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May 19, 2008 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | May 19, 2008 |

Man alive, “Lost” really knows how to bring its A-game. “There’s No Place Like Home, Part 1” was the 12th episode of the show’s fourth season, the first installment of what will be a three-hour finale, and awesome in the way it began building toward the kind of epic season-ender you know is in store. One of the great things about the series’ atypical structure is how events revealed to take place earlier in the timeline wind up carrying the kind of weight as if they’d happened later. After all, the episode deals with what happened to the Oceanic Six in the brief time after they returned home, but we’ve been learning since last season’s cliffhanger ending just what will happen in their lives after that: Sayid will become Ben’s hitman, Hurley will go crazy, Sun will have her baby, Kate will get off on good behavior, and Jack will grow a beard and start popping pills. But even though we’re seeing things that (from one perspective) have already happened, they’re still major events that shed light on even more aspects of the overall story.

The episode opens in a flashforward aboard a military transport plane soaring through blue sky. The pilot says they’re headed for some chop, at which point the co-pilot begins furtively petting a rabbit’s foot, which is generally something you never want to see a pilot do. Ever. The co-pilot claims it’s to ward off the “bad mojo” of the cargo they’re carrying. The pilot turns around and tells the person sitting behind him to head into the back and “let them know we’re landing.” He’s talking to Karen Decker, an Oceanic Airlines rep played by Michelle Forbes in a nice bit of genre crossover. (Every time I see her, I think, “Hey, it’s Admiral Cain/Ensign Ro.” Never fails.) Decker enters the cargo hold and tells the people gathered there to prepare for landing. It’s gradually revealed that she’s talking to the handful of castaways who managed to make it off the island: Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Sun, Kate, and baby Aaron. Decker tells them they’re headed for a military facility near Honolulu where they’ll be reunited with their families, to be followed by a press conference. She tells them, “They’re referring to you as the Oceanic Six. That’s not the best branding as far as we’re concerned, but it’s catchy.” Jack looks around at his unhappy fellow travelers, evidently still reeling from whatever decisions they’ve had to make that got them there, and he tells them they all know the story, adding that if they don’t want to talk to the press, that’s fine, since people will just assume the survivors are in shock. Sun looks at him like he’s an idiot and says, “We are in shock, Jack.” He grimaces a little and responds, “Well, then, this should be easy.” The plane touches down and taxis to an area where several soldiers and civilians are gathered. The Six rise and head out to meet their loved ones in the classic “Lost” music-filled, non-speaking, slow-mo reunion scene. Hurley embraces his parents, while Sun just stands there stiffly while her own mother and father hold her. Jack smiles as he meets up with his mother, though the emotion of the moment is hampered just a bit by the fact that the character hasn’t been seen since Season One. But for Kate and Sayid, there’s no one. Hurley eagerly introduces Sayid to his folks, but Kate remains off to the side, gently rocking Aaron in her arms, looking around for the loved ones she doesn’t have.

Back on the beach, Rose is positing the theory that Sayid and Desmond were in the chopper, since no one else would want to drop a sat phone on the castaways. Sun suggests using the phone to actually call the chopper, which is the first time anyone’s thought of this. Jack hands the phone to Daniel, who sets it to “monitor only” and picks up a conversation in the chopper: Keamy is instructing Frank to put the helicopter down so they can deploy to the Orchid. Juliet says she doesn’t know what the Orchid is, adding that she also didn’t hear Sayid or Desmond over the phone. Jack calls Kate over and tells her to get some water while he packs up the guns. Juliet’s understandably pissed at Jack’s lack of concern for his health, having undergone an Amish appendectomy just hours before. Jack says he has to go because of his warring messiah and martyr complexes, only it comes out sounding like, “I promised these people I would lead them off this island.” Juliet, fighting back a few tears, tells him not to bleed to death, stalking off back to her tent. Meanwhile, Daniel rifles through his notebook while Charlotte asks why he’s so worked up. Daniel tells Charlotte that Keamy’s going to the Orchid means that the secondary protocol is being put into action, but she doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or at least, she pretends not to know). Daniel finds a page in his notebook with the Dharma Orchid logo sketched on it — the logo that was on Ben’s jacket when he appeared/appears in the desert in “The Shape of Things to Come” — and does not look happy. “We have to get off this island,” he says. “Right now.”

