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January 26, 2009 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | January 26, 2009 |

(N.B.: Although airing over a two-hour stretch on Jan. 21, the season premiere of “Lost” was actually two separate episodes run back-to-back by ABC. Accordingly, I’ve broken the recaps into two pieces, one for each episode. What does this mean for you, the devoted reader? Simply that today sees the publication of the first episode’s recap, while the second will run tomorrow. Enjoy.)

The return of “Lost” is cause for celebration. There is no other show out there quite like it, and the first two episodes of the fifth season — broadcast back to back on ABC, hence this longer recap — further cement the series’ place in that canon of pop puzzle shows, TV series with wit and verve that are designed to be full-on experiences. Only “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files” come close to matching the series’ genre-bending cult appeal, and there’s no doubt that “Lost” is just as narratively complex and enjoyable. “Lost” is perfect at what it does and what it wants to be, and that is a self-aware fire-powered train ride, an epic soap, and a pleasure to watch. The new season kicks things off fantastically, building on the stories and promises of last year and moving toward what will be a showdown of epic proportions.

“Because You Left,” written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by Stephen Williams, wastes no time in getting to the story, opening with a scene that echoes the beginning of the second-season opener, “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” which began with Desmond listening to a Mama Cass record while he started his day. This episode opens with an alarm clock going off at 8:15 — and if you don’t understand the significance of those numbers at this point, I can’t help you — that’s quickly shut off by a guy who rolls over in bed to face his wife, his image still hidden from the camera. “Lost” is nothing if not willfully dramatic in the way it sets up character reveals, and the way the man turns away and then rises from bed, his face not seen yet, is awkward in its execution but forgivable in its motive. On this show, you don’t just learn that, say, Locke is dead; you get a shot that swoops over an open coffin to reveal that Jeremy Bentham was Locke ALL ALONG. It’s cornball, and it totally and completely works. As a baby starts to cry from the other room, the as-yet-unseen man’s wife (I assume it’s his wife, unless he’s Living In Sin) tells him it’s his turn to take care of the kid, so he gets up and stumbles to the turntable, probably because if he’s got to get up he might as well listen to music and enjoy himself. The record is Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie, which means whoever this guy is, he’s got some taste. He puts a bottle on and goes to the infant’s crib, showers, shaves, dresses; all with his face still unseen. The record then starts to skip, playing the same fragmented phrase over and over again; this is what’s known in the “Lost” universe as blatant foreshadowing.

Jimmy No Face fixes the record and walks outside, and it turns out he’s in Othertown, aka The Barracks, that Stepfordish compound where the DHARMA Initiative folks and later the Others live and dwell and try to have babies and hold book club and do their thing. He walks into a building contains a makeshift set, brushing off the script someone hands him and taking a white lab coat from an assistant. “Let’s go, I don’t have all day,” Jimmy No Face says, because apparently he has to go pick up some new clich├ęs at the store. (SICK BURN!) Director calls speed, a guy walks up with a clapboard and says, “DHARMA Initiative Orientation Film No. 2, take one,” and No Face sits down and finally reveals himself to be Pierre Chang, aka Marvin Candle, aka Halliwax, aka probably a lot more. As the film begins to roll, he introduces himself as Candle and launches into a spiel about Station 2, the Arrow. Chang says that “the station’s primary purpose is to develop defensive strategies and gather intelligence on the island’s hostile indigenous population,” by which he means the people who lived on the island pre-DHARMA who would later team with Ben Linus and a few others to purge the DHARMA people in a large-scale gas attack. (The Arrow would also come to be used as a shelter by the survivors from the tail section of Oceanic 815.) Before Chang can finish his sentence, a worker busts in to say there’s a problem down at the Orchid station. Chang hops in the trusty blue DHARMA van and heads to the Orchid, where there’s a ton of underground maintenance and excavation under way. A foreman guides Chang through a tunnel, explaining that while drilling through the rock at the location Chang provided, the crew’s drill melted, and they blew out six bits before giving up, especially since the drill operator had grabbed his head and started “freaking out.” A sonar image of the undrillable wall shows an open chamber about 20 meters in, and the picture the foreman hands to Chang clearly shows that the chamber houses the giant wheel Ben turned in last season’s finale that made the island disappear. The foreman says they can blast the wall to get in, but Chang loses his shit and says no one is blowing up anything. Chang then proceeds to helpfully explain to the foreman that they’re drilling next to a supply of “almost limitless energy” that, if harnessed correctly, will allow them to manipulate time. The foreman, gamely playing along almost as if he’s in an expository scene on a TV show about time travel, asks, “So, what, you’re gonna go back and kill Hitler?” Chang tells the man not to be absurd, which sounds kind of douchey and anti-Semitic, but he quickly adds that “there are rules, rules that can’t be broken.” Chang tells the foreman not to do anything, turning to walk away as the foreman and his crew put their injured man on a stretcher. As Chang’s cruising down the corridor, he bumps into a worker who keeps his head down but continues toward the wall that houses the Guardian of Forever. When he reaches the wall, the guy lifts his head and reveals himself to be Daniel Faraday. Yep. By methods yet unknown, Faraday was in the Orchid well before the events of the series, meaning he’s done some time traveling seems pretty at ease with the process. Whatever else “Lost” is and will continue to be, it is definitely now a show about time travel. But it’s worth noting that the show broke with typical structure for this scene, given that other flashbacks or flashforwards have been built around actual characters, whereas this one simply showed Chang going about his day and explaining the time traveling chamber before Faraday came in and found it. It’s actually a bit of a cheat given what’s come before, but I guess they needed a way to get it in.

