How does one recap a third of an episode? Gingerly. The Powers That Be have done a pretty good job this year of making each episode somewhat self-contained...a job that ended last night with the episode fittingly entitled "There's No Place Like Home - Part I." As such, I'll reserve most of the heady commentary on what we saw until the rest of the finale airs in two weeks, and just (for the most part) stick to the facts this time around. But don't worry - when the whole finale has come and gone, I will refer back to this initial piece in all my pontification...
Flashforward - Oceanic Six
We open on a Cargo plane, where the Oceanic Six, presumably assembled for the first time, are being flown to their reunion with their families. Jack is still their presumptive leader, but his hold over them is tenuous, and where he once provided comfort and inspiration ("live together, die alone," etc. etc.), he's now all about spin control. He reminds his peeps - if they get a question they can't or don't want to answer, just stay quiet, and people will think they're in shock. Sun reminds him, "we are in shock, Jack." Kate is already holding Aaron, having assumed the role of mother. Karen Decker of Oceanic Airlines (more on her later) comes back and informs the group they've been dubbed the "Oceanic Six." They land at a military airport West of Honolulu, with a gahering outside that includes Hurley's parents, Sun's parents, and Jack's mother. Mr. Paik gives Sun an odd look, and Sun barely registers his presence. Kate has...nobody, and neither does Sayid, but Hurley introduces Sayid to the Reyeses.
After the reunions, the group gives a press conference, which Decker moderates. She relates the "official" story, which Doc Jensen recapped as follows:
Oceanic 815 crashed in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. Eight people survived and made it to an uninhabited island called Membata. According to one online dictionary, ''membata-bata'' in Indonesian means “ambivalent.” As in The post-rescue demeanor of the Oceanic 6—profoundly conflicted; hearts divided — is a compelling definition of ambivalence. [Left out by Jensen - they survived this initial period because a derelict fishing boat washed ashore, giving them supplies. How convenient]. On day 108, six of them made it to the inhabited island of Sumba. And that was that. Not one word of ghosts, polar bears, or smoke monsters. (Interesting fact about the inhabitants of Sumba: They're known for their megalithic burials, in giant stone crypts. Megaliths usually bear symbols called ''cup and ring marks,'' pervasive throughout prehistoric cultures; they resemble a series of concentric circles, just like the Oceanic Airways logo, or a spiral, just like the Orchid logo, spotted in Faraday's notebook. These symbols reflect the belief of earlier cultures that there is spirit inside earthly substance, that all is connected, that time is eternally recurring. Or these markings could be some early Martha Stewart's good idea of sprucing up a crypt.)
The Oceanic 6 had some curious things to share personally, too. Jack embellished the cover story with some survival-at-sea detail. Hurley defused a question about their healthy appearance by humorously accusing the reporter of commenting on his weight. (He also boldly announced he was giving up his restored lotto winnings.) Sayid flatly denied that any of the other castaways had survived. Sun seemed to struggle the most as she reluctantly, bitterly claimed that Jin never made it off the plane. But Kate's lie had the most readily apparent implications. She claimed Aaron was her child — and tacitly confirmed a reporter's conclusion that she was five or six months pregnant when she got on the plane. One would think that this claim could be easily disproved; time will tell if anyone investigates.
Aside: Jensen goes on to state he's virtually heart-broken over how this seems to dash his out-there theory that the 6 escaped through some time-space anomaly. I don't think Lost has ever gone to such a place - sure, by now we know time travel is part of the show. But Lost has never been that big into Star Trek-style sci-fi whoppers like altering the time stream or parallel universes (as much as some imaginative viewers like to impose such concepts on the show). Rather, the sci-fi element in Lost is more akin to my second favorite show of all time, Battlestar Galactica, in which sci-fi merely sets the stage and lets character-driven story-telling do the rest.
On this point I add one interesting observation - the introduction in this episode of a new character (who may or may not play a bigger part down the line): Karen Decker, played by the inimitable Michelle Forbes. The casting of Forbes is notable because she has also appeared in each of the polar opposites of sci-fi fanboy favorites: she played Ro Laren, an anti-authority (and ultimately treasonous) character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and she played Admiral Caine, the uber-authoritarian/ Machiavellian fleet commander in Battlestar Galactica. I don't know if the producers had these two series' conflicting uses of science fiction, or these two characters' conflicting views on authority, in mind when they cast Forbes as an apparent corporate mouthpiece for Oceanic Airlines, but if they did, then bravo!
After the press conference, Nadia awaits Sayid.Their reunion is bittersweet - sweet for them, but tinged with sadness for us, as we know of Nadia's fate in the months to come.
Later, Sun, now visibly pregnant, scales the stairs to her father's office. Mr. Paik is mad about something involving 5 different banks. He dismissively tells Sun she wouldn't understand. Sun says not to pretend to be interested in the pregnancy, and that she knows her father hated Jin. She then tells him she bought a controlling interest in the company with the Oceanic settlement money.