Out in the jungle the next morning, Jack and Kate are hustling through the woods with a speed that would probably sideline Jack under normal circumstances, never mind the stitches. They stop for a break, when Kate points out that Jack’s gut is bleeding. He brushes it off by saying he’s just “suppurating” with “discharge” as his body continues “fighting the infection around the stitches.” I have no idea why he thinks this sounds better than “bleeding.” Kate calls him on the lie, but before they can get really flirty over it, Miles comes ambling out of the forest, looking douchey as ever, with Sawyer carrying Aaron right behind. Sawyer looks absolutely full of puppy love when he lays eyes on Kate. When they ask where Claire is, Sawyer says, “We lost her. She just walked off in the middle of the night. We looked for her for a day, but she was just gone.” Jack bends over with the weight of the loss. Sawyer asks what they’re doing out in the jungle anyway, and Jack says they’re using the sat phone to track what they think is Sayid. Sawyer tells them that for Sayid’s sake the man better not be on the chopper, since the soldiers already “blew up half of New Otherton” and are not to be trifled with. Jack says he’s not about to hide, and Sawyer asks him how the whole “run through the jungle with a walkie plan” worked out last time, a nice nod to last season’s finale. Jack says they need the chopper to get off the island, but Sawyer makes noises like he doesn’t want to go; presumably he thinks he’s still got a shot to play house with Kate. Jack tells everyone to head back to the beach while he goes after the chopper, but he only gets a few feet before Sawyer reluctantly cocks his gun and joins Jack, yelling, “Hold up! You don’t get to die alone.” That’s the second great in-series shout-out inside five minutes, this time to Jack’s speech in the first season, but that’s what you get when co-creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse do the writing.

Second flashforward: Decker is leading the press conference in a hangar, standing on a dais and illustrating just how the castaways survived while the Oceanic Six sit complacently at a long table behind her. She uses a screen to point out that the plane likely crashed south of Indonesia, where the survivors rode the current to shore, eventually reaching the tiny island of Membata. She tells the press that on day 103 — just a few days after the events of the main island story in this episode — a typhoon washed up wreckage of an Indonesian fishing boat that included survival supplies and a raft. On day 108 (the sum, as you all know, of the infamous numbers), Decker says, the survivors — who by now included “Ms. Austen’s baby,” born on Membata — used the raft to travel to the nearby larger island of Sumba, landing near a seaside village. The next slide in her presentation is a photo “taken by the local fishermen who found them,” and it shows the Oceanic Six being helped out of the water by villagers. Decker wraps by saying that, once the survivors were identified on Sumba, they were transported by the Coast Guard to Honolulu. Throughout her brief talk, none of the Six show any emotion other than a look of discomfort and distraction; they look like teenagers about to see if they can pull off a lie to their parents. Now, there’s no telling at this point where most of the survival story came from. It seems likely that the Six would have fabricated most of it, though at one point — once they’re recognized and rescued — it would seem to be out of their hands. Anyway: The Six then yield to the press, who ask predictable and slightly dumb questions that mainly serve as expositional fodder to get the Six’s “official story” into the series’ universe. Jack says the crash happened fast, and that as the plane began to fill with water, he and a group of people made it to the emergency door and escaped before the whole thing went under. They claim to have used life jackets and seat cushions to stay afloat for more than a day before the current took in the eight remaining survivors to the island. One reporter comments that they look pretty healthy for what they’ve been through, which Hurley deflects with a self-deprecating punch line, shifting the line of questioning to his wealth. Hurley says he doesn’t want his $150 million back because it was bad luck. A Korean reporter asks Sun (who translates) whether Sun’s husband was one of the two people who died on the island, but Sun responds that he never made it off the plane. Kate is asked how old Aaron is, and she says he’s a little over five weeks, which is rounded down: Claire give birth around day 41, making Aaron 67 days old, or almost 10 weeks, at the apparent time the Six were rescued. The reporter tries to use Kate’s pregnancy as a door into questions about her legal troubles, but Decker cuts him off. Sayid is asked if he thinks there are any other survivors of Oceanic 815 out there, which he firmly denies. When it’s all over, they exit behind the makeshift stage, where Jack tells Kate she did a good job; guy’s been home a day and he’s already laying the ground for another failed relationship. Man. Decker tells Sayid there’s a woman named Noor Abed Jazeem waiting outside for him. Sayid quickly heads outside to find Nadia waiting for him, and they embrace. For a moment, they’re happy, but it still hurts knowing that soon she’ll be dead and he’ll be killing people to fill the void.

Back on Hell Island, Sayid pulls up to the shore in the Zodiac raft, where he’s greeted by Jin, Sun, Juliet, and the rest. Sayid tells them Desmond is still fine but waiting back on the freighter, which is where Sayid wants to start ferrying people in groups of six. Sayid says they need to get everyone back on the boat so they can split before the chopper returns and the soldiers start killing castaways. Juliet gives him the bad news and tells him that Jack and Kate just went running after the chopper. Sayid gets a look that says, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and his frustration at the way everyone keeps getting scattered crops up in other characters throughout the episode.

