[The season finale of “Lost” was a two-part episode aired in one stretch on ABC, so for the sake of slightly easier reading, the recap has been broken accordingly into two halves.]
“The Incident,” the two-part finale of the fifth and penultimate season of “Lost,” was a wonderful episode, full of strong character moments, solid action, major revelations, and an appropriate feeling of rounding third and heading for home. The season ended on another killer cliffhanger — I don’t know what I’m going to do for eight months — but for maybe the first time, it was a season-closer that focused more on motivations and answers than setting up new mysteries. There are only, what, 17 more hours of the show before everything goes dark for the last time, and as such, the series’ story lines are beginning to home in on a final destination. Still, the episode offered up amazing new mysteries, colored in backstories in a fresh way, and set the stage for what will be a riveting final season. All in all, it was just damn good television.
The episode — written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by Jack Bender — opens with a very important sequence in the past, and it’s a pretty long time ago: A blond man in a white tunic is working a spinning wheel and weaving the thread into a tapestry hanging on the wall. The room he’s in is old and stone-walled, with a small fire pit at its center. The design includes Greek letters that spell the phrase “May the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires,” from Homer’s Odyssey. The man walks outside to retrieve a homemade cone to catch fish from the ocean; he’s on the island. He grills up the fish and reclines against a rock to see a sailing ship not far from shore, and it’s pretty obvious the ship is the Black Rock. He’s then approached by a man with graying hair in a dark tunic, and they exchange stiff pleasantries. The older man says he’s there because of the ship, then infers that the younger man was the one who brought them to the island to prove the older man wrong. “They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” the older one says. “It always ends the same.” The younger one replies, “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.” The men exchange a cold, dull look, and the older one asks, “Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?” The younger one says he does, and the older man says that he’ll eventually succeed in finding a “loophole.” As he stands to leave, the older man delivers the episode’s first killer reveal when he says, “Nice talking to you, Jacob.” Jacob returns the false compliment, though he doesn’t address his companion by name. As the older man walks away, the camera pulls back and tilts up to reveal the four-toed statue in all its glory, closer than we’ve ever seen. Now that the profile can be seen, showing the head of a crocodile, it’s clear the statue is definitely of Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth.
Flashback: A childhood Kate is with her friend, Tom Brennan — recognizable from his toy plane — in the parking lot of a convenience store on Iowa. She enlists him as a lookout, and they enter the store so she can steal a New Kids on the Block lunchbox. (Kate, like all girls of that era, was a sucker for rat-tails.) She almost gets away with it, but she’s stopped by the store owner, who snatches her bag and tells her to wait while he calls her parents and the cops. But before anyone can be called, Jacob appears, looking just as young as he did in the 1800s, and offers to pay the owner for the lunchbox. The owner totally caves and says that as long as it’s paid for, there’s no harm done, but that’s just the kind of willy-nilly flip-flopping that led to the thievery in the first place. Jacob passes Kate the lunchbox and leans down to have a friendly chat with her, and he seems warm and unassuming even though there’s an underlying air of calculation. He asks her if she’s going to steal again, and she shakes her head no. He gives her a playful boop on the nose, tells her to be good, and walks away. It’s an interesting scene because the lunch box would go on to become the time capsule Kate and Tom buried, but also because of how Kate and Jacob interacted: He physically touched her, and when he asked her a question about her actions, she lied. She would steal again. (Like when she stole Jack’s heart! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
In 1977, Kate, Juliet, and Sawyer are still cuffed in the submarine as it prepares to head for the mainland. Kate tells Sawyer she got caught coming back to get him to help her stop Jack from blowing up a hydrogen bomb. Sawyer asks why Jack would want to do that, and Kate asks, “Does it matter?” Yes, Kate, you nutbag, it does. Kate says they have to break out and get back and stop him, but Sawyer tells her he was happy before the Oceanic Six showed back up, and now he just wants to drink the sedative, ride out the sub trip, and see what happens in the real world. “If Jack wants blow up the island,” he says, “then good for Jack.”
