After last week’s riveting, moving, mythology-rich, old-school Lost, there are two ways to approach this week’s return to the Season Six status quo. Either you take “Ab Aeterno” as proof that the Lost writers are in full command, and trust them to deliver us to the promised land of the finale in eight weeks, or you get all the more frustrated that we’re not getting an “Ab Aeterno” every week. (And for those odd few of you who didn’t care that much for “Ab Aeterno”… well, I’ll address you down in Flashbackin’.)
Hey, you know me: I’m a Lost apologist through-and-through. Even a down episode—and I wasn’t crazy about “The Package,” I have to admit—isn’t going to dissuade me. So lets dispatch with this one without too much rending of garments. After all, there’ll be another Lost in a week. (And it’ll have Desmond in it!)
Generally speaking, I like the Jin/Sun episodes more than a lot of other Lost fans. I find their perpetual separation—by location, by time, by objective—touching more often than not, and I think Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim have shown good range when they’re not reduced to playing “Where’s My Spouse.” My main problem with tonight’s sideways flashback is that it told a story without much of an arc, then left us at a place we’ve already been. There wasn’t a lot of forward progress, or much in the way of new dimensions to the characters.
The biggest twist in Alterna-World is that Sun and Jin aren’t married, though they do lie together as man and wife (to keep the Biblical theme going). Unfortunately, their secret is known to Mr. Paik, who provides Jin with $25K to present to Martin Keamy, at which point Keamy is supposed to take Jin out of the picture, permanent-like. Only Jin has his money confiscated by customs, and misses his appointment with Keamy, which means that Keamy has to come to Jin—with his fellow thugs Omar and two-eyed Mikhail in tow. Mikhail takes Sun to a bank to get Keamy’s money, while Keamy and Omar take Jin to an abandoned restaurant, where they lock him in a freezer (after accidentally bumping his head on the door), as we saw three weeks ago. And so we know what happens next: Sayid arrives to save the day, dispatching the bad guys with maximum bad-assery.
Beyond that, the other news from the flash is that Sun’s had her bank accounts drained by her angry pop, and she’s pregnant. The story this week wraps up in a rush with Jin getting free and shooting Mikhail’s eye out, while Sun gets caught in the crossfire. But the prospect of a wounded Sun didn’t interest me as much as the subtle pang of loss earlier in the episode, when Mikhail escorted Sun away from Jin at the hotel. There was something in their eyes there: a sense that if they let someone pull them apart, they might never be together again.
A lot more happened on The Island in “The Package,” though because the action was divided among three locations and about a dozen major characters, it lacked the focus of “Recon,” which kept all the Island business direct, and primarily rooted in the concerns of Sawyer. Though Jin and Sun were heavily involved in The Island story this week, there was a lot happening on the periphery as well, and much of it was more compelling than what Jin and Sun were up to.
For example, I could’ve done with a lot more of The Widmore & Smokey Show. One of the main staging areas for the action in “The Package” was Hydra Island, where Widmore’s New Commandoes haul Jin after they see he’s making plans to flee Not-Locke’s camp. Zoe stows Jin in Room 23—home of the DHARMA mind control experiments—and asks for his help interpreting the maps of electromagnetic energy that he drew up back in the ‘70s. Then Widmore comes along and asks for Jin to stand with him against the malevolence of Not-Locke. In the midst of this comes a nice scene where Widmore shows Jin pictures of Ji-Yeon from Sun’s digital camera, but as sweet as that moment was, it wasn’t as dramatically compelling to me as the scene where Not-Locke rows over to Hydra, approaches the Sonic Weapon Fence, and gets Widmore to confess that all he really knows about the monster standing in front of him is “a combination of myths, ghost stories, and noises in the night.” Oh what I wouldn’t have given for a longer chat right there. Soon, I hope.
Meanwhile, back in Not-Locke’s camp, not much happens beyond a tranquilizer dart attack—apparently, soulless zombies can be tranquilized—and a few conversations in which we primarily learn who knows what about which. We know now that Jin’s been filled in about The Cave and The Candidates. We know that Not-Locke can’t leave The Island unless all the remaining Candidates come with him. (Although “can’t” might really mean “won’t.”) We know that Claire and Kate aren’t Candidates—at least “not anymore,” according to Not-Locke—but that ol’ Smokey would still like their company on the flight out, and would like Kate to help procure the rest of the people he needs.
Double meanwhile, on the Island beach (where those needed people are), Jack explains The Lighthouse to Sun, and tries to get her to understand that there’s a purpose to all this. But Sun’s frustrated and impatient and would rather tend to her neglected, overgrown garden. (If you’d like to see this garden as a metaphor for her marriage, you are encouraged to do so.) Then Not-Locke arrives, offering to take Sun to Jin, but she remembers his killing all the people in The Temple—“those people were confused,” he explains—so she flees, conks her fool head, and now has a head injury that leaves her able to understand English but not to speak it.
Is this head injury significant in some way? Does Sun’s language trouble signal some kind of blending of the two universes? Does it connect to Jin’s head injury in the Alterna-World—further confusing the question of which Kwon is Candidate Kwon?
