No, that’s not a typo in the title of this post. I know I jumped from episode 505 last week to episode 507 this week. Here’s what’s going on – in last week’s podcast, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse explained that they decided after writing, filming and editing episodes 506 (“The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”) and 507 (“316”), that the story would play better if the episodes’ airdates were reversed. So, for only the second time ever Lost’s producers intentionally aired episodes out of order (the first was in the first season, though the producers declined to reveal which episodes they reversed back then – speculate away). It shouldn’t be a big deal to us, the viewers – after all, the show tells a non-linear story. I for one have been eagerly anticipating “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” which promises to explain how Locke ends up in that coffin. In any case, we’ll see episode 506 next week. For now, episode 507, “316.”
One observation I missed last week, that was pointed out to me by LLL newcomer Angelo (my coworker): When Robert’s gun jammed in his cowardly attempt to shoot Danielle, this was no accident. Years later (or, from our perspective, in Season 1), Rousseau told Sayid during a similar confrontation that she removed the firing pin from that gun in anticipation that Robert might very well try to kill her. So this, like Montand’s lost arm, was a moment we’d heard about before. Good to see that, 16 years later, Danielle would use a little more restraint with Sayid than she did with Alex’s dad. Anyway, thanks, Angelo, for pointing this out.
Ben gets roughed up (again)! Frank Lapidus Returns!! Most of the Oceanic 6 return to the island!!! All this, plus a bevy of new questions, the (in cameo) introduction of new characters, and a lot of expositional downloading, all on “316.”
316 represented a bit of a departure from Lost’s primary M.O. In the guise of Eloise Hawking, a lot of information got downloaded to our heroes (and, of course, to us). Ms. Hawking played a similar role tonight to the one traditionally played by Pierre Chang and his various aliases – someone with superior knowledge who conveyed it so that we, the audience, could get a clue as to what was going on. But what I found that I missed about the Chang/ Candle/ Wickmund/ Halliwax way of doing things was the extra work those DHARMA films made us do. When Eloise Hawking explained to Jack and Sun, and, to a lesser extent, to Ben and Desmond, what they needed to do and how DHARMA’s island-spotting apparatus worked, there wasn’t as much left to the imagination as when Candle obliquely referred to “the incident.” Don’t get me wrong – the Lamp Post stuff was quality mythology material. I just found that the indirect reveals could be a bit more fun to muddle through. Maybe that’s just me.
The Recap (Finally!)
“316” didn’t jump around nearly as much as most Lost episodes. Sure, the opening scene, an homage to the pilot of the series, in which Jack awakens in a suit in the middle of the jungle, was a preview of the episode’s conclusion. But otherwise the story was told linearly, from Jack’s point of view.
As Jeff Jensen explained at great length in his “Totally Lost” column this week on EW.com (which you can access by clicking the title of this post), this episode highlighted the many parallels between Lost and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. When Jack awakened in the jungle, his expression was very reminiscent of the joy (or at least relief) exhibited by the Pevensie children when they found their way back to Narnia in Prince Caspian. Like the Pevensies, the Oceanic Six had believed they would never again see the magical place where they had their big adventure. Obviously, that’s not the case. When Jack stands up, he is holding a piece of a note, which reads only, “I wish.” As we’ll see later on, this is the most important two word segment of a note that would follow Jack for a couple of days until he finally deigned to read it. He then hears Hurley calling for help, and runs to find Hurley, in the lagoon, barely staying afloat by holding a guitar case. “It really happened,” says Hurley, after Jack pulls him to safety. Jack spots Kate lying motionless on some rocks near the edge of the water. As she comes to, Jack confirms they made it back, and Kate asks what happened.
Aside 1 – in typical Lost fashion, the answer to Kate’s question is one of many details cleverly left out of this episode. I’ll run through this new set of questions at the end of this post…
46 hours earlier…
The main narrative picks up right where “This Place is Death” left off, with Eloise Hawking deciding to make do with only Jack and Sun. She takes them, along with Ben and Desmond, to the hidden lair we’d seen under the church. It turns out this “ancient” computer-lined antechamber is an L.A.-based DHARMA station – the Lamp Post. Eloise explains that this station was how DHARMA found the island. Jack asks Ben if he knew about it, and Ben says no. Jack then asks Eloise if Ben is telling the truth, and she responds, “probably not.” Jack looks around, and starts to inspect a 1954 U.S. Army photo of the island (we know when that happened!), when Eloise elaborates. The Lamp Post is one of several DHARMA stations built over a quirky pocket of electromagnetic energy that exists in a few discrete places around the world – including the island. The pendulum device in the center of the station was built on a theory by a DHARMA scientist who surmised that the key to finding the island was to stop looking where it was supposed to be, and instead look for where it was going to be. The island is constantly moving, which, Eloise explains, was why no rescue attempt ever found Flight 815. The scientist who designed the pendulum created a series of equations that predict windows of where the island will be, and when. There are, Eloise explains, only 36 hours left in the next such window.