Back in the tunnels, Jack, Richard, and Eloise are shuffling their feet next to the bomb while Sayid flips through Daniel’s journal and realizes they don’t have to move Jughead in its entirety, just the plutonium core. Daniel even left instructions. Sayid gets set to start dismantling the bomb, but Richard tells him to wait, asking Eloise if a pregnant woman should really expose herself to potentially deadly radiation levels. (So she has indeed already conceived the man she just killed.) Sayid tells them that once they get the core out, they’ll only have about two hours until the incident Daniel predicted. This is a pleasingly tight turn of events for many reasons: It sets a timetable for the episode, which heightens the tension, but also once more plays out as so many of the episodes have in this season, covering no more than a couple hours per installment. The two-hour timeline means the 1977 events will play out in something approximating real time, too.
Over at the Swan site, Radzinsky douchily pulls up in a blue van and douches, “Who stopped the damn drill?” Dr. Chang, standing by the equipment, says, “I did,” adding that the drill went past 70 meters and experienced a 60-degree temperature spike. Radzinsky douchily rolls his eyes and douches that they’ve got a hose and water at the ready to keep the drill cool. Chang, not unreasonably, points out that they’ve just evacuated the island of nonessential personnel and are in the middle of an insurrection, so it might be prudent to delay construction. But Radzinsky doesn’t want to hear it, whining that he’s been working for six years on designing a station that can manipulate electromagnetism in new ways. “I came to this island to change the world Pierre,” he says. “That’s exactly what I intend to do.” He steps past Chang and slams the button on the side of the drill, causing the machinery to rumble to life.
In 2007 — I used to think it was 2008 because that’s when Ajira 316 took off, but a a clip show in April set these events in 2007; my apologies — Locke is leading Ben, Richard, Sun, and a group of Others on a cross-island pilgrimage to see Jacob. Sun asks Ben who Jacob is, and he explains that Jacob is “in charge of this island.” She’s confused, saying she thought Ben had told her Locke was running the show, but Ben says that Locke is the leader — “a title that I’ve discovered is incredibly temporary” — and that the leader always answers to Jacob. Sun asks what he’s like, and Ben replies with a wonderfully tired, forced tone, as if he’s growing weary of acting against his will: “I don’t know, Sun, I’ve never met him.” Meanwhile, Richard tells Locke that Ben had said he’d strangled Locke to death, and he wants to know how Locke is alive. Locke replies that Richard’s been around a lot longer and would know better than Locke how it happened, but Richard isn’t biting. “I’ve seen things on this island that I can barely describe,” Richard says, “but I have never seen someone come back to life.” Locke says he’d never seen anyone that didn’t age, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Richard says he’s the way he is because of Jacob, and guesses that Jacob is also the reason Locke isn’t in his coffin. “I agree with you completely,” Locke says, adding that that’s why he wants to thank Jacob for what he’s done. He goes on to say that once he’s done that, he and Richard will need to “deal with” the rest of the passengers from Ajira 316, and when Richard asks for clarification, Locke curtly says, “You know what I mean.” With that, he shoulders his pack and summons the group to get moving again.
Meanwhile, Ilana, Bram, and a couple others are piloting an outrigger back to the main island, carrying the giant silver cargo crate and an unconscious Frank Lapidus, whose shirt is still open to reveal a swath of silver shag to make Burt Reynolds jealous. They reach the shore and start unpacking, and Bram pissily asks why they even brought Frank in the first place. Ilana says they might need him, even though he didn’t know the answer to the question. “What, you think he’s a candidate?” Bram asks. Instead of responding, Ilana looks down at Frank and realizes he’s awake. Bram roughly drags Frank out of the boat and passes him a canteen, then helps the others get the crate to shore. Frank asks Ilana what’s in the box, and when Bram says that it’s her call whether to reveal it to Frank, she tells the other men to open the lid. They pop the top as Frank walks over, and he’s stunned by what’s inside. “Terrific,” he growls. Cuse and Lindelof don’t reveal what’s in there just yet — they need a narrative hook to push the episode along — but if it was on the plane, and disturbing enough to make Frank worry, there aren’t too many things it could be.
