Last week we learned from Smokey that the core survivors of Oceanic 815 have been brought specifically to The Island by Jacob to compete—Survivor-style—to be the new Island Protector. Moreover, we learned from Smokey that Jacob had been meddling in the lives of the O815ers for a long time, and may be responsible for nurturing the feelings of dissatisfaction that—in part—drove them all to get on that plane in the first place.
But is that right?
Well, this week, we got what appears to be corroboration. Ghost Jacob tells Hugo about a lighthouse on The Island, and tells Hugo that he needs to convince Jack to accompany him on a trip up to said lighthouse. Which Hugo does. And when he and Jack arrive at the lighthouse, they discover—as Sawyer did in the cave last week—a list of names with numbers beside them. Except that these numbers have a specific meaning: they’re degrees on a circle, and if the lighthouse mirror is turned to one of those degrees it appears to show scenes from the life of the person associated with that number. Jack orders Hugo to turn the dial to 23—the number for “Shephard”—and he sees the house he grew up in. And it pisses him off.
Later, Jacob comes to Hugo again, after Jack—in a total Jack move—goes all smashy-smashy on the lighthouse mirrors. And Hugo apologizes (in an accusatory tone) for failing to set the mirrors to “108” and call the next person to The Island. But Jacob shrugs it off, indicating that it was more important for Jack to know he’s special than for the mirrors to do their work. So here, yes, again, Jacob seems to be manipulating Jack. And Hugo. And everyone else. But it’s a soft kind of manipulation, nowhere near as malicious as Smokey seemed to make it out to be. It’s more about nudges and suggestions than demands.
As I’ve written probably too many times, I think one of the under-recognized strengths of Lost is how the structure of the storytelling reflects what the show is about. Long before the characters started traveling through time, we were traveling through time, via flashbacks and flash-forwards. And now it seems that this season—in which the story is split between two realities—is going to be devoted to alternate realities within the two realities. Choosing a side in the coming island conflict isn’t just a matter of allying with friends against enemies. It’s also about subscribing to a worldview. It’s about picking a reality to live in.
But more on that in a moment. First, let’s step sideways to the Alternate 2004, and perhaps the most poignant flash of the season to date. In “Lighthouse” we spend time with New Jack, who’s still dealing with the administrative headaches of his father’s death, and also dealing with—da-da-da-da!—his teenage son, David. This version of Jack, while less anguished than the old version (as seems to be the case with all the Alterna-815ers so far) apparently still had daddy issues, and now finds himself as a daddy who’s becoming an issue. David seems to resent him for the usual vague teenage reasons, and perhaps also because this Jack appears to be in a bit of a fog, uncertain about the details of his own life. For example, he had no idea that his son was auditioning for a prestigious conservatory—or even that the kid still played piano. After Jack shows up at the audition, they have a father-son chat, and David admits that he’s been afraid to tell Jack about his musical aspirations because his dad’s always been so intense about whether he succeeds or fails. And Jack acknowledges that fathers who put that kind of pressure on their kids—like his father did to him—basically suck. He promises to be more casual in the future. You might say—or I might say, anyway—that New Jack’s going to be more Jacob-like in his meddling from now on.
As for where New Jack goes next in the alternate reality, I see a meeting with Claire in his near future, if only because Christian’s will mentions Jack’s half-sister. If so, it’ll be interesting to spend a little more time contrasting New Claire with the Island version we see in “Lighthouse.” The one who’s, y’know, crazy. This Island Claire, who hauls Jin out of one her traps and cleans his wound because “if there’s on thing that’ll kill you around here, it’s infection” (ha-ha), has been tormenting Others for the past three years because she’s convinced that they’ve stolen Aaron. Meanwhile, she keeps some kind of skull-baby in a bassinet in her makeshift hut, and tells Jin that she gets frequent visits from her father and “her friend.” Jin, who’s not stupid, quickly figures out that his old pal is off the beam, and after trying (and failing) to save the life of a captured Other by telling Claire that Kate took Aaron, Jin backs off that claim, and says that he’s seen Aaron in The Temple, and that he can take her to him. Claire breathes a sigh of relief, then introduces Jin to “her friend:” Not-Locke. Ol’ Smokey himself.
I thought that overall this was another very strong outing for Lost. I didn’t even mind Jack doing the typical Lost thing of destroying a location/object/person who could help him find answers, because I’m starting to think that these kind of dumb moves aren’t just easy ways for the writers to prolong the story, but actions with their own thematic significance. These are characters—Jack in particular—who may not want answers, because confronting the truth about themselves could be deeply upsetting.
I did mind—just a little, mind you—what I found to be a mild case of The Cutes in the interactions between Jack and Hurley. But Jorge Garcia was so charming tonight that I’ll let pass the winking-at-the-audience moments: Hurley wondering (as fans have) whether Adam and Eve could be a time-traveling version of the 815ers; Hurley shutting down message board complaints in advance by speculating that they’d never noticed the lighthouse before because they weren’t looking; Hurley telling Jack that it’s “very old school, you and me, trekking through the jungle, on our way to do something that we don’t understand,” and so on. One moment like that would’ve been fine, but I thought Lindelof and Cuse (who wrote this episode) pushed their luck a little too far.
