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February 23, 2009 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | February 23, 2009 |

“316” — the sixth episode of the fifth season of “Lost” — is one of those fantastic episodes that only becomes possible when a series’ specific universe is so well-established that storylines can play off the characters and their experiences with almost no external pushing. True, the episode also fell into the typical “Lost” trap of reviewing just a bit too much action on the ends of flashbacks (though it was nothing compared to the staggeringly pointless repetition forced upon the viewer in Season Two as Jin et al. experienced life with the Tailies). But it was also a great episode that looped back on the series’ origins, continued to propel the story forward, broadened the type of sci-fi found on the show, and remained rooted in the kind of wonderfully pure and driven narrative that’s been working so well. Additionally, it focused almost entirely on the Oceanic Six, and only saw the island through their eyes.

Written by creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by longtime helmer Stephen Williams, the episode opens on an extreme close-up of Jack’s eye as he awakens under a bamboo canopy, looking up at the sky. He’s wearing a suit and getting his bearings. It’s of course a recreation of the first moments of the pilot episode, in which Jack lay dazed in the jungle in the aftermath of the crash of Oceanic 815. Automatically, the episode is kicked into high gear by raising narrative questions — How did Jack get back in the island?, etc. — and hitting home with a beautiful sense of symmetry between the series opener and this one. Jack sits up, looking dazed but happier than he’s been in a long time. He looks down to see a scrap of paper in his hand, the edges torn and burned, and the only words remaining are “I wish.” This is another solid example of setting a ticking clock for an hour drama; now, in addition to wondering what else will go on, Lindelof and Cuse have planted the mystery of the note in the viewer’s mind. Jack looks up as he hears cries for help that sound like Hurley’s, and he takes off through the jungle, eventually coming across a small waterfall that feeds into a lake where Hurley is flailing about and shouting for rescue. Jack eyeballs the distance and dives over the edge, which is almost frighteningly short-sighted given that who knows what the hell is under that water, but he makes it just fine, eventually helping Hurley to a place where he can stand. Hurley, who’s wearing a denim jacket and dragging a guitar case, has apparently decided he will never cut his hair again, and this is a bad idea. Looking around, Hurley just says, “It really happened.” Jack nods, then sees Kate passed out on some nearby rocks, looking like she got dropped from five stories up. Jack manages to revive her just by shaking her and yelling her name, which is magical even for him, but it’s a nice parallel to the way she had to help him out by sewing up his wound in the pilot. Kate’s eyes flutter open, and as she starts to pull it together, she starts to ask Jack where they are. “We’re back,” he tells her. “What happened?” she asks, but it’s clear Jack doesn’t quite know how to answer.

A title card appears that reads “46 Hours Earlier,” which right away shows just how much is going to happen in the episode. This season’s installments have been tightly focused, covering just a few hours at most, but this one’s going to span almost two full days. There’s no way there won’t be several new mysteries revealed (which is exactly what happens). Cut to the church, where Mrs. Hawking is lighting a candle as Ben, Jack, Sun, and Desmond enter. She leads through a door marked with a “High Voltage” sign and down a spiral staircase that’s probably not standard issue for Southern California places of worship, stopping at a large door marked with the same DMARHA logo on the computer she was using a few episodes before. She leads the group into the giant chamber built around the Foucault pendulum, still swinging away. Jack sees a board on the wall with changing numbers similar to a departure/arrival board at a train station; of course, it also recalls the hieroglyphic countdown clock in the Swan station. Desmond looks to the ceiling and sees only darkness through the large hole, unable to determine where the pendulum is affixed. (Spoiler: God is dangling it from his pinky finger.) Jack asks where they are, and Mrs. Hawking replies with a certain sense of grandeur, “The DHARMA Initiative called it the Lamp Post. This is how they found the island.” Well, I guess it looks like we’re in for some major answers in this episode; as is always the case, they will be more interesting and less shocking than imagined.

