Dear Seth and Chad,
If you were writing for Lost and were assigned the fifth-to-last episode (the finale being a double), would you have composed last night's installment, "Everybody Loves Hugo"? Only if the story editor had told you that there wasn't enough weird shit already simmering and that the only way to resolve the convoluted plotline would be to introduce yet another mystery to dump into the pot.
I'm speaking of the leather pouch that Hugo finds among the recently misted Ilana's belongings. He's totally captivated by what he finds there—cat's eyes and pearlies and clearies, perhaps?—but shuts the bag up tight to prevent anybody else from sharing his discovery. Seeing as the show is really coming into the home stretch now, it wouldn't be sporting for it to be some completely new donkey wheel or lighthouse.
So what is it? It can't be a document—nobody puts documents inside pouches. It's got to be something immediately recognizable because Hugo scoped it out in a flash. Food? It's got to be something important because he pulls the laces tight on it quickly and when asked about it deflects the question. The subject of the pouch isn't revisited in the rest of the episode.
I want to connect the pouch to Hugo's passive-assertive behavior, but then I'd have to face charges of Lost theorizing, which I've largely avoided except for predicting that we'll eventually learn that the island is the universe's axis mundi, or its point of origin. In passive-assertive mode, Hugo appears to go along with the plan to hike to the Black Rock and fetch the dynamite to destroy the plane on Hydra Island but instead sabotages the mission by blowing the entire cache to hell. He tells the group that Jacob is feeding him instructions but then confesses later to Dr. Jack that he was bluffing. He leads his faction to a powwow with the smoke monster, but once there seems not to know why he's there.
OK, OK, but what's in the pouch?! The white and black stones that Jacob and the Man in Black fiddled around with? Marijuana? Jelly beans? Chad, help me out here. Is it Jacob's ashes? Or Nikki and Paulo's diamonds? Or tortilla chips?
In addition to introducing something new, the episode leans on something old to advance the story: the whisperers. Lostpedia devotes a learned page to all appearances of the whisperers. Rousseau, Sayid, and Sawyer hear them in Season 1. Maybe the whisperers start whispering every time danger is near (Ben tells Danielle in Season 5 to "run the other way" whenever she hears whispers). But I really think they pop up when the writers write themselves into a corner.
Michael tells Hugo that the whispers belong to the dead who can't get off the island. As you point out, Seth, the show's creators promised viewers that the island wasn't purgatory. But if you're dead and you're stuck in a place you want to leave, it's either purgatory or hell, right? Should we trust the dead Michael? Hugo sure does. He says, "Dead people are more reliable than live people."
Other mysteries that I haven't the time or patience to unwind and hope that you, Chad, can unwind, or you, Seth, approach in a quick drive-by post:
Why has Desmond become such a grinning fool since his exposure to the choronsynclastic infundibulum?
Why does the island have it in for everybody?
What's up with the return of the boy who taunts Smokey Locke?
What is the island? Caution: You may explode as you mouth the answer. (By the way, I'm really sick of Lost characters acting like they have altitude sickness whenever somebody drops a bombshell. Richard says Jacob told him what the island is, but nobody presses him!)
How doesone break the ice with a smoke monster?
What is the point of being afraid? (Perhaps because being afraid will prevent you from being thrown down a well shaft?)
Has there ever been a better found band name than "Fajita Field Trip"?
And did Rosalita ever show for her blind date with Hugo?