Lost – ‘What They Died For’ – 6.16

This is a bittersweet week.

When we turned the page to Monday, it hit me. In one week’s time, we’d get the final three and half hours of this epic tale, and then we’re done. A tough pill to swallow especially after receiving last week’s information download regarding the true nature of the island that almost unanimously fell like a 10-ton crocodile statue. I’ve scoured the web and aside from the blind faithful (every cult has them and in the case of Twilight, that’s all they’ve got) – anyway, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who really, truly appreciated the episode.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to that and I think I finally hit upon the reason why.

It’s  not  so much what the island is – so much as how we were told in such exacting detail.

Sure, the cave of light – as rendered on a TV series’ modest budget – looked ripped from the Land of the Lost. And we all know this is a visual medium so if you’re going to express a heady sci-fi infused spiritual ideal, you better nail the visual as it’s going to tattoo itself to the mainstream psyche.

But it goes beyond that. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the show runners who penned that offending episode, made a major misstep by setting this as gospel. By opening on that shipwreck and telling a straight-forward tale, minus the usual flash back/forward/sideways shenanigans that is this show’s shorthand, the viewers immediately accepted that this is how it all went down. Don’t even bother looking for metaphor or alternate interpretation. This is the straight shizzle!!!

I think this tale would have been best told as myth. And I know exactly how they could have done it.

Cave paintings!!!

On an island brimming with all kinds of cross-cultural penmanship including hieroglyphics, why not have Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley stumble across a mysterious cave? After all, the island’s brimming with them. As they investigate, they find cryptic drawings. Uncovering each puzzle piece, we flash to their interpretation of what they are seeing.

And don’t just present the story of two squabbling brothers – despite its biblical import. Let us trip throughout time to all of the major milestones that have befallen the island. Let us see this thing at creation and then pop in and out as various settlers heed the call to the island – bringing with them artifacts of their native civilizations and then ultimately lead us to the battle between Jacob and MiB. I think a cave painting, depicting this battle of the two brothers – perhaps with MiB immersed in a death shroud of ominous, black smoke – would sell his menace much better than seeing the whole story told straight.

Because the way they did it just made it all seem so petty – and this tale needs to be mythic.

Anyway, that’s how I would have done it.

We’ve got a few more hours left to go. Let’s end on a high note. With all of that said, let’s get Lost.

1.   ‘What They Died For’ opens up moments after Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley compose themselves on the beach – still reeling from the tragic events of the night before. Despite two weeks of wishful thinking, it appears Kate’s suffering from merely a flesh wound and is back on her feet after the good doc sews her up. Of course, I begrudge the normally sourpuss Katie but I will admit that I do like this ragtag band of survivors and we’ve had enough death so from here on out, she’s back in my good graces – even if I am taking odds on who I think lives and dies before this thing is finished. I’ll offer up my Dead Pool at the end.

2.   I’ll get back to Jack’s pack in a moment but first I’ll focus on the other splintered sect of survivors. We pick up with Ben, Richard and Miles – who has the line of the night. The guy that Hurley once introduced as “Great! The freighter sent us another Sawyer” trumps Ben’s sovereign ownership of Othersville with “Well, I was living there thirty years before you, or otherwise known as, last week.” Love Miles. Unfortunately, he’s in my Dead Pool.

3.   Ben is leading his merry men to score some C4 to blow the plane sky high. Before we can entertain thoughts of whether that C4 Locke found was Ben’s – and hence we’re looking at a flashback in time – the group runs into Widemore and the tawdry Tina Fay – who have come to join forces. Locke is moments away and looking for vengeance. This leads the group to come up with two plans – hide in a closet or stand outside and wait for death – neither of which Miles subscribes to. “Both good plans but I think I’ll run for it.” Alas, poor Miles, we knew you well.

4.   Richard aims to confront MiB and is almost immediately handled like a little Mr. Ecko ragdoll. Now, we never saw a body so I’m calling it now. Richard’s not dead. No way he goes out a punk. Not with all the mythic import lent too this character over the years. I think Richard will die but I think he’s got one last part to play in the finale.