Jack asks Ben if he knew about the Lamp Post, and he denies it. Jack then turns to Mrs. Hawking and asks if Ben is telling the truth. “Probably not,” she replies. Ben gives Mrs. Hawking a look somewhere between curiosity and anger. On a chalkboard, Jack sees a photo of the island dated 9/23/54 and bearing “Eyes Only” tags from the Army. This pretty reliably sets the events of the “Jughead” episode in 1954, and also reveals that the Army was on the island or arrived almost 50 years to the day before the crash of Flight 815, which occurred 9/22/04. (Does she have this photo because she’s a badass at research, or because she’s also Ellie, who was on the island at the same time as the Army team in the 1950s?) Mrs. Hawking, who’s retrieved a blue three-ring binder from a drawer, address the group: “I apologize if this is confusing, but let’s pay attention, yes?” And with that, she launches into necessarily expositional speech that provides some history about the island but isn’t as lazily descriptive as, say, a scene from the current season of “Battlestar Galactica.” She tells the group that the Lamp Post was constructed above a “unique pocket of electromagnetic energy,” though she adds that this energy connects to similar pockets around the world, so “special” or “temporally batshit” would be more accurate than “unique.” But the folks who built the station were only interested in the island, who knew the place existed but couldn’t figure out how to find it. (Maybe they should’ve just hitched a ride with the Army, who seem to have gotten there just fine.) Mrs. Hawking says that a “clever fellow” had the idea to build the pendulum and begin looking not for where the island was but where it was “going to be,” and when Jack asks what she means, she reveals that the island is always moving, which is why the castaways were never rescued. This changes a lot, or at least helps explain why (for example) it would randomly begin to rain for no reason; perhaps the island had slid to a location where it was raining. Also, apparently it’s only shifting through time that causes big flashes? Because everything seemed pretty copacetic on the island as far as signs it was moving around to different places on the planet. Anyway, Mrs. Hawking reveals that this guy came up with a solid mathematical formula that predicts where the island will be, but that it’s never in one place for long. “These windows don’t stay open for very long,” she says. “Yours closes in 36 hours.”

At this point, Desmond pipes up with understandable concerns, mainly that his friends are crazy enough to want to go back to the island. Desmond steps forward — somehow never bumping the pendulum — saying that he’s been sent by Mrs. Hawking’s son, Daniel Faraday, but she remains unmoved at the mention of his name. “He wanted me to tell you that he and all the people on the island need your help. He said that only you could help them. He didn’t say Jack. He didn’t say Sun. He didn’t say Ben. He said you.” Mrs. Hawking replies innocently, “But I am helping, dear.” She’s got a point, but the island’s proxies are pretty specific about who should do what, as when Christian scolded Locke for not being the one to move the island. Desmond shakes his head and, having delivered his message, turns and walks away. Mrs. Hawking stops him by saying the island isn’t done with him yet, but that is the wrong button to push with this guy, who flips out and accuses her of stealing four years of his life because she’d told him it was his “purpose” to go the island. Desmond turns to Jack and warns him that he and the rest of his friends are just pieces in the game being played by those who control the island, telling him to ignore whatever Mrs. Hawking tells him to do, which a neat mirror of Sayid’s advice to Hurley in re: Ben. Desmond turns to the old woman and repeats that he’s done with the island, despite its claims on him, and he leaves. Mrs. Hawking hands Jack the binder, telling him it contains all the air routes flying over the coordinates where the island will be for the next day. There’s a commercial airliner heading from Los Angeles to Guam: Ajira Airlines, Flight 316, and they all need to be on it if they “have any hope” of being brought back to the island. (There are coordinates listed next to the flight, but they’re for Los Angeles, not the island; I checked.) The show then dips a little into softer sci-fi as she tells them that they need to re-create as closely as possible the circumstances that brought them there in the first place, which sounds like a bad ripoff of “The Langoliers,” but whatever. She says that the more people from the original flight are on the new one, the better things will be. Jack asks what would happen if he can’t get the Six together again, and Mrs. Hawking simply says the “result would be unpredictable,” which is less than comforting. Jack, for all his efforts to get here, is somewhat skeptical of the plan. “We just get on the flight and hope that it works. That’s all?” But she says that’s not all. “At least,” she says, “not for you.”

