Say this for “Lost”: They really know how to bring the heat as the season — or in this case, entire series — winds down. Part of this is because the show’s final three seasons feel much better plotted than the first three (well, mainly the second), a result of the show having a set end date that allowed it to begin to fold back on itself halfway through its run, like a ball tossed into the air that reaches a peak, pauses, and begins a rapid descent. This week’s “The Candidate” was a quickly paced episode with tons of action and, as often happens on “Lost” at this point in the season, a high body count. Four main characters died — well, three, plus a very likely death, I guess — which is a pretty big deal even for the inhabitants of Craphole Island. The story really worked, too, pushing us that much closer to the finale. (By the way, that May 23 finale has gained half an hour, meaning it will be two and a half hours long.)
The Los Angeles Timeline
The episode opens with Locke waking up in the hospital after his surgery to see Jack standing over him, who explains about the driver who ran Locke down. He says Locke’s dural sac was ruptured (a shout-out to Jack’s story from the pilot episode, among other instances), but that things are fine and that he thinks Locke is “a candidate.” I really wish writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Jim Galasso had dialed it back just a bit with the details of making the subtext text, as if the juxtaposed stories of Jack striving to heal Locke and the fake Locke striving to kill Jack, both fearing the other’s “candidate” nature, was somehow not enough. Anyway, Locke says no to the experimental surgery Jack’s offering, at which point Helen comes in, hugs him, and gives Jack a kiss for saving Locke’s life.
Later, Jack heads to a dentist he learns has treated Locke to get Locke’s patient file. The dentist turns out to be Bernard, and I was grateful that there wasn’t a pointlessly ominous music cue to accompany this revelation. It was just allowed to be what it was, another reunion of the Oceanic people. “I sat across the aisle from you,” Bernard tells him as they make the connection, and it’s a creepy little moment. Bernard won’t give out confidential info but does write down the name Anthony Cooper for Jack, saying he was in the accident with Locke that left Locke paralyzed. Jack’s dialogue with Bernard also makes it clear that the Oceanic flight was only a week before.
Jack tracks down Cooper at a nursing home and is trying to talk his way past the nurse when Helen shows up, and Jack awkwardly confesses he’s there to try and learn more about Locke’s accident to figure out why he won’t try the surgery. Helen escorts him into the common area and wheels out Anthony, who’s a wrinkled old man confined to a wheelchair unable to move or speak. She reveals that it’s Locke’s father, which, yes, no surprise, so it’s not like we’re able to share Jack’s shock or anything.
Jack returns to the hospital to check on Locke, who’s out cold for the moment but mumbling in his sleep. He says “push the button” and “I wish you had believed me”; the first one’s pretty obvious, but for the forgetful, the second phrase was the suicide note he wrote to Jack in the original timeline. Jack steps out to find Claire, who’s tracked him down to ask about their father. Buying an Apollo bar from the machine, Jack listens as Claire shows him a music box that Christian left for her in his will that plays “Catch a Falling Star,” a song often sung or played in scenes involving Claire and her
bye-bye baby; for starters, she asked Aaron’s potential adoptive parents to sing him that song. Jack doesn’t know anything about the box or why Christian would want Claire to have it, but he invites her to stay with him, telling her they’re family, not strangers.
Some time later, Locke is leaving the hospital, being wheeled down the hall by an orderly. He passes Jin, who’s carrying flowers and headed the other way, and pauses briefly but resumes talking shortly thereafter. Jack walks up to say goodbye and then admits to visiting Cooper, which angers and confuses Locke. To answer Jack’s prying questions, Locke says he and his dad were injured in a plane crash when Locke was at the stick, flying a private plane with his new pilot’s license. He’s now overcome with grief and remorse for what he did to Cooper, but Jack tells him that, just like Locke knew Jack needed to move on from Christian’s death, it’s time for Locke to start moving on. Jack hopes Locke will take the surgery and show them both how to let go of the past, but Locke just wheels away. “I wish you believed me,” Jack calls to him, which causes Locke to stop a while before finally leaving.
The Island Timeline
Jack wakes up in the canoe after being knocked out by the shock of the mortar round to find himself on Hydra Island, with Sayid sitting nearby. (In a helpful bit of exposition designed to trim the extras, Sayid said that MIB’s other followers bailed after the attack, leaving just MIB, Sayid, and Jack.) The Man in Black appears and tells them that the rest of the castaways are captured and being held close by, and they need to be rescued so they can leave. Jack says he still doesn’t trust MIB, but MIB says he could kill Jack any time, but since he hasn’t, he’s probably trustworthy. That logic is wildly screwy, but Jack goes with it.
