This episode right here, folks, this is the reason I stick with this show through the stupid love quadrangles and tattoo flashbacks and characters stubbornly refusing to display any intellectual curiosity. Because this? This was awesome. I don't know that it made a lot of sense, but I was more engaged, more pumped up, writing more of my notes in all-caps (including several "BEN PWNED!" notations) than I have in a long time. Easily my favorite of the season, and one of my favorite "Lost" episodes ever.
Start with Locke turning Ben into his little puppet for most of the episode. It's about damn time that somebody started outthinking Ben, and our nutbar Luddite blower-upper is just the guy to do it. Sure, Ben got over on him at the end, but for the first 50 or so minutes, it was just wonderful to see Ben squirming and dancing to someone else's tune -- and to see all The Others completely afraid of getting on this crazy bald guy's bad side. The Bakunin beatdown was lovely, especially since the explanation for his survival was less interesting than expected (and suggests Kate doesn't know how to take a pulse).
Now, I'm going to be really disappointed if Locke is actually dead, both because Terry O'Quinn rules and because the character is so central to the island's mystique, but I'll believe he's dead when we've gone a whole other season without him popping up again. Yes, Libby died of a similar wound, but we've been told before that Locke is "special" (in the same way that Rose is), and the writers didn't dump him in an open grave for nothing.
I'm really annoyed with myself for having, in my jet-lagged state, hit the delete button on my DVR as soon as I finished the episode, because I had intended to go straight back to the cabin scene to see if a high-def image on pause would be able to reveal what "Jacob" looks like. Because there was definitely one split-second where you could see someone in the rocking chair (right after Ben says "You've had your fun" and gets shoved away), and the picture on ABC.com's streaming video isn't nearly good enough. The idea that the only person on the island capable of giving real answers is a ghostly figure most of us will never be able to see or hear seems an appropriate metaphor for the "Lost" viewing experience, and that entire sequence was so nuts that it worked.
So much going on in this episode that I feel like I have to move to bullet points quickly to get this thing posted at a reasonable time:
- For those who didn't get the reference at the top of this post, run, do not walk, to your nearest video retailer (or Netflix queue) and get ahold of "Real Genius," one of the most quotable comedies of the '80s, featuring Ben's dad as Lazlo Hollyfeld, a damaged genius who lives in the steam tunnels underneath his old college dorm.
- Speaking of poor Roger, I didn't make the connection between Ben's dad and the skeleton in Hurley's magic bus at first, but it finally clicked for me when I saw him drunk on the Dharma beer on his couch. "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" takes on some new meaning now, as does Ben's insistence that Locke had to kill his father to join their group, just as Ben himself did years before.
- Biggest WTF moment of the episode: Young Ben meeting Richard, not looking a day younger than he does now, in the jungle. Are all the Hostiles immortal, and that's why Richard thinks fertility experiments are a waste of time? What percentage of the Others are from Richard's native group and what percentage were brought to the island later like Juliet?
- And do animals on the island age? Is young Ben's bunny the same one he used to run the defribilator con on Sawyer? Clearly, he has no problem with animal experimentation.
- I don't think we've seen the last of Mr. and Mrs. Goodspeed, as I can't imagine the producers hiring Doug Hutchison and Samantha Mathis for such small parts without more plans down the line.
- I have to say, I'm kind of annoyed that Jack has been secretly plotting with Juliet to beat Ben. I was really hoping the writers had finally recognized what a liability their "hero" was and were planning to have the other characters shun him, or else kill him outright. Instead, just at the moment he's being doubted the most, he comes up with some stupid plan that will no doubt save everyone's hash and make him their unquestioned savior for the rest of the series. And Jack's reason for not cluing in everyone sooner? Pure writers' contrivance to set up this false tension.
- Was Richard more impressed that young Ben saw his mother, or that he heard her? And which of our past apparitions have spoken? Dave doesn't count, as he was always a figment of Hurley's imagination, and Kate's horse is obviously out. But what about Eko's brother or Jack's dad? Is there a hierarchy of specialness on the island?
I'm just happy to have an episode that allows me to ask so many questions, even if I doubt we'll get adequate answers to many of them, 48 final episodes plan or no 48 final episodes plan. For too much of this season, there hasn't even been anything worth speculating about.
What did everybody else think?