Flashback: A casket is carried by a line of mourners outside a church and loaded into a hearse as a young boy watches. Later, the boy sits on the steps of the church and tries to write in a notebook when his pen dries up. Jacob appears and offers him a new pen, saying the boy can keep it. He lets his hand linger a moment as he passes the pen, touching his hand to the boy’s, then says, “I’m very sorry about your mother and father, James.” And then he walks off. Taking the new pen, the young James Ford returns to writing the letter of revenge to Anthony Cooper, Locke’s father, that will drive his life for decades. His uncle Doug approaches and tells him they have to go to the cemetery, then asks to see what he’s writing. Examining the note, Doug tells James that his parents are gone, and there’s nothing he can do to change it. It’s unbelievably harsh and not at all what a kid would need to hear, but it’s being done out of purported narrative necessity, since the “What’s done is done” philosophy will affect everything from Sawyer’s reluctance to reach out for Kate when he sees her while skipping through time to his resignation to a larger fate once the incident approaches. Doug makes James promise not to finish the letter, and James says he won’t, and they head off. Again, Jacob made a specific effort to touch James, and the boy lied about what he would do with his life.
In 1977, Sawyer is getting his head around Kate’s explanation of Jack’s plan to nuke the Swan and “reset” everything. Sawyer says he’s sticking with his decision to leave. Mitch enters with a tray of sedatives, but when he approaches, Juliet grabs his head and slams it on the table, knocking him out cold. She pulls the gun and keys from his belt and undoes her cuffs, telling Sawyer that they’d decided together to leave the island, and now they’re going back. Moments later, they head to the bridge and hold the captain at gunpoint, removing his weapon. Sawyer tells him to surface the sub, and Juliet drives her gun into his throat to make her point. She tells him to proceed on course once he lets them go, and Sawyer shoots out the radio to keep him from talking to Horace later or vice versa. Turning back to the instruments, the captain begins to take the sub up to the surface.
Down in the tunnels, Jack grabs a knapsack from the supplies while Sayid extracts Jughead’s plutonium core. Richard checks the tools available and selects a sledgehammer, then saunters over to have a chat with Jack. He says that more than 20 years earlier, he was visited on the island by a man named John Locke who said he would one day lead the Others. Richard’s left the island three times to visit Locke, but the boy has never shown any special ability or aptitude. Jack, who hasn’t been able to hide the fact that he recognized the name, admits to knowing Locke, adding, “If I were you, I wouldn’t give up on him.”
Back in 2007, as the Others continue their march, Locke sidles up to Ben and asks why he hasn’t filled Richard in on Locke’s plan to kill Jacob. “I assumed you’d want to keep that a secret,” Ben says. Locke, grinning like a bastard, says, “When did that ever stop you?” Ben says he had a change of heart when Alex visited him after he saw the monster and told him to follow Locke’s every word. Locke turns to Ben and asks him again if he’ll really do whatever Locke says, and Ben — by now beyond humiliation — grits his teeth and says, “Yes.” Locke says that’s good news, since now Ben won’t need any additional convincing. Confused, Ben asks what he means, and Locke says, “I’m not gonna kill Jacob, Ben. You are.”
Flashback: Sayid and Nadia are in Los Angeles, talking about how they want to celebrate their anniversary. They come to a crosswalk and move onto the street, but Sayid is stopped by Jacob, who’s on the sidewalk. He’s holding a map and asks for help, placing his hand on Sayid’s shoulder as he asks for directions. Just then, Nadia stops in the crosswalk and turns back to Sayid, holding up the pair of sunglasses she’d been looking for, when she’s suddenly plowed over by an SUV. It’s a tragic, dramatic moment that gets to the heart of Sayid’s future pain, but I still laughed. The car comes out of nowhere! And she should have known better than to stand in the street like that. Sayid runs to her as the car speeds away, and she looks up at him sadly, whispering in Arabic, “Take me home. Take me home.” The set-up seems too coincidental for Jacob not to be involved in the hit and run, but for what purpose?