Nearby, Widmore’s crew leads Sawyer et al. to the bear cages, which Sawyer refuses to enter again, even grabbing a gun from the bland white guy who usually accompanies Zoe. Widmore shows up and puts a gun to Kate’s head and orders them into the cages, which he says is for their own good. Inside, Sawyer tells Kate that Widmore probably would’ve shot her since her name was crossed off the cave wall, making her apparently less important. In the other cage, Jin and Sun talk quietly, and she puts his wedding band back on his hand, but it still feels a little too late to drum up more feeling for these two, especially since it took them so long to find each other. Which is a shame, considering what happens later on.
The power goes out, killing the sonic fence, as the smoke monster comes in and starts killing fools like crazy. Jack slips in and frees everyone, leading them into the jungle and toward the plane. At some point during the commercial break, dawn happens, so by the time Jack and the rest are closing in on the plane, it’s daytime. Jack tells Kate he’s “not meant to go” but that he’ll lead them to the Ajira plane and help them leave. Sayid shows up to tell them that Locke’s waiting for them; they still refer to him as Locke, likely because it’s easier than trying to name whatever it is pretending to be Locke.
Meanwhile, the Man in Black gets to the Ajira plane, murders the guards, and pulls the wristwatch off one of the men. He heads inside only to find wires running along the fuselage into an overhead cabin, where he discovers a bomb. He heads outside to find everyone else and shows them the C4 he just pulled off the Ajira plane, telling them that Widmore’s guards were just for show and that Widmore wanted them to get to the plane so that he could blow it up. For this reason, MIB says they now have to take the sub. (Why they can’t just take off now that the C4 is gone, or at least work around it, is not for me to say.) Hurley pipes up with a remembered warning from Richard that MIB isn’t supposed to leave the island, but Sawyer says to hell with that, so they all head off for the sub. As they walk, Sawyer whispers to Jack that he’s going to make a run for it on the sub and asks Jack to deal with MIB as a diversion when the time comes.
They all arrive at the dock, and it almost feels like old times to see them lined up again: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Jin, Sun, Claire, Frank the new guy, and the corporeal evil masquerading as murdered John Locke. The rest of the episode is a major action set piece, and it begins with Sawyer leading the charge down to the sub with Frank as his sidekick and Jin and Sun providing cover. He and Frank surprise the guard below and fight their way to the bridge, and as Frank starts up the engine, Kate and the others start moving down. MIB tells Jack he’s still free to come, and that whoever told him he needed to stay was wrong. Jack wheels on him and says, “John Locke told me I needed to stay,” then buts him in the chest with his rifle, sending MIB into the water. (I think he and Sawyer assumed that this would incapacitate the Man in Black, since he, like a hoverboard, can’t travel over water without a Pit Bull/jet airliner.) Right as this happens, Kate gets shot by a sniper on shore in the trees behind the dock, and more bullets start to rain as the castaways return fire on the multiple members of Widmore’s team. Jack and Sayid get Kate below deck, and soon everyone’s down there but Claire, dropping bad guys like a boss with her rifle, and the Man in Black, now soaked and crawling onto the pier. Sawyer pops his head up to call for Claire, but MIB spots him and starts running toward him, so he shuts the hatch and heads below. As the sub pulls out, Claire turns to run after it, but the Man in Black catches her and pulls her back, saying, “Trust me, you don’t wanna be on that sub.” This will not go well.
Below, Jack starts to tend to Kate’s wound, noting that the bullet went all the way through her shoulder area, but when he opens his pack to look for medical supplies, he finds the C4 that MIB pulled from the plane, rigged up with the dead guard’s watch, with timer ticking down from just under four minutes. Jack realizes that they all did exactly as the Man in Black wanted them to, having forgotten the important lesson that all warfare is based on deception. The whole thing was a set-up, but it’s still got some twists to unveil. Sayid inspects the bomb and determines that yanking two wires simultaneously will kill it, so Sawyer steps up to do it, but Jack tells him to stop. Jack’s theory is that the bomb won’t go off because MIB set it, and he’s not allowed to kill them on his own. Jack posits that MIB didn’t need them to leave; he needed them dead so he could leave, which meant getting them all together in a small space like the sub and blowing it up. If they wind up killing each other, they’ll be doing the Enemy’s work for him. It’s an interesting theory, and probably right, given Jack’s recent brush with near-death (like with Richard in the Black Rock) and his seeming anointing by Jacob. But Sawyer isn’t buying, so he yanks the wires. It stops the clock for a moment, but then the countdown resumes, going even quicker.
Then things get downright brutal. Sayid, knowing that they can’t all make it, turns to Jack and tells him Desmond’s hidden on the island and that Jack will need Desmond’s help. (It’s no surprise Sayid didn’t kill him — Desmond’s too vital — but the question is what turned him around.) Jack asks why, and Sayid answers, “It’s going to be you, Jack.” And he takes the bomb and runs down the hall, where moments later it explodes, killing him and crippling the sub.