Seriously? 1/6 of the money Oceanic paid out in settlement is enough to buy a controlling share in Paik Heavy Industries? Did Hurley kick in his share, since he doesn't want any money relating to his lottery winnings (and, really, he was on the plane because of those numbers)? And if he did, would 1/3 be enough to buy the company? Maybe Paik isn't all that powerful, after all.
She blames her dad (and one other unnamed person) for Jin's death. "I am going to have my baby, and then we are going to discuss the future of this company. Our company."
Hurley returns to his parents' mcmansion, in an old jalopy, carrying some Mr. Clucks. The door is open. There's a coconut on the floor. Whispers are audible. Hurley grabs a Jesus statue, opens a door, questions why he's doing this, and finds ... a surprise party! "Jesus Christ is not a weapon," cajoles his mother. Kate and Aaron are there. She says Jack's running late. Sayid and Nadia are there too. Dad made it an island theme (oops). His dad gives him the old red camaro (the one that started the season). "When I was fixing that, it was almost like I was with you." Hurley sees the odomoter - 4815162342....Hurley doesn't want any part of it, and runs away.
Jack finally gives Christian a eulogy, written ten months earlier on a cocktail napkin. A woman approaches. She's Australian...and she tells Jack she was the reason Christian was in Australia...it's Claire's mom.
So, somehow, between the time Claire got on the plane and the time the O6 got home, Claire's mother awoke from her coma. Interesting...
"He came to see his daughter...my daughter, Mr. Shephard." "My father didn't have a daughter." "Yes, he did...would you like to know the strangest thing about this, Mr. Shephard? My daughter was on the plane,...and you never even knew she was your sister. ...Her name was Claire. I didn't mean to burden you with this, but you needed to know. I am sorry for your loss." She tells Kate, "your son is beautiful."
Finally, at long last, Jack knows that which we've known for so long. Claire, whom he apparently left behind, was his sister. He left his sister behind, but saved her baby. Like I surmised ('cause I'm that good), this seems to be why Jack would go on to avoid Aaron, and explains just how pointed was his comment to Kate about Aaron not being related to her.
Unlike most weeks, I won't just pick one group at a time and follow them through their story, primarily because the groups kept mixing and matching this episode.
Really? She knew about the Looking Glass, even while the Others didn't know it was used for jamming. But she didn't know about the Orchid? Was Ben being ultra-careful, even at the expense of his feelings for Juliet? Or is she just lying at a really inopportune moment?
Jack has Kate get guns and water - and Juliet tries to stop Jack, but Jack says he has to go, "because I promised those people I would get them off this island." "Don't bleed to death, Jack," says Juliet, in a bit of a huff, and walks off.
Daniel knows about the secondary protocol, and tells Charlotte, "We have to get off this island...right now."
Daniel knows about it? Not even the captain knew what was in that folder. Just what is the "science" team's mission?
The next morning, Jack follows the signal on the phone, surmising that the chopper landed (since they're gaining on it). Kate sees he's bleeding. Jack says it separation, not bleeding. Kate calls him on the lie. Suddenly, Miles appears, followed by Sawyer and Aaron. Sawyer can't look them in the eye when he says they lost Claire. He had hoped she went back to the beach. Sawyer tells them they better hope Sayid is not with the chopper full of guys who just blew the hell out of New Otherton. "Just like Locke said they would," Sawyer (intentionally) hits a nerve with this one, a sort of "we told you so." Jack starts to goes off on his own, entrusting the baby to the others, but Sawyer goes with him, muttering, "you don't get to die alone."
Sayid lands with the Zodiac boat. He will start taking people back six at a time, because the chopper people will kill them all... and Juliet tells him Jack and Kate went running after the chopper.
Just when you thought we'd finally figure out how they became the Oceanic 6 - at one moment, Jack, Kate and Sun were on the beach, Aaron (carried by Sawyer) was on the way there, and Sayid was returning with a six-person boat. At that same time, Hurley no longer seemed to need to be with Ben and Locke, so Oceanic Six, right? Wrong! Watch how these six people keep moving around in various groups...
Ben leads Locke and Hurley to a "greenhouse" called the Orchid.
Remember last summer's Orchid video (if not, for the last time people, check it out in my July 2007 post by clicking here)? Edgar Halliwax said the Orchid was masquerading as a botanical station to hide its true purpose. Apparently, the masquerade was so complete, they actually built a greenhouse on top of the thing...
Hurley asks how they're going to move the island. Ben responds, as only he can"...very carefully." He says they didn't move the island before the mercs arrived because it's "dangerous and unpredictable - a measure of last resort." Ben uncovers a buried case, but Locke opens it, himself. Inside is a tin of 15-year-old DHARMA saltines, a mirror, binocs, rope, etc. Ben uses the mirror to communicate with "who do you think?" He gets a flash back at him, and says they can go now, but insists what he said is none of their business.