Back at the Hoffs/Drawlar funeral parlor (it’s an anagram for “flash forward” for those playing along at home), Jack is still looking down at the coffin holding John Locke/Jeremy Bentham, while Ben wheels in a table to move the body. “Lost” is definitely more focused in the second half of its run, and one of the ways that focus manifests itself is the way the story tightly plays out certain plots. This is the same location where Jack and Ben were left when Season Four ended, and only a few minutes have passed. Ben tells Jack they need to get moving so they can load up Locke’s body in a van out back and go get Hurley and the rest of the Six. “How did we get here?” Jack wonders. “How did all this happen?” Ben tilts his head and says, “It happened because you left, Jack.” Ben is great at comforting people. Later on at a crappy hotel, Jack shaves his break-up beard as Ben packs a bag and says that after Hurley they’ll have to get Sun, Sayid, and Kate to come on board. Jack and Ben talk about Locke, and Ben says he last saw Locke in the Orchid station, right before they parted ways and Ben leapt into the future and the desert. Ben turns to Jack and asks about the visit Locke paid him off-island. “What did he say to you to make you such a believer?” Ben asks. Jack says that Locke told him how Sawyer, Juliet, and everyone else would die if Jack didn’t return to the island. Ben presses Jack to see if Locke told him what happened after the island moved, and Jack says he didn’t, but it’s impossible to know if either man is lying. Ben shrugs and says, “I guess we’ll never know.”

Cut to three years earlier. Ben turns the wheel and unleashes the purple blast that made the island go bye-bye. Locke, shielding his eyes from the blast, lowers his arm to find that it’s suddenly begun to rain. He looks around for Richard Alpert, who’d been right next to him, and sees nothing but deserted jungle. Locke starts to wig out a little and calls out for anyone, which is both understandable given the weirdness of the cataclysmic blast of energy he just survived but also a little out of character for a former paraplegic who’s been healed by a magical island is among the chief proponents of the school of thought that no one should be allowed to leave the island or talk about it to outsiders. Where’s your calm belief in a moment of crisis, John? Out at sea, Faraday and a few people in the Zodiac raft are reeling from the blast, as well. One of the extras has been replaced by character actor Sean Whalen as Neil, which means he’s probably gonna die, since why give lines to a nobody? Neil asks what happened, but Faraday looks up to see the island is still there, confirming the likely theory that they were inside the blast radius and would thus travel with the island. Faraday confirms this by even saying, “We must have been inside the radius.” Thanks man. On the beach, Sawyer and Juliet are similarly confused. Sawyer looks out to sea and realizes the freighter is totally gone. “Maybe it went down,” Juliet says, but Sawyer says that’s impossible since it was a smoldering wreck just moments ago and could not have disappeared so quickly. “What about the helicopter?” Juliet asks. Sawyer, in the first of many instances in which he does nothing to hide his burgeoning angst, simply growls, “It was heading for the boat.” Just then, Bernard (“Dewey” to his friends) comes running out of the jungle, howling Rose’s name. Sawyer and Juliet tell him they haven’t seen her, but at that moment Rose comes running up, saying she was back at church when the blast happened. Sawyer tells the couple there’s no need to panic and that they can all head back to camp, but Bernard wheels on him and says they can’t go back because “there is no camp.”

