Written by Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof
Directed by Jack Bender
In seasons past, we have always opened somewhere that wasn't what it looked like. In Season 2 and 3, we thought we are some kind of single housing plan,; turned out we were on the island. In Season 4, we thought we were on the island, turned out we were in LA. In Season 5, we knew quickly we were on the island in the past, but then we realized we were time traveling. But this season, we know exactly where we are... because we've been here before. We're on Oceanic 815, and it seems were moments before the plane crashes. The plane does hit turbulence, Jack grabs his seat almost in preparation... and then the turbulence dies. Something has definitely changed.
We know from the moment Jack returns from the men's room... and Desmond is sitting next to him. And unlike when they met in the hatch, there is no recognition on either side. And then a moment later, we do see the island... only it now seems to have sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Even the most devoted Lost fan had to be going: "What the hell?" Welcome to the world of the flash-sideways, and it was clear that things were vastly different. Gone is the typical whoosh that greeted us every time we went from the island to the normal world. Instead is a sound, which some thought sounded like a time jump, but to me, always sounded like the engine of a plane.
What the hell happened? My initial theory came from the title 'LA X.' Given the spacing and the subtle changes in behavior of the characters (I'll get to those in a minute), I assumed that when the bomb detonated, the island sank to the ocean floor. As a result, Jacob, who we saw touch so many of the passengers during the Season 5 finale, never got the chance to. Therefore, everybody on the plane lived their lives without the influence of the island. And given how painful some of those moments were, they were living better lives. The theory would seem to be borne out as the season progressed.
Since trying to speculate on this is a little naive, given what we know, I'm going to deal with what definitely happened. Once Juliet detonated the bomb, everybody on the island who traveled through time seems to have been brought back to the future. And the second they get there, ohh. things get worse. Juliet is still at the bottom of the Swan station, and James (I'm not going to call him Sawyer any more, for reasons that are pretty obvious by now) is livid. He wants to kill Jack slowly and painfully, and is only distracted from his actions by the sounds of pain from the station. Juliet has jumped back with them, and the major effort is to liberate her from the wreckage of the Swan.
Which means that our friend Hugo, the only major character who didn't participate in the raid before the Incident, is left alone with Sayid. Sayid knows that he's not long for the world, and in one of the shows saddest scenes, he tells Hurley that he's contemplating the afterlife, and he knows he can't be going to a very good place. So when Jacob reappears to Hurley and tells him that they need to save him, it's small wonder that he jumps at the chance. He doesn't even seem that upset when we learn that Jacob, like everyone else he has seen, has joined the ranks of the dead. (Perhaps this is the reason Hurley was given the gift to see them in the first place.)
Jacob, by the way, becomes a lot more talkative and omnipresent than he ever was when he was alive. One of the few great strengths of the season is that we finally would learn Jacob's story, and why he did so much of what he did.
Meanwhile, back at the foot, Ben is still standing where he killed Jacob, looking absolutely deadened. He doesn't even bother to flinch when "Un-Locke" (as far as I know, nobody on any site or publication refers to the Man in Black this way, and seeing as he is so much the alternate of John Locke, it seems fitting to call him this) basically shifts him off to go and get Richard.
And oh boy, has finding John Locke sure caused chaos. Up until now Richard has remained utterly unflappable, but the second Ben comes out, he becomes incredibly flapped. He takes Ben by the scruff of the neck, and throws him at the corpse. And the minute Ben sees Locke's body, whatever resistance and duplicity he had left evaporates in a second. The ultimate manipulator has been completely used, and the man sure he was a good guy, realizes he has been used by the ultimate bad guy. From this moment on, the old Benjamin Linus is gone.
Yes, to paraphrase Chevy Chase, John Locke is still dead (and if you're a pedant like every other Lost fan, he's been dead since 'Through the Looking Glass'). In its place would seem to be the Man in Black. During the interval between Season 5 and 6, it was theorized that this was the smoke monster, but as Ben himself told us, it's one thing to believe it, it's another to actually see it. So when Bram and the rest of Jacob's bodyguards come in to kill him, and the monster lays waste to them in a matter of minutes, and then pops us as Un-Locke, saying "I'm very sorry you had to see me like that", I thought "We might actually get what were looking for." I was nearly as gobsmacked as Ben was.