5.   I thought it was a great little moment where Ben resigns himself to his fate and simply takes a seat on his porch. “Just the man I was looking for”, MiB Locke announces and with that, Ben kick starts his final con – eagerly accepting his new role as errand boy to MiB. Promised the island (which we later learn, Locke has devious designs on), Ben hand-delivers Widemore and Fay who are hiding in the dark, like a couple of frightened children. While I believe Ben had no qualms in serving up his nemesis, I think that despite his immediate promotion to hit man, he’s not about to kill the other survivors. There is some decency in him and I think Ben will be the one who sacrifices himself this Sunday for the greater good. So yes, there’s another tip to the Dead Pool.

6.   Anyway, Tina Fay is cut from the picture leaving Widemore who whispers to Locke that he brought Desmond along as a failsafe – which is ironic as Desmond has only become a failsafe by turning that failsafe key in the hatch way back in the Season 2 finale. It appears that Widemore planned to reintroduce Desmond to the massive fount of electromagnetic energy on the island in one last bid to blow the place sky high and thus eradicate the demon should he prove unable to bottle it back up. And now Locke has co-opted that plan but only after Ben busts a few caps in Widemore. He did this seemingly to seal Penny’s fate but there’s a part of me that believes Ben was really just trying to prevent Widemore from giving Locke the upper hand. A moment too late it seems.

7.   So we learn that Locke intends to co-opt this failsafe and use it for his own desires. And thus, the end game is introduced.

8.   Off island, in our sideways universe, awakenings continue with Desmond finding the only way possible to get through to Ben. Beat the holy hell out of him (including breaking his arm, apparently). That’s one way to do it and I guess that lends credence to everyone who said he only ran down Locke to give him a near death experience. While I know I held the line against that, I grant everyone their wishes although I still stand by my argument that running down a dude in a wheelchair is a really good way to kill him. There’s no guarantee he’d survive so maybe next time, Desmond could consider a more humane way to almost kill a guy.

9.   Desmond ends up pulling a page from Seven and just waltzes up to the jail to turn himself in. All part of the plan. With a newly enlightened Hurley (who is remembering all kinds of things – including Anna-Lucia), he’s able to bank roll a jail break – getting Hurley to serve up some payola to the aforementioned Tailie who springs Kate, Desmond and Sayid from the pokey. They’ve got a date at the museum gathering that night – which promises to reunite the entire gang and supporting cast. I’m thinking next week serves as a major reunion with Charlotte, Faraday, Miles, and our core castaways all holding tix for the main event. Something will happen there that is bound to fold one timeline to the other. And it appears that Desmond knows it.

10.   I’m not sure how Locke figures in to the event but we do know that he too has connected the dots. It was a nice scene between he and Jack where he laid out all the coincidences and embraced them – focusing on the key idea that in order to move forward he needs to let go. That’s exactly the problem Jack has had all along – a problem that he’ll come to terms with by the end of the episode.

11.   Before I get to that, I offer up a prediction. At the breakfast table, Jack’s son David mentioned his Mom was going to be at the museum concert too. We haven’t seen this Mom but my guess is that it’s Jack’s former wife, played by Modern Family’s Julie Bowen. The same Julie Bowen that just recently journeyed to Hawaii on her show to shoot a special two-parter. Very convenient if you ask me.

12.   Also, what’s the significance of Super Bran? That fictional cereal got a lot of face time leading me to search the title for anagrams. I haven’t come up with anything yet but it just seems odd. Sure, they love to invent fictional products on this show, but that box was placed front and center for a reason and I’m dying to know why. Either that, or they knew this is exactly what the obsessives would do, and it’s all just another DHARMA experiment.

13.   Finally, the French Woman returned and in this reality, has designs on our beloved bug-eyed bastard.

14.   Back on the island, Hurley went chasing ghosts again and came across Jacob who demanded a little pow-wow before he becomes the island’s Obi-Wan. With the gang settled around the camp fire, Jacob finally started spinning some answers. For starters, he’s not a misogynist. Just the opposite actually. When he saw that Kate found value in her life by becoming a Mom (to Aaron), he crossed her name from the list. Of course, with Claire still somewhere out there in the picture, the job is still Kate’s if she wants it.

15.   He also let them know that they were drawn to the island like so many others before because they were broken people – people with goodness in them that also held a void – and thus, the perfect candidates to repair themselves before taking on the mammoth task of safe-guarding the island’s grand secret.

16.   And the most broken of all is the one perfect for the job. Mr. Fix-It, Jack, steps up and assumes the mantle. We knew this was coming – it’s been a long time coming – but it was a nice moment, capped with his communion alongside Jacob as he drank deep of the water and sealed the deal – making a promise to guard the light that emanates from within.