Meanwhile, out in the jungle, Locke, Ben, and Hurley are heading to the Orchid, which Ben reveals to be a greenhouse that apparently has the power to move the island. Hurley asks why Ben doesn’t just move the island more often if he has the power to do so, but Ben replies that moving the island is “dangerous and unpredictable” and a “measure of last resort.” Hurley understandably finds this news worrisome. Ben stops by a rock pile, moves some stones around, and pulls out a map to Zihuatanejo a wooden box containing some old crackers, a pair of binoculars, and a mirror. Hurley begins to down the crackers in a depressing little moment of stereotyping, while Locke plays with the binoculars and Ben holds the mirror above his head and begins signaling people on a nearby hill. Someone across the way responds with another message in flashes of light, but Ben doesn’t tell Locke what was said.

Down at the beach, Sayid wants to delay the transport of the castaways while he runs after Jack and Kate, but Daniel volunteers to start taking people to the freighter because there’s no time to waste. Sayid looks to Juliet for her opinion, but she just gives him a look. Sayid passes a compass to Daniel and says, “I trust you know the bearing.” And with that, he’s off. Daniel starts rounding up people for the first trip to the Kahana, and Juliet speaks up on Sun’s behalf, saying the pregnant woman should get to go with the first group. (Whatever.) While Sayid is checking his gun, Kate and Miles come out of the treeline, and Kate gets all riled up telling Sayid that Jack is chasing the chopper because he mistakenly thinks Sayid is on it. Sayid says that’s why he’s going after them, and Kate says she can track them and help Sayid find them quicker than he could on his own. Kate passes off Aaron to a confused Sun before she and Sayid run off back into the jungle. As Daniel and the first group of escapees put the raft into the water, he turns and gives a little wave to Charlotte, who’s worriedly watching him leave. These two are so definitely in love. Jin and Sun are among those on the raft, and Jin says to his wife, “I told you I’d get you off the island.” She cradles the baby and smiles a little, not knowing just how far she still has to go.

Third flashforward: Sun, a few months pregnant, heads to her father’s office. She walks in as he’s berating a couple of junior managers for some mistake, and the men say that “whoever did this used five different banks.” Paik demands to see some other guy, presumably so he can also be yelled at, and the two men take their leave. Sun asks her father what’s wrong, but he just says it’s “complications with the company” that she wouldn’t understand, presumably because her vagina renders her incapable of abstract mathematical reasoning. Oh, Mr. Paik, you rake. Paik asks how the pregnancy is coming along, but Sun blows him off, saying he was never interested in her baby because he hated Jin. Paik, not even attempting to control his shouting, demands respect from his daughter, but Sun coolly continues that she just that morning used her settlement from Oceanic to buy up a controlling interest in Paik’s company (presumably through those five different banks). Paik sinks to his chair and asks why Sun is doing this. She fires back that Paik was the whole reason she and Sun were on that plane, and that Paik is one of the two people responsible for his death. Sun says that she will have her baby, after which she and her father can discuss plans for the future of their company.

Fourth flashforward: Hurley pulls up in front of his family’s mansion in an old clunker, stepping out with a bag of chicken from Mr. Cluck’s Chicken Shack. The front door is ajar, and Hurley calls out after his mom and dad, but no one responds. He takes a few steps into the foyer and sees a single coconut sitting on the carpet, then hears whispers coming from the other side of the French doors in a nearby bedroom. Hurley, showing a good bit of bravery for someone who’s known to have some mental instabilities and whose time on the island was, like everyone else’s, pretty damn traumatizing, picks up a statue of Jesus and prepares to attack whoever he finds outside. But he opens the door to find his family and friends throwing him an island-themed surprise birthday party. Later, as the camera pans past a DJ and a pair of extras who clearly started “acting” the moment they were in frame, Hurley finds Kate and Aaron. Kate apologizes for Jack, saying he’s running late, but it’s clear he won’t be coming. Hurley then turns to see Nadia standing next to Sayid, his luscious man-locks flowing in a holy breeze; Sayid is also wearing a wedding band, so apparently he and Nadia wasted no time in tying the knot. Hurley’s dad comes up to the group and does his Cheech thing, which is to say, he makes bad jokes that make everyone slightly uncomfortable. Hurley’s dad borrows the birthday boy and leads him out to the garage to show him his present, but Hurley says he doesn’t want anything bought with the lottery money. The garage door comes up to reveal a restored early-1970s Camaro, the same one Hurley and his dad had been trying to fix for years. (It’s also the one Hurley will drive while being pursued by police in “The Beginning of the End.”) Hurley’s dad says he worked on the car as a memorial to his son while he was missing, and that because he’s come back, it’s now his. Hurley and his pop get in to take the car for a birthday drive, but Hurley looks at the odometer and sees the entire series of numbers again: Total mileage, 48,151.6; trip counter, 234.2. Hurley loses his shit, exits the car, and begins hauling terrified ass down the street.