A few moments later, Mrs. Hawking takes Jack into her office, and as he protests that Ben and Sun are being left behind, she tells him that they “heard what they needed to hear, and this does not concern them.” (Hey look, a lift from The Matrix!) She digs through papers on her desk before finding a plan white envelope bearing only Jack’s name, handwritten. “It’s John Locke’s suicide note,” she says, and another piece clicks into place as Jack’s face goes dark and he confesses he didn’t know that’s how the man had died. She tells him that most obits don’t mention when the deceased hangs himself. Jack wonders aloud why Locke took his own life, and Mrs. Hawking says there were probably many reasons, but the most important is that Locke is going to serve as a “substitute” as Jack tries to re-create the conditions of Flight 815. You see exactly what’s coming before Jack does, and it’s slightly grotesque as well as again falling more into the emotional side of genre storytelling than any kind of even metaphysical reasoning, but Mrs. Hawking presses on. Locke will be a proxy for Christian, and Jack will once again be charged with ferrying a dead man to the island. Jack is rightfully disturbed when she tells him he needs to get something of Christian’s to give to Locke, which seriously is like a step away from just clicking your heels and spinning around and waiting for the island to take you. She’s remarkably matter-of-fact about the whole thing, too. Jack can’t even bring himself to talk about exhuming a body, accusing the old woman of being ridiculous. Her reply is the crux of the episode: “Oh, stop thinking how ridiculous it is and start asking yourself whether or not you believe it’s going to work. That’s why it’s called a leap of faith, Jack.” Jack and Locke were always on opposite sides of belief — man of science, man of faith — but the trip back to the island is a chance for Jack to redeem himself and come to embody those aspects of Locke that he always rejected.

Down in the sanctuary, Ben is sitting in one of the pews, hands folded in front of his face, looking peaceful as Jack enters. Ben tells Jack that Sun left, but Locke’s body is being safeguarded by “a friend.” Ben asks Jack what he and Mrs. Hawking were talking about, but Jack says it was “nothing that matters.” Jack in turn tries to get answers from Ben about who Mrs. Hawking really is, but Ben, who’s walked over to light another candle, simply turns his gaze to a painting of Doubting Thomas. (The work is Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.) Ben tells Jack the story from John chapter 11 about how Thomas exhorted his fellow apostles to accompany Jesus back to Judea even though he expected to die there, but that this noble side of Thomas is shadowed by his doubt following Jesus’ resurrection and his need to touch his old master’s wounds to be convinced. “So was he?” Jack asks. With the barest trace of a smile, Ben says, “Of course he was. We’re all convinced sooner or later, Jack.” This is another great way to put Jack on the ropes, for Ben (or whoever) to continue to ask Jack just how much he will need to see to accept proof of the island’s power and the way Jack’s fate is caught up in it. Ben turns to leave, telling Jack he’s made a promise to an old friend, “a loose end that needs trying up,” and that he’ll see Jack at the airport. And with that, Ben walks out. Jack looks again at the painting as he struggles to reconcile everything he’s seen with everything he has to do.

