Finally! Time for me to clock out.
“Stay tuned for the penultimate episode of ‘Lost’!” Tom Bergeron proclaimed after showing Chad Johnson Ochocinco the door last night on “Dancing With The Stars.”
“The ‘penultimate episode’?” Erin said. “That’s a bit much.”
“Well, it is the penultimate episode,” Ben said.
“I don’t care if it is or is not. Tom Bergeron does not need to be throwing around the word ‘penultimate.'”
“Even though it’s accurate?”
“I’m just ready for the show to be over.”
“Lost” fans and haters alike will get their wish soon enough. (Sunday, to be exact.) Last night’s (yes, penultimate) episode, “What They Died For,” hit the accelerator and delivered a surprisingly eventful hour. Usually the lead-up to any series finale is a bit sluggish and inconsequential. But the writers got that out of their system last week, and last night we thankfully returned to Jack and crew being front and center. There was a fireside chat with Jacob, who himself was burning out in that very fire. He delivered some answers, and found his successor, Jack, meaning thankfully the drama on Sunday will not involve finding his replacement. There was Man in Black in full-on Jack Bauer mode, killing and scheming, with the apparent help of Benjamin Linus. (We don’t buy Ben’s enthusiasm for playing the role of Man in Black, Jr. More in a second.) And finally in the Sideways timeline we have Desmond Hume orchestrating everyone’s convergence on what will surely be the most consequential piano recital in all of human history (unless it’s a Driveshaft concert? Or maybe David Shephard, Charlie Pace and Daniel Faraday/Widmore will all jam together onstage?). All in all it was a satisfying episode.
Before we go any further, let’s get a quick show of hands: How many people think ABC’s new show “The Gates” — “Desperate Housewives” meets Twilight, in the words of Tad Smith — will be a complete train wreck? One, two, three — well, everyone, it looks like? Yep. Okay then. Moving on.
The fireside chat. Given the chance to finally ask Jacob why he picked them, the castaways — Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley — got some answers. Jacob told them he needed them because he made a mistake. He created the Smoke Monster, who we now know was his twin brother. Like any younger brother, Smokey wanted to best Jacob at his own game, a cosmic mismash of backgammon and Risk, with all the candidates as tiny figurines being strategically moved about the board. Naturally, they took exception to being told they were chess pieces. Sawyer asked Jacob what business he had meddling with their lives, saying “I was doing just fine until you dragged me to this damn rock!” It was a good retort, but Jacob had a better one: You weren’t doing just fine. None of you were. I didn’t pluck any of you from lives of domestic bliss or accomplished contentment. I picked you because you were like me: flawed. But why was my name crossed off?, asked Kate. That’s just chalk, Jacob told her. You became a mom — I wasn’t going to make that choice for you.
We’ve always suspected Jacob is closer to God than the Devil, and while he is a manipulative, selfish deity who’s ready for a thousands-year shift to be over, he struck us last night as kind. I’m giving you what I never had, he tells the fearless foursome — a choice. I may have royally screwed up, but at least I didn’t royally screw up the same way my parents did.
Then Jack drank the cup and his eyes registered a new cosmic reality (or he thought to himself, “Was that water purified? Am I going to get Giardia?”), while Kate, Sawyer and Hurley watched and Hurley said, “I’m just glad it’s not me.” We wouldn’t speak too soon, Hugo. Those sound like words he might eat.
Benjamin Linus will be here all week! “What They Died For” may have been the funniest episode of the season. While Miles got the best lines (“I lived in these houses 30 years ago, otherwise known as last week”), Ben got the best scenes, whether he was pulling a citizen’s arrest on Sideways Desmond or removing himself from earshot of Man in Black and Ben’s arch nemesis Charles Widmore … whom Ben dispatched with icy resolve, saying “He doesn’t get to save his daughter.” (And good riddance to Zoe, yet another season six time-waster.)
