Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Kyle Pennington
Directed by Mark Goldman
We’ve been dealing with time travel a lot on Lost, but we haven’t dealt with the emotional part of time travel. In the main action of the first four seasons of the show, a hundred days passed. During the fourth season, we went through a period of flashforwards, where we saw bits of the next three years through the eyes of the Oceanic 6 plus Ben. Basically what’s been happening on the island the first half of Season 5 is time travel, though we’re never going to be sure how it was certain people managed to move through time, while the island stayed in the same place. But when Locke pushed the Unfrozen Donkey Wheel, the island seems to have made one more huge jump — and finally stopped moving. But as Dan puts it, “We’re just not on the song we want to be on.”
That Dan is able to make any coherence of this at all is a miracle. He’s a yammering wreck when we first see him — he barely had seconds to react to Charlotte’s death, and now somehow her body has not traveled with them. For the rest of the episode, he’s a shell of himself, barely able to speak coherently. Somebody has to take over and lead— and now that would seem to be Sawyer.
Sawyer— or we might as well start calling him James, because that’s pretty much who he’s going to be in the eyes of everybody for the rest of the season— has made the furthest emotional journey of pretty much everyone on the island. He was utterly reprehensible for much of the shows first three season, but there were patches of light throughout. He seemed to be headed to darkness at the end of Season 3, when he killed Cooper and then blew a hole in Tom after he surrendered. But in Season 4, he began to take a more heroic role, saving Claire from assassination, getting a group of people away from Locke, sacrificing his own rescue so that others could leave. Now, even though he’s been dropped in the early seventies, he manages to find a way to improvise. The skills lying that he managed to acquire as a con man finally seem to be used in a positive way. He saves a woman from kidnapping, then manages to sell a story to the Dharma Initiative about who his people are and why they are here. It’s hard not to compare this to what Jack did when the Oceanic 6 were rescued; the big difference is they follow him willingly, and manage to uphold the lie.
It’s taken us two seasons, but we’re finally back in the Dharma Initiative, led by that character we’ve seen glimpses of, Horace Goodspeed. This must be some kind of sustained nightmare for Juliet, considering how hard she wanted to get away from this particular block of housing, but she manages to hide it pretty well for the majority of the episode. If anything, she seems to have James’ back for the moment he takes shots at the Others who try to kill Amy, and she holds in her inner knowledge about the island to the best of her ability. (It must have been kind of frustrating, after all that time in medical school, that’s she now working as a mechanic, but then again, considering what being a fertility specialist was like in her stint as an other, maybe it’s a relief that all she has to do is fix cars.)
Sawyer gives a modified story of himself as James LaFleur, which is a modified version of Rousseau’s story, combined with the search for the Black Rock. This particular story manages to fool Horace, but all it does is guarantee that he and his friends get a trip on the sub at morning. (I’ve never understood why Miles and Juliet wanted to leave that bad. Even if they get off the island, it pretty much means they have to live in the seventies, a period which seems only mildly better than being stranded on the island in the present.) Then Richard Alpert (looking a lot neater than he did when we last saw him in this era, ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’) makes an appearance. Somehow, he got past the sonic fence that KO’d our heroes when they tried to walk through. He also states that while the fence keeps back many things, his people isn’t one of them. Which does beg the question, why haven’t the Others attacked by now? This question might be answered later.
James then walks up to Richard, and manages to convince him that he was responsible for the death of the man, and more importantly, that he’s waiting for John Locke to come back. (It’s pretty clear this surprises Richard, though he has a good poker face.) They work out an arrangement that leads to restoration of the status quo, and gets James some good will with Horace. He convinces Juliet to stay for two weeks, just like Ben managed to convince her to stay for six months.
Three years later, James has become the head of security for the whole Dharma Initiative. Everybody looks up to him; some people even fear him. For a man who once couldn’t wait to get off this ‘damn rock’, he’s finally got a position of security. (How long, it might well be asked, was he planning to keep it? Didn’t he know about the Dharma Purge?) What’s more, he seems to have gotten past the crush on Kate that was both liberating him and weighing him down, the whole time she was on the island. He now seems to be in love with Juliet, and they’ve got a domestic setup. He feels secure enough that when Horace, working off a hangover (which he used to nearly blow the place to smithereens) and asks him if it’s possible to get over someone, he says, yes, you can.
But isn’t James talking out of one side of his mouth? As we’ve heard from Jin (who, thank God, has finally managed to learn English by now) they’ve been doing grid searches of the island for three years, looking for signs of somebody. But why are they looking for Locke? The flashes have stopped; there’s no danger of anyone dying. No, he’s still remembering what Locke told him back in ‘The Little Prince”— he’s going to bring ‘them’ back. And for James, that means Kate. We saw in his eyes the moment he saw her in that moment where she helped Claire give birth to Aaron. She is the one that got away (though to be fair, he never really had her). And even though he’s been with Juliet nearly ten times longer than he even knew Kate, when Jin calls and tells him that he’s found them, he doesn’t even hesitate before lying to Juliet about what’s happened. He can’t keep this a secret, he knows that, but he doesn’t want to share her, not yet. And the expression that crosses his face the moment that Kate steps out of the Dharma van demonstrates that in this case, absence definitely has made the heart grow fonder.
Josh Holloway’s work in this episode is superb, but he isn’t the whole show. Jeremy Davies has to go through an even greater range of emotion in just a few hours. This is significant, because we won’t be seeing Dan for a while now. Elizabeth Mitchell has always been good, but she was underutilized in Season 4. Here she regains her stride, particularly in the scene where she has to deliver a breech birth. The look of joy on her face when she finally manages to deliver a healthy, breathing boy into the world— it’s clearly one of the few really good things to happen to her on the island, and it shows. Reiko Aylesworth is very good as Amy, showing levels of emotion she was never quite allowed to dip into in all her years on 24, and Doug Hutchinson shows certain levels of… humanity, he’s rarely been able to explore on any film or TV show he’s been a part of it.
‘LaFleur’ (I have no idea what this name means to James; my guess is it’s a maiden aunt of some kind) has been staying on the island, waiting and hoping ‘his people’ to come back. It took three years, and in that time, he’s actually managed to do something Sawyer was never capable of— build a life. The conflict between the two is going to be a huge part of the drama in the second half of Season 5. But that’s about to become the smallest obstacle anybody in or out of the Dharma Initiative will have to face