17.   Yes, the Cave of Light is hokey, but it’s a visual metaphor. It’s meant to symbolize exactly what I said this island was all along. This is the epicenter of the balance of good and evil. That’s the cave. Think of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the power and fury that poured forth from the Ark. That’s the cave as well. Concepts so abstract that no human eye or mind could properly render them. It’s meant to be an abstract idea. And that’s the task Jack holds. He’ll guard the island. He’ll maintain the balance of good and evil in the world. When Smokey talks about breaking free of the island, it’s not in the physical sense. It’s simply allowing one side to gain an upper hand – to shift the balance. As long as Jack lives, he gets to keep that balance in check. It’s a noble fate for a character that as scripted in the original pilot draft was supposed to die before the first hour was out. I think we’re in for some heart-tugging when we get to his final scenes next week.

18.   In essence, he’s the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Left to live forever to protect that divine secret.

19.   The Dead Pool. Ben sacrifices himself somehow. So does Sawyer. Miles and Richard die. MiB Locke doesn’t die but is bottled in another body – maybe Ben – hence Ben gets the island, somewhat. He and Jack are left on the island for eternity. Kate lives. Hurley lives, of course. I have nothing to base any of this one. Just a hunch.

20.   That’s all I have for now. See you next week for Episodes 6.17 & 6.18, ‘The End’.

[tv 4.5]

Comments now closed (11)

  • Ed,

    I agree with you that I think Ben will do something good to either help the island and/or help kill or move MiB to another body. I think the life he is experianceing in the sideways flash will bleed through. The interest of the Rousseau as well how she said Alex considers him a father figure. I think he almost said she is the closest thing he has ever had to a daughter.

    I think we knew Jack would step up, but I have some doubts he will end up being the final protector. I think when he asked how long he will have to do the job said something. I have a feeling he dies somehow and passes it along to someone. Maybe Ben! Hurley wouldn’t be able to handle it and as he stated I am glad it is not me. Sawyer is way down on himself for Sun and Jin’s fate and I see a heroic yet deadly end for him.

    As for Richard, I think he may just be dead. I think MiB got tired of him. It is strange that IIlena hung her hat on the fact that he would know what to do, but he seems to have no clue that MiB can’t just fly off the island on the plane.

    I know you have a new found affinity for Kate, but don’t forget Claire is still out there somewhere. I think she could spell trouble for Kate. I agree I think Hurley makes it off. I think Miles has a chance. Should be interesting what happens at the dinner party that it appears they are all going to attend. I like how Desmond seems to be controlling everyone’s fate on the island and in the sideways flash.

    I can’t believe the end came so quickly. For some reason I thought the final two hours were a week from Sunday.

  • As a secular humanist, I have difficulty in getting to the core of this tale, but if I suspend all beliefs, I can have some fun with it.

    I think MiB gets bottled into Sawyer, so the blond one is now Evil and the black one is now Good. And they play rocks together on the beach while Sawyer continues to plot his way off the island..as he has for 6 years.

    What happens to the sideways universe?

  • Hi all.

    Nicely said about last week, I understand. The cave drawings not a bad idea….but true, they gave too much detail. Before last week’s episode it was easier to base the island and MIB and Jacob on balance and myth, and good and evil. Now, that’s a bit more of a stretch because they showed us they’re mortal, not eternal, raised by somewhat of a lunatic, and not given free will exactly. There was a lot to let us believe the island controlled and balanced good v. evil before; now, if you think about it, there’s nothing. Jacob’s actions are solely based on what Mom told him and the light is a complete mystery. The only facts remaining are the magnetic properties of the island. Before, if MIB escaped, there was like an ‘oh boy!” feeling, all hell’s gonna break loose! Now, if he leaves, and Jacob’s dead, I don’t feel there’s much to that, no urgency, no end of the world feel of helplessness, it feels like the island would simply continue to be an island with some cool properties to it..

    Agreed, great line by Miles. I was surprised Ben sold them out immediately like that, I hope he does what you say because I’ve definitely had enough of his cons…Agreed, Richard has to be alive. Can he even be killed?