Sure enough, Sawyer and the other three head back to find the rest of the castaways, as well as Charlotte and Miles, milling about among the trees with no sign of the camp: no food, no tents, no surprisingly well-crafted kitchen area. Nothing. “It’s gone,” Bernard says, but oh ho ho, you are about to get schooled and scienced, my friend. “It’s not gone,” Faraday says, striding into the crowd as Charlotte giddily runs over to him and hugs him. “What do you mean, the camp’s not gone?” Sawyer says, then realizes he doesn’t even know who Faraday is in the first place. Faraday says there’s no time to explain, then asks Juliet if she can lead him to something man-made. She says there’s a DHARMA station a few minutes away, and Faraday says they need to get going “before it happens again.” But before they can leave, Sawyer stops Faraday and demands to know what he’s talking about, and why the camp is gone. Faraday repeats his belief that the camp isn’t gone, and says: “It hasn’t been built yet.”

So that’s what happened. Rather than jump forward in time and “reappear” in the future, the castaways slid backward in time to a point before they’d even arrived on the island. This is a great reveal because it gels with what happened last season and also twists it, taking it a slightly new direction and adding a whole new host of problems. I figured just your garden variety, meat and potatoes, missionary position time traveling would be bad enough, but it looks like the castaways are genuinely unstuck from the flow of time. This is awesome.

I realize while writing this that using words like “past” or “future” is going to get messy pretty quickly with this show, especially considering what’s happening with the remaining castaways, but for now, I’m going to treat the timeline with the Oceanic Six off-island and back in the States as the “present.” The jumps to the future in the previous season felt like just that: jumps into a distant time, not always in chronological order and always “behind” the furthest point we’d seen then, which was Jack’s impassioned speech to Kate at the airport about needing to go back to the island. But after that, things began moving consistently forward for the Oceanic Six, and that’s held for at least the first couple episodes of this season. Instead of shooting forward and then rocketing back to the island, the series is now sliding between two equally important and pretty linear timelines. As evidenced in the first scenes with Ben and Jack and the rest of those set after the Oceanic Six return home, the series is now almost pure story. Shifting to character flashbacks in the first couple seasons filled in some of the individual mysteries but was more often simply a way to demonstrate a personal trauma from someone’s past that they would then exorcise on the island. (cf. Boone’s semi-incestual relationship with Shannon and the way he learned to let it go, which is good because it was kind of creepy.) But now there is nothing but forward momentum: The survivors left on the island are trying to figure out what happened and deal with the fallout of their failed rescue and temporal displacement issues, and the Six are trying to cope with their ruined lives even as the island pulls them back together. Everything is pure movement, complete and total action. And it’s great.

So anyway: Back in the present, Kate is making coffee while Aaron watches cartoons. He sees a train and says “Choo choo tunnel,” to which Kate replies, “Oh, I think Choo Choo knows better than that. He goes in that tunnel and he’s never coming back out.” Holy crap! What kind of cryptic and terrifying parenting is that? My dad pulled stuff on me, but he never saw me watching TV and said, “For if Bugs travels that way westward, in so doing will he sow his doom.” Kate isn’t even Aaron’s real mom, and this is just one more nail in the crazy coffin that proves she really shouldn’t even be a secondary caregiver. Even if the line was supposed to be some weird meta-reference to the tunnel leading to the time wheel under the Orchid, it’s still weird. Before she can show Aaron a DVD of Hellraiser, the doorbell rings, and Kate opens it to find a pair of lawyers from the firm of Agostini and Norton. They want in, but Kate makes them state their business on the doorstep. Norton says he and his “associate” are there to get blood samples from Kate and Aaron to determine their relationship, and he refuses to divulge the identity of the client that’s hired him to do so. Kate tells the guys to leave, and Norton responds that they’ll just come back with the sheriff. Seriously, do these guys not feel like taking Kate’s criminal history and willingness to flee the scene of the crime and apply that knowledge to their current situation to determine the likelihood of her bolting and, thus, maybe dial down the litigious rhetoric? Nope. They bluff big, so Kate says they can come back with the sheriff all they want. She shuts the door, and we all know where this is going. Before you can say “patricide,” Kate’s packing a bag and getting wads of cash and a gun (!) from her dresser. As Kate is getting her shit kit together, Aaron wanders in and says, “Where are you going, Mommy?” Kate tells the boy they’re going on vacation, and proceeds to lead him downstairs and out the door. Taking a look around, she tells Aaron to say bye-bye to the house, and then they’re off.

