The next to last season of Lost comes to a close with some frankly stunning revelations, both in the flashbacks and on the island, in 1977 and the present, and ends with a hell of a kicker.. Let's start with the flashbacks and work our way out.
We return to a moment in time that was critical to Jack's upbringing, that he told Kate within five minutes of meeting her. It's Jack's first solo surgery, and while operating on a young girl, he rips a hole in the dural sac, fear fills him, he counts to five and then manages to find the strength to soldier on. However, there's one critical element that he left out --- he didn't make that decision at all. Christian was there, and when Jack panicked, he told Jack to count to five, before finishing the surgery. Nor did Jack seem particularly grateful for the life lesson when it happened. Right after the surgery, he bawls out his father for forcing him to 'take a time out' and embarrassing him on his first solo surgery. Having seen the whole thing, we can't help but wonder if Jack, as we've seen him do so many times, misread the situation Christian's first obligation was to the patient, and then to his son. If he had done nothing, the young girl would have died. He didn't take over the surgery, he congratulated his son for his efforts afterwards, and for his reward his son bawls him out. We've been getting the other side of the story in the last season, so is it possible that Jack's been misjudging the situation the whole time?
Jacob hands Jack a chocolate bar and touches Jack just after this, with a little advice: "Just needed a little push." This is probably a subliminal suggestion, but like all the other touches we've seen so far, it can be read two ways--- supporting Jack or providing him as a counterweight against his father. After all, we know how critical Christian is, alive or dead, on the island or off it. Was he trying to get him ready to face his father when the final season came around.
Of all the little trips that Jacob made off the island, the most recent seems to have been when he saw Hurley. When Hugo was released from prison --- very much against his will, as we see, he got into a cab, and Jacob was waiting. This is also the most direct confrontation Jacob has--- he asks Hugo flat out why he doesn't want to return to the island. And when Hurley tells him that he's been cursed, and that he's still crazy, he assures Hugo that he isn't, and even argues that he's been blessed. He leaves, giving Hurley the guitar case that he boarding Ajira 316 with and seems to have made it all the way back to 1977 with (though we still don't see what's in it yet) and tells him that he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to do. Was he trying to sympathize with Hurley (eventually we will learn that Jacob may also speak with the dead) or was this a very subtle urging to get Hurley back to the island?
The last person that we see him touch is the most important, and raises all kinds of questions about what we know--- Locke. In 2000, just minutes before Anthony Cooper threw him out an eighth-story window, Jacob was waiting. And while everyone panicked, he walked up to him, touched him---- which very likely brought Locke back to life. But if Jacob knew what was going to happen to Locke, why didn't he try and prevent him from going out the window at all? Why not heal him completely? And consider the last thing he says: "I'm very sorry about what happened to you." Was he referring to what just happened to him, or what will happen to him when he finally makes it to the island?
Back in the present, Locke seems self-assured and confident for the first time--- ever--- as they approach the habitat of Jacob--- he seems to live under what remains of the statue, and we're not sure why he's so certain about everything--- until Ilana and the rest of her little troop appear carrying the metal crate. Finally we see this season's 'Frozen Donkey Wheel'--- and it's the exact same revelation we got at the end of Season 4: Locke is still dead, and he never left the coffin. We're not sure who he is, but the second he walks into Jacob's sanctuary, he does--- it's the Man In Black. The implication seems to be that the Man in Black is a physical manifestation of the monster. He is the one who seems to be taking the forms of the dead. And it seems he has finally found his 'loophole'. Apparently, he can only take the forms of people who died before they came to the island, but crashed as a corpse. This would explain why he took the forms of Christian and Yemi. But it raises another question. If he can take the form of the dead, was it Jacob or the Man in Black that the form of Christian when Jack saw him in LA? Is he the one who took the forms of Charlie, Eko, and Ana Lucia when Hurley was convinced he was the dead? Which one is the puppet master? This is one question that has probably never been answered in a satisfactory manner.
Despite what we have seen between about Jacob throughout the island, he seems utterly unsurprised by what seems about to happen. He knows that his fate is in someone else's hands, but his behavior has always struck me as arrogant. He tells Ben that he has a choice, but he doesn't seem to be paying much regard to the person who spent thirty plus in service to him, but never even saw him, and received no credit for what he did. The last masks that Ben has been wearing finally falls off (full props to Michael Emerson; he makes us feel sorry for the adult Ben, even after all the horrible things that he's done) and he bares his soul, asking why he was never good enough--- "What about me?" Jacob has to have known that all Ben's ever wanted is to be special. So why the hell does he say something so condescending as: "What about you?" He has to have known it would set him off, and even though this does essentially break Ben--- he's never the same after what happens--- he still stabs Jacob with the same fierceness he killed Keamy with last season. And despite everything that happened, everything the Man In Black has done, I still feel Jacob brought some of it on himself.
