You can always tell when a LOST season begins to ramp up its story-telling toward its conclusion by the increasingly militaristic nature of Michael Giacchino's always exemplary score music. This usually occurs in the penultimate episode each season, but the end is clearly beginning early this year. This week's shift away from a single character-centric story may remain the show's operating method straight through to the end, and while I often worried that such multi-centric storytelling on LOST detracts from the number of quality character moments per episode, if "The Last Recruit" is any indication, we're in good hands. Since the episode revolved around giving us important vignettes for each character, confirming and furthering their story archs, I'll mix things up a bit this week as well, and focus the majority of my analysis on CharacterWatch items.
The Altered Universe:
Fate definitely seems to be giving AU Desmond a hand on his mission to reunite and "wake" the other AU characters to the truth about their reality. He may have brought Claire to Jack this week, but the universe didn't need any help bringing Kate and Sayid to Sawyer and Miles, and Sun and Jin to the same Hospital as Jack, Locke, and Ben. And even with Claire, Desmond was very lucky that Illana's practice was on floor 15 across the hall from the adoption agency, otherwise I doubt Claire would have gone very far with the stalker-ish Scotsman. As many have observed from the start of the show, there are a lot of universal forces at work bringing everyone together, accounting for character crosses and similarities between the timelines despite their 1977 point of divergence. Desmond has simply started helping them along. As AU Jack is set to "fix" AU Locke, you've got to wonder who Desmond is off to run over next. I'm still on the fence about what Desmond's ultimate goal is with the AU -- In 6.11 (Happily Ever After) Daniel seemed to imply that waking up to reality was important because the AU wasn't how things were supposed to be. And AU Eloise Hawking seemed worried that Desmond's becoming aware could actually damage their reality. If ending/damaging the AU is the ultimate goal -- Desmond's going to have a tough sell even after he wakes everyone up. Life in the OT is much bleaker, after all -- and I can think of at least one person very important to AU Jack who would cease to exist. The storytelling balance currently seems to be tipping in favor of the AU ultimately winning out over the OT, but this is something that could change any moment. Or so AU Eloise Hawking clearly believes.
The Man In Black and His Agenda:
So what exactly ARE the MIB's intentions toward those Candidates!? He wanted them all together, and he's got them. Rather than just leave for the Ajira plane immediately, he waits for Widmore to make the next move and threaten him. If he's confident his group can infiltrate Hydra Island and get to the runway intact, then I wonder what he was waiting for. If he doubts all the Candidates could survive a shoot-out with Widmore's scientists, then maybe he just wanted to give them motivation to blitz the Hydra and get themselves killed. It all boils down to whether he actually wants them gone, or dead. Maybe either is equally satisfactory to his intentions to leave, and his primary concern is keeping them all together so he can guarantee they share the same fate. Which means even after Sawyer's group has abandoned him for Widmore, the MIB values Jack's life more than anyone's since Jack is the only person who might be able to convince the others to do what the MIB needs them to do (whether wittingly or not). As we're running out of episodes fast, I doubt the MIB's intentions toward the Candidates will remain a mystery for very long.
Visions and the Magic Box:
Regarding the MIB telling us that he was Christian Shepard all along, I'll be perfectly okay if Smokey was telling Jack the truth here -- but let's just say it wouldn't shock me in the least if there were a lot more to it, and he were being a bit duplicitous letting Jack (and the audience) fill in the blanks here. As I've discussed previously (in my write-up for 6.09 [Ab Aeterno]), there seem to be two ways Christian Shepard has consistently presented himself on the show, and only one of those two ways (non-suited Christian) fits best with the MIB's operating mode. The other (suited Christian) seems more like an Island Magic Box occurrence, and if the MIB knew Jack had seen his father, maybe this is what gave him the idea to take the Christian Shepard form in the first place. At this point in the series, it's probably easiest to take the simplest explanation - the one the show has just given us. But considering the discrepancies between the two Christians, along with the facts that the MIB is both a known liar and that his telling Jack about an Island-induced Christian wouldn't jive with the MIB's "the Island isn't special" mantra... well, personally I'm not going to drop the mystery completely until the final LOST logo has smashed into the screen :)
He just wants Desmond back. Whatever his method for saving space-time and taking possession of the Island for himself, the two things Widmore needs are Desmond with is superpowers, and Jin with his energy pocket knowledge. The necessity of the latter's cooperation is the thing most likely to keep Widmore from having his new captives shot outright.