On their way to the Orchid, Hurley brings up some pretty decent objections to Ben’s plan, namely that if they move the island while the soldiers are still on it, they won’t be getting rid of their problem. Ben just says he’s working on it. Hurley says that he still wants to get off the island, but Locke chimes in, “I’m afraid it’s a little late for that, Hugo.” Ben stops everyone when they’re at the Orchid but still a short way off from the station, using the jungle for cover. There’s not much to see at this distance aside from a few glimpses of metal wall and what could be a bamboo walkway. Ben says they need to wait before entering because Charles Widmore knows about the Orchid and knows that Ben needs what’s inside. Locke actually has the stones to look exasperated when he catches Ben in a lie, reminding Ben that he’d told Locke he had no idea why Widmore wanted to find the island. Locke: Get with it. Ben admits he wasn’t “being entirely truthful” before passing Locke the binoculars and pointing to the plants at the back. Locke starts to say he can’t see anything but cuts himself off when a pair of soldiers in full camo gear walks by. “They’re already here,” Ben says through clenched teeth.

Daniel arrives at the Kahana with the first group of castaways, who are helped aboard by Desmond. Daniel tells Desmond that Sayid went after Jack and the chopper, then turns the raft right around and makes for the island. A voice tells Desmond that the engines are fixed, and Desmond runs off to the bridge as Jin and Sun turn to find Michael standing there, looking pretty beat up but not remotely sorry for what’s gone on. Up in the bridge, Desmond talks to a man at the helm named Hendricks, who tries the engines and finds them up and running. Unfortunately, he won’t head to the island because he’s still picking up RF interference from somewhere onboard that’s screwing with the fathometer, a not-made-up thing needed to determine the depth of the water and the shape of the reef ahead. Hendricks kills the engines, saying he won’t go any closer until the RF interference has been fixed. Desmond again jogs off to locate the source of the problem.

Out in the jungle, Jack and Sawyer are closing in on the chopper when Sawyer notices Jack’s wound. Jack explains about his surgery, and an almost incredulous Sawyer asks what else he’s missed. They round a bend and see the chopper, and they split off and flank it while Jack calls out for Frank. Frank answers and reveals that he’s handcuffed to one of the seats in the chopper — Keamy has some trust issues — and tells the two men that he was the one who dropped the sat phone on them in the first place so they could make their way to the chopper and escape. Frank, not knowing the truth, tells Jack that Sayid and Desmond are still safe on the boat, and that Keamy and crew have gone off to a greenhouse to wait for Ben. Sawyer realizes just how badly things might be when he tells Jack that Hurley’s with Ben. Jack, echoing Sayid’s frustration from earlier, just shakes his head and mutters, “Son of a bitch.”

Fifth flashforward: It’s 10 months after the crash, and Jack is delivering the eulogy at Christian’s long-delayed funeral service. (I really wanted Ghost Christian to appear in this scene, but no dice.) The crowd at the church is a small one, but the rest of the Oceanic Six are there. Jack ends his short speech by saying, “Good-bye, Dad. I loved you. I miss you.” Jack’s mother cries a little; Kate sits there and looks cute. After the service, Jack and Kate are talking when a blonde Australian woman comes up and asks to talk with Jack. Anybody can see where this is going. The woman — whose name is Carole, though she doesn’t formally introduce herself — tells Jack that she was probably the reason Christian was in Australia when he died. Carole says she was in the hospital and that Christian came to see her and met his and Carole’s daughter while he was there. Jack says Christian didn’t have a daughter, but Carole maintains it’s the truth. She says that the strangest thing about the whole mess was that her daughter was on Oceanic 815. “You were in the air for six hours,” Carole says, “probably just a few rows from her, and you never even knew she was your sister.” Jack’s starting to put it together but fighting the knowledge, but Carole takes him to the end anyway: “Her name was Claire.” And oh, the moment when Jack breaks inside is something else: He’s torn between a retroactive terror and regret, and the profundity of the news itself, and also the fact that in order to maintain his cover story he cannot in any way act as if he knew or cared about Claire. He helped the girl, his half-sister, get through her pregnancy, and he has to play dumb. It’s no wonder he cries a little. This is another amazing example of how “Lost” uses its time-jumping structure to reveal things to the viewer and write them in the series’ canon out of chronological order. When Jack and Kate had their big argument at the end of “Something Nice Back Home,” Kate referred to Aaron as her son, to which Jack shouted, “You’re not even related to him!” It was possible to infer that Jack was really saying, “You’re not related to him, but I am,” but that’s not the case, even though he knew at that point in the story’s chronology that he was related to Aaron. The line was deliberately vague to cast doubt on how much Jack knew and when he might have learned it, which is exactly what the producers wanted. Jack officially learns at his father’s funeral that he’s related to Claire and Aaron, an event that takes place earlier chronologically than most of the other flashforwards but is revealed to the viewer much later. He’s known for some time, but only now do we know he’s known. I love that.