Later on, Jack is sitting at a bar, moodily lit by a clash of orange and blue, when his cell phone rings. He answers, listens, and confusedly asks, “He did what?” Cut to a retirement home, where Jack is walking down the sidewalk and talking to an administrator. (In another unavoidable side effect of shooting on location, the retirement home looks pretty much like every other exterior, which is to say, it looks like Hawaii.) The guy is telling Jack, “He’s gotta follow the rules or he’ll have to move to our fully assisted facility.” They enter a common room and see a magician performing weak tricks for a group of passively applauding seniors, and Jack greets an old man at the back of the crowd. “Hey, Ray,” he says. Jack and Ray amble down the hall, and Jack keeps using Ray’s name in that really awkward, repetitive way that only happens on TV shows. It becomes clear that Ray was planning a prison break; when they reach the old man’s room, his packed suitcase is still on the edge of his bed. Ray maintains that sooner or later he’ll eventually be able to escape for good. Jack looks at him and says, “Let me help you unpack, Granddad.” Um, so now Jack has a grandfather in Los Angeles with whom he apparently enjoys a pretty easygoing friendship, despite the fact that he’s never been seen or mentioned before except for a fleeting reference in a mobisode a while back. Ray asks Jack if he’s seeing anyone, then inquires about the “pretty one with all the freckles” that Jack brought by one time. Jack says he and Kate aren’t together anymore, and Ray jokes that this gives Jack more time to visit his grandfather; this is either a standard filler line or a weird meta-reference to the fact that Jack has not actually ever visited Ray on camera. Jack says he’d love to visit but might be going “away” for a while, though he can’t say where. (Surviving a plane crash and tropical exile is probably hard enough on your relatives without telling them you’re gonna do it all over again in order to save the lives of those you left behind, who are not dead as you said but have since come unmoored from the flow of time. They should make cards for that.) Sorting through Ray’s suitcase, Jack finds a pair of black shoes that make him freeze; he asks Ray if they belong to him, but it’s clear from Jack’s reaction that the shoes were Christian’s, and that he never expected to see them again. Ray confirms this, saying that Jack’s mother sent Ray a box of Christian’s belongings after he died, and that the shoes must’ve accidentally gotten mixed in with Ray’s stuff when he was planning his getaway. Jack fights back tears — he wears his father’s death like such a burden, and it’s heartbreaking — and, knowing what he has to do, asks if he can take the shoes. “Be my guest,” Ray says. Now, it was kind of fun meeting Ray, and I’m sure he’s quite the ladies man on Salisbury steak Tuesdays, but wouldn’t it have been narratively simpler for Jack to just stumble across his own box of Christian’s things and discover the shoes? Introducing a new character who adds nothing to the plot and can be easily excised seems wasteful, and it would have been no less plausible for Jack to find the shoes on his own. Of course, Ray might still serve some purpose — he apparently warned Christian not to marry Jack’s mother, but that again could be nothing more than boilerplate — but if not, having him appear just to give Jack the shoes is needless.

Back at his place, Jack ditches the shoes on the kitchen table and randomly opens pantry doors as if food or drink will have materialized without his knowledge or doing. (Though to be fair, I do this almost every day, and there’s never anything there but granola bars and old soup.) He grabs a bottle and pours himself a drink, but before he can start hitting it hard, he hears a weird series of noises from the next room, like a door being shut and someone stumbling. He walks through his darkened apartment to his bedroom, not turning on a light, which is only going to help whatever villain or demon has broken into his home, but whatever. He rounds the corner into his room and finds Kate sprawled on his bed, staring unblinking at the wall. He bends over her and asks what she’s doing there; without looking at him, she asks if he still plans on going back to the island. “Yeah, I think I am,” he says. She finally makes eye contact and says, “Then I’m going with you.” Jack asks what’s wrong with her (she looks terrible), and where Aaron is, but she stands quickly and tells Jack not to ask any questions. She tells Jack that if he really wants her to return with him to the island, he can never again ask her about Aaron or what happened. Jack, for reasons that will be made clearer in seven seconds, agrees, and Kate thanks him in a weak voice. She’s been crying. She leans up and in, planting this breathy and desperate kiss on him as she pulls off his jacket and drags him down to the bed. There is only one way this is gonna play out, and that’s badly.

