Gentlemen, there's no better way to ruin a great, propulsive episode than by rendering a character mute. It's an embarrassing plot contrivance—Lost should know better than to expect us to buy this aphasia bunk—and it better prove useful soon. How am I supposed to defend the show's honor now? It's like inviting a gentile to a Passover Seder and telling him to ignore all the Red Sea parting stuff. It's always a little embarrassing to associate with such fantasy. (Hate mail forcefully explaining how the Red Sea actually could have parted can be sent here.)
I suppose it's possible that Sun can't speak English because in her alternative timeline she can't either. (I'm of the camp that believes Sun isn't hiding English proficiency in her new timeline.) But this still leaves us puzzling about what crosses over and what doesn't. Thus far, we suspect the following things might have something to do with both timelines: Juliet's "let's grab coffee" comment; Jack's Twilightre-enactment in the airplane bathroom; Jack's appendix scar. There is no pattern here. (Also, if all it takes to flit between timelines is a bump on the head, Jack, Hurley, and anybody else who has a better life off-island should find a tree to run into as soon as possible.)
Far more likely related to the intermingling of timelines is Sun's lingering gaze into the hotel mirror. The show stayed on that moment a beat longer than it normally would have, making it a conspicuous companion to all the times Jack has stared in the mirror only to look like he was staring into another dimension. We know Lost has an obsession with Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and Lewis Carroll. Thus we arrive at Lost TV Club Theory No. 10! Eventually, when the two timelines merge, a mirror will act as a portal. Hell, that mirror could even be the one in the lighthouse. In the meantime, can anybody remember any other examples this season of a character staring deep into his or her own reflection, on or off the island?
At least Sun's off-island story was emotionally wrenching. Prenatal Ji Yeon's life is at stake! I hope Dr. Shephard can save her, because Sun and Jin are surely headed to his hospital. (Jack, this is about the only thing we agree on from last night's episode. Your distaste for this show rivals your screeds against Rupert Murdoch. At least you care about the source material for those.) With so little time remaining, though, I'm not sure all the alterna-timeliners can assemble, making me question what the endgame is. Some have speculated that in the finale the castaways will be given a choice of which life they want to lead. I'm starting to at least shadow that bandwagon.
But until that merge takes place, we still get to revisit characters we've loved and lost. Jack and Seth, after last night I think I'd rather see a Mikhail-Keamy spinoff series than a Sawyer-Miles one. (It seems an appropriate time to mention that Terry O'Quinn, the actor who plays Locke, is shopping a script that stars him and Michael Emerson, the guy who plays Ben, as suburban hit men.) The heart wants what the heart wants, and I can't suppress my glee at seeing these villains united, squirming and smarming through the mundane task of whacking Mr. Kwon. Whenever Mikhail shows up, Lost always seems to find its legs. And I'm hopeful that, even in the new timeline, Mikhail doesn't really die when it appears that he has. We've seen him come back from worse than a bullet through an expendable eye.
Seth, I'm in full agreement that Desmond is the best character Lost has to offer. When he stumbled off that sub, it felt like the rest of the season was in safe hands. Just as Faraday told us last season, Desmond is special. He may not hold Lost's answers, but he likely holds its resolution.
But how did he get to the island? Last time we saw him in the original timeline, he was lying in a hospital, shot through the torso (retroactive Formula Watch!). We know Widmore was lurking in the parking lot outside the hospital (we see Ms. Hawking slap him for mentioning that Faraday is his son, too), worried for Desmond and Penny's safety. Let's hope next week is a flashback to whatever happened between the hospital and the submarine, with a cliffhanger reveal that Penny and baby Charlie have been stowed on the sub as well.
Desmond's arrival made me question why he isn't a candidate. He seems like the perfect successor to Jacob—believes in the island, has a pure heart and a tortured past, can unstick himself in time, etc.—and yet Jacob hasn't even touched him. Is he somehow a larger power than either Jacob or Smokey? Lost TV Club Theory No. 11! Desmond isn't a candidate because he's the referee. He is the one who will judge whether or not Smokey broke the rules by killing Jacob. Jacob couldn't recruit him because then Desmond would have been a biased observer.
Of course, Desmond only gets his special abilities by blowing up the very pocket of electromagnetism Widmore is looking for. Which brings us to the larger question set in motion several seasons ago: Why did Widmore want so badly to get back to the island? We know whatever he is after is in direct opposition to Smokey and to Ben, and that he's most interested in the island's electromagnetism. Also remember whom he sent to the island the first time around: a bunch of thugs and a crew of scientists. (An aside: Zoe's line that Widmore should "put a mercenary in charge instead of a geophysicist" had a subtle irony to it. Widmore has already tried that route, and it didn't work out too well. Just ask Martin Keamy.) I think we're building toward another science-vs.-faith battle. Widmore wants the island for its science, not its spirituality. But can Widmore extract the former without destroying the latter?
Another query: What does Widmore know about Smokey? It must be more than just "myths, ghost stories, and jungle noises in the night." Who told him to bring the pylons? Or did he just remember that from his days as a hostile, staring at the Dharma Initiative from the other side of the fence? Perhaps Jacob somehow told him before he died? Presumably if Widmore is prepared to stop Smokey from leaving the island, he has a good idea of how to do it.
Finally, an assortment of loose ends:
- Smokey says all the candidates must leave together to make their escape work, evoking Ms. Hawking's decree that the Oceanic Six must all be on the Ajira flight in order to find the island.
- It's looking like Jin—not Sun—is the Kwon candidate. Why else give us that scene at the hotel where Sun and Jin very clearly tell us their last names?
- Smokey mentioned that Kate's name isn't on the cave wall. But it is on the lighthouse wheel. Is Smokey keeping that information from Claire? Or does he somehow not know about the lighthouse? Perhaps volcanic ash was used as the mortar for its bricks.
- Loved this line from Smokey: "A wise man once said war was coming to this island." The wise man? John Locke. [Update, 4:30 pm: As a few commenters have pointed out, the wise man was actually Charles Widmore. Thanks for your vigilance.]
- Likewise this piece of dialogue from Jack. "You're not the first person to tell me to leave them alone." It's a shoutout to that poignant scene in Season 1 when Jack and Rose are sitting on the beach.
- Michael Emerson pronounces what better than any other actor on television. His "now hwat, for hwat" one-two punch this episode was especially pronounced. For fans of how Emerson says his WHs, I suggest you download his narration of All the King's Men. (Download it for free through Slate!)
As Sawyer put it, I have a feeling this thing is almost over. Down the stretch they come.