"The Last Recruit" was the third straight episode of "Lost" to keep adding fuel to the fire, which just goes to show you how much I disliked the episode a few weeks back that was all about Jin and Sun. (Thankfully, their big moment this week wasn't overdone, though I could've really gotten used to Sun living life as a mute.) These past few seasons, the show's inhabited a gray area between miniseries and episodic drama, with story lines too tightly condensed for regular series but spread over too many episodes to be classified a telefilm. Basically, the show's a really solidly paced action/sci-fi hybrid, and one of the more entertaining rides on TV. As it gradually draws to a close, things are only moving faster.
The Los Angeles Timeline
After weaving in and out of each other for weeks, the L.A. timeline strands are beginning to pull together, so this episode's action jumped quickly from character to character.
Locke is being carted off to the ER in the back of an ambulance while Ben tries to give info to the EMT (played by actor-comedian Skyler Stone, of dubious credits), but he doesn't even know Locke's first name. Locke starts to regain consciousness and spits out his name and talks about how he was going to marry Helen, emphasis on the past tense. When they get to the hospital, another ambulance arrives bearing Sun, freshly wounded from Jin's tussle with Mikhail, and she gets wheeled down the hall next to Locke. Seeing the wounded man, she exclaims to Jin, "That's him!"
Later, Sawyer is questioning Kate at the police station, acting laid back and cool but still different enough to be a believably altered version of the Sawyer we know and love. (Josh Holloway does good work.) Kate asks why he didn't arrest her when he saw she was on the run at LAX, and though Sawyer plays coy, she makes a huge but correct leap and assumes he let her go so no one would know he'd gone to Sydney. Miles calls him over to fill him in on the killings at Keamy's place and show him remarkably clear ATM security footage of a "jabroni" fleeing the scene: Sure enough, it's Sayid. So it's only a matter of time before those story lines fold in on each other, but it feels organic, or at least pleasingly so within the confines of knowing it's an alternate timeline of mysterious origin.
Moving across town, Claire heads to a large office building to visit her adoption agency (on the 15th floor, of course) when Desmond shows up. Desmond's now extremely mission-oriented about showing the Oceanic 815 people a glimpse of their other lives, but this tends to make him a bit creepy and overbearing, and his personal line of questions about Claire's plans for her son as they ride the escalator and elevator rightly trigger her alarms. He gives her a hard sell about needing an attorney, and when she tells him she can't afford one, he says he was on his way to see one in that building and would be happy to set it up. Pestered into agreeing, Claire heads with Desmond down the hall away from the adoption agency and into a law firm where they're greeted by the non-blown-up Ilana. Ilana's last name, it turns out, is Verdansky, and as introductions are made, Ilana shows a start of recognition at Claire, explaining only that "we've been looking for you."
Meanwhile, Sayid is packing his stuff and getting ready to bail when Nadia comes in. He tells her only that he took care of her problem and that he has to leave forever, and that's when the doorbell rings. It's Miles, looking for Sayid (they tracked him down really fast), so Sayid tries to slip out the back but is caught there by Sawyer, who trips him, cuffs him, and arrests him.
The action shifts to Jack, who's hanging out with his son, David, and arrives at the giant building Claire came to earlier. He gets a call from David's mother (still unnamed), then he and the boy head upstairs to hear the reading of Christian's will. They get to the law firm and meet Ilana, which is when the tumblers line up. She even asks if they believe in fate as she walks them back to a conference room where Claire is waiting. Jack recognizes her name from the will and asks how she knew his father, and she sheepishly says, "He was my father, too." Jack's knocked back but isn't given time to deal with the news: His cell phone rings with a call from the hospital about an emergency surgery, so he tells Ilana they need to reschedule the reading.
