When trying to conceive of theories about potential Lost storylines, it’s easy to get caught up in overly complicated schemes that sound really cool in concept but would be downright impossible when practically applied. Theories ranged far and wide as to how Michael ended up on the freighter, but in the end, nothing based in quantum physics, time travel, or Room 23-esque mind control had anything to do with the Michael ending up on the freighter. Just some careful plotting, some vast networking, and a whole lotta guilt in this week’s episode, "Meet Kevin Johnson."
In many ways, this was one of the single most direct narrative episodes in Lost history: a question was asked ("How did you get on this boat?") and was thusly answered (the roughly 75% of the episode dedicated to Michael’s flashback). And it answered it with only leaving the WAAAAAAALTs to the "Previously on…" sequence. Bravo, Lost. I had seven WAAAAAALTs in my office pool, and have taking to saying WAAAAAAALT in lieu of saltier language as to make my life as well as my recaps more family-friendly.
As such, I’m going to try and avoid literally recounting what happened and rather suss out the important facts of Michael’s off-Island adventures. Because in addition to setting up "The Redemption of Michael Dawson," this episode also seemed to set up "The Redemption of Benjamin Linus" as well, only to pull the rug out from under us at the end. While it had its ups, downs, and head-scratching moments, overall it was pretty WAAAAAALTing good, people.
I don’t know about you, but when we first left the Kahana to get to Michael’s backstory, I felt completely out of sorts. I now have an idea of how Desmond felt after going through the lightning storm. Where am I? When am I? Is this my beautiful wife? So forth and so on, letting the days go by, water flowing underground. Because there’s Michael, and I heard the "whoosh" sound that generally accompanies a flashback, but after the past few episodes (stretching back to last season’s finale), I’m taking nothing for granted at this point. It could be a flashback inside a flash forward coated in a delicious Dharma candy shell at this point. And when Michael seemingly bit the dust, I pegged it for a flash forward.
But no, Michael was still alive, and in the past, with his "last words" mirroring Jack’s "last words" in "Through the Looking Glass" for a very specific reason: THE ISLAND WON’T LET THESE TWO DIE. That’s right, folks, they are immortal, as long as the Island deems them so. (Holy WAAAAAALT!) We learned this thanks to the surprise visit of Mr. Friendly, who looks more like Mr. Rico Suave coming out the alley darkness with slicked back hair and slick looking full length coat. (And yes, for all of you who wondered at the beginning of last season, Kate wasn’t Mr. Friendly’s type because…well, let’s just say Mr. Friendly watches a lot of Bravo programming when he makes it back to the real world.)
So, Jack, Michael, and possibly all of the Oceanic 6 are immortal, although they may not know it yet. It’s not so much that Michael can survive a bullet to the brain so much that the gun won’t fire, and Jack couldn’t survive the fall from the bridge because the Island put a woman in a car nearby that would crash upon seeing Jack atop the ledge. It’s all super heady stuff and the more I try to explain it the dumber it would sound, so I’ll stop short of going into a full-blown metaphysical explanation, chalk it up to Island karma, and move on.
Well, maybe not so quickly. There’s another way I can try and explain it.
The producers of the show have long expressed their love of Stephen King in ways both explicit (Carrie featured in Juliet’s book club, the rabbit with the number 8 on it) and implicit (basic narrative forms, archetypes, influences, etc). And if one’s to understand the core of Stephen King’s body of work, one needs to read The Dark Tower, a seven-volume series spanning decades of King’s life. But you don’t have to go read those seven novels in order to understand the core life force at work in those novels, a force King named ka.
From the official Dark Tower website, ka is defined as "life-force, consciousness, duty and destiny…[i]n the vulgate, or low speech, it also means a place to which an individual must go." A group of people bound by ka in these novels are called a ka-tet. I would suggest the Oceanic 6 is Lost‘s version of a ka-tet, a group of individuals bound together by the common life-force that is the Island itself. It’s ka that jams the gun, it’s ka that places a woman near Jack as he’s about to jump, and it’s ka that calls for Hurley even as he pulls an O.J. and speeds down the L.A. freeway with a car purchased with potential blood money. (Make sure to check out Zap2It’s Guide to Lost next week where I tease out even more references to The Dark Tower inferred both by this episode and this season as a whole.)