Back on Hell Island, Sawyer is still shirtless and barefoot, trudging through the jungle with Juliet, Faraday, Charlotte, and Miles right behind. They’re on their way to the hatch — the original, Desmond-holding hatch, from a simpler time — when Juliet asks Sawyer why he jumped from the chopper. Sawyer says, “We were running out of gas. I wanted to make sure she — … I wanted to make sure they made it to the boat.” This guy is a con man? I’ve seen Zack Morris lie more convincingly. What happened to the Sawyer of “The Long Con”? Dude, you’re in love, you should be better than ever at lying. Before Juliet can further plumb the depths of Sawyer’s tortured soul or ask him which track from Elliot Smith’s Figure 8 most accurately exemplifies his pain, Faraday pushes past and tells them to pick up the pace. Sawyer stops the convoy and demands Faraday’s shirt, which come on, you know he’s at least a size smaller. Faraday says they don’t have time for this and need to keep going, but Sawyer ain’t budging. Faraday says Sawyer needs to trust him, but Sawyer fires back that he doesn’t even know the guy. Faraday, getting genuinely frustrated and pissy, tells Sawyer that there really isn’t time. “You have no idea how difficult it would be for me to explain this phenomenon to a quantum physicist,” Faraday tells him. “That would be difficult. So for me to try and explain this….” Before Faraday can continue, Sawyer up and slaps him, this big open-palm whack right across the face. I guess Sawyer doesn’t want everyone thinking he’s stupid or something. Charlotte runs forward and asks Sawyer what he’s doing, but he pivots and growls, “Shut it, ginger, or you’re getting one, too!” Aw, there he is. There’s the lovable misogynistic brute. I knew he was in there. Spurred by Sawyer’s physical abuse and demonstrable stubbornness, Faraday gives in and goes for the layman’s explanation. “Think of the island like a record, spinning on a turntable. Only now, that record is skipping. Whatever Ben Linus did down at the Orchid station… I think it may have dislodged us.” Miles, not quite up to speed, says, “Dislodged us from what?” Faraday replies, “Time.” Juliet asks if that’s why the camp is gone, because the island is moving through time. Faraday says that either the island is moving, or the castaways are. “It’s just as likely that we’re moving, your people and us,” he says. (He doesn’t really bring up the issue of how moving through time might also necessitate moving through space, but what do you want, he’s a busy guy.) Faraday asks if everyone is accounted for, but Sawyer sighs and says that Locke is still out there somewhere.

