Getting Lost: What They Died For

It’s time for another installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the salient questions from last night’s episode of Lost:

Wait, is this a Redux post or a real one? It’s the real thing baby!

Good. It’s too early to start reminiscing anyway. Well, I don’t know about that, but there are definitely pressing matters to discuss from “What They Died For.”

Yeah, like: What do you get when you burn ashes? Obvs you get slightly smaller ashes.

More substantively, the final episode before the finale didn’t waste any time getting to the issue. We’re back with the traditional characters…or what’s left of them. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley—the Core Four—are left on the beach after the events of “The Candidate,” and they’re understandably distraught. In a nice callback to the pilot, Jack stitches up Kate’s gunshot wound with a needle and thread (the thread torn from his own clothing) as she winces—more, it seems, from the emotional pain of losing Sayid, Jin, and Sun than the physical pain. Jack and Kate agree that they have to kill Locke 2.0, but first Jack says they need to find Desmond, as Sayid told them to.

Why do they need to get Desmond? For one, it’s just impolite to leave someone at the bottom of a well. In this case, though, it’s also because Desmond is a “failsafe.” We learn from Charles Widmore that he was brought to the Island as the only one who could withstand an electromagnetic event, as he did back in Season Two. Now, what this exactly means is unclear, but the implications are important—presumably it has something to do with The Light.

As Locke 2.0 announces at the end of the episode, Desmond is going to help him “destroy the Island.” It seems as if what Jacob did to the Man in Black back in “Across the Sea” made it so that the Smoke Monster can’t leave without destroying the Island, and destroying the Island means destroying the Light. As we also saw in last week’s episode, though, the Man in Black has an awfully difficult time finding the Light. This is probably where Desmond comes in.

Speaking of Desmond, why wasn’t he in the well? It’s conceivable that the Core Four got the well before Locke 2.0 got there, but I think they would have shown that. My best guess is that Sayid left the rope for Desmond, and that Desmond is waiting nearby for his friends to show up.

Pretty shrewd. Kind of like his Sideways self. Sideways Desmond has done a remarkable job of wrangling together all Oceanic passengers,* though some of that is certainly due to the limitless funding provided by Sideways Hurley, who evidently joined him after the events of “Everybody Loves Hugo.” First, he called Jack while pretending to be an Oceanic employee, telling him that the airline had discovered Christian Shephard’s coffin. We didn’t get to see exactly where that went, but he’s clearly got a plan. After beating the hell out of Dr. Linus, Desmond turned himself in to the police, conveniently getting put in a cell with Sayid, and adjacent to Kate. While transporting all three prisoners, though, Desmond has a dirty cop—Ana Lucia!—drop them off. His plan, for some reason, is to take them to a concert.

*Something to consider, but which probably won’t be addressed, is that Sideways Desmond’s job is a actually much harder than it first appears, since he presumably has to gather not only the 40 or so survivors of the crash, but EVERYONE on the flight’s manifest, since he doesn’t really know who is important.

Of course, this concert is also (in all likelihood) the one we know Miles is attending (with Charlotte), to which Sawyer has been invited, and which Jack’s son is performing in. Jack, presumably, will bring along Claire. He could even bring along Locke, who showed up at his office, now ready to go under Jack’s knife.

Wasn’t it weird to see Locke finally come around to Jack’s way of thinking, instead of the other way around? Like the opening scene of Jack stitching Kate, I thought this was a nice allusion to their normal dynamic. In some ways, it was inverted, with Locke the recovering skeptic, but it was also very familiar: Jack stared at Locke with a usual look of incredulity, and accused Locke of “mistaking coincidence for fate.” It was simple and straightforward, but very fitting at this stage of the game.

It was at least nice to get the old Locke back. Yes it was, especially as his current on-Island incarnation was causing continued mayhem. After watching the sub sink, he heads to the barracks to find Ben. Ben has gone there with Richard and Miles to find C4 to blow up Widmore’s plane. When they get there, though, Widmore arrives* and tells them he’s had that plane rigged with explosives since they got there. When Locke 2.0 arrives, Widmore and Zoe hide in Ben’s closet as Richard and Ben go out to talk to him.

*The explanation that Jacob convinced Widmore of the error of his ways, if true, was the worst note of this episode for me. Widmore’s role has been unclear from the beginning, and I was hoping that his appearance in this season would shed some light on his previous attempts to destroy the Island. Instead, we basically just have to assume that this Widmore bears no relation to the Widmore we know.