In 1977, Sayid wraps the plutonium core and secures it in the backpack and tells everyone to move out. Carrying a lantern and sledgehammer — you know, just stuff a dude needs — Richard leads them out into the tunnels, eventually stopping at a wall he tests by knocking. Telling the rest to stand back, he swings the sledge a few times, breaking through the stone to reveal the basement of a house in the Barracks. (Is this the house Ben will live in later, or did the Others eventually connect multiple houses to the Tunnels?) Jack volunteers to go first, but Eloise asserts her leadership and says she’ll take point and the others can follow. She steps past Richard and tells Sayid to wait for her signal, but before she can go in, Richard cracks her head with the butt of his gun and catches her unconscious body before it hits the ground. Jack asks what he’s doing, but Richard says, “I’m protecting our leader,” then raises the pistol to keep Jack at bay. So apparently Eloise was once the leader of the Hostiles. “She ordered me to help you; we helped you; now you’re on your own,” Richard says. This is another smart narrative move that also makes sense for the story, since keeping Eloise and Richard out of the rest of the 1977 arc will keep it less cluttered, but it’s also reasonable that Richard would do this and force Jack and Sayid to go forward alone.
Heading upstairs, Jack and Sayid find a deserted house. The alarms are still blaring, and outside, DHARMA people are running around like mad trying to organize the evacuation. Sayid spots a jumpsuit hanging near the door — it’s Horace’s — and says their best bet is to hide in plain sight and move through the Barracks as quickly and quietly as possible. They head out, passing security guards and armed men along the way, including Phil, who’s busy issuing orders. They make it to a more open area and are almost away clean when Roger Linus spots them and shouts, raising his rifle. He identifies Sayid as the one who shot young Ben, and Sayid tells him not to fire because he’s got a bomb, but Roger doesn’t care a bit about the massive detonation. He shoots Sayid (!!!) in the gut (!!!!!7!!), and Jack returns fire as Roger runs off. All hell pretty much breaks loose as Jack gets into a firefight while picking up Sayid and attempting to help him walk to cover, eventually collapsing against the rear of a house. Jack drops a few more DHARMA guys as a blue van comes speeding toward him, and he fires a couple times at that, as well. But it pulls up and the door slides open to reveal Jin, Miles, and Hurley at the wheel. Jack smiles like this is the most fun day of summer camp evar as he drags Sayid into the van, then shouts at Hurley to drive them out of there. Hurley peels out and heads into the jungle, the rear window blowing out from gunfire.
Meanwhile, Juliet, Sawyer, and Kate are paddling a life raft toward the shore as the sub goes back below the water. Sawyer and Kate have a slightly flirty moment where they bicker about which side of the island they’re approaching, as Juliet forlornly watches the sub disappear. Once they hit land, Kate thanks Juliet for backing up her escape plan on the sub, which doesn’t exactly thrill Juliet, but she takes it in stride. Sawyer admits he doesn’t know where they are, and then Vincent the dog runs out of the jungle toward them, barking happily. I had a fleeting moment of panic that they’d entered yet another time period, since it takes precise vector calculation to leave and return to the island, and maybe the sub had surfaced at the wrong moment and their return trip put them in 2004-2005, but nope. Sawyer asks Vincent where he’s been since the flaming arrow attack three years earlier, but he gets his answer a moment later when, at long last, Rose and Bernard finally reappear. Rose is standing there holding Vincent’s rope leash, and she calls for Bernard, who comes scampering over the small hill and down to the beach, brandishing a tall walking stick and sporting an awesome beard that’s somewhere between grizzled and Brillo bush. “They found us,” Rose says with an air of defeat. Bernard just shakes his head and chimes in with, “Son of a bitch.”
Out in the jungle, the van is still tearing like hell down a dirt path, and it’s a great, tense, frenetic scene. Jack examines Sayid’s wound as he lies on the floor of the van, while Hurley and Miles shout at each other about everything. Jack tells Hurley to head to the Swan construction site if he wants to save Sayid’s life; he even tells Jin that if they go there, he can probably get Jin back to his wife.