Cut to Locke out in the jungle, still looking wide-eyed and bumfuzzled. He scrambles up a ridge walks up a hill in time to see a twin-engine Beechcraft come hurling out of the sky and skim right over his head before crashing into the jungle. Even before it crashes, you know it’s the Nigerian drug smugglers’ plane carrying Mr. Eko’s brother that will one day fall and fatally wound Boone, and seeing it come down is such a weird visceral thrill; it’s a moment where you see the island as it would come to be known being born, when you see the origin of something that had/will have such impact on the story. As always, “Lost” has to really drive this point home, so before Locke can even go investigate the wreck, he looks down and sees something that (presumably) fell from the plane as it passed: a little Virgin Mary statue of the heroin-filled variety. Locke makes it down to the wreck, and it’s so cool to see the plane back up in its perch. Locke calls out for survivors and then sets about scaling the branches to go up and check it out, which is clearly a bad idea since he’s going to either get hurt or irrevocably screw with the space-time continuum. He gets about halfway up the sheer side of the hill when the first shot is fired, hitting a branch a few inches away. Locke looks around for the shooter and yells out, but it’s too late: He gets shot in the right thigh and goes tumbling to the ground. The leaves start to rustle ahead of him, and out pops the one and only Ethan Rom, kidnapper extraordinaire and generally unsettling little guy, who aims his rifle at Locke and asks, “Who are you? How many others on board?” Locke frantically tries to tell Ethan he wasn’t on the plane, but Ethan, who apparently lives for this stuff, raises the weapon and says, “Wrong answer.” Locke yells for him to stop, explaining who he is, telling Ethan he knows his name and that Ben Linus appointed Locke to be their leader. Ethan, despite getting some pretty specific info you’d think would warrant investigation, shakes his head and says, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Goodbye, John Locke.” Locke curls up like a total wuss as the sky goes purple again, and when the light recedes, it’s gone from day to night and he’s alone in the jungle. Over in their neck of the woods, Sawyer et al. witness the same flash, after which Sawyer turns to Faraday and asks when they are now. Faraday says, “We’re either in the past, or the future.” Well, yeah. Those are usually your only options with time travel. It would have been nice if he’d added that the only way to know which is to keep heading to the hatch, but I guess he assumes they’ll figure that out on their own.

Back in the present, Sun is walking through an airport, trying to call someone on her cell phone, but she hangs up when there’s no answer. When she tries to check in for her flight to Los Angeles, she gets flagged by the ticket agent and sent to a holding room, where a guard closes the door and ignores her angry cries to let her out. The back door opens and Charles Widmore walks in, telling Sun, “Save your breath. They only do what I tell them.” What a weird and totally anticlimactic entrance from a guy who’s supposedly the top threat to the castaways. Sun asks Widmore why he had her brought down there, and he gives the stupidest reason possible: He says she disrespected him by walking up to him in broad daylight and confronting him the way she did. He was with friends! They’re totally gonna think he’s weak now! Girls are mean! Sun just shrugs it off and says, “Fair enough.” They sit down at the table and Widmore asks Sun what she meant when she said they had common interests. Sun looks him right in the eye and says, “To kill Benjamin Linus.” Which: duh. But at least this completely holds with where their previous conversation was going. Although that first meeting ended with Sun cryptically talking about how other people left the island, the series isn’t about to try and pointlessly deepen that non-mystery. Of course other people got off that island. Ben did. We know this. And it also makes sense that she wants to kill him, since she still holds him and his whole wacky crew responsible for the problems that ultimately led to Jin’s getting all exploded. (It should be noted, though, that Daniel Dae Kim is still listed in the opening credits. So, there’s that.)

Meanwhile, back in their dingy hotel room, Jack is suiting up like he’s ready to hit the town while Ben watches the news. Jack makes to leave, but Ben just watches the anchor as she says that Hurley has been identified as a suspect in a shooting after having escaped from a mental institution. Conceding that plans have changed, Ben kills the TV and grabs his coat, and the two men head out.

Cut to a Rainbow Drive-In chicken shack, where Hurley and Sayid are sitting in an SUV when their waitress walks up. Sayid takes the food from her, shaking his luscious man-locks ever so slightly, and passes the bag to Hurley. When Sayid refuses Hurley’s offer of a fry, Hurley says, “You know, maybe if you ate more comfort food, you wouldn’t have to go around shooting people.” Hurley always gets the good jokes. They drive away and head to an apartment building Sayid says is a safe house. Hurley asks Sayid the identity of the man Sayid killed earlier that night outside the mental hospital, and Sayid says, “I don’t care. He was armed and he was watching you. That made him an enemy.” Sayid is definitely embracing his chance to be a badass. Sayid says he’s not taking any more risks after Bentham died, and Hurley says, “You mean Locke,” to which Sayid quickly replies, “Yes, I mean Locke,” in a tone that suggests he’s a little annoyed Hurley would repeat the name. It’s a great little moment because it’s a reminder of how much of the show is a performance for the viewer, since the characters could have referred to Bentham as Locke before now but didn’t, and not because they didn’t know they were the same man, but because it hadn’t been aired yet. Before the moment can crumble under the weight of self-awareness, Hurley mutters, “I need a cool code name.” Sayid then admits that he’s been working for Ben for the past couple years, and Hurley confusedly asks if Ben’s on “our side now,” another telling line that reinforces the show’s grand aspirations of conflict and sides and the way it’s all somehow amplified in Hurley’s brain. Sayid tells Hurley that if the big man ever runs into Ben, he shouldn’t trust him, and in fact should do the opposite of whatever Ben says to do. Sayid should definitely be more aware of the danger of giving a character like Hurley such literal instructions, but again, it’s been a while since there was any blatant foreshadowing, so it was time.