Over at the hospital, Sun wakes up to find Jin passed out in a chair next to her bed but still holding her hand. She rouses him, and he tells her the good news: She's going to survive the shooting, and their baby is just fine, too. "It's over and we're all going to be okay," he says. This timeline really is a fantasy construction. Meanwhile, Jack and David arrive, and they're pretty cute in their matching suits and bits of banter. Jack scrubs in for surgery on a man he's told was already a paraplegic before his accident, and he then heads into the operating room. Before he cuts, though, he glances at the mirror below the table to see that the patient is John Locke, and he pauses, confused. "I think I know this guy," he says to the nurses.
The Island Timeline
The action on the island opens right back in the moment with Jack's gang meeting up with the Man in Black's crew in a truce engineered by Hurley. MIB and Jack head off to chat, where MIB reveals in plain language what we already knew through solid hypothesis: that he was the one pretending to be Christian Shepard shortly after the Oceanic crash. He says he did it to help Jack's people find water, and goes on to say that Jack and the rest are now no longer trapped on the island as they were when Jacob was on it. MIB tells Jack that Locke wasn't a believer, "he was a sucker" who thought he was on the island for some special reason that turned out to be a lie. As they walk back to camp, MIB calls out Claire for tracking and spying on them, though she says she was only doing it because Jack's her brother. He leaves them to catch up, and though Jack expresses doubts about following Fake Locke, Claire says it was decided as soon as Jack listened to him.
Back at camp, Sawyer fills Hurley in on his plan to take their friends and meet up with Widmore to catch a ride home on the sub, but he doesn't want to include Sayid or Claire. Hurley gets in his requisite Star Wars reference, saying Sayid can be rescued from the dark side like Anakin. After MIB and Jack return, Zoe strolls into camp and asks to speak with their leader. The Man in Black acts ignorant of her claims to have stolen something that belongs to them, so Zoe radios her people and has them launch a missile or bomb or mortar round -- something just generally wicked dangerous -- and land nearby. The Man in Black is unmoved by the explosion or the display of power. (I guess it was launched from Hydra, which is within the space-time warp radius of the island. Otherwise Zoe'd have to call in a bombing and wait a while.) She gives the Man in Black a walkie to use when he wants to arrange a meet to pick up Desmond, but as soon as she's gone, he smashes it and says, "Well, here we go." This is pretty much the beginning of the end.
From here, things get even more frantic as the group splinters and reforms several times based on changing plans. MIB tells everyone to get ready for a trip to Hydra Island, and he tasks Sawyer, who enlists Kate's help, to run ahead and pick up the sailboat and meet them at the shoreline to take them all to Hydra. (It's weird to remember that the sailboat is still around. It's the same one that brought Desmond to the island eons ago.) Sawyer agrees but manages to fill Jack in on his planned double-cross before going, saying that Jack should take Hurley, Sun, and Frank and break off from the MIB's group to meet Sawyer and Kate for their escape. Before everyone leaves, the Man in Black instructs Sayid to head to the well and kill Desmond, saying it's the only way to get what he asked for.
When Sayid makes it to the well -- which is shallower than I'd imagined -- he finds a wounded but basically okay Desmond sitting in a shallow layer of mud and water. He raises his gun to fire, but Desmond wants to know why he's doing it in the first place. When Sayid says it's to get his dead love back, Desmond asks, "What will you tell her?" Sayid grows lost in thought and doesn't fire.
Meanwhile, Sawyer and Kate arrive at the part of the island where MIB said the boat was waiting to find it moored not far off shore. "You ready to get wet?" Sawyer asked her, which made it sound like they'd signed up for a housesitting gig. Sawyer repeats his whole plan to her, but though Kate's reluctant to leave Claire behind, Sawyer says it has to be done, and they start swimming for the boat.
As the rest of MIB's people hike through the jungle, Jack learns that Claire stayed with the Fake Locke because he's the only one who didn't abandon her. The Man in Black tries to ask Sun about Sayid, but she pissily writes a note blaming him for her lack of voice, for which he denies responsibility. He breaks away from the group to find Sayid, at which point Jack plucks Hurley, Frank, and Sun out of line and quickly leads them off into the jungle to rendezvous with Sawyer. He's working off a map Sawyer gave him, and which Sawyer'd received from MIB before the mission. Claire, who had hung back to spy, sees everything and starts tracking them.
