Sorry I didn't get this post up last night, but two factors came into play. First, I was exhausted and struggling to keep my eyes open by 11:05. Second, I felt I needed to sleep on the episode to make up my mind about it and figure out why "Cabin Fever" left me feeling oddly unsatisfied.
On paper, I should have loved an episode where almost all of the island scenes feature the trio of Locke, Ben and Hurley, where we finally got back to the freighter, and where the flashbacks were so rich with details about the island's mythology. And yet it left me a little cold, and as I was drifting off to sleep, I started to figure out why.
First, while we find out a lot of things in the flashbacks (more on those revelations below), those scenes functioned primarily on the level of filling in the blanks, rather than telling any kind of emotional story about Locke. The best flashback/flashforward stories provide both emotion and information and build to a climax; this was just a chronological accounting of all the ways the island affected John's life well before he came to it.
Second, while I love any opportunity to watch Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson play off each other, with some Jorge Garcia thrown in as a bonus, very little happened for a very long time in the present-day island scenes. They can't find the cabin, Locke has a dream (without needing to do a sweat lodge this time), they wander around some more, and they eventually find it. The last few minutes had some important material -- Ben finally admits that Locke has usurped his place as the island's protector, Locke has that disturbing encounter with Christian and Claire and is told he has to move the island -- but very little of consequence, plot or character-wise, happened until then.
Finally, the number of characters, and the number of separate locations where they're hanging out, is starting to disrupt each story's momentum a little. It's been three episodes -- and nearly two months, thanks to the strike -- since we've been on the freighter, and so I had to spend a lot of the early scenes there refreshing my memory about people's loyalties, what they knew, etc. Even in the early days of "Lost," the cast was so big that characters and storylines would frequently shift between background and foreground, but the show was less plot-driven in those days.
Still, with all those caveats, "Cabin Fever" had a number of great moments, and enough food for thought to make a meal.
Start with the surprise(*) return of Nestor Carbonell as the ageless Richard Alpert, hovering outside Locke's hospital room while he was still a preemie, and with the appearance of Matthew Abaddon as the man who puts the walkabout idea in Locke's head. In both cases, the first glimpse of their faces in unexpected places/times was chilling. (Alpert moreso than Abaddon, both because Carbonell had been gone so long due to being on "Cane," and because Reddick's voice is so distinctive that any "Wire" fan could tell it was him before the camera panned up to his face.) We know that Richard is on the side of the Others/Hostiles/anti-Dharma forces, and we've assumed that Abaddon is working for Widmore, but the idea that both were trying to get Locke to the island long before he actually went is a mind-bender.
((*) At least, it was a surprise to me, since I didn't read the episode description on my DVR -- which listed Carbonell by name -- nor did I pay attention to the guest star credits, where I assume both Carbonell and Lance Reddick were mentioned.)
Locke's survival as an extreme preemie in the late '50s (Buddy Holly's "Everyday," playing in the first scene, was recorded in 1957) shows, just as the misfires of Keamy's gun did, that the island has the ability to keep alive the people that it needs, even if they're not on the island -- or, in the case of Baby Locke, even if they haven't been to the island yet. Locke's been right all along: being on the island is his destiny, and it always has been. The teacher/guidance counselor who wants Teen Locke to go to the Mittelos science camp (which I'm guessing isn't really in Portland) becomes yet another person who we've seen telling Locke what he can't do, and again that person turns out to be wrong. Locke is a superhero of sorts -- or, depending on the island's nature and whether you think Ben or Widmore is the good guy -- a supervillain. He has powers (the fast healing, the visions, the general bad-assery), and he has a mission. All he needs is a cool logo on one of those blank t-shirts he wears. (Maybe he could be known as Geronimo Jackson, whose sticker we saw inside Teen Locke's locker.)
So here's the question: when Richard gives Kid Locke the list of objects and tells him he already owns one of them, is he implying some kind of divine island birthright, or is there some kind of time-travel loop involved? A lot of people who studied the screen captures of Jacob from his first appearance suggested his profile looked an awful lot like Terry O'Quinn's, and speculated that John is one day going to become Jacob (and then maybe Jingleheimer and Schmidt); was Richard's test another clue for that theory? And what object was Kid Locke supposed to pick? The Mystery Tales comic, whose story about a "hidden land" suggests the island? The vial of the same dirt/sand/ash that rings the area around Jacob's cabin? The Book of Laws? (Whose laws?) And if this is all a time-travel thing, then is Richard actually immortal, or does he just bounce around to different eras? And when Christian tells Locke that he needs to move the island, do they mean in time or in space?
Also, do the same people who so thoroughly analyzed the meaning of Faraday's rocket experiment want to figure out how it correlates to the freighter's doctor being killed several days after his corpse washed up on the beach? It's been at least three days since the events of "The Shape of Things to Come" (when the corpse washed up), if that helps your calculations at all.
As for the other events on the freighter, I'm assuming Keamy has some kind of dead man's switch strapped to his arm; when he warned the captain against killing him, he implied that everyone else would die along with him. I liked the moment where Lapidus complained to Michael about not revealing his true identity as an 815 survivor, as well as Desmond's refusal to ever set foot on that island again (he was there a lot longer than Sayid and company), but virtually everything that happened in those scenes was setting up things for the season's final few episodes.
Some other random thoughts:
- Hurley sharing his candy bar with unlikely/unwanted ally Ben was a priceless bit of silent comedy. Emerson and Garcia both had a number of funny moments in this episode -- "Destiny, John? Is a fickle bitch?" being another highlight -- but the range of emotions playing over each man's face in that exchange was wonderful.
- For all the meta humor this season about how no one ever answers a question, we actually did get an answer to Hurley's query about why someone would build a cabin in the jungle: Horace Goodspeed (last seen in the Ben origin story episode "The Man Behind the Curtain") wanted a getaway spot for himself and his wife. (And I still doubt we've seen the last of either Horace or Mrs. Goodspeed; the producers cast Doug Hutchison and Samantha Mathis in those roles for a reason.)
- The "Lost" score, while always wonderful, has been fairly consistent in its themes over the years, but there were a few spots last night that sounded different from anything I remember hearing before. The first was the slasher movie-style sting right after the "What happened to them?" / "He did." exchange at the mass grave; the second was the '60s James Bond-style adventure theme playing as Sayid took the raft back towards the island.
- I liked Kid Locke's drawing of Smokey killing someone; even back then, John had certain psychic powers.
- Yet another in a long series of "Lost" shout-outs to "Star Wars": the merc killed by Smokey was named Mayhew; Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca.
- What exactly has Christian done to Claire to put her in that creepy, blissed-out state?
- What do you suppose the miracle was that Abaddon experienced? And if we're entertaining the idea that one character, through time-travel, could turn out to be another one, do we want to consider the possibility that Abaddon is really Taller Grown-Up Walt?