Again though, it was hardly a dealbreaker, because Hugo was so much fun in “Lighthouse,” used in the best Hurley tradition both as comic relief and as perhaps the show's most sympathetic character. He’s funny in his chats with Ghost Jacob, who has him get a pen and write directions on his arm. He’s funny lying to Dogen about why he’s wondering through The Temple’s back alleys. (“I’m a big fan of temples… and history… Indiana Jones stuff.”) And he’s funny following Jacob’s advice and telling Dogen, “I’m a Candidate and I can do what I want.”
And yeah, he’s right that he and Jack trekking through the jungle makes for “good times.” It’s a haunting moment when they find one of Shannon’s old inhalers by the caves where they used to live, and a refreshing moment when Jack tells Hugo the story about how he discovered the caves by following the ghost of his dad (in the episode “White Rabbit,” as a matter of fact, which is to “Lighthouse” what “Walkabout” is to “The Substitute” and “Tabula Rasa” is to “What Kate Does”). Even the scene where they reach the lighthouse, while not as thrilling as last week’s visit to the cliffside cave, had that rousing sense of “now here’s something cool” that Lost does so well, especially when Hugo starts turning the mirror and Jack starts seeing flashes of other places before his eyes.
Like the show itself, Jack and Kate and Hurley seem to be moving with a sense of purpose that they didn’t have when they got sidetracked into Dharma Times, and I love that fact that in any given week now, we have no idea where the characters on The Island are going to go next. New places? Old places? Both? “Is leaving an option?” Jack asks Dogen in The Temple. “Everything is an option,” Dogen replies.
Next up: some of those options get exercised.
-I’ve been thinking about this since last week, and here’s the brilliance of the whole “Candidate” concept, in my opinion: It helps resolve one of the major problems with considering Lost as one long narrative (as opposed to conventional episodic TV). When I re-watched the first few seasons a couple of years ago, I found that I disengaged from any episode that focuses on a character who’s since been killed. Now, with the introduction of the idea that all these characters have been enduring a series of tests—which they’ve sometimes failed—those earlier episodes open back up. Now we can take a second look at the lives of Boone, Shannon, Eko and the rest, through the prism of the Jacob/Smokey/Island dynamic. Why were they found wanting? What meaning did their lives have? I’m not saying that there won’t still be holes in the grand six-season Lost tapestry—some of them a function of the writers having to tread water back when they had no end date for the series—and I’m not saying that Darlton had Jacob and Smokey specifically in mind when they offed all these characters. But I am pretty sure that they had the Candidate idea in mind, which to me imbues the deaths with new meaning.
-Something else about The Candidate premise: It gives Lost another classic adventure text to reference. Roald Dahl's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Expect an 8-page Doc Jensen ramble about Jacob-as-Wonka any day now.
-New Jack apparently likes blues-rock now instead of shrieky alt-rock. And his son, a music buff, disses Jack’s musical taste when he insists that Jack won’t have heard of the band playing on his headphones. (Or was it a band at all? It’s not stated, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David was meant to be listening to himself play piano, to prepare for his audition.)
-Interesting symmetry: David saves the “I love you” message his dad leaves on his answering machine from Australia, while Jack (both Jacks) hang on for life to Christian’s passing comment that Jack doesn’t “have what it takes.”
-I don’t know why I’ve never really noticed before that Veronica Hamel plays Margo Shephard. I had a crush on her when I was 10.
-I need more Miles. He only gets one good line this week, in response to Hurley’s comment that that they tied again in their makeshift tic-tac-toe/Toss-Across game. Quoth Miles: “Shocker.”
-Another good line, from Jack to Hurley when they reach the locked lighthouse: “Doesn’t say anything on your arm about the door being jammed?”
-Jack and Hugo run into Kate briefly, and they send her on to The Temple (over Jack’s objections) to continue her pursuit of Claire, who is herself on her way to The Temple. Things could get ugly next week.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-Recurring motifs in the sideways scenes: happy photos of fathers and sons, and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. Like the mirrors at the lighthouse?
-Nods to “White Rabbit:” David’s reading an annotated edition of Alice In Wonderland, and Jack finds the key to his ex-wife’s house hidden under a… white rabbit.
-Jack still has the appendix scar that he got on the beach in Season Four’s “Something Nice Back Home,” only his mom says he got it when he was a kid—an incident he doesn’t remember. Does this mean that one of my least favorite S4 episodes means something now? And when will Jack ask his mom about his tattoos?
-Was Claire branded by The Others? She claims that they captured her and tortured her, and shows the mark they left on her. Is this related to the way Juliet was “marked?” In the game analogy, is this a way of noting that a piece has been taken off the board? (Or perhaps “claimed” by the opposition?)
-“Someone’s coming to The Island; I need you to help him find it.” Let the speculation begin about whom Jacob means to call. Who’s 108? My money’s on Hume.
-I’m still not as intrigued by the changes in Sunken Island Reality as many of you all are, so I’ll leave it to you to speculate on how and why Dogen ended up in Los Angeles, attending the same audition with his son as Jack did with David.
-Multiple references tonight to things that happened after people left, or things that will happen if they leave. “Because you left” may become a key Lost phrase, up there with “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”