The ensuing flooding and wreckage are disastrous: Frank is knocked down by a steel door that explodes off its hinges, likely winding up dead. (I only say “likely” because Jin survived a boat explosion, but then again, there are only a few eps left, so why wait around to bring back a minor character?) Sun gets pinned behind some wreckage as the waters rise, and Jack grabs a small breathing canister and sends Hurley away with the unconscious Kate. Hurley wants to go back for Sayid, but Jack shouts, “There is not Sayid!” Jack, Sawyer, and Jin wind up pulling the metal hunk away from Sun, but it turns out she’s trapped against the wall in a much more dire twisting of steel. Sawyer gets knocked out, and Jack starts dragging him around; at this point the waters are at neck height. Jin orders Jack to go, and though he refuses at first, Jack eventually yields. The moment where he looks at Jin and knows what’s about to happen but can’t bring himself to say anything is a killer. Jack takes Sawyer and the last breathing canister and heads out through the flooding bulkhead.
Jin struggles to free Sun, but it’s pointless. She tells him to go, but he won’t, telling her in English and Korean that he promised never to leave her again. They profess their love for each other and kiss one last time, and eventually the water overtakes them. The shot of their lifeless hands clasped together, then drifting apart, is downright heartbreaking. I’ve griped plenty about these characters, and their episode a few weeks back remains a weak one, but this is still a tragic end to their story. Yet I couldn’t help but feel I’d have been more moved if it had happened a year earlier. The Jin-Sun arc was just too drawn out, and it became impossible to care about Sun’s plaintive quest after this many close calls. I also think it’s amazing that she didn’t tell Jin to leave so he could take care of the daughter they had talked about like four hours earlier. Ji Yeon is now an orphan because her mom wanted her dad to die with her. Sorry, kid. Better luck in the alternate timeline.
Jack staggers to shore with Sawyer, who’s breathing but unconscious. (It’s also now dark again, for some reason. Are they on Narnia time?) Hurley and Kate come up and collapse as Jack tells them that Jin and Sun didn’t make it. Hurley and Kate both begin to weep, but Hurley’s tears mean more because (a) Kate cries a lot and (b) he had more genuine affection for Sayid and the others than anyone else, and he’s had to deal with a lot of his friends dying. Jack walks off to the water line to shed his own tears, and the look on his face is one of a man who doesn’t know what his next step will be. I also think that, in a way, this was the price the group had to pay to come to trust Jack. Sawyer’s actions, though he couldn’t know it at the time, wound up causing the deaths of three major characters who have been their friends for years, and I’m pretty sure when he wakes up he’ll be willing to follow Jack’s orders.
Back at the dock, the Man in Black looks over the water and then tells Claire that the sub has sunk. She asks if everyone’s dead, but MIB says, “Not all of them.” He grabs his pack and walks away to “finish what [he] started,” and the screen goes black.
And that’s that. Overall, a very strong episode and an appropriately epic, stage-setting one, though I think some parts (no one caring about Ji Yeon, etc.) kept it from being great. Similarly, it was nice to see Sayid sacrifice himself for his friends, but it felt a little anticlimactic after his bizarre resurrection and infection earlier this year. Was he cured of that? Did meeting Desmond do it? Why? Sayid has been a fantastic, layered character for six years, and those can be rare on “Lost,” and I feel like Charlie got a better send-off.
Also: When will we learn whether Jin or Sun was the candidate? Maybe Jacob will pop in and reveal it in the next couple weeks. The remaining living candidates are Jack, Sawyer, and Hurley. Either one of them will have to step up to replace Jacob, or they’ll be able to ditch the concept entirely by defeating MIB once and for all.
I liked the manipulations of the Man in Black in this episode, especially the way it kind of paralleled Miles’ warning at the end of last season that maybe trying to stop an incident is what makes the incident happen. I also think it’s important that he seemed to be able to feel or sense that the sub had sunk but alos that not everyone had died, though whether this is because he’s emotionally attuned to them or because he tried to leave and couldn’t is up in the air. (Though I guess that would mean he could fly away across the water once they’re all dead, which doesn’t seem to be the case, so maybe he can just sense their presences.) The L.A. timeline stuff was interesting, as well, though mainly for the little moments where the Oceanic passengers started to sense something was wrong with their universe. Locke was briefly startled to see Jin, but the way he stopped cold when he heard Jack say “I wish you believed me” has to mean he’s seeing through to the other side.
Seriously, though: What was up with Walt? I know some mysteries will be left just that, but I want this one answered.