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Lostwatch: Will the Real John Locke Please Stand Up

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Mario Perez / ABC

SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, take your remote control, a compass, a knife—no, not the knife!—and watch last night’s Lost.

Who is John Locke? He is, for starters, one of the few remaining exceptions to the rule that the flashbacks have nothing more to tell us about the central characters on Lost. But what this episode told us about him, I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

He is a man, apparently, whom others (and Others) have always seen something special in, even while most of the world ignored or abused him. The ever-youthful Richard Alpert, for instance, and Matthew Abbaddon, both of whom turned out to have had central roles in his early life. But do they see the same things in him that he sees in himself? Is he, for instance, the man of science or the man of faith? Man of faith, we’ve been told, but that’s contradicted by the scene in which his teacher tells him not to deny who he truly is—not to imagine himself the “superhero” when he really is the science geek. His response is a familiar one from Locke: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

(The episode is full of people telling Locke who and what he is, a situation complicated by the fact that some of them, like Alpert, are not necessarily trustworthy. “He’s a fighter, your little John!” He’s a special child. He’s a nerd, not a warrior. He’s a miracle. He’s worthless.)

Is Locke in denial about himself? Or does he know his true nature better than his teacher does? If so—if he has some type of innately intuitive power, evidenced by his childhood drawing off Smokey—how do we explain his apparent failing of whatever test Alpert placed before him in his foster home as a kid? (Or did he fail?) And Mittelos’ later internship offer, which indicates they’re interested in him again? And how do we square that with Abaddon’s courtship of him, persuading him to go on that walkabout of destiny? Do Alpert and Abaddon want Locke for the same reason or different ones? Are they working together, or against one another? Do they see the same potential in him, or the opposite kind? If so, which one of them is right about him?

I have no idea. But it underscores what has always been fascinating about John’s questing character, his contradictions, which seem to lie in the fact that at age 50-something, he does not know who he is yet. (Part of this, perhaps, comes from reconciling his sense of being “chosen” with the fact that his lifetime has been a series of abandonments.) He is a man of faith, but tremendously self-doubting. He has become the knife-wielding superhero others told him he was not, but he has shown himself capable of horrible failures and misjudgments. In going into Jacob’s cabin—and finding Christian and Claire—is he finally accepting his destiny, whatever it is, instead of fighting it? And does that mean, instructed by Christian’s ghost (and maybe Claire’s?) to “move the island,” he is finally going to make the right call?

Like I can answer that.

Otherwise, lots of story in this baby—lots, and I’m not even going to attempt to address it all. There is so much going on this season that I found myself reminded of major points I had entirely forgotten, like Michael’s Twilight Zone-like unkillability, which resurfaced when Keamy tries to off him with a busted gun. Mine is loaded, however, so on to the hail of bullets:

* So Hurley thinks he and Locke can see the cabin “because we’re the craziest.” From the insane/figment theory to the purgatory theory to this, he’s channeling fan theories one by one.

* Locke’s real father, we’re told, was “twice the age” of his mom. Assuming she’s pretty young—15? 16?—in the ’50s, that would still make Locke’s father more than 30 years older than Locke himself. The Man from Tallahassee looked older than Locke—barely—but three decades seems a stretch. A sign that Locke has a different biological father, or just your standard TV-casting age discrepancy?

* If there was any doubt up to this point, I guess we’ve settled that Christian is something more substantial than a figment of Jack’s (and Claire’s) imagination—unless I’m forgetting something, there’s no reason for him to have bubbled up from Locke’s subconscious, right? [Update: Oh, yeah, speaking of which, it looks like the Claire-is-a-ghost theorists haave a little more evidence to go on, with her hanging in Jacob’s crash pad.]

* Symbolism of the sand, the compass and the knife? Anyone? I thought the vial might be a Jacob reference, but it seemed to be much lighter than the gray ash that encircles the cabin.

* Knowing that this season ended up getting shortened by a couple of hours, I’ve been on the lookout for signs that stories have been condensed or that characters have been moved hurriedly from one place to another. I have a couple guesses—the scenes on the boat have seemed pretty compressed, and I wonder if there have been some Claire-centric elements that were dropped in the hurry to get her to the cabin with Ghost Dad—but the fact that I have to keep guessing suggests they’ve done a fairly good job with it.

* What do you make of Ben’s statement that the Dharma purge was not his idea? Does this implicate Alpert as the Other mastermind? Is it yet another Ben Linus lie / rationalization, or are we moving toward discovering that he is, if not “one of the good guys,” then a less straightforwardly bad guy than it’s seemed?

* My brain hurts too much to figure it out, but if anyone cares to work out the timeline between when the doctor was killed on the boat and when he washed up on shore, have at it. More important, why is it that—though the murder and the chopper’s takeoff happened within minutes of each other—the helicopter passes over the beach in the island present while the doctor’s body floated in days earlier? Does it have to do with the corpse not having drifted on Faraday’s approved compass heading? [Update: Actually, I’m not sure I get how even that explains the discrepancy. Even the people flying on the proper bearing in the chopper experience some time differential vis-a-vis Island Time, no?]

* The best Hurley scene this week was not a Hurleyism but a silent one: his passing half the candy bar to Ben as they waited for Locke. A regular Laurel and Hardy, they are.