I’d be more intrigued by these questions if the writers hadn’t gone for a cheap joke at the situation’s expense, by having Miles question the whole idea of Sun’s condition and then having Frank quip, “Asked the man who speaks to the dead.” I appreciate that Lost tries to maintain a sense of humor, but when suspension of disbelief is as shaky as it can get on this show at times, the powers-that-be need to be careful about how much they want to mock their own plot.
On the other hand, I did laugh when Sawyer asked Not-Locke why he didn’t just smoke-up and fly to Hydra instead of taking a boat and then added, “I guess that would be ridiculous” after Not-Locke suggested that it was impossible. So maybe it’s all in the delivery. I also laughed when Alterna-Jin and Alterna-Sun were speaking to each other in Korean and the culturally ignorant Keamy sighed, “I feel like I’m in a damn Godzilla movie.” But the joke there worked because it reinforced how disconnected and powerless Jin and Sun felt surrounded by mobsters in a foreign country.
Mostly though, I didn’t feel like “The Package” rallied as strongly as the similarly wobbly “What Kate Does” or “Lighthouse.” The big stinger scene this week arrives a little too late, and is a little too brief. It does hold promise, though. We see Sayid swimming through the water in the dark of night, sent by Not-Locke to check out “the package” that Widmore has brought to The Island. And then we see the package himself: one Desmond Hume, hauled out of Widmore’s submarine all drugged up and confused. I suspect that what happens next will be a lot more interesting than what we just saw.
-How many scenes have Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim gotten to shoot together over the past two years?
-I did think the scene of Widmore’s New Commandoes stalking Not-Locke’s camp with night-vision and long-range listening devices was very cool indeed. For a moment, I wondered if this was some old DHARMA surveillance devices, being used by Not-Locke perhaps to spy on his own people.
-Miles is certain that Hurley will be unable to find Richard, “unless Alpert is covered in bacon grease.”
-Ilana knows the score. When Ben asks, “Why won’t you believe me?” she answers, “Because you’re speaking.”
-Sawyer has pretend cocoa. Would you like some?
-I could’ve done without the V countdown clock in the corner of the screen throughout the whole damn episode. I’m already planning to give the show another try; I didn’t need to be constantly reminded how much Lost time I had left.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-Interesting choice of words from Widmore, who claims that letting Smokey off The Island would cause everyone we know to “simply cease to be.” That doesn’t sound like the armageddon we’ve been led to expect, exactly. It sounds like something else—something perhaps related to the Alterna-World, where our characters are not quite as they were.
-Widmore also complains to Zoe that she picked up Jin “days too soon,” which implies some kind of timetable to whatever plan he has in mind. (Zoe’s response: “Maybe you should’ve put a mercenary in charge instead of a geophysicist.” But of course we know what happened the last time Widmore put a mercenary in charge of an Island extraction.)
-Sayid tells Not-Locke that he doesn’t “feel anything,” which Not-Lock says will help him “get through what’s comin’.”
-Was Hydra Island called that before The DHARMA Initiative showed up?
-Gee, I wonder what hospital Alterna-Sun and Alterna-Jin will end up at?
-Desmond had to be knocked out for his trip to The Island. We still don’t know why people have to get doped-up for that particular journey, do we?
-The return of Room 23 continues one of the subtle motifs of Season Six: revisiting all the show’s old haunts. I’m not sure if this intended to give the season a summary feel, or if it’s significant that we’ve been essentially re-mapping The Island and its environs. Either way, I’ve enjoyed it.
-I’m sure you noted Not-Locke’s choice of words when explaining his plan to Claire: “Whatever happens, happens.” This might lend credence to the theory floated in the comment section that the Daniel Faraday we saw in DHARMA times last season was infected by Smokey in some way, and was intentionally leading Jack and company astray.
-A buddy of mine thinks I should’ve focused more on the chapter from Luke that Richard is reading in “Ab Aeterno:” a passage all about being tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, and about Jesus casting out demons. All compelling stuff, Lost-wise. I also recommend this article to today’s the USA Today, which explores more Biblical parallels.
-I hate to keep hammering at the same points when I defend Lost, but some of the complaints about “Ab Aeterno” left me scratching my head, I have to confess. If you found it tedious or uninvolving, there’s not much I can say to that. Lost has always been a mix of genres and styles, and they don’t all work for everybody. But to those who were irritated that we got such an old-school Lost episode (flashback to a limited timeframe, not much present-day action) so close to the end, I can only ask that you consider the big picture. Someday people will watch Lost in big chunks, not week-to-week, and I can promise you that those Lost fans won’t be drumming their fingers when they get to “Ab Aeterno.” If anything, they’ll appreciate the chance to catch their breath and get their bearings in the middle of an intense, often confusing season. Plus, as fun as it is to speculate on Lost’s many puzzles, the show wouldn’t be as involving as it is if it were all puzzle. In the end, this is still a TV show, and (presumably) the reason we watch certain TV shows is because we like spending time with the characters and we like disappearing into the premise. We don’t watch an old episode of Columbo and think, “Well, we didn’t really learn anything new this week, did we?” No, we—or I, anyway—watch to soak up the ‘70s atmosphere and enjoy the company of Peter Falk. And, yes, to see a puzzle get solved in a clever way. But that’s only part of it.