The next morning, Jack sets out orange juice and a couple of glasses, then checks on the coffee. Oh, Jack; so blindly thoughtful, so imaginative, so able to project onto others things they do not feel. You have a gift for self-delusion, and it’s about to bite you in the ass. Kate staggers in and says good morning as she tosses her shirt on, and the pure smile of hope on Jack’s face as he returns her greeting is enough to seal his doom. She heads to the table for the juice and coffee, but her body language and clipped speech says it all; she isn’t even sitting all the way in the chair, instead tucking a leg underneath, which is a great bit of physical acting. Jack removes his father’s shoes from the table where he’d left them, and Kate says he’d be better off bringing hiking boots to the island. Jack tells her how the shoes are Christian’s, and how the older man didn’t have any nice shoes when Jack picked up the body in Sydney. But Jack reasoned that no one would see his feet anyway, and he didn’t care enough about his father to take the time to find a pair, so he put his own old white tennis shoes on his father and buried him in those. This is pretty key, since it explains everything from the white tennis shoe hanging from the trees in the pilot episode to the reason Christian was spotted wearing white shoes when Hurley looked into Jacob’s Teleportational Ghost Cabin and Rest Stop. But if you think about, it’s also kind of a weird time for Jack to tell the story. So what if he buried his dad in white tennis shoes? Even if he hadn’t, is it unreasonable to assume Christian would have another pair of black shoes lying around that Jack kept for sentimental reasons? Anyway, Kate asks Jack why he doesn’t toss them out. “Why hold onto something that makes you feel sad?” she asks, and boy, she can hit the subtextual nail on the head. This is what Jack’s been doing all along, even/especially regarding Kate. It doesn’t matter how many times things fall apart; he always thinks they can be fixed, and easily. Jack’s phone starts to ring before he can answer, and Kate uses it as an opportunity to grab her keys and leave, her juice untouched, telling Jack she’ll meet him at the airport. Jack answers the phone to hear a frantic Ben, and their conversation kicks off another wonderfully bizarre moment that provides the viewer only with a fragment of the story. Ben is talking on a pay phone at the Long Beach marina; he is soaked with sweat and water, and his face is caked with dried blood. He tells Jack he’s been “sidetracked,” presumably while tying up that loose end, and he needs Jack to pick up Locke’s body from Simon’s Butcher Shop and get it to the airport. Jack asks Ben what’s going on, but Ben only repeats his request.

Cut to Jack outside the butcher shop, clad in the suit he’ll wear to the island and carrying a backpack over his shoulder. The shop is locked, but Jack knocks on the door and Ben’s creepy friend Jill emerges from the back. She escorts him to the large freezer in the back, where Locke’s casket sits next to giant hanging slabs of beef. She asks him what’s in the backpack, but he doesn’t say a word, so she awkwardly excuses herself to go get the van. Jack walks over and opens Locke’s casket, and he’s of course still resting inside, wearing nondescript black shoes. There’s a fantastic weight to this scene, a drama that only makes sense when you take into account just what these characters saw and suffered together, and how they both wanted to help their fellow survivors but went about it in opposite ways. Jack places his father’s shoes on Locke’s feet, crying a little at first but then giving a small laugh at the situation. “Wherever you are, John,” Jack says, “you must be laughing your ass off that I’m actually doing this, because this is even crazier than you are.” He ties the shoes and retrieves Locke’s suicide note, tucking it into the dead man’s suit and telling him he’s already everything he had to say. Jack tells Locke to rest in peace and closes the casket once more.