Aside 2 – again from Jensen, but “Lamp Post” is another Narnia reference. When Lucy Pevensie first entered Narnia through the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first thing she came across in the woods was an out-of-place lamp post.
Also, the presence of the military photo is curious. As we know, that military incursion from the 50s was eliminated by the Others. Was it tied to DHARMA? Is that why DHARMA determined at its inception that the Others were “hostiles?”
Further, the oblique references to an unnamed scientist – my personal theory is that the man in question will turn out to be Charlotte’s father. Given the many Narnia references in the episode, the fact that Charlotte Staples Lewis is very much a reference to Narnia author C.S. Lewis, combined with the fact that we know that Charlotte’s parents were with DHARMA, suggests this may be the case. Jeff Jensen cast his votes for either Daniel Faraday (which would be trippy) or Pierre Chang.
Finally, I loved the advancement of the Ben/ Eloise relationship. It’s clear their agendas, whatever they are, are not completely in synch, but have merely aligned at the moment. More on my take on Ben’s agenda later…
Desmond can’t believe Sun and Jack are going back. He rants about how listening to Ms. Hawking in the past cost him four years of his life, marooned on the very island she’s sending the former castaways back to. Desmond delivers his message from Daniel, then demands to know why Eloise is sending his friends back instead of doing something to help her son and those left behind with him. She says she is helping by sending Jack and company back. Desmond says he’s done with the island as he turns to storm out, but Eloise, somewhat menacingly, retorts that the island isn’t done with him. Desmond pleads with Jack that Ben and Eloise are using people like them as pieces in a game, and that he should ignore whatever Eloise tells him. Exeunt Desmond…for now.
Eloise tells Jack the binder he’s holding contains all routes going towards where the island will be in its current window. The best bet for a return, she explains, will be Ajira Airways flight 316, from L.A. to Guam, so they all need to be on it (hence the title of the episode). She explains they need to recreate the circumstances that brought them there to the island in the first place, including the people who come along, as much as possible, or there could be an unpredictable result. Getting on the plane, explains Eloise, is not all there is to it – at least not for Jack.
She takes Jack to the church rectory, without Ben and Sun. She gives Jack an envelope, with his name on it, and says it’s John Locke’s suicide note. Jack says he didn’t know it was a suicide (which is odd, because at least Sayid seemed to). Eloise says there are many reasons for Locke to have killed himself, but the only one that matters is that he will help them get back, by being a proxy for Christian Shepherd, i.e. a body in a coffin being escorted by Jack. Jack needs to get something belonging to his father, and give it to John. Jack gets upset by the ridiculousness of this part of his task, but Eloise tells him to stop asking himself if it’s going to work. “That’s why it’s called a leap of faith, Jack.”
Ben seems to be praying in the chapel when Jack finds him. He says Sun left, and he’ll pick up Locke’s body on the way to the airport. Jack asks Ben who Eloise is. Rather than answer directly, Ben talks about Thomas the Apostle, who, after telling the other apostles to go with Jesus, that they might die with him, actually came to fame later, for not acknowledging Jesus’ resurrection, until he touched Jesus’ wounds. Ben turns to leave, referring obliquely to a promise to an old friend – a loose end in need of tying up before leaving.
Aside 3 – what Jack doesn’t realize is that Ben’s plan is to go kill Penny. Now that he has seen Desmond, he knows the target of his revenge for the death of Alex is near. And what better timing than just before a route to the island will provide him with an excape!
Later, Jack is summoned to the nursing home where his grandfather, Ray, attempted to make an escape. Helping Ray unpack, Jack finds a pair of Christian’s shoes in Ray’s suitcase, and Ray agrees to let Jack take them.
