that desmond's arc on the show is not yet over.

2. charlie
if his story is the same, charlie is returning from australia having just visited his brother who refused to reivive drive shaft. his suicide attempt makes sense in this context - and the introduction of jack into this storyline is also logical. and - jack needed a pen to save charlie! oh the irony.. in the pilot, jack sends boone on a false mission for a pen just to get him away. what remains to be seen is if charlie has any future in the parallel story, or if this is his only appearance. it would be a mistake to contrive the parallel story into every possible happy ending - it wouldn't be fair to the story or characters, but it's possible that by season's end, the writers will find a way to bring charlie and claire back together.

3. boone
his scene was wonderful. also, notice frogurt asleep between them. the scene encapsulated the season 1 relationship and dynamic between these two men perfectly. another change here is that shannon is not on the plane - having decided to stay in the abusive relationship she summoned boone to rescue her from. of course the real reason shannon wasn't in the scene is because the producers were unable to sign maggie grace, but it's possible we may see her by season's end. i would love to see the show address the sayid/shannon relationship again in some way, any way. so much focus has been put back on nadia, that it's easy to forget sayid had this relationship. i'd love to know if the original script included an encounter between the two in the parallel story.

4. kate
damon has confirmed in the podcast that the 'america's most wanted' video screened at comiccon is canon, meaning the kate's trajectory is different, but mostly the same. will she run into jack again? considering that she's now hijacked a taxi holding his half-sister, this could be the path through which they meet. it made perfect sense that kate would try to run at the first opportunity. edward mars is probably the most inefficient us marshall in history, losing kate again and again. an interesting difference between our original kate and the parallel kate is that in the original timeline, kate went searching the island for mars' halliburton case. she wasn't interested in the guns it contained, but rather the toy airplane her childhood friend tommy had given her.
in the parallel story, kate abandons the hallibuton case in the bathroom without a second thought. is tommy still alive? is parallel kate not obsessed with trinkets? the next episode will be kate-centric and is titled 'what kate does,' a lovely inversion of the season 2 episode 'what kate did.' so, what does kate do? folks, this is probably going to be the last kate episode. as the final season progresses, we will move closer to the final piece of the endgame, but with each episode we're also saying goodbye to each character, as it's the last time that they will have a full hour devoted to them. i'm excited, anxious, and a little sad to see each person's big goodbye.

5. claire
we got one shot of claire! because the next episode is kate-centric, i have a feeling we will finally also see claire in the island story - since claire is the entire reason kate returned there. here's what i'm hoping to find out this season in regards to claire: who was the couple in la that wanted to adopt aaron? what is her psychic's relationship to the island? was he an other? how will jack and claire discover their relationship to each other in the parallel story? where will aaron ultimately end up?

6. sun and jin
oh this one is interesting. first off, they are not married. they do not have wedding rings, and the guard calls her 'ms paik,' instead of 'ms. kwon.' also, was sun lying about not knowing english, or in the parallel timeline did she not have a reason to run from jin? my theory: sun's father, being a business associate of charles widmore, was subtly course-corrected when widmore was killed in the jughead explosion. while sun's father is still a tyrant, events reveal to sun her father's true nature. jin is still working for him, but the wedding hasn't happened yet. they are on the plane to elope. it's possible sun never took english lessons (and thus never had the affair), or it could be that both of them learned english in order to prepare for their new life together in the states. we still need to find out what the wad of cash was for - it seemed to be a surprise to sun. some people have pointed out that jin is back to being his original assholish self - yes, but after rewatching the pilot, i think he's marginally nicer than he was originally. when he tells her to button up in the parallel story, it's not with the open hostility of the original. one of the unfortunate consequences of sinking the island is that jin is now sterile again, and without some kind of intervention, sun will never give birth to ji yeon.

7. hurley

hurley is the most obvious example of how the timeline has been altered - he's now the luckiest guy in the world! here are the big questions i have: did he use the same numbers? did the sinking of the island interrupt the numbers transmission that leonard simms heard out at sea? did the sinking of the island somehow change the properties of the numbers? this was such a great reversal though - hurley's stories are always borderline slapstick, and i can't wait to see his final episode later this season, titled, of course, 'everyone loves hugo.'

8. the tailies

cindy!!!! wow. this episode was all about cindy! it was great to see her again, both in the parallel and island stories. conspicuously missing however are libby and mr. eko. were they on the plane and we just didn't see them (the way we didn't see claire until later?), or were they not on the plane at all?
i'm really excited to hear that libby will be returning this year, because there is a good chance to finally get some real closure on her character through the parallel story. will she and hurley end up happily ever after? does she still give desmond her boat? does she still have her kathy griffin wig?
what is mr. eko's path in los angeles? assuming he was on the plane - he would have been travelling to la to be a priest at a local church. if he's going to be written into the show later, it would be completely awesome to have him be the priest at ms. hawking's lamp post station church.

9. jack and locke
best scene of the episode. both have lost luggage (well, a little more than 'luggage' for jack), and so are stuck in the waiting area together. unlike the locke/boone scene, which paralleled the two character's relationship, this scene between jack and locke revealed how these two men might be destined to save each other in the real world. i slap my forehead now, but the obvious connection between jack, a spinal surgeon, and locke, a paraplegic, never occurred to me - because on the island locke told almost no one of his original state. rose knew. walt knew, and ben knew. that was it. the possibilities for the paralel story are thrilling - will jack be locke's savior and cause him to walk again? will locke become a surrogate father figure to jack? which ever way this story goes, i have a feeling i'll be crying my eyes out about it.