Back on the boat, Jin and Sun have quite a few questions for Michael. Sun asks how Michael got back to New York, and Michael mumbles that he and Walt followed Ben’s bearing to another island where they sold the boat and hopped a ferry back to the States. Michael also pissily contends that he’s not working for Ben but is just trying to atone for what he’s done. He tells Sun to translate for Jin, but Jin says quietly, “I understand.” Desmond interrupts with a shout for Michael to follow him below deck, and all three of them follow Desmond down to a room packed with way too much C4 for anyone to reasonably use. Hans Gruber didn’t bring this much C4 to Nakatomi Plaza. This is presumably the source of the RF disturbance, and it seems likely the trigger is connected to the device on Keamy’s massive forearm as a failsafe. Jin orders Sun out of the room, and she takes the baby and heads out. It’s a nice gesture, but seriously, it doesn’t matter where she is on the boat if that stuff explodes; she’s a goner no matter what.

In the jungle, Kate is using her trusty tracking skills to lead Sayid after Jack and Sawyer when she realizes that some of the tracks are (a) different, (b) freshly made, and most importantly (c) doubling back behind them. She and Sayid draw their guns, and Sayid goes all out and yells that whoever’s nearby should come out now. Right on cue, the ageless Richard Alpert walks out of the jungle, politely but firmly telling Kate and Sayid to lower their weapons. (In a quirk of the series’ format, Alpert hasn’t played a visible role on the island since last season, but that’s only like nine days ago in the main timeline.) Sayid threatens to shoot if he takes another step, but at that point a host of armed Others appear and point their weapons at Sayid and Kate, who surrender their weapons.

Out at the Orchid, Locke says he just sees two guards, but not the one who killed Alex, a reference to Keamy. Ben tells John to hang on to his collapsible ass-kicking stick before giving John a detailed set of directions about how to get into the compound and take an elevator down to the actual Orchid station. Hurley and Locke want to know what the hell Ben is gonna do about the armed guards, but Ben looks at John like he’s a complete dolt and says, “How many times do I have to tell you, John? I always have a plan.” Ben can be irritating, but I’ve got to side with him on this one. This guy is always prepared. He has fake passports and tons of cash and knows how to summon the smoke monster. Plus, who knows, maybe he can teleport. He’s set.

The episode ends in a way that perfectly sets the stage for the missions and battles to be fought in the rest of the finale: Ben walks into the Orchid area, while Sun takes Aaron topside on the Kahana. Composer Michael Giachhino’s score is forboding here, but mixed in with the rest of the piece are violins quietly sliding through the same melody used notably in so many other similar situations, including the scene in the first season’s “Exodus” when everyone boards the plane at the end. Jack and Sawyer march away from the chopper to find Hurley, while Alpert leads Kate and Sayid in a long column of Others through the jungle to an unknown destination. Back at the Orchid, Ben enters the ruined area that marks the entrance to the Orchid, hands raised, and encounters Keamy and the other soldiers. “My name is Benjamin Linus. I believe you’re looking for me,” he says. Keamy pulls out a pistol and plants the muzzle against Ben’s forehead, which doesn’t faze him at all, but instead of shooting, Keamy hauls off and whips him on the forehead, as the screen goes black.

The entire episode was good, but even as heavily serialized as “Lost” is, two-parters like this one only function as a unit. Still, this installment did what it needed to do by setting the stage for the showdown with the freighter people that’s been building since last year’s finale. There’s no telling what will happen next, but it’s bound to be big.

(Scheduling note: The second part of “There’s No Place Like Home” will be two hours long and air May 29. The finale had an hour tacked onto it to make up for time lost during the WGA strike, and the 2009 and 2010 seasons are getting an extra hour, as well. Basically, the show will be allowed to go out with the number of episodes stipulated in a deal between ABC and the “Lost” producers last year.)

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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