Now, did ka put Tom in the same alley as Michael before he ate some bullets from the gun pawned from Jin’s old watch? I’d chalk that more up to "good surveillance" than ka, honestly. Chalking too many events to ka itself can remove human will from the equation, something I’m sure the show doesn’t want to do. That being said, the Ka-Tet 6 are now involved with something bigger than themselves, something against which they can fight but never win. For, as King says, "ka is a wheel." What we’ll see, post-Island, are individuals who think they are moving forward, but slowly realize they are merely hamsters inside a giant wheel.
(As for the identities of the six themselves: well, we have them. Heck, we had them last week, only most of us didn’t know it or want to believe it. I call foul on Aaron as a member, but really, what good will it do? It’s like trying to figure out why certain girls wear sweatpants with giant lettering across the back and them get mad when you try to figure out what it says. There’s just no point.)
In Michael’s case, ka manifests itself in recurring visions of Libby, both in his hospital bed and before he pressed "Execute" on The Mind Detonator, easily the creepiest non-bomb ever assembled. Libby’s appearance ran parallel with Charlie’s appearances in "The Beginning of the End," and can be explained through ka as much as the mental projections of tortured souls. I think both explanations work perfectly well, and I wouldn’t even bring up ka if Tom hadn’t straight up mentioned that the Island wouldn’t let Michael die in the first place.
In fact, I absolutely loved the loved the simplicity of the show’s explanation of Walt’s absence. I’d come up with a theory earlier this week in which Walt was felled by a subdermal transplant courtesy of the Others akin to the one placed within Claire, which, let’s admit it, is pretty WAAAAAALTing stupid. I also loved that we only saw 37% of Walt’s body, to hide the fact that he’s probably the starting center for his high school basketball team in real life right now. The only thing I can’t rectify at this point is the Walt in the window and the Walt seen atop the mass grave. We’ll either get to that transformation at a later date or chalk it up to more ka. But more on that when the time’s appropriate.
As I predicted, we got a wreckage story that completely contradicted Gault’s tale to Sayid and Desmond last week. I will confess to find this week’s story more compelling, but then again, this IS Mr. Friendly we’re talking about here. Guy kidnaps kids, holds Lostaways prisoners, and wears ill-fitting sweaters while in Manhattan. Memos can be forged, documents faked, photos doctored. And I think that’s the whole point: at this stage of the game, the audience is supposed to have two equal and opposite stories that both seem equally plausible. I just hope that one story is actually correct and that this whole saga doesn’t take a pro wrestling twist with both Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore taking the steel chair to the Oceanic 6 at season’s end.
Before leaving Michael’s story for this week’s recap, let’s acknowledge the delicious irony of Sayid getting all high and mighty about Michael working for Ben. Given what we see in "The Economist," it was certainly interesting to watch Sayid turn over a man ostensibly trying to save his friends’ lives over to Captain Punchy, who never met a face he didn’t want to punch. After all, in the near future, he’ll be in the same shoes as Michael, whose death more than likely will be the single act that turns Sayid into Ben’s assassin-at-large.
And Ben. Beautiful, glorious Ben. The man who even had me going with his fake bomb and insistence that he wouldn’t allow innocent people to die in his wars, and his "consider yourself one of the good guys," only to turn around and take out those closest to the daughter that even isn’t his. God blesses you as he blesses Jacob. Once Karl left the World’s Most Awkward Condo Association Meeting Ever to head to the Temple, I pretty much knew he was mincemeat. But Danielle? What? I’m pretty sure I hear a few hundred people shouting obscenities at their television around 9:59 pm EST. That was a doozy. (I guess Ben’s insistence last week that his people abandoned him was a teeny bit of a whopper of a lie, no?)
And yet, there’s still a glimmer of hope on my part that she’s not dead. A glimmer, and it exists in the loaded subtext of the meeting between Ben, Alex, Karl, and Danielle in which Ben gives them the map and instructions. There’s an enormous, unexplored backstory for Danielle, one that’s probably necessary to understand the story of Lost itself, and I hate to think that we’ll never get to see that story told. If she is dead, then the only time we could ever see her again is if they ever choose to show just how Ben ended up in her trap in Season 2. But why should I try to come up with elaborate theories? We just saw an episode chock full of logical sound explanation, with just a dash of the supernatural to keep us on our guard.
In other words, classic Lost.
What did you think of this final, pre-hiatus edition of Lost? Did you find Michael’s story surprising? Satisfying? Full of WAAAAAAAALT? Is Danielle truly dead? Is Michael close behind? Leave your thoughts, theories, and comments below! And be sure to check out more news, theories, and insight over at Zap2It’s Guide to Lost.
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.