Sayid notices that the piece of tape he left over the door to his place has been broken, and that means only one thing: fight time. He kicks open the door to find a guy waiting, and although the bad guy disarms Sayid right away (way to remember your training, guy), Sayid grabs the guy and throws him over the balcony, where he lands with a vicious thud on the parking lot. Sayid heads inside and tussles with the second baddie, making it to the kitchen and fumbling for the gun he’s got stashed under the counter. He almost gets it out, too, but the bad guy shoots him with a tranq dart, and Sayid slumps forward onto the sink. The bad guy, being way too trusting — why not shoot him again? — moves into the kitchen, at which point Sayid snaps upright, grabs a pan, and clocks the guy, disarming him and causing the dishwasher door to open in one kind of unbelievably smooth motion. The dish tray slides out to reveal a utensil holder full of ridiculously dangerous knives, all pointing up, and there’s no doubt that this will end pretty badly for the shooter. Sure enough, Sayid knocks his feet out and impales him on basic cutlery. There should be fights like this more often.

Outside on the balcony, Hurley picks up the dropped gun and leans over to look at the corpse below, because Hurley has never seen movies or TV and has no idea about prints or evidence or even considers that the crowd forming around the body could look up and see him holding a gun and start to draw some damning conclusions. No, Hurley knows none of this, because he is a simpler man. So he just stands there, holding the gun, looking down as people point up at him; one dude snaps a picture, which finally spurs Hurley to action. He runs inside to find Sayid half passed out; apparently he didn’t spend enough time in his travels building up an immunity to iocaine powder, so he’s starting to feel the effects of the dart. Sayid tells Hurley to get him to the car, and as Hurley helps him walk out, he moans that they never should have left the island.

Back on Hell Island, the crew is still walking through the nighttime jungle. Charlotte asks Miles if Widmore is looking for them, but he says that it took the guy 20 years to find the island the first time, so they can probably breathe easy for a while. They come across the hatch, blown up, so Faraday says that they’re now at a point in time after the crash. When he admits that this means the camp could have returned, Sawyer starts to head for the beach, but Faraday tells him it’s pointless because another flash could happen before Sawyer gets there. Sawyer and Juliet protest that they should try and warn Jack and the others about what happens so they don’t get in the chopper, which Sawyer and Juliet of course to be wrecked or blown up or whatever. But Faraday says that’s not how it works. “You cannot change anything,” he says. “You can’t. Even if you tried to, it wouldn’t work.” Sawyer understandably wants to know why, so Faraday launches into the rules of time travel in “Lost,” explaining that time “is like a street. We can move forward on that street, we can move in reverse, but we cannot ever create a new street. If we try to do anything different, we will fail every time. Whatever happened, happened.” So, does this mean all of existence is already mapped out and unchangeable? Or that the present can impact the future, but the past can’t be changed to create a new present? I guess Chang/Candle was right about there being rules. Sawyer asks Faraday how he knows so much about all this, and Faraday gives another helpful monologue about how he’s spent his entire life studying space-time, even going so far as to pull his journal out his backpack and say that it contains everything he knows about DHARMA, and that he knows what’s happening. I now fully expect that journal to be stolen or to become/remain extremely important, and would be let down if it didn’t. Sawyer asks again if they can stop what’s coming, but Faraday says they can’t.