    I loved the sideways stuff. Loved seeing the ever smiling, confident Desmond putting his plan together. My biggest question is what will happen when they are all finally together at the concert/museum…
    Super Bran, I did notice but didn’t think much of it. Also noticed the milk in a pitcher- do people really do that?? Ours gets served out of its plastic jug for years!

    Everything with the final four and Jacob was great, liked that Kate’s name being crossed off was, well, simple…

    Like what you said about Smokey breaking free not in a physical sense, interesting. And your analogies to Indy are spot on.

    I think they’ve danced around a few possibilities or ideas that they all have:
    MIB Locke must get off the Island
    MIB Locke must now blow up the Island.
    Jack and Company must stop MIB Locke
    No one knows how to stop MIB Locke
    Everyone knows Desmond is key
    Desmond is key in the sideways timeline and they’ve devoted enough time to that that something’s got to happen.
    My theory, loosely based on hunch only- they all die on island. By now they may have provided the solution to stop MIB but they have not, there is none in any attainable physical on-island way. So to me all islanders lose. And then Desmond’s sideways plan kicks in…what happens next is unknown. Some balance gets restored. Hence why I think they have alternate endings (which I’m not crazy about- Is anyone here going to watch those on the Kimmel show??) Alternate endings because based on some combination of what the alternate timeline does- they could resume their normal lives and the island is back to normal, with or without the unnamed brother and Jacob. They could all be alive with Jack sheparding the island as he chose. They could be repeating things from a certain point in time. They could awaken on or off island and be aware of both timelines. They could awaken off island and we don’t find out about the island. Point is, Desmond’s key I think has to happen, if it has to happen, they can do whatever they want to the islanders and it keeps being pretty clear there isn’t too much of a choice.

    And finally, Ed, thanks for granting us our wishes on Desmond’s near fatal attack on Locke…I think we all agree it’s a good way to kill a guy, but there were better ways to kill a guy. Therefore, when they used this method of “attack”, it seemed like the writers were leaning towards not killing him and bringing him closer to Jack- I think that’s what we saw. What I didn’t like about that in this episode, was REALLY? The police still hadn’t caught Desmond after running over a TEACHER ON SCHOOL GROUNDS???!?

    Does the show start at 7 PM Eastern or is that a recap you think?

  • @Carlos: 7-9 is all recap. The real show goes from 9-11.30. Kimmel has some kind of deal after the news.

  • I like the idea of using cave paintings to tell the tale. They really could have expanded the history by doing that and it would have been a nice vehicle to tell the story which would be more in-line with the other ways they do it now. The direct way did kind of suck, but it is what it is.

    Put me down for Jack v. Sawyer by the end. Don’t know who lives or dies anymore, but feeling is Smokey takes on Sawyer’s form just to get to Jack in the end. Sawyer looked awful uncomfortable all episode long, particularly during the Jacob chat and watching Jack become like Jacob. It is obvious something is simmering within.

    At this point, I am not going to speculate on what might happen in the end. Just going to watch and see. Hopefully it will meet expectations, but that seems unpossible, so hopefully it just doesn’t suck.

  • i’m just along for the ride at this point! loving every minute! and i will NOT watch an alternate ending! i’m going to take what they give!

  • I’m with Sarah. The best way to really enjoy it is to just go where they take us. They could completely botch the landing and it wouldn’t matter – I still got 6 seasons of absolutely compelling entertainment.

    I just thought of something. With Lost, so goes me. You guys are really gonna’ miss me, aren’t ya’? : )

  • I’m thinking that the touted alternate endings are just gags…I can see Kimmel in one…the writers would have had one definite ending to this and that would be where it headed, although they knew we would speculate endlessly about the possibilities…

  • @Ed: Nonsense! Just throw up one of your patented trivia contests in a month or so to remind people of your greatness.

  • Oh – I’ll still be here writing stuff that nobody reads. I wasn’t planning on actually calling it quits. : )

  • Regarding BALANCE and something I was thinking from ‘Across the Sea’…before this episode there was the thought for the need for balance, remember? Well, what about the fact that A) Jacob and MiB’s step mom was the only one there when Jacob and MiB’s real mom arrived? and B) Step mom wasn’t expecting a second child to be born?

    Like we all said, yes, I’m happy with the ride, and we can excuse that episode, etc, but I’m just saying, I thought about this and even now we’ve continue to talk about balance- I agreed, but after ‘Across the Sea’ is this ‘balance’ really necessary??