This does not end well. First, the Smoke Monter kills Richard—or at least flings him so far into the jungle that he probably won’t be waking up soon. Ben, apparently willing to go along with Locke 2.0’s plan, tells him that Widmore and Zoe are inside. He kills Zoe (after Widmore tells her not to talk to him, at which point “she was useless”—there has to be something important in that wording, right?) and threatens to kill Widmore’s daughter unless Widmore tells him Jacob’s plan. As Widmore is whispering it, though, Ben shoots him—“he doesn’t get to save his daughter”—but Locke 2.0 gathers all the appropriate information.

So what’s Ben’s endgame in all this? It’s not really clear. He seemed to have a real conversion back in “Dr. Linus,” as if he were truly sorry for killing Jacob. It’s very odd, then, that he would jump back into bed with Locke 2.0, who led him astray previously.

With that said, Ben knows better than anyone that Jacob is dead, so he perhaps has lost faith in whatever “plan” Jacob has concocted. He also knows that trying to run and hide from the Smoke Monster is futile. Nevertheless, I find it very hard to believe that Ben would go along with Locke 2.0 without an ace up his sleeve (particularly now that Locke 2.0’s stated intentions have gone from “leave the Island” to “destroy the Island”).

Now the important question: What do you get when you burn ashes (besides smaller ashes)? Evidently, when you burn Jacob’s ashes, you lose access to even the ghost of Jacob. Fellow NPIer Tim has a general rule for storytelling: Don’t devalue death. If someone dies, then someone dies, otherwise the stakes are gone.

Well, I’m willing to accept that you need to try extra hard to eradicate Jacob since A) it doesn’t seem like there was any chance of saving Jacob (he even admitted last night that it was only a matter of time before the Man in Black finally killed him) once he was killed, and B) it’s been clearly established that Jacob has some mystical powers as the protector of the Island, so the ability to appear as a ghost is conceivable. The fact that his ability to appear goes away is actually refreshing—it means death does matter.

Well, why did he go from only appearing to Jacob to appearing to everyone? That part wasn’t really clear, but I’m willing to let it go. It’s pretty important to have the remaining candidates come face to face with Jacob as he explained himself.

As for the explanation scene itself, it was very understated, but still powerful. Having just been through what they’ve been through, it was understandable for Sawyer and Kate to be antagonistic to Jacob, but still resigned. And Jacob’s explanation that they were all candidates because they were “flawed” and that they “didn’t have anybody” did have some resonance after “Across the Sea.” We now see that Jacob wasn’t looking for nobility in the candidates, but for people like himself: people who have inferiority complexes, but also an unceasing desire to do good.

How about Jack jumping all over that job? At first glance, it was very odd that Lost would drain all the suspense out of the search for Jacob’s replacement before the finale, but I’m glad they did it. By this point in the series, there’s really no doubt that Jack is the one for the job, having finally come around to the purpose in the Island. This actually gets this out of the way for the big finale on Sunday.

Any other thoughts? This episode did a good job of providing mythology answers in the course of the story. It was confirmed that the kids we’ve seen this season are past versions of Jacob. The concept of a candidate was more completely fleshed out, specifically by the fact that Kate’s name was crossed off when she became a mother. The whole “ash” thing was explained, as well as Widmore’s orders and plans.

Predictions for Sunday’s finale? Why don’t we make this it’s own post? Tune Sunday to see that. Until then, enjoy more of “Getting Lost (Redux)”…

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on May 19, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Thank you for pithily phrasing my stance. (I’m still not sure how I feel about Lost’s treatment of death. We went from having funerals for everyone [Boone, Sharon, Libby, Nikki and Paolo] to having Sayid’s death totally undersold [unless you extend the “If he didn’t die onscreen, he didn’t die…” idea to him, but I think we can all agree that would be a little ridiculous at this point].)

    Reply

    • Posted by John S on May 19, 2010 at 4:14 PM

      I think we should call the death rule the Ivan Drago Rule: “If he dies, he dies.”

      And yeah, I generally agree. I think I mentioned earlier in the season that I was surprised we hadn’t seen more deaths. If they had spaced Sayid and Sun/Jin, and even Lapidus, then the deaths would probably have carried more weight individually.