The Man in Black finds Sayid in the jungle, and Sayid says he did his job and killed Desmond, though MIB isn't so sure he's telling the truth. Meanwhile, Jack's gang makes it to the dock and starts to board the boat when Claire shows up, rifle raised, and wants to know what's happening. Kate steps up and gives her the spiel about bringing her back to Aaron, and the sentimental approach works: Kate persuades Claire that the Man in Black isn't going to help her, so she joins the small band of castaways. "He finds out we're gone, he's gonna be mad," Claire says. She might be right.
As they sail, Jack tells Sawyer that the whole thing feels wrong. He says that when he left the first time, it felt like a piece of himself was missing, and he's not sure the island is done with them yet. "If that thing wants us to leave," Jack hypothesizes, "maybe he's afraid of what happens when he stay." Smart play, and an interesting way to try and out-chess the Man in Black. However, Sawyer's had his lifetime fill of prophecy talk and isn't about to let Jack ruin his chance of escape, so he threatens to toss Jack overboard right there. Jack calls his bluff, apologizes again (and sincerely) for Juliet, then steps off into the water and begins swimming back to the island. Kate, at the wheel of the ship, shouts after him, but Sawyer tells her to hold course for Hydra. "We're done going back," he tells her.
Jack reaches the beach to find the Man in Black and his generically dressed Others waiting in an ominous line. "Sawyer took my boat, didn't he?" the Man in Black asks with a total lack of surprise. Jack, out of breath, just nods and says yes. Over on Hydra, Sawyer's crew lands as Zoe and her people come out once more with weapons at the ready. (Widmore's people are a trigger-happy bunch.) Trailing behind is Jin, who spots Sun and runs to her. This is their big reunion, the first time they've seen each other since the freighter explosion at the end of the fourth season, so it feels good to let them have their moment. But a lot of the goodwill I was supposed to be feeling was used up in the endless shuffling and Serendipity-style plotting that kept them just out of reach for this long. When they ran to each other, I felt mainly a sense of relief that we could put that plot to bed and focus on the interesting ones.
After talking on the walkie, Zoe says Sawyer's deal is off, then rounds up his gang and puts them on their knees in the sand. She also orders another air strike on the main island, where Jack and MIB are still sizing each other up. Jack hears the incoming round in time to shout to the others to duck, and the explosion knocks him down the beach and dulls his hearing for a bit. The Man in Black picks Jack up and runs into the jungle with him, saving his life. Setting him down to check him out, the Man in Black says "You're with me now."
And that's that. All told, a solid, plot-driven episode that did a lot to line up the pieces in the respective timelines for the coming showdowns and revelations. It's also worth noting again that, though this is the first time the Man in Black has confirmed that he took the form of Christian, that's something we knew a while back when his powers began to make themselves known. It's the way the human brain can look at two 180-degree arcs with their ends placed near each other and see a complete circle, even though the shape technically doesn't exist there; shows like "Lost" give you the details and let you fill in the gaps with what you know to be true. That's probably the way many other mysteries on the show will play out, so it's possible to get answers without directly getting them, you know?
As for the other stuff, I like how the L.A. timeline is slowly bringing all the characters together. Desmond's mission there is related to that, but it's happening on its own, and I'm curious to see what happens to those people and why. The main timeline's action was also interesting. The interplay between Jack and Locke has always been at the heart of the show, and seeing the plot in a sense come back to that is rewarding. I have no idea if the series will require one of the candidates to stay on the island to keep the Man in Black in his place, but I can think of worse endings for Jack than to become the eternal shepherd and healer of that weird part of the world.
One final programming note: There's no "Lost" next week, meaning the next new episode (titled "The Candidate," so let that one roll around a bit) will air Tuesday, May 4. After that, new installments air May 11 and 18, with the two-hour finale on Sunday, May 23. This is the home stretch.