Getting Lost (Redux): There’s No Place Like Home

The Season Four finale opens with the Oceanic Six, as well it should. The Oceanic Six were the story of Lost’s fourth season: Who were they? How did they get off the Island? What happened to them after they left? Why do they want to go back?

The first scene of “There’s No Place Like Home” takes place as the Oceanic Six—Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, and Aaron—are flown in from the remote island they were found on. As Jack reminds them of the agreed upon lie, he tells them not to worry if they can’t answer any questions. “They’ll think we’re in shock,” he tells them. To which Sun replies: “We are in shock.”

Shock is pretty fitting, considering all the on-Island events of the finale, which occur just over a week before the events of the flashforward. Jack and Kate leave the beach, hoping to track down the helicopter, not knowing that the chopper is returning Keamy and his mercenaries to the Island for their “torch the Island” mission. Before they find the chopper, they stumble on Sawyer, Miles, and Aaron, who are looking for Claire after her disappearance. Sawyer tells Jack about the mercenaries who attacked the barracks and warns that they may be at the helicopter, but Jack is undeterred, since the chopper is the only way off the Island. He sends Kate back to the beach with Aaron, but he and Sawyer continue towards the signal Lapidus dropped. Sayid, meanwhile, has fled the freighter with a Zodiac boat, which he hopes to use to escort the survivors off the Island six at a time, before the “torch the Island” mission is finished. He and Kate head after Jack and Sawyer.

All of this meeting up and running off is extra exciting, of course, because the audience is just waiting for the Oceanic Six to end up together—only then, after all, can the “rescue” actually go down. But just a few minutes into the episode Sun is on the beach (with Jin, who doesn’t make it home), Jack is moving towards the chopper (with Sawyer, who also doesn’t), Kate—having just been reunited with Aaron—leaves Aaron to go after Jack.

Meanwhile, Hurley, the last of the Oceanic Six, is wandering around the Island with Locke and Ben, who are on the confusing “move the Island” mission. Ben, after sending some kind of signal to his crew, brings them to The Orchid, which is exactly where Keamy and his mercenaries know to look for Ben.

It wouldn’t be Lost season finale without a new Dharma Station, and The Orchid is a big one. It’s not entirely clear why Keamy knows to go there: Does he know Ben will be heading there, or does The Orchid figure into the “torch the Island” plan somehow? When Daniel Faraday, back on the beach, discovered that Keamy was heading toward The Orchid, he panicked at the realization that they were using “the secondary protocol” and told Miles and Charlotte that they needed to be off the Island “within the hour.”

We now know, of course, that The Orchid is so important because it’s where you go to move the Island, but do we know if Faraday knows that? Why would he? Does moving the Island figure into the plans of the freighter crew? Or does The Orchid have some other, potentially devastating, function? From the orientation video, we learn that it is situated next to a pocket of “negatively charged exotic matter,” and the fact that the donkey wheel is in this station indicates that this matter is the same as the light from “Across the Sea,” since the Man in Black built the wheel to get to that light.

Thanks to the obliqueness of “Across the Sea,” though, we don’t really know much about the light that never goes out—just that it’s some pretty potent stuff. It’s conceivable that part of Keamy’s plan, after bringing Ben back to the freighter, was to use the “exotic matter” to “torch” or destroy the Island, though it’s not clear why this would be part of the plan.

It’s not even entirely clear why Keamy wants to capture Ben. He’s under orders from Charles Widmore, but he doesn’t know why. As he asks Ben, “What is it about you that makes you so important?” He gets the opportunity to ask Ben this when Ben turns himself in so Keamy and his gang will leave The Orchid. This leaves Locke and Hurley alone there, but they don’t know how to move the Island, so they’re mostly just chilling, until Jack and Sawyer show up. Jack and Sawyer are looking for Hurley, so they can bring him to the chopper, but Locke wants to talk to Jack.

Season Four, the season that revolved around rescue, was the season that brought the Jack/Locke tensions to a head. After all, their differences were primarily about whether to leave or stay on the Island, so when rescue comes, they can’t both have their way. This is Jack and Locke’s first scene together since the camp split into two factions in the Season Four premiere—the same episode in which Jack held a gun to Locke’s head and pulled the trigger. This time they are more peaceful, but no more agreeable. Locke tries to convince Jack not to leave, but Jack refuses. If he’s going to leave, though, Locke tells him: “You’re going to have to lie…to protect the Island.” Jack’s response—“it’s just an Island”—is eerily reminiscent of Locke 2.0’s speech to Sawyer in “The Substitute.”

At that point in the conversation, Ben comes back. Where did he come from? Well, from Sayid and Kate, who having been caught by the Others on their way to find Jack, helped the Others launch an attack on Keamy’s men, freeing Ben. In return for their service, the Others gave them the helicopter and permission to leave the Island. “We can go now? That’s it?” Kate asks, as the possibility of escape finally sinks in. She and Sayid meet up with Sawyer, Jack, and Hurley, and the helicopter, ready to fly back to the freighter.

Unfortunately, the freighter is not the safe haven they anticipate. After all, it’s not a season finale of Lost until something explodes, and after three finales the show has graduated from dynamite to C4, which Jin, Sun, Michael, and Desmond discover on the freighter. It’s hooked up a radio trigger, which in turn is hooked up to a heart-rate monitor on Keamy—if his heart stops, then the boat explodes. After following Locke and Ben down into The Orchid, Keamy tells them about his “life insurance policy,” but Ben doesn’t care—he kills Keamy, as revenge for Keamy’s murder of Ben’s daughter back in “The Shape of Things to Come.” When Locke tells him that this means everyone on the freighter will die, Ben coldly responds, “So?”