      Reply

  2. Posted by sd on May 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    My only issue was the “why choose us” explanation. Because you were damaged, because you didn’t have anyone, because you were like me… well guess what, there’s millions of people like that, it still doesn’t explain why these people in particular were picked.

    I think they should have acknowledged the whole fact that season 5 actually happened – remember that? These people show up out of nowhere in 1977 – not to mention existing for short periods at other times on the way – Jacob was sure to notice it back then. It would then stand to reason why Jacob sent Richard to test Locke (and Smokey being in Locke’s body for some of the cross-time interactions explains why that didn’t quite go as Richard expected) why Jacob touched these particular people at various times between 1977 and 2004. “I chose you because you were in 1977; you were in 1977 because you were on Flight 815 when it crashed; you were on the flight because I chose you. That’s simply the hand Fate dealt you.” The explanation feeds on its own tail, like Ouroboros, and could explain psychologically how someone could finally resign himself to take on Jacob’s job.

    Eh, but what do I know? Some viewers probably don’t like thinking too hard about nerdy time-travel stuff; the explanation they gave us goes down a little easier…

    Reply

    • Posted by John S on May 19, 2010 at 4:22 PM

      Yeah, time-travel often invokes those loops that you mention, which is probably why Jacob didn’t invoke 1977 in his “why choose us” explanation. As for the “there’s millions of people like that” explanation: Well, we’ve been led to believe that these are by no means the only people Jacob has tried to recruit. We know, for example, that he’s been bringing people to the Island since at least the Black Rock came (and probably much longer), so there’s every reason to think that Jacob HAS tried this with millions of people. These are just the last four standing.

      This is what comes with Jacob’s insistence that the choice is ultimately with the individual: Jacob may try to bring people to the Island, but at various points along the way, they can refuse: Sawyer could have abandoned his lifelong vendetta against the man who killed his parents, Kate could have answered for her crime, Hurley could have accepted his luck, Jack could made peace with his dad, etc. If any of these things had happened, they wouldn’t be on 815. You can point to all of Jacob’s manipulations but, as Sartre said, freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. Ultimately, anyone can refuse Jacob’s offer, and all but one person did.

      Reply

  3. Posted by james Schneider on May 19, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Uh, obvs Desmond and Hugo understood who they were trying to get back. Desmond got all the candidates together on a bus, and denied Ana Lucia the oppurtunity so clearly he wouldn’t be looking for all the passengers.

    Reply

    • Posted by John S on May 20, 2010 at 12:02 AM

      Wrong again, James. Desmond said that Ana Lucia “wasn’t ready yet,” so that means eventually he will have to convince her.

      Reply

  4. […] the biggest loose end still hanging on the show. We know very little about his motivations (even in this week’s episode, we just got a glib statement that Jacob showed him “the error of his ways”). We know […]

    Reply

  5. […] In this week’s episode, when Jacob told the Core Four about his plan, Sawyer asked why they had to answer for his mistakes. They, Sawyer said, were doing just fine. “You were not fine,” Jacob told them, “I chose you because you were like me. You were all alone. You were all looking for something you couldn’t find out there. I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.” This has been a recurring theme of the show: Do the survivors of Oceanic 815 have anything to go home to? […]

    Reply

  6. Posted by Jack NotShepard on May 21, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    I can’t believe that there is no significant discussion of why all 4 could see Jacob. It was clearly strange to Hurley. Have we ever seen someone like MIB take over the form of a dead person on the island before? Did it seem way to simple for Jack to just say “its me” and for Hurley to say “Glad its not Me”. Gee, was Jacob “glad it was him” when Mom gave him the wine. This is not a job one wants, this is a job one GETS. Even if it were Jacob, he is sending Jack to do something else important, but not as his replacement (or at best a temporary replacement untill he gets killed too).

    Reply

  7. […] The episode opens with two new characters, Ilana and Omar, from Ajira 316. Omar is searching the Island for supplies when Ilana tells him that they’ve found someone who apparently wasn’t on the plane—a sharp-dressed man named John Locke. When they ask why he wasn’t on the plane and why he’s wearing a suit, Locke offers a guess: “I think this is the suit they were going to bury me in…I remember dying.” When Locke’s death finally comes, at the end of the episode, we know that eventually Locke will be resurrected, so the stakes are not nearly as high (since Lost has violated the Ivan Drago Rule). […]

    Reply

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