Later on, Jack’s at the airport checking in for his flight and somewhat anxiously surveying the crowd in hopes of spotting another member of the Oceanic Six. The Ajira agent runs Jack through a series of remarkably easy questions, but Jack says that his reason for transporting “Mr. Bentham” to Guam is to honor the dead man’s wishes. As the guy recites the security policy for investigating bodies, Jack spots Kate walking by; he gives a small smile, but she doesn’t even take off her sunglasses as she briefly acknowledges and makes her way to the gate. She is bad news, Jack. As Jack signs his final papers and turns to leave, an Arabic man behind him in line speaks up to offer condolences. The guy’s never been seen before, but (a) nothing on “Lost” is accidental, and (b) he’s played by Said Taghmaoui, a pretty recognizable character actor, so it’s a given he’s going to show up again either on the island or in some way related to Locke or one of the other characters, even if only tangentially. Jack thanks the man for his concern and heads to security, where he runs into Sun. Noting his surprise that she showed up, she tells Jack that if there’s the smallest chance Jin is still alive on the island, Sun will be on the plane. Just then, they both look over to see Sayid in handcuffs (?!) being escorted by a woman in a suit past the security checkpoint and toward the gate. She flashes a badge and leads Sayid out of sight, his man-locks looking less luscious than the day before on the pier.

Meanwhile, Hurley is already at the gate, reading a Spanish version of Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book Y: The Last Man, a callback to the Spanish comics of the first season and series writer/producer Vaughan. The woman at the desk gets on the intercom and announces that there are still plenty of standby seats available, which gets Hurley up and running in a hurry, guitar case in hand. Hurley tells the woman there should be no standbys left, but she assures him there are 78 spots open. Hurley corrects her and says he’s purchased all 78 seats, and when she verifies this on her computer, she asks Hurley why he wants to keep everyone from reaching their destination. Hurley gives the crowd a once-over, wondering what would happen if more people were sent to the island, and tells the agent that they can “take the next plane.” Hurley turns from the counter to see Jack, shocked that Hurley’s even in the airport. Jack asks Hurley how he knew to be on this specific flight, which is a damn good question, given that Hurley was kind of a little locked up when Jack got the lowdown at the Lamp Post about the Guam flight. But Hurley brushes aside the question, saying, “All that matters is I’m here, right?” He looks less than thrilled about being in what could be another traumatic crash. And with that, they head to the plane.

As Jack board and walks down the aisle, he makes eye contact with Sayid, who looks somewhat surprised/worried to see Jack but doesn’t say anything to alert his escort’s suspicion. He nods at Sun and has a brief chat with Kate about her making the flight, and she’s barely responsive. Jack takes his seat in row 8 as the new guy sits a few rows up and Hurley appears, taking a seat and placing his guitar in the adjacent spot in what’s bound to be a wild violation of TSA regulations. The head flight attendant tells another they’ve got everyone, but just then Ben runs up and asks them to wait. He comes into view sporting a number of rough cuts on his face, and his left arm is in a sling. He heads down the aisle to find his seat, and though Sayid is visibly unsettled by Ben’s appearance, Hurley just totally loses his shit, standing up and hollering in a manner that again is probably going to upset law enforcement personnel. “He can’t come!” Hurley shouts, but Jack rushes to his side and tells Hurley this is the way it has to be. “No one told me he was gonna be here,” Hurley says, to which Ben replies, “Who told you to be here, Hugo?” Again, valid point. The flight attendant, who’s totally taking this in stride, asks if there’s a problem, and Jack assures her everything’s good to go. She asks Jack his name, then hands him something she says security discovered while investigating his cargo: It’s Locke’s letter, now once more in Jack’s hands. Ben and Jack head to their seats — right across the aisle from each other, so they can chat the whole flight! — as Jack stuffs the letter into his pocket, telling Ben it’s nothing important. He turns around and casts a look at the folks in coach, then asks Ben what’s going to happen to the people on the plane who aren’t trying to magically return to Hell Island. And Ben, in a great character moment, cocks his head a little and says, “Who cares?” Awesome. Jack bites back a reply that would do no good, and the plane taxis forward. There they all are, five members of the Oceanic Six plus one Benjamin Linus, as close to re-creating Flight 815 as possible: Jack is ferrying a dead man clad in borrowed shoes; Sayid is in custody, as Kate was; Hurley’s got a guitar to represent Charlie; Ben made the flight with a mad dash, as Hurley did last time; Kate is once again running from the law, this time violating her settlement agreement; and there will be more. As soon as the seat belt sign is turned off, Jack makes a beeline for Kate, and he’s legitimately excited and curious about how Sayid and Hurley wound up on their flight. “How did they end up here?” he asks; she responds, “They bought a ticket.” (This is the first non-joke joke of its kind on the flight.) Jack stresses that the fact that they’re all together again has to mean something. “We’re on the same plane, Jack,” she says, “it doesn’t make us together.” She is depressed but determined to get her message across, but Jack doesn’t have time to let it sink in. Just then, the captain’s voice comes over the speaker to welcome the passengers to the flight, and he introduces himself as “Frank J. Lapidus.” Jack looks like he got clubbed with a 2x4 (I felt the same way), and he makes his way to the fore of the cabin and tells the flight attendant he needs to talk to the captain. Jack tells her that he and Lapidus are old friends, and he’d really appreciate it if she’d tell him Jack was on board. She agrees, but tells Jack he needs to go sit down first because no one is allowed near the cabin door when it’s open for security reasons. Now they’re pick about security? Jack takes a seat in the empty first row as she calls the cockpit to relay the message, and moments later, who should emerge but one Frank Lapidus, former chopper pilot for Charles Widmore and, importantly, the man originally intended to be piloting Oceanic 815. Jack is happy to see the man, asking him just how he got there, and the freshly shaven Lapidus launches into a brief bio about how he picked up the job eight months ago and flies the route all the time. As he’s talking, Lapidus glances over Jack’s shoulder and one by one spots Sayid, Hurley, and Kate. “Wait a second,” he says, giving Jack this amazing look that communicates everything, from the knowledge that he knows what’s going to happen to a kind of hilarious resignation to it. “We’re not going to Guam, are we?” Jack doesn’t respond, but that says it all.

