I wonder if in the final stretch to Lost's finale the show's episodes are beginning to mirror one another the way they'd been echoing those of past seasons. The pilot was called, simply, "Pilot" while the end will be called "The End"; last year, we got "The Variable" as a partner to earlier fan-favorite episode "The Constant", and now this season's fourth episode, "The Substitute", has been counterbalanced with only four episodes left to go by last week's episode...
Oh my gravy, to quote cowboys Jet and Cord from The Amazing Race — as well as my friend Batcabbage, who let loose with the expression this morning over on Nik at Nite. Bang! went the guns. Snap! went the neck of a fool who stood in the Man in Locke's way. Ouch! went Kate. Boom! went Sayid. Glub glub glub! went Jin and Sun. Sob sob sob! went Hurley and Kate and Jack and millions of viewers. "The Substitute" revealed that the Numbers were apparently at least in part designations given to candidates to replace Jacob, while "The Candidate" whittled down the bearers of those Numbers considerably.
I'm not trying to be flippant over the deaths of major characters or anyone's reaction to them. All right, I suppose I am, but my intent is not disrespect; this is the final chapter in an epic that has been defined by loss — it's right there in one of the many interpretations of the series' title — and losing characters now through sacrifice or even just collateral damage is to be expected. I also expect those characters to get a proper send-off, and there are understandable quibbles over what we got and didn't get in this episode: Sayid ran off with that bomb awfully quickly, without so much as a slo-mo pass to extravagantly swelling strings. Jin and Sun were only reunited last week. Frank didn't get to do anything noble or die on screen, and never even got a flashback.
More on the above shortly, but first let me share the night's great lines and other interesting dialogue:
Kate: "What are you doing here?"
Jack: "I'm with him."
Jack: "There is no Sayid!"
Jack: "I think you're a candidate."
John: "A candidate for what?"
Jack: "If you give me a shot, Mr. Locke, I think that... that I could fix you."
John: "Push the button... I wish you had believed me..."
Jack: "What happened, happened."
And here's my imagined dialogue for the night:
Jack: "C4? He sunk my battleship!"
Mario Perez photo © 2010 ABC Studios.
The Dr. Shephard and Mr. Locke of the alternate timeline (AT) were just full of callbacks to past episodes and repeating themes, with the writers laying it on perhaps a bit too thickly — although we should keep in mind that there's some kind of connection between the pair of timelines that we've seen, even if we don't know exactly what it is yet, and in a show where coincidence and/or fate (maybe both) reign supreme these recurrences at least have a raison d'être within the script itself as opposed to merely being winks at the audience (not that they aren't that too).
One has to wonder, as the old John/Jack rivalry is reflected in the AT reunion of these characters and OT Jack assuming John's mantle of Island disciple in his own way, whether Lost is not yet done with the original John Locke. He's buried now, yes, but dead or not he did lie in the shadow of the statue for a while, and that is what Ilana's security phrase indicated was the location of "He who will save us all." Also, in both "The Substitute" and "The Candidate" it's John who fulfills those titles in the AT as a substitute teacher and candidate for Jack's surgery; if the OT reference was to his body as a substitute for Christian Shephard's on the Ajira flight or his appearance as a new guise for Esau, then perhaps he and not Jack is the true candidate for Island guardian in Jacob's stead. I'm sure Terry O'Quinn would be — or was or would've been, since the series has now wrapped — up to the challenge of playing yet another incarnation of the character, based on the permutations of Locke and Lockalike he's portrayed thus far.
Since I brought up reflections, let me touch on this episode's mirror shot. At least one character per episode this season, usually the one(s) on whom the episode is focused, has looked back at him- or herself through a reflective surface, and "The Candidate" did not break the chain; Claire and Jack are seen separately and together (as the camera pans from one to the other) when considering the music box left to her by their father. The tune it played was, as I suspected, "Catch a Falling Star" — something that in the OT Christian sang to Claire as a baby, Kate sang to infant Aaron off the Island, and most recently Claire sang to Kate in the pit at the Temple while Smokey wreaked havoc above. No, I'm not a ludicrously Lost-literate savant; in fact, I miss an amazing amount of apparently obvious stuff. But thanks to the oft-mentioned Nikki Stafford and her gang of commenters, I was made aware of the song's prominence during past episodes, so I just assumed that it'd be what the music box played and have confirmed that fact on Lostpedia (which also has a list of this season's instances of reflection). What if any further significance there is to the music box, I have no idea.
Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.
I've seen what it takes for pregnant women to negotiate themselves into and out of chairs, by the way, and I have a hard time believing that even cool Claire would wear a miniskirt of the "length" that she's sporting in her scene at the hospital. Maybe she wanted Aaron to get an early peek at his Uncle Jack?
Jack paying a visit to Bernard in the AT was a surprise and delight. I wasn't alone in being thrown by how nonplussed he was to see Jack and provide him with the name of Anthony Cooper, but for me the jury's out on whether he's simply a Zen dentist (Zentist?) or actually possesses particular enlightenment about the twin timelines. Some friends got not just an aura of awareness from him but a sinister one, somewhat in the vein of Eloise Hawking; I did not. And I now suspect the AT to actually be an altered rather than alternate timeline, which is the subject of a long-gestating post to be published any day now as well as of a napkin sketch that Nikki Stafford snagged from the table after our group dinner Friday night.