CharacterWatch - Hurley:
Having reunited the original Oceanic Survivors via his dubious impulses, Hurley seems content to once again bow out of his leadership role. He okays Jack's one-on-one with the Man In Black, and then supports Sawyer's plan to defect aboard Desmond's -- and previously Libby's -- old boat (last seen captured by the Others in 3.02 [The Glass Ballerina]). It seems all Hurley needed was to get "the family" back together again. It would have been nice if this concept had played a bit more heavily into his motivations last week, but perhaps this would have compromised his somewhat surprising willingness to leave Claire and Sayid behind this week.
CharacterWatch - Kate:
Fortunately, Kate wasn't as quick to give up on Claire. Her character has been solidly motivated to be Claire's guardian and reunite Aaron with his mother ever since the events of her flashbacks in 5.11 (Whatever Happened, Happened), and it was very rewarding to see these motivations follow through and pay off (at least temporarily) with Claire trusting her enough to turn over her gun and join Sawyer's escape team. I don't believe for a minute Kate would have ever left the Island without Claire, whether Claire had followed them or not. Now that she has Claire, her motivations are just as clear. She's never given a damn about Locke or Jack's protestations that the Island has plans for them, and she's ready to get away from that place once and for all.
CharacterWatch - Sawyer:
Never having left the Island in the first great escape (4.13 [There's No Place Like Home]), Sawyer can't fathom Jack's prediction that he'll one day feel leaving was a mistake. Sawyer has been one of the most ardent supporters of leaving since Day 1, and he blames Juliet's death on his decision to stay with the Dharma Initiative and wait for Locke's return (5.08 [LaFleur]). As far as Sawyer's concerned, nothing good has ever come from sticking around. All season he's been constantly on the lookout for the quickest ticket off the Island, and there's no way in hell he's letting Jack convince himself or any of the others that staying is the right idea. It's interesting that Sawyer jumped the gun on his own plan a bit by approaching Widmore's team before the fighting broke between them and Smokey, but I guess he just trusted Widmore's good will toward him a bit too much.
CharacterWatch - Sayid:
Just as Claire seemed to come back to life a bit in response to Kate's plea for trust, Sayid sure seemed to be affected by Desmond's plea at the well. Chances are Sayid has now made his first lie to the Man In Black -- a big step toward his potential redemption. Here's hoping, even if they're redeemed, we'll at least get some understanding of why these two characters got "infected" and how The Sickness functions as a regular Island threat...
CharacterWatch - Sun/Jin:
After a nearly interminable amount of lag time between the drama of their separation in Season 4 and their reunion now, the Sun/Jin storyline had become rather one-note and lost a lot of steam. While it was nice to see them back together, the moment couldn't help but feel a bit anti-climactic outside of an entire episode devoted to the topic. And at this point, being that there really isn't time for that, I suppose it's fitting that their reunion was relegated to the sidelines of the story just as their separation has been for more than a season now. Hopefully a greater, more dramatic pay-off will come in their bid to get off-Island together to return to Ji Yeon -- and gain them back their strengths as dynamic characters in the process. On a side note, though, I do have to wonder if Sun's short bout of aphasia will amount to anything more than a little plot for her because she needed one. If Lapidus' admittedly corny "Looks like someone got their voice back" is the final word on the matter, it won't be any loss to the show, but it'll render that side-plot about as superfluous as Sawyer's hunt for the noisy tree frog back in 2.14 (One of Them).
CharacterWatch - Jack:
In all likelihood the titular "Last Recruit," Jack completed his transition into a Man of Faith this episode. While still unwilling to align himself with Team Jacob or Team MIB, Jack's refusal to leave the Island and make the same mistake he made in the Season 3 finale (3.22 [Through the Looking Glass]) was a huge step for him in acknowledging that he had returned for a reason, even if that reason wasn't the one he initially thought it was and he STILL doesn't know what that reason is. During his time off-island, Jack was told by Locke that it was imperative he return in order to save those he left behind. When Jack and the others returned and were zapped to 1977 by the Island, he found those he intended to save living comfortably not wanting his assistance. He sought his purpose in aligning with Faraday's plan to detonate Jughead at the Incident and change their futures. Now that (to his knowledge) that too was a failure, he no longer knows what he's supposed to do -- but this time, he's letting go of his need to take charge, no longer thinking for the rest of the survivors, and doing the one thing he feels is right: thwarting the intentions of the Man In Black. He may not know what exactly Smokey wants, but he can very clearly see that Smokey is obsessed with gathering the survivors and getting them off-island. "Maybe he's afraid of what happens if we stay," says Jack -- and just like a few episodes ago on the Black Rock, Jack is willing to test his theory and swim back to shore. While this may make him "The Last Recruit" in the MIB's eyes, we know his purpose in returning was anything but appeasing Smokey.
CharacterWatch - Frank:
He's here for the food.
And that's where we are!
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