"There's No Place Like Home" is a bridge episode, the first hour of a three-hour finale (with the rest not airing for two weeks due to the "Grey's Anatomy" finale), and as such, it could have very easily contented itself with moving all the appropriate pieces into place. And, certainly, there was a lot of that -- though I'll be damned if I can figure out how Sun and Aaron are going to wind up with the rest of the Oceanic Six, who are all converging at The Orchid -- but the episode offered much more than that.
Last week, I was oddly unmoved by "Cabin Fever" because it offered lots of answers (or, at least, clues) without providing much of an emotional arc for Locke or anyone else. "There's No Place Like Home," on the other hand, was bursting with emotion, and with payoffs to character arcs dating back to season one. We had Sun taking out her righteous widowed(*) fury on her dad by buying out his company(**). We had Sayid reunited with his beloved Nadia (even though we know she'll be dead within a year). And, in maybe Matthew Fox's single best moment in the history of the show, we had Jack finally find out that Claire is his sister -- after he's already left her behind (and very possibly dead) on the island. For a long time, I was assuming that Ana-Lucia would give Jack the crucial bit of info, or Sawyer would somehow say the exact right thing in front of Claire about his time hanging out with Jack's dad, or Christian's reanimated corpse (or whatever the hell he is) would tell the two half-sibs himself. No matter the theory, I always felt certain that Jack and Claire would find out in each other's presence, and get to enjoy that wonderful discovery in the midst of all the horror that is life on Craphole Island. But to have Jack find out that way -- and after the Oceanic Six had, for reasons that I'm sure will be explained in two weeks, had agreed to a cover story that included Aaron being Kate's biological kid (which means no Aaron/grandma bonding, or the cover's blown) -- was a cruel, powerful twist on the part of the "Lost" writers, and Fox played Jack's anguish beautifully. Of all the members of the Six, he was the only one who seemed at peace with what had happened for most of the episode, and that just destroyed him. I knew Jack's "and you're not even related to him!" rant from "Something Nice Back Home" meant that Jack knew he was an uncle; I just didn't imagine it would come out this way.
(*) I'm still on board with the idea that Jin dies while the Six escape (which would make the season finale Daniel Dae Kim's last episode as a regular, unfortunately). Too many things about the way Sun carried herself both here and in "Ji Yeon" suggest a widow and not a woman separated from her husband by thousands of miles (and maybe years, depending on what The Orchid does), and there's no reason for her to tell her father that two people are responsible for Jin's death(***) if he's not dead. She's got plenty enough reason to hate the guy. Plus, I feel like there needs to be a payoff to Jin extracting the promise of Sun's safety from Charlotte, and we didn't get that here.
(**) Exactly how big could that Oceanic settlement be for Sun to buy a controlling interest in what's been portrayed as a huge conglomerate? Why do I have the feeling that Hurley took a lot of that unwanted lottery money and put it to good use here?
(***) The answer could turn out to be Ben or Widmore or Keamy or Michael or lots of other people, but I have a feeling the other person Sun blames is herself.
My point is, when "Lost" is at its best -- I'm talking "Walkabout" or "Through the Looking Glass" best -- it manages to balance revelations (shocking and otherwise) with great character moments. I don't know that I'd put this one in the pantheon (again, a lot of it was set-up for the finale, for which I have extremely high hopes), but it was definitely in the spirit of what I love about the show. We managed to flit around all these different locations and groups of people (including Richard and The Others coming back on the board and suddenly looking like they are, in fact, the good guys) without ever losing sight of them as people. The show is as much about Sun's relationship with her father as it's about the Numbers, as much about Sayid's globe-trotting quest for the woman of his dreams as about who's in the coffin, or as much Kate not having anybody to greet her on the tarmac as Jacob's true identity, etc.
There's already been quite a bit of clamoring over in "The Office" finale thread for me to get this thing posted already (whatever happened to all the "take your time, Alan! We want it right, not fast, Alan!" I was getting at the start of the season, anyway?), and since the episode left so much up in the air, I'm going to quickly look at some of the questions raised, open the floor for you all, and get some sleep.
- Again, how is Sun going to get from the explosives-laden freighter to the location of the rest of the Six? And while I wouldn't be surprised to see either or both of Michael and Jin die in an explosion (triggered by the dead man's switch that Omar strapped to Keamy last week), I'm not too worried for Desmond. They've made the Desmond/Penny love story such an important part of the show (both on its own and as part of the larger Ben/Widmore war) that I can't imagine Cuse and Lindelof killing the guy off just yet. (Then again, I also didn't see the Jack/Claire thing coming, so what do I know?)
- Unless Richard and The Others (sounds like a British Invasion band, no?) are really fast walkers in addition to being immortal, to whom exactly did Ben signal at the top of the mountain?
- How does Faraday know about The Orchid? And I still don't understand what specific roles Dan, Charlotte, Miles and Naomi (who, remember, was the key to Abaddon's plan for this mission) were supposed to play, either in concert with or in parallel to Keamy's bunch.
- Was that the raft from the freighter that the Six used to get to the nearby fishing island?
- What exactly would happen to a person who ate fifteen year old crackers?
- Does the return of The Numbers (on the odometer of Hurley's muscle car) mean that Lindelof and Cuse actually do have a plan to explain them, or was this just an easy way to set up Hurley's own mainland descent into madness?
- Does The Orchid come with a tutorial, or did Christian give Locke specific island-moving instructions when they were in the cabin together?
What did everybody else think?