Now back to the submarine of doom, which boomeranged us from The Hunt for Red October (or Crimson Tide or Das Boot — look, the point is, submarine) to Batman to The Poseidon Adventure. "Huh? Batman?" Yes, I admit that even as Sayid grabbed the pack of wired C4 and I realized that this was going to be his pulse-pounding moment of martyrdom, I thought of Adam West's immortal line from the 1966 film, "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."
I was sad over Sun and Jin's exit, but at least they went together — and I don't just mean that from a romantic perspective. Lost hasn't ever been cited for outright misogyny as far as I know, but well under half of its characters are women, and for only Jin to survive when there was no good reason for it not to have been Sun who survived instead would've struck me as sexist. Of course, Sun and Jin breathing their last right after Sayid went boom (and Ilana before that, although she wasn't a major character) leaves us with mostly lily-white, all American candidates to take over for Jacob, himself fair-skinned, fair-haired, and more fluent in American English than one would expect from an entity who, if not ancient, at least dates back to the time of the "discovery" of the New World. The whole thing is all the more surprising since this show from the beginning had far more racial/international diversity, if not gender equality, than most American prime-time TV series. While it's always had white guy(s) in leadership roles, from Jack to Locke to Sawyer to Ben to even Jacob, there have certainly been strong women in play and Lost boldly gave relative prominence to a Korean couple, a Frenchwoman, and a former member of the Iraqi Republican Guard, among other foreign and minority characters.
Another head-scratcher is Sun and Jin's usage of English with one another in their final moments, which just as with their reunion you'd think would be so emotional and visceral that they'd revert to their shared native language no matter how much they were used to speaking to their friends in another one. The series has used subtitles liberally, and while someone at Nik at Nite suggested that producers might have wanted to avoid them so that we could concentrate fully on the actors and the action, the English actually got in the way for me more than the subtitles would have; Daniel Dae Kim (whose Korean was rusty when Lost started) does such a good job of making even Jin's improved, three-years-in-Dharmaville English sound like an acquired language via over-pronunciation that I was distracted by the effort it seemed the characters were making to communicate.
Fans of Frank Lapidus were sorry to see him presumed dead without any of his background revealed and hold out hope that he somehow didn't go down with the ship. I think it's unlikely that we'll hear much more about him with fewer than five hours of the series left including commercials — unless he turns out to be of greater significance than his screen time to date suggests — but while on most shows you might not believe someone's dead until you see the body, on Lost you'd better believe that if someone is dead you're probably going to see their body again, upright, either talking to Hurley or appearing in the other timeline or both.
Sayid's death was shocking in its suddenness and lack of sentimentality, but while it had plenty of the latter the demise of Sun and Jin surprised because we'd already experienced the sacrifice of Sayid. And their outstretched arms seen floating underwater, hands separated by inches, was the clincher, but Hurley losing it on the beach was to me the capper. Something about how Jorge Garcia broke down reminded me of seeing loved ones do the same; it stabbed me hard in the heart just as the loss of Sun and Jin was (pardon the phrase) sinking in. I've seen people heave their whole bodies wailing, and I've seen quiet tears streaming down a face, but film and television dramas almost exclusively go one of those showoffy routes instead of allowing what we saw from the underrated actor who plays this underrated character — real, spontaneous tears that risk looking fake instead of over-the-top hysterics.
Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.
Jack facing the ocean at the end of the episode struck me very much as the patented story moment in which the leader feels he must remain separate from those he leads. Maybe Jack was just giving Kate, Hurley, and himself space, but I suspect the message was that he didn't want the others to see him get emotional, and that in turn made me wonder if Jacob didn't go through something similar once upon a time. We've heard him and Esau speak of humanity as a breed apart and perhaps below, but we've also heard Esau speak of his past in human terms, and it's possible that they're either the last of or just disconnected from their own race, be it gods or angels or extraterrestrials or whatever. Jack had just been embraced by Kate, yet instead of consoling her he stepped away, perhaps acknowledging more definitively the destiny that he feels awaits him based on what has transpired. He's been seen crying plenty of times before, granted (to the point where it's literally a parlor game; bingo, to be precise), but now he's accepting his position as a man apart, not just licking (or stitching) his wounds with Kate in the jungle away from the rest of the group but distancing himself even from Kate as he realizes that he's not going to be with her or anyone again if he sees this thing through.
I think this episode should've aired the week prior, swapping places with the repeat of "Ab Aeterno" — to pick up more quickly on the reunion of Jin and Sun, to give us more time to contemplate the deaths that occurred, to leave us pondering the last calm before the storm as Jack looks out to sea rather than make us wait a fortnight on the more cliffhangerish scene of the characters at gunpoint on the Hydra beach. At the same time, I suspect we've just had a taste of the last supper, and that in many ways the finale began here.