• the island story
everyone on the island is in the same time period! two different places, but the same time period! at the swan station, the entire first hour of the island story consisted of our heroes orienting themselves (and us) and digging juliet out of the imploded hatch. the second hour of their story was the attempt to save sayid by dipping him in magic water.

at the foot statue, jacob's nemesis reveals himself, finally! he throws people around, tells richard he looks better than he did when he was in chains, hits him in the throat and walks off with his body.

1. jacob
jacob's plan is starting to reveal itself. he went to hurley precisely because hurley would be able to see him after he'd been stabbed by ben.. which means jacob must have known that hurley et. all would flash back to 2007 at that exact moment. jacob sure knows a lot about what's going to happen. jacob orders that sayid be brought to the temple, and provides instruction to the dwellers there that if sayid dies, they are in big trouble. why did jacob touch sayid in los angeles the day nadia was killed? part of the reason had to be that ben be shot and dipped in the pool, but was it also so that sayid could be dipped in the pool himself? wtf happens when you dip in the pool? did jacob inhabit sayid's body, or was the healing effect of the water just delayed?
so it turns out that jacob's guitar case was in fact a message intended for the inhabitants of the temple. we still don't know exactly what the message says, but we can presume that it at least has the names of those who would arrive along with the giant ankh. how did dogen know the message would be inside? is this an established delivery system for jacob's messages? did jacob take advantage of ajira's proxying of flight 815 in order to assure his message 'whooshed' off the plane into the proper place? again, jacob sure seems to know a hell of a lot about what's going to happen. quiz: how many days have passed for hurley since he saw jacob in the cab? (answer below)

2. jacob's nemesis
see last week's entry for more info on jacob's nemesis, the smoke monster, and how this person operates. this episode has confirmed a lot of my theories. the mystery surrounding this guy now is: what next? where is 'home' for someone who has been fighting a metaphysical war for 150 years? what is he going to do with richard? what exactly is the ash that repels him when in smoke monster form?

here is the corresponding shot from 'apocalypse now:'

3. ben
michael emerson does the wtf face better than anyone. his intake upon seeing locke's true dead body.. amazing. his effortless lie to richard after he exits the statue 'everything's fine!,' hilarious. his slow turn after smokey's rampage to find locke standing behind him, fantastic. it will be interesting to see what they do with ben from here on out. he's no longer leader, and he's been used by jacob's nemesis. his feud with widmore seems fleeting by now. does ben exist in the parallel story? was he killed on the island as a boy, or will we run into him in the parallel world, perhaps as an insurance salesman, or child psychologist?

4. juliet
juliet and her ex-husband, right before alpert throws a bus at him.

how did juliet know that 'it worked' before she died? her last words to sawyer were 'we should get coffee sometime. we can go dutch.' i'll bet money she says this to him when she eventually runs into him in the parallel story. without the island, though, juliet is a very different person. she's meek, indecisive, even clumsy. she gets walked on by her ex-husband. will sawyer awaken the tough girl within? some people wondered why juliet needed to die twice - i think it's because she's setting up two very important things: sawyer's trajectory for the final season, and the relationship between the parallel and island timelines. everything sawyer does from here on out will be partially motivated by juliet's death, and by season's end, we can look to her death scene as the first clue about how the timelines relate.

5. cindy!
we know now that cindy, zac and emma were not jumping through time during season 5 along with all the other crash survivors. they have clearly been living at the temple for the last three years, which means that they have somehow become indoctrinated as 'true' others. did they each go for a swim in the temple spring? some people were confused by these others living at the temple, but their presence has been established earlier in the show. in season 3, ben tells alex, rousseau, and carl to head for the temple - he tells them that there is a group of others living there, and that it's the only place where they will be safe. unfortunately they never made it. we still don't know what's been happening on the island during the three years that the oceanic six were self destructing on the mainland. were they just making beads and ships in bottles, waiting for ajira 316?

• minor gripe
the final shot of the opening scene, while a thrilling mythological puzzle-piece, was too overtly cgi. it's a tall order for an effects company - it unloads lots of information at once, and by being an unbroken shot, eliminates any confusion about it being a flashforward or flashback - it clearly states that in the parallel timeline, the island with its sonic fence, dharma barracks, and swingset, is underwater with ezra j. sharkington. i just wish it looked a bit more realistic.

• another detail
when sawyer wakes up in the temple, being tended to by kate, the scene is almost identical to when sawyer woke up in the hatch, being tended to by kate. it's a nice visual and verbal callback to s2.9, 'what kate did.'

• preboomer
sayid, after being well and truly dead, awakens with a wtf face and says 'what happened?' boom.

what happened indeed.. does jacob have the power to possess a body? we've never seen this type of power on the show before. it's not jacob's nemesis in sayid because nemesis doesn't possess that power. jacob's nemesis duplicates the body when taking its form. this is something different. did jacob bring sayid to the island knowing he'd die in the pool? did dying in the pool give jacob the right circumstances to enter sayid's body? is this show suddenly becoming 'dollhouse' now? why was the water murky? why didn't it heal mystic asian guy's hand? what is the history of the temple and the pool? what does kate do? any more questions? i could seriously write another 22 pages on this episode, but i don't have the luxury of 8 months to procrastinate again, so ask any questions below..

answer: 5 days


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