Aside 4 – Jeff Jensen theorizes that Ray is not really Jack’s grandfather, but Jack himself. In other words, Lost’s take on the time travel theory known as the grandfather paradox – that you can’t go back in time and kill your own grandfather before he sires your father, or there would be no you to go back and do the killing. I’ll just leave this out there as Jensen’s theory, and say nothing further…
Jack returns home, and finds Kate lying on his bed, in tears. She says she’ll go with Jack to the island. Jack asks where Aaron is, but Kate says she’ll only go if he never asks about Aaron again. He agrees, she thanks him, and they kiss deeply.
Aside 5 –Kate had taken off with Aaron from slip 23 in Long Beach less than 24 hours earlier. The next big question from this episode is, what happened to Aaron during that time, and why did it cause Kate to agree so quickly to join Jack? For that matter, why is Jack so willing to ignore the sudden disappearance of his nephew??
In the morning, Jack offers Kate coffee and OJ. Kate notices the shoes, and says they won’t make much sense for the island. Jack explains the white tennis shoes in which Christian was often seen on the island. He had been in too much of a hurry when he picked up his father’s body, and, since nobody would see the feet, and he didn’t feel that his dad was worth the nice pair of shoes, he just slipped the sneakers on. Kate asks Jack why hold onto something that makes him feel sad. In typical Lost fashion, the phone rings before Jack has a chance to answer, and Kate says she’ll see him at the airport. It’s Ben – he says he’s been sidetracked. When we see Ben, he’s bloody (and, really, hadn’t Ben gone too long without some major contusions?) Ben directs Jack to Simon’s Butcher Shop to get Locke’s body.
Jill the butcher opens up and lets Jack in. She asks Jack what’s in his bag, then apologizes for the question. She will give Jack Ben’s van, which she’ll pull around back in 5 minutes. The coffin is still there. Jack opens it, and swaps Locke’s shoes for his father’s. “Wherever you are, John, you must be laughing your ass off that I’m actually doing this, because this – this is even crazier than you were. And yet, you can have that (envelope) back. I’ve already heard everything you have to say, John. You wanted me to go back, and I’m going back. Rest in Peace.”
Aside 6 – despite Jack’s protests, it’s pretty obvious that, for the first time, the hero of our story is overcoming his doubts and answering the call to action.
At the airport, Jack explains to the ticket agent that Bentham's last wishes were to be buried in Guam, and Jack is escorting the body as a friend. He is warned that the airline will have to inspect inside the casket. Jack gets condolences from a stranger (we’ll get to know him in later episodes as Ceasar, played by Saïd Taghmaoui). Jack sees Kate, then Sun arrives. Jack is relieved Sun didn’t change her mind. Sayid is there, too, being escorted by a police officer (who we'll soon get to know as Ilana, played by Zuliekha Robinson) – he’s been arrested! Hurley is there, too, reading a Spanish-language version of a trade paperback of Y the last Man (written by Lost producer Bryan K. Vaughn!) Hurley bought up 78 seats on the flight and tries to prevent anyone from getting on off the standby list. Jack asks how Hurley knew about the flight, and Hugo responds, "all that matters is that I’m here, right? Ok, then. Let’s do this."
After Ajira 316 takes off, Jack goes to sit with Kate. He asks if Kate thinks it means something, that they’re all back together. Kate coldy responds, "we're on the same plane, Jack. That doesn’t mean we’re together."
Ben reads Ulysses, and Jack asks, "how can you read?" Ben responds, "my mother taught me. It beats what you’re doing – waiting for something to happen. "
Aside 11 - Of course, we know this is not true – Ben’s mother died in childbirth. But we also know how much young Ben wanted to be with his mother, who visited him as a vision on the island. Is Ben’s whole plan about changing the past to be reunited with Mom? Is there anything he can do back in time on the island that would prevent his mother from going into labor in the woods outside Portland?
Also, Jeff Jensen on Ulysses: "As you may or may not know, James Joyce's Ulysses — a day-in-the-life saga about two very complicated Irishmen, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus — communes deeply and ironically with Homer's Odyssey, which, if you recall, tells the epic saga of what happened to the Greek hero Odysseus (or 'Ulysses' in the Latin) on his way home after the battle of Troy. Odysseus was the guy who came up with that sneakiest of sneak attacks, The Trojan Horse. Yes, Odysseus/Ulysses was a very crafty guy. But our old friend Dante — the Italian poet whose notion of Purgatory has spawned many a Lost theory — took a very dim view of this 'hero:' He saw the guy's mad pursuit of adventure at the expense of his family and marriage as a gross perversion of human reason and therefore a bad influence on impressionable minds. As a result, Dante assigned cunning/ambitious Odysseus/Ulysses to the eighth circle of his Inferno, one reserved for — get this — 'false counselors.'"