Meanwhile, they finally liberate Juliet from the wreckage, and we get a scene that is nearly as painful--- James has to watch the woman he loves die. As I mentioned in the earlier review, I felt more sympathy for Juliet than I did almost anyone else. She had tried so hard to get off the island, and though she seemed to come to the edge of escape, she never got there. So to see her die despairing that what she had tried to do hadn't work, nearly had me weeping as much as James was.
Or did it? I'm only going to deal with this for the first hour of the episode, but it would seem that something is going on as Oceanic flies back to LA. The changes of the characters are not as obvious as they would become when we were on the ground, but there are subtle differences.
First of all, when they're in the air, Cindy (who we'll be seeing again very soon in a much different context) calls for Jack's help, when a passenger locks himself in the men's room. Sayid, who was a lot quieter on the plane, offers to help, and kicks the door open... to reveal a comatose Charlie. (Yippee!) In a scene which mirrors his resuscitation of Rose in the pilot, he tries to perform CPR on him, but unlike that occasion when he basically told Boone to go away so he could work, he openly asks for Sayid's help. (The mirror is added when Jack asks for a pen to clear the obstruction, and this time he actually needs one) Charlie comes back to life (sort of) and Jack backs away, and goes back to his seat.
Kate is still being guarded by the Marshall, who doesn't seem inclined to give her any more slack than she got on the plane, and there's a moment when both James and Jack see her, but don't look twice. She seems preoccupied, which makes sense cause we think we know what's waiting for her.
James seems a little more at ease then he did on the first flight. He says some sarcastic things, but the venom that was there throughout season 1 just doesn't seem to be there. When he learns that Hurley is talking about lottery winnings, his conversation with him could be construed as laying the ground work for some kind of con, but he doesn't seem to care as much.
Hurley has some of the biggest changes. Leslie Arzt talks to him with admiration, rather than the disdain he used when he was on the island. He doesn't seem as clueless as he did sometimes on the show. But the biggest thing comes when he tells James: "Nothing bad ever happens to me. I'm the luckiest guy alive." And for the first time, the cheer that he uses doesn't seem like a front.
Jin and Sun are together like they were at the first season, but relations do not seem as hostile as they were at this point in their marriage. But is that in itself a clue? Jin does not appear to be wearing a wedding band, and Sun clearly isn't (you see her hands very closely). We remember that Jacob touched the two at their wedding, and his blessing did seem to be the equivalent of "May you live in interesting times." Is it possible that the marriage, which ended up doing more damage to their love then anything else, hasn't happened?
But perhaps the biggest change is in Locke. When he has a conversation with Boone (who is traveling without Shannon, thank God) , he doesn't seem nearly as upset as he would've been when he got on the plane in Sydney. He's clearly lying that he went on the walkabout that brought him there before (even if he had, there's no way he would've been on this flight), but he talks about the experience as if it were a happy memory rather than just another thing in his life that brought him pain. This Locke doesn't seem quite as angry, and doesn't seem to mind when the stewards put him in his wheelchair when the flight reaches Los Angeles.
We could buy all of these changes as being the do-over that Jack wanted to bring about were it not for the one passenger we know wasn't on that flight --- Desmond. It is possible that if the island truly sank to the bottom of the ocean in 1977 that Charles Widmore would've died, that he would never been an obstacle between him and Penny (who we know was never on the island), he wouldn't have been shipwrecked on the island, and so forth. But even if that is the case, why is he on this particular flight? Or was he? When Jack comes back from saving Charlie, Desmond is no longer there. When he asks Bernard and Rose what happened to him, they say they never saw him. Was he a phantom? Desmond is the only person who wasn't on the island at the end of Season 5, and I had hoped--- really hoped--- that his involvement with the mess was over. His story seemed to have been told, and Ben's attempt to kill him had failed. I so wish I had been right.
We're not sure yet what awaits for our passengers when this Oceanic 815 lands in LA. And frankly, I was less concerned about this world without the island then the one they were on. With Sayid near the end of his life, Hurley follows a message from Jacob to take them to the Temple, which we have heard mentioned repeated, and even caught the occasional glimpse of, but still haven't seen. Are we finally going to get it? Is redemption still possible for them? The answers, unfortunately, would turn out to be yes... and no. But there still seemed to be possibilities.