Daniel starts ferrying people on the raft. Juliet insists Sun go first. Kate returns, but says she needs to track Jack for Sayid to be able to find him. Sun takes Aaron, and they leave with Daniel, Jin, and a few extras. Jin watches Sun with Aaron, then reminds her with a smile that he had promised to get her off the island.
In the jungle, Hurley asks about the fact that moving the island will take the mercs with them (i.e. not saving them from Keamy's goons). Ben says he's working on it. John tells Hurley it's too late to get off the island. Ben warns them to get down, and asks for the binocs, since they're at the Orchid. "We're waiting, John, because Charles Widmore...knows about this station and knows why we're here." Ben admits he "wasn't entirely truthful" when he said he had no idea what Widmore wanted with the island, and dodges Locke's well-timed response by noting the mercs are already here.
On the Zodiac, Daniel signals to Desmond and two deckhands. Des asks about Sayid, and Daniel says he went after Jack. Daniel heads back for the next group. Jin and Sun see Michael, who said the engines should be working. They start them up, but there's a problem - some RF interference on the boat is blocking the bearing reader gizmo (preventing their safe passage to the island), which is odd, since the radio room was trashed...
Jack tells Sawyer about the appendix, earning a surprised look as they find the chopper, where Frank is handcuffed inside. Frank says he dropped the phone so they could help him escape, enabling him to fly them back. Frank assures them they want to be nowhere near the area when Keamy returns from his Ben-grabbing mission (which would likely involving "nothing good" happening to anyone with Ben). Sawyer shakes his head, and tells Jack Hurley is with Ben. So they know what they have to do - save Hugo.
Which will get Jack and Hurley together as two of the O6...but what about Sawyer? Jensen's terrific take on the Jack-Sawyer scenes: "I dug the Jack-Sawyer tension as much as anyone. How about Sawyer rubbing it in Jack's face about how Locke was right concerning the freighter people? And how about Jack striking back by accusing the rogue of running away? But I dug it even more when these two put the sniping aside, find common ground, and play Superman and Batman together — in this case, saving Hurley from mad Island mystics Ben and Locke. I've always been a sucker for the rivals-who-become-allies arc in any kind of story. Rushing off to help Jack, Sawyer quipped, 'You don't get to die alone.' Perfect."
My own personal observation - it's odd that in a season that has not had a Sawyer-centered episode, he has truly matured as a hero in his own right. After his seemingly selfish decision to join Team Locke, Sawyer has risked his life twice for his fellow survivors - once to save Claire from the mercs' assault, and now to save Hurley. Please, Powers That Be, let Sawyer still be alive on the island after the Oceanic Six return...
Sun asks Michael how they got back to NY. They found an island, he says, and sold the boat, then hopped a cargo ferry. "I do not work for Ben." he insists. "I'm trying to help you guys out." Desmond shouts for Michael, and it's urgent. They have found the source of the interference - a massive amount of explosives, with a remote detonator.
The implication is clear - the bomb is wired to Keamy's vitals, and if anything happens to him, boom! Captain Gault clearly knew this when he (fatally) didn't shoot Keamy last episode.
Kate finds different tracks than Jack's and Sawyer's, and the tracks are doubling back behind them. The man who left them steps out from the bushes. It's Richard Alpert. He insists they drop their guns, and before you can say "finally, the Others are back," they are surrounded by Others with guns. Richard disarms Kate and Sayid.
Ben gives John detailed instructions of what to do when he gets into the Orchid. Ben says he'll take care of the armed men. "How many times do I have to tell you, John? I always have a plan." Then Ben just walks off into the jungle, towards the Orchid.
Ben. Freakin'. Rocks.
So the pieces are now in place for the endgame: Sun and Aaron walk away from the freighter's bomb-laden cabin; Jack and Sawyer head for the Orchid; and, as the Others march Kate and Sayid to who-knows-where;Hurley and John watch Ben approach the greenhouse, hands up. Omar and others, including Keamy, come out to find Ben. "My name is Benjamin Linus. I believe you're looking for me." Keamy puts a gun to his head, then smacks Ben, knocking him out.
And that's that for two weeks, when we'll return with the final two hours of the finale. Some questions I think/ hope will be answered:
1. What makes those six people the Oceanic Six?
2. What happens to the rest of the survivors?
3. How does one move an island from an Orchid station?
4. How will Ben end up in the Sahara?
5. Who was in that coffin?
6. Why does Jack come to think the Oceanic Six need to get back to the island?
7. Will Keamy's bomb blow up the freighter?
So, folks, enjoy the 2-hour Grey's Anatomy finale next week, and we'll be back for Lost's last two hours in two weeks.
Until then, Namaste.