"Some people just aren't meant to be together." -KeamyOkay, we have lots of things to discuss about "The Package." First, though, allow me a paragraph or three to be pissed off. Really, really, really pissed off that ABC saw fit to clutter the bottom corner of the screen with a "V" logo and a ticking count-down clock to point people towards tonight's return of that show.
On-screen clutter has been one of the scourges of television over the past decade, as networks think nothing of putting annoying flashing billboards all over their shows, sometimes for other shows, sometimes to remind you of the name of the show you're already watching. I remember writing a column way back in 2001 bitching about how NBC interrupted an episode of, I think, "West Wing" in order to use a bug to promote a new show called "First Years." I wrote that I was so irritated that I hoped "First Years" would fail just to prove the gimmick wrong. "First Years" did fail, quickly, but clutter has only gotten worse. I manage to avoid a lot of it because I watch so many shows on screeners (had I been forced to watch "Men of a Certain Age" on TNT, rather than on DVDs, I likely would have felt much more harshly about that show, knowing how much TNT loves its clutter). I, like the TV executives who approve crap like this, don't always watch TV the way regular people do (which is no doubt why said executives don't think it's a bit deal to approve it), so I manage to avoid the worst of the worst. (Matt Groening once said that he imagines a good chunk of people who buy "Simpsons" DVDs are doing it so they can see the episodes without all the clutter Fox inserts into the broadcasts.)
But because I watch "Lost" live like the rest of you, there was no way to avoid it, and it was ridiculous: between the large red "V" logo, and the ticking clock, it was impossible to not notice it, virtually ever moment it was on screen (which was everywhere except right before or after a commercial break), and in at least one case the stupid clock obscured the note Sun was writing to Jack. Well-done, ABC. Really freaking well-done.
Again, I accept that I've lost the clutter fight, but there are some shows and moments that should be above this junk. As Mike Schneider wrote, "this is "Lost." The final season of "Lost." It's sacred ground. You don't clutter the screen during one of the show's final, pivotal episodes. Or you piss people off."
Count me in among the pissed, and the only thing keeping me from going full-on ballistic is the fact that "The Package" was middle-of-the-pack "Lost" - an episode that's necessary because it moves a lot of story points along but isn't that thrilling in and of itself. Had they pulled a stunt like this during "Ab Aeterno," a shoe might well have gone through my flatscreen.
After last week's extended Richard flashback, the sideways universe returns, and once again we find out that things are different but in many ways better for two of the characters who have declined to take Smokey's side. Alt-Jin and Alt-Sun aren't married, but she's still carrying his child, and their relationship is much warmer without the stress that Jin carried as Mr. Paik's son-in-law. Of course, Keamy does try to kill Jin on Paik's orders, and Sun winds up getting shot during the battle with Bakhunin(*), but until that point, they're happier than they were in the real 2004, which certainly goes along with my epilogue-in-advance theory, where the people who go against Smokey get a happier ending than those who follow him. (Though at the moment, the only sideways we've gotten that qualifies as the latter is Sayid's.)
(*) And Bakhunin, of course, gets shot in the right eye, because some things have to remain the same from timeline to timeline. By the way, think we'll ever get any Patchy backstory from the real timeline - i.e., was he really a Dharma guy who flipped to Ben's side, or something more complciated? - or is that one of those questions Darlton don't want to/have time to answer?
Still, good as Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim are together - and this is the first episode where they've shared extended screentime together since the end of season four - this wasn't one of the more compelling sideways stories. Maybe, like the others, it plays better in a few months after the secret of this universe has been unlocked, but here it was a charming love scene and then a lot of Keamy hamminess. (I really liked Keamy's return in the Sayid-ways, but seeing him in so much of this episode made me realize the less-is-more nature of Kevin Durand's performance, you know?)
As for the island material, we at least got that great moment where Widmore shows Jin the pictures of Ji Yeon(**), and we got a bunch of questions answered: Widmore says he's working to stop Smokey (when there was some ambiguity in his reaction to Sawyer's belief that this was his goal in "Recon") and has a plan that involves the island's electromagnetic anomalies (as mapped by Jin and the rest of LaFleur's crew back in the '70s), Desmond is revealed (as many of you guessed) as the "package" inside the locked room on the sub, and Smokey needs Jacob's remaining candidates to get off the island(**). And we got a reminder of what a good duo Jack and Sun were back in the day. (Seriously, that final scene was the most likable the real version of Jack has been in many, many seasons.)
(**) Daniel Dae Kim absolutely killed that scene, and between that scene and Jack's promise to Sun at episode's end, I think I may be just as invested in seeing the Kwon family get their happy ending as I am on guard that Desmond, Penny and baby Charlie sail off into the sunset.
(***) And because the list on the cave wall differs from the list in the lighthouse - specifically, in that Kate's name is not crossed out in the lighthouse - Smokey appears to be making a big mistake in giving Claire permission to kill Kate once she helps them reassemble the remaining candidates.
It wasn't all thrilling, but there was at least a sense of the story moving forward, my man Desmond is back in play, Sayid's soul is gone (but he looks really cool coming out of the water at night), and Richard finally has a plan for Team Jacob, even if Jack seems determined to not let it happen. There are a lot of agendas at play now, a lot of weird moving pieces, and if "The Package" didn't get my blood racing (though the stupid "V" clock got it boiling in spots), it at least has me interested to see how what happened tonight plays into the bigger picture.
Some other thoughts:
• I wonder if there's going to be a larger plot point to Sun's temporary loss of her English, or if it's there to create a parallel to season one, where when the Kwons finally reunite, Jin will speak English and she won't.
• It occurs to me that Jack and Sawyer now seem to be occupying the same moral space on their respective sides; seeming to play along but really only concerned with getting their friends the hell off Craphole Island; imagine what they could accomplish were those two crazy kids to join forces!
• So part of the "cork" properties of the island seems to prevent Smokey from using his powers to get off it, but doesn't keep him from hopping on an outrigger to row over to Alcatraz. Hmmm... Seems an odd loophole. (And, once again, someone with a gun takes an outrigger but does not shoot at Sawyer's season five group. Sigh...)
• Nice to see the return of the weird indoctrination/rave room that Karl was locked in during Kate and Sawyer's escape from Alcatraz in season three. If that place was just another Dharma experiment, as Zoe claimed, why exactly would Ben stick Karl in there? Just as punishment for annoying him?
Finally, a programming note: I'm due to take a couple of weeks family time starting either next week or the week after (a couple of pieces are still being moved around), which means I may either skip over two of the next three episodes, come to them very late, and/or touch on them very briefly and then open up the conversation to you. Sorry for the inconvenience, but the timeframe only has so much wiggle room, and can't wait until after this season. I promise that as soon as I see each episode during the time I'm off, I'll get up some kind of quick post; I just might not see each one right away.
Ticking clock-related rants aside, what did everybody else think?