Lostwatch: 316

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Before you read this post, stop thinking how ridiculous it is, start asking yourself whether or not you believe it’s going to work and watch last night’s Lost.

John Cloud here. My editors and I have beaten James to a Ben-worthy pulp, broken his arm and smuggled him off on an Ajira flight to Florida. This LostWatch is all mine, brotha, and as Mrs. Hawking said toward the beginning of tonight’s episode, 316, “Let’s pay attention, yes?”

That’s because once again, Damon and Carlton have given us one reveal after another—my personal favorite being the return of Frank Lapidus (who just does not look right clean-shaven) as our pilot back to the island.

But I get ahead of myself. From the first screen shot of this episode, the writers seemed to telegraph that it was going to be a crucial one, since that first shot replicates the first one of the entire series, when Jack opens his eyes in the jungle after having crashed. “We have to go baaaacckk!” OK, they’re finally back, and we get to retire that overused line forever.

Fionnula Flanagan is a wonderful actress, and she certainly has the best name in show business since Fatty Arbuckle, but I found Hawking’s description of the electromagnetic gobbledygook about how to find the island to be a bit forced. The writers even put a line into her mouth—“I apologize if this is confusing”—that seems directed at every non-fan who has had the misfortune of stumbling onto the series this year. My two cents: Apology accepted. Let’s push on.

What’s most interesting is Hawking’s declaration that the island is always moving. “Why do you think you were never rescued,” she asks Jack, who is nonplussed. (Poor, gorgeous Matthew Fox has had to look confused so many times this season that I actually felt some pity for the man tonight. His performances are more effective when he gets to swagger and threaten to kill.)

Once again Henry Ian Cusick proves that he is one of the series’ most talented actors—even with a single line: “You say the island’s not done with me?” he asks Hawking. “Well, I’m done with the island.”

It seems clear that we will learn why Locke hanged himself next week, so I won’t delve into that here except to say he wrote a rather tepid suicide note. I guess Locke has always had trouble asserting himself, though—he is a guy who had to be thrown from a window by his own father in order to realize his life wasn’t going in the right direction.

Meeting Jack’s grandfather was a nice surprise, and the way that reveal unfolded was classic Lost—just a bit at a time. The writing of the grandfather character was deft; he seems a bit dotty even as he is a bit brilliant.

The story seemed rushed at the end, the writers pushing off the explanations of how exactly how Kate, Sayid, and Hurley end up on the plane. But for that I’m grateful. Damon and Carlton had said fans would strangle them if they spend the entire season getting the O6 back to the island, so rushing them there and then filling in with flashbacks seems the exact right move.

Department of Favorite Lines:

Jack: And the other people on this plane, what’s going to happen to them?
Ben: Who cares?

Department of Favorite Lines, Part II:

Jack: Wherever you are, John, you must be laughing your ass off that I’m actually doing this.

Department of Favorite Lines, Part III:

Lapidus: Wait a second. We’re not going to Guam, are we?

And finally, in tribute to poor, bloody James, whom we stuffed into an Ajira forward-cabin locker somewhere over Boynton Beach, a hail of bullets:

* What in God’s name happened to Aaron? This must be a far more complicated tale than Agostini & Norton taking the boy, but what is it?

* Mrs. Hawking seems to suggest the island is moving not only through time with the flashes but—constantly, even before the flashes began—through space, which would explain why no one could rescue those on 815. But how could that be? Wouldn’t it end up hitting some land mass eventually?

* Mrs. Hawking was a lot less creepy than in previous appearances. Saddled with all that exposition to start the episode, she didn’t have much time to milk her trademark steely glances, but she also carried herself like a school administrator—shuffling papers, handing out assignments: “Let’s pay attention, yes?” Even the mention of Daniel Faraday failed to move her off her syllabus.  Kudos to Ben for calling it out on the plane: “You tell me Jack—you’re the one who got to stay after school with Ms. Hawking.”

* If you didn’t catch the equations on Mrs. Hawking’s time interval blackboard, don’t worry. Those are for her AP class.

* The date on the army photo of the island 9/23/54 – U.S. ARMY – OP 264 – TOP SECRET – EYES ONLY must have some meaning, as must the involvement of the U.S. Army. But except for the fact that Flight 815 went down almost exactly 50 years to the day after the photo—on 9/22/04—I’m at a loss here.

* Can anyone think of a television character who has endured as much routine physical brutality as Benjamin Linus? (Jack Bauer doesn’t count; he left the realm of character several seasons ago.) Between the torture, the tumor and the run of the mill ass-kickings he receives from anyone who breaks free of his reign of terror, it’s a good thing the clock is running out on the series. Otherwise Ben might end being played by Mickey Rourke.

* And how did he get bloodied this time? My guess is that Ben has a lot to do with the presence of Hurley and Sayid on Flight 316, and he may have needed to take some pain to get his way.

* Caeser, the passenger Hurley tells to buckle up, is played by Saïd Taghmaoui. If he looks familiar, you may remember him from his brief but impressive role in Three Kings, as… an IRAQI TORTURE SPECIALIST!

* What does it mean that Jin is with the Dharma Initiative, and is it possible he can unlock the secret of how that van stays sparkling clean in the sea air?