Ben seemed awfully eager to buddy up to Man in Black as his hired assassin. You could argue that Ben is just interested in self-preservation, and he’s signing on to prolong his life and wait for any opportunity he might find to save it. Fair enough. He’s certainly shown himself capable. But that would negate one of our favorite moments from this season: Ilana extending grace to Ben in “Dr. Linus.” We don’t believe that was in vain.
As Doc Jensen noted, Man in Black approached Ben from a point of weakness — he needed Ben to help him. Ben’s small talk as they walked through the jungle to Desmond’s well — he wondered why Man in Black didn’t just go Smokey on everyone’s ass all day long, to which MiB responded that he liked the feel of the earth beneath his feet because “it reminds me that I was human” — gave him some useful information about his demonic would-be employer (a nice turn on Ben employing Sayid as an assassin last season). Will he use this information against Man in Black? We say yes. MiB’s apparent soft spot for his former humanity is probably the only weakness anyone can exploit … assuming he really can be killed (jury’s still out on that).
The Sideways World is going to a concert! Desmond is easily the character having the most fun as we wind to a close — he’s punching weaselly history teachers in the high school parking lot, turning himself in to the authorities, and arranging for fugitives Kate and Sayid to get sprung thanks to corrupt cop … Ana Lucia! (We’re still waiting for Karl to come back. We’d put our money on Shannon turning up next week to help jolt Sideways Sayid out of his stupor.) Hurley assumed Ana Lucia was self-aware (or island-aware, or whatever), leading to an exchange wherein Desmond said “she’s not ready yet” and Ana Lucia told them “it was nice not knowing you.” How true, Everyone’s Least Favorite Character Not Named Arzt. How true.
So who is ready? Desmond and Hurley? Check. Kate and Sayid? They’re along for the ride now. Sawyer? He said he wasn’t going to the concert if Charlotte would be there. (We guess it’d be strange for everyone to be going to a teenager’s piano recital.) Ben? Was ready, but now he’s tempted by visions of domestic bliss and nightly dinners with Rousseau and Alex. Jack? Definitely not ready, which is why Desmond had to prank call him about his dad’s coffin turning up. Like running over Locke, Desmond did something cruel for the sake of something good — preventing the castaways from getting too comfortable and settled in a world they were never meant to inhabit. We guess Jack will have to disappoint his newly adoring son next week, meaning that, yes, a Driveshaft concert is a more likely bet than David’s recital.
Is Locke ready? After he received the message from Ben that Desmond wanted Locke to “let go,” Locke did just that: He went to Dr. Shephard’s office and told Jack he wanted the surgery.
So where does that leave us going into Sunday night’s finale, “The End”? With a lot of questions:
- Can Smokey be killed?
- Will Jack replace Jacob? Or will someone else take the cup from him?
- Does Jacob really need a replacement? Or can the island take care of itself if MiB is out of the picture?
- How does the island not end up on the ocean floor?
- Will Jack and Sawyer finally reconcile? We got a little taste last night when Jack told a despairing Sawyer that it was MiB, not Sawyer, who killed Sun, Jin and Sayid.
- Who threw Desmond the rope? (It was not Sayid.)
- What does it mean that Desmond is the “failsafe”?
- Is Des taking a swim down into the Cave of Light?
- Why exactly did we need the whole Sideways timeline again?
- Is Richard Alpert really dead? (We suspect no.)
- Who gets shot in the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy”?
- Will Claire deliver her baby?
- Can you pass the Super Bran?
- Will there be any better place to watch the finale than Tad Smith’s house?
We’re ready for answers!
Finally, our apologies for a very delayed post today. (We had a seven-hour lunch at Don Pablo’s.) We promise to post something Sunday night/early Monday morning after the finale, followed by a more in-depth take sometime later on Monday.
More recaps from last night: Zap2It and Videogum, which notes “this thing has not come full circle at all” and then draws a perfect rendering of the shape this show has taken over the past six years. Enjoy.