Cut to Locke in his part of the jungle, still bleeding profusely and looking pretty scared. He stands and limps his way to the wreckage of the Beechcraft, now on the ground, and yanks out a seatbelt to use as a tourniquet. He sits down against a rock next to the plane, and there’s a fantastic close-up shot of the side of his face with trees blurry in the background when light begins to move among the leaves. It’s a torch, and Locke draws his knife as he sees and hears someone approaching. Richard Alpert comes around the bend, and when he sees Locke, he quickly walks over and examines Locke’s wound. “We need to get the bullet out,” Richard says. Locke wants to know how Richard knows there’s a bullet in his leg, and Richard says, “You told me there was.” Locke adamantly denies this, but Richard just looks at him and says, “Well, you will.” This is when the idea of past/future gets loose, since John won’t see a past version of Richard until his own future, when (one assumes) he travels to an earlier point and tells Richard about the gunshot wound Richard will treat in his future but which has already been treated in Locke’s past. Locke, who’s starting to click with this whole thing, asks, “When am I?” Richard responds that it’s all relative, which is not something you want to hear from a sarcastic guy performing minor surgery on you in the middle of the jungle that’s been known to house a smoke monster, a ghost cabin, and various polar bears and horses. Locke asks where everyone went when the sky lit up, but Richard tells him, “I didn’t go anywhere, John. You went.” So are the Others somehow immune to the effects of the blasts? How? Why? Richard yanks the bullet from Locke’s leg and rapidly begins telling Locke that he’ll be moving on soon and he’ll need to keep his wound clean. “Keep as much weight off your leg as you can, the island will do the rest.” Richard tells Locke that the next time they meet, Richard won’t recognize him, so Locke will need to give him something to prove himself. Richard presses a compass into Locke’s hand, and they have a great exchange that illustrates how well the show can integrate moments of minor humor into larger drama:

Locke: What is it?
Richard: It’s a compass.
Locke: What does it do?
Richard: It points north, John.

Richard barrels ahead with what he feels is pretty important news: “The only way to save the island is to get your people back here.” Locke starts to protest that they’re dead, but Richard says they’re fine, and that they’re already home, which means this conversation has to be taking place sometime after the Oceanic Six were rescued, not just after the crash. Richard tells Locke he will have to convince them to come back, and when Locke asks how he’s supposed to do that, Richard takes a beat before saying, “You’re gonna have to die, John.” Locke’s eyes get a little wide at that — whose wouldn’t? — but just then everything goes purple and white again, and Locke looks around to see bright sky above him and the Beechcraft back atop the ridge. He looks down and sees the compass still in his hand, and he looks more worried than ever.

Back at the hatch, just before the latest purple blast, Sawyer and the gang are staring down at the debris, presumably digesting Faraday’s lecture on quantum mechanics. Miles asks what the hatch was before it was destroyed, and Juliet says it housed a DHARMA station where a man named Desmond pushed a button every 108 minutes to save the world. “Really?” Miles asks. Juliet gives a little smirk and says yes, really, and that’s when the flash comes and everyone grabs their heads and braces for the shock. The hatch’s ruins are gone, and after digging a little Juliet finds the door and small window under some grass. “I guess you haven’t found it yet,” she says to Sawyer, who turns and marches off into the jungle. Miles shouts after him, but Sawyer says he’s heading for the “back door” to get supplies. Faraday and the rest go after him, and Faraday again reminds Sawyer that it’s impossible to change the past and that Sawyer won’t be able to get Desmond to let him in. “Desmond didn’t know you when he first came out of there. That means you’ve never met, which means you can’t meet.” Sawyer starts banging on the door even as Faraday keeps telling him it won’t work and that he’s wasting his time. “If it didn’t happen, it can’t happen.” So does this mean that Desmond just wouldn’t recognize Sawyer, or that Desmond wouldn’t even see Sawyer? These castaways have been bouncing around in the past for a while now but they haven’t run into anyone of their number, so is it even possible to talk to someone you will know in their past? Richard and the Others seem exempt from coming unstuck, but could the castaways run into their own past selves? Faraday hasn’t addressed that, which makes me think (for now) that it’s not too big a concern, but that’s weird, because it would almost have to be.