Later that night, presumably after having explained to Lapidus his plan to re-crash on the island, Jack is sitting in his seat, peevishly glancing over at Ben, who’s placidly working his way through Ulysses. “How can you read?” Jack asks, and you can bet your buttons Ben won’t let a Catskills-level set-up go to waste. “My mother taught me,” he says, landing the second non-joke joke of the sequence even at the expense of tinkering with his own backstory. (His mother died in childbirth, but maybe some nice foster mom taught him his ABCs.) Ben tells Jack that reading is better than just sitting there and “waiting for something to happen.” Jack asks what Ben expects to go down, but Ben shoots back that Jack is the one who “got to stay after school with Mrs. Hawking,” so Jack should know better than anyone what’s coming. It’s almost cute that Ben’s not above petty jealousy, or at least lashing out a little when someone might know more than he does, even if he’s just pretending they know more. Jack asks if Ben knew Locke had committed suicide, and Ben stops reading his book, growing a little sober as he admits he hadn’t known how Locke had died. Jack takes out the letter from Locke and says he hasn’t been able to get rid of it, as if Locke “needs” him to read what it says. When Jack doesn’t respond to Ben’s inquiry about why he hasn’t read the letter already, Ben posits that maybe Jack is secretly afraid of being somehow responsible for or complicit in Locke’s death. Jack, so clearly terrified that this is the case and so desperate to feel forgiven, asks Ben if he should indeed be held responsible. “No, Jack,” Ben says. “It wasn’t your fault.” I kind of hoped Ben would say that seven more times, and then he and Jack would hug and cry, but instead Ben stands to leave and give Jack privacy for reading the letter.

Jack opens the letter, which is a relief from an individual episode standpoint, since it solves the mystery of the scrap of paper he was holding/will hold in his hand, and also enjoyable on a larger level because it adds one more piece to the Jack/Locke relationship. Unfolding the note, Jack finds something short and bittersweet: “Jack, I wish you had believed me. — JL.” It’s the perfect note because it keeps Jack and Locke polarized even as it offers Jack one more chance to redeem himself, to believe in something despite his head’s insistence that it’s being fooled. If it’s true that insanity means doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, then maybe Jack’s doubt or disbelief could be classified as seeing the same wonders over and over and refusing to acknowledge them. This episode has been in large part about his return to that state of potential belief — he attributes Hurley’s and Sayid’s presence on the plane to forces greater than himself — and it ties into his larger goal of getting back to the island as a way to pay for his past mistakes, to ask forgiveness for the time he wasted.