Luckily, Michael has frozen the battery on the C4, buying them some time on the freighter. Unfortunately, just as the trigger turns red, the helicopter arrives. The chopper has to land because of a fuel leak that forced it to abandon all its cargo, including Sawyer, who jumped to lessen the weight. Once on the boat, Sun, Desmond and Aaron get on board, and Kate runs to find Jin. Before she can, though, Sayid and Lapidus patch up the leak and Jack forces Kate to get back on board. Jin arrives on deck just after the helicopter takes off, but before they can turn back, the boat explodes.

As if this wouldn’t be enough to warrant the “shock” that Jack and Sun discussed, on the chopper’s way back to the Island… it disappears. The Island. It just vanishes. Ben has, at just this moment, succeeded in turning the wheel that moves the Island, but the helicopter is still leaking fuel, and it crashes into the ocean.* While waiting on the life raft, a ship arrives. This is Penny’s boat, and we get the lone drop of good news in the ocean of catastrophe that is this “rescue mission”: Penny and Desmond, less than a week after their emotional phone call, are finally reunited.

*It should be noted that, on rewatching, it’s pretty clear to me that there is no way a baby could survive this crash—helicopters don’t crash lightly. Oh well, chalk another one up to the Island’s healing powers (even though the Island isn’t even there anymore at this point).

With some time to collect themselves on Penny’s boat, Jack comes up with a plan: After watching the freighter blow up and seeing the Island disappear, Jack is finally convinced of what Locke has been telling him all along: The Island is in danger, and if Jack wants to protect all the people he left behind (Sawyer, Claire, Juliet, Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, and even Locke, etc.), then he is going to have to lie. This is the lie Jack reminds them of in the initial scene of the episode.

The flashforwards of “There’s No Place Like Home” fill in the gaps that Season Four left in the trajectory of the Oceanic Six. It’s easy to lose sight of the Oceanic Six in the scheme of the series, but unlike a lot of threads that can get lost in Lost’s grand shuffle, these stories played a very critical role.

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?

The Oceanic Six plotline answered that question for a few characters, and the answers weren’t that simple. For Sayid, at least, the answer seems like a resounding Yes. After all, Sayid found Nadia, his long-lost love, and they lived happily ever after…at least for a little while. The idea that Sayid would have been better off on the Island seems absurd. For Jack, Kate, and Hurley, though, things are more complicated. The flashforwards show that each of them did manage to find happiness for a little while, but that it was ultimately unsustainable. Whereas Sayid’s life only turned because of Nadia’s death (which we later learn was basically caused by Jacob), Jack, Kate, and Hurley were plagued by something they had internalized: For Kate, it was guilt over taking Aaron. For Jack, it was the sense of failure that hung over his time as leader. For Hurley, it was the grief over the lingering dead. Each of them seemed able to briefly repress these things, but they inevitably resurfaced, drawing them all back to the Island.

Sun, meanwhile, spends most of her flashforward becoming a wealthy entrepreneur and tracking down Charles Widmore. This plotline, even now, makes pretty much no sense to me. I have a lot of faith—more than most, I think—in the Lost producers to wrap things up well on Sunday, since they have always been so adept at finales, but after “What They Died For,” I’m convinced that Widmore’s role in the overall plot of the series will never really make sense. In retrospect, he seems like a pure plot-crutch: He wants to get back to the Island, but he can’t get back, until he can, because Jacob went to see him, but he’s never seen Jacob, though now Jacob needs him, so he’s been convinced of the error of his ways, but what were those “ways” again? What was he trying to accomplish in “torching” the Island? We will probably never find out, and we’ll probably never find out the whole Sun/Widmore alliance.

One answer we did get from “There’s No Place Like Home,” though, was who was in the coffin from “Through The Looking Glass.” Now, in retrospect, it really was obvious. After all, who else but Locke would be neither friend nor family, but still cause such despair for Jack? If you hadn’t figured it out by the time of finale, it should have at least been clear by the time the pseudonym “Jeremy Bentham” was introduced,* and if not by then, then as soon as Ben showed up in that final scene (since Ben was really the only other option as someone who had warned Jack not to leave the Island).

*What? You aren’t familiar with the history of English political philosophy? Psht.

Still, though, keeping the coffin’s contents obscured for an entire season was a great move. Here is a fact about the Jack/Locke relationship: From the end of Season Two to the end of Season Four, you can count the number of scenes between these two characters (who were the show’s two main characters during that time) on one hand. In Season Three—a 23-episode season!—they only really have one scene together. Locke offers Jack a brief apology after blowing up the sub in “The Man From Tallahassee,” but other than that they don’t speak until the final confrontation in “Through The Looking Glass.” Season Four has the confrontation in the premiere and aforementioned talk at The Orchid in this episode… and that’s pretty much it. That’s the entire substance of their relationship for 36 episodes.

And yet those episodes, particularly Season Four, are, in retrospect all about Locke trying to convince Jack of the importance of the Island. The tragic flaw of Jack, as we saw in “Through the Looking Glass” but can only fully comprehend in “There’s No Place Like Home,” is that he didn’t believe Locke until it was too late. Only Locke’s death could accomplish that.

And tomorrow we’ll get a full look at that death in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”….

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Aught Lang Syne « Getting Lost (Redux): There’s No Place Like Home […]

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  2. […] There’s No Place Like Home: The Oceanic Six […]

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