If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Lost over the last five years, it’s this: the Black Rock dynamite is really, really unstable.
As we head into what looks to be a stretch of grim, violent episodes, I wondered if Season Six’s Hurley episode would offer a little bit of levity, much like the Miles-centered “Some Like It Hoth” did in Season Five. And in fact “Everybody Loves Hugo” was light… at times. It was also dark at times, and shocking at times, and revelatory at times, and—I’ve gotta be honest, folks—kind of awful at times. But I had such a good time with it—gasping, laughing, cringing—that I’m willing to forgive all the way-too-on-point conversations and herky-jerky plot machinations. Just as you can’t blame the dynamite for blowing up unexpectedly, you can’t blame Lost for being Lost.
So which shocking moment should I start with? Ilana setting down her bag of explosives and immediately going up in noisy flames? Not-Locke tossing Desmond down The Well? Alterna-Desmond running over Alterna-Locke?
Or maybe I should deal with the big mythological “answers” first. In “Everybody Loves Hugo,” we learned that “The Whispers” are actually the voices of all the ghosts stuck on The Island—ghosts who, according to Ghost Michael, “can’t move on.” We learned that Islanders dug The Well long ago because their compasses went crazy and they wanted to find out why. (Though according to Not-Locke, they didn’t find out anything.) And we learned that Jack’s raison-d’etre has shifted yet again. He’s no longer on The Island for Kate, and he’s not there to fix anything anymore; instead he’s learning to let go.
Let me dispatch all the stuff about The Whispers and Jack’s motivation first, because that’s where I felt “Everybody Loves Hugo” got a near-fatal case of Tell-Not-Show, so I’d rather complain about it and move on to the parts of the episode I liked a lot more. Here’s the thing: I think hearing The Whispers and then having Michael show up to warn Hurley not to let Richard and Ilana blow up the Ajira plane… really, that would’ve been enough explanation. And then maybe a word or two to clarify that The Island’s ghosts really are ghosts, and not just manifestations of Smokey. But having Hurley say, “So that’s what The Whispers are?” Too much. Also too much: Jack’s little speech about letting go, although I can’t be too irritated by that because it did serve as a driver to the episode’s major theme. Back to that in a moment.
But let’s jump sideways now, to a part of “Everybody Loves Hugo” that worked like gangbusters: Hugo’s reality-fractured renewal of his romance with Libby. As we’ve seen with nearly all the stories set in Alterna-World, not everything is perfect with our seemingly happy hero. Yes, Hugo’s content with his lottery winnings and his entrepreneurship and his philanthropy, but as his mother astutely notes: Hugo Needs Women. So she sets her son up on a date with Rosalita at Spanish Johnny’s—because someone on the Lost writing staff is apparently a big fan of the Bruce Springsteen album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle—but Rosie does not, in fact, come out that night. Instead, Hugo encounters Libby, who wanders away from her Santa Rosa-sponsored “fajita field trip” to tell Hugo that she knows him.
Those of you who've been waiting to find out why Libby was in Santa Rosa with Hurley all those years ago? Sorry, friends. In this reality, Hugo never went nuts. And Alterna-Libby never went sane—or at least not sane enough to find her way to the tail section of Oceanic 815. This Libby’s in Santa Rosa because she’s become painfully aware that Alterna-World’s not exactly real. Hugo doesn’t share her delusion, though he is enchanted by Libby for reasons he can’t explain, such that when Desmond happens upon a depressed Hugo polishing off a family-sized bucket of chicken, he suggests that Hugo should keep talking to that girl he can’t get off his mind. So Hugo donates money for a new Santa Rosa rec room to Dr. Brooks, and gets to spend more time with Libby, including taking her out for that picnic on the beach that they never got to share on The Island. He offers her six different kinds of cheeses. She offers him a kiss, which causes the Island memories to leak through. (And so Des drives off, job well-done, like Anthony Franciosa in Finder Of Lost Loves.)
Meanwhile, on The Island, Hurley is hearing from his ghosts—“the people who come back and yell at me after they die”—that he needs to stop Richard from blowing up all available outbound vehicles. And he seems to get confirmation that he’s doing the right thing when Ilana goes boom. (“The Island was done with her,” Ben says later, ruefully.) Hurley proceeds to get Richard to lead him to The Black Rock, but only so that he can double-cross Richard by blowing up the rest of the dynamite and The Black Rock to boot. “I’m protecting you,” he explains, stepping into Ilana’s exploded shoes.
I loved Jorge Garcia’s exaggerated shifty eyes in this episode, every time he told someone to trust him. (It was funny, it fit the character, and no one believed him anyway, really.) I also loved the return of one of my favorite Lost story devices: the division into factions. Frankly, there were moments tonight with The Beach group where I said, “Oh yeah, Miles,” or “Oh yeah, Ben,” because there were just so many characters in one place that it was hard to give them all worthwhile moments. (They couldn’t even find time for a “Where’s my husband?” from Sun, though the look on her face when they arrived at Locke’s camp at the end of the episode was a nice example of Show-Not-Tell.) Notice how often in “Everybody Loves Hugo” that characters had to be pulled aside for private conversations. And notice how useless Sawyer and Kate looked as they sat around Locke’s camp waiting in vain to be put into play.