Not far away, Rose and Bernard are leading Juliet, Kate, and Sawyer through the trees, explaining that they’ve been living happily on their own for the past three years. Sawyer asks if they heard his cry during the attack to meet at the creek, and Bernard shoots back, “While flaming arrows rained down around us, killing everyone we knew? Oh sure, we heard you.” Bernard became a man in his three years in the woods, I guess. Rose and Bernard say they knew Sawyer had sent Jin looking for them after he joined DHARMA, but they stayed hidden because they’re retired and didn’t want to deal with it. Showing off the hut they’ve built, Bernard says people try their whole lives to get a vacation home near the ocean, so they’re happy. Even the news that Jack has a bomb doesn’t faze them; “It’s always something with you people,” Rose says. It’s a funny little moment that punctures the drama, albeit briefly, letting the main characters know that there are other worlds than the one they’re wrapped up in. And yet, Rose and Bernard are acting pretty dumb, too. Threatened with imminent death by H-bomb, Bernard says, “So we die. We just care about being together.” You know what’s a good way to stay together, Bernie? BEING ALIVE. He might as well have said, “My wife and I have achieved simple bliss and discovered a deeper love than we ever knew possible. Shoot us in the head.” Makes no sense. But the point of the exchange is actually to let Juliet smile and look at Sawyer, and see that he’s casting a sidelong glance at Kate. Juliet’s sad realization that he really does still care for Kate is a killer. Rose points the way to the Barracks, and Sawyer and Kate take their leave, but Bernard offers Juliet some tea before she leaves. There are light tears in her eyes, and Bernard sees she’s upset about something big, but she just tells him, “Maybe another time.” Then she leaves. When she spoke, her hand trailed to her stomach, though whether it was out of heartbreak or something else — something that rhymes with blegnant — remains to be seen.
Up in 2007, Ilana and Bram are leading their crew plus Frank through the jungle. Frank tells Bram he wishes he’d never seen what was in the trunk, and Bram says they have to show it to “somebody” so that person can “know what they’re up against,” and further that it’s a “hell of a lot scarier than what’s in this box.” The writers are being purposely vague about the contents of the crate, and it’s fun. Bram reassures Frank that he and Ilana are “the good guys,” but Frank says, “In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you they’re the good guys are the bad guys.” It’s a cute enough line, but misleading: The real meat of the series has been that there are no good guys or bad guys, just a bunch of people acting in their own self-interest. Everyone would say they’re the good guys. No one really is. Ilana calls a halt as they reach their destination: Jacob’s Teleportational Ghost Cabin, sitting in the woods, encircled by a line of ash, and even creepy in the broad daylight. Bram shows Ilana a place in the circle where the ash is broken, showing maybe a foot of earth before the circle continues again. She tells them to wait, steps over the line, and gingerly approaches the house.
Flashback: A dingy hospital somewhere. Ilana is in a bed, her face bandaged except for her mouth and right eye. A nurse approaches and speaks what sounds like Russian, giving Ilana a drink through a straw and telling her she has a visitor, her first. The nurse leaves as Jacob appears, drawing up a chair and also speaking Russian, telling Ilana he’s sorry he didn’t come sooner. She responds in the same language that she’s happy to see him, though she looks more beaten and worried than anything. Switching to English, Jacob says, “I’m here because I need your help. Can you do that?” She nods and says yes, but she doesn’t look jazzed about it.
Back up in 2007, Ilana enters the rotted out cabin, which looks even dirtier than before: Torn curtains, leaves everywhere, broken wood. The framed painting of the dog sits on its side, leaning against the wall. Ilana spots a long knife — the same one Jacob used to cut and clean his fish at the beginning of the episode — stuck into a wall, holding a scrap of cloth. Taking it down, she exits the cabin, telling Bram that “he isn’t there,” he’s been gone for a while, and “someone else” has been using the house. She orders the others to torch the cabin, ignoring Frank’s reasonable question about whether the fire might wind up, you know, sweeping through the jungle. As the flames begin to grow, Ilana hands Bram the cloth from inside the cabin, which depicts the giant statue on the island’s shore. “I guess we know where we’re going,” he says. He and the other men grab the crate by its bamboo handles and set off once more.
