SPOILER ALERT: The following post does not give away anything too crucial about last night’s episode of Lost. But I just might slip and say who won Project Runway.
They’re cruel and generous, the gods of Lost: they kill you, and then they give you work. Thus we saw the return of Ian Somerhalder as Boone, killed in season one on an outing with Locke, now back as Locke’s spirit guide in a quest to regain his faith. (When he sneered to Locke, "I was a sacrifice that the island demanded," he could have been speaking to J. J. Abrams, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof.) Boone’s hairstyle, curiously, has changed since his death. I know that your hair, like your nails, continues to grow after you die, but only on TV does it grow out into a $200 shag haircut.
Last night, after getting weird with the Others for two episodes, Lost returned to some of its core strengths: the beach, Hurley and polar bears. The flashback was also the first one this season that worked for me. True, it didn’t do much to advance Locke’s character: yet again, we saw him put his faith in someone and get bamboozled. But it did advance his intrigue, and did so in a way that was consistent with his character. No, I have no better idea than you do how Locke ended up in the woods of Humboldt County growing chronic with a band of rifle-toting hippies. (Also, I wonder: how did he not end up doing major jail time, especially after pulling a gun on a cop?) But it somehow made sense: you could see how he would be drawn to their crunchy-survivalist brand of ersatz family, and even if he couldn’t pull the trigger on the undercover agent, it underscored his self-doubt while giving him a believable sense of danger and moral grayness.
Character-schmaracter stuff aside, how ’bout those polar bears? When Locke went off to save Eko from the bear that dragged him away–and just how did Locke know that, anyway?–it raised the question of whether the bears, now known to be plural, have a bigger role on the island. Tom of the Others made reference to "bears" in the group’s cages in the season premiere: could they be the muscle component of the island’s "monster" (the smoke column that appeared to Eko last year being another one)? That, of course, would not explain their managing to snatch the Oceanic pilot and hang him from a tree in the first episode. Or are they independent operators, given that the bear dragged Eko not to an Others compound but to a cave? And do they like fish biscuits?
In any case, if the polar bears are going to be reappearing, may I suggest ABC budget Lost more money for CGI software? Because the fakey "bear" last night looked like he charged out of a videogame from 1995.
In other news: What a relief to see Hurley back. No one can wring so much richness out of a single "Dude!" as he did when Locke impaled his canteen on his hunting knife. (Indeed, between his tie-dyes, his bouts of the munchies and his "Dude"-worthiness, you kinda suspect the portly millionaire has spent his share of time in Humboldt County, if you know what I mean.) And he again proved his worth as an audience surrogate, asking the butt-naked, suddenly psychic[?] Desmond the obvious question: If you had a magic anti-doomsday key that entire time in the hatch, why didn’t you use it? Hurley also provided the best sight gag of the night, as an airline desk clerk entering The Numbers into an airport terminal in Locke’s sweat-lodge vision. (Though Benry Gale as a wand-wielding security guard was a close second.)
Yet the best line of the night came not from any cast regular but one of the crash-survivor extras–the young woman (Kiele Sanchez) who, when Hurley brought the belated bad news that Jack, Kate and Sawyer were captured, angrily asked, "When were you planning on telling us this, Hurley?" Flatly, matter-of-factly, as if we had known who she was all along–because with the cast divided among three places, they’re running out of lead characters to deliver the lines. It may be a sign of things to come: the producers have hinted that, with the main characters’ flashback storylines becoming played out and a limited number of planes available to crash onto the island, they may start developing some of the background Oceanic 815 survivors’ characters. Neil Frogurt, come back: we need you!