In 1977, Jack and Sawyer are still facing off. Jack gives him five minutes, and James does something that none of the characters on Lost have seemed to do (unless maybe they were off the island)--- tell his story. He tells him what turned James Ford into the man Jack knows, then says that happened a year ago, and that he could have at anytime left the island and stopped his father from killing his mother. But he has bought into the belief that Faraday told him, and his uncle repeated to him as his parent's funeral--- "What's done is done." Of course, if James really did believe that, he wouldn't have become Sawyer in the first place, but Jack doesn't know that. Jack and Sawyer seem to be making the same argument Jack was always having with Locke about freewill and destiny. Two things, though: one, Jack has now done a complete 180 on that argument, and two, Faraday told them that there was such a thing as free will, and now he's turned that into destiny, Jack says that he's absolutely certain that he can change his fate. James get frustrated, and he and Jack finally have the knock-down drag-em-out brawl that we've been expecting to come ever since Season 1. None of which will make either of them feel better because Juliet breaks things up, and tells him that they're going to let this happen.
Juliet's motivations have always been questionable, but we get a clear view of them in the one flashback that doesn't involve Jacob--- when her parents tell her and Rachel that even though they love each other, they're still getting a divorce. We've seen a pretty clear picture of Juliet's love life since we've met her. We know that her husband was a type one a-hole who cheated on her repeatedly but kept so tight a hold on her, it took a bus to break them up. When she came to the island, she became the other woman when she began having an affair with Goodwin. His wife found out about the affair, but despite the pain it caused, she couldn't end it--- the machinations of Ben Linus had to do it. When she joined the Lostaway's she had a relationship with Jack that went nowhere because she could tell that he was in love with Kate. Now she fell in love with Sawyer, they built a life together, and they were happy. And then Kate showed up, and three years went to hell in a little more than three days. James does love her--- it is clear now that she was the love of his life--- but Kate will always have a hold on him. So she wants to go through with the plan, maybe because she doesn't want to have lived through this agony, or maybe, like Sayid, she just wants to be put out of her misery.
So now we get to the moment in time we've been waiting for. Jack tries to destroy the electromagnetic pocket. Of course, Miles points out that this might end up causing the very incident that they're trying to prevent, and it's very questionable whether that's exactly what happens. Guns start blazing, Dharma folk start dropping, but Jack still manages to drop the bomb in the pocket. And... nothing. Before we can even get a handle on that, the Incident happens, and it's a near repeat of what we saw when the hatch blew up on Season 2--- only this time the carnage is far more devastating, Metal starts flying everywhere, people are impaled by rebars, cars start getting pulled backwards, Dr. Chang's injures his hand (we now see why he was wearing a prosthesis in all the Dharma films)--- and Juliet is dragged into the hole. The moment that James grabs her while she's still being pulled is one of the most heartbreaking on the show. We know what's going to happen, we know that there's no way to prevent it, and it still wrenches us when we see it. James is even more wrenched when it happens that Ben was when Jacob rejected him, and we know that this may have ended up breaking him emotionally. It's still not clear whether Juliet was emotionally or physically exhausted when she finally detonates the bomb, but I felt real anguish for her. She wanted to leave the island as much as any of the people on Oceanic 815, and after six years and endless traveling, she never was able to leave.
Up until now, what's been happening on the island has seem important. With the airing of' The Incident', it now seems that Lost was shaping up to be nothing less than being a struggle between good and evil. At first, it seemed that Ben and Widmore were the puppet-masters playing chess, but now it seems that they themselves are nothing more than pawns in an even larger game between Jacob and the Men in Black. And even though it seems like the Man In Black has finally triumphed, we know that death doesn't have the same meaning on this show than it does on most others. And even if it did, this seems to be one where it brings about the end. We're still talking about destiny and free will. Jacob seemed to be on the side of free will, the Man in Black on the side of destiny, but if that's the case, the man in black seemed more than willing to use free will to manipulate destiny for himself. And even knowing what is coming, one has to say this for Cuse and Lindelof, they were aiming high. They've put up a masterful bit of work in this episode, and now as we approach the final season, with everyone's fate in doubt, I felt very glad I was on this journey. Episodes like this were the reason why.