Introduce factionalism though and not only does it reinforce one of the major Lost motifs—which side should these people be on?—but it allows for more focused scenes with fewer characters. Case-in-point: the very nicely written and played scene at The Well between Not-Locke and Desmond, where the former talks about “answers” versus “power” (and explains that Widmore’s only interested in the latter, which I personally believe to be true). I can’t say I was completely surprised that the scene ended with Desmond being tossed into the abyss—especially given Not-Locke’s befuddlement over why Desmond didn’t fear him—but the conversation had such an easy rhythm that I almost dismissed the danger until it was too late.
Was Not-Locke trying to kill Desmond? Or did throwing him down The Well have to do with the powerful magnetism below? I lean towards the latter, if only because the scene directly parallels the episode’s climactic moment where Alt-Des clobbers Alt-Locke, vehicularly. There, it’s meant to be a near-death experience, to wake Locke up. I can’t help but wonder if Not-Locke’s intentions were similar.
Another nifty parallel: When Desmond and Not-Locke are off on their excursion, they pass by The Creepy Kid, whom Desmond sees plain as day. (“Just ignore him,” Not-Locke spits.) Nearly simultaneously, across The Island, Hurley pretends to have a vision of Jacob that no one else is sharing. Real mojo vs. fake mojo. It reminds of all the other people on The Island who’ve claimed to carry messages from Jacob. Something about the existence of actual supernatural phenomena seems to tempt people into fraud.
Which brings us back around to what “Everybody Loves Hugo” was about: trust, and confidence. Desmond tells Hugo to “go with your gut” when it comes to Libby. Jack tells Hurley that he’ll follow him anywhere because he’s done being a leader himself. But at the same time, Hurley worries that Jack’s choice to let go might be the thing that gets them all killed. And Sun scribbles an anxious note to Frank as they follow Hurley on a trek to Locke’s camp: “Did we make a mistake?”
Right now, Hurley’s confidence derives half from the secret knowledge he gets from his ghost friends and half from pure gall. (Much like confidence men, really… something this show knows a lot about.) But he definitely seems overmatched by Not-Locke, who sits back at his camp whittling, letting the shape of the finished object reveal itself, just as the real Locke used to. “You talking to wood now?” Sawyer asks derisively. Yet whatever Not-Locke is doing seems to be working, because in the end, Hurley delivers Jack and Sun right to him, giving him exactly what he's wanted. The look of satisfaction in Not-Locke’s eyes—and the look of unease in Jack’s—would seem to indicate that ghosts and guts might just have led our heroes astray.
-“How do you break the ice with a smoke monster?”
-One person who loves Hugo? Pierre Chang.
-I believe that was Jorge Garcia’s own dog in the slideshow of Hugo Reyes’ accomplishments.
-A touching moment at Libby’ s grave, as Hurley asks her why her ghost has never appeared to him.
-If you’re running a mental hospital, I don’t know that I’d put the name of your institution on the side of your van. That would seem to be a big violation of doctor/patient confidentiality.
-You know who I love? Cynthia Watros. So good in this episode. Tender, frightened… she played it all so well.
-When Desmond was telling Not-Locke, “I have nowhere to run to, brother,” and, “This island has it in for all of us,” I was surprised that ol’ Smokey didn’t start preaching his pet cause of escape.
-Desmond’s cool-as-ice response when Not-Locke asks him how he knew he’d been blasted with electromagnetism: “Experience.”
-Whether you liked this episode or not—and I’ll understand if you didn’t—I don’t want to hear any “nothing happened” or “we didn’t learn anything new” talk. Because, c’mon.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-Not-Locke hesitates before he calls The Island “godforsaken.” Much like the way he makes a point of using words like “forgive,” I’m sure the choice of words and the hesitation are both intentional.
-Desmond’s order number at Mr. Cluck’s? Forty-two. (Maybe he’s secretly a Kwon.)
-Given Charlie’s awareness last week and Libby’s awareness this week, I was wondering if people who are dead on The Island are more prone to seeing the cracks in Alterna-World. But that hasn’t been the case with Locke, or Mikhail (or Claire or Sayid, if you believe they’re dead). So I dunno.
-Further evidence that Alterna-Desmond has his full consciousness: He tells Dr. Linus that he has a son named Charlie.
-I usually don’t mind discussion of what’s in the next-episode previews, but this week I’m going to ask that people tread very lightly, and post some kind of spoiler warning if they want to talk about it. Some of the images in the preview of next week seemed to reveal the the answers to a few of this week’s key cliffhangers. I don’t think there was anything there that would constitute a ruinous spoiler, but still… a week after I defended the previews as being too vague to worry about, this week I saw more than I really wanted to. (Cool Willy Wonka music though.)