Anyway, Sawyer keeps banging away while Faraday says he can’t change the past, at which point Sawyer grabs him and growls, “Everybody I care about just blew up on your damn boat. I know what I can’t change.” Juliet walks up, and Sawyer looks at her like a lost puppy. They are definitely going to hook up later. Juliet says they should head back to the beach to rest, but Miles wants to know why they’re going there if there’s nothing to head back to. “So stay here,” Juliet says, walking away. Miles turns to the others and says, “That chick likes me,” then leaves. Oh Miles, you hilarious rogue. Faraday and Charlotte share a look, but he notices she’s got a bloody nose. She wipes it off, saying she’s fine, and Faraday says of course she is, it’s not a big deal, but it’s clear he’s concerned about her and how the time travel, or maybe the island itself, is affecting her. (Minkowski’s nose bled in “The Constant” when he got unstuck in time, and that dude wound up dead.) They head to catch up with the others, but Faraday says he forgot his backpack and will have to catch up. He runs back to the hatch and gets his stuff, opening his journal and flipping through it like he’s searching for something. He stops at a certain page, gets a look of dawning comprehension, and returns to the station’s back door and knocks a few times. The door opens and Desmond emerges in a hazmat suit and mask, brandishing a rifle. Faraday uses Desmond’s name, and Desmond asks if Faraday is his replacement. Faraday says no, and when Desmond asks if the two know each other, Faraday replies, “In a way. … I need you to listen. You’re the only person who can help us because, Desmond, the rules don’t apply to you. You’re special.” Desmond demands to know what he’s talking about, and just then the air begins to take on that slight whine it gets before a time flash, and both men look around, hearing it. Faraday starts to panic a little because he knows he’s out of time, and he starts to talk about the helicopter and if Desmond made it off the island, but Desmond cuts him off and almost shoots him, demanding to know what he’s talking about. Faraday presses on, saying, “Me and everyone else you left behind, we’re in serious danger, and you’re the only person who can help us. I need you to go back to Oxford University, go back where we met. I need you to go there and find my mother. Her name is — …” but it’s too late. The flash comes and swallows Faraday’s words.

Cut to Desmond in bed, sweating, clean shaven, clearly in the “present.” He starts awake and hits the light, finding Penny next to him, who asks what’s wrong. “I was on the island,” he tells her, and she attempts to comfort him by reminding him he’s been off the island for three years and that he was just dreaming. “It wasn’t a dream,” he says. “It was a memory.” And it’s true. The reason he was shaking was because his brain was downloading a new memory, integrating a new sense into his experience and trying to keep from splitting. After all, Desmond’s no stranger to time traveling. He gets out of bed and heads out: They’re on a ship, presumably so they can constantly stay out of reach of Penny’s father. Penny asks what Desmond’s doing as he pulls up the anchor. “We’re leaving,” he says. When she asks him where, he looks at her and says, “Oxford.”

Overall, a fantastic episode, packed with plenty of story but also nicely focused on action within a narrow timeframe. Over the course of the episode, only a few hours pass for the castaways, if that, and perhaps only a day for the Oceanic Six. The series has had a set endpoint for a while, but that’s now drawing close; there are only about 33 or 34 left now, depending on how they count the hours, and the show is building toward something with a sense of purpose and urgency. Desmond is clearly special in his ability to affect change in the timeline and to be affected by it, though how that will play out is still up for grabs. As for questions raised by this episode or simply still unanswered: Where’s Claire? Is she still hanging out with her dead father in Jacob’s Ghost Cabin? How did Faraday jump back in time to sneak into the Orchid under construction? Also, Richard gives Locke a compass; is this the same compass he showed the boy Locke in last season’s “Cabin Fever” when he asked Locke which of a set of items “already belonged to him”? It looks like Richard can time travel, which would explain how he was able to visit the young Locke and also, maybe, why he might be exempt from the island’s temporal shift. (As he told Locke, “I didn’t go anywhere. You went.”) And Desmond and Faraday already met at Oxford in 1996, so wouldn’t Desmond remember him by the time he got to the island c. 2001? Does this have something to do with whatever makes Desmond “special”? And finally: What happened to that Willie record? Someone should have kept that.

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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