Flashback: Jacob is sitting on a bench in front of what looks like a large office building, reading Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge, a collection of short stories. There’s the sound of breaking glass, and then a man falls to earth a few yards behind Jacob. As people rush over and shout for help, Jacob calmly inserts his bookmark and walks over to the man, who is (naturally) John Locke, just pushed out a window by his abusive father. Jacob touches Locke’s shoulder, rousing the man to consciousness (bringing him back to life?), then tells him not to worry and that everything will be okay. “I’m sorry this happened to you,” Jacob says, the same sentiment he’s been peddling in one form or another to everyone he’s visited. Locke watches him walk away.
In 2007, Locke is at the head of the group when they reach the old beach camp first built by the survivors of Oceanic 815. Locke tells everyone they’ll be at Jacob’s by nightfall, so they should take this time to rest up. “Considering what I have planned for you, you’re gonna need it.” No one seems to think this is weird or even a little ominous, but that’s probably because they’re Others and have seen and done some weird stuff. Locke walks over to Ben, who’s sitting watching the water, and asks how things are going. “I was enjoying some alone time,” he says. It’s a funny line, but also another reminder of how much has changed since Ben first appeared as Henry Gale. He used to be in control of everything; now he’s a defeated pawn for John Locke. Locke even points to the ruined door to the Swan station behind them, talking about how they first met in the hatch. Locke wants to know if he can ask Ben something, but Ben fires back, “I’m a Pisces.” This guy is on point! Two for two inside a minute! Undeterred, Locke asks what happened when Ben first took him to meet Jacob. Ben swallows his pride for the thousandth time and says he knows Locke is already aware Ben was talking to an empty chair, pretending someone was there. But he adds he was just as surprised as Locke was “when things started flying around the room.” Ben says he made it up because he was embarrassed about never having seen Jacob, and he didn’t want Locke to know. “So yes, I lied,” Ben says. “That’s what I do.” Frustrated and tired, Ben asks Locke why he has to be the one to kill Jacob, and Locke lays it out for him: Ben spent years serving the island and still got cancer; he witnessed his own daughter’s murder; as a reward for his sacrifice, he was banished; and he did it all in the name of a man he’d never seen. “So the question is, Ben, why the hell wouldn’t you want to kill Jacob?” With that, Locke walks away, but it’s clear his words had the desired effect on Ben, whose anguish is hardening into resolve. This is also an important exchange because it does more to highlight the changes in Locke than any other, the changes he’s clearly been demonstrating since he led Ben to visit the monster. Locke was the man of faith to Jack’s man of science, but he’s now asking Ben to question his faith and reassess his ideas about morality, servitude, and desire; in other words, he’s pushing Ben into some thorny theodicy issues he’d previously ignored or countered. A little ways down the beach, Sun walks through the wrecked camp and finds the small crib Locke built for Claire in the first season, and Charlie’s Drive Shaft ring is still caught in the folds of the blanket. (Poor guy.)
Flashback: Sun and Jin are getting married. They exchange heartfelt vows — he had to write his down out of nervousness — and he tells her they’ll never be apart. Later on, standing in the receiving line, Jacob walks up to wish them well. He places a hand on each of their shoulders and tells them their love is a special thing, and that they should never take it for granted. He gives a small bow and walks away, and though Jin and Sun both say they didn’t know him, Jin admits that “his Korean is excellent.”
Back in 1977, Hurley is still driving hell for leather through the woods, telling Jack they’re only five minutes from the Swan site. Sayid looks up at him with a doomed grin, saying, “You can’t stop the bleeding.” Jin hands Jack fresh dressings for Sayid’s wound, while Miles wants to know what exactly the point is of blowing up the station. Sayid says he can rig the bomb to detonate on impact, but they’ll need to be there at the moment of the incident “or all this will be for nothing.” Just then, Hurley slams on the brakes, and Jack asks, “Why the hell are we stopping?” Hurley points and says, “That’s why.” Rising up, Jack looks out to see Juliet, Sawyer, and Kate standing in the road, armed. As is so often the case, the survival of the survivors is going to come down to a Jack vs. Sawyer grudge match.
And that’s Part 1. It’s a solid installment and wonderful set-up for the second half, wherein major answers are given and greater mysteries revealed. I’ll save any major theorizing for that recap; for now, know that, if nothing else, Ben Linus is not one to be ignored or manipulated.