Suddenly there is turbulence. Hurley suggests that Ceasar fasten his seatbelt, then puts on a sleep mask. There is a flash of light as the plane starts to toss (just like the shifts on the island)…and Jack awakens, where we began the episode, the scrap of Locke’s note in his hand. Kate asks where the plane is. None of them remember crashing. Kate wonders where Sun, Sayid and Ben are. Suddenly, a DHARMA bus pulls up, and Jin, sporting a jumpsuit, gets out and holds them at gunpoint, before recognizing them.
- What happened to Aaron, and how did that (or something else) change Kate's mind?
- How did Sayid end up getting escorted as a prisoner on the plane?
- How did Hurley even find out about the flight, much less end up there?
- Given the noticeably sparsely populated business class, what was Ceasar doing there? I.e., the only other person we've never seen before is Ilana, who was escorting Sayid.
- After they got to the island, what happend to Sun, Sayid, Ben, and the rest of the people?
- For that matter, what happened to the plane?
- How did Jin end up working in the DHARMA initiative?
- Obviously there were still variations from Oceanic 815. What random fluctuations will these differences have caused?
Which brings me to a theory. Flight "815" contained in its designation two of the Numbers - 8 and 15 - that we know were constants to the Valenzetti equation. We also know that DHARMA's stated purpose was to change at least one of the Valenzetti constants, a purpose which it failed to achieve. Now, here comes flight 316. Now, we know that 16 is one of the Numbers, but 3 is not. Did some aspect of the this second go at arriving at the island finally do what DHARMA failed to do, i.e. change the numbers, and, in so doing, save the world?
And then...another theory. This one's about the plane, and where it ended up. Thanks again to Jeff Jensen, I was reminded about Season 3, when Sawyer and Kate were turned into forced laborers building a runway on Hydra Island. We didn't know then what that runway was for. Do we know now? Does the fact that Frank probably anticipated there would be an emergency landing on (or actually near) the island indicate he was able to set the plane down on that runway, explaining the lack of wreckage? On the other hand, the runway was built in 2004, and Jack and company woke up during the DHARMA years, long before there was a runway. In any case, assuming the plane did, in fact safely land, how did Jack, Kate and Hurley end up in the middle of the "main" island, with no idea how they got there after the plane lit up?
Also, an observation - we saw the Ajira water bottle in the outrigger canoe Locke and his group took from the camp. This certainly suggests other people from the plane survived the trip. I can't wait to see which of them end up shooting at Locke's group on the open water. But then...why wouldn't those people time-hop with Locke's group? This is particularly odd in light of Jack and his group seeing Jin in the past.
As for my thoughts on Ben's agenda, here's what I'm thinking happened, going back to last season. When Alex died, Ben's purpose in life shifted. No longer primarily interested in the island (or whatever he was primarily interested in), Ben became single-mindedly devoted to killing Penny Widmore. He somehow knew that Jacob would tell Locke to move the island...which gave him the opportunity to manipulate Locke into letting Ben take his place. Once free of the island, Ben knew that his best chance for finding Penny was to hand out around the Oceanic 6. Sure, he may well have had a reason to get them back to the island, but I think his main purpose there was to wait patiently for his prey to arrive. Sure enough, Desmond showed up less than 2 days before Ben would have to hop a plane with the Oceanic 6 if he was to return to the island. Desmond's presence meant Penny was nearby, so Ben left Jack in the church to go do the deed. Of course, there's now way to know at this point if he succeeded, or if his beat-to-a-pulp condition was a sign that he failed. But I tell you what, Damon and Carlton - if you killed Penny off, particularly after introducing us to little Charlie, you will be dead to me! I'll still watch your show, but I will be very upset about the death of one half of the relationship that sits as the core of Lost's emotional well-being.
And, finally, one more possible interpretation of the title, "316." As Jensen puts it, "Christianity's lynchpin verse" is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Given the number of would-be messiahs on flight 316, and the need for at least one to be resurrected, I'd say there's plenty of food for thought there.
Anyway, lots of dense commentary on my part this week. I'd love to hear what you think. In the meantime, until "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" next week, Namaste!