The note breaks Jack’s heart a little. The plane shakes.

Everyone comes awake pretty quickly, especially the members of the Oceanic Six, who are all literally on the edges of their seats, waiting for something — anything — to happen. The plane shakes again and begins to steadily rock from turbulence, and when the seat belt light dings on, Hurley leans over to the man who’d spoken to Jack and says, “Dude, you might wanna fasten your seat belt.” Hurley pulls a sleeping mask over his eyes, clutches the guitar, and holds on for dear life. The plane keeps violently shaking, dislodging people and luggage as the slow and steady whine that signals a time flash builds in the background, and the cabin is engulfed in white light as the flash hits. Next thing you know, Jack is on his back in the jungle, seemingly unconscious. He comes to with a start, and the episode has now caught up with where it started. This means, unfortunately, oddly wasted moments replaying the sequence of events in which Jack finds Hurley and Kate, when really it would have been more dramatic and immediate to just smash cuts to Jack reviving Kate or something, keeping the momentum of the scene. Ah well. Down at the lake, Kate struggles to sit up and asks what happened to the plane, but Jack says that after the light hit he woke up in he jungle, and it’s the same for the other two. Nobody remembers crashing, just going straight from midair turbulence to stranded on the island. Kate wonders what happened to Sun and Sayid, and a note of familiar worry enters her voice as she also wonders what happened to Ben. Jack says they should spread out and search the jungle, but before they can act on his plan, they hear a vehicle approaching. Looking up at a small ridge next to the water, they see the blue DHARMA van pull up, shiny as the day it was made with the radio playing some 1970s-soudning rock. (I don’t know if the song’s real or not; it could be obscure, or Geronimo Jackson.) The van stops and the driver grabs a rifle as he steps out and raises it at the three soaked survivors of Ajira Flight 316. They stare up at him in disbelief: It’s Jin, clad in a DHARMA jumpsuit. He lowers the weapon slowly and gives a small, shocked smile.

And that’s the episode. There was a lot of good “Lost” going on this week, as bits and pieces of the story came together and a whole lot of mysteries came into play. In no particular order: How many of these special “pockets of energy” are there? Rose and Bernard visited one in hopes of curing her cancer, and though that one didn’t work, the island itself did. Does some force control or unify these places, and is it possible to travel between them? Also, just how in the hell did Jack and the rest get raptured back to the island? Did the flash affect those already on the island? Based on the condition of the van, it looks like the castaways are now sometime in the 1970s, and it seems likely that Locke’s fixing the wheel blasted the island back to that time period and left it there for now, at which point Sawyer, Jin, et al. infiltrated DHARMA in the hopes of finding a way back to their own time. This would explain Jin’s being in the DHARMA van and Faraday being a member of the construction crew excavating near the frozen wheel in the first episode of the season. There are still holes to be filled in the timeline, but it’s gradually getting completed. Also, why was Locke told to move the island if it’s already moving? Was that meant to unmoor it in time and make it, um, extra hard to find? And how did Locke’s suicide note end up with Mrs. Hawking? And most importantly, what kind of crazy misadventures did Sayid, Kate, and Ben get up to in their half-day apart? Kate loses Aaron, Sayid’s in custody, and somebody beat the tar out of Ben. Where did they go? What did they do? And now that the castaways are all potentially back together, how will they make it back to their own time? You have to remember that the Oceanic Six spent three years at home before trying to return, but for Sawyer and the rest, it’s only been a few days since their friends disappeared. This is going to get even more interesting.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

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